There’s no need to cry when fall in North Carolina has come to a close. Come December the holiday season ramps up, and it’s a time of colorful lights, festive decor through small towns, parades, and visits from Santa.
Many towns in North Carolina, most famously the ones in the Blue Ridge Mountains turn into a winter wonderland. Areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Piedmont Regions, and even some coastal towns provide some of the best Christmas towns in North Carolina to celebrate with family and friends.
Whether you are into skiing and tubing, a luxury weekend at the Biltmore, shopping downtown, or enjoying a festive parade, here are some of the best places to celebrate Christmas in North Carolina.
*Christmas Towns in North Carolina cover image credit to The Biltmore Company*
Best Christmas Towns in North Carolina
- Location: Christmastown- 212 Wesleyan Dr, McAdenville (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Christmas Tree Lighting, Christmas Parade,
Yule Log Ceremony
They don’t call McAdenville “Christmas Town USA” for nothing. It’s a very Christmasy place around the holidays! The town is mostly known for its elaborate light display that features over 500,000 lights that stretch for over a mile and twinkle against some equally elaborate displays with the sound of Christmas music setting the mood.
There are many other reasons that the town is one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in North Carolina, including the Yule Log Ceremony and annual Christmas Parade.
- Location: Hometown Christmas- McCreery Park, Saluda (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Christmas carol sing-along, donating goodies to elf stations, light shows in Saluda Shoals Park.
It only has 700 residents but the small town of Saluda is big on Christmas. The shopping alone is a reason to visit, with a beautifully-decorated main street with century-old stores and elf stations serving complimentary treats. Mid-way through December is the town’s main Christmas event, Hometown Christmas.
During this much-anticipated event, you can expect lots of lights, caroling, a visit from St. Nick himself, and roasting s’mores over an open fire.
- Location: Main Street, Benson (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Christmas craft show, gospel choirs, Santa Claus gift distribution, Christmas parade.
Everyone loves lights at Christmas time, but one family in the town of Benson takes their love of lights a little further. The family hosts the oldest and biggest light show in the eastern region of North Carolina with ten acres of displays.
Admiring them from the road doesn’t do them justice. Visitors are invited to walk around the property and admire the set-up and you can also embark on a train ride around the property.
On-site, you’ll find an old-fashioned carousel, a Country Store selling hundreds of varieties of old-fashioned candy and perhaps even Santa. Benson also hosts its annual event Christmas on Main which features a parade, tree lighting, and entertainment.
4. Forest City
- Location: W Main St, Forest City(GPS)
- Holiday Events: Lighting ceremony, Christmas parade, carriage rides,
hay rides, ice skating. Santa Claus shows.
Another popular place to visit in North Carolina around Christmas is Forest City. With mountain allure, small-town charm, and holiday events including a tree-lighting ceremony, parade, and a main street lit up with one million lights, it’s not hard to capture the spirit of Christmas!
During December, it’s common to see carollers making their rounds, live music events, and random encounters with Santa. Holiday movie viewings and horse-drawn carriage rides also take place throughout the month.
But one of the most anticipated events is the one where Santa Clause shows off his climbing skills with a climb up Chimney Rock at nearby Chimney Rock Park.
5. Blowing Rock
- Location: 1125 Main St, Blowing Rock (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Christmas parade, Lighting of the town festival, Saturday with Santa and festival of trees.
It’s a tiny mountain town in the northern part of the state, but Blowing Rock is also a place known for its lively holiday spirit. In fact, the town takes Christmas so seriously that they’ve made an annual holiday out of their biggest holiday event, the Christmas in the Park and Lighting of the Town Festival.
Just walking the fairytale-like streets decked out with holiday cheer is an experience in itself, but there are also many events and activities to enjoy throughout the season including the Festival of Trees, carriage rides, and hikes along the pretty Glenbury Trail. You can even take an evening ride on the Tweetsie Railroad and see beautiful Christmas displays.
Holiday cheer is alive and well in the town of Brevard. It’s especially so along Main Street where the shops buzz with activity as holiday shoppers search for those ideal gifts for their loved ones.
O. P. Taylor Toy Store is a longstanding business in the town and a favorite among locals and visitors alike. While you’re exploring the town, it’s worth it to check out the fascinating Aluminum Christmas Tree Museum before heading out to one of the best Brevard restaurants.
