The 15 Best Christmas Towns in North Carolina

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[Updated on November 15, 2022]

It’s a bittersweet time when you’re watching the vivid fall colors of the NC High Country begin to fade. Sad because it signals that autumn is coming to a close, but sweet because it means the holidays are coming soon! 

Whether we’re in our hometown of Elkin NC or visiting one of the many other charming Christmas towns in North Carolina, it’s amazing to see how some colorful lights and festive décor can turn the dry December landscape into a magical winter wonderland.

Whether you’re traveling to the North Carolina mountains to visit family, pick out a favorite tree from one of the local Christmas tree farms, or simply explore the myriad small town Christmas events the area has to offer, there’s really no place like Western NC for the holidays. 

The Blue Ridge Mountains and Piedmont regions of NC are home to some of the best towns for Christmas celebrations, including a collection of quaint Christmas villages and a place nationally known as “Christmas Town USA.”

Whether you’re looking for a luxurious Christmas near Asheville (see: Christmas at Biltmore), hoping to go snow skiing or tubing in the High Country, or seeking a more intimate and low-key Hallmark Christmas town, there is a North Carolina Christmas celebration that’s going to fit the bill.

Read on for our guide to the Top 15 Christmas towns in NC, each of which offers an array of activities and attractions that are virtually guaranteed to put some “Ho Ho Ho!” into your holiday spirit.

READ MORE: The Best NC Christmas Events in Asheville, Biltmore, Bryson City & Beyond!

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Christmas Towns in North Carolina Guide

(arranged alphabetically)

  1. Christmas in Asheville NC
  2. Christmas in Beech Mountain/Banner Elk NC
  3. Christmas in Black Mountain NC
  4. Christmas in Blowing Rock NC
  5. Christmas in Boone NC
  6. Christmas in Bryson City NC
  7. Christmas in Cary NC
  8. Christmas in Charlotte NC
  9. Christmas in Dillsboro NC
  10. Christmas in Forest City NC
  11. Christmas in Hendersonville NC
  12. Christmas in McAdenville NC
  13. Christmas in Morganton NC
  14. Christmas in Sylva NC
  15. Christmas in Waynesville NC
Atrium - Biltmore Christmas in Asheville NC
Atrium -Biltmore Christmas Asheville NC by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. Christmas in Asheville NC

Though it’s a bit bigger than the other towns on this list, Asheville NC is one of the best cities for Christmas.

And with most of these other Christmas getaways located within an hour’s drive of Asheville, it’s simply one of the best places to spend Christmas in the USA.

The impeccably decorated Biltmore Estate is arguably the highlight of Christmas in Asheville, offering daytime tours of the largest privately owned home in America, and unbelievable candlelit tours in the evening.

Asheville also hosts a National Gingerbread House Competition, holiday lights at the NC Arboretum, some fantastic markets for holiday shopping, and first-rate holiday-themed theatrical performances.

With all of its historic B&Bs, treehouse rentals, restaurants, breweries, and other attractions, Asheville makes an amazing base from which to hop to most of these other towns for a well-rounded sampling of Christmas in North Carolina.

READ MORE: 15 Festive Ways to Celebrate an Asheville NC Christmas

Christmas in Banner Elk -Christmas towns in North Carolina
Christmas in Banner Elk, photo via bannerelk.com

2. Christmas in Beech Mountain/Banner Elk NC

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, it’s best to head for the NC High Country. This high-altitude area is home to numerous North Carolina ski resorts and an average of 41.5 inches of snow every year!

Beech Mountain offers a holiday market just after Thanksgiving, a Christmas parade just before Santa Claus comes to town, and plenty of time on the ski slopes in between.

Just 5 miles away, the town of Banner Elk adds to the seasonal sentiments with its Small Town Christmas Festival in early December, which includes a classic musical variety show á la Andy Williams and Bing Crosby.

Beech Mountain and Banner Elk are located 75 miles northeast of Asheville and 17 miles west of Boone.

There are tons of snow-based activities (including snow tubing) nearby, as well as tourist attractions such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain, and Blowing Rock. 

