15 Festive Ways to Celebrate an Asheville NC Christmas

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It’s no secret that Asheville is one of our favorite Blue Ridge Mountain towns, thanks to its art deco architecture, excellent restaurants, progressive culture, array of outdoor activities, and proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

With its wildflowers in spring, nearby waterfalls to explore in summer, and stunning fall colors every autumn, Asheville is one of the best North Carolina mountain towns to visit at any time of year.

But Christmas in Asheville NC is truly a magical time, with historic landmarks like the Biltmore Estate, Omni Grove Park Inn, and Grove Arcade decked with twinkling lights, evergreens, and festive holiday decor. 

In fact, we loved exploring Asheville at Christmas time last year so much, we’re planning on going back to do even more of it in 2022!

Read on for our guide to 15 festive ways to celebrate an Asheville NC Christmas, including all the best Christmas light displays, Christmas events, and unique holiday experiences the bustling Blue Ridge hotspot has to offer.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in NC

Asheville NC Christmas Guide

  1. Biltmore Estate Christmas
  2. Deck the Trees in Black Mountain NC
  3. Explore Antler Hill Village
  4. Winter Tree Carnival at Rabbit Rabbit
  5. Go On the Jingle Bell Trolley Train on the Craggy Mountain Line
  6. Hop on the Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley
  7. Lake Julian Park Festival of Lights
  8. National Gingerbread Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn
  9. Santa Experience at Montgomery Sky Farm
  10. See Santa Rappel at Chimney Rock State Park
  11. Shopping at the Grove Arcade
  12. Victorian Christmas at the Smith McDowell House
  13. Visit the Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm
  14. Weaverville’s Candlelight Stroll
  15. Winter Lights at NC Arboretum

READ MORE: The 15 Best Christmas Towns in North Carolina

Christmas in NC - Biltmore Christmas Library
Biltmore Christmas Library, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. Biltmore Estate Christmas

1 Lodge St, Asheville NC (800) 411-3812

Official Website

If you’re planning to spend Christmas in Asheville, experiencing Christmas at the Biltmore is a bucket list item that proves well worth the admittedly pricy investment (2022 tickets range from $99 to $400+). 

With 250 rooms encompassing over 135,000 square feet (not to mention 75 acres of gorgeously landscaped gardens), the Biltmore Estate Christmas is the biggest North Carolina Christmas celebration you’ll find.

The largest privately owned home in America is filled with classic Christmas decorations, including 50+ decorated Christmas trees (including a 35-foot Fraser Fir in the Banquet Hall), 225+ fresh wreaths, 3,120 feet of evergreen garlands, 1,200+ poinsettias, and around 600 handmade bows. 

There are daytime and candlelit nighttime Biltmore Christmas tours to choose from, with self-guided audio tours and expert-guided group tours.

All tours include free parking, access to the Biltmore Gardens and Grounds, a visit to Antler Hill Village, and a complimentary wine tasting at the Antler Hill Winery

Whichever tour you choose, be sure you stick around to watch the sunset at Biltmore, when the luminaries and Christmas trees on the lawn make the Estate look even more magical!

READ MORE: The 35 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC

Asheville NC Christmas -Deck The Trees, Black Mountain Fire Department
Black Mountain Deck The Trees, photo via svcmblackmountain.org

2. Deck the Trees in Black Mountain NC

308 W State St, Black Mountain NC (828) 669-8870

Official Website

Located just 15 minutes from Downtown Asheville, the small town of Black Mountain is a great place to celebrate Christmas in North Carolina. 

With 30 restaurants, a history museum, an art center, 3 breweries, and dozens of shops selling everything from handmade furniture to Appalachian quilts, the charming town offers something for everyone. 

It’s also home to one of our favorite NC Christmas events, Deck the Trees. Local individuals and businesses will artfully decorate Christmas trees around this year’s theme, “Let Heaven and Nature Sing.”

