Master Guide to 30+ Winter Activities in North Carolina

Our master guide of winter activities in North Carolina will allow you to celebrate the holidays all over the state. We all want to celebrate the lights, the warmth of the spirit of the holidays, and the enjoyment that comes with the season, from the mountains to the oceans!

We’re sharing the best events for you to participate in all the seasonal splendor, Christmas lights and activities, and holiday cheer, this year. (And we update the list every year so you don’t have to go through hours of research that we do.)

Please visit the individual website for any events we’ve linked below for the most up-to-date COVID safety information.

Overall, however, DON’T FORGET YOUR FACE MASKS! While most locations aren’t requiring them this year, some are. It’s better to go to these events prepared!

We’ve broken this post down into the three regions of the state for easy navigation:

  • Piedmont Region (including activities in Raleigh, Durham, Cary, Ramseur, Winston-Salem and Goldsboro)
  • Coastal Region (including activities in Wrightsville Beach and the Outer Banks)
  • Mountains Region (including activities in Asheville and Blowing Rock)

Post Contents

Winter Activities in North Carolina’s Piedmont Region

WRAL Night of Lights at Dorothea Dix Park

  • Location: Raleigh
  • Event dates for 2021: Through December 24, 2021. Monday, December 13, is Bike Night, which means you can ride your bicycle through the event for a reduced fee. (No vehicles are allowed during Bike Night times.)
  • Tickets: Must be purchased in advance. $20 per vehicle, which can include up to 8 people. With processing fees, it is just under $25. (Bike night is $10 per bicycle.) Fast lane tickets, to avoid a wait, are $40 per vehicle.
  • Address: Enter the event at the park at 75 Hunt Drive, Raleigh, NC, 27603

About the Bright and Colorful Drive-Through Experience in Raleigh

The City of Raleigh is doing a second annual Night of Lights this year in Dix Park.

Drive along a 1.3-mile route (about a 15-minute drive) from the safety of your car. (The bike route is 2.6 miles.) You’ll enjoy over 400 displays and thousands of strands of lights in scenes including penguins and patriotism in this beautiful Raleigh park.

Don’t miss your timed entry – you must enter before the end of your designated time so be sure to arrive promptly. Vehicles must be 10’5″ or shorter due to tunnel elements of the show.

We love Dorothea Dix’s sunflowers in the summertime, so if it’s half as mesmerizing we know it’ll be great. Portions of the proceeds will go to local non-profits and we hear there will be extra sparkle for New Year’s Even on December 31st!

Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour

  • Location: Oakwood, a historic neighborhood in downtown Raleigh
  • Event dates for 2021: Saturday, December 11 and Sunday, December 12, from 1:00pm to 7:00pm – held rain or shine
  • Tickets: $35 regular admission, and $30 advance ticket sales available until Sunday, November 28. Group tickets for 10 or more people available until November 28, for $28. Tickets are final sale, and in-person checkin to get a physical ticket is needed when you tour. This is when you receive the addresses of the homes in the tour.
  • Address: Starting address for the tour: The Tucker House, 418 N. Person Street, Raleigh, NC

About The Candlelight Tour in Oakwood this Year

This tour takes you into the beautiful and varied home of Oakwood, in downtown Raleigh. You will learn a bit of the history of each home and be taken into the properties in groups of 8 to 12 people. Masks must be worn on this Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour in Raleigh.

Street parking is limited so it’s highly recommended you walk from house to house. Be sure to wear comfy walking shoes! If you’re cold after the tour, head to one of our favorite places to get soup in the Raleigh area afterward!

Carolina Ballet: The Nutcracker

  • Location: Downtown Raleigh
  • Event dates for 2021: December 17 through 24.
  • Tickets: Prices vary from $25 to $150+ depending on day and seat location you select.
  • Address: Raleigh Memorial Auditorium at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E South St, Raleigh, NC 27601

Information Regarding The Nutcracker

The Carolina Ballet is putting on many performances of this famous holiday ballet. Both matinee and evening shows are available. Don’t forget to book a hotel in downtown Raleigh afterwards to enjoy all this wonderful area has to offer (we’re biased but we live and work in downtown Raleigh – we LOVE it!)

