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The Christmas season in North Carolina allows you to see some of the country's most beautiful light displays. So make yourself a thermos of hot cocoa and drive through dazzling light tunnels in Charlotte, Asheville, Belmont, Wilmington, Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Carolina Beach. Don't forget that North Carolina is home to Christmas Town USA, a must-see for all travelers during the winter holidays.
Christmas Town USA, McAdenville (December 1–26, 2020)
McAdenville transforms into Christmas Town USA every holiday season. A suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, this town has a fantastic Christmas tradition—being decorated with Christmas lights for the holidays. Christmas Town USA features about 400 lit trees and over 200 wreaths. The highlights also include a large Nativity scene in front of the McAdenville Baptist Church. A large lake circled with over 250 evergreens, covered with half-million red, white and green lights, historical McAden Mills Bell Tower constructed in 1883, and other sites across McAdenville. Tourists from all over the United States flock to see this amazing light show, one of the country's largest. Christmas Town USA was initiated in 1956, and the tradition has only grown since. The town receives over 600,000 vehicles annually that come to see this free light display.
Holidays at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, Belmont (November 27, 2020–January 3, 2021)
Holidays at the Garden is an annual light display that takes place from late November through early January at the beautiful Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, North Carolina. The huge botanical garden, which occupies 380 acres of meadows, woodlands, and lakeshores, dresses up in thousands of lights for the holidays. The shimmering Mile of a Million Lights features the topiaries dancing to merry tunes, beautiful fairy villages, LED cherry trees glowing along the Canal Garden, model trains in Orchid Conservatory glittering lights in the Piedmont Prairie. Visitors can roast a marshmallow, drink hot cocoa by an open fire, listen to live Christmas music, shop in The Garden Store, and enjoy the festive atmosphere. There are various activities for kids, including a photo opportunity with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights, Clemmons (November 13, 2020–January 1, 2021)
Picturesque Tanglewood Park located in Clemmons, North Carolina, not far from Winston-Salem, transforms every year with the arrival of Festival of Lights. From mid-November, the park becomes a dazzling Winter Wonderland decorated with over a million shimmering lights. Interactive musical and light displays play holiday tunes. The music is original compositions from the UNC School of the Arts Music Technology students. Altogether the park features over eighty displays, the majority of which comprise environment-friendly and low-energy LED lights. Visitors can shop at the Holiday Gift Village, located halfway through the display, and visit Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. The barn shops offer holiday crafts, wood workings, and other handmade items made by local vendors. Tractor-pulled hayrides and horse-drawn carriage rides are also available with a reservation. Weekends get quite busy at the park, so plan accordingly.
Dillsboro Lights and Luminaries (December 4–5 & 11–12, 2020)
Dillsboro is a small mountain town in Jackson County, North Carolina, located on the way to the Great Smoky Mountains. The town, which boasts many art shops, transforms into a winter wonderland every holiday season with the start of the Dillsboro Festival of Lights & Luminaries. The atmospheric town looks extra cozy with plenty of lights, candles, and music. The festival features over 2,500 luminaries on the way to shops and studios. The town’s businesses also trim their buildings dating back to the 1800s in sparkly white lights. Besides, there are horse and buggy rides, live music, holiday treats, hot cider, and cocoa. Listen to Christmas carolers and visit Santa at the Town Hall and enjoy various entertainment around town. Don't forget to stop by the church to see a live nativity scene.
Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas, Concord (November 21, 2020–January 17, 2021)
Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway is a favorite holiday tradition for many local families. Since 2009, it has been one of Charlotte’s best drive-through light shows. With over four million lights along a 3.75-mile course synchronized to Christmas music, this is definitely an impressive experience. The speedway also features a family-friendly Christmas Village that includes a 100-ft slide, a carousel, and a large Ferris Wheel. Kids enjoy the Bethlehem village, photos with Santa, fire pits, games, and rides. Christmas-themed Movie Nights on the giant Speedway TV are played from Thursday to Sunday.
NC Chinese Lantern Festival at Booth Amphitheater, Cary (November–January, canceled for 2020)
Every holiday season, Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, North Carolina, transforms into a magical space full of amazing characters thanks to the NC Chinese Lantern Festival. Dozens of light displays and lanterns illuminate dark winter nights. Each show is comprised of thousands of LED lights. The major highlight of the festival is the giant lantern on Symphony Lake. Also, there are many surprises for visitors, including cultural performances, artisan craft fairs, and special events like Chinese drumming, juggling, face-changing, acrobats, martial arts, and much more.
Biltmore Candlelight Christmas Evenings, Asheville (November 6, 2020–January 9, 2021)
One of the most magical holiday experiences in North Carolina, Biltmore Candlelight Christmas evenings, occurs in the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina. Enjoy the soft glow of beautiful luminaries and colorful holiday lights on the main Christmas tree, a towering Norway spruce. Visitors can enjoy live performances of Christmas music as well as admission to Antler Hill Village & Winery. The Village looks impressive in winter when its buildings and pathways to restaurants and shops are illuminated with hundreds of ornamental displays.