You can find the festive trees at the Monte Vista hotel and a variety of other businesses in Black Mountain and the Swannanoa Valley area. There’s no cost to attend, but charitable donations are appreciated. 

The annual Christmas event raises funds for the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry Fuel Fund, which helps struggling members of the community pay heating costs during the winter. Last year they raised $41,330!

READ MORE: The 15 Best Christmas Towns in Georgia to Visit

Christmas Lights at Antler Hill Village in Asheville NC
Christmas Lights at Antler Hill Village, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

3. Explore Antler Hill Village

225 Winery Rd, Asheville NC (800) 411-3812

Official Website

If visiting the Biltmore Estate is part of your Asheville NC Christmas plans, Antler Hill Village is a great place to spend some time before or after your tour. 

This more modern part of the estate’s property features numerous restaurants, shopping, and free wine tastings at one of the most popular North Carolina wineries

For kids, there are games and arts and crafts demonstrations at The Barn, plus friendly farm animals, rock climbing, and a sandy play area at the Farmyard’s Pisgah Playground. 

At night the entire area is illuminated by thousands of Christmas lights, with “waterfall” lights hanging from the trees and oversized ornaments stretching across the walkways.

For the 2022 Christmas season, they’re also adding a new holiday pop-up shop at The Biltmore Legacy. 

READ MORE: The 10 Most Festive Christmas Towns in Virginia to Visit

Festival of Trees at Rabbit Rabbit in Asheville NC
Winter Tree Carnival at Rabbit Rabbit, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

4. Winter Tree Carnival at Rabbit Rabbit

75 Coxe Avenue, Asheville NC (828) 398-1837

If you don’t want to make the short drive to Black Mountain for a “Festival of Trees” experience, the 2nd annual Winter Tree Carnival at Rabbit Rabbit is a great daytime activity for Christmas in Asheville.

Rabbit Rabbit is artful outdoor event space in Downtown Asheville that’s used for everything from live music and movie screenings to private events. 

Though details of the 2022 Winter Tree Carnival were not available by our deadline, last year’s inaugural event featured 50+ unique trees decorated by local businesses and non-profit organizations. 

One of the newer Asheville Christmas events, the carnival also included free holiday movies (including Elf, Christmas Vacation, and The Polar Express), festive Christmas music, and craft markets for Christmas shopping.

We also enjoyed the food trucks serving hearty tacos, burritos, poke bowls, and more, plus holiday craft cocktails, hot apple cider, and hot chocolate!

READ MORE: The 25 Best Western NC Christmas Tree Farms Near Asheville, Boone & Beyond

Asheville for Christmas - Ride the Jingle Bell Trolley on the Craggy Mountain Line
Jingle Bell Trolley on the Craggy Mountain Line via Facebook

5. Go On the Jingle Bell Trolley on the Craggy Mountain Line

111 North Woodfin Avenue, Asheville NC (828) 808-4877

Official Website

One of the lesser-known Asheville Christmas events, the Jingle Bell Trolley is a unique experience for anyone with an interest in trains and the area’s transportation history. 

Operated by the Craggy Mountain Line Railroad, this is a 7-mile ride along what remains of Asheville’s once-great (but now mostly defunct) rail network, which opened up 19th century travel through the Appalachian Mountains.

The route winds through the forest and along the picturesque French Broad river, as classic Christmas carols play over the speaker and the conductor shares facts about the railway’s history. 

The open-air ride includes snacks, hot cocoa, and a stop at a park with a riverside playground. You’ll also visit a nearby 1926 railroad car, where you’ll get a chance to meet (and take photos with) Santa and Mrs. Claus!

Tickets are $15 per person, and children ages 3 and under ride free. Group rates are also available.

READ MORE: Festive Fun at Tweetsie Railroad Christmas in Blowing Rock NC

Grayline Asheville Holly Jolly Trolley
Grayline Asheville Holly Jolly Trolley, photo via graylineasheville.com

6. Hop on the Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley

5 Boston Way, Asheville NC (828) 251-8687

Official Website

As we prepare to visit Asheville for Christmas with Mary’s dad in 2022, one of the holiday activities he’s looking forward to the most is riding the Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley.