READ MORE: The Best Christmas Lights in North Carolina

NC Christmas Towns - Black Mountain
Holly Jolly at Black Mountain via Facebook

3. Christmas in Black Mountain NC

Black Mountain is only 12 miles from Asheville, so it’s to include a visit if you spend Christmas in Asheville NC. However, the Black Mountain celebration also deserves some props of its own.

As with so many other small towns in NC, Black Mountain has an annual Christmas parade in early December, followed by a Holly Jolly evening of shopping and entertainment.

Throughout the season, Lake Tomahawk has the Circle of Lights, which is a lovely place to stroll with a cup of cocoa.

The Santaland Diaries is a tradition at Black Mountain Center for Arts: The one-man comedy (created by David Sedaris) features a Macy’s Elf sharing observations about the department store’s customers and co-workers.

The Red Rocker Inn hosts an annual “Dinner with Dickens” event., which includes an interactive retelling of A Christmas Carol. All tickets should be reserved in advance.

READ MORE: The Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in North Carolina

NC Christmas Places - Christmas in the Park, Blowing Rock
Blowing Rock’s Christmas in the Park, photo via blowingrock.com

4. Christmas in Blowing Rock NC

One of the state’s oldest tourist destinations, Blowing Rock also ranks among the most fun places to go at Christmas in North Carolina. So it’s a great choice for adults and children alike.

Christmas in the Park & Lighting of the Town is an annual event that includes visits and photos with Santa for the kids, carnival games, live music, and igniting the town’s light display on Friday, Nov 25.

Then on Saturday, Nov 26 there’s a Blowing Rock Christmas parade on Main Street, which is traditionally followed by a visit to one of the local Christmas tree farms.

Additionally, the Tweetsie Railroad amusement park has an all-out Christmas bash starting in mid-November, and rolling all the way past Christmas Day.

It includes Christmas light displays seen by train, Santa’s Gingerbread House, and live Christmas shows.

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

Boone NC Christmas -Solar Tree Lighting
Boone NC Christmas Solar Tree Lighting, photo via exploreboone.com

5. Christmas in Boone NC

Home to Appalachian State University and the county seat of Watauga County, Boone NC is a bustling mountain town. Its population starts at around 20,000 people, but swells whenever the semester is in session.

While the town is best known for outdoor activities such as hiking trails and waterfalls, Boone also offers its fair share of delicious restaurants and local breweries.

For visitors to the NC High Country, Boone often acts as a hub. It’s a great base for exploring the area’s myriad Christmas events, and it’s a truly beautiful North Carolina Christmas town in its own right.

Christmas in Boone includes holiday events such as the Solar Tree Lighting, Christmas Fest, Christmas concerts, and superb shopping on super-hip King Street, not to mention lots of Boone Christmas tree farms.

Boone also offers easy day trips to Grandfather Mountain, Beech Mountain, Blowing Rock, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Banner Elk, Sugar Mountain, and Linville Falls.

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

The Polar Express in Bryson City - Christmas Towns in NC
Photo Courtesy Swain County TDA/Chamber of Commerce

6. Christmas in Bryson City NC

Located right on the eastern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City combines all the comforts of a tourist town with the charm of an NC mountain village.

The star of the Bryson City Christmas Celebration is the “Polar Express” train ride, a frosty excursion that takes passengers on a lively tour of the area via the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

Additionally, Bryson City is replete with shops that are eager to deck the halls with boughs of holly. The holiday decorations you’ll find downtown are amazing to boot, including a 50-foot-tall Christmas tree.

Bryson City is located near Fontana Lake, about 60 miles from Asheville, right at the boundary of the Deep Creek section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Christmas Lights in Atlanta and North Georgia

Christmas Light Show Raleigh - NC Chinese Lantern Festival
NC Chinese Lantern Festival via Facebook

7. Christmas in Cary NC

Located between Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Apex, the Town of Cary NC ranks among the best places to be at Christmas.

It has a cool collection of Christmas events that should make your “things to do in North Carolina in December” list.

On the first Saturday of December, Downtown Cary hosts an amateur Gingerbread House Competition, the Gifting Tree Project, Victorian Christmas at the Page-Walker House, and a lighting ceremony.

For multicultural North Carolina Christmas events, Cary offers an annual Kwanzaa Celebration at the Cary Arts Center and the NC Chinese Lantern Festival at Koka Booth Amphitheatre.

