Last Updated on April 19, 2023
Last Updated on April 19, 2023
Christmas in North Carolina is about religious celebrations, but it’s also about spreading joy. That’s why we’re always searching for Christmas events for everyone.
Of course, we love those familiar sights like Christmas lights, holiday train rides, and more festive fun. But thanks to our state’s incredible diversity, there are special events during the Christmas season that celebrate different cultures, too.
Our guide will celebrate as many as possible, starting in November and running through the new year and January.
We’ve organized these ways to celebrate Christmas in North Carolina (and other festive holidays) by categories, from Christmas Festivals to Outdoor Recreation:
- Christmas Festivals (Santa, Christmas Markets, and Holiday Markets)
- Christmas Light Displays
- Christmas Musicals
- Christmas Parades
- Christmas Tree Farms
- Christmas Tree Lightings
- Holiday Home Tours
- Holiday Train Rides
- More Holiday Celebrations (NC Chinese Lantern Festival, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Gita Jayanti)
- Outdoor Recreation (Hikes, Skiing, and More!)
- The Best Places to Spend Christmas in North Carolina (Our Top 5)
You can skip ahead to any section or continue reading about NC Christmas Festivals!
Read More: Winter in North Carolina
Christmas Festivals (Christmas Markets and Holiday Markets)
Christmas festivals stand out as one of the best things to do in North Carolina during the holidays. We start with a popular Santa tradition before sharing a list of many more markets and festivals.
Santa on Chimney Rock (Chimney Rock State Park)
2022 Dates: December 3 and December 10
Santa on the Chimney is a fun tradition that showcases Santa “practicing” for his trek from the North Pole to travel across the globe and deliver presents to all the children.
A regular admission ticket is required to attend this Christmas Event.
Not only will you get to witness Santa scale the 315-foot Chimney Rock, but you can enjoy breakfast with his elves, Christmas crafts, and Christmas stories.
Santa “practices” multiple times during the day, and he and Mrs. Claus are available for photos between those times. This event is included with regular Chimney Rock State Park admission.
The park’s cafe, Old Rock Cafe, hosts breakfast between 8:00 am to 11:00 am.
Read More: All of North Carolina’s State Parks Sites
More Christmas Festivals
Here are some more festivals to enjoy during Christmas in North Carolina:
- Christmas Market at Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring (November 25-27)
- Christmas Market Weekends at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte (Starting November 25-27 and Weekends in December)
- Christmas In Davidson, Davidson (December 1 to 3)
- Four Oaks Christmas in Four Oaks (December 2 to 3)
- A Small Town Christmas in Banner Elk (December 2 to 4)
Read More: 13 Amazing Restaurants in Banner Elk and Nearby (+ Where to Drink!)
- Festival of Trees at the Hotel Concord in Concord (December 2 to 4)
- Winterfest Artisan Market in Jacksonville (December 2 to 4)
- The Holiday Flea in Wilmington (December 2 to 4)
- Christmas Village in Belmont (December 3)
- Christmas Craft Fair at Pace Family Farms in Clayton (December 3)
- Carolina Christmas Fest in Lumberton (December 3)
- Scandinavian Christmas Fair at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh (December 3)
- Triangle Pop-Up Holiday Market at NC Museum of Art in Raleigh (December 3)
- Great Topsail Flotilla & Christmas Market in Surf City (December 3)
- Christmas Craft Show at WoodMill Winery in Vale (December 3)
- Outdoor Holiday Gift Market at Legacy Architectural Salvage in Wilmington (December 3)
- Harbor District Christmas Market in Washington (December 3 to 4)
- Holiday Market at Foothills Brewing Tasting Room in Winston-Salem (December 4 and 11)
- The Durham Hotel‘s Annual-ish Holiday Market (December 7)
- Holiday Market in Cary (December 9)
- Merry & Bright, A North Pole Market at Mordecai Historical Park in Raleigh (December 10)
- Winter Wonderland Market at the Smoky Mountain Event Center in Waynesville (December 10)
- Uncommon Holiday Market at the Mission Health/AB Tech Conference Center in Asheville (December 10 to 11)
Read More: Amazing Restaurants in Asheville
- Holiday Patchwork Market at the Durham Armory in Durham (December 10 to 11)
- Winston Junction December Market in Winston-Salem (December 10 and 17)
- Durham Craft Market Holiday Show at Central Park in Durham (December 11)
- St. Nicholas European Christmas Market at the Holshouser Building in Raleigh (December TBA)
Read More: 25 of the Most Amazing Winter Hikes in North Carolina
Christmas Light Displays
Seeing festive displays of lights is an NC Christmas tradition for us. Here are some of our favorites throughout the state.
