Last Updated on April 1, 2022
Last Updated on April 1, 2022
Christmas in North Carolina is about religious celebrations, but it’s also about spreading joy. That’s why we’re always searching for celebrations from all walks of life.
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.
For Christmas Parades, Read More Here: December in North Carolina
Our guide will celebrate as many as possible, starting in November and running through the new year.
We hope his article ignites your holiday spirit, helps you plan a unique and memorable holiday experience, and finally, sheds light on a place or occasion you may not have seen yet.
Read More: Winter in North Carolina
Christmas in North Carolina
We’ve organized these ways to celebrate Christmas in North Carolina (and other festive holidays) in order of starting date. A few of them carry over into the new year, which gives you plenty of time to plan a visit to as many as possible!
Christmas at Biltmore (November 5 to January 9, 2022)
Daytime Dates: November 5 to January 9
Evening Dates: November 5 to January 8
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 Van Gogh Alive 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
Polar Express on Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (November 12 to January 1)
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.
Christmas Tree Farms (Mid-to-Late November)
A big part of many family traditions is finding the perfect Christmas Tree to put up for the holidays.
Of course, there are more Christmas tree farms throughout Western North Carolina.
Mike’s Farm (November 18 to December 28)
1600 Haw Branch Road, Beaulaville
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.
For 2021, they have added Hayride & Dinner reservations, which 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
NC Chinese Lantern Festival (November 19 to January 9)
8003 Regency Parkway, Cary
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.
Tickets start at $25/person to enjoy the experience.
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!
Speedway Christmas (November 19 to January 3)
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
Tweetsie Christmas (November 19 to 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.
Tweetsie Christmas tickets are $44 per adult and $38 per child aged 5 to 12. The event will be held on select evenings from November 19 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.
WinterLights at NC Arboretum (November 19 to January 1)
This year the WinterLights at the NC Arboretum is back to its traditional walk-through open-air format. 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 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
Omni Grove Park Inn Gingerbread Competition (November 22 and November 28 to January 2)
- Competition: November 22
- Public Display: November 28 to January 2
The Gingerbread Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn is a fun Christmas in North Carolina tradition. 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 for their 29th year.
For 2021, there will be a virtual “12 Days of Gingerbread” for those who can’t see the displays in person. The top 12 finalists will be displayed (one per day) on the Grove Park Inn’s Facebook and Instagram.
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
Korner’s Folly Victorian Candlelight Tours (November 26 to December 31)
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
Winterlights at Elizabethan Gardens (November 27 to January 16)
1411 National Park Drive, Manteo
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.
Christmas Town USA (December 1-26)
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.
Read More: Christmas Lights in North Carolina
Santa on Chimney Rock (December 4 and 11)
Chimney Rock State Park
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 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 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
Kwanzaa Celebrations (December 26 to January 1, 2022)
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
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!