Must-See Holiday Light Shows Across North Carolina

Here are our top picks of light show extravaganzas across the state


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The sixth annual Winter Lights holiday light show at The North Carolina Arboretum will be held nightly from Nov. 22-Jan. 4.

Photo courtesy of The North Carolina Arboretum

Tis the season for dazzling light displays. These annual sparkling and twinkling displays are a great way to celebrate festive fun with the family. Here are our top picks of holiday light shows across the state to help bring out your family’s holiday spirit. Shows are listed in alphabetical order. Scroll through the slides or jump to specific light shows below:

Christmas at Biltmore

One Lodge St., Asheville, North Carolina
Admission: Daytime admission pricing: $69-$99; evening admission pricing: $74-$99; free for ages 9 and younger. Buy your ticket seven or more days in advance and save $10 on each admission. Purchase tickets online. 
Dates: Nov. 1-Jan. 4, 2020

See the Biltmore Estate adorned in its holiday splendor during an evening visit. A lit towering Norway spruce decorates the grand front lawn. Enjoy the many decorated Christmas trees inside the Biltmore House. In addition, there are 135,000 LED and mini lights sparkling around the estate. Visit Antler Hill Village and Winery, included with admission, for an extraordinary display of holiday lights and wine tastings.

Photo courtesy of The Biltmore Company


Chinese Lantern Festival

Booth Amphitheatre, 8003 Regency Pkwy., Cary, North Carolina
Admission: Any night tickets are $20; specific night tickets are $15 for ages 13 and older (Price will increase on the date of event by $3 per ticket); $10 for ages 3-12 (Price increase $2 per ticket on the date of event); free for ages 2 and younger. Ticket prices do not include convenience charges. Tickets are one time use only and cannot be used on multiple nights.
Dates: Nov. 22-Jan. 12, 2020. Tuesdays-Sundays 6-10 p.m. Closed Mondays except for Dec. 23 and 30.

Booth Amphitheatre is transformed into a dazzling walk-through display with larger-than-life lanterns. Enjoy holiday treats and beverages from venue stands.



Photo courtesy of Booth Amphitheatre


Country Christmas Train at Denton Farm Park

Enter at 4259 Handy Road, Denton, North Carolina
Admission: $16 adults, $5 ages 5-11; free for ages 4 and younger. Additional fees for photos with Santa, and wagon, pony and Ferris wheel rides.
Dates: Nov. 29-Dec 1, Dec. 6-8, Dec. 12-15, Dec. 19-23, Dec. 26-27. Friday-Saturday, 4:30-11 p.m.; other nights 4:30-10 p.m.

Enjoy a lighted walking tour of the park. Stop at the church to hear a Christmas story and then take a ride on the Handy Dandy Railroad. See a nativity movie, hear Christmas carols, and visit the petting zoo, Santa’s cabin, arts and crafts exhibits, the gingerbread house, a doll museum and general store.



Photo courtesy of Denton Farm Park


Enchanted Airlie

300 Airlie Road, Wilmington, North Carolina
Admission: $30 per car/standard truck/SUV/minivans; $55 for passenger or conversion vans
Dates: Nov. 29-30, Dec. 6-22. There are two runtimes each evening, 5-7 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.

Take in the sparkling sights and festive sounds of the holiday season. Stroll through the garden on a self-guided tour of holiday lights, music and displays. Also in attendance each night, Santa Claus himself! Tickets will sell out in advance, so reserve yours early.

Photo courtesy of Enchanted Arlie​


Festival of Lights at Chetola Resort

185 Chetola Lake Drive, Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Admission: Free
Dates: Begins at dusk on Friday, Nov. 29 and runs through the end of Blowing Rock’s WinterFest through Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020.

Chetola Resort is known for its 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. 

Photo courtesy of Chetola Resort


Hill Ridge Farms’ Festival of Lights

703 Tarboro Rd., Youngsville, North Carolina
Admission: $9-$12 (rate depends on age, night of the week and senior or military status), includes hayride. Under 2 are free.
Dates: Nov. 28-Dec. 29. Thanksgiving Night, 5-9 p.m.; Sunday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5-10 p.m.; Christmas Eve 5-8 p.m.; Christmas Night 5-9 p.m.; Dec. 26-29 5-9 p.m.

Enjoy a covered-wagon hayride through a beautiful display of lights, bonfires, s’mores, hot chocolate, apple cider, heated indoor dining, an old-fashioned toy and candy store, giant slide, jumping pillow and slide house.