Speedway Christmas (Concord)
2022/2023 Dates: November 18, 2022-January 8, 2023
Speedway Christmas is a tradition among many during Christmas in North Carolina, and it’s not hard to see why. Take in the dazzling lights throughout the four-mile drive-thru course at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord.
You’ll drive through various displays, lights, and animations synchronized to Christmas music. Don’t forget about the Christmas Village inside, either, as you can roast marshmallows and s’mores by a fire pit, buy souvenirs, and grab a meal from a local food truck!
Read More: Restaurants in Concord and Cabarrus County
Winter Lights at NC Arboretum (Asheville)
2022/2023 Dates: November 18, 2022 to January 1, 2023
WinterLights at the NC Arboretum is one of the best things to do in Asheville in winter. Light displays, new and old, will greet both Arboretum members and guests. The traditional 50-foot tall lighted tree and Quilt Garden make an appearance again as well.
Tickets are per vehicle, and the price depends on a few factors:
- Length/size of the vehicle
- Whether or not tickets were purchased in advance or at the gate
- Event Date (levels of bronze, silver, and gold to differentiate)
In addition, two locations will have food and drinks for purchase: The Cocoa Shack, located in the Gardener’s Shed, and The Bent Creek Bistro, located in the Educational Center.
Snacks, alcoholic beverages, hot cocoa, treats, and s’mores kits will be available for purchase.
Read More: Awesome Asheville Restaurants
Winterlights at Elizabethan Gardens (Manteo)
2022 Dates: Select Nights from November 25-December 30
WinterLights is the best Outer Banks holiday tradition, so make sure to get your tickets this year to see why! Walk through and experience the lights, displays, and sounds that fill the 10-acre gardens.
They even made sure to fill the indoor areas with festive trees and decorations.
Ticket prices range from $7 to $12 depending on age, and the event is also dog friendly for an additional fee. You must purchase tickets in advance, and this is a weather-dependent event.
You can buy holiday gifts or plants from their Royal Exchange and enjoy outdoor holiday entertainment with a large open-air fire pit every Friday and Saturday night—except for December 24, 25, and 31.
Read More: Outer Banks Towns and The Best Restaurants on the Outer Banks
Christmas Town USA (McAdenville)
2022 Dates: December 1-December 26
McAdenville (AKA Christmas Town USA) is a magical place for people of all ages to take in the holiday spirit. The entire town transforms into a wonderland of beautiful lights that can be viewed by driving or walking through the town.
Two traditions are the Tree Lighting Ceremony on the first night at 5:00 pm and the Yule Log Ceremony on December 16. You don’t want to miss these special events!
There are no specific food vendors for the Christmas Town displays, but you can find restaurants in McAdenville and in nearby Gastonia.
More Christmas Lights Displays
Here are some more lights displays to check out during Christmas in North Carolina.
- Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights in Clemmons (November 11 to January 1)
- Mike’s Farm Hayride and Dinner Show at Mike’s Farm in Beulaville (November 17 to December 23)
- Tryon Resort Winterfest in Mill Spring (November 17 to January 1)
- Winter Wonderlights at the Greensboro Science Center (November 17 to January 1)
- Enchanted Airlie in Wilmington (November 25 to 26 and December 2 to 22)
- Winterlights in Manteo on the Outer Banks (Select Dates from November 25 to December 30)
- Holiday Lights at the Cape Fear Botanical Garden in Fayetteville (December 2 to 22)
- Lights & Luminaries in Dillsboro (December 2 to 3 and 9 to 10)
- Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla in Beaufort (December 3)
- Christmas in the Park in Fayetteville (Dates TBA)
- Keelboat Christmas Flotilla & Lights Parade in Mooresville (Date TBA)
- Winterfest Flotilla in Southport (Date TBA)
Read More: Christmas in Fayetteville
Christmas Musicals and Productions
During December in North Carolina, there are plenty of Christmas musicals and productions to keep you occupied. Here are a few traditional favorites, followed by others that you can only find in one place.
