The state of North Carolina is renowned for an incredible array of popular attractions.
There are majestic Appalachian mountains, countless waterfalls, the Biltmore Estate (the largest private home in America), the Raleigh-Durham Tech Triangle, NASCAR racing, college sports, and small town living.
When it comes to winter in NC, locals have managed to tap into all of the holiday facets to put on some ridiculously cool North Carolina Christmas light shows.
North Carolina is a fantastic place for enjoying the winter holidays.
The temperatures are chilly but not miserable, the Blue Ridge Mountains periodically get capped with snow, and the tight-knit communities here love to throw a party!
Western NC has cozy snow skiing resorts and world-class snow tubing slopes. And from mid-November to January, it seems like there’s a Christmas parade, or festival, or market happening close by every single weekend.
If you’re interested in seeing some North Carolina Christmas lights during the holiday season, read on for our guide to holiday destinations and events for catching the very best Christmas lights in NC.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Christmas Towns in North Carolina
Best Christmas Lights in North Carolina Guide
- Christmas at the Biltmore/Antler Hill Village (Asheville)
- NC Arboretum Winter Lights (Asheville)
- Hometown Holiday Festivities (Forest City)
- Holiday Light Spectacular (Mooresville)
- Light the Knights and Christmas Village (Charlotte)
- Speedway Christmas (Concord)
- Festival of Lights at Sweet Valley Ranch (Fayetteville)
- Winter Wonderlights (Greensboro)
- Christmas Parade of Lights (Greenville)
- Christmas Town USA (McAdenville)
- Fieldstream Farm Christmas Light Festival (Raleigh)
- NC Chinese Lantern Festival (Cary)
READ MORE: The Best Christmas Lights in Atlanta and North Georgia for 2022
Christmas Lights in Asheville NC
1. Christmas at the Biltmore/Antler Hill Village
One Lodge Street, Asheville NC • 800-411-3812
In terms of Asheville Christmas lights, nowhere has a wow factor that can measure up to Christmas at the Biltmore Estate, America’s Largest Home, which has 250 rooms encompassing 175,000 square feet!
From November 4, 2022 through January 7, 2023, the Biltmore offers special Candlelight Christmas Evenings inside the house.
A magical Norway Spruce Christmas Tree and pathway light displays lead visitors to the French Renaissance-style Biltmore House. Inside, thousands of ornaments reflect the soft candles and flickering fireplaces.
Elsewhere on the expansive estate, Antler Hill Village has glittering lights and Christmas decorations to enjoy.
The basic evening visit to the Biltmore is $119-$144 and includes an audio tour of the house, 8,000 acres of gardens and grounds to explore, the Antler Hill Village & Winery, a wine tasting, and parking.
READ MORE: The 35 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC
2. NC Arboretum Winter Lights
100 Frederick Law Olmstead Way, Asheville NC • 828-655-2492
There are a few different NC arboretums that put on light displays for the holidays, but the Asheville arboretum Christmas lights are the top of the line.
In 2022, Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum opens on November 18th and puts on the Winter Lights show nightly until December 31st (but they’re closed on Christmas Day).
The 1 million-plus LED light show is a wonderful walking experience, with artfully designed, nature-themed displays as well as lovely landscape lighting all around the arboretum’s gardens and woodland edges.
Tickets are sold online for $30-$60/car for timed tickets, or $75 for flex tickets. Buying tickets in person costs an extra $10. Note that weekend slots often sell out, so it’s a good idea to purchase ahead of time.
Winter Lights is the NC Arboretum’s biggest fundraising event, and all proceeds benefit its annual programs.
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3. Hometown Holiday Festivities
Main Street, Forest City NC • 828-247-4430
Forest City NC is located about an hour’s drive from Asheville, but it has received recognition as both the #1 light show in Greater Asheville and the #1 Christmas lights in Western North Carolina.
The town’s festivities kick off at 6PM on Thanksgiving and extend to New Year’s Day, starting with the annual lighting ceremony on the town’s Historic Main Street.
Each year, the heart of Downtown Forest City is bedecked with over a million lights, and the area from Broadway Street to Church Street is shut down to traffic (and parking) for the lighting ceremony.
