During the Christmas holidays, there are countless things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains region, which stretches from the state of Georgia all the way north to Pennsylvania.
Honestly, it’s hard to narrow down myriad ways you could celebrate Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains during the holidays recalls the yuletide spirit of yesteryear, with those small town Christmas celebrations that Hallmark movies seem to always attempt to capture.
In higher elevations, like the North Carolina High Country or the Grayson Highlands of southern Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountain snow can make the holiday special, providing beautiful shots of the Blue Ridge Parkway in winter.
In charming towns nestled among the foothills, the collection of town squares, parades, and Main Street shops decked in Christmas decorations leave little doubt that the region’s Christmas celebrations are special.
Forget about asking “Why are the Blue Ridge Mountains blue?” It’s time to learn why they’re red and green, with jingle bells all over and colorful Christmas lights all over!
Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia may be just a bit south of the North Pole, but they’re not so far away in spirit.
Read on for our staff picks for the 20 best places to celebrate Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains!
Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains Guide
- Light Up Blue Ridge (Blue Ridge GA)
- Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas (Dahlonega GA)
- Christmas in Helen GA (Helen GA)
- Mountain Country Christmas (Hiawassee GA)
- Lakeside Lights Spectacular (Lanier Island GA)
- Rock City Christmas (Lookout Mountain GA)
- Christmas in the Mountains (Cleveland GA)
- Ride the Polar Express Train (Bryson City NC)
- Christmas at the Biltmore Estate (Asheville NC)
- Christmas Town USA (McAdenville NC)
- Tweetsie Railroad (Blowing Rock NC)
- National Gingerbread Competition (Asheville NC)
- Forest City Christmas Lights (Forest City NC)
- Winter Lights at The North Carolina Arboretum (Asheville NC)
- Have a Dickens of a Christmas (Roanoke VA)
- Celebrate at The Omni Homestead Resort (Hot Springs VA)
- The Pinnacle Speedway in Lights (Bristol TN)
- Holiday Shows at the Barter Theatre (Abingdon VA)
- Sounds of Christmas (Bedford VA)
- Merry Marion (Marion VA)
Blue Ridge Mountains in GA
1. Light Up Blue Ridge
The Light Up Blue Ridge celebration kicks off the season with lots of fun things to do in Blue Ridge GA.
The event kicks off on “Blue Friday,” their twist on Black Friday. Downtown merchants give discounts, strolling entertainment takes over East Main Street, and the Gingerbread Village exhibit in the Arts Center goes public.
On Saturday, Nov 25, the festivities continue with more entertainment, as well as the Blue Ridge Christmas parade, lighting of the mountain town’s tree, and pictures with Santa.
Food vendors from local restaurants will be catering the entire event, and Santa’s Mailbox is open for children to write and send their letters to Santa.
2. Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas
The Old Fashioned Christmas celebration in Dahlonega GA begins the day after Thanksgiving, with the lighting of the town square and Christmas tree.
An array of other Christmas events happen throughout the holiday season, even past Christmas Day and all the way up to New Year’s Eve.
Horse-drawn carriage rides are available every weekend, the Christmas market is open the first two weekends of December, and the St. Luke’s Christmas Cookie Walk is an annual fundraiser.
Other events included in Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas are the Festival of Trees, Live Nativity, a musical production at the historic Holly Theatre, and New Year’s Eve Luminaries.
While you’re there, dine at downtown Dahlonega restaurants, which rank among the best in North Georgia.
3. Christmas in Helen GA
But Christmas in Helen GA is a special time to visit, with the town’s classic European architecture draped in colorful lights and loads of holiday decor.
Their 2023 festivities kick off with the annual Lighting of the Village on the day after Thanksgiving.The Christmas lights in downtown Helen are unveiled after sunset, and Santa and Mrs. Claus will pose for pics in Riverside Park.
The Helen Christmas Market also opens on Thanksgiving weekend, while the Downtown Helen Christmas Parade in early December features floats and costumed characters, with Santa Claus closing out the show.
4. Celebrate a Mountain Country Christmas
The town is best known for having 100+ miles of Lake Chatuge shoreline, breathtaking mountain vistas, and popular tourist attractions like High Shoals Falls, Brasstown Bald, and Hamilton Gardens.
But the big draw during Christmas in Hiawassee is the annual Mountain Country Christmas in Lights celebration.
You can also get some face time with Santa Claus, who poses for photos with kids and families.
READ MORE: The Best North Georgia Christmas Events
5. Get Down at the Margaritaville Lakeside Lights Spectacular
Lake Lanier Islands is located on one of the most popular lakes in North Georgia.
Every Christmas, the party gets cranked up with their Lakeside Lights Spectacular, a walk-through light show with all sorts of fun stuff to do.