The Nutcracker (Starting December 3)
We can think of quite a few places for you to go and get your Nutcracker fix.
- Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte (December 9-23)
- Thalian Hall in Wilmington (December 2 and 3)
- Bardo Arts Center in Cullowhee (December 9 and 10)
- Stevens Center in Winston-Salem (December 9 to 18)
- Raleigh Memorial Auditorium (December 16 to 24)
- High Point Theatre (December 16 to 18)
- The Hip Hop Nutcracker at DPAC in Durham (December 23) and Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte (December 26-27)
Read More: 50+ Awesome Things to Do in Wilmington
Holidays Pops (December 9 to 11)
You’ll have a few chances to catch a Holiday Pops concert in North Carolina. Here are dates and locations for this year’s events:
- Statewide Holiday Pops in Wilmington (December 11)
- Holiday Pops in Raleigh (December 9 to 10)
Read More: The Best Restaurants in Raleigh
A Christmas Carol (Starting December 10)
Versions of “A Christmas Carol” can be found throughout North Carolina in December. One interesting alternative is in Davidson, where the Community Players perform Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some).
Here are more locations in the state where you can watch the more traditional version of the story:
- Sanford (December 1 to 18)
- High Point (December 9 to 11)
- Durham (December 14 to 18)
Read More: Christmas in Durham
Mike’s Farm (Beulaville)
2022 Dates: November 17-December 23 and December 26-28
Mike’s Farm (near the Duplin and Onslow County line) goes all out for the holiday season and offers plenty of family activities. Hop on their hayride to view their Festival of Lights or enjoy their Ho! Ho! Ho! Christmas show or the Wilmington Show Choir Jubilee.
Hayride & Dinner reservations are required to eat at their family-style restaurant during this season. You can also reserve a time for a private hayride, which can accommodate up to 8 people.
Mike’s Farm has its family-style restaurant and the Christmas Show and Supper with Santa, offering buffet-style dinner!
Read More: The Best Things to Do in Jacksonville
Additional Christmas Musicals and Productions in North Carolina
Here are some other amazing musicals and productions to add to your Christmas in NC calendar:
- Playhouse Christmas in Flat Rock (November 25 to 27 and December 7 to 22)
- Elf the Musical at DPAC in Durham (November 29 to December 4)
- Raleigh Ringers at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh (December 17 and 18)
- A Magical Cirque Christmas in Wilmington (December 15) and DPAC (December 19)
- Carolina Christmas Show at the Municipal Event Center in Marion (December 16 to 18)
Read More: Great I-95 Exits in North Carolina
A few Christmas parades in North Carolina take place in November, including Raleigh on November 19. Most parades, though, will take place in December.
Each one is a wonderful showcase of each city and town that we just can’t pick. Which of these parades should we attend and why?
- Concord (November 19)*
- Hickory (November 19)*
- Raleigh (November 19)
- Mooresville (November 26)
- Angier (December 3)
- Cleveland (December 3)
- Four Oaks (December 3)
- Goldsboro (December 3)
- Highlands (December 3)
- Kenly (December 3)
- Mint Hill (December 3)*
- Murphy (December 3)*
- New Bern (December 3)
Read More: 13 Delicious New Bern Restaurants for the Ultimate Foodie
- Pilot Mountain (December 3)*
- South Mills (December 3)
- Valdese (December 3)
- Wilson (December 3)
- Youngsville (December 3)*
- Fuquay-Varina (December 4)
- Indian Trail (December 4)
- Kernersville (December 4)
- Rolesville (December 4)
- Morganton (December 6)
- Tryon (December 7)
- Cary (December 10)
Read More: The Mayton in Cary (+ 7 Things We Love About Staying Here!)
