As locals who have spent every Christmas in Asheville since moving here, we 100% think it is worth spending the holidays in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Below, find our favorite things to do to help you plan the best holiday itinerary, including intricately decorated gingerbread houses and nature-themed, holiday light displays that dance to music.
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Our Top 3 Christmas Traditions As Locals
Every holiday season, we have traditions that make living in Asheville all the more special. These are also activities we love to do when friends and family are visiting to showcase our beautiful home.
If you can only attend three Christmas events in Asheville, we’d celebrate with:
- The Omni Grove Park Inn’s Annual National Gingerbread House Competition (free except for parking)
- Christmas at Biltmore, especially Candlelight Christmas Evenings ($$$)
- The North Carolina Arboretum’s Winter Lights ($$)
And, if you are visiting Asheville toward the end of November into the new year, read our complete Western North Carolina winter activities and events guide. We discuss even more great things to do, guided tours, and places to eat.
If you are visiting during the Christmas season and hit that rare snowstorm – a few inches tends to shut down the city, unlike our former Connecticut home – you might also want to check out our guide to indoor activities in Asheville. Find unique things to do like the Asheville Salt Cave, Thomas Wolfe Memorial, and Asheville Pinball Museum.
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Christmas In Asheville Guide
Get in the holiday spirit with these top 8 things to know before planning your holiday vacation. See Santa Claus, listen to Christmas carols and live music, and see lights across the Main Streets of our favorite nearby mountain towns and cities.
Best Christmas Events In Asheville (2023)
Asheville hosts dazzling seasonal events and festivals. Just a few showstoppers to add to your Christmas itinerary include:
- Christmas at Biltmore (November 3rd, 2023 to January 6/7th, 2024) – Attend Biltmore’s Daytime Celebration by touring all of the trees, ribbons, lights, and holiday decor, including Antler Hill Village. Or, experience the magic of Biltmore Candlelight Christmas Evenings when the house’s fireplaces, candles, and lights shimmer throughout Biltmore House (America’s largest home). We’ve done both and think Candlelight Christmas Evenings is worth the expense. It’s cozy and romantic with live music in common rooms. Ticket prices range from $105 to $405. In 2023, you can also add on Italian Renaissance Alive, an immersive art exhibit much like Van Gogh Alive (it’s worth it too!). Grab tickets here through Biltmore.
- The Omni Grove Park Inn Annual National Gingerbread House Competition (November 27, 2023 to January 2, 2024) – See fun gingerbread house displays as part of their annual competition; we go every year, and we promise, these aren’t your average gingerbread houses. Check their website to see which days you can view the display as a guest with dinner or hotel reservations versus as a non-guest. Expect a hefty parking fee ($25 to $35+), and grab hot cocoa or seasonal cocktails. Don’t miss Grove’s rooftop and fine dining restaurants. Edison is our favorite for lunch and dinner and grab snacks and drinks at The Great Hall Bar. The rocking chairs in front of the floor-to-ceiling fireplaces are perfect for relaxing. Read our visitor’s guide to touring the gingerbread house displays.
- Winter Lights at The NC Arboretum (November 17th to December 31st, 2023) – Walk through the gorgeously lit botanical gardens filled with lights that dance to music. Uncover nature-themed light displays and shadow boxes. Make smores and find boozy libations or hot cocoa. Read our guide to making the most out of Winter Lights; we have been annual members since living here and attend this event every year. It’s the highlight of our winter in Asheville.
- The Polar Express Train Ride (November 9, 2023 to December 31, 2023) – The Polar Express Train Ride is one of the most family-friendly Christmas things to do in Asheville. Hop aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for a 1-hour train ride departing at Bryson City Depot. Drink hot chocolate while listening to a reading of The Polar Express. The train arrives at the North Pole where Santa awaits young guests with a special gift. We also enjoy Bryson City for its quaint downtown area filled with shopping, food, and breweries.
- Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley (November 18, 2023 to December 30, 2023) – We highly recommend taking a Gray Line Trolley Tour of Asheville; even as locals, we learn something new every time. Great for the entire family, hop on the trolley for a 75-minute tour of Asheville’s Historic Biltmore Village. Trolleys are heated, and along with lights, expect Christmas carols and stories. Ticket prices start at $31. Read more about enjoying Asheville with the entire family.
Please know that some of these Asheville Christmas events may sell out quickly. We recommend purchasing tickets as soon as you can. Check all event venue websites for policies, payment, and hours.
For more holiday events in Asheville, including the Dickens Festival in Biltmore Village, don’t miss our Asheville Events Calendar. If this is your first time in Asheville, be sure to see some of the city’s biggest visitor attractions too.
