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10 Most Amazing Christmas Towns in North Carolina

Before you know it, it will be Christmastime in North Carolina again. The lights will go up along the city streets, carols will play on the radio, and the parking spots at the mall will magically disappear. But there’s nothing more magical during the holiday season than to visit a town that completely transforms into a winter wonderland. And these charming towns in North Carolina do exactly that, and then some!

McAdenville Christmas Town U.S.A.
Credit: Christmas Town U.S.A. by © Alex Grichenko | Dreamstime.com

McAdenville

Perhaps the most famous Christmas town in North Carolina is McAdenville. After all, it has been dubbed “Christmas Town U.S.A.” and receives visitors from all over the country. Each year, the residents of McAdenville turn their small town into a glowing Christmas scene that stretches for 1.3 miles and includes over 500,000 red, green, and white lights. The display begins with a special lighting ceremony where a local elementary school student pulls the big switch. Since the lights are controlled by automatic timers, they will go off on time no matter how many people are still in line, so make sure you schedule your visit appropriately. And there WILL be a line… a long one since McAdenville is one of the most popular Christmas attractions in the state.

Charlotte Charlotte Christmas Village
Credit: Charlotte Christmas Village by Charlotte Christmas Village

Charlotte

If you ever visited Germany during the holidays, you probably know about the infamous Christmas markets that spring up in the streets. But now you can experience the wonder and magic of the Christmas market without having to leave the country. Romare Bearden Park in Charlotte turns into the Charlotte Christmas Village each year and features specialty foods like strudel, bratwurst, sauerkraut, roasted nuts, Lebkuchen (gingerbread), almond shortbread cookies, and the mulled spiced wine known as gluwhein, as well as Christmas ornaments and décor, arts and crafts, toys and other handmade products. Visitors can also enjoy live German music and performances, family-friendly holiday movies, and, of course, a visit with Santa, then explore Charlotte’s other top attractions.

Elizabeth City Lighted Boat Parade in Elizabeth City, NC
Credit: Lighted Boat Parade in Elizabeth City, NC by Visit Elizabeth City

Elizabeth City

Celebrate the holidays this year in the “Hot Cocoa Capital of the World,” Elizabeth City. A cup of piping hot cocoa embodies the warm and cozy feeling we all associate with the season. One of the best places for this is the charming town of Elizabeth City, which hosts its annual Hot Cocoa Crawl (from November 24th – January 7, 2023). Restaurants, shops, craft breweries, wine bars, and cocktail lounges feature unique hot cocoa beverages and desserts, while other small businesses, including boutiques, bed and breakfasts, and attractions, offer hot cocoa-themed events, decor, and gift items. You won’t find unique cocoa-inspired experiences anywhere else in the world, from “The Dirty Snowman” made with Baileys and ice cream at The Mills Downtown Bistro to hot cocoa socials at Hampton Inn Elizabeth City. If you miss the cocoa celebration, the old-fashioned Holiday Celebration & Grand Illumination takes place on November 24th, while the Lighted Boat Parade is an annual tradition of brightly lit skiffs, sailboats, and pontoon boats circling the harbor.

Dillsboro Lights and Luminaires in Dillsboro
Credit: Lights and Luminaires in Dillsboro by Dillsboro, NC

Dillsboro

If you want to experience the wonder and beauty of a simpler time, you’ll want to visit the town of Dillsboro, where their annual “Lights and Luminaries” event will take you back. Besides lots of beautiful Christmas lights, you’ll also find the streets of downtown lined with 2,500 luminaries that light your way as you visit the shops, enjoy live music, sip on cocoa or cider and visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. There is also a live nativity and horse and buggy rides each night.