It has an artsy mountain village feel to it when it’s not Christmas, but around the holidays Dillsboro is enchanting.
The most anticipated event of the holiday season is the Dillsboro Festival of Lights and Luminaries where over 2,500 candles in white bags are placed along the streets and the shops and galleries are open later than usual to accommodate holiday shoppers.
There’s just something about kicking back with a hot cocoa or cider after a shopping session and before venturing outside to enjoy some live entertainment or a good ol’ fashioned wagon ride. Jolly carollers and a live nativity scene are just some of the other things you’ll see as you wander the streets of Dillsboro around Christmas.
- Location: 1 Approach Rd, Asheville (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Christmas parade, Gingerbread competition, Christmas at Biltmore
Winter Lights at the N.C. Arboretum.
Asheville is an amazing place to spend the Christmas Holidays and while the city itself has plenty of holiday cheer to go around, much of the season’s festivities take place around its most famous property, the Biltmore Estate.
This is where you’ll see over-the-top decorations, spectacular gingerbread houses, gigantic Christmas trees, and one of the most incredible light displays around. You’ll even have a chance to try some red and white Christmas wines and take a carriage ride around the property!
Another popular event in Asheville is the National Gingerbread Competition, and the Botanical Gardens of Asheville are lit up for the season with both Christmas lights and fire pits where visitors can roast s’mores.
9. Banner Elk
- Location: Tate-Evans Park- 210 Park Ave, Banner Elk, NC (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Christmas tree lighting and musical variety show, breakfast and story time with Santa, Christmas light show.
If winter sports are a regular part of your Christmas holidays, look no further than the cute North Carolina mountain town of Banner Elk for a combination of skiing, ice skating and snow-tubing mixed with wholesome holiday events.
This small town really does know how to do Christmas in a big way. With an annual Christmas Tree Lighting and the live entertainment featured at A Banner Elk Christmas, it’s hard not to get into the Christmas spirit!
Even the Apple Hill Farm gets in on the celebrations by offering a guided tour where you’ll meet the resident animals and browse a gift shop full of beautiful handmade Christmas gifts.
T’was A Night Before Christmas in Waynesville and all along Main Street, the shops are lit up with care, carollers are caroling, and people are gleefully touring the district on horse-drawn wagons.
It’s an old-fashioned celebration of the happiest time of year! Be sure to grab a festive meal in one of the town’s great restaurants and check out the Living Nativity.
- Location: Tanglewood Park- 4061 Clemmons Rd, Clemmons, NC (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Festival of lights at Tanglewood Park, Running of the lights
Historic Winston-Salem’s Christmas customs go back more than 260 years, making this little city the perfect place to head to if you want to capture that old-timey holiday ambiance.
Many of the customs come from Moravian traditions and a walk over the picturesque Old Salem Bridge or stroll through Old Salem feels like a trip in a time machine. Lose yourself in the beautiful Christmas decor along the Cobblestone streets and on ancient buildings.
Enjoy an unforgettable performance of The Nutcracker and explore the inside of some of those old buildings by candlelight – it’s one of the best things to do in Winston Salem in December! You’ll have plenty of opportunities to try out some time-honored Moravian holiday sweets!
- Holiday Events: Winter’s farmers market
If you want to stand in awe before North Carolina’s tallest Christmas Tree, head to Rutherfordton where you’ll find a 75-foot tree towering over Main Street.
Early in December, the Historic Small Town Christmas Celebration features vendors, live music, a snowman decorating contest, and a lively parade. Be sure to take a stroll around the town and check out the live window displays at some of the shops.
- Location: Christmas Parade-110 E Meeting St, Morganton (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Christmas Parade, Christmas in the barn, Christmas Market.
If Christmas is a time that reminds you of simpler times in a small town, bring that feeling to life in Morganton where old-fashioned holiday traditions are still alive and well. Check out the town’s courthouse decked out in its holiday best or browse the Christmas Charm Market.
Of course, the Downtown Morganton Christmas Parade is not to be missed! And nothing says “we’re going to take a trip down memory lane to recapture the old-time Christmas feeling” like a ride in a horse-and-carriage.
14. Black Mountain
- Location: Circle Of Lights Event- 304 Black Mountain Avenue, Black Mountain (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Christmas parade, Circle of lights at Lake Tomahawk,
Black Mountain has that downhome, hometown atmosphere that turns Christmastime into something that can only be described as cozy and warm.
