18 Festive Ways to Celebrate an Asheville NC Christmas (2023-2024)

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[Updated November 9, 2023] 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, an 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. 

We loved exploring Asheville at Christmas time last year so much, we’re planning on going back to do even more of it in 2023!

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

(Arranged geographically)

  1. Biltmore Estate Christmas
  2. Explore Antler Hill Village
  3. National Gingerbread Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn
  4. Winter Lights at NC Arboretum
  5. Christmas Jam at Harrah’s Cherokee Center-Asheville
  6. Guild Holiday Makers Sale at the Folks Arts Center
  7. Hop on the Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley
  8. Go On the Jingle Bell Trolley Train on the Craggy Mountain Line
  9. Shopping at the Grove Arcade
  10. Victorian Christmas at the Asheville Museum of History
  11. Winter Tree Carnival at Rabbit Rabbit
  12. Christmas at Montgomery Sky Farm
  13. Deck the Trees in Black Mountain NC
  14. Hendersonville Home for the Holidays
  15. Lake Julian Park Festival of Lights
  16. See Santa Rappel at Chimney Rock State Park
  17. Visit the Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm
  18. Weaverville’s Candlelight Stroll

READ MORE: 

Christmas in Asheville NC

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 (2023 tickets range from $105 to $400+).

Christmas at Biltmore runs from November 3rd to January 7th.

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

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

2. 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.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Christmas Towns in North Carolina

The 2021 Winner of the National Gingerbread House Competition
The 2021 Winner of the National Gingerbread House Competition by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

3. 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 31st year and is still going strong in 2023. 

It’s by far the largest gingerbread house competition in the USA, and in 2023 contestants will have more than $40,000 in cash and prizes to compete for. 

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

The official Gingerbread display will run from Monday, November 27, 2023, and will continue through Tuesday, January 2, 2024, with entries spread throughout the hotel. There’s also a holiday-themed snack bar and AMAZING Christmas photo ops. 

If you’re not staying at the hotel, you can visit anytime Monday to Thursday or after 4 p.m. on Sunday. But there are some blackout dates around Christmas and New Year, 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 15 Best Hotels in Asheville NC to Visit

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

4. 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 North Carolina Arboretum is one of our favorite things to do in Asheville NC in winter

This North Carolina Arboretum 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. 

The Winter Lights event at the North Carolina Arboretum runs from November 17 through December 31.

All tickets are timed (with entry into the event from 6-9 p.m., the final show closes at 10 p.m.) 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 $40-$750. Buying your tickets in advance offers $10-$25 savings!

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

Christmas Jam Asheville NC
Photo courtesy of xmasjam.com

5. Christmas Jam

87 Haywood St, Asheville NC • 828-259-5736

Official Website

On December 9, Warren Haynes Presents Christmas Jam 2023 to benefit the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. Ticket info is still to be determined, so keep an eye on their website for updates.

An annual Asheville Christmas event since 1988, this beloved music festival has a long history of doing great work for the local community, offering performers an opportunity to give back during the holiday season.

To date, 50+ houses have been built by Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity using the proceeds from Christmas Jam.

This year’s performers include Slash & Myles Kennedy, Billy F. Gibbons, Gov’t Mule, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Event, Clutch, American Babies, Karina Rykman and many more.

READ MORE: The 25 Best North Carolina Music Festivals

Interior of Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Interior of Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center in Asheville NC by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

6. Guild Holiday Makers Sale at the Folk Art Center

382 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Asheville NC • 828-298-7928

Official Website

If you find yourself on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, don’t skip out on a stop at the Folk Art Center!

Since 1930, the Southern Highland Craft Guild has advocated for and helped craftspeople produce and sell high-quality crafts, both traditional and modern.

There’s a permanent collection of over 250 works dating from the pre-Civil War era to the late 20th century, including woodcarvings, textiles, furniture, baskets, and other Southern Appalachian crafts.

For Christmas, the Folk Art Center has a shop packed with impressive work from local artists.

Their Holiday Seconds Sale (held on December 2 & 9, 2023) offers a great chance to get some special gifts that support local crafters and traditional craft practices for the people on your Christmas list.

READ MORE: 30 Fun Facts About Appalachian Scots-Irish History & Culture

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

7. Hop on the Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley

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

Official Website

One of the most fun holiday activities to look forward to this winter 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 light displays along the way, they are not the focus of the tour.

Also, reservations are recommended, but walk-ups are welcomed on a space-available basis. Tickets are $31 for adults and $16 for kids.

The Trolly runs from 18th to 30th November, excluding Thanksgiving, and throughout December, excluding Sundays and Christmas Day.

READ MORE: The Top 10 Treehouse Rentals near Asheville NC

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

8. 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 NC train rides 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 train 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

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

9. 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: Asheville River Arts District: A Guide to Galleries & Restaurants

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

10. Victorian Christmas at the Asheville Museum of History

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

Official Website

Though this event will not be happening in the 2023 holiday season, it is planned to be brought back in the holiday season of 2024, and the museum will continue to be open during normal hours.

