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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

10 Cozy Winter Vacation Rentals: Curl Up with a Book & Hot Chocolate

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If you are planning a cozy getaway with your family, then one of these winter cabin rentals just makes sense. Soft snow, bubbling hot tubs, and cozy fires are just some of the things you might find at these beautiful vacation rentals in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. So make your reservations and plan your winter-time escape now.

Winter cabin rentals near Greenville, South Carolina

As a Stay22 Affiliate Kidding Around earns when you book through these links.


Winter Cabin Rentals: Mountain Vacation in North Carolina

The mountains are calling out for a visit. While we can’t guarantee there will be snow, these rentals have amenities that promise a good time whether you get a winter wonderland or not. Grab the hot cocoa, grab the kids, and head to the mountains with the hopes of getting snowed in!

Hendersonville, NC

Want to stay in a “Treehouse” this winter? You can! This cozy house in the trees is just a short drive to Moonshine Mountain and has snow-tubing fun. Plus you’ll also be close to both downtown Hendersonville and Brevard for fabulous food, shopping, or taking a stroll. If you don’t feel like heading out you can stay in, enjoy the view, and warm up beside the wood-burning stove.

Treehouse Vrbo Hendersonville, NC
“Treehouse” VRBO near Hendersonville, NC and Moonshine Mountain, Photo Credit: VRBO

“Treehouse”

  • 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom
  • Sleeps 4
  • Treetop views from every room
  • 5 miles to Moonshine Mountain
  • Near Hendersonville and Brevard
  • Wood-burning stove with wood provided

Book Treehouse on VRBO

Highlands, NC 

We love the wrap-around deck at Cedar Log Cabin. From there you can take in the view of the woods surrounding the cabin or relax in the hot tub. Inside the cozy cabin has two fireplaces and lots of common area space where you can gather with the family for games or a meal. If you feel like heading into town, the downtown area of Highlands, NC is just 10 minutes away.

Highlands, NC VRBO rental
Cedar Log Cabin, Photo Credit: VRBO

Cedar Log Cabin

  • 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
  • 10 Minutes from Main Steet, Highlands, NC
  • 2 fireplaces
  • hot tub
  • wrap around deck

Book Cedar Log Cabin on VRBO.

Hendersonville, NC 

Secluded on 2.5 acres, this Hendersonville cabin has everything you’ll need to enjoy a winter wonderland while not traveling too far from home. A wood-burning fireplace and hot tub will keep your family toasty and entertained. 

Stonewood Cabin. Photo Credit: AirBnb
Photo Credit: Airbnb

Stonewood Cabin

  • 2 beds, 1.5 baths
  • Wood burning stove
  • Wrap-around porch
  • Mountain stream on the property
  • 10 minutes from Downtown Hendersonville

Book Stonewood Cabin on VRBO.

Maggie Valley, NC 

This log cabin near Maggie Valley, NC has simply stunning views of the mountains. Families will love the outdoor fire pit, hot tub, and indoor fireplace.

Maggie Valley vacation rental on VRBO
Stunning views, Maggie Valley, NC, Photo Credit: VRBO

Stunning Views

  • 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
  • Hot tub
  • Fire pit
  • Fireplace indoors
  • Hiking near property

Book Stunning Views on VRBO.

Sylva, NC 

Summit’s End has everything you need for the perfect family winter getaway. Located at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains, you will enjoy the picturesque views along with nearby hiking, a hot tub, and a fire pit. Did we mention it’s also pet-friendly?

Silva, NC winter cabin rentals

Summit’s End

  • 4 bed / 3 bath
  • Picturesque views of the Great Smoky Mountains
  • Hot tub
  • Pet & Family friendly
  • Hiking and fishing nearby

Book Summit’s End on VRBO

Bryson City, NC

This newly renovated cabin offers stunning views of the mountains surrounding Bryson City, North Carolina. With a spacious living room, fireplace, deck and patio for relaxing outdoors, and a hot tub, this property is certain to make an epic winter vacation.

Bryson City, NC winter cabin. VRBO photo credit

Bryson City Cabin

  • 4 bedrooms / 2.5 baths
  • Sleeps 10
  • Hot tub, spacious living room, and full kitchen
  • Close to Nantahala National Forest
  • 4WD is required for winter rentals due to potential ice/snow

Book Bryson City Cabin on VRBO

Franklin, NC

Getaway to a winter cabin on the Top of the World in Franklin, North Carolina! The views are stunning, the homey vibe is cozy, and two firepits to relax around, this cabin is a wonderful getaway.

