There’s nothing quite like celebrating the holiday season in a magical place, and many of Western North Carolina’s small towns offer something special for Christmas lovers to experience.
From parades and shopping to dazzling Christmas lights and meetings with Santa, these Blue Ridge mountain towns are the perfect place to celebrate and get into the holiday spirit.
With pandemic concerns still on many people’s minds, a lot of these holiday happenings have adapted their approach in order to comply with social distancing guidelines.
Some of these NC Christmas events have completely altered their format in order to allow people to celebrate the season while also ensuring everyone’s safety.
So whether you’re looking for a relaxing stroll down Main Street, a festive train ride through the mountains, or just some unique holiday memories with your family, read on for our extensive guide to the best Western North Carolina Christmas events!
Western NC Christmas Events Map
Western NC Christmas Events Guide
- Biltmore Virtual Tree Raising (Biltmore Estate)
- Christmas at Biltmore Daytime Celebration (Biltmore Estate)
- Candlelight Christmas Evenings (Biltmore Estate)
- Home for the Holidays (Hendersonville)
- Peppermint Bear Scavenger Hunt (Hendersonville)
- Aluminum Christmas Tree Museum (Brevard)
- An Appalachian Christmas (Brevard)
- The Polar Express (Bryson City)
- Tweetsie Christmas (Blowing Rock)
- Christmas in the Park (Blowing Rock)
- Apple Hill Farm Christmas Celebration (Banner Elk)
- A Small Town Christmas (Banner Elk)
- National Gingerbread House Competition (Asheville)
- Winter Lights at The NC Arboretum (Asheville)
- Forest City Christmas Lights (Forest City)
- Dillsboro NC Lights & Luminaries (Dillsboro)
- Morganton NC Drive Thru Christmas Parade (Morganton)
- Holidays in Highlands NC (Highlands)
- Santa on the Chimney (Chimney Rock)
- Shadrack’s Christmas Light Show (Tryon)
- Winter Wonderland (Franklin)
- Christmastown USA ((McAdenville)
Biltmore Estate Christmas Events
(Virtual, Beginning Nov 4)
This year the Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC will be hosting a modern look at the classic raising and decoration of their Banquet Hall’s 35-foot-tall Fraser fir tree.
The documentary-style video will bring you along behind the scenes, watching step-by-step as the Christmas tree is installed.
The short film also gives details about the holiday transformation of the estate, and the tree’s history as the Christmas centerpiece of the home.
The video will premiere on November 4th and can be streamed anytime via their YouTube channel and Facebook page.
(Biltmore Estate, Nov 5-Jan 9)
Christmas Eve of 2021 will be the 126th anniversary of when George Vanderbilt first welcomed friends and family to the Biltmore House, America’s largest home.
To honor the occasion, the Biltmore Estate is hosting its annual Christmas Daytime Celebration, wherein visitors can tour the festively decorated rooms of the Biltmore House & Gardens.
Depending on the package you purchase, other activities include access to the Antler Hill Village and winery, an expert guide with special knowledge about Vanderbilt history and estate stories, and VIP access to areas that aren’t explored during the main tour.
For an even more immersive experience, you can book a holiday stay at one of the estate’s hotels and experience the grandiose beauty of the estate as an overnight guest!
Safety guidelines for the daytime celebration event are listed on their website.
READ MORE: The Best Downtown Asheville Restaurants
(Biltmore Estate, Nov 5-Jan 8)
For a slightly different take on Christmas at Biltmore, these Candlelight Christmas Evenings show the estate in a different light, as the night is lit up by the glow of twinkling holiday lights.
As the candles and fireplaces are lit, the estate is filled with the warmth of the seasonal spirit.
Guests can explore the beautiful decorations inside the massive mansion and enjoy fine holiday dining (including complimentary handcrafted wine tastings).
Whether you’re enjoying the estate at your own pace through self-guided tours or learning all about its history from one of their expert guides, this classy Christmas event is one you won’t forget!
Safety guidelines for this event are listed on their website.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC
Hendersonville NC Christmas Events
(Downtown Hendersonville, Nov 1-Jan 1)
A charming town just south of Asheville, Hendersonville is known for its historic downtown area, which combines a traditional rural feel with the modern appeal of a bustling Main Street.
With the added magic afforded by colorful holiday decorations, lights, and festivities, Hendersonville’s Main Street is especially appealing at Christmastime.