Holidays at the Garden

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, 6500 S. New Hope Road, Belmont
Admission: Online in advance: Monday-Thursday, $7.95 for ages 2-12, $14.95 ages 13 and older. Friday-Sunday, $8.95 for ages 2-12, $16.95 for ages 13 and older. At the door: Monday-Thursday, $8.95 for ages 2-12, $16.95 ages 13 and older. Friday-Sunday, $9.95 for ages 2-12, $18.95 for ages 13 and older. 
Dates: Open nightly Nov. 29-Jan. 5, 5-9 p.m.

Delight in a stroll through the shimmering Mile of a Million Lights this holiday season! Along your journey, discover the colorful lights of the topiaries dancing to merry tunes, LED cherry trees glowing along Canal Garden, waves of color glittering in the Piedmont Prairie, enchanting fairy villages and model trains flourishing in the Orchid Conservatory, and so much more. Roast a marshmallow, take a horse-drawn carriage ride, enjoy music and sip a warm beverage as you tour the displays, visit with Santa and more.


Holiday Lights in the Garden

Cape Fear Botanical Garden, 536 N. Eastern Blvd., Fayetteville
Admission: Member: $5 for ages 2-12, $8 ages 13 and older. Non-member: $7 for ages 2-12, $12 ages 13 and older. Add-on packages available. 
Dates: Dec. 5-23 (weekends only); 5:30-9 p.m.

The Garden is aglow with almost 1 million lights. Santa Claus, S’mores, hot cocoa and more, with children’s activities and family hayride. 

Photo courtesy of Cape Fear Botanical Garden


Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla

Carolina Beach Boat Basin
Admission: Free to spectators
Dates: Dec. 7, 6 p.m.

Fishing boats and pleasure craft electrically decorated with thousands of lights present a spectacular display on the Intracoastal Waterway. They cruise form Snows Cut to the Carolina Beach Boat Basin and back. The boats compete for prizes and add to the wonderful holiday spirit.


Lights Before Christmas

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, 500 Wildlife Pkwy., Columbia, South Carolina
Admission: $12 adults, $10 children ages 2-12, children younger than 2 admitted free.
Dates: Select nights beginning Nov. 23 through Dec. 30, 5-9 p.m. 

Enjoy nearly 1 million lights, animated images, visits with Santa, a bonfire, hot cocoa and s’mores.

Photo courtesy of ron wright/Columbia Convention & Services Bureau


Lights on the Neuse

Boyette Family Farms, 1620 Loop Road, Clayton, North Carolina
Admission: $9 for ages 3 and older; free for ages 2 and younger. Reservations are not required for the hayride. Tickets can be purchased online or at the farm.
Dates: Select nights beginning Nov. 29 through Dec. 24. Hours vary depending on day.

Take a 1-mile, 30-minute tractor-pulled hayride through a beautiful lights extravaganza to see more than 1 million lights that line the way to the banks of the Neuse River. Enjoy concessions, a visit with Santa, cookie decorating, Santa’s Sweet Shoppe and more holiday fun. 


McAdenville (Christmas Town USA)

Downtown McAdenville, North Carolina
Admission: Free
Dates: The annual Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place on Monday, Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. (switch will be pulled at 6 p.m.). From Dec. 2-26, the lights glow nightly Monday-Friday, 5:30-9:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 5:30-11 p.m.

Experience the wonder of the season in Gaston County’s Christmas Town USA, a tradition since 1956. Walk or drive by the awe-inspiring displays of more than 375 decorated trees, 200 lit lamp-post wreaths, 160 decorated homes, music, a life-size Nativity scene, a lake fountain and more.



Photo courtesy of Steve Rankin


Meadow Lights

4546 Godwin Lake Road, Benson, North Carolina
Admission: Free, but add-ons includes train tickets ($3 per person), carousel rides ($2 per person) and Santa photos ($6). Concessions also available for purchase.
Dates: Season opens Nov. 22. Sunday-Thursday 5-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5-11 p.m.

Meadow Lights is the largest and oldest Christmas light show in Eastern North Carolina with lights and Biblical scene displays on more than 30 acres. Visit the Old Country Store for old-fashioned candy, ride a train or carousel, and visit with Santa.


