20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains

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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!

READ MORE: The Top 30 Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in GA & NC

Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains Guide

  1. Light Up Blue Ridge (Blue Ridge GA)
  2. Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas (Dahlonega GA)
  3. Christmas in Helen GA (Helen GA)
  4. Mountain Country Christmas (Hiawassee GA)
  5. Lakeside Lights Spectacular (Lanier Island GA)
  6. Rock City Christmas (Lookout Mountain GA)
  7. Christmas in the Mountains (Cleveland GA)
  8. Ride the Polar Express Train (Bryson City NC)
  9. Christmas at the Biltmore Estate (Asheville NC)
  10. Christmas Town USA (McAdenville NC)
  11. Tweetsie Railroad (Blowing Rock NC)
  12. National Gingerbread Competition (Asheville NC)
  13. Forest City Christmas Lights (Forest City NC)
  14. Winter Lights at The North Carolina Arboretum (Asheville NC)
  15. Have a Dickens of a Christmas (Roanoke VA)
  16. Celebrate at The Omni Homestead Resort (Hot Springs VA)
  17. The Pinnacle Speedway in Lights (Bristol TN)
  18. Holiday Shows at the Barter Theatre (Abingdon VA)
  19. Sounds of Christmas (Bedford VA)
  20. Merry Marion (Marion VA)

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

 

Blue Ridge Mountains in GA

Towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains GA -Light Up Blue Ridge
Light Up Blue Ridge, photo via lightupblueridge.info

1. Light Up Blue Ridge

Official Website

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.

Then, on Saturday, Nov 26, the festivities continue with more entertainment, as well as the Blue Ridge Christmas parade, lighting of the town 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.

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

Horse Drawn Carriage Rides in Dahlonega GA for Old Fashioned Christmas
Horse Drawn Carriage Rides in Dahlonega GA, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

2. Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas

Official Website

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 Fashion 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.

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

Best Christmas Towns in Georgia -Christmas Lights at the Gazebo in Unicoi Hill Park, Helen GA
Christmas Lights in Helen GA, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

3. Christmas in Helen GA

Official Website

Much like Little Switzerland NC, Helen GA is a Bavarian-influenced tourist town. It’s also one of the most unique places to celebrate Christmas in Georgia. 

The town is best known for its many German restaurants, eclectic shops, beautiful waterfalls, family-friendly tourist attractions, and rental cabins.

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 2022 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.

READ MORE: 10 Fun, Festive Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Helen GA

Mountain Country Chrismtas in Lights
Photo courtesy of Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

4. Celebrate a Mountain Country Christmas

Official Website

Located just south of the North Carolina border, the tiny town of Hiawassee GA boasts some truly gorgeous scenery, which becomes even more magical at Christmas time.

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.

Hosted by the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, the beloved holiday attraction combines a spectacular Christmas light display, Appalachian crafts, mouthwatering festival food, and live music.

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

Lakeside Lights Spectacular
Photo courtesy of Margaritaville at Lanier Islands

5. Get Down at the Margaritaville Lakeside Lights Spectacular

Official Website

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 19, 2022 to January 16, 2023, 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.”

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

 
Rocky City Christmas Blue Ridge GA Mountains
Photo Courtesy Rock City

6. Rock City Christmas

Official Website

If you’re visiting Lookout Mountain GA, just south of Chattanooga, you’ve simply got to check out the Christmas celebration at Rock City Garden.

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.

Seasonal activities here involve visiting Santa in his workshop, a live Nativity presentation, Gingerbread cookie decorating, and Storytime with Mrs. Claus.

Running from Nov 18 to Jan 1, this event requires timed tickets, and they must be bought online in advance. Tickets are not available at the ticket desk.

READ MORE: North Georgia Christmas Tree Farms Where You Can Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

Christmas at Babyland General in Cleveland GA
Cabbage Patch Christmas at Babyland General, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

7. Christmas in the Mountains of Cleveland GA

Official Website

Cleveland GA often gets overlooked because it’s close to popular North Georgia towns such as Helen and Dahlonega. But it is no less filled with infectious yuletide spirit.

Christmas in Cleveland GA kicks off with the start of the Christmas In The Mountains celebration on Dec 3. 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 own 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!

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

 

 

Blue Ridge Mountains in NC

North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains Christmas - The Polar Express in Bryson City
Photo Courtesy Swain County TDA / Chamber of Commerce

8. Take a Ride on the Polar Express

Official Website

Who knew the Polar Express made a run through the Great Smoky Mountains every year?

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City NC takes visitors on wonderful holiday trips throughout the Christmas season, from Nov 10 to Dec 31. 

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 the month of December, but the actual steam train is mostly on the weekends and during the week of Christmas.

READ MORE: The 20+ Best Western NC Christmas Events in Asheville, Bryson City & Beyond!