Formerly known as the Smith McDowell House, the new Asheville Museum of History opened on October 25, 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 costumes may be arranged for an additional charge. 

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

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

11. 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 an 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 2023 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 Best Hiking in Asheville NC Bucket List (Top 25 Hiking Trails)

Christmas Near Asheville NC

 

Christmas at the farm with Appalachian Santa
Photo by Squirrels Nest Photography courtesy of Montgomery Sky Farm

12. Christmas 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 Saturday, November 25th, it will be Christmas day at the farm! There are two time slots to meet and take your photos with Santa, visit animals, cookie decorating, and write/give letters to Santa.

On Friday, December 1st, and Monday, December 11th, there is Gingerbread decorating in the barn with Santa and on Saturday, December 23rd there will be story time with Santa!

Montgomery Sky Farm welcomes families to come in their pajamas and enjoy chocolate charcuterie boards and story time with Appalachian Santa.

Guests can also schedule an hour-long farm tour with a private luxury Christmas picnic set up next to the highland cow pasture during December.

All Christmas activities are by reservation only. To purchase tickets, email [email protected].

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

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

13. 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, “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree.”

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 $66,000+!

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

Old Fashioned Christmas Hendersonville NC
Photo courtesy of visithendersonvillenc.org

14. Hendersonville Home for the Holidays

Welcome Center, 201 South Main St, Hendersonville NC • 828-693-9708

Official Website

Head to Downtown Hendersonville NC this Christmas to join in what is quickly becoming a beloved holiday tradition.  From mid-November to New Year’s Day, the town of Hendersonville invites one and all to come “Home for the Holidays.”

The vibrant main street comes more alive than ever at Christmas, with all of the shops decorated to the nines in holiday cheer. This charming Christmas town looks like something from a Hallmark movie!

There are carriage rides, a Christmas parade, holiday-themed productions at the Flat Rock Playhouse, and the always-popular Peppermint Bear Scavenger Hunt.

Be there the day after Thanksgiving to see jolly ol’ St. Nick turn on the Christmas lights for the 30-foot tree.

Check out their website for more details on the huge list of Christmas events happening in this fine Blue Ridge mountain town in 2023.

READ MORE: Christmas Town USA: 10 Ways to Celebrate in McAdenville NC

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

15. Lake Julian Park Festival of Lights

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

Official Website

Lake Julian’s Festival of Lights is a long-standing mountain tradition and is immensely loved by many families.

The annual festival features dozens of dazzling Christmas lights 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, and 20% of all proceeds are donated to the Buncombe County Special Olympics.

There are two walk-through nights, December 2-3 from 6-8 p.m. where there will be hot chocolate, snacks, holiday crafts, s’mores and toasty campfires. The walkthrough night is only $5 for adults. Anyone 16 and younger gets in free.

On December 4, the drive-through nights begin, and they roll till the 23rd of December. Tickets for those nights cost $10 for standard cars and vans, $25 for sprinter ad conversion vans, and $50 for buses and motor coaches. The drive-through event takes place from 6-9 p.m. 

READ MORE: 20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains

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

16. 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 crafts, 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, 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm on December 2nd and 9th.

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

READ MORE: The 25 Best Places to Visit in North Carolina

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

17. 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 NC 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 it safely.

You can also grab a bite from the food truck or take photos with Santa on November 18th, 19th, 24th, 25th, or 26th.

Their 2023 dates are from November 16th through December 3rd, excluding November 20th and 27th. They are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

READ MORE20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Smoky Mountains (NC & TN)

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

18. 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 of North Carolina

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 Friday, December 8, 2023, from 6-9 p.m., locals and visitors alike will gather on Main Street and at the Community Center to celebrate the spirit of Christmas 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.  –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. Born and raised in North Georgia, Editor-In-Chief Bret Love grew up hiking and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his family. A professional writer/editor since 1995, he's covered travel and culture for 100+ publications, including American Way, Destination Marriott, Georgia Travel Guide, National Geographic, and Southbound. In 2010 he co-founded the award-winning website, Green Global Travel, which is ranked among the world's top travel blogs. Since launching BRMTG in 2020, he and Mary Gabbett have visited 50+ Blue Ridge Mountain towns together. Though she lived in NYC for 14 years, photographer/Business Manager Mary Gabbett's family has Georgia roots dating back 200+ years. Her great-grandfather was President of the Western Railroad of Alabama. Before moving to Atlanta in 1989, she fell in love with the North GA mountains, where her aunt owned a cabin. In 2010 she co-founded Green Global Travel, and has since traveled to more than 40 countries on six continents. Her photos have appeared in numerous travel publications (including National Geographic and Southbound) and various textbooks.