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8 Festive Asheville Winter Activities & Events To Brighten Your Holidays

Are you hoping to experience a gorgeous Asheville winter? As locals, we’ll share our favorite things to do in Asheville in the winter.

One of the reasons that we moved to Asheville, NC: WINTER! I know; I know. That sounds absolutely bonkers, but when you are born and raised in a cold place and then live in Florida for almost a decade (and steaming Indonesia for a year), you want all things winter! Seasons are life.

An Asheville winter is extra special because unlike up North, our winters are much milder. Sure, you’ll see some gorgeous snow flurries and need to rock a winter coat, but you won’t have to shovel out your car. Did I mention that I was born in CT? Apartment living in the winter was hell…

The ice might make driving tricker, but overall, you can experience so much more of Asheville with fewer crowds — with the exception of the holiday weeks.

So, if you are headed to Western North Carolina, what are the best winter activities in Asheville, NC? Where should you hike? Where can you see light displays? What are the top Asheville winter events? And of course, what should you drink to stay warm?

As AVL locals, we are sharing our favorite things to do in Asheville in the winter. We’ll also give you a few tips to better pack and to know what’s open and closed. Let’s get started!

Asheville Winter Things To Do Biltmore Estate Decorated With Trees and Lights at Christmas
Don’t miss our Asheville Winter Guide for: visiting shimmering Biltmore, judging gingerbread houses, drinking all of the beer, hiking, spying festive lights, and so much more.

This post may contain affiliate links for products and services I recommend. If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure here.


*Please remember that while we try to update posts for the global pandemic, be sure to check all websites and/or call establishments as times, rules, and procedures are constantly changing. Only travel when it is safe to do so.

See our Top Places To Stay in Asheville.

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

Asheville, NC Winter Weather

As a former New Englander and Floridian, Asheville winters are pretty mild — just like all of the Asheville seasons. From December to February, you can expect daytime highs averaging around 50 to 60-degrees and evening lows around the 30s. We’ll see a few evenings drop into the 20s, too.

While we don’t usually have feet upon feet of snow, we will receive light dustings, frequent ice, and the occasional snow ‘storm.’ Asheville’s snow is really nothing. I love it. Last year, we didn’t even crack out the shovel.

If you are hiking, temperatures in the higher elevations are about 10 to 25-degrees cooler. There will be more fog. Sunset for November and December is around 5 PM and by February, the sun will set around 6:30/7 PM.

For what to pack and wear, I still recommend layers, a winter coat, scarves, gloves, and boots. We don’t have a lot of slush and grossness, but you’ll crunch on ice and walk through mud.

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Best Things To Do In Asheville In Winter: Asheville Winter Events

Asheville Winter Activities and Events Pinterest Pin with Biltmore Dining Room decorated with trees and garland for Christmas
Headed to Asheville, NC this winter, and looking for things to do? Save these Asheville winter activities and events for later and never get bored in the land of craft beer and hiking.

So, now that you are prepared for an Asheville winter, let’s dive into all of things that you can do, both indoors and outdoors. Almost all of these Asheville winter activities are perfect for the entire family — minus the booze.

Dance Along With Winter Lights At The NC Arboretum

In pandemic mode 2020, Winter Lights at The North Carolina Arboretum is looking a little different this year.

In the past, visitors could walk through the decorated gardens at night, sipping on hot chocolate. Light displays danced to music, children made s’mores by the fire, and their huge tree glowed throughout the grounds.

Winter Lights Asheville NC Arboretum with decorated bonsai and crane decoration
For Asheville winter events, don’t skip The North Carolina Arboretum’s Winter Lights festival. Unlike previous years, in 2020, this will be a drive-thru event.

This year, The NC Arboretum is hosting Winter Lights via a one-mile drive-thru in your vehicle. From November 20, 2020 to January 10, 2021 from 5:30 to 10:30 PM, drive around their nature-themed light displays. Grab tickets to Winter Lights here→

Visit Biltmore In Its Holiday Glory

No Asheville winter is complete without a visit to Biltmore, George and Edith Vanderbilt’s home. Every year, Biltmore — said to be American’s largest estate — decorates for the holidays. Although the Biltmore house is always breathtaking, those trees and harps add such a cozy feel.

Biltmore Estate Asheville NC Winter Things To Do with three Biltmore rooms filled with trees and lights for Christmas
A Biltmore Christmas is a must if you are celebrating winter in Asheville, NC. Whether you attend Candlelight Christmas Evenings or just tour the house and grounds, Biltmore won’t disappoint.

You can experience a Biltmore Christmas in two ways: visit the home during the day and see all of the trees, ribbons, lights, and holiday decor. Or, experience the magic of Candlelight Christmas Evenings when the house’s fireplaces, candles, and lights shimmer throughout the rooms.