Don’t forget to bring your proof of vaccination card to the theater for The Nutcracker, or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of the show. Face masks must be worn inside.

NC Chinese Lantern Festival

  • Location: Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre
  • Event dates: November 19, 2021 through January 9, 2022.
  • Tickets: Tickets vary depending on the day you choose, from $16 to $20 for adults, and from $11 to $15 for children. There is a discount for seniors, military and students.
  • Address: 8003 Regency Pkwy, Cary, NC 27518

Information about the NC Chinese Lantern Festival

Head to this impressive outdoor theater in Cary for a glowing experience! You can sign up for twilight tickets or evening tickets and see the 36 displays. It takes between 45 minutes to an hour and a half to see the lights displays.

Over 2,500 lanterns were created for this event, which is in its 6th year in NC. Beer, wine and food (like hot dogs, nachos, fries, soft pretzels, sweet and sour chicken bites, and spring rolls) are available inside so go hungry and truly make a night of it! Additional food options, thanks to food trucks, will be onsite Saturdays and Sundays.

Nightly stage performances, which are included in the cost of your ticket, occur at 6:30pm, 7:30pm and 8:30pm.

They have a strict bag policy so if you plan on bringing anything with you, we recommend packing very light (like car keys and a wallet) and ensuring you abide by their clear bag rules. Check their approved bags here.

Image by Liz Condo Photography

Heart of the Holidays in Downtown Cary

  • Location: Downtown Cary
  • Event dates for 2021: Tree lighting: Saturday, December 4 (main event) at 6:00pm. Gifting Tree Event and from December 4 to Sunday, January 2, 2022.
  • Tickets: None needed.
  • Address: Park at Town Hall Campus, 121 Wilkinson Ave, Cary, NC 27513

Information Regarding the Tree Lighting in Cary

Head to downtown Cary for a festive evening of performances and merriment. There’s even an annual Gingerbread Competition on Saturday, December 4th that’s part of Heart for the Holidays from 10:00am to 4:00pm.

Several events are part of the Heart of the Holidays, with the main event – the tree lighting and performances – at 6:00pm on Saturday, December 4, 2021.

Though there won’t be a gingerbread house competition this year, the Gifting Tree Project will take place. Over 70 Trees will line downtown Cary’s S. Academy Street and Downtown Park.

They are being decorated by various local businesses, families, and organizations. The public is invited to vote for their favorite online. The winner will receive a donation, provided by the Mayton Inn, to give to the charity of their choosing.

We also recommend going to Andia’s Ice Cream before or after, just a two-minute drive away! (Southeast Cary location: 1008 Ryan Rd, Cary, NC 27511) It’s THE BEST!

Christmas Lights on Holt Road

  • Location: Apex (about 20 minutes from downtown Cary, or 30 minutes from downtown Raleigh)
  • Event dates: Check their Facebook page as they have various different hours and are closed some days. The last day of the event is December 26, 2021.
  • Tickets: None, but expect the line of cars to be long – but it’s worth the wait!
  • Address: 1012 Holt Road, Apex, NC 27523 (GPS this link to Salem Park Pond)

About the Lights at this Family Home

The lights at Holt Road are incredible. We waited in line for about 30 minutes on December 5, 2020, last year, which we now understand can be considered a short wait! (It’s one of the most popular Christmas activities in North Carolina, in the Triangle area.) We played holiday music in the car while we waited and joked we were waiting for Disneyland and also that there wasn’t a bathroom nearby in case of emergency (which is true).

It did feel a little like the magic and romance of Walt Disney World in the best way! We loved the lights and the generosity of the family who lives there and sets them up. They’ve been doing so since 2010.

They don’t accept donations but they do have two charities posted this year – Western Wake Crisis Ministry and Saving Grace NC – that you can donate to. We were happy they had a QR code we scanned on the drive. We love pets so we donated to Saving Grace, a non-profit helping care for pets and help them get adopted.

Holidays in the Park at the Museum of Life and Science

  • Location: Durham
  • Event dates for 2021: December 1 to January 1. Not on Mondays and Tuesdays, and closed December 9, 24 and 25. 5:15pm to 9:00pm ticket options on each date.
  • Tickets: $19 per person with the train ride, $16 without. Advanced reservations are recommend, as each has a timed entry.
  • Address: 433 W Murray Avenue, Durham, NC 27704

About the Holiday Event at the Museum in Durham

Walk through sparkling displays on the outdoor dinosaur trail, garden, and Farmyard at the Museum of Life and Science’s holiday event.

