8 Ways Asheville Sparkles for the Holidays

Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum

Every holiday season needs a little bit of sparkle—the twinkle of lights, the flicker of a fireplace, the shimmer of sugarplums or the glow of candlelight. Asheville, North Carolina brings all the sparkle—and gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountain views—to your holiday season this year with festive ways to play, indulge and get away from it all.

Discover how Asheville shines for the holidays!

1. Go to town.

The Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville decorates for its Winter Wonderland celebration

Asheville kicks off the holidays with the Asheville Holiday Parade (Nov. 20, 2021), now marking 75 years! You'll find great viewing along Biltmore and Patton Avenues.   

Asheville architectural gem the Grove Arcade takes its decorations to the next level for its Winter Wonderland celebration. This shopping and dining hub features a gorgeous giant lighted tree outside. Adding to the ambiance, lights are strewn in the trees lining the sidewalk. Inside, string lights and decorated trees complement the stunning architectural details, leading the eye to the ceiling of skylights. 

2. Oh, Christmas trees.

Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum

As the sun sets, the North Carolina Arboretum’s 434 acres transform into a glowing winter wonderland, strewn with thousands of lights. The Winter Lights celebration (November 19, 2021-January 1, 2022) is once again a walk-through experience with plenty of new sights and displays as well as some familiar favorites.  

In 2021, Rabbit Rabbit, debuts its Winter Tree Carnival (Nov. 15, 2021-Jan. 2, 2022) with more than 50 decorated trees. These are fresh fir trees provided by local farms and decorated by local businesses, non-profits and artists. The Winter Tree Carnival is free, family-friendly event that supports Manna Food Bank. The walk-through exhibition will be accompanied by movie nights, pop up shops and a special drink selection.

3. (Biltmore) home for the holidays.

George Vanderbilt's Library at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC decorated for Christmas

See Biltmore in a different, opulent light with its Candlelight Christmas Evenings (November 5, 2021-January 8, 2022). Biltmore staff deck the halls, lawn, and select estate locales with candlelight, firelight, and holiday lights. Nighttime passes include daytime admission (either same or next day) to Antler Hill Village & Winery, shops, grounds, and gardens. Biltmore has expanded its lights and ornaments display at Antler Hill Village. You can, of course, also visit during the day to experience the decorations during the two-month Christmas at Biltmore celebration (November 5, 2021-January 9, 2021).

4. Sugar and spice.

2017 National Gingerbread House Competition

No holiday season in Asheville is complete without the National Gingerbread House Competition at The Omni Grove Park Inn. This pastry Parade of Homes has become a beloved local tradition. In 2021, the entries will be on public display at the Resort (November 28, 2021-January 2, 2022). See our guide to the National Gingerbread House Competition for important information to know before you go.

5. Shop talk.

Shopping for Unique Holiday Gifts

Find unique gifts for friends and family--do your holiday shopping in the land of all things local and handmade. Historic Biltmore Village and downtown’s Grove Arcade sparkle with holiday light displays, as does Asheville’s bustling Biltmore Park shopping district to the south. Pop in and out of galleries and independent stores featuring one-of-a-kind items for everyone on your list. Catch a special market like The Big Crafty’s Hand to Heart Holiday (Dec. 4-5, 2021).

The Asheville Outlets hosts holiday events throughout the season. Traditionally, the Asheville Outlets kick off the season Santa's Arrival and Tree Lighting Ceremony. Past years have included a free Santa photo experience.

And, you can shop Asheville from the comfort of home! Explore our online Asheville Holiday Gift Guide for more than 80 one-of-a-kind, Asheville-made gifts. There's something for everyone on your list!

6. All, aboard!

Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley

Hop aboard the Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley with Gray Line Tours for a fun and festive celebration of the season. The tour includes live music, storytelling and caroling. All the while, the Holly Jolly Trolley rolls past the decorations and lights in downtown Asheville, Biltmore Village and the Montford and Grove Park neighborhoods. The Trolley is heated and enclosed with clear vinyl roll-down curtains. 

Meanwhile, Santa Claus is coming to the Blue Ridge Mountains by train as the Craggy Mountain Line gets in the holiday spirit. The Jingle Bell Trolley Train Run takes off on the hour on select dates from November to December. Twelve dollars includes hot cocoa, cookies, and a meet ‘n’ greet with Santa. Purchase tickets at the station or ahead of time to guarantee your spot.

7. Light the lights.

Moscow Ballet - The Great Russian Nutcracker
Photo courtesy of the Moscow Ballet

Traditionally, Asheville has had no shortage of holiday performances to dazzle you, from the classic Nutcracker to a sidesplitting, adults-only Christmas sketch comedy.

You can easily search our Asheville events calendar by date for updated information on performances, events and festivals.

8. Small town charm.

Deck The Trees Black Mountain

Minutes from downtown, you’ll find Asheville’s Norman Rockwell-esque neighbors with their own holiday traditions. Weaverville’s Candlelight Stroll (Dec. 10, 2021) lights up the town’s Main Street, complete with music, horse and carriage rides, carolers, and children’s activities. The historic Monte Vista Hotel serves as the centerpiece of the Deck The Trees event in Black Mountain. Deck the Trees (Dec. 2, 2021-Jan. 4, 2022) is a tree decorating contest benefiting local charity. Black Mountain also hosts a Christmas Parade (Dec. 4, 2021)

Updated December 7, 2021
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