- Clayton (December 10)
- Kannapolis (December 10)
- Knightdale (December 10)
- Robbinsville (December 10)
- Waxhaw (December 11)
- Mount Holly (December 16)
- Durham (December 17)
- Norlina (December 17)
*Denotes Christmas Parade held in conjunction with or before a Christmas Tree Lighting.
Read More: 17 Amazing Eno River State Park Trails (+ Bonus Hikes)
Christmas Tree Lightings
Like Christmas parades, some tree lightings in North Carolina take place in November. More than a few take place in conjunction with Christmas parades, typically held afterward.
Here are a few of them:
- Concord (November 18)*
- Hickory (November 19)*
- Angier (December 1)
- Cramerton (December 1)
- Four Oaks (December 2)
- Harrisburg (December 2)
- Knightdale (December 2)
- Lumberton (December 2)^
- Youngsville (December 2)*
Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)
- Mint Hill (December 3)*
- Pilot Mountain (December 3)*
- Valdese (December 9)
- Clayton (December TBA)*
*Denotes Christmas Tree Lighting held in conjunction with or after a Christmas Parade.
^Denotes Christmas Tree Lighting held in conjunction with a Christmas Festival.
Christmas Tree Farms
2022/2023 Start Dates: Mid-to-Late November
A big part of many family traditions is finding the perfect Christmas Tree to put up for the holidays.
Frosty’s in Ashe County is a popular option, and they open on November 19. Ashe is the largest Christmas tree-producing county in the US!
Of course, there are more Christmas tree farms throughout Western North Carolina.
Read More: 30+ Great Things to Do in Boone (Hikes, Eats, and More in App Town)
Holiday Home Tours
Holiday home tours are one of the most festive ways to celebrate Christmas in North Carolina. Here are some popular places to take in the holiday spirit.
Christmas at Biltmore in Asheville
2022/2023 Dates: November 4, 2022-January 8, 2023
Daytime Dates: November 4 to January 8
Evening Dates: November 4 to January 7
Biltmore Estate in Asheville is the perfect place to celebrate Christmas in North Carolina’s mountains. During Christmas at Biltmore, more than 100 decorated trees, 10,000 ornaments, 100,000-holiday lights, and festive Christmas displays all come together.
There are two special events to keep in mind. They include the Daytime Celebration and the Candlelight Christmas Evenings.
- The Daytime Celebration allows you to travel from room to room inside the house and take in all the decorations, fragrant wreaths, garlands, and ornaments.
- The Candlelight Christmas Evenings show the spruce trees lit up and pathway luminaries that welcome you to the estate. Inside, candles and lit fireplaces create a warm, welcoming environment.
Both celebrations continue into Antler Hill Village and offer the opportunity to participate in the immersive Legends of Art & Innovation experience.
Antler Hill Village offers lunch, dinner, and snacks at one of their many restaurants. Visit the Biltmore Winery to try out their wines and buy one for yourself or a loved one as a gift.
Read More: The Best Breweries in Asheville
Omni Grove Park Inn National Gingerbread House Competition (Asheville)
Competition Date: November 22, 2022
The Gingerbread Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn is not necessarily a holiday home tour but we think this fun NC Christmas tradition belongs here. It goes back to 1992 when a small group created gingerbread houses to celebrate the holidays.
Though they didn’t plan to do it again the following year, the tradition continued and grew into what it is today.
The resort has multiple on-site dining facilities ranging from a piano bar and outdoor bar and grill to cafes and formal sit-down restaurants.
Read More: Wonderful Winter Getaways in North Carolina
Christmas at Korner’s Folly (Kernersville)
2022/2023 Dates: November 25 to January 7, 2023
Korner’s Folly is a unique historical home built and owned by interior designer Jule Gilmore Korner. This home was a display to show potential clients an in-person portfolio of his work.
You can visit throughout the year, but the site’s volunteers begin decorating for their Candlelight tours in November. Starting November 26, you can see and be taken you back to the Victorian Era, with lights and magical sights all around!
Read More: Fun Things to Do in Winston-Salem
Holiday Train Rides
All aboard for these holiday train rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Smokies, and elsewhere!
