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!

*Please note: Events may be altered, postponed or cancelled as organizations and businesses follow state and local social distancing guidelines. Please check back frequently for updates.

1. Go to town.

Holiday Lights Downtown Asheville

Asheville’s busy downtown sidewalks shine in holiday style, thanks to new "Local Lights" displays in Pack Square Park and Pritchard Park. A 10-foot gilded purple snowflake in Pack Square Park makes for the perfect selfie. While being merry, don’t forget to eat and drink off the seasonal menus at the local restaurants, bars, and breweries that have earned Asheville its reputation as a top foodie and craft beer destination.

2. Oh, Christmas trees.

Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum 2017

As the sun sets, the North Carolina Arboretum’s 434 acres transform into a glowing winter wonderland, strewn with thousands of lights. In light of social distancing guidelines, the Winter Lights celebration (November 20, 2020-January 10, 2021) changes format for 2020 from a walk-thru experience to a dreamy drive-thru adventure. This drive-thru experience is designed to give you an opportunity to enjoy this Asheville holiday tradition safely from within your own vehicle. You will navigate through a one-mile stretch of the Arboretum’s campus and see unique exhibits covered in thousands of holiday lights. 

3. (Biltmore) home for the holidays.

Christmas at Biltmore 2018

See Biltmore in a different, opulent light with its Candlelight Christmas Evenings (November 6, 2020-January 9, 2021). 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 6, 2020-January 10, 2021).

4. Sugar and spice.

2017 National Gingerbread House Competition

No holiday season in Asheville is complete withoutthe National Gingerbread House Competition at The Omni Grove Park Inn. This pastry Parade of Homes has become a beloved local tradition. In 2020, the Omni Grove Park Inn is revolutionizing the event in light of social distancing guidelines. While there will be no public display, the event is going virtual. Stay tuned for updates about engaging socially distanced alternatives (in place of a physical display) for Gingerbread fans both on and off property at the Omni Grove Park Inn to view the finalists.

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. Plan ahead to catch a special market like The Big Crafty’s Hand to Heart Holiday (December 5-6, 2020).

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.

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.

As we get closer to the holidays in 2020, check back for a list of holiday performances.

In the meantime, 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 lights up the town’s Main Street, complete with music, horse and carriage rides, carolers, and children’s activities. The historic Monte Vista Hotel in Black Mountain, hosts Deck the Trees, a tree decorating contest benefiting local charity.

Updated August 26, 2020
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