Where To See Christmas Lights
Seeing the colorful light displays is truly one of the best things to do in Asheville at Christmas. Along with Winter Lights, these are the easiest places to see holiday light displays in and around Asheville and Western North Carolina:
- Winter Lights – As noted above, The NC Arboretum hosts an annual Winter Lights Festival filled with holiday lights in the gardens. Tickets are required – even if you are an annual passholder.
- Downtown Local Lights Asheville – Held in Pack Square, experience a lighting ceremony and parade.
- Biltmore Village and Biltmore Park Town Square – Both areas decorate for the holidays and offer a plethora of classy retail shopping. Don’t miss the bars, breweries, and restaurants around each area. We suggest heading to Biltmore Village for its charm and proximity to Biltmore Estate and Biltmore Park for Asheville’s best restaurants (second locations for many).
- Deck The Trees In Black Mountain – Deck The Trees is a charity event with decorated Christmas trees near Asheville. It is free to view the trees, and with a donation, vote on your favorite. Grab our guide to Black Mountain before going; we frequent this area for mountain views, coffee, and shopping. The Black Mountain restaurants and B&Bs there are equally great.
- Lake Julian Festival Of Lights – This is a local holiday lights drive-through at the county park in South Asheville. Purchase tickets online. A standard-sized vehicle costs $10. This one is a bit more kid-oriented and underwhelming for adults only. We suggest packing hot chocolate for the ride.
- Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland Lights & Winterfest (Tryon & Charlotte) – Enjoy a drive-through light show and winter festival. Tryon Foothills also has some fantastic wineries like Parker-Binns and Overmountain.
- Forest City Christmas (Forest City) – Voted the #1 Christmas town near Asheville and one of the best places to see Christmas lights in Asheville, enjoy Forest City’s Hometown Holiday Festivities. There’s a lights ceremony, hayrides, ice skating, carriage rides, and a Christmas parade.
Top Christmas Tree Farms
Whether you want to choose your Christmas tree or even cut it down, these are the most popular Asheville Christmas tree farms. Many are around Maggie Valley and Cherokee:
- Sandy Hollar Tree Farm (Leicester; 40-minute drive) – Find Choose & Cut trees, wreaths, hayrides, and a Christmas store. Roast marshmallows by the firepit with hot chocolate.
- Mehaffey Tree Farm (Waynesville; 40-minute drive) – Family-run since 1984, this Choose & Cut tree farm is open on limited weekends.
- Linville Falls Winery Red Barn Tree Farm (Newland; 1 hour and 10 minutes) – Pick your own tree for a staff member to cut. Or, grab a pre-cut tree. There are also hayrides and complimentary cider, cookies, and hot chocolate. This is a gorgeous winery near Grandfather Mountain and Linville Falls.
- Smoky Mountain Tree Farm (Waynesville; 40 minutes) – With Christmas tree rental cabins, find trees, wreaths, and garlands. They may sell out.
- Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm (Waynesville; 40 minutes) – In operation since 1982, select your tree and they will cut it for you. Leashed dogs are allowed in some areas.
Please double-check with each tree farm before arriving. Some have limited hours and specific policies, including accepted payment methods and pets.
Outdoor Winter Activities
If you are spending Christmas in Asheville and craving all things mountains, we highly recommend taking advantage of all of the great winter sports and outdoor activities. A few of our top picks include:
- Winter Hiking – While parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway may start to close due to weather, there are still plenty of great winter hiking trails around Asheville. Head to Grandfather Mountain, Wildcat Rock, Bearwallow Mountain, Bent Creek Experimental Forest, Trombatore Trail, Lover’s Leap or Max Patch (if it’s not icy or snowy), The NC Arboretum, and Chimney Rock. Exert extreme caution as trails grow more dangerous in the winter.
- Waterfall Chasing – Transylvania County is known as the “land of waterfalls.” Chase waterfalls at Looking Glass Falls (drive-up waterfall), DuPont State Forest, Moore Cove Falls, Rainbow Falls, Daniel Ridge Falls, or Mingo Falls. The Pisgah National Forest is full of great waterfalls and hiking trails.
- Skiing, Snowboarding, & Snowtubing – For popular winter sports destinations, check out Beech Mountain Resort, Sugar Mountain Ski Resort, Appalachian Ski Mountain, and Cataloochee Ski Area.
- Outdoor Pop-Up Ice Skating Near Asheville – If you are looking for Asheville day trips, Knoxville’s Holidays On Ice is loads of fun. You can also ice skate in Forest City and Greenville, NC. We had to include a funny/blurry ice skating photo above of us skating in Knoxville’s Market Square. Our good friend, Clayton, lives nearby and runs a terrific local blog, Knox Road Tripper.
