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NC Arboretum Winter Lights (How To Enjoy In 10 Important Tips!)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on May 27, 2024.

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The NC Arboretum Winter Lights is one of our favorite events during Christmas in Asheville. Over one million lights come together to light up the gardens with dozens of displays and a 50-foot lighted tree. It’s a scene that you won’t want to miss!

This holiday event is primarily a walk-through, with live performances, refreshments, and other activities scattered throughout. Our guide will cover the best ways to enjoy your visit to the Winter Lights show.

Here is how we’ve organized this guide:

You can skip ahead to any of those sections or continue reading about how to find the Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum!

Also, if you are wondering, “What are the best Christmas Lights near me?” Then you’ll want to read our full Christmas Lights in North Carolina article!

Read More: How to Spend Christmas in North Carolina (25 Holiday Events)

Where are the Winter Lights?

Address: 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC
Official Website

Winter Lights is a season exhibit hosted by the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, North Carolina.

Given how busy this area gets, the Arboretum has specific instructions on where to arrive for the event.

  • They recommend approaching from N.C. 191 South (Brevard Road).
  • You will pass the Asheville Outlets and turn right into the event space.

You can also plan your night with Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum with our North Carolina Travel Map and, more specifically, our Western North Carolina Map.

Read More: Asheville NC Map of Attractions (+ 7 Surrounding Counties!)

NC Arboretum Winter Lights Dates

Winter Lights at NC Arboretum family friendly
  • Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum’s 2023 open dates are from November 17 to December 31.
  • The event is open daily rain or shine from 6:00 pm to 10:00 PM.
  • Tickets are non-refundable and time and date-specific.
  • There are three entry times for tickets: 6:00 pm, 7:00 pm, or 8:00 pm.
  • Visitors can enter the show anytime between their entry time and 9:00 pm.
  • The show ends at 10:00 pm, and all visitors must depart by 10:30 pm.

Read More: 50+ Beautiful Waterfalls Near Asheville (Within 2 Hours)

Winter Lights Ticket Prices

Winter Lights at NC Arboretum green tree

Ticket prices are based on vehicle size and the date you are visiting. There are three date types designated by color and three vehicle sizes as well.

2023 Tickets should are on sale now. Here is a quick breakdown of the prices for Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum in 2023:

  • Personal vehicles ran from $40 for weekday and non-holiday dates to $70 for holiday dates.
  • Large vehicles ran from $75 for weekday and non-holiday dates to $125 for holiday dates.
  • XL vehicles, such as buses, ran from $400 for weekday and non-holiday dates to $600 for holiday dates.

Note: You’re better off buying tickets in advance! Personal and large vehicles can buy tickets at the gate if there is availability, but for an extra $10 charge.

Regular tickets are non-refundable, but there are flex tickets that allow for date changes if you are unsure of your availability.

Buy NC Arboretum Winter Lights Tickets

Tips for Enjoying Winter Lights Show

Winter Lights at NC Arboretum unicorn

Here are some of our tips for making the most of your visit to Winter Lights this holiday season!

Visit on a Weekday

Winter Lights at NC Arboretum tips

When purchasing tickets, we recommend trying to visit during one of the designated weekday and non-holiday dates. These dates are categorized as “pink tier” and promise fewer crowds.

This year’s pink tier dates are:

  • November 17
  • November 19-21
  • November 27-30
  • December 1
  • December 11-12
  • December 31

Read More: Winter in North Carolina (and 10+ Great Things to Do)

Walk Through the Lights

Winter Lights at NC Arboretum people

Once you have entered and parked, you can walk through the show at your own pace. Take your time when soaking in the dazzling lights.

Each year, the Arboretum creates a mix of old and new displays. Fan favorites include the 50-foot Tree of Light and the accompanying Quilt Garden.

Other displays include:

  • Glowing arches
  • Walkways lined by trees draped in lights
  • Entire gardens that are filled with colors and lights

A map of the gardens and displays is available when you arrive at Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum.

Read More: Christmas Town USA (How to See the Wonderful McAdenville Christmas Lights)

Enjoy Live Performances

Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum

To add to the holiday spirit, the Arboretum hosts live performances for each night that the Winter Lights is open. Performances take place outside the Education Center, near Bent Creek Bistro.

Read More: 30+ of the Best North Carolina Mountain Towns to Visit Now!

Storytime with Bears!

Round up the kids to hear the delightful story of a baby bear journeying through the world! This story is told through a window display complete with talking bears, deer, squirrels, and more.

The display is called “Storytime at Woodland Cove” and is located in the Education Center. The whole family will absolutely adore this exhibit!

Read More: 20+ Amazing Children’s Museums in North Carolina for All

Make Some S’mores

It’s not a true winter night without a cozy fire and s’mores! The Bent Creek Bistro caters to all your s’mores cravings, with s’mores kits available for purchase and a large fire pit outside for roasting.

