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NC Arboretum’s Winter Lights: Why You’ll Love It

Is Winter Lights at The NC Arboretum in Asheville, NC worth it? Absolutely! Learn all that you need to know about the Winter Lights Festival here.

In 2021, The North Carolina Arboretum’s Winter Lights show runs from November 19, 2021 to January 1, 2022.

As locals and Arboretum members, we attend Winter Lights in Asheville every year. The event is part of our annual Christmas traditions.

Even better is that Winter Lights always looks a little different across the years. The grounds are filled with new and creative displays throughout the main gardens and buildings.

The Education Center hosts a pop-up Christmas shop. You can order peppermint hot chocolate, steaming apple cider, and holiday cookies. For adults, enjoy wine and craft beer to drink while walking the gardens.

Encounter s’more stations and firepits (weather-permitting), live music, and special exhibits including a wishing tree and storybook display.

And yes, the Arboretum’s Winter Lights festival is a walk-through event once again. So, if you are looking for holiday lights in Asheville, The NC Arboretum is one of the best spots.

Below, we are sharing all that you need to know about Winter Lights at The NC Arboretum to plan the best trip. Grab ticket info and see what to expect. Let’s get started!

Explore all of the best places to see holiday lights in Asheville.

NC Arboretum Winter Lights in Asheville, NC with light blue lights on tree and lit purple star in the middle
Grab our local guide to attending the Arboretum’s Winter Lights in Asheville, NC.

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See our Top Places To Stay in Asheville.

Don’t miss out on these Asheville properties on, too.

What Are The Best Things To Do At Winter Lights?

Winter in Asheville is breathtaking. Nothing beats a Biltmore Christmas or those purple and hot pink mountain sunsets.

If you are headed to Asheville for the holidays, Winter Lights is a must along with the Omni Grove Park Inn’s Gingerhouse Display.

Plus, Winter Lights in Asheville is one of our favorite places to see holiday lights in all of Western North Carolina. What can you do at Winter Lights?

Walk the gardens to see all of the vibrant and creative light displays. Find forest critter shadow boxes and nature-themed installations. Stroll under lighted tunnels.

Lights dance on trees to music and chirping birds. There’s the iconic Christmas light tree past the quilt garden with chairs and firepits. The quilt garden’s light show is brilliant.

Throughout the property, find s’more stations with kits sold at the Bent Creek Bistro and garden snack shack — weather permitting.

Each year, the Arboretum adds more and more unique displays, including a very hungry caterpillar and a unicorn with a rainbow arch. In 2021, we couldn’t get enough of the garden gnomes.

You will also want to catch live music in the Bistro. Shop at the pop-up Christmas store filled with ornaments and warm winter apparel.

There is a bear storybook exhibit (2021) leading to the wishing tree at the Education Center. We wished for international travel in 2022. Everyone else wrote “world peace.” What are you gonna do…

Of course, you’ll see the Arboretum’s winter gardens at night. The electric model trains are all lit up for the holidays and chugging along too.

Jovial volunteers will answer all of your questions and help guide your visit. While you may occasionally hit crowds at popular displays, everything is well-spaced out.

The NC Arboretum’s Winter Lights is truly a magical event sure to get you in the holiday spirit — young or old. This is certainly a family-friendly Asheville event.

Don’t miss our complete guide to The NC Arboretum too.

NC Arboretum Winter Lights Tickets & Pricing

How Much Does It Cost To See The Lights At The Arboretum?

In 2021, tickets are sold by vehicle and not by person. Show your ticket at the gatehouse once and that’s it!

The cost of Winter Lights varies by date. Expect to pay about $30-$65 per personal vehicle. Know that prices rise in December through Christmas and New Year’s.

Members receive a $5 discount.

You may contact The NC Arboretum with questions at

What Time Does Winter Lights Start?

Winter Lights at The North Carolina Arboretum goes from November 19, 2021 to January 1, 2022.

Tickets are timed for the event, and you select a 6, 7, or 8:00 PM entry slot. Ticket holders may enter any time between their chosen entry time and 9:00 PM.