Don’t forget to make the most out of your ticket with these fun things to do and see at Biltmore to get your money’s worth. Antler Hill Village and Biltmore Winery are also beautiful from November to January.

Virtually Attend The Grove Park Inn Gingerbread Competition

Another change in 2020, while the Omni Grove Park Inn is still hosting its annual Gingerbread House Competition, visitors will not be able to walk around to see them — everything is virtual this year.

Asheville Winter Events Gingerbread House Grove Park Inn with old fashioned with marshmallow and gingerbread house that looks like a cat laying under a table with a goldfish
Looking for things to do in Asheville in the winter? Head to the Omni Grove Park Inn for seasonal cocktails, and don’t miss their annual Gingerbread House Competition. In 2020, this competition is being held virtually.

In previous years, gingerbread houses flanked rooms, you could grab a hot chocolate at their pop-up stand, and visitors sipped cocktails in front of the floor-to-ceiling fireplaces. This year, Grove Park Inn is hosting a series of online events including classes (Carla Hall from Top Chef!).

To maintain social distancing, the Grove Park Inn is also only allowing visitors with reservations onto the property during busy times. You can always check in with them if you are unsure. We love making dinner reservations at The Edison or Sunset Terrace.

How To Spend Winter In Asheville Outside

Enjoy One Of The Asheville Winter Hiking Trails

Some of the best Asheville winter activities are outdoors. We love hiking year-round, and we don’t let Western North Carolina winter weather stop us — most of the time.

Winter Hikes Asheville NC Craggy Pinnacle with brunette white woman in pink winter coat looking at Asheville watershed
We love the winter hiking trails around Asheville. Although Craggy Pinnacle may be a little icy, you can’t beat these 360-degree views, including a peek at the Asheville Watershed. Definitely check to see if the Blue Ridge Parkway is open, though. It tends to stay closed for a large part of the winter.

What are a few winter hikes around Asheville that you’ll enjoy? We recommend Daniel Ridge Falls, Bearwallow Mountain, Trombatore, and The North Carolina Arboretum. A few Asheville winter hikes on our to-do list include Max Patch, Roan Mountain, Lover’s Leap, Looking Glass Rock, and all around Chimney Rock.

If you are worried about the cold and ice, don’t miss these Asheville parks and gardens with hiking areas and nature trails.

If it is not quite winter yet, you can always check out our favorite fall hikes near Asheville, and grab our complete Asheville hiking guide here→

A Word Of Caution For Asheville Winter Hiking

A few things to know about winter hikes around Asheville: parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) will close down for weather. You can check BRP weather updates and gate closures here.

Like always, but as a reminder, you will want to hike with matches, layers, first aid supplies, flashlights/headlamps, and emergency/extra supplies in case you get injured or lost.

Bring a map or GPS — it’s easier to get lost on snow and leaf-covered trails. Know your trail blazes. We hike with this Garmin paired with the GAIA phone app. People frequently get lost or confused — tourists and locals.

Don’t forget, too, that it’s colder and grows darker early in the winter. Bring layers, and tell others where you are hiking and when to expect you. You won’t always have cell reception in the mountains.

Spy A Frozen Waterfall

Another reason visitors love an Asheville winter: waterfalls! If you are not escaping to somewhere warm and tropical, why not head to the “land of waterfalls?”

Winter Waterfall Hikes Asheville NC Looking Glass Falls, Hooker Falls at DuPont State Forest, and Linville Falls
Asheville winters are perfect for chasing waterfalls without the crowds. A few winter waterfall hikes near Asheville that we recommend include Looking Glass Falls (top left), Hooker Falls at DuPont State Forest (bottom left), and Linville Falls (right).

We recommend DuPont State Forest for The Hunger Games waterfalls. You can see 4 waterfalls in a 7-mile+ loop or just do the three — Triple, High, and Hooker Falls — in a 3-mile out and back. Triple and Bridal Veil Falls are the two The Hunger Games filming locations.

If you are looking for easier Asheville winter activities for the entire family, you can drive right up to Looking Glass Falls, and sometimes, they freeze in the winter — hence their namesake.

For a few more Asheville winter waterfall hikes: Daniel Ridge Falls in the Pisgah National Forest is around a 1-mile out and back, and Linville Falls & Gorge is also pretty stunning (the Visitor Center access point/parking might be closed along the BRP). Don’t miss all of our favorite waterfall hikes near Asheville here→

Enjoy Winter Sports Like Snow Tubing Or Mountain Biking

We haven’t been snow tubing or skiing yet, but we’ve heard Beech Mountain and the Cataloochee Ski Area are the places to go.

Asheville Winter Mountain Biking Bent Creek Experimental Forest with picture of mountain biking on trail, dam waterfall and Lake Powhatan
While we are not fancy mountain bikers, we do love hitting the trails in the late fall and early winter. Bent Creek Experimental Forest is a local Asheville, NC haunt for hikers and mountain bikers — filled with trails ranging in length and difficulty. Don’t miss Lake Powhatan, too.

