As the season begins to settle in and the winter chill finally greets the air, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in North Carolina. With beautiful mountainscapes, rolling hills and vast fields, the Tar Heel State is alive with holiday spirit and is home to some of the most gorgeous of winter wonderlands. Here are 15 places you have to visit in N.C. if you’re obsessed with all things North Pole.
This marvelous mansion completed by the Vanderbilt family in 1895 is home to one of the most lavish displays of yuletide sophistication. Like a scene recreated from The Nutcracker, this gorgeous French Renaissance-style chateau features a 35-foot-tall Fraser fir in the Banquet Hall, acting as the centerpiece of Christmas cheer.
On the front lawn sits a 65-foot-tall Norway spruce, welcoming those far and wide to bask in its impressive beauty. At nightfall, visitors can tour the home to see more than 55 decorated trees throughout, live performances of Christmas music and enjoy a visit at the Antler Hill Village & Winery.
The Village offers beautiful, Dickens-esque buildings with quaint shops and restaurants completing the holiday scene. Have the Christmas you’ve always dreamed of at Biltmore Estate this year.
Escape to the mountain town of beautiful Brevard, North Carolina and enjoy a backdrop as surreal and magical as they come. The frosted mountains will outshine any Christmas light display you see, and the historical downtown area will have you feeling warm and fuzzy with its hometown vibes and local hospitality.
The 47th annual Downtown Brevard Christmas Parade completes the scene with live music, carriage rides, a visit from Santa, an elf workshop and more. This year, in honor of the town’s 150th anniversary, the theme of the parade will be “Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future.”
Stay into the night for a beautiful Twilight Tour of the town, where local shops will host an “open house” of sorts, featuring sales, sweets, and other treats.
If you love all things frosty, you’ve got to get to Beech Mountain this year. Not only is this area renowned for its skiing and dramatic beauty, but the holiday spirit that fills the air this time of year is simply unparalleled. Grab your sled and head to the Beech Mountain Sledding Hill, open November 25 – February (weather permitting) or hit the slopes at the ski resort.
For more festive fun in the mountains, head to the 4 Seasons at Beech Hotel for a visit with Santa. You can tell him all your wishes this year and then follow him back to the Valle de Bravo Restaurant for a proper posadas-style fiesta and pinata-breaking fun.
As the big day draws nearer, make sure you make time for the Yule Log Bonfire and Hayride on December 23, with s’mores, fire pits, and hayrides all available beside Brick Oven Pizzeria. Your winter wonderland awaits in Beech Mountain!
Nicknamed Christmas Town U.S.A., McAdenville definitely has one of the most impressive Christmas lights displays in all the country. For over six decades, this town has lit up the skyline with holiday spirit, dazzling crowds far and wide. What started with nine decorated trees around the McAdenville Community Center has since transformed to include 375 illuminated trees in nearly all the community’s homes.
The attraction draws nearly 600,000 visitors annually and is truly a sight to behold. You’ll have to make it out for the Yule Log Parade, a tradition created by the same people who began lighting up the skyline all those years ago after a trip overseas.
Everyone gathers downtown to join the parade and drag the log through the streets to the memorial yule log fireplace at Legacy Park. Following the parade, a festival is held, featuring holiday music, free hot chocolate, kettle corn, and a visit from Santa. In McAdenville, it’s always the most wonderful time of the year.
Have a historic Christmas this year when you visit Winston-Salem. More than 250 years of rich history fill this town that transforms into what can only be compared to the Victorian villages of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol during the holiday season. A host of events creates an unforgettable experience in Winston-Salem’s Historic Holidays.
Experience a Moravian holiday in Old Salem, a historic district founded by the Moravians in 1766. As you tour the town with your loved ones, you’ll see the eager faces of period-costumed interpreters inviting you inside to explore historic buildings and learn about how the Moravians passed their holiday.
Have a quiet night on the town in Old Salem’s Softly the Night Is Sleeping series, featuring horse and buggy rides, holiday cookie baking, Christmas crafting and much more. The friendly ghosts of Christmases past welcome you to Winston-Salem.
For over 90 years, this town just east of Charlotte has hosted an annual Christmas parade complete with Santa visits, fireworks, and live entertainment. Drawing thousands of visitors each year, the event does not disappoint with horse-drawn carriage rides, local art displays and—of course—a tree-lighting ceremony.
In addition to this time-honored town favorite, Concord is also home to Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway. More than 3.5 million lights decorate the 3.75-mile road track (yes, you actually get to drive on the NASCAR track itself) with a radio station for drivers to tune in and listen to the music to which the lights are choreographed.
Drive through storybook scenes and flashing displays as you get to the center of the track for the Christmas Village. Here, you can board a Ferris wheel, see the live nativity or head inside for some tasty treats and holiday shopping. It’s an incredible holiday tradition you and your family need to start this year!
Queen City offers holiday celebration fit for royalty with plenty of shopping, lights, and festivities to keep the yuletide spirit bright. Head over to the German-inspired Weihnachtsmarkt at the Charlotte Christmas Village, located on the corner of 7th and Tryon. Local merchants and food vendors lure eager shoppers in with their wares and tasty treats in this outdoor holiday market you just can’t miss.
You’ll also have to check out Charlotte’s only outdoor ice rink, Holiday on Ice. Skate around the Christmas tree like you’re in Rockefeller Center this season (minus the price tag). If an evening of enchantment is what you seek, head to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden for the Holidays at the Garden light show—a mesmerizing display of twinkling lights that will make you feel as though you’ve entered into a frozen forest paradise.