Polar Express on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (Bryson City)
2022/2023 Dates: November 10 Start
Dive into the Polar Express movie world on this 1-1/4 hour train ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City. Guests enjoy warm cocoa and a treat while listening to the motion picture’s soundtrack on their visit to the North Pole.
Once you reach the North Pole, children are greeted by Santa Claus and offered a special gift. Sing carols on the way back to the Bryson City Train Depot.
While there is no food served during the trip, there are plenty of food options to explore in Bryson City before or after.
Read More: Deep Creek Trail (3 Beautiful Waterfalls, 1 Hike)
Tweetsie Christmas (Blowing Rock)
2022 Dates: Select Dates from November 25-December 30
Tweetsie Railroad turns into Tweetsie Christmas in North Carolina’s High Country. All ages are welcome to enjoy the lights displays while aboard the train.
The event will be held on select evenings from November 25 to December 30.
Admission includes a ride on the train, a visit to Santa’s Gingerbread House, a live Christmas show, classic amusement rides, and an outdoor fire pit to roast s’mores.
Hot food is available at the Tweetsie Palace and the Cowboy Cantina, as well as specialty fudge and the s’mores at the fire pit.
Since it’s between two of our favorite mountain towns, we’ve included Tweetsie Christmas in our guides covering the Best Things to Do in Blowing Rock and the Best Things to Do in Boone.
Read More: Winter in Boone (20 Great Activities, Snow Tubing, and More!)
The Polar Express Train Ride, Spencer (Select Dates Through December 23
Dates: December 2 to 4, 8 to 11, and 13 to 23
You can also take a trip to the North Pole in Spencer at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Take a ride on their Polar Express Train, where you’ll be greeted with hot chocolate, cookies, and Santa himself!
Read More: The Wilmington Railroad Museum
More Holiday Celebrations
Thanks to the diversity in our state, there are plenty of other holidays to celebrate in NC!
NC Chinese Lantern Festival
2022/2023 Dates: November 18, 2022-January 8, 2023
For another holiday perspective, visit the NC Chinese Lantern Festival over seven weeks at Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. Each year, there are new light displays and more enhanced programming from the previous one!
Chicago-based artisans from Tianyu Arts & Culture hand-build every lantern seen in the festival and stay to perform traditional Chinese acrobatic performances.
There will be different food trucks and vendors on select nights. You can also preorder food the day before you plan to arrive from local favorites such as Lowe’s Foods and Taziki’s.
You can also order food on-site from the Crescent Cafe or the Cobblestone Courtyard.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, check out the Mayton in Cary. We love it for a variety of reasons!
Read More: The Best Things to Do in Raleigh and The Best Restaurants in Raleigh
Celebration of Gita Jayanti, Statewide
2022 Date: December 3
Hindus throughout the world honor the Bhagavad Gita during this celebration, and temples and centers in our state will be doing so, too.
If you know about any in particular that we should mention, please let us know about it here.
2022 Dates: December 18-25
Hanukkah (sometimes spelled as Chanukah or Chanukkah) is celebrated around the world, especially in North Carolina. Here are a few specific places to join fellow Jewish people from the mountains to the sea:
- Menora Workshop in Cornelius (December 11)
- Chanukah at Streets at Southpoint in Durham (December 18)
- Chanukah Festival at Symphony Park in Charlotte (December 18)
- Hanukkah Celebration at the Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch Library in Greensboro (December 18)
- Menorah Lighting and Gelt Drop at Lafayette Village in Raleigh (December 18)
- Menorah Lighting at Cary Arts Center (December 19)
- Menorah Lighting at StoneCrest in Charlotte (December 19)
- Menorah Lighting at Birkdale Village in Huntersville (December 20)
- Menora Lighting in Matthews (December 20)
- Menora Lighting at Fenton in Cary (December 21)
- Menorah Lighting in Waxhaw (December 21)
- Menora Lighting in Morrisville (December 22)
- Yoel Sharabi Chanukah Concert at Chabad of Charlotte (December 24)
If you know of more Hannukah celebrations in North Carolina, please let us know here.