I’m more of a (terrible) mountain biker, and before it gets too icy, I love the Bent Creek Experimental Forest Trails right before The NC Arboretum. This area is also great for Asheville winter hiking.

After a morning or afternoon of hitting their numerous trails, stop at Apollo Flame Bistro for a sub. It’s kind of a dive that we are pretty obsessed with. The Asheville Outlets are across the street, too.

Asheville, NC Winter Activities For Foodies & Shoppers

Walk Around Downtown Asheville

Downtown Asheville is a must all year, but in the winter, you can find sparkly lights and holiday window displays. Grab brunch, lunch, or dinner, get an early start on holiday shopping, and take a break with some donuts, ice cream, or beer.

What are our recommendations? It’s sort of endless, but don’t miss our top 50 things to do in Asheville. For lunch, we love Red Ginger Dimsum or Asheville Pizza and Brewing.

For beer, you cannot go wrong with Twin Leaf, Catawba, Green Man, or Wicked Weed. If it’s dinner, we frequent Chiesa, Plant, and Laughing Seed.

Stop by Cultivated Cocktails for a distilled bevie, and don’t forget to book shop with Champagne at Battery Park Book Exchange.

Sip On A Craft Brew Or Warm Up By A Winery Fire

Lastly, no Asheville winter would be complete without BOOZE. Head to one of Asheville’s top breweries for a winter brew. Besides the ones we mentioned above located in downtown AVL, don’t miss Zillicoah, Ginger’s Revenge, or Wedge.

Asheville Winter Things To Do Burntshirt Vineyards with white brunette male and female drinking wine at table
Many of the wineries near Asheville, NC have gorgeous heated outdoor patios, fire pits, and/or fireplaces. We are wine club members at Burntshirt Vineyards, and in the winter, we love ordering their mulled wine or a spicy red while sitting by the outdoor fire. Don’t miss all of the Hendersonville wineries while you are out there. Photo by Sarah Resta Photography.

If beer isn’t for you, Asheville also has fabulous nearby wineries. Along with Biltmore, if you head to the River Arts District, don’t skip pleb urban winery. They create sustainable, clean, and small-batch wines.

If you don’t mind driving a little further, Hendersonville and Flat Rock are home to our personal favorites like Marked Tree Vineyard and Burntshirt Vineyards. Burntshirt also has a fire pit and winter Gluhwein (mulled wine). Point Lookout and St. Paul offer blazing fireplaces to warm you up.

Of course, seasonal cocktails are also acceptable. We recommend The Montford Rooftop Bar or The Edison at the Omni Grove Park Inn (huge fireplaces!).

Best Things To Do In Asheville NC In Winter Pinterest pin with Hooker Falls at DuPont State Forest and Biltmore home decorated for Christmas
Are you considering spending this winter in Asheville, NC? Save this post for later, and never be without fun festive and wintry things to do.

Where To Stay In Asheville, NC In Winter

See our Top Places To Stay in Asheville.

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

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.

What are your favorite things to do during an Asheville winter?

What are your favorite things to do in Asheville in the winter? What Asheville winter events have you attended, and what is on your bucket list? Please let us know in the comments.

You May Also Enjoy:

50 Best Things To Do In Asheville, NC
Top Winter Hikes And Waterfalls Near Asheville
Fall In Asheville
Best Asheville Breweries
Top Wineries Near Asheville, NC

Nina

Friday 5th of February 2021

Headed to Asheville next weekend due to having to continue to postpone international travel. Honestly I was a little worried but this guide gave me lots of comfort. Keep up the good work!

Christine

Saturday 13th of February 2021

Thanks so much, Nina. I hope that you have a wonderful trip to Asheville. Besides the mostly closed Blue Ridge Parkway, hiking will be great if the weather holds out. Many of the restaurants are open for takeout, delivery, and some indoor and outdoor dining, too. Nothing beats catching a frozen waterfall, either. Chimney Rock is a fantastic area to visit in the winter without the crowds.

Lauren Elena

Tuesday 1st of December 2020

I feel like Asheville is great all seasons! A Christmas there sounds perfectly cozy. I’d love to do everything you’ve written about! We once did a snowy hike one Christmas in NH. It was fun! Wish I could transport myself back to that time. Looking glass Falls sounds so cool. I’d love to go there and then can we go to a spot with a fireplace and some wine or seasonal cocktails? Or gluhwein!! Perfection! You seriously make me love Asheville.

Christine

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

It really is! We had a gorgeous fall this year, too. I think my favorite Asheville winter activity is going to the Grove Park Inn for cocktails and sitting in front of their giant fireplaces.