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 newest light displays in Asheville and it’s also one of the brightest. Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum features 500,000 energy-efficient LED lights throughout the nationally-known gardens. A special highlight on this walking-tour is the 50-foot animated tree that comes alive to music. Kids will delight at the Rocky Cove Railroad garden-scale model train. While visitors take in the sights, they can enjoy hot cocoa and snacks along their tour. Winter Lights is open nightly November 17-December 31, 2017 from 6-10 p.m. (tickets must be purchased in advance).
2. Downtown Asheville
The Arboretum is also hosting a relatively new display in Asheville, helping to make the season extra bright in downtown. The light display, Winter Lights Downtown, is centered around the Vance Monument and Hoss Haley Fountain in the heart of the city. Large trees are lit up in Pack Square, making 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 on November 1, 2017. Christmas at Biltmore officially runs from November 3, 2017, through January 7, 2018.
4. Lake Julian Festival of Lights
Another local favorite drive-thru light show, Lake Julian Festival of Lights, illuminates a popular Buncombe County park December 1-23, 2017. 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 on December 1 with the "walk through night," the only night you can walk through the park to see the lights. From December 2-23, you will drive through the park to see the lights.
5. Biltmore Village and Dickens Festival
Just outside of the Biltmore sits historic Biltmore Village with its stone streets, quaint boutiques, and inviting restaurants. The Village lights up during the holidays with 250,000 bulbs outlining the buildings. Streetlamps are decked out with Fraser Fir holiday wreaths and more than 1000 luminaries line the streets. On the nights of Dec 1-2, 2017, 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.
6. 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. Grab a mug of ganache-based hot chocolate with house-made marshmallows as you enjoy viewing the more than 150 entries in the National Gingerbread House Competition during the 25th anniversary of the event (November 26, 2017 - January 4, 2018)!
7. 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. The celebration kicks off in early December (Dec. 2, 2017) with day of activities including carriage rides, photos with Santa and a tree lighting ceremony.
8. Deck The Trees in Black Mountain
In nearby beautiful Black Mountain, The historic Monte Vista Hotel comes alive with twinkling lights and decorated Christmas trees. This year's Deck The Trees event will be even more spectacular as the lobby will light up with more unique Christmas trees hand-decorated around the theme "80 years of Christmas," commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Monte Vista Hotel. 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. Deck The Trees kicks off with a glittering Gala Cocktail Party on December 1, 2017 ($50 per person). There is no charge to view the trees from December 2-31, 2017.
Note: Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland, which has traditionally taken place at the Western North Carolina (WNC) Agriculture Center, will not operate in 2017. Shadrack's cited a scheduling conflict with the venue.
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.