Enjoy the warmth of tropical temperatures inside the butterfly house, take a train ride on Ellerbe Creek Railway, and grab a snack at Sprout Cafe.

Built-Story Lights Tour around Durham

  • Location: South Durham
  • Event dates for 2021: as long as the lights glow on the houses that the map points out!
  • Tickets: $10
  • Address: The tour begins on Scholastic Circle, Durham, NC 27713

About the Holiday Lights Built Story App Tour in South Durham

A new app called Built Story is helping people take outdoor tours from the comfort of their own cars on their phones. (Or walk some of the locations in close proximity to one another on your feet – but make sure you have comfy travel shoes if you do! You will have to drive between some locations though.)

For $10 you can purchase access to 15 locations and the 9.9-mile self-guided tour of the best holiday decorations in the front yards of Durham residents. New users of the app can do the tour for free for a limited time.

Not sure you want to commit? They’ve listed three addresses on the tour for you to try out before you buy or sign up as a sneak peek.

The Santa Experience at Crabtree Valley Mall

  • Location: Raleigh
  • Event dates for 2021: November 13 to December 24: Mondays to Saturdays from 11:00am to 8:00pm, and Sundays from 11:00am to 7:00pm; Christmas Eve, December 24 from 10:00am to 6:00pm.
  • Tickets: Advanced reservations are required. Prices vary depending on products you choose to purchase.
  • Address: 4325 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27612

About the Holiday Events at Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, with Santa and a Sing Along

The Crabtree Valley Mall has been a staple in the Raleigh area since 1972. Families can visit Santa Claus at Crabtree Valley Mall in Promo Court, let him know your holiday wish list, and pose for photos from a distance of 6 feet. (They’re positioning the camera so it photographs well.)

This is one of the few winter events in North Carolina that invites canines! Dogs are welcome on select days, with reservations on the followings dates: November 15, 22, 29, December 6, 13, and 20.

Be sure to also visit one of the pop-up holiday shops in the mall and stop by the Salvation Army Angel Tree.

Portrait of Man in Santa Claus Costume - with a Luxurious White Beard, Santa's Hat and a Red Costume - in Full Length isolated on a White Background with big bag of gifts

Jingle All the Way, “Jingle Express” at Herman Park

  • Location: Goldsboro
  • Event date for 2021: December 3 and 4, 4:00pm to 8:00pm.
  • Tickets: Free event.
  • Address: 901 E. Ashe St., Goldsboro, NC 27534

About the Jingle Express Drive-Through Lights Event

Hop on the Jingle Express and drive through this dazzling display of holiday lights. See Santa Claus (from a distance), participate in a Candy Cane Hunt, watch movies and more.

We recommend getting some Goldsboro BBQ or stopping at a finger-licking restaurant in Goldsboro afterward. There are so many great options in the area.

Festival of Lights at Hill Ridge Farms

  • Location: Youngsville (about 30 minutes northeast of downtown Raleigh, just past Wake Forest)
  • Event dates for 2021: Thanksgiving night (November 26) through December 27, from 5:30pm to 10:00pm.
  • Tickets: $20 per car (consider cash for faster service, though debit and credit cards are accepted). Advance reservations are not available; first come first served basis.
  • Address: 703 Tarboro Road, Youngsville, NC 27596

About Hill Ridge Farms’ Festival of Lights

If you love driving through winter activities in North Carolina you’ll enjoy this! Meander through over a mile of carefully created illuminated scenery throughout the farm from the comfort of your car. You can wear your Uggs and pajamas because no one will know!

The Festival of Lights at Hill Ridge Farms is drive-through only but they do have portable restrooms onsite for your convenience. Their Country Store, Park and Play and Grill will be closed. There is a max vehicle height of 10′ 6″ due to the holiday decorations.

