Before you know it, it will be Christmastime 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 five towns in North Carolina do exactly that, and then some!


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McAdenville, NC Lights in McAdenville, NC
Lights in McAdenville, NC

McAdenville, NC (Hotel Prices & Photos)

Perhaps the most famous Christmas town in North Carolina is McAdenville. After all, it has been dubbed “Christmas Town U.S.A.” and can receive up to a whopping 600,000 visitors from all over the country in one season. 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 at the beginning of December where a local elementary school student pulls the big switch. Then, the lights glow every night, from 5:30 to 9:30 pm during the week and from 5:30 to 11:00 pm on the weekends. 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. But you will have a better chance at a shorter wait if you visit Monday through Thursday. The display and parking are both free and you can choose to get out of your car and walk the lights as well. Which you probably will want to do so you can see some of the beautiful displays up close and personal!

Charlotte, NC Romare Bearden Park in Charlotte transforms into a Christmas market.
Romare Bearden Park in Charlotte transforms into a Christmas market.

Charlotte, NC (Hotel Prices & Photos)

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.

Benson, NC Lights in Benson, NC
Lights in Benson, NC

Benson, NC (Hotel Prices & Photos)

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 ten 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. The entire attraction is free and opens to the public in mid-November. In addition, the town also celebrates “Christmas on Main” with a Christmas tree lighting, parade and visits with Santa.

Dillsboro, NC Lights in Dillsboro, NC
Lights in Dillsboro, NC

Dillsboro, NC (Hotel Prices & Photos)

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. Admission is free and the event will take place on the first two Fridays and Saturdays in December.

Forest City, NC Take a carriage ride down Main Street in Forest City.
Take a carriage ride down Main Street in Forest City.

Forest City, NC (Hotel Prices & Photos)

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 in early December, where Santa practices his skills by climbing the Chimney Rock at nearby Chimney Rock Park.

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