Departing from Olde World Christmas Shoppe in Asheville’s historic Biltmore Village, the 75-minute tour (which is on an enclosed, heated trolley) mixes local folklore, holiday storytelling, and Christmas caroling. 

It’s a good old-fashioned family-friendly holiday experience, with joyous songs and festive Christmas decorations in Downtown Asheville and the Grove Park and Montford Area Historic District neighborhoods. 

Note that while you will see Christmas lights along the way, they are not the focus of the tour.

Also, advance reservations are recommended, but walk-ups are welcomed on a space-available basis.

READ MORE: 30 Fun Facts About North Carolina State History & Culture

Lake Julian Park Festival of Lights in Asheville NC
Lake Julian Park Festival of Lights, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

7. Lake Julian Park Festival of Lights

37 Lake Julian Rd, Arden NC • (828) 684-0376

Official Website

Although nobody would rank them among the most expansive Asheville Christmas lights, the Lake Julian Park Festival of Lights is a charming, affordable, family-friendly option. 

The annual festival features dozens of dazzling light displays along an enchanted drive around Lake Julian Park, one of the area’s most popular recreational lakes

Tickets must be purchased online in advance, but they are not date-specific. The cost of tickets in 2022 is $10 for standard cars and vans, $25 for sprinter ad conversion vans, and $50 for buses and motor coaches.

The event takes place from 6-9PM nightly from December 1st through 23rd, and 20% of all proceeds are donated to the Buncombe County Special Olympics. 

Check the Lake Julian Festival of Lights Facebook page for updated info re: closings due to inclement weather. 

READ MORE: The 12 Best Places to See Christmas Lights in North Carolina

Adult Top 10 Entry at National Gingerbread Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn Asheville NC
Adult Top 10 Entry at National Gingerbread Competition, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

8. National Gingerbread Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn

290 Macon Ave, Asheville NC • (800) 438-5800

Official Website

One of the most popular Christmas activities in Asheville, North Carolina, the National Gingerbread Competition at the Omni Grove Park Inn is celebrating its 30th year in 2022. 

It’s by far the largest gingerbread house competition in the USA, and the 2022 event will a 60% increase in prizes across the four age categories (Child, Youth, Teen, and Adult). 

There will be 6 new specialty award categories this year, including Best Use of Color, Most Innovative Stucture, and more. For the first time ever, all competitors will have a chance to vote on the People’s Choice: Best In Show Award.

The official 2022 Gingerbread display will run from November 28 through January 2, 2023, with entries spread throughout the hotel. There’s also a holiday-themed snack bar and AMAZING Christmas photo opps. 

If you’re not staying at the hotel, you can visit anytime Monday to Thursday or after 6PM on Sunday. But there are some blackout dates around Christmas and New Years, and Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for hotel guests.

Admission is free, but self-parking for day guests is $25, or $20 for overnight guests. A portion of the parking proceeds benefit local community non-profit organizations.

READ MORE: The Top 10 Treehouse Rentals near Asheville NC

Christmas in Asheville - Santa Experience Montgomery Sky Farm X The Squirrels Nest
Santa Experience at Montgomery Sky Farm, photo by Squirrels Nest Studios via Facebook

9. Santa Experience at Montgomery Sky Farm

336 Turkey Creek Road, Leicester NC • [email protected]

Official Website

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Asheville in December, a visit to see Appalachian Santa at the 50-acre Montgomery Sky Farm would certainly fit the bill. 

Owned by Taylor Montgomery (a critically acclaimed Executive Chef at two Greenville SC restaurants) and his wife Fran, the farm focuses on sustainable agriculture, preservation breeding, and animal rescue.

But on December 1st & 9th they’ll offer opportunities to get photos with Santa taken by a professional photographer (by reservation only).