The festive Cary Jaycees Christmas Parade is another annual holiday event that helps to get Downtown Cary (and its visitors) into the Christmas spirit.

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

Charlotte North Carolina Christmas Charlotte Motor speedway
Charlotte Motor Speedway, photo via charlottemotorspeedway.com

8. Christmas in Charlotte NC

Charlotte is one of the best Christmas towns in North Carolina because there is so much to see and do there, from shopping and light displays to multiple Christmas villages.

The annual Light the Knights Festival takes place at Truist Field, home of the Charlotte Knights minor league baseball team. It includes holiday lights, live entertainment, ice skating, shopping, snacking, Santa, and more.

At Charlotte Motor Speedway, Speedway Christmas offers a 3.75-mile drive-thru display with over 4 million Christmas lights. There’s also a Christmas Village with an indoor movie theater, Lil’ Donut Express, and craft vendors.

Carowinds, the amusement park, puts on Winterfest, which includes activities like cookie decorating, ice skating, and igloo rentals.

There are also endless Christmas parades in the suburbs of Charlotte, and a host of Christmas shows right in town.

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

Best NC Christmas Towns - Christmas in Dillsboro NC Luminaries
Christmas in Dillsboro, photo by Nick Breedlove via Jackson Country Tourism Development Authority

9. Christmas in Dillsboro NC

One of those enchanting mountain towns in holiday overdrive, Dillsboro NC’s Main Street Christmas offerings rank right up there with the state’s Yuletide elite.

Where other Christmas towns in NC might use electricity to put on their Christmas light displays, Dillsboro celebrates the first two weeks of December with 2500+ hand-lit luminaries stretching along Main Street.

The cute North Carolina Christmas town also turns on the charm with handmade chocolates, locally made arts and crafts, and plenty of tinsel and garland.

Dillsboro is about an hour southwest of Asheville and 15 miles from Cherokee. It’s just a quick jump (under half an hour) for there to the Nantahala National Forest or Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

READ MORE: 10 Great Places to Celebrate Christmas in Virginia

Forest City -Christmas Town in North Carolina
Forest City Main Street at Christmas, photo by Gary Poteat via townofforestcity.com

10. Christmas in Forest City NC

When it comes to Christmas lights, the town of Forest City NC has taken the tradition to a new level. Every year, there are over a million twinkling lights shining all along Main Street throughout the holiday season. 

Forest City is located 60 miles southeast of Asheville, and 65 miles west of Charlotte. With a population of less than 8,000 people, it’s the largest municipality in Rutherford County.

Interestingly, Forest City has been voted the #1 Christmas Village near Asheville, and the #2 Christmas town in NC.

Their annual celebration begins with the Forest City Christmas lights ceremony in late November. All of Main Street is shut down while the switch is flipped on.

A few days later, the celebration continues with a Christmas parade, carriage rides, hayrides, ice skating, hot chocolate, and apple cider. In short, it’s a good old-fashioned holiday hullabaloo! 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Western NC Small Towns To Visit (and Live In!)

Home For Holidays Christmas in Hendersonville NC
Home For Holidays Christmas in Hendersonville NC by Todd Bush

11. Christmas in Hendersonville NC

Hendersonville NC aims to bring everyone “Home for the Holidays” by providing a festive small-town celebration that lasts from November 1 into the New Year.

The Main Street in beautiful Downtown Hendersonville is traditionally decked out with lots of Christmas bows and wreaths, as well as plenty of lights and a plethora of holiday shopping options.

Located about 20 miles south of Asheville, “Hendo” is widely considered one of the best North Carolina cities for Christmas, complete with a tree lighting ceremony, holiday decoration contests, and a community scavenger hunt.

Located 25 miles south of Asheville, Hendersonville offers everything you want from a quaint NC mountain town, but with a tad more cosmopolitan feel about it (i.e. great restaurants, museums, etc).

READ MORE: 15 Fun, Festive Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Helen GA

McAdenville, NC, is known as Christmastown USA
McAdenville NC, photo via townofmcadenville.org

12. Christmas in McAdenville NC (a.k.a. Christmastown USA)

The tiny town of McAdenville NC is widely known as Christmastown USA, largely because of its old-fashioned charm and exceptional Yuletide spirit.