There are a variety of events to enjoy including the holiday tree lighting at the Historic Courthouse on Main Street (November 26), a home decoration contest (November 26 – December 17), and the iconic Christmas Parade (December 4) that even includes an appearance from Santa Claus!
(Downtown Hendersonville, Nov 26-Dec 23)
In this unique holiday event for families with kids, Peppermint Bear needs your help to find her cubs after they went off to find Christmas decorations downtown!
As you wander throughout the historic Hendersonville downtown area, keep your eyes peeled to find one of the 3 cubs that will be hiding out somewhere among all the hustle and bustle!
If you visit at least 12 of the 27 participating businesses during your search for the cubs, you’ll be eligible for an array of prizes!
A staff member at each business will punch your brochure if you spot the bear in their location. Then you can drop the brochure in Peppermint’s mailbox, located in front of the Visitor Center.
Be sure to get a jump on this event to better your chances of helping Peppermint Bear find her cubs and scoring some fun holiday prizes!
Brevard NC Christmas Events
(Transylvania Heritage Museum, Brevard, Nov 12 – Dec 24; Unavailable Nov 23-25th)
This unique holiday event features a plethora of aesthetically decorated Christmas trees, including many examples of the sustainable Christmas trees that were popular in the 1950s.
Some of the more creative trees include a Marilyn Monroe-themed tree and an Elvis-themed tree decorated with cutouts of the beloved rock ‘n’ roll legend.
Featured in publications like Southern Living, Money Magazine, and the New York Times, this is the world’s only museum dedicated to vintage aluminum Christmas trees.
Starting Saturday, Nov 12, this quirky take on the classic Christmas tradition of tree decorating will be open Wednesday through Saturday until Dec 24, excluding Nov 23-25.
(Earthshine Lodge, Brevard, Dec 1-22)
Throughout the month of December, the Earthshine Lodge in Brevard NC is hosting a variety of holiday festivities that give you an opportunity to experience an authentic Appalachian Christmas.
As the lodge transforms into a winter wonderland, guests can try their hand at making traditional Appalachian crafts, enjoy the hot chocolate bar, cookie decorating, and s’mores around the fire.
You can enjoy all the holiday fun while soaking in the gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can also have a special holiday brunch with Santa, who will pose for photos with your family.
If you’re looking to stay at the lodge, weekend packages are available that include two nights at the lodge, meals, the holiday brunch with Santa, holiday movies on the big screen, and a variety of other Christmas-related activities!
Bryson City Christmas Events
(Bryson City Railroad Depot, Nov 12-Dec 31)
One of the most iconic of all Western North Carolina Christmas events, the Polar Express train in Bryson City NC takes you on a 1 1/4 hour round-trip journey through gorgeous mountain wilderness.
With the lively sounds of the animated film’s soundtrack in the background, guests are treated to “Hot Chocolate!” while reading along with the famous story.
The train will make a stop at the North Pole, where Santa will be waiting to board the train. There, he’ll greet each child and give them a special gift– a silver sleigh bell– just like in the story!
Joyous Christmas carols will be sung as the train ride returns to the Bryson City Depot, and the magical journey reaches its end.
Special precautions will be taken in order to properly sanitize the train in between trips, and all seating will be socially distanced, with reduced capacity. Guests should also be prepared to wear a mask or facial covering while onboard the Polar Express train.
Blowing Rock Christmas Events
(Tweetsie Railroad, Nov 19-Dec 30)
All aboard the Tweetsie Railroad as they transform the train for a festive holiday adventure through a winter wonderland in the Blue Ridge Mountains!
After boarding one of the historic narrow-gauge steam locomotives, you’ll be treated to a 40-minute ride through thousands of colorful Christmas lights and animated scenes.
In addition to the magical train ride, you can also visit Santa in his own Gingerbread house, which is decorated with candy furnishings.
There’s also good old-fashioned family fun on amusement rides, or just making merry memories while roasting s’mores over the outdoor fire pit.
(Memorial Park in Downtown Blowing Rock, Nov 26-27)
The Friday after Thanksgiving each year, Blowing Rock hosts their annual Christmas in the Park event which is the perfect time to kick off your seasonal celebrations.
The first day of the event includes pictures with Santa from 12 pm to 3 pm, carnival games from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm, live music from 2 pm to 6:30 pm, and the official Lighting of the Town at 5:30 pm.
The following day, the Christmas parade starts at 10 am and will include tons of different fun costumes, elaborate floats, and more spreading holiday cheer throughout the town.