The annual Christmas parade usually has more than 100 entries so you can bet on quite the show! Other popular events during the weeks leading up to Christmas include the Dinner with Dickens dinner theater at the Red Rocker Inn, the Holly Jolly Downtown Christmas Market, and the Circle of Lights display around Lake Tomahawk.
For last-minute shoppers, many of the galleries and boutiques are open late on the weekends leading up to Christmas and as you make your way through the shopping district, you’ll meet carollers and storytellers spreading yuletide cheer.
- Location: 324 S Mint St, Charlotte (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Christmas village, Christmas caroling
You’ve heard about Germany’s famous Christmas markets and perhaps even pondered the idea of traveling there to check them out. Well, there’s no need to venture overseas because the Christmas markets that spring up around Charlotte are as close to the real thing as you can get! In particular, the market held at the Charlotte Christmas Village captures that old-world feeling.
As you make your way around the stalls showcasing various items including strudels, bratwurst, mulled spice wine, toys and crafts, you’ll hear live German music.
Holiday movie showings, Santa visits, dinner theaters, and an enchanting WinterFest festival with lots of lights, a 70-foot tree and rides are just some of the fun holiday events that take place in Charlotte around Christmas.
- Location: Downtown Sylva, 773 W. Main Street Sylva, NC (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Christmas parade, Tree lighting
An elaborate Christmas parade, a winter market with local crafters, live entertainmnt, visits from Santa, extended shopping hours, and a picturesque courthouse perched high above a hill of Christmas trees are just some of the highlights of a Christmas holiday spent in Sylva, North Carolina.
You’ll likely also love the town’s several breweries that serve up a variety of seasonal craft brews.
- Location: Beaufort Waterfront (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Christmas in Peachtree Bluff Double-Decker Bus Tours
annual Christmas candlelight tour, Christmas Parade
It has been said that Beaufort is one of the best towns in North Carolina for the holidays and with its beautifully-decorated downtown and great events including the annual Christmas parade and Holiday Art Walk, you can see why!
The Christmas Candlelight Tour also draws a crowd of holiday revelers who just can’t wait to get inside some of the most beautifully-decorated homes, churches, and inns around the town.
18. Beech Mountain
- Location: 403 Beech Mountain Pkwy, Beech Mountain, NC (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Holiday Market, Annual Christmas Parade and Festivities
If a white blanket of freshly-fallen snow is essential to your ideal holiday scene, your best bet for a white Christmas in North Carolina is Beech Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Said to be the snowiest town in the state, Beech Mountain is also the highest which is why it snows so much there.
The town is also known for its ski resort, where you can participate in a range of winter activities such as skiing, ice skating, sledding, and snowshoeing.
For a true winter wonderland setting, a hike to Creekside Falls can really put one in the Christmas spirit! Leading up to the big day, many events take place in the town including the Beech Mountain Holiday Market, Beech Mountain Christmas Parade & Festival, and Santa Comes to Beech Mountain. After all your holiday cheer head to Beech Mountain Brewery, it’s one of the best breweries in North Carolina!
- Location: Union St N, Concord, NC (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Christmas Tree Lighting and parade, annual Christmas tree
One of the largest Christmas light shows in the United States takes place at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. More than 4 million lights and hundreds of displays take over the four-mile course in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
The town also hosts its annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Parade which features a variety of activities and entertainment for all ages including a beautiful fireworks display.
20. Bryson City
- Location: Polar Express train-45 Mitchell Street, Bryson City (GPS)
- Holiday Events: Polar Express train ride, Letters to Santa, Holiday market, Christmas wonderful hayride, Christmas Parade.
By far, the most popular attraction in Bryson City in December is the Polar Express. Get to the Depot and hop aboard for a memorable journey to the North Pole.
The kids will be excited to meet Santa while the adults can enjoy the chance to feel like a kid again. There’s storytelling, caroling, and hot cocoa while taking in the beautiful scenery outside during the journey.
Back in Bryson City, check out the holiday light displays and 50-foot Christmas tree adoring the town square, take a hayride through Darnell Farms, and check out the beautiful Christmas items sold by local artisans. If you’re traveling with children, be sure to stop by the Visitor Center so they can write a letter for Santa.