Nothing captures the spirit of the holidays quite like going to see arrays of sparkling lights and ornaments. Experience the magic of seasonal light displays in gardens, at museums and resorts, and in small towns and downtowns across North Carolina. For a complete list of holiday light displays throughout the state, visit our events calendar.
1 Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum
1 Winter Lights at the North Carolina ArboretumNov. 19, 2021 – Jan. 1, 2022, AshevilleSee on map
Experience this 3-acre nightly tour of the arboretum's nationally known gardens, including its Quilt Garden and Bonsai Exhibition Garden. Designed to showcase the natural landscape, the displays feature colorful native butterflies and winter wildlife with a special insect-themed lantern exhibit on view.
2 Chetola's Festival of Lights
2 Chetola's Festival of LightsNov. 26, 2021 – Jan. 30, 2022, Blowing RockSee on map
This free Blowing Rock holiday tradition features nearly 30,000 lights and attracts thousands of visitors each year. Drive around Chetola Lake to view glittering ice skaters, a nativity scene, Rudolph catching a big fish and more.
3 Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries
3 Dillsboro Lights & LuminariesDec. 3-4 & 10-11, 2021, DillsboroSee on map
Beginning at dusk, this Smoky Mountain town glows with thousands of luminaries and twinkling lights adorning every business. The stores serve goodies, Santa sets up shop, and the streets fill up with music, entertainment and Christmas cheer. Cozy up in a horse and buggy ride – they're available each night.
4 Winter Wonderlights
4 Winter WonderlightsNov. 6, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022, GreensboroSee on map
Greensboro Science Center invites you to celebrate safely with loved ones at Winter Wonderlights. Featuring 12 magical realms of joyful sounds and shimmering lights, this walk-thru experience is ticketed and timed to ensure proper social distancing. Check the calendar before buying tickets – most Mondays and Tuesdays are discounted, and you’ll find Santa most weekend days.
5 Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights
5 Tanglewood Park Festival of LightsNov. 12, 2021 – Jan. 1, 2022, ClemmonsSee on map
From storybook scenes to holiday themes, more than 100 light displays fill a nearly 5-mile route at Tanglewood Park. You’ll enjoy everything from "S'moresville" to individual-family tractor-pulled hayrides and private horse-drawn carriages.
6 Speedway Christmas
7 WinterFest at Carowinds
7 WinterFest at CarowindsSelect dates Nov. 13, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022, CharlotteSee on map
One of the South's most popular theme parks, Carowinds transforms into WinterFest with thousands of shimmering lights, a large Christmas tree, lavish displays, live shows and strolling performers, and special holiday dishes and desserts fill the midways.
8 Polar Express Train Ride (Spencer)
8 Polar Express Train Ride (Spencer)Select dates Nov. 12 – Dec. 23, 2021, SalisburySee on map
This holiday favorite comes to life as you and your family take a ride on The Polar Express at the N.C. Transportation Museum. Set to the music of the motion picture soundtrack, the trip to the "North Pole" features singing, dancing, a reading of the book, hot chocolate and cookies, and a visit from Santa. Passengers are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride.
9 Meadow Lights
10 Lights on the Neuse
11 Country Christmas Train
11 Country Christmas TrainSelect dates Nov. 26 – Dec. 27, 2021, DentonSee on map
Ride the Handy Dandy Railroad at Denton FarmPark to see the lights and enjoy a nativity movie, visit the church and sing carols. You can also explore the service station, gingerbread house, general store, doll museum, arts and crafts exhibits, and (of course) see Santa.
12 Holidays at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
12 Holidays at the Daniel Stowe Botanical GardenSelect dates Nov. 27, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022, BelmontSee on map
At the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, you and your loved ones can enjoy an elegant lighting display, food trucks, a fire pit for toasting marshmallows and making s’mores, and a host of other traditions in the Visitor Pavilion. The Orchid Tree, featuring more than 300 live orchids, stands sentinel over the Great Hall.
13 Christmas Town USA
13 Christmas Town USADec. 1-26, 2021, McAdenvilleSee on map
In this mill town west of Charlotte, the hundreds of Christmas trees on display outnumber the households in a celebration that started in 1956 with nine evergreens. From modest (6-foot tree, 500 lights) to dazzling (90-foot tree, 5,000 lights), the displays blaze a trail to the heart of town. With about 600,000 visitors traveling the 2-mile route, be prepared to relax and enjoy a very slow ride, especially on weekends.
14 Downtown in December
14 Downtown in DecemberBegins Dec. 3, 2021, GreensboroSee on map
Several events bring downtown Greensboro to life for the holidays. Festival of Lights takes place Dec. 3 with a laser show, live entertainment and the tree lighting. The parade takes place Dec. 4. Plus, outdoor ice skating, known as Piedmont Winterfest, continues through late January.
15 Nights of Lights
15 Nights of LightsNov. 26 – Dec. 24, 2021, RaleighSee on map
Aiming to provide families a way to get in the holiday spirit safely, Nights of Lights in Raleigh does just that with a 1.3-mile route of magical lights inside Dorothea Dix Park. Fill up a thermos with cocoa, stay in your car and take in the illuminated towering oaks, light installations and art installations. This event is strictly drive-thru – no pedestrians or cyclists are allowed – ensuring safety for all.
16 Kersey Valley Christmas
16 Kersey Valley ChristmasDec. 10-23, 2021, ArchdaleSee on map
From the same folks who bring to life one of the top haunted attractions in the country comes Kersey Valley Christmas. In its inaugural year, this huge family-friendly event features a village of 1 million Christmas lights, train and wagon rides, jumping pillows, Santa’s workshop – and even a Grinch Cave. Pro tip: Purchase a photo package online beforehand to guarantee meeting both Santa and the Grinch, and join the virtual queue as soon as you arrive so you can spend more time exploring.
17 North Carolina Holiday Flotilla
17 North Carolina Holiday FlotillaNov. 26-27, 2021, Wrightsville BeachSee on map
Wilmington and neighboring beaches launch the holiday season with a boat parade on the Intracoastal Waterway. More than two dozen boats, from personal watercraft to yachts, channel their owners’ creativity into delightful light displays against the night sky. The annual event includes a tree lighting Friday night, an all-day festival and the main event, complete with fireworks afterward.
18 Beary Merry Christmas
18 Beary Merry ChristmasNov. 26 – Dec. 17, 2021, New BernSee on map
Beary Merry Christmas officially begins with "Light Up the Season," an annual family event that welcomes Santa and illuminates Bear Plaza with hundreds of lights. During the following days during this festive holiday celebration, you can enjoy Mistletoe Markets, a flotilla, live window displays and other activities.
19 Enchanted Airlie
20 Lu Mil Vineyard's Festival of Lights
20 Lu Mil Vineyard's Festival of LightsSelect dates Nov. 26 – Dec. 23, 2021, ElizabethtownSee on map
Tune in to the specified FM radio station in this drive-thru Festival of Lights and soak in the millions of lights and decorations that are synchronized to the music. The vineyard also transforms into a Christmas Village featuring free photos with Santa, a hot chocolate booth, a country buffet and a gift shop.
21 WinterLights at Elizabethan Gardens
21 WinterLights at Elizabethan GardensSelect dates Nov. 27, 2021 – Jan. 16, 2022, ManteoSee on map
Peacocks, butterflies, deer and other enchanting creatures take up temporary residence at the Elizabethan Gardens. Created with flowers, seeds and other natural elements, the lighted displays join permanent art elements – which include the world’s largest bronze statue of Queen Elizabeth I of England.