Since parking will be a bit difficult on the day of the parade, a complimentary shuttle service will be running from the parking lot at Tanger Outlet to Main Street from 8 am to 5 pm.
Banner Elk/Beech Mountain Christmas Events
(Apple Hill Farm, Banner Elk, Nov 19-Jan 3)
If you’re looking for a heartwarming Banner Elk Christmas event, the Apple Hill Farm Christmas Celebration is sure to bring a smile to your family’s faces.
The family-owned farm offers public tours Wednesday through Sunday, from 10:30 am to 2:00 pm, by reservation only. These tours allow you to get up close and personal with the animals, most notably adorable Alpacas!
Along with the tours, there will be tabletop Xmas trees, hand-tied wreaths, Christmas ornaments (including numerous Alpaca options), and other goodies available at the farm’s Christmas Shop.
Tours will be done in small groups in order to comply with social distancing guidelines, as well as to ensure that all guests get plenty of attention from both tour guides and animals!
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Banner Elk NC
(Downtown Banner Elk, Dec 3-5)
The town of Banner Elk packs in the holiday cheer throughout the first full weekend in December with the “A Small Town Christmas” holiday event.
Starting on Friday evening there will be caroling, hot chocolate, and the lighting of the official town tree at 6:30 pm. Following the lighting, just a short walk away at the Historic Banner Elk School, Ensemble Stage will be presenting “A Banner Elk Christmas 3” at 7 pm.
The next day the festivities kick off with the 5K Reindeer Run at 9 am in the Tate-Evens Park and are followed by Breakfast with Santa at Stonewalls Restaurant and storytime with Santa (and firetruck tours) at the Banner Elk Fire and Rescue Station.
Back at Tate-Evans Park, the day’s festivities conclude at 6 pm with a synchronized light show, luminary-lighted train rides, karaoke, and the showing of a Christmas-themed family movie.
On the final day of the event, there will be Choose & Cut Christmas Trees at Avery County tree farms, and a 2 pm showing of “A Banner Elk Christmas 3.”
Asheville Christmas Events
(Omni Grove Park Inn, Nov 28-Jan 2)
After going virtual for 2020, the Omni Grove Park Inn is welcoming back competitors and viewers in person for the 29th annual National Gingerbread House Competition.
The official competition will be held on November 22 with an awards ceremony following in the Grand Ballroom, but it is reserved for contestants and their families only.
For guests staying at Omni Grove Park Inn (check rates via Booking.com) who want to enjoy the elaborate gingerbread houses, the official display begins on November 28 and will be up through January 2.
Guests not staying at the Resort can view the display after 3 pm on Sundays or anytime Monday-Thursday (excluding December 23-25 and December 29-January 1).
Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for registered resort guests and those who have dining reservations.
If you can’t make the trip this year, the hotel will continue their virtual “12 Days of Gingerbread” event that was started in 2020 where each day one of the top 12 finalists will be announced and showcased on the hotel’s Facebook (@omnigroveparkinn) and Instagram (@omnigrovepark).
(The North Carolina Arboretum, Nov 19-Jan 1)
Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum is truly a sight to see, as thousands of shimmering Christmas lights make up shining displays along their wooded edge and gardens.
This year the holiday event is returning to the traditional walk-through format so guests are welcomed to explore the gardens and enjoy the lights outdoors.
The iconic 50-foot lighted tree and the Quilt Garden are also returning this year but will be decorated with all new light designs along with other new arrangements.
The magical light show will stretch one mile across the campus, and all proceeds from the event will go directly towards supporting the Arboretum’s mission-driven programming.
READ MORE: Exploring The 12 Best Asheville NC Breweries
Forest City Christmas Events
(Forest City, NC, Nov 25-Jan 2)
Voted the #1 Christmas town near Asheville, and the #2 place to see Christmas lights in Western NC, Forest City is the place to be when Christmastime rolls around.
The celebrations begin with the Forest City Christmas lights ceremony on November 25th where you can listen to a local gospel quartet perform a collection of old and new Christmas songs while millions of lights along Main Street are officially lit.
On November 28th, the annual Forest City Christmas parade starts at 3 pm beginning at the Cool Springs Administrative Building and traveling east on Main Street to First United Methodist Church.
Throughout the month there will also be carriage rides (Dec 3, 4, 10, 11, 17) and hayrides (Dec 3, 10, 17) along Main Street from 6 pm to 8:45 pm as well as ice skating and refreshments like hot chocolate, cider, and coffee.