2022/2023 Dates: December 26, 2022-January 1, 2023
The seven days of Kwanzaa begin on December 26 and a variety of events throughout the state will celebrate and inform those interested in learning more. Celebrations can be found in Raleigh, in Asheville, and elsewhere in North Carolina.
If you know of more Kwanzaa festivities, please let us know here.
Read More: January in North Carolina
We saved these outdoor activities for last but certainly don’t think of them as least among our favorite things to do during Christmas in North Carolina.
- Skiing and Snow Tubing
- Watch Bird Migrations
- Winter Hikes
Skiing and Snow Tubing
During winter and Christmas in NC, the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and our Smoky Mountains fill with snow, manmade and natural, and become perfect for skiing and snow tubing!
- Sugar Mountain Resort in the High Country
- Beech Mountain Resort, also in the High Country
- Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley
- Snow Tubing
- Hawksnest in Seven Devils (near Banner Elk)
- Jonas Ridge in Burke County
Read More: Ski Resorts in North Carolina
Watch Bird Migrations
One of the best things to do during Christmas in North Carolina is to travel to the coast and watch the flocks of birds having a pit stop as they move further south.
Tundra swans are one great example and you can likely find them flying through places that include:
- Lake Mattamuskeet
- Pea Island on the Outer Banks
- Phelps Lake in Singletary State Park
- Additional locations in North Carolina that are close to the Atlantic Ocean.
Read More: 30+ Amazing NC Coastal Towns (+ Things to Do in Each One!)
New Year’s Day hikes are a great way to start the year, but you can enjoy hikes throughout the Christmas season in NC.
Sure, the leaves may have fallen and some people may call it the “winter blahs,” but there are many things in your favor during this time. The skies are usually clearer, you can often see things usually covered by trees, and waterfalls may be surrounded by beautiful ice or snow.
Trails are also less crowded and here are some of our favorite places for winter hikes in North Carolina:
- Carolina Beach State Park in Carolina Beach
- Elk Knob State Park near Boone
- Eno River State Park in Durham
- Hanging Rock State Park in Danbury
- Lake Waccamaw State Park in Columbus County
- Max Patch in Madison County near Asheville
Read More: The Best Breweries in Asheville
- Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area in Hillsborough
- Otter Falls Trail in Seven Devils near Banner Elk (also one of our favorite kid-friendly waterfalls!)
- Roan Mountain near Bakersville and Burnsville
- Stone Mountain State Park near Elkin
- Weymouth Woods in Southern Pines
Note that some parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway are closed during winter. Please check here before planning any BRP hikes.
Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina
The Best Places to Spend Christmas in North Carolina (Our Top 5)
We made some tough decisions when picking our favorite places to spend Christmas in North Carolina. Nevertheless, here’s what we think are the best of the best:
- McAdenville: Christmas Town USA is hard to beat, even though it’s the main attraction in this Gaston County town.
- Boone: Winter in Boone is truly special, thanks to the outdoor recreation and the overall great feeling we have when hanging out in town.
- Blowing Rock: Thanks to Chetola Resort’s Festival of Lights and the wonderful small-town vibes (also, Tweetsie Christmas), Blowing Rock could probably be higher up on this list.
- Charlotte: It was tough to pick between Charlotte and Raleigh, but there’s just a bit more happening in Queen City’s surroundings. That includes Speedway Christmas in Concord, the Polar Express in Spencer, and even McAdenville.
What do you think? Do you have a different top 5? Let us know in the comments or by email.
Ready to Enjoy Christmas in North Carolina (and Similarly Festive Holidays)?
We hope these events have you ready to celebrate Christmas in North Carolina, as well as Lunar or Chinese New Year, Kwanzaa, and more. If you know about any events that we should include, we’d love to hear about them.
Kindly email us and we’ll be happy to take a closer look. In the meantime, we wish you a wonderful Christmas in North Carolina and hope you can get out there and see as many of these holiday events as possible!
Don’t forget to share your NC Christmas adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!
More Christmas in NC (Travel Guides)
Of course, we’ve created many more NC travel guides to cover the holiday season. Here are a few of them.