Christmas is my favorite time of the year with all the lights, celebrations, and festivities, there is so much that is always going on. One of my favorite things about the month of December is the diverse amount of holiday events that take place. Not only are you likely looking forward to holiday vacation and spending time with loved ones, but for several weeks leading up to Christmas Day (and after), many attractions across North Carolina become holiday destinations and winter wonderlands. Whether you’re visiting or hosting family here in North Carolina, spend time at Christmas light shows, outdoor ice skating rinks and holiday-themed amusement parks.
Holiday Light Shows
Nov. 6, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022, Greensboro
Greensboro Science Center invites you to celebrate safely with loved ones at Winter Wonderlights. Featuring 12 magical realms of joyful sounds and shimmering lights, this walk-thru experience is ticketed and timed to ensure proper social distancing. Check the calendar before buying tickets – most Mondays and Tuesdays are discounted, and you’ll find Santa most weekend days.
Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum
Nov. 19, 2021 – Jan. 1, 2022, Asheville
Experience this 3-acre nightly tour of the arboretum’s nationally known gardens, including its Quilt Garden and Bonsai Exhibition Garden. Designed to showcase the natural landscape, the displays feature colorful native butterflies and winter wildlife with a special insect-themed lantern exhibit on view.
Festival of Lights
Nov. 25, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022, Youngsville
Hill Ridge Farms’ popular Festival of Lights is returning in 2021, as a drive-thru attraction and is one of the best Christmas lights displays in the Triangle. The display is a mile long and features over a million lights.
Nov. 19, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022, Concord
One of America’s largest holiday light shows, Speedway Christmas features more than 4 million lights over a 4-mile course that includes most of the oval and the new ROVAL.
Nights of Lights
Nov. 26 – Dec. 24, 2021, Raleigh
Aiming to provide families a way to get in the holiday spirit safely, Nights of Lights in Raleigh does just that with a 1.3-mile route of magical lights inside Dorothea Dix Park. Fill up a thermos with cocoa, stay in your car and take in the illuminated towering oaks, light installations and art installations. This event is strictly drive-thru – no pedestrians or cyclists are allowed – ensuring safety for all.
Winterlights at Elizabethan Gardens
Select dates Nov. 28, 2021 – Jan. 15, 2022, Manteo
Peacocks, butterflies, deer and other enchanting creatures take up temporary residence at the Elizabethan Gardens. Created with flowers, seeds and other natural elements, the lighted displays join permanent art elements – which include the world’s largest bronze statue of Queen Elizabeth I of England.
Signature Holiday Events
The Polar Express
Nov. 12, 2021 – Jan. 1, 2022, Bryson City
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad had already achieved stardom by the time The Polar Express came out, but the animated film added to the luster with an annual excursion booked by thousands of passengers. The read-along ride features Chris Van Allsburg’s 1985 book, clips from the movie soundtrack, warm cocoa and a treat as the train of pajama-clad children clacks to the North Pole, where Santa awaits with a gift. Christmas carols will be sung as they return back to the Bryson City Depot.
Select dates from Nov. 19 – Dec. 30, 2021, Blowing Rock
Catch the arrival of Santa Claus as he enters on the train, or meet him in his home made of gingerbread and filled with candied furnishings. Enjoy holiday lights throughout the park and along the 3-mile track. Roast s’mores and devour other handmade goodies from Tweetsie Railroad’s fudge shop.
Holidays at Tryon Palace
Begins Nov. 22, 2021, New Bern
Overtaxed colonists had a bad case of humbug in December 1770, when Gov. William Tryon threw the first party at the fancy Georgian-style structure where he would live and run the government. Two-and-a-half centuries later, Tryon Palace historic site recreates the effect of the event with holiday-themed tours offered during the season. Plus, the annual Candlelight Nights take place Dec. 11 and 18 with festivities illuminated by the glow of candlelight and fireworks, along with traditional circus performers.
WinterFest at Carowinds
Select dates Nov. 13, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022, Charlotte
One of the South’s most popular theme parks, Carowinds transforms into WinterFest with thousands of shimmering lights, a large Christmas tree, lavish displays, live shows and strolling performers, and special holiday dishes and desserts fill the midways.
Polar Express Train Ride (Spencer)
Select dates Nov. 12 – Dec. 23, 2021, Salisbury
This holiday favorite comes to life as you and your family take a ride on The Polar Express at the N.C. Transportation Museum. Set to the music of the motion picture soundtrack, the trip to the “North Pole” features singing, dancing, a reading of the book, hot chocolate and cookies, and a visit from Santa. Passengers are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride.
Holiday Ice Skating
Nov. 26, 2020 – Jan. 30, 2022, Greensboro
Bundle up and head to Piedmont Winterfest in downtown Greensboro at the Southend. Rock those figure eights on the newly built ice rink, and try your hand at curling on Tuesday nights.
Skating at U.S. National Whitewater Center
Mid-November 2021 – mid-February 2022, Charlotte
The U.S. National Whitewater Center (20 minutes outside of Uptown Charlotte) offers a 17,000-square-foot ice rink with several different skating zones on the upper pond. A single-day activity pass is required to skate. Bonus: An on-ice Airstream offers craft beer, wine and hot cocoa.
What is your favorite thing about Christmas? What is your favorite Christmas activity to do? As always, thank y’all for stopping by and reading. I will see y’all back here next time.