Piper Lights Christmas Display

  • Location: Wake Forest
  • Event dates for 2021-2022: Friday, November 26, 2021 to January 1, 2022. Sunday to Thursday lights are on from 5:30pm to 9:00pm, Friday and Saturday from 5:30pm to 10:00pm. (Closed if it rains or snows.)
  • Tickets: None, but donations are appreciated to help pay for the cost of the family’s electricity bill and light repairs.
  • Address: 5725 Fixit Shop Road in Wake Forest, NC

About the Lights Display in Wake Forest

The matriarch of the Piper family started a holiday display with a tiny manger 30 years ago and it has grown into a 7-acre display of lights. It can get busy on weekends and peak nights so be sure to exercise patience or try to go during a weeknight that may not be as busy.

The Piper family lights display drive-thru only experience is taking place again in 2021. In previous years you were able to enjoy their onsite candy store and train, featuring Santa, but due to COVID, they’ve kept things as last year to ensure everyone’s safety.

Pace Family Farm: Christmas Craft Fair and Holiday Movie Night

  • Location: Clayton (about 30 minutes southeast of Raleigh)
  • Event dates for 2021: Saturday, December 4 (craft fair 9:00am to 3:00pm), December 10 (Christmas movie night)
  • Tickets: Craft fair: free admission. Movie: Admission is free but parking with your car in the movie area is $20 per vehicle.
  • Address: Pace Family Farms, 12701 Buffalo Road Clayton, NC 27527

About the Holidays Events at Pace Family Farm

We discovered a renewed love of drive-in movies when we visited Old 96 last year during Halloween, and watched a double feature. We were delighted to learn there’s a drive-in theater option just 20 minutes north of Raleigh, at Pace Family Farm. This year (2021), the Christmas movie is being shown December 10.

Pace Family Farm is also holding a craft fair on Saturday, December 4, 2021, from 9:00am to 3:00pm.

Christmas with the Kringles at Millstone Creek Orchards

  • Location: Ramseur (about 45 minutes from Raleigh)
  • Event dates for 2021: Saturday and Sundays until December 19, 2021.
  • Reservations: You must reserve a space for the hayride experience at least 12 hours in advance; same day reservations will not be allowed. $15.95 per person (children under 2 are free). Outdoor movie viewing and picnic tables are free and don’t require reservations.

About the Holiday Event at Millstone Creek Orchards

Christmas with the Kringles is a cute event that may be generally geared towards children, however kids at heart can have fun too.

They team at Millstone Creek Orchards implements timed entry and pre-registration for this ticketed event in a continued effort to regulate crowd numbers.

Christmas with the Kringles at Millstone Creek Orchards includes a visit with Santa and Mrs. Clause, going for a hay ride, see Christmas lights, decorate holiday cookies, make reindeer food, and sip yummy hot chocolate. Be sure to bring blankets and chairs for the 6:00pm movie showing too.

You can also buy a s’mores kit or hot dog kit on site, and roast your own on the fire. We love this idea! (Check out these awesome personalized fire-roasting sticks! It’s a great holiday gift idea and great house warming gift to give people too.)

Sweet Valley Ranch Holiday Lights Drive-Thru

  • Location: Fayetteville
  • Event dates for 2021: at time of updating, they are sold out for all November and December dates. But check their website if you wish to go in case anything opens up!
  • Tickets: $8-$10 per adult, depending on how many people are in your group
  • Address: 2990 Sunnyside School Road, Fayetteville, NC 28312

About the Holiday Event at the Ranch

Visitors can drive through the Sweet Valley Ranch Festival of Lights in Fayetteville and expect to see thousands of lights, a nativity scene and animals. It’s the ranch’s second year for this special holiday event even though the farm’s been around and open to the public for a few years – it’s sure to be another delightful year of holiday splendor!

Holiday Lights in the Garden, at Cape Fear Botanical Garden

  • Location: Fayetteville (about an hour south of Raleigh)
  • Event dates for 2021: Fridays to Sundays on the following weekend dates: December 3 to 5, 10 to 12, and December 17 to 23 from 5:30pm to 9:00pm.
  • Tickets: Pre-purchase tickets are required; walk up tickets are not available. Adults: $12 ($2 military discount); children: $7; seniors: $11
  • Address: 536 N. Eastern Blvd, Fayetteville, NC 28301

About the Event at Cape Fear Botanical Garden

This garden is a beautiful place to visit; we very much enjoyed our date in Fayetteville roaming around the property, seeing the lush landscapes and getting some exercise in.