Benson Meadow Lights in Benson, NC
Credit: Meadow Lights in Benson, NC by Meadow Lights

Benson

The town of Benson is home to the oldest and largest Christmas light show in Eastern North Carolina – Meadow Lights. The family-owned and operated business that began over 40 years ago features 10 acres of light displays, including six scenes depicting the life of Jesus Christ. Although you can see the lights from the road, you’ll want to experience the fun and whimsy of the train ride that takes you through the display and keeps you warm on cold winter nights. There’s also a 16-horse carousel, an Old Country Store that sells drinks and over 300 varieties of old-fashioned candy, and visits with Santa. In addition, the town also celebrates “Christmas on Main” with a Christmas tree lighting, a parade and visits with Santa.

Forest City Forest City
Credit: Forest City by bigstockphoto.com

Forest City

Each Christmas season, the main street of Forest City is lit up with one million lights. Yes, one million. Take a drive or stroll down Main Street and enjoy the lights hanging overhead and wrapped around trees as far as the eye can see. If you visit on the weekend, enjoy a hot cup of cocoa while you relax on a carriage or hayride. Then, enjoy the live Christmas music, shop the stores and take a visit to the ice skating rink. The town also hosts a Christmas parade, visits to Santa’s House and Santa Paws – an opportunity for your cat or dog to get their photo taken with jolly old Saint Nick. For an extra treat, check out Santa on the Chimney, where Santa practices his skills by climbing the Chimney Rock at nearby Chimney Rock Park.

Asheville Christmas at Biltmore features dozens of Christmas trees and thousands of ornaments on display.
Credit: Christmas at Biltmore features dozens of Christmas trees and thousands of ornaments on display. by www.bigstockphoto.com

Asheville

Asheville is enjoyable to visit year-round, but at Christmas, it’s truly enchanting. Biltmore Estate is a definite highlight, exquisitely decorated for the season while hosting a wealth of festivities. The castle-like mansion will be filled with Christmas trees, garland, and sparkling lights, with tours available that will take you through the opulent interior, including candlelit options in the evening. Beyond the famous estate, there will be a dazzling display of holiday lights at the NC Arboretum, which will also sell S’mores supplies at its Cocoa Shack for roasting over one of the fire pits in the garden. Fabulous markets for gift shopping, holiday-themed theatrical performances, and a national gingerbread house competition are just a few of the other notable events.

Blowing Rock Christmas parade in Blowing Rock
Credit: Christmas parade in Blowing Rock by © Lisejenkins - Dreamstime.com

Blowing Rock

Blowing Rock kicks off the holiday season with Christmas in the Park & Lighting of the Town, which includes photos and visits with Santa, live music, carnival games, and switching on the light display on the Friday after Thanksgiving. On Saturday, there’s a Christmas parade on Main Street with holiday cheer and Christmas spirit overflowing. Think elaborate floats, fun costumes, animals, and more. If you want to pick up a tree and decorate it for your cabin rental or other accommodation, there are multiple tree farms in the area, too.

Boone Boone, North Carolina at Christmas
Credit: Boone, North Carolina at Christmas by Wikimedia Commons

Boone

Boone’s big attraction is its waterfalls and scenic hikes that lead to many of the cascades, but come winter, it’s a wonderful place to enjoy the holidays. There are many different events to take part in, like the Festive First Friday and Solar Tree Lighting in early December. Kids can write letters to Santa, enjoy milk and cookies, and play “snowball fight” with marshmallows, and there will be horse-drawn carriage rides, too. Holiday concerts, endless shopping, tree farms, and a wide range of delicious eateries and local breweries can all be enjoyed in Boone, too.

Bryson City Polar Express Train Ride, Bryson City
Credit: Polar Express Train Ride, Bryson City by Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Bryson City

Bryson City has long been popular at Christmas as the hometown of the Polar Express. Hosted by the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, it will bring you into the world of the bestselling book on an unforgettable ride to the “North Pole” in the North Carolina mountains. Santa will be there, greeting every child with a gift, just like in the story. On the return, everyone joins in to sing Christmas carols. Other highlights include an ice skating Rink at The Yard and holiday hayrides at Darnell Farms. The entire town will be decked out, complete with a 50-foot-tall Christmas tree and lots of opportunities for holiday shopping.

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