The 10 Best Christmas Parades in North Carolina (2023)

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After living just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Elkin NC for years, I’ve come to realize that there are an endless array of things to do for Christmas in North Carolina. 
Whether you’re looking for a choose-and-cut Christmas tree, top-notch Christmas light displays, or shopping in charming Christmas towns, there are loads of Christmas attractions in NC to choose from.
If you’re looking for a fun and festive way to celebrate the holidays, in our experience there’s nothing better than attending a good old-fashioned Christmas parade.
With locals and visitors alike lining the streets to watch floats, dancers, and marching bands pass by, this is one of our favorite things to do in NC in Winter. And there’s always a possibility of an appearance by Santa Claus!
Read on for our in-depth guide to the best Christmas parades in North Carolina, including options ranging from the Blue Ridge Mountains east to Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Raleigh. 

Christmas Parades in North Carolina Guide

  1. West Jefferson Christmas Parade (West Jefferson NC)
  2. A Small Town Christmas (Banner Elk NC)
  3. Marion Christmas Parade (Marion NC)
  4. Olde Mountain Christmas Parade (Highlands NC)
  5. Asheville Holiday Parade (Asheville NC)
  6. Hendersonville Christmas Parade (Hendersonville NC)
  7. Winston-Salem Holiday Parade (Winston-Salem NC)
  8. North Mecklenburg Holiday Parade (Davidson NC)
  9. Bryson City Christmas Parade (Bryson City NC)
  10. Raleigh Christmas Parade (Raleigh NC)

READ MORE: The 15 Best Christmas Towns in North Carolina

North Carolina Christmas Parade in West Jefferson
West Jefferson Christmas Parade, photo courtesy of Rotary Club of Ashe County

1. West Jefferson Christmas Parade

Downtown West Jefferson NC

Official Website

Hosted by the Ashe County Rotary Club, West Jefferson’s Christmas Parade is a great way to start the holiday season and get into the festive spirit.

The 2023 parade starts at 2PM on Saturday, November 18, and this year’s theme will “The Joys of Christmas.” 

This annual parade will be putting on a show made up of local bands, dance groups, police cars, fire trucks, and an appearance from the big guy himself, jolly ol’ St Nick!

In lieu of an entry fee, parade participants are asked to make food donations to the Ashe County Food Pantry. 

Admission to this North Carolina Christmas celebration is free, but get there early if you want to get a good spot. 

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

Banner Elk Christmas decorations
Banner Elk Christmas decorations, photo courtesy of

2. A Small Town Christmas

185 Azalea Circle SE, Banner Elk NC • 828-898-8395

Official Website

If you aren’t already partied out by the host of Christmas events in Banner Elk NC on the weekend of December 1-3, make time to see the Banner Elk Christmas Parade.

The annual holiday celebration kicks off at 6PM on Main Street in Downtown Banner Elk on Saturday, December 2. 

Earlier in the day, you can partake in (or watch) a 5K Reindeer Run, have breakfast with Santa, join in community caroling, make ornaments and/or decorate cookies before finding a spot to see the Christmas parade roll by. 

This NC parade ends at Tate-Evans Park, where you can enjoy a Christmas light show, take a train ride through the illuminations, and maybe even catch Mr. and Mrs. Claus doing their rounds!

There’s also live music and hot chocolate to finish the evening off in style. 

READ MORE: The 7 Best Train Rides for Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains

North Carolina Christmas events -Marion Christmas Parade
Marion Christmas Parade, photo courtesy of Marion Business Association

3. Marion Christmas Parade

North Main St, Marion NC • 828-652-2215

Official Website

If you’re looking for North Carolina small town holiday parade, visit Downtown Marion NC on November 19, 2023. 

Starting at 3PM, this year’s parade theme is “A Jack Frost Christmas.” It was chosen is in honor of Jim Burgin, who owned the Jack Frost Dairy Bar and served homemade ice cream to locals for many years. 

The Marion Christmas parade starts at the intersection of Monte Vista Ave and North Main St, and will finish at the intersection of Spring St and South Main St.

Following the lead of the award-winning McDowell High School Marching Titan Band, there will be a host of Christmas parade floats decorated in the “Frosty” theme.

There will also be dancers, trucks, go-carts, and an appearance by Santa to meet, greet, and pose for photos with fans. 

READ MORE: The 30 Best NC Christmas Events

Christmas Parades in NC - Olde Mountain Christmas Parade Highlands
Olde Mountain Christmas Parade, photo courtesy of Visit Highlands NC

4. Olde Mountain Christmas Parade

Main Street, Highlands NC • 828-526-2112

Official Website

The Olde Mountain Christmas Parade returns to Main Street in Highlands NC, on December 2, 2023.

Starting at 10:30AM and running until around noon, this beloved North Carolina Christmas tradition has been delighting locals for over 40 years.

This holiday parade starts near the Hudson Library and ends by Reeve’s Ace Hardware. Spectators will line the sidewalk (and balconies) to get great views of 60+ Christmas floats, bands, and other entertainment.

Keep your eyes out for Smoky Bear, cool classic cars, Scottish bagpipes, and, of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus. 

The parade will end with some lively tunes by Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains marching band, so be sure to stay for the festive celebration of the season.

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

Asheville NC Christmas parade
Asheville Holiday Parade, photo courtesy of Asheville Downtown Association

5. Asheville Holiday Parade

Biltmore and Patton Ave, Asheville NC • 828-251-9973

Official Website

Starting at 11AM on November 18, 2023, the 77th Asheville Holiday Parade will be bigger and bolder than before. 

At 10:30 AM, you can get dressed up in your favorite holiday outfit for the Onsie One Miler in Downtown Asheville, which is a fun thing to do in Asheville for the whole family!