The highlight of Holidays in the Garden at CFBG is the central pond with a water feature and nearby patio to sit and enjoy the view, whether you visit outside of the holidays or during. You’ll be able to visit with Santa Claus entails following safety guidelines. S’mores are available for purchase inside the garden.

Their Holiday Lights in the Garden enhances the garden’s beauty and is sure to be a beautiful sight.

Cape Fear Botanical Garden holiday lights event in Fayetteville, NC, one of the prettiest winter events in North Carolina.
Photo courtesy of Cape Fear Botanical Garden and Visit Fayetteville

Holidays at the Garden, at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

  • Location: Belmont (near Charlotte)
  • Event dates for 2021-2022: November 26, 2021 to January 2, 2022 from 5:00pm to 9:00pm (last ticket time is at 8:00pm, and the park closes at 9:00pm). Member preview is on November 30, 2021.
  • Tickets: Adult: $14.95; seniors: $12.95; children ages 2 to 12: $7.95; children under 2 are free. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
  • Address: 6500 South New Hope Road, Belmont, NC 28012

About the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden Event

Guests can experience the beauty of the gardens at night as they stroll through the Botanical Garden adorned with holiday lights for 90 minutes. The event is held rain or shine, so be sure to check the forecast before you leave home to dress appropriately.

Hashtag #DSBGHolidays to share your photos on social media as you walk through the topiaries and sing along to holiday songs. For an additional treat, enjoy roasting marshmallows by the fire or grab a bite from an on-site food truck.

Holiday Blooms Light Display at Paul J. Ciener Botanical Gardens

  • Location: Kernersville, 20 minutes east of Winston-Salem
  • Event dates for 2021-2022: November 26 through 28, 2021, December 2 to 5, 9 to 12, 16 to 23, and 26 to 30, from 5:30pm to 9:00pm. (Weather dependent.) Santa will be there Sunday, December 5, 2021.
  • Tickets: Adults: $5, children 17 and younger are free.
  • Address: 215 South Main Street, Kernersville, NC 27284 

About the Holiday Tulip Light Display

This display is extra appealing to us because we’re missing The Netherlands and travel abroad, when we saw the tulips at Keukenhof Gardens, not far from Amsterdam.

Paul J. Ciener Botanical Gardens isn’t far from Winston-Salem (one of our favorite Raleigh weekend getaways), so make more than an evening trip and spend some time there.

At night, Paul J. Ciener Botanical Gardens transform to a glowing spectacular display with over 6,000 “flowers,” including twinkling wisteria, highlighted trees and of course, tulips. Volunteers dedicated over 4,000 hours to help upcycle materials into beautiful art for the public to enjoy in this unique display.

Image of lit up tulips lining a pathway for the holidays at Paul J. Ciener park near Winston-Salem.
Photo courtesy of Paul J. Ciener Park and Visit Winston-Salem

Christmas at Körner’s Folly

  • Location: Kernersville, about 15 minutes east of Winston-Salem or about 30 minutes west of Greensobor
  • Event dates for 2021: The event is sold out for 2021. We recommend bookmarking this post and referring back to it in early Novmber 2022 to grab your tickets next year.
  • Tickets: $15 for adults, $6 for children. Kids under 6 are free.
  • Address: 413 S. Main Street, Kernersville, NC 27284
Christmas decorations in a room at Korner's Folly historic home near Winston-Salem, in Kernersville, NC.

About the Holiday Decorations at Körner’s Folly in Winston-Salem

This absolutely breathtaking historic Victorian home, with over 20 rooms and 15 fireplaces, is transformed for the holidays. Every room is decorated and available for guests to visit.

Guests are required to wear face masks this year. The self-guided tour lasts about an hour to an hour and a half. You can listen to holiday music available in each room through a QR code you can access with your phone.

Christmas by Candlelight is a truly heart-warming holiday event.

