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Believe it or not, the holidays are just around the corner. But before you get caught up in the madness of shopping, decorating, wrapping and cooking, make sure you take a little time to enjoy the festivities of the season. From light shows and arts & crafts events to house tours and trips to the North Pole, North Carolina has holiday events for children of all ages.
Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore Estate, Asheville
Whether you’ve already seen the Biltmore Estate before or not, you’ll want to take a special trip during the holidays to experience Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore. Each year, from the beginning of November until the first week of January, the already-majestic 8,000-acre estate and 250-room house are decked out in their holiday best. From the glow of luminaries and a giant decorated spruce tree on the front lawn to the dozens of Christmas trees spread throughout the house, 30,000 Christmas lights and over 150 candles, you’ll find dazzling wonders everywhere you look. Live performances of your favorite Christmas songs, commemorative Christmas wine at the winery and special holiday menus at the estate’s restaurants will round out your holiday experience and provide the perfect end to your visit.
Christmas Town U.S.A., McAdenville
If you’re a fan of Christmas light displays, McAdenville (also known as “Christmas Town U.S.A.”) is a must-see for this holiday season. Each year, this small town transforms into a magical winter wonderland with over 500,000 lights glowing in hues of red, green and white. Starting with a special lighting ceremony at the beginning of December, the 1.3-mile route garners hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the country each Christmas. Although you can drive through the light display, parking and walking through it will allow for a closer look at the decorations and give you a chance to meander the town with a cup of hot cocoa in hand. The lights are switched on at exactly 6:00 pm on opening night, and there will be a long line, so make sure you plan and get there early!
Speedway Christmas, Concord
Whether you’re a race fan or not, you’ll be thrilled by the Speedway Christmas at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. First, you’ll take in the beauty of over 4 million lights set to music along the four-mile drive-through course. But there’s plenty more to see besides the lights. Located in the infield of the Speedway, the Christmas Village includes a 100-foot slide, carousel, 100-foot walkway of lights and much more. Kids will also love watching their favorite classic Christmas movies on the giant 16,000-square-foot Speedway TV, while parents will love getting a chance to drive out on the track!
Southern Christmas Show, Charlotte
Another must-see holiday event that brings in visitors from all over the country is the Southern Christmas Show in Charlotte. As the largest holiday shopping event in Charlotte, you’ll find over 400 merchants under one roof, selling everything from paintings and sculptures to housewares and ornaments, and everything in between. At the start, take in the beauty of the Christmas Tree Lane and living room displays decorated by local designers, then move on to Old Towne, a magical village full of quaint shops filled with gifts and decorations. Next, you’ll move on to the giant exhibit halls, where you’ll find the rest of the vendors, along with local wineries, live entertainment, and lots of delicious food. While you’re there, check out the Enchanted Village of dollhouses and other miniature scenes, the tiny train display and, of course, get your photo taken with Santa.
National Gingerbread House Competition, Asheville
Holiday bakers from all over the nation gather each year at the Omni Park Grove Inn in Asheville to compete in the National Gingerbread House Competition and you won’t believe what they come with. These aren’t just your average gingerbread houses. You’ll see truly unbelievable feats of architecture and detail that will make you forget they are edible creations. Half of all proceeds go back to the community and not-for-profit partners in Western North Carolina.
Polar Express Train Ride, Bryson City
If your little ones loved the popular book, The Polar Express, now you can take them on a real-life adventure with the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s Polar Express Train Ride. They’ll feel like they hopped right into the storybook when they board the magical train and read along as they listen to the story and enjoy a hot cup of cocoa and freshly baked cookie. But the most magical part of the ride is up ahead when the train pulls into the North Pole, and Santa gets onboard to greet all the children and pass out a special gift to take home. Then, it’s time to sing Christmas carols all the back to the Bryson City depot. Don’t forget to get your special Polar Express pajamas ahead of time, so you can be snug and comfy on the train ride!