Open from November 22, 2023, to January 15, 2024, the varied Christmas lights range from conventional displays and high-tech showstoppers to Margaritaville-themed scenarios.
In addition to the lights, Santa’s Tiki Bar is serving up specialty cocktails, craft beers, and snacks. Dasher’s Drinks & Treats has s’mores kits for the kiddies to enjoy.
There’s also a 575-foot-long snow tubing slide as part of “License to Chill Snow Island.”
6. Rock City Christmas
Their annual Enchanted Garden of Lights event has been rocking folks’ holiday worlds for over 25 years now.
The light show at Rock City has nearly a million LED lights arranged in nearly 3 dozen holiday scenes, such as Arctic Kingdom, the Grand Corridor in Yule Town, and the Magic Forest.
Running from Nov 17 to Jan 6, this event requires timed tickets, and they must be bought online in advance. Tickets are not available at the ticket desk.
7. Christmas in the Mountains of Cleveland GA
Christmas in Cleveland GA kicks off with the start of the Christmas In The Mountains celebration on Dec 2. The opening day includes a Lighted Christmas Parade, one of the biggest holiday events in White County.
The town’s holiday festivities also include a Holiday Market on the Cleveland Courthouse Square, the Merry Merchants Open House, and a Community Christmas tree lighting in Freedom Park.
The North Georgia Wildlife & Safari Park hosts its holiday celebration, including festive Christmas music, hot cocoa, and a live Nativity featuring the park’s animals. Special Starry Night Tours are also available.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the utterly unique Cabbage Patch Christmas at Babyland General. Kids can meet Santa and explore the bizarre magical realm in which all Cabbage Patch Kids are born!
Blue Ridge Mountains in NC
8. Take a Ride on the Polar Express
Who knew the Polar Express made a run through the Great Smoky Mountains every year?
Their North Carolina train rides include sing-a-longs, audio clips from the animated Tom Hanks classic, golden tickets, hot cocoa, and special souvenirs.
Tickets come in First Class, Premium Crown Class, Crown Class, and Coach Class, with varying prices. With all classes, children get a chance to meet Santa, get served cookies and cocoa, and receive a silver bell.
The Polar Express trains in Bryson City run most days in December, but the actual steam train is mostly on the weekends and during the week of Christmas.
9. Christmas at Biltmore Estate
Christmas in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains doesn’t get more elegant, charming, and jaw-dropping than Christmas at The Biltmore.
The Biltmore’s famous Candlelight Christmas Evenings are a thing to behold, with roaring fireplaces, live music, and flickering candlelight throughout the massive mansion.
Christmas at the Biltmore Daytime Celebrations are also available, and they showcase the beautiful Christmas trees, ribbons, garlands, wreaths, and sparkling lights of the season.
10. Go to Christmas Town USA
Small, quaint, and community-oriented, McAdenville has all the charm of the small mountain towns in NC. But it also has national press coverage from CBS Sunday Morning, Southern Living Magazine, and more.
This little town has been pulling out all the stops for Christmas since the mid-1950s, and the celebration has only upped the ante as its recognition has grown.
One of our favorite NC Christmas traditions, McAdenville has wonderful Christmas lights, bells playing Christmas carols, and a historic downtown area that’s practically oozing with cheer.
11. Play at Tweetsie Railroad
Tweetsie Railroad is a family theme park located right in the middle of it all. The annual Tweetsie Railroad Christmas includes light shows via railway, Santa’s Gingerbread House, and live Christmas shows.
While there, families can also enjoy the classic amusement rides, and warm up afterward by making s’mores over an outdoor firepit.
Advance tickets are required, due to the heavy demand for spending Christmas at Tweetsie.
12. View the National Gingerbread Competition
Held at the historic Grove Park Inn in Asheville NC, the National Gingerbread House Competition is one of the most uniquely festive competitions you’ll ever see.
The 2023 winner will be named on November 20, but the expansive display of Gingerbread Houses will remain open to the public from November 27 through January 1, 2024.
Guests who are not staying at the Asheville hotel are invited to visit on Sunday evenings after 6 PM or anytime on Monday through Thursday, excluding December 23-25 and December 30-January 1.
Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for hotel guests only.
For those who are unable to visit the Omni Grove Park Inn in person, the “12 Days of Gingerbread” is a social media event (on Facebook and Instagram) that shows one of the Top 12 finalists a day, starting on December 1.
13. Enjoy the Forest City Christmas Lights
Voted as the top Christmas Town to visit near Asheville NC, Forest City offers all that quaint small-town stuff people love.
But they serve it up with an extra dose of good cheer during their Hometown Holiday Festivities.
Every year they line Main Street with over a million Christmas lights. The annual lighting ceremony is held at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day, while the Forest City Christmas Parade happens on Nov 26.
