Holidays Sparkle in Signature Events Across North Carolina

It begins to look a lot like Christmas as numerous attractions, venues and destinations throughout North Carolina embark on their signature holiday events. Historic mansions are decorated, gardens are transformed into seasonal wonderlands, museums offer yuletide tales and festive food takes over menus. So you'll find everything from Speedway Christmas to festive train rides in picture-perfect destinations throughout our state.

Mountains

1 Home for the Holidays

photo credit: Amplified Media

1 Home for the Holidays

Nov. 1, 2021 – Jan. 1, 2022, HendersonvilleSee on mapSee on map

Experience small-town charm as the stores along Main Street in Hendersonville go all out with Christmas decorations and the area fills with holiday activities. Enjoy wagon rides, holiday concerts and visits with Santa.

2 Christmas at Biltmore

2 Christmas at Biltmore

Nov. 5, 2021 – Jan. 9, 2022, AshevilleSee on mapSee on map

America’s largest home has a larger-than-life tradition that involves more than 100 decorated Christmas trees; hundreds of wreaths, bows and poinsettias; 100,000 twinkling lights; and more than 10,000 ornaments. The grandeur reaches a crescendo in the seven-story-high Banquet Hall, where books, dolls and other toys hang from a 35-foot Fraser fir.

3 Polar Express Train Ride

3 Polar Express Train Ride

Nov. 12, 2021 – Jan. 1, 2022, Bryson CitySee on mapSee on map

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad had already achieved stardom by the time The Polar Express came out, but the animated film added to the luster with an annual excursion booked by thousands of passengers. The read-along ride features Chris Van Allsburg’s 1985 book, clips from the movie soundtrack, warm cocoa and a treat as the train of pajama-clad children clacks to the North Pole, where Santa awaits with a gift. Christmas carols will be sung as they return back to the Bryson City Depot.

4 Tweetsie Christmas

4 Tweetsie Christmas

Select dates from Nov. 19 – Dec. 30, 2021, Blowing RockSee on mapSee on map

Catch the arrival of Santa Claus as he enters on the train, or meet him in his home made of gingerbread and filled with candied furnishings. Enjoy holiday lights throughout the park and along the 3-mile track. Roast s'mores and devour other handmade goodies from Tweetsie Railroad's fudge shop.

5 Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum

5 Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum

Nov. 19, 2021 – Jan. 1, 2022, AshevilleSee on mapSee 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.

6 Santa on the Chimney

6 Santa on the Chimney

Dec. 4 & 11, 2021, Chimney Rock State ParkSee on mapSee on map

How could Santa resist a 315-foot granite monolith shaped like a chimney? For the 24th year, the man in red will warm up for his Christmas Eve chimney-thon by rappelling down this iconic natural landmark. Visitors can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, see critters, and enjoy live music, hot cocoa, cookies and kids’ activities. In 2013, BuzzFeed included this rappelling Santa in its list of eight most extreme Santas in the world.

7 29th Annual National Gingerbread House Competition

7 29th Annual National Gingerbread House Competition

Nov. 28, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022, AshevilleSee on mapSee on map

Sugar and spices lay the foundation for the competition, and craftsmanship sets it apart. Arrayed in a Blue Ridge Mountain inn with marvels of its own, the edible architecture attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. Even without the gingerbread, the roaring fires, splendid décor and music raise holiday spirits.

Piedmont

8 WinterFest at Carowinds

8 WinterFest at Carowinds

Select dates Nov. 13, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022, CharlotteSee on mapSee 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.

9 Speedway Christmas

9 Speedway Christmas

Nov. 19, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022, ConcordSee on mapSee on map

One of America’s largest holiday light shows, Speedway Christmas features more than 4 million lights over a 4-mile course that includes most of the oval and the new ROVAL.

10 North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival

10 North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival

Nov. 19, 2021 – Jan. 9, 2022, CarySee on mapSee on map

The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival includes all-new displays, each one comprising hundreds of parts and thousands of LED lights. A variety of ticket options – including Twilight, Any Night and VIP – make planning your visit a breeze. There will also be cultural performances and artisan crafts.

11 Christmas Town USA

11 Christmas Town USA

Dec. 1-26, 2021, McAdenvilleSee on mapSee 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.

12 Kersey Valley Christmas

12 Kersey Valley Christmas

Dec. 10-23, 2021, ArchdaleSee on mapSee 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.

Coast

13 Holidays at Tryon Palace

13 Holidays at Tryon Palace

Begins Nov. 22, 2021, New BernSee on mapSee on map

Overtaxed colonists had a bad case of humbug in December 1770, when Gov. William Tryon threw the first party at the fancy Georgian-style structure where he would live and run the government. Two-and-a-half centuries later, Tryon Palace historic site recreates the effect of the event with holiday-themed tours offered during the season. Plus, the annual Candlelight Nights take place Dec. 11 and 18 with festivities illuminated by the glow of candlelight and fireworks, along with traditional circus performers.

14 North Carolina Holiday Flotilla

14 North Carolina Holiday Flotilla

Nov. 26-27, 2021, Wrightsville BeachSee on mapSee 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.

15 WinterLights at Elizabethan Gardens

15 WinterLights at Elizabethan Gardens

Select dates Nov. 28, 2021 – Jan. 15, 2022, ManteoSee on mapSee 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.

 

Updated October 21, 2021
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