And, if you’re ever feeling cold, there are fire pits and heaters scattered throughout the gardens.

Read More: 50+ Great Things to Do With Kids in Asheville (and Nearby!)

Food and Drinks

Winter Lights at NC Arboretum hot cocoa

As if it couldn’t get any better, the Arboretum also offers food and drinks for visitors. If you find yourself feeling hungry while walking through the shimmering lights, then take a break at the Cocoa Shack, the Cocoa Cabin or Bent Creek Bistro.

The Bistro offers a great menu of delicious snacks, including a variety of sandwiches, bread, and sweet treats. And, when you’re ready to stroll through the rest of the show, grab a hot chocolate or another drink to sip on.

Read More: 14 Wonderful Winter Getaways in North Carolina

Gift Shops

Winter Lights at NC Arboretum caterpillar

As the dazzling night comes to a close, you may want to buy some souvenirs to remember your time!

Two gift shops stay open until 10:00 p.m.: the Connections Gallery Gift Shop in the Baker Visitor Center and the Winter Lights Shop in the Education Center.

The Winter Lights Shop is in the same location as the storytime exhibit, so feel free to check both out in one go!

The gift shops offer an extensive collection of local artwork, such as paintings, pottery, jewelry, glass, and other crafts. Browse the selection for a souvenir or some last-minute holiday gifts.

Read More: 40+ North Carolina Gifts from Amazing Local Businesses

Wishing Trees

Winter Lights at NC Arboretum kids tree

Finally, no trip to the Winter Lights is complete without leaving a wish at the Wishing Trees. The trees are a beloved Winter Lights tradition, holding the holiday wishes of hundreds of visitors past.

This year, the Wishing Trees are located near the Rocky Cove Railroad, a garden-scale model train. You can write down your wish on a slip of paper and hang it on the tree, surrounded by the heartfelt wishes of many others.

Some of the wishes are really beautiful, so be thoughtful about your wish. It just might come true!

Read More: How to Enjoy Winter in North Carolina (25+ Great Things to Do!)

Keep Coming Back!

Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum truly is an event worth returning to every year; one visit just isn’t enough! Keep returning each holiday season and support the NC Arboretum in hosting this amazing light display.

If you’re familiar with Winter Lights, we’d love to hear from you. Do you love celebrating the holidays here as we do? Let us know here in the comments or by email.

Don’t forget to share your Asheville adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

Bonus Tip: Enjoy These Nearby Things to Do in Asheville

If you’re visiting the area for Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum, we have another important tip for you: spend more time in Asheville and enjoy these attractions!

Read More: 80+ Great Things to Do in Asheville (The Asheville Bucket List)

Stay in Asheville

Omni Grove Park Inn Asheville NC 1

If you traveled to see the Winter Lights, then spend a night in nearby Asheville. Asheville is one of North Carolina’s most vibrant cities, with a bustling downtown and beautiful mountain views.

There is a plethora of quality lodging options in Asheville. We recommend the Omni Park Grove Inn or Aloft Downtown. There’s also the Biltmore Estate nearby and many cozy bed-and-breakfasts.

Read More: Engadine Inn and Cabins near Asheville (10 Things We Love About It!)

Explore Downtown Asheville

Facts About Asheville Grove Arcade

Another great way to enjoy Asheville is to go downtown and soak in the arts district, rich history, and restaurant scene. Visit the Asheville Art Museum, take a Gray Line Trolley Tour of the city, and eat your way through the city!

Read More: 25+ of the Best Breweries in Asheville (South Slope, Downtown, and Nearby Towns!)

Visit Biltmore Estate

Christmas in North Carolina Biltmore

Christmas at Biltmore occurs at the same time that Winter Lights is hosted, so this is a great chance to experience Biltmore’s holiday tour! The Biltmore is the largest home in America, covering an impressive 8,000 acres.

The festive spirit shows through here, with Christmas trees and lights surrounding the home and property.

Read More: 13 Festive Christmas Tree Farms in North Carolina (Choose and Cut Fun For All!)

Hiking Near Asheville

Devils Courthouse NC View West

Western North Carolina is home to dozens of amazing hikes and waterfalls, and Asheville is within driving distance of many of them!

The NC Arboretum is just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, is part of Pisgah National Forest, and is near many of our best State Parks.

Take a day trip out to some of these wilderness areas and spend an afternoon hiking! There are some wonderful winter hikes here and elsewhere throughout Western NC!

Read More: 75+ Great Hikes Near Asheville

More Things to Do in Asheville (NC Travel Guides)

Beyond the fabulous NC Arboretum Winter Lights and the other attractions we’ve mentioned, there are plenty of other things to do in Asheville and nearby. We’ve created many more NC Travel Guides for the area and here are a few of them!

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