8 Ways Asheville Sparkles for the Holidays
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.
Asheville’s busy downtown sidewalks shine in holiday style, thanks to "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.
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.
3. (Biltmore) home for the holidays.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 serves as the centerpiece of the Deck The Trees event in Black Mountain. Deck the Trees is a tree decorating contest benefiting local charity.