The Asheville Christmas parade boasts 60+ participants celebrating this year’s theme, “Snow Globe.” The Grand Marshall Float honors local volunteers, and there will be marching bands, jump ropers, martial arts, and more.

Other highlights will include an NC Arboretum-sponsored float featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus. If you want to meet the famous couple, visit the Restoration Hotel after the parade, from 2-4 PM. 

Afterwards, be sure to check out the amazing entries at the Grove Park Inn Gingerbread House Competition.

READ MORE: 18 Festive Ways to Celebrate an Asheville NC Christmas

Old Fashioned Christmas Hendersonville NC
Photo courtesy of

6. Hendersonville Christmas Parade

Main St, Hendersonville NC • 800-411-3812

Official Website

Running from November 24 through December 31st, 2023, Hendersonville‘s Home for the Holidays festival will features a host of fun and festive Christmas events.

This is a lovely holiday extravaganza, with Christmas shopping, scavenger hunts, Christmas tree lightings, bazaars,  ice skating, and appearances by Santa stretching throughout the season. 

But if you’re only interested in the Hendersonville Christmas Parade, it kicks off at 6 PM on December 2, 2023.

Since this parade is an evening event, spectators will get to enjoy the full glory of the gorgeous Christmas lights that festoon Downtown Hendersonville at this time of year. 

There will also be floats, marching bands, horse-drawn carriages, and a special appearance from you-know-who! 

READ MORE: The 28 Best NC Christmas Tree Farms to Visit

Christmas in NC - Winston-Salem Holiday Parade

7. Winston-Salem Holiday Parade

Intersection of Fourth and Poplar St, Winston-Salem NC • 336-794-6050

Official Website

Taking place at 5PM on December 2, 2023, the Winston-Salem Ambassadors Holiday Parade is one of the most popular North Carolina Christmas traditions. 

This Winston-Salem parade starts at the intersection of Fourth St and Poplar St, and will continue down to where Fourth St intersects with Liberty St. It will then turn onto Liberty, ending at the Corpening Plaza. 

After all the floats, marching bands, and dancers have passed you by, head down to Corpening Plaza for the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.

There you can join in a 30-year-old holiday tradition that marks the start of the festive season in Winston-Salem

READ MORE: 20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Smoky Mountains

Christmas in Davidson - North Mecklenburg Holiday Parade NC
Photo courtesy of the Town of Davidson

8. North Mecklenburg Holiday Parade

Main St, Davidson NC • 704-892-3349

Official Website

On December 2, 2023, the 41st Annual North Mecklenburg Holiday Parade starts in the Town of Davidson and ends in Cornelius (both of which are less than 30 minutes from downtown Charlotte NC).

Beginning at 1PM, the 2-mile parade follows Main Street in Davidson NC and ends at the intersection of North Main St and Catawba Ave in Cornelius. 

Once all the floats, dancers, and marching bands have passed, stick around for the 3rd Merry Main Street Tricycle Race. This fun holiday event finds 4-person trikes racing through an obstacle course right in the heart of town. 

That weekend in the Town of Davidson also offers other festive activities, including holiday shopping, Christmas light shows, live music, and a live nativity scene. 

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

Christmas attractions in NC - Bryson City Christmas Parade
Bryson City Christmas Parade, photo courtesy of

9. Bryson City Christmas Parade

Downtown Bryson City NC • 800-411-3812

Official Website

One of our favorite North Carolina mountain towns, Bryson City is proud to present its 49th Annual Christmas Parade at 2PM on December 2, 2023.

Affectionately known as “The Biggest Little Christmas Parade in the Smokies,” this year’s unifying parade theme is “Home for the Holidays.” 

Find a spot on Everett St to catch the best views of this traditional North Carolina Christmas event, which includes decorated floats, marching bands, classic cars, fire trucks, and of course Santa and Mrs. Claus. 

Earlier in the day, you can partake in the Annual Cookie Walk and Christmas Bazaar starting at 9 AM, or join Santa for breakfast at the River’s End Restaurant from 9 to 11 AM.

For more family-friendly Christmas fun, stop by Governors Island Road for a wonderland hayride later that day. 

READ MORE: 10 Reasons to Ride the Bryson City Polar Express Train for Christmas

Raleigh Christmas Parade
Photo courtesy of Raleigh Christmas Parade

10. Raleigh Christmas Parade

Intersection of Hillsborough St and St. Mary’s St, Raleigh NC • 919-755-9235

Official Website

Dubbed “The Largest Christmas Parade between Washington DC and Atlanta,” the 79th Raleigh Christmas Parade is certainly worthy of a weekend getaway.

This historic parade in Raleigh became an annual event in 1939, and was only put on hold during WWII before resuming in 1945. It even continued in virtual form during the pandemic!

The 1.4-mile parade route starts at the intersection of Hillsborough St and St. Mary’s St and winds its way through Downtown Raleigh before ending on Lenoir St.

Entertainment for the holiday parade will include bands, dancers, floats, and an appearance by Santa Claus himself.

Organized by Shop Local Raleigh, downtown Raleigh shops and restaurants will all be open and filled with holiday cheer.  -by Emma Gallagher; lead photo of Home For Holidays Christmas in Hendersonville NC by Todd Bush

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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.

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Born in Britain, writer/photographer Emma Gallagher lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC on a permaculture homestead with her husband, Jonathon. While traveling the world for 13 years, she fell in love with the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge region when she lived at an artist retreat in Burnsville NC before moving to Brevard. Today Emma lives near Stone Mountain State Park and Doughton Park volunteers at the Surry County Fiddlers Convention, and cares for the gardens at the Reeves Downtown School of Music in Elkin. She's also a volunteer for the Elkin Valley Trails Association, which maintains segment 6 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.