Each session includes 20 minutes with Santa, 15-20 images, a visit with the farmyard animals, a gift for each child, and cookies and warm refreshments. Reserve a spot by contacting [email protected]

On December 4th from 1-3PM, the farm will offer a chance to decorate your own holiday wreath using natural accents, and on December 15th from noon-3:30PM you can decorate gingerbread houses with Appalachian Santa (by reservation only).

To make a reservation and purchase tickets, email [email protected]

READ MORE: The 6 Best North Carolina Ski Resorts to Visit

Christmas in North Carolina - See Santa Repel at Chimney Rock State Park
See Santa Repel at Chimney Rock State Park via Facebook

10. See Santa Rappel at Chimney Rock State Park

431 Main St, Chimney Rock NC • (828) 625-9611

Official Website

Located about 25 miles southeast of Asheville, Chimney Rock is one of the most iconic North Carolina State Parks, thanks in large part to the iconic rock formation for which it is named. 

The park is also home to one of the most unique things to do for Christmas in Asheville– the annual “Santa On The Chimney” celebration– which is now in its 24th year! 

It’s a day filled with family-friendly fun, including an Elf-guided hike to Hickory Nut Falls (one of our favorite waterfalls near Asheville), up-close animal encounters with a park naturalist, ornament making, holiday music, and S’mores. 

But the event’s highlight is watching jolly ol’ St. Nick preparing for his big day by rappelling down the park’s massive “chimney,” which happens hourly from 11AM to 2PM. 

It’s a great chance to celebrate the season at one of our favorite state parks in NC. 

READ MORE: The 7 Best Caves & Caverns in North Carolina

Christmas at the Grove Arcade in Asheville NC
Christmas at the Grove Arcade, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

11. Shopping at the Grove Arcade

1 Page Avenue, Asheville NC • (828) 252-7799

Official Website

If you’re looking to do some Christmas shopping in Asheville NC, the historic Grove Arcade offers a more artful, upscale, and locally-focused alternative to the Asheville Outlets. 

Located in the heart of Downtown Asheville, the enduring architectural landmark was created by pioneering local developer Edwin Wiley Grove.

Completed in 1929, the art deco exterior is now filled with an eclectic mixture of shops and restaurants, including the critically-acclaimed Asheville Proper, Huli Sue’s BBQ & Grill, and Well-Bred Bakery & Café. 

Its halls are decked to the nines with classy Christmas decor, with trees, garlands, wreaths, and twinkling lights illuminating stores like Asheville NC Home Crafts, Mountain Made Art Gallery, and Serenity + Scott Apothecary.

There’s also a Maker’s Market on the Battery Park end of the Grove Arcade, with local artisans selling everything from handmade jewelry and soap to musical instruments, local honey and farm products, and more.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Downtown Asheville Restaurants for Foodies

The Smith-McDowell Asheville NC at Christmas
The Smith-McDowell House, photo by Warren LeMay via Wikimedia Commons

12. Victorian Christmas at the Smith McDowell House

283 Victoria Rd, Asheville NC • (828) 253-9231

Official Website

This museum at Asheville–Buncombe Technical Community College is temporarily closed for renovations (reopening in Spring 2023). But their annual Victorian Christmas is a must-see for anyone with an interest in Asheville history.

The 4-story Smith-McDowell House is the oldest surviving house in Asheville, and is widely regarded as the best example of brick antebellum architecture in the North Carolina mountains.

Built 21 years before the start of the Civil War for businessman James McConnell Smith and his wife Mary “Polly” Patton, the house remained in his family until 1881.

Subsequent owners commissioned landscape design by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and a new carriage house that may have been designed by Richard Morris Hunt, architect of the Biltmore House. Since being restored, the house has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Today, it’s fully furnished with authentic antiques, and the Victorian Romance Christmas Celebration includes antique and reproduction decorations, including 4 live trees with handmade Appalachian decorations.