Festival of Lights at Tanglewood Park

  • Location: Clemmons (about 15 minutes southwest of Winston-Salem)
  • Event dates for 2021-2022: November 12, 2021 through January 1, 2022 from 6:00pm to 11:00pm (last vehicle must be through the entrance by 11:00pm). Closes at 10:00pm on December 31. Discount nights are half the price on the following days: November 15, 16, 22, 23.
  • Tickets: $20 cash per personal vehicle, $23 credit card charge per vehicle.
  • Address: 4061 Clemmons Road, Clemmons NC

Information about Tanglewood Park’s Event

This even is in its 30th year in 2021! Santa will not be in attendance however they have a gift shop and S’moresville open this year at the Festival of Lights at Tanglewood Park. The gift shop is approximately halfway through the light show route.

Note that peak days are Thursdays through Sundays, when lines of cars waiting to get into the park can reach hours of waiting time. Try visiting during Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, for the best experience with the shortest lines.

Kersey Valley Christmas

  • Location: Archdale, about 30 minutes north of Asheboro in Randolph County
  • Event dates for 2021-2022: Friday through Sunday, starting November 26 to December 19, and December 20 through 23.
  • Tickets: Just over $25 per person. Child under 4 years old admitted for free. Seniors just over $20. $10 per car for parking.
  • Address: 1615 Kersey Valley Road, Archdale, NC 27263

About Kersey Valley Christmas Activities in 2021

Kersey Valley’s roots were literally planted in the Christmas Tree business in the late 1970s and early 1980s. So it’s only natural, perhaps, they have one of the best holiday events around with plenty of Christmas activities. And it will provide hours of fun.

See a million twinkling lights, take a wagon ride, see oversized snowflake sets, enjoy a Treehouse Village, and roast marshmallows for S’mores. That’s just the tip of the holiday iceberg at the Kersey Valley Christmas Experience.

Go hungry for fudge, holiday drinks and snacks.

Santa and the Grinch will be there – will you?

The Nutcracker Ballet and A Christmas Carol: The Musical, Greensboro

  • Location: Greensboro High Point Theatre
  • Event dates 2021: Various dates in November and December
  • Tickets: $20 to $35 depending on the show (plus convenience and handling fees)

About the Nutcracker Ballet and A Christmas Carol Holiday Performances

See this well known shows with a professional team of ballerinas, actors and actresses in a great city. Matinee and evening performances take place throughout the holiday season. Their online schedule gives you all the details!

VIRTUAL BALLET: If you’re impartial to winter activities in North Carolina that you can enjoy from your home, snuggled up on the couch, consider making an event of this live streamed performance.

For the second year, the Nutcracker Performance by the High Point Ballet is available virtually for select shows. You can enjoy it from the comfort of your own home via Live Stream!

After you sign up in advance online, you’ll receive an email with a link to the live stream on the day of the event.

We’re already humming the tune of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy in our heads! (Well, let’s be honest – Mikkel is, at least!)

Ballet dancer in white dress dancing on the stage in theatre. Graceful ballerina training in class

Winter Activities in North Carolina’s Mountains Region

Festival of Lights Chetola Resort

  • Location: Blowing Rock (western North Carolina)
  • Event dates for 2021-2022: Friday, November 26, 2021 to January 30, 2022, from dusk to 10:00pm.
  • Tickets: None required.
  • Address: 185 Chetola Lake Drive, Blowing Rock, NC 28605

About the Holiday Event at Chetola Resort

Drive through the holiday lights at Chetola Resort free of charge and from the comfort of your own vehicle for a heart-warming Christmas activity.

Onsite lodging is available if you wish to stay overnight and/or eat a meal at Timberlake’s Restaurant inside the resort, seatings are from 12:00pm to 9:00pm, daily. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Roll down your windows and let the holiday music rush into your car and put you in a cheerful, joyous mood! Feel the radiance of the holiday glow with the help of 30,000 lights throughout the resort and around Chetola Lake.

Park your car and walk around the lake to stop and stretch your legs and breathe in mountain air. Don’t forget to bring your mask, though! Security will be doing temperature checks upon arrival.

Go to the Chetola Festival of Lights during weeknights (as opposed to weekends) to avoid peak visiting times.

