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 decor 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 10 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.
Christmas Towns in North Carolina Guide
- McAdenville NC
- Forest City NC
- Hendersonville NC
- Beech Mountain/Banner Elk NC
- Bryson City NC
- Dillsboro NC
- Waynesville NC
- Boone NC
- Morganton NC
- Asheville NC
1. 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!
2. 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!
3. 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.
The large suburb of Asheville is widely considered one of the best North Carolina cities for Christmas, complete with a tree lighting ceremony, Christmas plays, 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).
4. 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.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Banner Elk NC
5. 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.
6. Christmas in Dillsboro NC
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.
7. 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.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Waynesville NC
8. 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.
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.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Boone NC
9. 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 North Carolina Music Festivals
10. 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. –by Jonathon Engels; featured photo by Kate Gavenus courtesy of the Town of Beech Mountain