Moonlight in the Garden

JC Raulston Arboretum, 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh, North Carolina
Admission: Advance tickets are $10 for college students and members of the arboretum, $20 for nonmembers, and $5 for children under age 12. Availability is limited, and tickets will sell out in advance. Proceeds from Moonlight in the Garden will benefit daily, free operations of the JC Raulston Arboretum every day of the year. Nov. 8, 2019 update: Moonlight in the Garden has sold out.
Dates: Nov. 7–9 and Nov. 14-16. Two timed entries available each evening: 5:30-7:30 p.m. and 7:30-9:30 p.m. Get a sneak peek on Tuesday, Nov. 5, during Preview Night and enjoy live music and delectable eats. The Preview Night is the only evening when you can stroll the garden with a glass of wine or beer in hand.

Don't miss the only opportunity to experience the JC Raulston Arboretum after dark. Bring your family and friends to stroll through the garden, listen to a live band, grab a bite to eat from a food truck, roast a marshmallow or two at the fire pits, and sip a cup of hot apple cider. 

Photo COURTESY OF JC RAULSTON ARBORETUM AT NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY


North Carolina Holiday Flotilla

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Admission: Free
Dates: Nov. 29 & 30

Enjoy Thanksgiving weekend at the beach during this two-day celebration. The fun kicks off Friday night with a tree lighting and visit with Santa at 5:30 p.m. at the Blockade Runner Resort. On Saturday, take the kids to Festival in the Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and enjoy inflatable slides, bounce houses, a coloring contest, a train ride, festival food and more. The lighted boat parade begins Saturday at 6 p.m. The best viewing is along Banks Channel. Following the colorful and festive water parade, the flotilla ends with a massive and dazzling fireworks display.

Photo courtesy of Ned Leary Photography


Speedway Christmas

5555 Concord Pkwy. S., Concord, North Carolina
Admission: $20-$30 for cars; $40-$50 for conversion/passenger vans. Mobile tickets will not be accepted for admission to Speedway Christmas. You must print your ticket and present it at the gate for entry.
Dates: Nov. 22-Jan. 5, 6-10 p.m. Closed Dec. 25.

Experience more than 4 million lights synced to music while driving the 3.75-mile track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Christmas Village is open Thursday-Sunday from Dec. 12-29 (except Christmas Day) and includes an all-new 100 ft. slide, carousel, and 50 ft. Ferris wheel in addition to the Bethlehem village, photos with Santa, games, fire pits for s’mores and more. You can also enjoy watching holiday movie classics drive-in style on a 16,000-square-foot screen every Thursday-Sunday when Christmas Village is open. 


Tanglewood Festival of Lights

4061 Clemmons Road, Clemmons
Admission: $15 for cars/minivans/trucks; $35 for commerical vans; $100 for buses and motorcoaches. Discount nights include Nov. 18-19, and Nov. 25-26 ($5 for cars/minivans/trucks; $15 for commerical vans; $65 for buses and motorcoaches)
Dates: Nov. 15-Jan. 1, 2020, 6-11 p.m.; Dec. 31, 6-10 p.m.

To see one of the largest and most spectacular light shows in the Southeast, drive through Tanglewood’s rolling countryside, which is transformed into a winter wonderland. Be sure to stop at the Gift Village to roast marshmallows at S'moresville. See the website for more information about horse-drawn carriage rides, tractor-pulled hayrides, and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus.



Photo courtesy of Tim McCulloh Photography
 


Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum

100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, North Carolina
Admission: $18 for ages 12 and older; $12 for ages 5-11; free for ages 4 and younger. Members receive an admission discount.
Dates: Nov. 22-Jan. 4, 6-10 p.m. nightly

Stroll through the arboretum gardens to enjoy this annual holiday light exhibition. More than 500,000 LED lights shine to light your way through a festive winter wonderland. Listen to favorite holiday tunes and sip warm beverages along the way. Winter Lights includes interactive games, a model train exhibit, free crafts, a nature-themed animatronic children’s program and more.



Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Arboretum
 


Christmas Wonderland of Lights at Zootastic Park

385 Ostwalt Amity Road, Troutman, North Carolina
Admission: $8 for ages 2 and older; free for children under age 2.
Dates: Opening weekend is Nov. 22-23, open nightly Nov. 27-Jan. 4. Sunday-Thursday, 6-9 p.m; Friday-Saturday, 6-10 p.m.

Drive through the reindeer forest, the Christmas Wonderland of Lights, watch the light show dance to music, and walk around part of the zoo. Additional cost activities include tiger feedings, giraffe feedings, carousel rides, train rides, s'mores, and more.


Myra Wright is a North Carolina-based freelance writer. She enjoys traveling and finding educational opportunities for her three kids.

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