Top 8 Places to See Holiday Lights in Asheville, N.C.
By Jason Tarr
Few experiences embody the excitement of the holidays like enjoying a display of bright, twinkling Christmas lights and meticulously-designed decorations. Visitors to Asheville, N.C. can enjoy these dazzling, family-friendly light shows that are sure to inspire the spirit of the season.
1. Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum
It’s one of the newer light displays in Asheville and it’s also one of the brightest. Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum features thousands of energy-efficient LED lights throughout the nationally-known gardens. In 2020 in light of social distancing guidelines, Winter Lights shifts from a walk-thru experience to a drive-thru adventure. As part of the show’s redesign, Winter Lights will offer several new nature-themed displays, including winter wildlife, colorful butterflies, a special insect lantern exhibit and a giant daisy “garden.” Winter Lights runs November 20, 2020 - January 10, 2021.
2. Downtown Asheville
(Lights display canceled for 2020)
From the designers of the Arboretum lights come new displays in Asheville, helping to make the season extra bright in downtown. The light displays, Local Lights, will illuminate Pack Square and Pritchard Park in the heart of the city. Following the Asheville Holiday Parade there will be a lighting ceremony in Pack Square Park. The lights will make for a beautiful backdrop for photos while shopping and dining downtown.
Speaking of shopping, head over to the historic Grove Arcade, which decks its halls with holiday decor inside and out for the Winter Wonderland celebration.
3. Christmas at Biltmore
From the moment visitors see the lighted Lodge Gate at the entrance to Biltmore, they know they are in for a treat. What awaits inside the gate is a classic Christmas that hearkens back to the days of the Vanderbilts. A giant 55-foot Norway spruce strung with 55,000 lights on the front lawn leads the way into the home where 60 more intricately-decorated trees highlight the Christmas at Biltmore celebration. The 30,000 lights and 150 candles inside the home are particularly magical at night during the Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore tour. Christmas at Biltmore begins with the annual tree raising ceremony. Christmas at Biltmore officially runs from November 6, 2020, through January 10, 2021.
4. Biltmore Village and Dickens Festival
Just outside of Biltmore sits historic Biltmore Village with its stone streets, quaint boutiques, and inviting restaurants. The Village introduced an enhanced lights display a couple years ago. The new lights, featured large 3-D angels and stars hanging across Biltmore Village Streets. For two days in early December, the Village transforms for the annual Dickens in the Village Festival. Shopkeepers dress in Victorian-era garb and the main stage fills with musicians, choral groups, singers and dancers. Dickens in the Village has traditionally taken place the first weekend of December.
5. Omni Grove Park Inn
There are few places that offer the coziness and warmth of the season like the Great Hall at The Omni Grove Park Inn. Lighted wreaths adorn giant fireplaces with welcoming rocking chairs just waiting to transport visitors to holiday relaxation. Dozens of decorated trees brighten the halls of the Inn. *Please note that in 2020, the Omni Grove Park Inn will not host an in-person display for the National Gingerbread House Competition.
6. Biltmore Park Town Square
One of Asheville’s most beautiful shopping areas, Biltmore Park, glows at night with tens of thousands of lights. Beautiful lighted trees line the sidewalks in front of the many stores and restaurants.
7. Deck The Trees in Black Mountain
In nearby beautiful Black Mountain, The historic Monte Vista Hotel serves as the centerpiece of the Deck the Trees celebration, a charity event that features twinkling lights and decorated Christmas trees. From the hotel's featured art collection to live music, from drink specials to the decorated trees, there's much to enjoy at this great event. This year's theme is "And A Star Appeared." This year (2020) marks Deck the Trees' 10th anniversary. The celebration will expand this year with decorated trees at numerous downtown Black Mountain businesses. While it is free to see the trees, you can vote for your favorite by making donation by cash or check. All funds raised will go to the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry. Dates are stilln to be announced. You can view the trees during normal business hours.
8. Lake Julian Festival of Lights
A local drive-thru light show, Lake Julian Festival of Lights, illuminates a popular Buncombe County park. The road circling the park becomes a magical journey through tunnels of dazzling lights with 50 animated and stationary light displays. Visitors enjoying the lights will also be supporting a good cause – 20 percent of ticket sales are donated to Buncombe County Special Olympics. The season kicks off with the "walk through night," the only night you can walk through the park to see the lights. For the remainder of the season, you can drive through the park to see the lights. Experience the Lake Julian Festival of Lights December 1-23, 2020.
Photo credits: Top photo by Jared Kay. Winter Lights at NC Arboretum, Winter Lights Downtown photos, Biltmore and Lake Julian photos by Jason Tarr. Omni Grove Park Inn photo by Charley Akers.