One of my favorite ways to celebrate the holiday season is to experience various holiday traditions. What better way to do that than exploring parts of North Carolina and partaking in the various traditions in the regions? This year, thanks to a request from Katy, I am highlighting the 10 best things to do in North Carolina for the holidays.
If you are ever curious about where my love of holiday traditions came from, be sure to read this post!
10 Best Things to do in NC for the Holidays
Chetola Resort Festival of Lights
Chetola Resort features a sparkling display of lights each winter season! The “Festival of Lights” is free and open to the public, and you are invited to enjoy thousands of dazzling illuminations throughout the resort. As you drive or stroll around Chetola Lake, view glittering ice skaters, “Rudolph” reeling in a big fish, strolling carolers and many more captivating holiday scenes. The “Festival of Lights” opens to the public on Friday, November 26, 2021 and remains up through Blowing Rock WinterFest- till Sunday, January 30, 2022. The displays illuminate at dusk each evening. For more on what to do in Blowing Rock, be sure to check out the linked collection of articles.
Christmas at Biltmore
Treat yourself to the beloved estate tradition known as Christmas at Biltmore, when America’s Largest Home®, Antler Hill Village, and the entire estate are at their most enchanting. Flickering candlelight, glowing fireplaces, and live music invite you to imagine yourself a guest at the first Vanderbilt family Christmas in 1895. For more on experiencing the Biltmore and Asheville during the holidays, be sure to check out this article.
Christmas by the Sea at Carolina Beach
Credit: Wrightsville Beach NC
Experience Christmas by the Sea at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk on December 2nd, December 9th, and December 16th from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
Christmas by the Sea at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk features Santa and cookies and hot chocolate, pony rides, a fire pit for roasting marshmallows, and arts & crafts. Admission for this event is free!
Christmastown in McAdenville
Credit: Town of McAdenville
It all started in 1956, when the McAdenville Men’s Club along with Mr. W. J. Pharr, Pharr’s founder and president at the time, conceived the idea of using red, white and green lights to decorate the trees around the McAdenville Community Center.
In 1980, Christmas Town U.S.A.® gained national attention when featured on the Charles Kuralt Morning Show. Since then, Christmas Town U.S.A. has been featured on Good Morning America, Carolina Impact-2017 Christmas Town and other television shows, in addition to popular periodicals such as Southern Living Magazine.
Visitors can expect a Town that shines with holiday cheer December 1 – 26 from 5:30PM – 10:00PM. Whether you choose to drive through Town or park to take a stroll with friends and family enjoying the festivities of Christmas Town. Listen to the sounds of the season as bells play Christmas carols while you visit our historic downtown area. Christmas, the most exciting time of the year. This quaint little town is sure to create a memory to cherish forever.
Edenton Christmas Candlelight Tour
Credit: Edenton Historical Commission
The Christmas Candlelight Tour is one of Edenton’s most popular attractions. It draws visitors from states away in addition to residents who participate year after year. Each year, for the past 40 years, the tour selects a section of downtown Edenton to showcase the historic homes in their holiday splendor. Tour goers are invited inside the tour’s different stops to marvel at the homes’ embellishments of all-natural decorations that capture early Edenton Christmases, reminiscent of the 18th and 19th Centuries. For a truly authentic experience, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the town and admire the twinkling lights. For more on an overnight experience in Edenton, be sure to check out this article.
Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour
Get ready to take a walk through history this holiday season, as a dozen properties in the Historic Oakwood neighborhood open their doors to visitors during the Annual Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour®. Tours are self-guided and self-paced, though I’d recommend at least 3 hours to enjoy. Celebrate the 50th anniversary December 11-12 from 1:00-7:00PM each day. Tickets are good for one day.
There’s a feeling of a small town community right in the middle of Downtown Raleigh. Historic Oakwood is a community of homes most of which are dated from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. There’s a continuing effort to preserve the Victorian, Queen Anne, and Craftsman architectural styles of these homes from a century ago. The immaculate care of the exteriors of the homes is only a prelude to the beauty and attention to detail given to the interiors.
Your opportunity to tour the interior of some of these homes happens each December during the Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour®. Homes are staffed with docents to enlighten you on the rich history of each property. Tour the properties at your own pace in any order. View their Gallery for a glimpse into past tours or view pictures on Facebook.
Salem Saturdays at Christmas
Photos by Glory Roze Photography
Salem Saturdays will be on November 27th, December 4th, December 11th, and December 18th, from 10AM to 2PM. On those days, interpreters at Miksch House will be demonstrating how to paint and display illuminated manuscripts; Christmas Cakes flavored with cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves will be baked. At Boys School, visitors will learn about the history of the Moravian Star, as well as how to decorate a Pyramid or build a Putz, while enjoying Music of the Season performed by guest musicians. At the Pottery, the potters will be demonstrating the making of chocolate cups on the potters wheel and the making of children’s toys using molds, and the visitors will learn about the symbolism in pottery as well as the traditions of the Lovefeast service by examining love feast mugs made by the potters. Throughout the beautifully decorated historic district, live music and carriage rides will also be offered on Salem Saturdays.
While you enjoy the simple, yet meaningful Christmas traditions as found in 18th and 19th century Salem, North Carolina, don’t forget to shop at Old Salem’s Christmas Market at the E.A. Vogler building, and taste the Christmas season at Winkler Bakery! For more on a holiday weekend in Winston-Salem, check out this article!
Seagrove Potters Holiday Open House
Credit: Seagrove Potters Instagram
Join the Seagrove Potters this season for their Annual Holiday Open House. Celebrate the holiday season on a self guided pottery tour. Starting on December 4th through December 18th weekends, the pottery shops of Seagrove have special events planned on Saturdays. Already have plans for those weekends? Don’t be dismayed, shops are open during the week too! Enjoy finding something for everyone on your list this year. Experience a hearty dose of holiday cheer, feel the warmth of the fireplaces, as you venture through the Seagrove community. Each participating shop will list their event details on the linked website in November. Pickup an Area Map and Guide at your first stop. Free and open to the public!
Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Credit: Charlotte Motor Speedway Instagram
Make the holidays magical with a visit to Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway!
One of the Southeast’s largest and most-anticipated holiday traditions, Speedway Christmas features four million lights strewn across a remarkable 3.75-mile course, with hundreds of creative displays and lights synchronized to Christmas-themed music. It’s the ultimate holiday-themed spectacle, perfect for families and fans of all ages! For more Charlotte favorites, be sure to check out this collection of articles.
Winter Lights at Elizabethan Gardens
Credit: Elizabethan Gardens
Stroll along illuminated garden walks and discover the joy of the season with holiday lights, sights and sounds transforming The Elizabethan Gardens into an enchanted wonderland. The radiant glow of the gardens, traditional holiday décor and fantastical displays are a true spectacle to behold. Indoors are decorated with festive trees and holiday displays where one can enjoy hot-chocolate and other concessions. Other highlights include: holiday shopping in the Royal Exchange for gifts and plants, crackling open-air fire, outdoor holiday movie and live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays.
If you’re looking for North Carolina gift ideas, be sure to read my 2021 North Carolina Holiday Gift Guide which features gift ideas to match trips I took this year for my goal of visiting all 100 counties.
What is your favorite North Carolina tradition during the holiday season? Be sure to tell me in the comments below!