Started in 1956, and regularly featured in the media since 1980 (see: The Charles Kuralt Morning Show, Good Morning America, Southern Living Magazine), McAdenville is widely regarded as the perfect Hallmark Christmas town.

McAdenville is a suburb of Charlotte and is located in Gaston County, which is part of the North Carolina Piedmont. It sits along the south fork of the Catawba River.

Every year this beloved North Carolina Christmas town hosts a tree lighting ceremony, Yule Log Parade, and Christmas light show leading up to the 25th of December.  

And while the last US census put the McAdenville population at under 1000 residents, it draws a huge crowd from across North Carolina and beyond to witness its annual Christmas Town U.S.A. light display!

READ MORE: The Best Places for Snow Skiing in North Carolina

Downtown Morganton NC Christmas Parade
Downtown Morganton NC Christmas Parade, photo via Facebook @downtownmorganton.nc

13. Christmas in Morganton NC

Morganton NC has the quintessential small mountain town Main Street, with lots of downtown shops inviting pedestrians to meander through as they stroll amongst the colorful Christmas lights.

On the docket for Christmas in Morganton are horse-drawn carriage rides, “Downtown Santa,” a big Christmas parade, and an eye on the sentiments of old-fashioned Christmases of yore.

Modern life in Morganton keeps the celebrations snappy as well, including an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party at the Catawba Brewing Company and Tree Trimming & Festive Caroling at the Silver Fork Winery (one of Western NC’s many fine wineries).

Morganton is located in the NC foothills about 55 miles east of Asheville, so it’s not quite as frigid as the high elevation towns. Still, you’ll be needing that Christmas sweater for sure!

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

Christmas in Sylva NC at Jackson Country Courthouse
Jackson Country Courthouse photo by Nick Breedlove

14. Christmas in Sylva NC

Sylva sits at the foot of the Smoky Mountains, and it has a small-town charm that makes it one of the best places to celebrate Christmas.

The Main Street/Downtown area of Sylva is sickly picturesque in any season (and has been featured in several movies). But come Christmastime, the cute meter registers even more so.

The courthouse at Sylva sits atop a hill full of Christmas trees, and Main Street is packed with great shopping, festive storefronts, and good eating options.

The big “Christmas in Sylva” weekend (December 2-4, 2022) has a tree lighting, Winter Market, Christmas parade, free concert, and luminaries.

There is also a huge holiday fireworks display downtown on December 16!

READ MORE: 10 Ways to Celebrate Old Fashioned Christmas in Dahlonega GA

Christmas in Waynesville NC - Christmas Towns in North Carolina
Christmas Parade in Waynesville NC, photo via haywoodchamber.com

15. Christmas in Waynesville NC

Founded in 1810 by Colonel Robert Love (a direct ancestor of this site’s co-founder, Bret Love), Waynesville NC is home to a great Appalachian Christmas celebration.

With a population of around 10,000 people, the town offers a full month of holiday festivities, including various plays, parades, and wagon rides.

The first weekend of December kicks off with Holly Days and features a Christmas tree lighting (a 60-foot living tree), Breakfast with Santa, and a Christmas parade finale.

Downtown Waynesville has an enchanting Main Street, with brick sidewalks and lots of fine galleries, shops, and restaurants. The whole place is festooned with Christmas lights, garland, wreaths, and other seasonal decor.

The Waynesville Christmas festivities are just 30 miles west of Asheville, near Maggie Valley and Lake Junaluska (one of the best lakes in the North Carolina mountains).–by Jonathon Engels; featured photo by Kate Gavenus courtesy of the Town of Beech Mountain 

 

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

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After visiting the Western North Carolina for the first time, Jonathon Engels and his wife Emma spent two years looking for a few acres of property there to establish a permaculture homestead. During that search, he explored the Blue Ridge Parkway, surrounding towns, and parks. He has taught at both Blue Ridge Community College and Surry Community College, is a member of a long-established land conservation community near the town of Dobson, volunteers at the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, and continues to explore the Blue Ridge, a place he now lovingly calls home.