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Festive Fun for the Holidays in Western North Carolina

Christmas holiday celebration

If you’re looking for something to get you into the holiday spirit, you don’t have to look far for fun holiday events in western North Carolina. We’re home to one of the biggest and oldest holiday displays at Biltmore House in Asheville. You can also punch your ticket to the North Pole on a Polar Express train ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

Other holiday events in western North Carolina include tree lighting celebrations, enchanting light displays, holiday parades, ice skating and hot chocolate.

Here are our top picks for fun holiday and Christmas events near Morganton.

Top Holiday Events in Western North Carolina:

Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum – This nightly tour of the arboretum’s garden features an illuminated Quilt Garden, Bonsai Exhibition Garden and a 50-foot lighted tree. Other displays feature colorful native butterflies and winter wildlife with an insect-themed lantern exhibit on view. The walk-through experience is returning this year, in addition to drive-through tours. Open November 19 through January 1 just south of Asheville.

Festival of Lights at Chetola Resort – To the north of Morganton in Blowing Rock, the Chetola Resort features a sparkling display of lights. Free and open to the public, you can drive or walk around the lake and view glittering ice skaters, Rudolph reeling in a big fish, strolling carolers, and many more captivating holiday scenes. The lights go on at dusk from November 26 through January 30.

The Polar Express Train Ride in Bryson City – This read-along ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad features Chris Van Allsburg’s 1985 book, clips from the movie soundtrack, warm cocoa, and a fresh-baked cookie on the outbound journey to the North Pole. When the train arrives at its destination, Santa climbs onboard to greet the children with a gift. Then it’s time to sing Christmas carols on the return trip to the Bryson City Depot. The Polar Express runs November 12 to January 1.

Polar Express Train Ride in Spencer – A little closer to home is The Polar Express at the N.C. Transportation Museum. Set to the movie soundtrack, the trip to the North Pole features a reading of the book, hot chocolate and cookies. Upon arrival, Santa presents a gift to the children. Passengers are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride. Runs November 12 – December 23.

Tweetsie Christmas in Blowing Rock – North of Morganton is another magical train ride on the Tweetsie Railroad. Passengers ride in an open-air train car on a three-mile track that passes thousands of Christmas lights throughout the park. You can also meet Santa in his gingerbread house filled with candied furnishings.

Santa on the Chimney at Chimney Rock State Park – If you’ve wondered how Santa trains for his marathon night of deliveries, check out his training ground at Chimney Rock State Park. On the first two Saturdays in December, you can see Santa rappelling down a 315-foot granite monolith shaped like a chimney. Get there early for a festive breakfast with Santa’s elves before the big event. Afterward, you can enjoy live music, hot cocoa and cookies, and meet some of the animals at the park. Don’t forget to bring Santa your wish list.

Christmas at Biltmore in Asheville – From the beginning of November until the first week of January, this 8,000-acre estate and 250-room house are decked out in their holiday best. It’s a tradition that goes back to 1895, when George Vanderbilt opened his house to the public. The display boasts more than 100 decorated Christmas trees; hundreds of wreaths, bows and poinsettias; 100,000 twinkling lights; and more than 10,000 ornaments. The grandeur reaches a crescendo in the seven-story-high Banquet Hall, where books, dolls and other toys hang from a 35-foot Fraser fir. Live performances of your favorite Christmas songs, commemorative Christmas wine at the winery, and special holiday menus at the estate’s restaurants will round out your holiday experience.

National Gingerbread House Competition – Holiday bakers from far and wide gather each year at the Omni Park Grove Inn in Asheville to compete in this event. There are categories for all ages, but just seeing the skill and detail that goes into these edible creations will get you into the holiday spirit. There’s a fee for parking, but half of all proceeds go back to the community and not-for-profit partners in Western North Carolina. Open November 28 to January 2.

Skate on synthetic ice in Hendersonville – This synthetic ice skating rink can be enjoyed in any temperature — perfect for those occasional warm winter days. There’s room for up to 60 skaters and you can rent skates at the rink. There’s also a special section dedicated to curling. When you’re done skating, explore Hendersonville’s wonderful downtown with its toy shops, aquarium, gem museum and restaurants.

Skate at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte – The Center’s 17,000-square-foot ice rink includes three distinct skating areas, including an ice trail and free skate zone. When you want refreshments, you don’t even have to take off your skates. Just skate up to the Airstream trailer in the center of the rink for hot cocoa, craft beer and wine.

Winterfest at Carowinds – This popular theme park in Charlotte transforms into WinterFest November 13 through January 2 with thousands of shimmering lights, a large Christmas tree, parades, live shows, ice skating, family rides, cookie decorating, and tempting holiday treats.

Christmas Parade in Morganton – Our hometown will kick off the winter holiday on December 7 at 6:00 p.m. with over 100 entries, including floats, marching bands, and characters of all shapes and sizes to greet the younger viewers. 

Every Day Can Feel Like a Holiday at Grace Ridge.

Our Life Plan Community offers endless opportunities to enjoy life. From hiking the nearby trails and playing golf at Mimosa Hills to resident-led clubs and lifelong learning classes, there’s always something to pique your interest. Of course, the mountain views never fail to lift spirits. To learn more, explore our area attractions. Or contact us; we’d love to hear from you.