Lights are twinkling and carols are ringing—it’s the holiday season, y’all! And the Carolinas provide some of the best ways to enjoy it. Check out these nine cities and towns, each a must-see holiday destination, that make the most of the holiday season with festivals, mind-blowing decorations, unique shopping, and general merry making, and make your weekend plans with the family now.
Journey up I-77 to the college town of Davidson during the first weekend of December, and you’ll discover a community brimming with holiday spirit. Each evening, the town hosts Christmas in Davidson, an annual town-wide festival featuring live music, vendors, artisans, fundraisers, competitions, and more. And, if you drive up Saturday, plan to arrive earlier in the day to take in the annual Mecklenburg Christmas parade, too.
Famous across the country as “Christmas Town USA,” McAdenville rings in the holidays with pure Christmas magic. Drive just 25 minutes west of Charlotte, and you can’t miss this small town and must-see holiday destination. Beginning with a lighting ceremony on December 2 at 6 p.m., the lights will glow nightly at 5:30 p.m, and the streets will come alive with twinkling lights, joyful caroling, and pure holiday spirit. Lights, decorations and displays will happen every night until December 26.
Two hours and forty minutes west of Charlotte is the touristy mountain town of Dillsboro, where the Dillsboro Festival of Lights & Luminaries occurs every year around the holidays. This year, Dillsboro will celebrate on Friday, December 6 by lining the streets with luminaries in ancient Scandanavian custom. In addition to lighting more than 2,500 luminaries, Dillsboro pays homage to its tourist roots by opening shops and galleries, and offering warm drinks and yummy snacks to the public.
Travel East to Wrightsville Beach for some seaside festivities this holiday season. Wilmington’s Christmas activities begin November 29, and continue throughout December, so be sure to stick around. From The Nutcracker to film screenings, enchanted gardens, historic tours, festivals, shows, candlelight tours, and a magic show, there is something for everyone. To kick off the season, bring the whole family on December 7 for Wilmington’s famed Annual Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla, which entails hundreds of sailboats decorated in thousands of lights, cruising from Snows Cut to the Carolina Beach Boat Basin. This event is free to everyone, and begins at 6 pm.
“Home for the Holidays” is an annual tradition in downtown Hendersonville and the surrounding areas, about two hours west of Charlotte. This daily festival, filled with Flat Rock Playhouse productions, ice-skating, wagon rides, visits with Santa, and parades, will occur from November 1 until January 1, 2020. On December 6, “Olde Fashioned Christmas,” will light up Hendersonville’s Main Street, where shops will be open late for entertainment. Expect caroling, Christmas lights, treats, and other holiday festivities.
Not too far from Winston-Salem, you’ll find the Tanglewood Festival of Lights, an annual festival at Tanglewood Park. Come the holiday season, the park’s rolling hills are filled to the brim with stunning light displays. Tune in your car’s radio for jolly Christmas music while you drive through the whimsical lights and decorations. Tanglewood Park is known for its “dancing tree,” for which students at the University of North Carolina have created an original composition. Tickets are priced dependent on the size of your vehicle, with several discounted days throughout the season.
On Friday, December 6, the City of Edenton will officially commence its annual holiday festivities in its historic downtown. The lighting of the Christmas tree will take place at 5:30 p.m.. Then, stick around for the annual Flotilla of decorated boats in the harbor. In the following weeks, this holiday destination will host a plethora of other annual celebrations. A standout is the Christmas Candlelight Tour, which allows visitors to self-tour through 300-plus year old homes.
This riverfront city is nearly 4.5 hours from Charlotte, but well worth the drive. The historic Tryon Palace complex includes beautiful historic architecture, homes, and gardens. Moreover, everything will be decorated for the holiday season. This year’s annual Candlelight Celebrations will take place on Saturdays in December, where actors and dancers will perform under candlelight. While you’re downtown, stop by the unique gift shops that will definitely check a few boxes on your list.
Beaufort, South Carolina is a city on Port Royal Island known for a quaint, cozy beach-town feel. In its historic downtown, Beaufort boasts many a mansion. When Christmas rolls around, Beaufort decorates the beautiful downtown scene, hosts a Christmas parade, markets to support local artists, a locally performed The Nutcracker, and even a “Crystal Coast” Flotilla.
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville is The Biltmore, America’s largest private home and North Carolina’s iconic holiday destination. For the Christmas season, all 8,000 acres of the flawless property are decorated with endless wreaths, garlands, and thousands of glittering ornaments on over fifty Christmas trees. Daytime admission is between $69 and $99 to admire the scenery, enjoy Christmas wines at the winery, and visit Antler Hill Village’s evening illumination display.