Group tours led by docents in period costume may be arranged for an additional charge. 

READ MORE: The 20+ Best Western NC Christmas Events in Asheville, Bryson City & Beyond

Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm
Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm via Facebook

13. Visit the Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm

445 Boyd Farm Rd, Waynesville NC • (828) 926-8888

Official Website

If you see an Asheville Christmas tree, it was most likely grown in High Country towns like Boone or Blowing Rock, which are about two hours away.

But the Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm in Waynesville is just over 30 minutes west of Asheville, making for a fun holiday day trip.

The pet-friendly farm has been in the Boyd family for more than 100 years and choosing one of their cut-your-own Christmas trees has become a popular local Christmas tradition.

They provide bow saws to cut your perfect tree, then their helpful staff will trim it, bale it, and tie it to your vehicle so you can transport ist safely. You can also grab a bite from the food truck or take photos with Santa! 

Their 2022 dates are November 19, 20, 25, 26, and 27, with opening hours from 9AM to 5PM. Note that all smaller trees (5 to 7 feet) will be pre-cut, in an area near the tent, due to their inaccessible growing location.

READ MORE: The Best Boone NC Christmas Tree Farms

NC Christmas Events Weaverville Candlelight Stroll
Weaverville Candlelight Stroll, photo via visitweaverville.com

14. Weaverville Candlelight Stroll

Main Street & the Community Center, Weaverville NC

Located approximately 9 miles north of Downtown Asheville, Weaverville NC is one of our favorite small towns we’ve visited in the Blue Ridge Mountains

It’s got a charming downtown area with great shops and restaurants, two excellent parks with hiking trails (which are lined with wildflowers), historic sites, and a wealth of natural beauty all around. 

On December 9, 2022, locals and visitors alike will gather on Main Street and at the Community Center to celebrate the spirit of the Christmas holidays for the annual Weaverville Candlelight Stroll. 

The festivities will include kid-friendly arts and crafts, luminaries, a scavenger hunt, storytelling, food, Christmas caroling by local school choirs, and horse-drawn carriage rides. 

There will also be opportunities to take photos with Santa, and to make donations to the Cops For Kids program, which benefits children who might not get any presents for the holidays otherwise. 

READ MORE: 20 Awesome Things to Do for Winter in North Carolina

Quilted Lights at NC Arboretum in Asheville NC
Quilted Lights at NC Arboretum, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

15. Winter Lights at NC Arboretum

100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville NC (828) 665-2492

Official Website

Second only to the Biltmore among the best places to see Asheville Christmas lights, seeing Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum is one of our favorite things to do in Asheville NC in December. 

This Asheville botanical garden offers an enchanting walk-through light show, with over a million Christmas lights, festive music, shopping for unique Christmas gifts, and roasting S’mores on the fire pit. 

Highlights of the 2022 attraction will include a 50-foot-tall Christmas tree, the Quilt Garden, Wishing Trees, the Rocky Cove model railroad, and live music every night. 

The Asheville arboretum Christmas lights run from November 18 to December 31, 2022. All tickets are timed (with entry at 6, 7, and 8PM), and are sold per vehicle rather than per person. Flex-timed tickets are also available. 

Ticket prices vary depending on the date you want to visit and the size of the vehicle, from $30-$60 for personal vehicles to $75-$125 for large vehicles. Buying your tickets in advance offers $10-$25 savings!  –by Bret Love; lead image of Christmas at Biltmore by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

The BRMTG was created by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, the award-winning team behind the world-renowned responsible travel website Green Global Travel. Bret grew up camping and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia and North Carolina with his parents, and the couple both spent childhood summers on the water with their grandparents. After becoming empty nesters, they yearned for a pristine place where they could escape the hustle and bustle of the city, commune with nature and family, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle that leaves time to appreciate the simpler things in life. Join them and their team as they explore the region, offering expert insights on Blue Ridge travel as they search for the perfect mountain home.