Find even more of the best day trips from Asheville on our nearby mountain cities and towns guide. This includes small towns like Weaverville, Waynesville, Hot Springs, and Marshall.
Where To Shop For Gifts
We offer a helpful Asheville shopping guide filled with our favorite stores, boutiques, and more. However, if you need a few quick ideas, head to Downtown Asheville and the Historic Grove Arcade for all of your Asheville Christmas shopping.
Our top places to look for gifts in Asheville include:
- River Arts District (artist studios and shops) – One of our favorite Asheville neighborhoods, this is Asheville’s hipster art district. We champion Foundation Woodworks (handcrafted wood gifts) and Marquee (European-style, local decor and art market). Find galleries and more artisan shops in this area.
- Downtown Asheville & Grove Arcade – The specialty stores are endless. Take a peek inside Mast General Store, Charmed Asheville, Lexington Glassworks, and Moonlight Makers. Don’t miss the Asheville new and used bookstores like Malaprops, DB&N, and Battery Park Book Exchange. Cultivated Cocktails sells the best bar swag. Head to Woolworth Walk for even more highly curated artist stalls.
- Asheville Outlets – Explore 75 top retail and manufacturer outlets. Although we don’t necessarily think these are the cheapest-priced outlets, you’ll find everything you need. You could also head over to the Asheville Mall, which is really nice and eerily quiet.
- Biltmore Village – Located near Biltmore Estate, find bars, restaurants, and swanky shops and boutiques.
Where To Eat On Christmas Eve & Day
One of the most popular Asheville Christmas activities includes Christmas Eve dinner at a gorgeous restaurant or Christmas Day brunch.
Below, these are restaurants that are typically open around Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day. However, please double-check all restaurants for hours, special menus, and reservations. Make reservations as soon as you can. While we update our guides frequently, holiday information is subject to change last minute, especially with Asheville’s latest staffing issues.
Where to eat in Asheville for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day:
- Omni Grove Park Inn restaurants: Edison, Blue Ridge, and Vue 1913
- Biltmore Estate restaurants with ticket, annual pass, or accommodation reservation
- Many other hotel-attached restaurants including, District 42, Hemingway’s Cuba, Bargello, Red Stag Grill, and Isa’s Bistro
- Check at Folk Lore, The Barrelhouse, and Zambra
- Restaurants usually open on Christmas Eve: Curate, Vinnie’s, 12 Bones, Chai Pani, and Glass Onion
For Christmas week and December in Asheville, don’t miss these unforgettable and delicious restaurants for all budgets and cuisine preferences. We also have a plethora of food and drink guides, including gluten-free and vegan restaurants, coffee, breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dessert bars.
Christmas Church Services
Don’t miss the beautiful churches in Asheville for Christmas services. If you are heading to church, we suggest:
- First Baptist Church (Downtown Asheville) – Carols, candlelight, and Communion
- Central United Methodist Church (Downtown Asheville) – Three Christmas Eve services
- Basilica Of Saint St. Lawrence Catholic Church (Downtown Asheville)
Where To Stay In Asheville For The Holidays
Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts book up quickly in Asheville during peak holiday seasons. Make your reservations ASAP.
We highly suggest looking around the Historic Montford District for quaint B&Bs, perfect for spending Christmas in Asheville. You’ll even catch more holiday decorations and lights.
More places to stay in Asheville that we recommend include:
The Omni Grove Park Inn
Downtown Asheville Hotels
While we wanted to give you a wide variety of options for budgets, pets, families, and location, we’ve stayed at and most loved Blind Tiger Asheville and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate. The Hampton Inn Biltmore is great if you are on a budget and don’t care about charm; it’s centrally located but on busy Brevard Road. Also out this way, you might check out Asheville Cottages; they are cozy and gorgeous, perfect for families.
Read more about the best Asheville hotels by area and attractions.
What are your favorite things to do in Asheville at Christmas?
What are your favorite skiing and skating spots across Western North Carolina? Where do you go to see Christmas lights? How about holiday shopping? What is your favorite Asheville Christmas tree farm? Let us know in the comments!
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Christine (pronouns: she/her) is the owner and lead writer of Uncorked Asheville. After falling in love with those gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, Christine and her husband Tom decided to call Asheville, North Carolina home. When her pointy Italian nose isn’t stuck in a book, Christine is adopting all of the kitties, getting lost in the forest, and drinking an ESB. She has a BA in English and History from Smith College, her MLIS from USF-Tampa, and is a former U.S. Fulbright Scholar - Indonesia. Christine also owns The Uncorked Librarian LLC with books and movies to inspire travel.