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.
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.
Asheville NC Christmas Guide
- Biltmore Estate Christmas
- Deck the Trees in Black Mountain NC
- Explore Antler Hill Village
- Winter Tree Carnival at Rabbit Rabbit
- Go On the Jingle Bell Trolley Train on the Craggy Mountain Line
- Hop on the Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley
- Lake Julian Park Festival of Lights
- National Gingerbread Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn
- Santa Experience at Montgomery Sky Farm
- See Santa Rappel at Chimney Rock State Park
- Shopping at the Grove Arcade
- Victorian Christmas at the Smith McDowell House
- Visit the Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm
- Weaverville’s Candlelight Stroll
- Winter Lights at NC Arboretum
1. Biltmore Estate Christmas
1 Lodge St, Asheville NC • (800) 411-3812
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
2. Deck the Trees in Black Mountain NC
308 W State St, Black Mountain NC • (828) 669-8870
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!
3. Explore Antler Hill Village
225 Winery Rd, Asheville NC • (800) 411-3812
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.
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.
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!
5. Go On the Jingle Bell Trolley on the Craggy Mountain Line
111 North Woodfin Avenue, Asheville NC • (828) 808-4877
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 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.
6. Hop on the Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley
5 Boston Way, Asheville NC • (828) 251-8687
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.
7. Lake Julian Park Festival of Lights
37 Lake Julian Rd, Arden NC • (828) 684-0376
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.
8. National Gingerbread Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn
290 Macon Ave, Asheville NC • (800) 438-5800
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.
9. Santa Experience at Montgomery Sky Farm
336 Turkey Creek Road, Leicester NC • [email protected]
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]
10. See Santa Rappel at Chimney Rock State Park
431 Main St, Chimney Rock NC • (828) 625-9611
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
11. Shopping at the Grove Arcade
1 Page Avenue, Asheville NC • (828) 252-7799
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.
12. Victorian Christmas at the Smith McDowell House
283 Victoria Rd, Asheville NC • (828) 253-9231
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.
13. Visit the Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm
445 Boyd Farm Rd, Waynesville NC • (828) 926-8888
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
14. Weaverville Candlelight Stroll
Main Street & the Community Center, Weaverville NC
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.
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.
15. Winter Lights at NC Arboretum
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville NC • (828) 665-2492
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