During their Hometown Holiday Festivities, the town of Forest City has a Christmas parade (3PM on Sun, Nov 28), horse-drawn carriage rides, hay rides, ice skating, and crazy light displays at POPS (Pavilion on Park Square).
The Forest City Christmas lights are illuminated every night from 5PM to 11:30PM, and of course it’s free to stroll Main Street, do some window shopping, and enjoy the decorated storefronts.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Christmas Towns in Georgia to Visit
Christmas Lights in Charlotte NC
4. Holiday Light Spectacular
413 Main St, Mooresville NC • 877-661-1234
The Holiday Light Spectacular is a nightly attraction held on the lawn of Town Hall in Mooresville NC, from early December to New Year’s Eve.
This impressive Christmas light display features more than 150,000 twinkling lights, all of which are orchestrated to festive Christmas music.
Christmas in Mooresville begins with the annual lighting of the Christmas Tree at LangTree on Lake Norman in mid-November.
The area’s other holiday activities include the Mooresville Christmas Parade, Movies on Main Presents Holiday Films, and Zootastic Park’s Christmas Wonderland of Lights.
The town of Mooresville’s Holiday Light Spectacular is a beloved annual Christmas tradition for many locals. It’s always a hit with children, and it’s free to visit!
READ MORE: 10 Great Places to Celebrate Christmas in Virginia
5. Light The Knights and Christmas Village
324 S. Mint Street, Charlotte NC • 704-274-8300
Charlotte is home to the Charlotte Knights minor league baseball team, which plays at Truist Field.
Each winter, the Light The Knights Festival sees the facility turned into a full-on holiday hotspot for those seeking colorful Charlotte Christmas lights.
In addition to the Holiday Walkthrough & Light show, there is a regulation-sized hockey rink for ice skating, a 150-foot snow tubing hill, and the Charlotte Christmas village.
The Christmas event lights up on November 23 and extends through January 6, with lots of live music, holiday treats, shopping, and visits from Santa Claus.
Single-day festival admission is $10. But there are also package deals that include entry and ice skating ($25), or snow tubing ($25), or both ($35).
Season passes are $39, and all-access season passes (snow-tubing and ice skating included) are $99.
READ MORE: The 20+ Best Western NC Christmas Events in Asheville, Bryson City & Beyond
6. Speedway Christmas
5555 Concord Pkwy S, Concord NC • 704-455-3200
NASCAR gets into the Christmas spirit at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, which hosts the annual Speedway Christmas celebration.
This is the largest drive-thru Christmas light display in the USA, with 3.75 miles of lights as well as a Christmas Village to explore on foot.
Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Christmas light display takes over 5,000 hours to build, and includes 14,000 feet of extension cords and over 4 million individual lights.
This Charlotte NC Christmas attraction opens in mid-November and goes until mid-January. In 2021, car passes were $30 Monday through Wednesday and $40 Thursday through Sunday.
There’s also an Express Lane: For a cool $70, guests can skip the line and get straight to the Speedway!
READ MORE: 20 Awesome Things to Do for Winter in North Carolina
Christmas Lights in Fayetteville NC
7. Festival of Lights at Sweet Valley Ranch
2990 Sunnyside School Rd, Fayetteville NC • 844-622-3276
Sweet Valley Ranch is a privately-owned 300-acre farm in Fayetteville.
When the fall colors in NC begin to turn, they have a 10-acre corn maze, pumpkin patch, and one of the largest outdoor haunted events in the area.
But in winter, the grounds are transformed into a magical light display featuring over a million lights.
Fayetteville NC Christmas lights are truly at their best at Sweet Valley, which is located across the street from Tiny’s Winter Wonderland (which offers food vendors, Santa, and more).
The drive-thru Christmas light show has features like a Gingerbread House, Nativity Scene, Star Wars, Dinosaur World, and the Grinch’s Mansion.
There are also Farm Wagon Tours for large groups (up to 80 people) to see the Christmas lights together, but reservations should be made beforehand by calling the ranch.
READ MORE: The 25 Best Western NC Christmas Tree Farms Near Asheville, Boone & Beyond
Christmas Lights in Greensboro NC
8. Winter Wonderlights
4301 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro NC • 336-288-3769
The Greensboro Science Center hosts the annual Winter Wonderlights, which covers the 11-acre property in Christmas spirit and includes holiday music.
