11 Best Holiday Events in Asheville NC

Photos of Asheville North Carolina

11 Best Holiday Events in Asheville

Asheville has something going all year round, but the holiday season is an exceptional time of year. The city transforms under the glow of holiday light displays, the smell of cinnamon and gingerbread, and the decorated shop windows. The mountain location gives residents access to authentic winter activities like snow tubing and skiing. You can spend a day sliding down the slopes and an evening admiring the local light displays while sipping hot chocolate.

If you're looking for what makes the holidays unique in Asheville, check out these top events in the city and surrounding neighborhoods. 

#1- Candlelight Christmas Evenings, Biltmore Estate

Visiting the Biltmore Estates is a breathtaking experience, but the holiday season amps up the beauty of the home and grounds. Starting in early November through the first week of January, visit to see Biltmore decorated with its holiday best. Admire the carefully decorated Christmas trees spread throughout the house, the over 30,000 Christmas lights, and 150 candles. Everywhere you turn, you'll find a Christmas display, from the giant decorated spruce tree on the front lawn to the wreaths and greenery over the mantles. 

Enjoy live performances of holiday music during the season, pick up a special Christmas wine from the winery, and experience seasonal holiday menus at the restaurants. Viewing the Christmas decor is included with the price of admission, as is a visit to Antler Hill Village, which hosts an outdoor light show. 

#2- National Gingerbread House Competition, Asheville

You're not dreaming; that is gingerbread you're smelling! The Omni Park Grove Inn in Asheville hosts the annual National Gingerbread House Competition. Contestants worldwide have been coming here for over 30 years to vie for over $25,000 in prizes. Your eyes (and stomach) won't believe the fantastic creations people assemble from candy and gingerbread cookies. Half of your admissions proceeds go back to the community in Western North Carolina. 

#3- Winter Lights, North Carolina Arboretum

The 434 acres transform under the glow of thousands of holiday lights at the renowned gardens. Walkthrough Winter Lights to admire displays that showcase the Arboretum's natural landscape, colorful native butterflies, and winter wildlife. The 50-foot lighted tree and the Quilt Garden are some of the event's most popular attractions. 

Winter Lights opens on November 19, 2021, and runs until New Year's Day. Tickets are sold per vehicle. A non-member personal vehicle starts at $40 at the gate or $30 with an advance purchase. Tickets are timed entry. 

#4- Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley, Asheville

Operated by Gray Line Tours, jump on the trolley for a fun and festive rendition of the season. The tour includes caroling, storytelling, and live music. The route takes it past lights and decorations found in downtown Asheville, Biltmore Village, Montford, and Grove Park neighborhoods. It is heated and enclosed with vinyl roll-down windows. 

#5- Jingle Bell Trolley Train Run, Asheville

Operating on select dates in November and December, the Craggy Mountain Line brings Santa Claus to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Your $12 ticket includes hot cocoa, cookies, and a meet-and-greet with Santa. 

#6- Asheville Holiday Parade, Asheville

The Asheville Holiday Parade features over 100 entries of marching bands, dance and cheer squads, youth sports groups, parade floats, local businesses, and Santa Claus. It has been taking place for over 75 years. It is scheduled for November 20, 2021, with a start time of 11 am. The parade route begins at Biltmore Avenue and ends at Patton Avenue at South French Broad. The official performance spot is at the corner of Biltmore and Patton Avenue. The parade is free to attend.

#7- Santa on the Chimney, Chimney Rock

That's right, Santa Claus prepares for his chimney climbs on the big night by climbing the 315-foot Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park. In 2021, Santa will practice on December 4 and December 11. Watch Santa rappel down the granite face while assisted by his professional rock-climbing buddies from Fox Mountain Guides. The event is accompanied by live music, family-friendly activities, and the opportunities to take pictures on Santa's sleigh. Regular park admission applies, but there is no additional fee to attend Santa on the Chimney. 

#8- Old World Dickens in the Village Festival, Biltmore Village

This unique shopping and dining destination located just outside Biltmore Estate and two miles from downtown Asheville will transport you back in time to the days of Charles Dickens and "A Christmas Carol." Taking place on December 3-24, 2021, wander the Biltmore Village streets during the festival. Roaming actors, musicians, and strolling carolers dressed in Dickensian-era costumes immerse you in a bygone era. The event kicks off Friday evening with a tree lighting ceremony on Village Green, a performance of Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," and visits from Santa Claus. Saturday, Biltmore Village is filled with two dozen roving acts of mimes, theatrical presentations, brass ensembles, balloonists, and more. The buildings themselves are decorated with holiday lights, creating a magical atmosphere. 

#9- Deck the Trees, Black Mountain

Just a short drive from Asheville is the beautiful black mountain. Here, the Deck The Trees celebration is a charity event featuring over 35 creatively decorated Christmas trees. Deck the Trees will be held from December 2 through January 3 and will include decorated trees at businesses around Black Mountain. The historic Monte Vista Hotel is the centerpiece of the event. It is free to view the variously decorated trees, and you vote for your favorite by making a donation. All proceeds go to the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry. 

#10- Lake Julian Festival of Lights, Arden

Lake Julian Park in Arden becomes the site of a drive-through Christmas light show. The Annual Festival of Lights has 50 animated and stationary light displays. The festival runs from December 1-23, and gates open at 6 pm. Admission is $10 per passenger vehicle, and tickets must be purchased online in advance. A portion of all tickets benefits the Buncombe County Special Olympics. 

#11- Forest City Christmas Lights, Forest City

Make a memorable visit to this small town for a festive holiday experience. The downtown Main Street is decorated with over a million lights for Home Town Holidays. The lights are everywhere, wrapped around live oak trees and hanging overhead, around the town fountain, and in the square. Forest City's decorating tradition dates to the 1930s. To truly appreciate the decorations, take a horse carriage ride. The viewing of the lights is free. The holiday lights turn on after Thanksgiving and run until New Year's Day.

Celebrate the Holidays in Asheville, NC

There's so much more to do in Asheville during the holiday season. Our Beer City, USA hometown brewers create specially crafted ales and pints with the season's flavors. You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown Asheville to admire the decorations. The award-winning restaurants host special holiday meals and menus. If you're looking for a holiday season to remember, you can create it in Asheville. 

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