Atrium - Biltmore Christmas in Asheville NC
Biltmore Christmas in Asheville NC, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

9. Christmas at Biltmore Estate

Official Website

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.

The Biltmore Garden is decorated to the tilt as well, and Antler Hill Village offers some great Asheville restaurants, Christmas markets, and even a winery for guests to explore.

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

McAdenville, NC, is known as Christmastown USA -towns in the blue ridge mountains
McAdenville NC/Christmas Town USA, photo via townofmcadenville.org

10. Go to Christmas Town USA

Official Website

Lots of towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina have Christmas blow-outs. But only one gets the honor of bearing the nickname, “Christmas Town USA.” That’s McAdenville NC.

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.

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

Things to do in the blue ridge mountains -Tweetsie Railroad Christmas in Blowing Rock NC
Tweetsie Railroad Christmas, photo by Dawson Tozier

11. Play at Tweetsie Railroad

Official Website

The area around Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk (collectively known as the NC High Country) is one of the best places to visit during winter in North Carolina.

The region is packed to the brim with fantastic ski resorts, places for snow tubing, and Boone Christmas tree farms where you can cut your own tree.

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 afterwards by making s’mores over an outdoor firepit.

Advance tickets are required, due to the heavy demand for spending Christmas at Tweetsie.

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

Christmas in the blue ridge mountains nc - National Gingerbread Competition
National Gingerbread Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

12. View the National Gingerbread Competition

Official Website

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 2022 winner will be named on November 21, but the expansive display of Gingerbread Houses will remain open to the public from November 28 through January 2, 2023.

Guests who are not staying at the hotel are invited to visit on Sunday evenings after 6PM 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.

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

Best NC Christmas Towns - Forest City
Photo by Gary Poteat, courtesy of Town of Forest City

13. Enjoy the Forest City Christmas Lights

Official Website

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 6PM on Thanksgiving Day, while the Forest City Christmas Parade happens on Nov 27.

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.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Christmas Towns in North Carolina

A blue ridge mountain christmas -NC Arboretum Winter Lights
NC Arboretum Winter Lights, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

14. Wander through Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum

Official Website

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 2022 light show runs from Nov 18 through Dec 31. Tickets can be purchased online, and are sold per vehicle rather than per person.

READ MORE: The 12 Best Places to See Christmas Lights in North Carolina

 

Blue Ridge Mountains in VA

Street performance, performer, Christmas time, Christmas festivities
Photo Courtesy Downtown Roanoke

15. Have a Dickens of a Christmas

Official Website

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 2022, the first weekend (Dec 2) consists of a Christmas tree lighting and live performances; the second (Dec 9) brings the City of Roanoke Christmas parade; the last (Dec 16) 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.

Outside of the Dickens celebration, Roanoke is chock full of holiday events such as parades, light shows, festivals, and holiday markets.

READ MORE: 10 Great Places to Celebrate Christmas in Virginia

Christmas vacation, Christmas resort, ice rink
Photo Courtesy Omni Hotels

16. Celebrate at The Omni Homestead Resort

Official Website

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 2022 celebration starts off on Nov 21 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.

Check Rates for the Omni Homestead Resort via Booking.com.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Christmas Tree Farms in Virginia

Bristol Motor Speedway, Christmas Lights, Lightshow
Photo Courtesy Bristol Motor Speedway

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 on 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 the car, with proceeds going to the Speedway Children’s Charity. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Places To See Christmas Lights in Virginia

Christmas in blue ridge mountains VA at the Barter Theatre
Photo Courtesy Visit SWVA

18. Catch a Show at the Barter Theatre

Official Website

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 (2022) include It’s a Wonderful Life, Over the River and Through the Woods, and All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.

The theatre has multiple shows a day, sometimes starting as early as 10AM, with matinees at 2PM or 3PM and evening performances beginning at 7:30PM or 8PM.

While you’re in Abingdon catching a show, why not make a full night of it and visit one of the downtown restaurants for dinner, see some Christmas decorations, and maybe even do some holiday shopping.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in SWVA (Southwest Virginia)

Horse and carriage, Christmas in Bedford VA Mountains
Photo Courtesy Destination Bedford VA

19. Sounds of Christmas in Bedford VA

Official Website

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 25), and they keep running with the annual Peaks of Otter Christmas 5K (Dec 1-4).

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 2-4.

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 26 and features crafty work from local artisans. There’s also a Christmas Parade on Dec 3 and the Elks Home Annual Light Display.

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

Storefront window, Christmas storefront, window shopping
Photo Courtesy Visit Smyth County VA

20. Make It to Merry Marion: A Holiday Destination

Official Website

Marion VA loves having that small town feel, while still providing lots to 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 town is doused in Christmas lights, garland, 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

 

Leave No Trace logo

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.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

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.