Winter scene at dusk, with a house in the distance bordered by white Christmas lights and snowy green evergreen trees in the foreground.
Photo courtesy of Chetola Resort
Holiday lights in the shape of people in the snow with a house with white Christmas lights in the background. Visiting Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock is one of the great winter events in North Carolina.
Photo courtesy of Chetola Resort

Christmas at the Biltmore

  • Location: Asheville
  • Event dates for 2021-2022: November 5, 2021 to January 8, 2022
  • Tickets: This is a higher ticket item, with starting prices ranging from $114 to $360 (per person, with children’s tickets about half the price of an adult). We strongly recommended you purchase tickets online as soon as possible. The event sells out quickly and many dates are already booked.
  • Address: One Lodge Street, Asheville, NC 28803

About the Biltmore’s Christmas Events in 2021

Head to the historic Biltmore in the mountains of North Carolina to experience their Christmas Daytime or Candlelight Evenings events.

  • Christmas Daytime: Walk through the Biltmore during the day and enjoy holiday decorations like garlands, ribbons and decorated trees.
  • Candlelight Evenings: Experience the Biltmore at night, aglow with twinkling lights and candles.

Both experiences include evening access to the decorated Antler Village, wine tastings at the Biltmore winery, and daytime access to Antler Village, shops and restaurants.

There are three options within the day or night choices, which include the following, with prices going from least to most expensive:

  • Audio-Guided Visit
  • Audio-Guided Visit Plus, which includes entry to the Van Gogh Alive experience
  • Expert-Guided Visit Plus, which adds on a 90-minute guided tour
Interior of The Biltmore in Asheville, NC, decorated with garland and a Christmas tree.
Exterior of The Biltmore village in Asheville, NC, decorated with Christmas lights.

The North Carolina Arboretum Winter Lights

  • Location: Asheville
  • Event dates for 2021-2022: Nightly from 6:00pm to 10:00pm (gates close at 9:00pm), November 20, 2021 to January 10, 2022. They are open on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Tickets: Reserve your spot for this popular event with an advance tickets purchase. Prices range from $30 (for off-peak dates) to $70 per personal vehicle, depending on the night you select and if you purchase in advance. You can take advantage of a $5 saving when you purchase tickets in advance.
  • Address: 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806

Additional Information about the Winter Lights Event at the Arboretum

This year the arboretum’s holiday event has returned as a walk-thru event. (Admission is per vehicle, but you park and walk through the event.)

Thousands of lights cover the one-mile drive through the arboretum campus. Nature-themed displays take center stage and visitors can expect to drive by illuminated butterflies, giant daisies, and a special insect lantern exhibit. Drinks and snacks can be purchased onsite, including s’mores kits.

NC Arboretum Winter Lights event in Asheville with 3 illuminated oversized mushrooms at night. Photo by David Lewis.
Photo courtesy of The North Carolina Arboretum, by David Lewis
Bare tree branches lit up by purple and blue lights at the NC Arboretum for one of the best winter events in North Carolina. Photo by Forest Orbs.
Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Arboretum, by Forest Orbs
Holiday igloo and a polar bear at the NC Arboretum Winter Lights event in Asheville. Photo by Rebecca Ayres.
Photo courtesy of The North Carolina Arboretum, by Rebecca Ayres

Tweetsie Christmas Train Rides and More

  • Location: Blowing Rock, NC (in the mountains)
  • Event dates for 2021-2022: Select evenings November 13 to December 30, starting at 5:00pm.
  • Tickets: $44 for adults, children ages 3 to 12 are $38 each, under 2 admitted for free. Advanced reservations are strongly suggested. Tickets are inclusive of admission and a train ride, for the specified time and date.
  • Address: 300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane, Blowing Rock, NC 28605

About the Tweetsie Park Event

Ride in an open-air 20-minute train car ride decorated with dazzling lights, experience the Tweetsie holiday-exclusive Little Drummer Boy ride and warm up by a fire as you roast marshmallows and enjoy the sights and scents of the season.

Additional classic amusement park rides will be open and a live Christmas stage show available for guests to enjoy. Santa will be at Tweetsie too, from November 19 to December 23, 2021.

Illuminated train on a bridge above water at night with rainbow lights during a holiday winter event in NC.
Photo courtesy of Tweetsie Railroad

Winter Activities in North Carolina’s Coastal Region

Holiday Flotilla and Door to Dock Decorating Contest in 2021

  • Location: Wrightsville Beach
  • Event dates for 2021: November 27, around 6:00pm.
  • Tickets: None needed.
  • Address: Open to all docks located on the Wrightsville Beach’s traditional Flotilla route, from the drawbridge down Motts Channel, into Banks Channel and to the Coast Guard Station.