Horse-drawn carriage rides run for the first three weekends of December (best to reserve in advance), and hayrides along Main Street are sold on a first-come, first-served basis on the same days.
Other attractions of the Forest City Christmas celebration include an ice-skating rink, a concession stand selling hot drinks, and numerous decorated storefront windows.
14. Wander through Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum
Located just south of Downtown Asheville, the North Carolina Arboretum has one of the premier Christmas light shows in the state.
Winter Lights is a walk-through experience, with a huge collection of outdoor displays made up of over a million twinkling lights.
There is also a 50-foot Christmas tree, which is part of a dazzling light show synced to music.
Even better, Winter Lights is the NC Arboretum’s largest fundraiser of the year, so the money you spend celebrating there goes to a good cause.
Their 2023 light show runs from Nov 17 through Dec 31. Tickets can be purchased online, and are sold per vehicle rather than per person.
Blue Ridge Mountains in VA
15. Have a Dickens of a Christmas
For over 40 years now, Roanoke VA has held an annual 3-weekend holiday romp, “Dickens of a Christmas,” with each Friday bringing a new Christmas event.
In 2023, the first weekend (Dec 1) consists of Christmas tree lighting and live performances; the second (Dec 8) brings the City of Roanoke Christmas parade; the last (Dec 15) has a Pet Costume Contest and a fun Kids Zone.
Horse-drawn carriage rides in Downtown Roanoke are also available throughout the Christmas festivities.
The event takes place behind the Historic Roanoke City Market, one of the oldest outdoor markets in the country.
16. Celebrate at The Omni Homestead Resort
One of the great resorts in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs VA makes a real spectacle of the holiday season.
Their 2023 celebration starts on Nov 20 with the Great Hall Tree Arrival. The morning begins with tree-themed crafts for kids.
The enormous 20-foot-tall Christmas tree is hoisted by a team through the Great Hall, and then there’s a tree-lighting ceremony held on the day before Thanksgiving.
The week of Christmas brings lots of special activities, including making s’mores by the fire, Bedtime Stories with Santa’s Elves, and gingerbread house decorating.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Christmas Tree Farms in Virginia
17. Race to The Pinnacle Speedway in Lights
The Bristol Motor Speedway annually hosts The Pinnacle Speedway in Lights, a truly awesome Christmas event and ridiculous light display located just across the border of Virginia in the state of Tennessee.
Over three million lights are strung around the speedway arena, the speedway, and the dragway.
It’s a 4-mile drive-thru Christmas light display, and visiting cars get to take a lap on what is known as “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”
In the center field of the track, visitors can enjoy checking out the Christmas Village, where there are vendors selling food, arts and crafts, and even an ice rink for skating.
Tickets are available online and are sold by car, with proceeds going to the Speedway Children’s Charity.
18. Catch a Show at the Barter Theatre
The holidays are a great time to take in a play, and the Barter Theatre in Abingdon VA puts on several different ones during the holidays.
Christmas shows that are running at the Barter this year (2023) include I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.
The theatre has multiple shows a day, sometimes starting as early as 10 AM, with matinees at 2 PM or 3 PM and evening performances beginning at 7:30 PM or 8 PM.
While you’re in Abingdon catching a show, why not make a full night of it? Visit one of the downtown restaurants for dinner, see some Christmas decorations, and maybe even do some holiday shopping.
19. Sounds of Christmas in Bedford VA
Bedford VA is a great Christmas town to visit in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, and it has holiday events going on through much of December.
The festivities kick off with the Festival of Trees at the Bedford Welcome Center (starting on Nov 24), and they keep running with the annual Peaks of Otter Christmas 5K (Dec 2).
Bedford is best known as home to the National D-Day Memorial, and America’s fallen heroes are honored with “The Flames of Memory” on Dec 1-3.
There’s also a “Christmas at Wartime” celebration there that craftily combines WWII camp displays with traditional Christmas crafts for the kids.
The Mistletoe Maker’s Market is held on Nov 25 and features crafty work from local artisans. There’s also a Christmas Parade on Dec 2 and the Elks Home Annual Light Display.
20. Make It to Merry Marion: A Holiday Destination
Marion VA loves having that small-town feel, while still providing lots of things for visitors to do, particularly during the Blue Ridge Mountains winter holidays.
The independent shops in Downtown Marion create beautiful window displays for shoppers to enjoy, and the NC Christmas town is doused in holiday lights, garlands, wreaths, and ribbons.
Live music performances are regular features during the holidays. The Merry Marion Indoor Craft Market is on the first weekend of December, as is the Marion Christmas Parade.
There’s also an outdoor Mini Christmas Market every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the Lincoln Theatre has a popular annual Christmas concert.
If you’re headed for the Blue Ridge region this holiday season, Merry Marion is yet another festive place to add to your itinerary! –by Jonathon Engels; lead photo via Canva