Gates close at 9 PM, and the event commences at 10 PM. You must leave the property by 10:30 PM.

You can check all other policies on the Arboretum’s website

We try to attend on a Monday or Tuesday evening in November to beat the crowds. By 7:30 PM, entering traffic may thin out versus the opening time slot.

Do you have to pay to get into The NC Arboretum?

Yes; if you are visiting the Arboretum during the day and not for their Winter Lights Festival — which requires a separate ticket — you can either pay for a one-day parking pass or show your annual membership card.

A non-event parking pass starts at $16.00 for a personal/standard vehicle and $50 for larger vehicles.

Members park for free, and they have numerous tiered memberships. The two basic plans start at $50 for an individual and $50 for the household.

Aside from the parking fee and special events, there are no other admission charges on the property. You may wish to purchase food and drinks at the Bent Creek Bistro, though.

We’ve been NC Arboretum members since moving here, and we think the price is worth it for unlimited access to the trails and gardens. The North Carolina Arboretum has gorgeous picnic spots.

We also receive discounts on special events including the Arboretum’s Winter Lights Festival.

How long will you spend at Winter Lights in Asheville?

NC Arboretum Christmas Lights in Asheville with large light tree and quilt garden lit up
The quilt garden’s lights dance to music. Head over to the Christmas tree and sit around the toasty firepits.

Although everyone is different and the weather may be for or against you, we personally budget about 1 hour to 1.5 hours for the Arboretum’s Christmas lights.

This includes parking, walking around the numerous light displays, stopping for hot cider and local craft beer, and lingering at the gift shop or for a live music performance.

Know that it may be chilly and the WNC mountains see freezing temperatures in the winter. However, you may also catch a 60-degree day.

The North Carolina Arboretum Information & Contact Info

Lights display tunnel Winter Lights Asheville arboretum with yellow light tunnel and sunflower light display
Every year, Winter Lights looks a little different — and we love it!


The North Carolina Arboretum
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way
Asheville, NC 28806

Phone: 828-665-2492

Located in southwest Asheville off of the Blue Ridge Parkway and NC-191/Brevard Road, The NC Arboretum is a part of the Pisgah National Forest.

Use “The North Carolina Arboretum” for GPS or “20 Frederick Law Olmsted Way Asheville, NC 28806.” If you are coming from downtown Asheville, expect a 25+-minute drive.

Read more about Asheville’s other parks and gardens.

Save This NC Arboretum Winter Lights Guide For Later

Winter Lights NC Arboretum Asheville NC Pinterest Pin with orange and yellow mushroom light display and caterpillar light display in background
Are you headed to The NC Arboretum’s Winter Lights Festival in Asheville? Save this post for later, and see holiday lights like a local with Uncorked Asheville.

Asheville, NC Hotels

Hotels and B&Bs tend to book up fast in Asheville, especially in the fall, spring, and around holidays. Make dinner reservations wherever you can, too. A few hotels to consider that either we, our friends, or others highly recommend include:

Downtown Asheville
The Foundry Hotel
AC Hotel By Marriott Downtown Asheville
Hotel Indigo
Aloft – Downtown Asheville *One of our top picks; they renovated in 2020

Near The Asheville Outlets/Biltmore
Hampton Inn And Suites Asheville Biltmore Area *Our second favorite pick. We stayed here before we moved.
DoubleTree By Hilton Biltmore/Asheville
Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville

North Asheville/Montford
The Omni Grove Park Inn *We frequently stop by the Grove Park Inn for sunsets, drinks, and food.
1900 Inn On Montford

Don’t miss our Top Asheville Hotel, Resort & B&B Picks Here.

Have you been to Winter Lights in Asheville, NC?

Have you seen the Arboretum’s Christmas lights? What did you think? What is your favorite light display in Asheville? Let us know in the comments!

For the holidays in Western North Carolina, you may also enjoy:

Asheville Christmas Guide
Celebrating A Biltmore Christmas
Winter In Asheville Guide
Farms To Get A Christmas Tree
AVL Winter Hikes
Christmas Lights In Asheville

Complete Guide To The NC Arboretum
Best Things To Do In Asheville