READ MORE: The 27 Best Waterfalls Near Asheville NC
Small Town Christmas Events
(Dillsboro NC, Dec 3, 4, 10, 11)
As the holiday season begins, Dillsboro NC is lit up with thousands of lights and plenty of cheer as people come from miles around to experience the joy of a small-town Christmas.
From 5 to 9 pm each night, the town is filled with festive activities and shopping options, as live music and the songs of carolers fill the air.
Sweet holiday treats, such as hot cider and cocoa, will be available for visitors to enjoy as they stroll along the streets of the tiny town (population 245).
Those roads are lined with over 2,500 candles in white bags– a traditional symbol of Christmas from the Scandinavian custom of lighting the way for Christ.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will also be making a stop in Dillsboro for children to visit with or drop off their Christmas list.
(Downtown Morganton, Dec 7)
This year the classic Downtown Morganton NC parade is planning on returning to a traditional parade event!
Although, in light of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, there is still a slim chance that the parade will have to be moved to a drive-thru event (all updates will be on the Downtown Development Association’s Facebook).
Regardless of the format, on December 7th from 6 to 8 pm, there will be over 100 festively decorated floats, marching bands, and characters that are particularly loved by younger viewers.
Jubilant holiday music provides the soundtrack as you wave to the beautiful floats, making this a great way to experience a wholesome Christmas event!
(Highlands NC, Nov 27-Jan 1)
Located in the Nantahala National Forest, Highlands NC is a beautiful Blue Ridge mountain town that only becomes more charming around Christmastime.
Their annual Trim Our Town event will take place on November 27 which is a storefront decorating contest. Even if you aren’t competing, just by participating as a voter you have the chance to win a $200 gift card.
Photo ops and letters to Santa will also be available at Kelsey Hutchinson Park from November 27 to December 24.
On Saturday Dec 4, the Olde Mountain Christmas Drive Through Festival takes place where there will be floats and antique cars lining Main Street for you to explore!
(Chimney Rock State Park, Dec 4 & 11)
For the 24th year in a row, Santa will visit Chimney Rock State Park in 2021 to practice sneaking down chimneys as he rappels down the face of the famous landmark!
At the top of every hour on December 4th and 11th, from 11am to 2 pm, you can cheer jolly ol’ St. Nick on as he makes his famous descent.
This year Santa will be able to pose for photos and will even be available for you to bring your Christmas list to.
Other fun activities at the park include guided hikes with Elves, making s’mores at the bonfire, and listening to live holiday music.
(Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort, Nov 24-Jan 2)
This drive-thru show at the International Equestrian Center in Tryon NC features thousands of dazzling Christmas lights guiding your way as you listen to holiday music in the comfort of your car.
Along with the light show, on Thursdays-Sundays every weekend in December through the 19th, the 2021 Winterfest Village will be open at Legends Plaza from 5pm to 9pm.
There, you can enjoy a meal in one of the on-site restaurants or visit some of the shops as you explore and enjoy live music, s’mores, storytelling, and more.
Lodging packages are also available if you want to stay overnight and take in more of the festive fun!
(Downtown Franklin, NC, Nov 27 & Dec 4)
During the first two Saturdays after Thanksgiving, Historic Downtown Franklin will be transformed into a Winter Wonderland filled with sparkling lights, fun activities, and plenty of joy.
The first night of the Winter Wonderland event includes the annual tree lighting ceremony at 7pm followed by a merchant sponsored candlelight service. It is also Small Business Saturday which is an initiative headed by American Express that puts a focus on supporting small, local businesses.
Both nights downtown merchants will be open late giving you plenty of time to get your Christmas shopping done, and there will even be free carriage rides across town!
Keep your eyes peeled because Santa will be out and about spreading holiday cheer both nights from 5pm to 8pm!
(McAdenville, NC, Dec 1 – 26)
During the holidays, the tiny town of McAdenville draws huge crowds from all over North Carolina and beyond as it transforms into a festive wonderland.
Now in its 66th year, the town is widely regarded as the perfect Hallmark Christmas town and hosts a number of events to celebrate the season.
For starters, there is a 1.3-mile-long route filled with thousands of twinkling lights and Christmas displays you can drive through that is open throughout December.
There is also the Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 1st at 5 pm and the Yule Log Ceremony on December 16th at 5 pm which is followed by a parade that ends with the lighting of the Yule Log. –by Christina Maggitas