Wrightsville Flotilla Information for 2021

The traditional Wrightsville Beach Flotilla is in its 38th year of celebration! The flotilla water parade concludes on November 27 with a fireworks display. Friday night, November 26, brings a Christmas Tree lighting in Wrightsville Beach and the start of the Do

The Holiday Flotilla returns to Wrightsville Beach after being virtual in 2020. Boats are playfully decorated for the holidays and “on parade” on the water. Wrightsville Beach Door to Dock decorating contest returns, taking place November 26 through December 4, with lights on from 5:00pm to 9:00pm.  

Elizabethan Gardens WinterLights and Holiday Classes in the Outer Banks

  • Location: Manteo, North Carolina on Roanoke Island in OBX
  • Event dates for 2021-2022: Tuesdays through Sundays from late November through December 30, from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. Closed November 25, December 24, 25. Owners may bring their dogs.
  • Tickets: $12 for adults, $10 for kids ages 6 to 17, $10 for kids 2 to 5. Children under 2 are free. Dogs are $3 per dog.

About the Holiday Event at Elizabethan Gardens in OBX

The Elizabeth Gardens was one of our favorite places to visit when we went to the Outer Banks in October. We can only imagine how majestic it is illuminated at night. It’s the 11th anniversary of the WinterLights in 2021!

The staff decorates the entire gardens property, from twinkle light tunnels, to toy soldiers standing tall, to garland around the fountains. They have crackling fires and holiday shopping daily, and live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays.

Dinner with Santa is available for a separate ticket on December 18 at the gardens.

They also have some holiday classes that look appealing, with very limited space, including:

  • Christmas Cactus Workshop: December 4
  • Christmas Centerpiece Workshop: December 17 and 18
  • Poinsettia Workshop: December 19
  • Holiday “Sip & Snip” Centerpiece Workshop: December 20
Christmas ornaments on a tree with light, with a beach theme in blues and pinks for winter activities in North Carolina.
Visit The Christmas Shop if You’re in the Outer Banks.

Kitty Hawk Kites Santa Meet and Greet

  • Location: Nags Head (about an hour south of Raleigh)
  • Event dates for 2021: November 26 to 27
  • Tickets: None needed.
  • Address: Kitty Hawk Kites at Jockey’s Ridge Crossing: 3933 S. Croatan Hwy, MP 12.5, Nags Head, NC, 27959

Information for the Kitty Hawk Kites Celebration

We know that Kitty Hawk Kites is a great company from our experience hang gliding with them at Jockeys Ridge State Park.

They’re solidifying our esteem as they open their doors for a meet and greet with Santa the last weekend in November. You can visit his elves on the second floor of Kitty Hawk Kites at Jockey’s Ridge Crossing in Nags Head as well.

Pictures with Santa are from 10:00am to 2:00pm on Saturday, November 26, and 1:00pm to 4:00pm on Sunday, November 27.

Wright Brothers Celebration in Kill Devil Hills and Virtually Online

  • Location: Kill Devil Hills
  • Event dates for 2021: Held annually on December 17.
  • Tickets: Free admission.
  • Address: Wright Brothers National Memoral in Kill Devil HIlls

About the Annual Wright Brothers Celebration for 2021

A celebration occurs each year to honor the first flight of the Wright Brothers in the Outer Banks, in Kill Devil Hills. (We personally enjoyed celebrating them when we visited the Outer Banks in October and walked through the National Park and memorial.)

This year’s celebration runs from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

2021 marks the 118th anniversary of powered flight, thanks to the persistence and perseverance of the Wright Brothers. Even in a pandemic year when we haven’t flown very much, we remain grateful for flight, which has allowed us to travel all over the world.

Celebrating the holidays and looking for awesome gifts? Here are our recommendations:

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Mikkel is co-owner and editor of Sometimes Home and Sometimes Sailing along with her husband, Dan. She is a professional photographer in addition to writing about their travel adventures to encourage and motivate others to book their next trip and explore the world.

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