Named one of USA Today’s Top 10 Places to Catch Up with Santa, Chimney Rock is the last word in Christmas spirit. Believers gather to watch the Big Guy prepare for a night of climbing down chimneys by practicing on the biggest one in the nation: Chimney Rock Mountain.
See Santa rappel down the 315-foot monolith and enjoy the holiday festivities that surround the event, like food vendors, local merchants, holiday music and more.
If you stop by Chimney Rock on the first Friday in December, you’ll get to witness Christmas in the Village, an outdoor holiday market filled with fun and festivities for everyone to enjoy. The Chilly-Chili Cook-Off, Cake-Walk and tree-lighting ceremony are just some of the things that make this unique yuletide village a must-visit this holiday season. Make your way to Chimney Rock for a Christmas celebration you’ll never forget.
This coastal Carolina town delivers a month-long celebration with a slew of seasonal events that will have your spirit soaring this Christmas. Make your way to Union Point Park for the 34th Annual Coastal Christmas Flotilla, a unique and sensational event featuring a plethora of decorated watercraft parading through the ocean.
The holiday lights reflecting off the sea create a sparkling effect that’s sure to dazzle.
You’ll even get a chance to board the Polar Express. New Bern’s take on the Christmas classic includes a one-hour tour on the New Bern Trolley, complete with caroling, light displays and a visit with the conductor and Santa’s elves.
Take a stroll through historic downtown to see the annual live window display competition, where stores compete to deliver the best holiday display for passersby. Who said a beach town couldn’t provide a proper Christmas celebration?
Downtown Belmont has some fantastically festive yuletide traditions you’ll have to add to your to-do list this year. Head to the annual Christmas Village Celebration, where hayrides, carriage rides, train rides, s’mores stations, live music and classic characters combine to create the ultimate seasonal celebration.
The candlelight Christmas tree-lighting ceremony offers visitors a dreamy way to ring in the holiday season. Gather around and grab a lit candle and take a stroll through beautifully decorated Main St. to the first night of the Festival of Trees in Stowe Park.
You’ll see colorful, themed Christmas trees lining the sidewalks. Cap off the night with traditional holiday music performed by the First United Methodist Church’s handbell choir and tasty treats presented by Belmont Specialty Foods.
A seaside Christmas celebration is calling your name in beautiful Wilmington, North Carolina. The island beaches of this coastal town provide a special backdrop for the holiday season, complete with historic, traditional and beachy activities and events that are guaranteed to have you feeling merry and bright.
A stroll through Historic Downtown Wilmington is filled with gorgeously decorated brick-lined streets and cute shops where you can check off everyone on your list.
The waterside holiday markets are also a perfect place for finding a gift for that special someone. While you’re there, check out the classic flotillas and Christmas boat parade as hundreds of lights reflect off the ocean to create a crystalline Christmas experience like no other.
There’s no place like home for the holidays, so head out to Forest City’s Hometown Holidays celebration to see a million lights illuminate Main St. This incredible display dates back to 1930 when the town hung its first set of lights on two trees and has since grown to encompass nearly every square inch of the city, creating a beacon of holiday spirit to all who see its warm, inviting glow.
There's so much to do in Forest City, with carriage rides and hayrides offered everyone weekend in December through the magical city’s light show. Bundle up and grab a cup of hot chocolate as you marvel at the live oak trees covered in Christmas lights and gaze at the displays around the town fountain. The best part of this fabulously festive Forest City tradition? It’s absolutely free for everyone to enjoy.
The Dillsboro Festival of Lights and Luminaries is a holiday tradition you don’t want to miss. This romantic mountain town comes alive with the spirit of Christmas during this Scandinavian-inspired celebration featuring over 2,500 candles lighting the way through downtown’s historic streets.
As you stroll through the candlelit streets, you’ll also get the chance to stop in to shop local merchant’s wares and view artists’ galleries as they keep their doors open late into the night, serving patrons hot cider, hot cocoa and other tasty holiday treats. Horse-drawn carriages, Christmas carols, a live nativity scene, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus setting up in Town Hall make this a particularly merry event.
For the largest and oldest Christmas attraction in eastern North Carolina, head to Benson’s Meadow Lights. This family owned and operated business began over 40 years ago and features over 300 varieties of old-fashioned candy and Christmas light displays on over 30 acres of land. There’s even a train ride available at the attraction on over 10 acres of additional land beyond the light displays.
Meadow Lights boasts one of the only holiday attractions that includes a replication of the life of Jesus, using over 20 custom mannequins spread over six scenes, detailing his life from birth through to his resurrection. It’s truly a sight to behold—even for those who aren’t particularly religious. In addition, you’ll have the chance to see Santa and can even catch a ride on one of the 16 colored horses on the old-fashioned carousel.
Located in Clemmons, North Carolina is one of the state’s most beloved holiday traditions: The Tanglewood Festival of Lights. Now in its 27th season, the light show is one of the most spectacular of its kind in the entire southeastern U.S. Over a million lights decorate the rolling hills of Tanglewood Park, drawing nearly 250,000 visitors annually. The light show is so impressive, it was even selected as a Top 20 Event in the Southeast and a Top 100 Event in North America.
Here you’ll have plenty of yuletide fun, with horse-drawn carriage rides, hayrides, a holiday gift shop and S’moresville — a decadent treat provided by Lowes Foods inviting visitors to gather round the fire and get to roasting. Come to Clemmons this Christmas and experience the magic of Tanglewood’s Festival of Lights for yourself. You won’t regret it!
Spending Christmas in North Carolina is one of the best decisions you’ll make this year. With plenty of festive fun in any of the Tar Heel State’s gorgeous mountain or coastal towns, there’s no end in site to the celebrations waiting to be had. Have a favorite holiday town in N.C. that didn’t make the cut? Let us know!