Show zones include the Dancing Fountains, Polar Pond, and Snowball Surprise. Their Forest trails have a Wild Walk and Starry Night, while their Fun zones feature a Dino Disco and a cool Treehouse covered in Xmas lights.
Regular admission to the best of the Greensboro Christmas lights is $20 for members and $25 for non-members on Friday through Sunday, and the entire week of Christmas.
There’s a discounted weekday rate of $16 for Monday through Thursday nights.
Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets online and to arrive 5-10 minutes early, but tickets can be purchased on site as well.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Fairs in North Carolina to Visit
Christmas Lights in Greenville NC
9. Christmas Parade of Lights
Main Street, Greenville NC • [email protected]
The Greenville Christmas Parade of Lights is put on by the Greenville Jaycees, a federation of young leaders and business owners within the local community.
Rather than the typical stationary light displays commonly found on streets and buildings, these are parade floats and entries that dazzle the eyes with Christmas spirit.
The parade is held on Greenville’s Main Street on December 3rd. The route starts at the intersection of 1st Street and Evans Street in the Uptown District, with crowds lining the Evans Street sidewalks down to 9th Street to watch.
This is very much a community-focused event, but outsiders are welcome to join the joyful holiday festivities.
READ MORE: The 15 Best North Carolina Mountain Towns to Visit
Christmas Lights in McAdenville NC
10. Christmas Town USA
Main Street, McAdenville NC • 704-823-2333
Commonly known as Christmas Town USA, the small town of McAdenville (population 1,054) is nationally recognized for its annual holiday festivities.
The McAdenville NC Christmas lights are a big part of the town’s extensive Christmas celebration.
Their impressive Christmas light display can be viewed with a walk or drive through downtown, starting with the Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 1st and running through December 26th.
The McAdenville Christmas lights are switched on at 5:30 each night, and they twinkle and shine until 10PM. In addition to the lights, the town also has bells playing Christmas carols and great restaurants and shopping options.
This event has been going on since 1956, gained fame in 1980 (when it was featured on the Charles Kuralt Morning Show), and was later featured in Southern Living.
In other words, it may be a small-town celebration, but it’s one of the best places to see Christmas lights in NC!
READ MORE: The Best Boone NC Christmas Tree Farms to Visit
Christmas Lights in Raleigh NC
11. Fieldstream Farm Christmas Light Festival
8008 Old Stage Road, Raleigh NC • 919-374-8822
If you’re looking for Christmas lights in Raleigh, you won’t want to miss the Fieldstream Farm Christmas Light Festival, where a million lights illuminate a local farm that dates back to the early 1900s.
The most popular feature of the Fieldstream Farm light show is the Tunnel of Lights, which features more than 200,000 lights and is billed as “the longest LED-lit tunnel in the world.”
It’s the best drive-thru Christmas light show in Raleigh NC, and it opens in late November and ends after Christmas.
Tickets to the festival can be bought online, and run $20 for a car/SUV with 1-8 people, $40 for a van or bus with 9-18 people, and $75 for larger vehicles.
READ MORE: Apple Picking in North Carolina: The 15 Best NC Apple Orchards
Christmas Lights in Cary NC
12. NC Chinese Lantern Festival
8003 Regency Parkway, Cary NC • (919) 462-2025
For a completely different take on North Carolina Christmas light shows, the NC Chinese Lantern Festival at the Koka Booth Ampitheatre in Cary is crazy cool.
What this light show lacks in terms of Santa and Christmas caroling, it more than makes up for with 40 magnificent displays of massive Asian lanterns illuminated with thousands of LED lights.
Nightly cultural art shows, including live performances, are part of the festivities.
There are several ticket options online, including Any Night Tickets, the Twilight Ticket Experience (which is great for photographers), and the VIP (Very Important Panda) Tour Experience.
Date-specific tickets, the most inexpensive option, are $20 for visitors 13 years of age and older, while kids ages 3 to 12 can get in for $15. – by Jonathon Engels, featured image by Bret Love and Mary Gabbett