Top of the World Mountain Get-a-way in Franklin, Tennessee. VRBO photo credit

Top of the World

  • 4 bedrooms / 2 bathroom
  • Sleeps 8
  • Hot tub
  • Stunning views of all of Macon County

Book Top of the World on VRBO


Winter Cabin Rentals in Tennessee

Pigeon Forge, TN

You can enjoy some alone time in the private soaking tub, or cuddle all together in front of the fire pit. This Pigeon Forge cabin offers guests to the Tennessee mountains more than you’ll find at a five-star hotel! 

Moonlight Memory vacation rental in Tennessee. Photo Credit: AirBnb
Photo Credit: Airbnb

Moonlight Memories

  • Secluded cabin
  • Hot tub
  • 2 bed, 2 bath
  • 15 minutes from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg
  • Mountaintop views

Book Moonlight Memories on VRBO.

Pigeon Forge, TN

Mountain Seduction is a 3 story log home that offers all the amenities to have the perfect winter getaway, without skimping on the luxury. The home offers gorgeous views, a hot tub, pool table, foosball, and is close to all the fun in town!

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee winter vacation rental

Mountain Seduction

  • 2 bed / 3 baths
  • Hot tub
  • Views of the Great Smoky Mountains
  • Can sleep up to 16 (additional beds in game room)

Book Mountain Seduction on VRBO

Gatlinburg, TN

Escape to one of the highest-rated mini winter cabin rentals in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the Owl’s Nest. With a stunning view of Mt. LeConte, a hot tub, and only 3 miles from downtown, this quaint cabin is the perfect place to stay for a cozy getaway with your spouse or small family.

Winter cabin rentals: Owl's Nest in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. VRBO photo credit

Owl’s Nest

  • 1 bedroom / 1 bath
  • Sleeps 4
  • Close to downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee
  • Views of Mt.Leconte
  • Hot tub

Book the Owl’s Nest on VRBO

Will your family travel this winter?


Holiday and Christmas getaways

If you are looking for a place to stay for the holidays, check out one of these Holiday Getaways, with cabins near Christmas tree farms, mountain homes, and more!


Have an Appalachian Christmas at Earthshine Lodge

Looking for a new holiday tradition this year? The Earthshine Lodge Christmas celebrations offer a truly magical experience that your kids will talk about forever after experiencing Appalachian Christmas. Kidding Around contributor, Liene, has all the information about staying at the lodge, Christmas crafts and activities, llama hikes, brunch with Santa, and a whole lot more.

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4 Miles, 4 Million Lights: Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas Lights in Concord, NC

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With more than four million lights, the Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas lights at Speedway Christmas in Concord, NC is one of the biggest in the country and we’re here for it!

Thanks to Explore Cabarrus for media tickets and an overnight at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Concord so we could review the experience for our readers. All opinions are our own.

Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Speedway Christmas Presented by Atrium Health is unique in that you get to drive your own car on the racetrack that is normally driven on by professional NASCAR drivers.  Unfortunately, your mini-van will be going at a snail’s pace, but it’s still pretty cool. On the four-mile drive-thru course, visitors get to view displays consisting of over four million lights!  The Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas lights are easily one of the biggest displays in the country and there is just so much to see.

The Speedway is about an hour and 45 minutes from Greenville so if you want to stay overnight nearby, we’ve got just the place to do so at the Embassy Suites in Concord. Read on for the full review.

The Completely Epic Light Display with the Speedway Christmas Lights

There are four miles of more than four million lights at the Speedway Christmas. I’ve been to most of the Christmas light drive-through shows in our area so had a decent idea of what to expect but I can say with confidence that I was wrong. This light show is just unreal with so many cool surprises that it kept my kids and me enamored the whole time. For 2023, you get to see some awesome beach-themed displays in celebration of the theme, A Christmas Beach Party.

Entering the Racetrack for the Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas Lights

Once you get past the gate, you’ll go right onto the massive track. I had to squash the urge to floor it because really, how many times do you get to drive on a real racetrack? I did no flooring and went very slow with my headlights off like the other drivers, which is exactly what you need to do, so pay attention.

You will follow along with a string of red or blue lights, so you don’t have to worry about taking a wrong turn. If you’re behind someone going super slow, there are several places to pass cars if you want to do that. The speedway also recommends that slower traffic stay to the right, so those who want to go a little faster through the light show can pass on the left.

Speedway Christmas 2023 Santa's Beach Party

The First Section of Lights

There are three different areas of the light display but they all sync up to Christmas music that you listen to through your car radio. The first section is more of a fun light display with Santa doing funny things. As you enter the racetrack, you will see lots of animated displays following the theme. Wakeboarding Santa, Penguins splashing into a pool, Santa cruising on a boat with his reindeer friends shooting a canon of light, just to name a few.

The Second Section of Lights

The second section is a massive display of flashing lights from the bottom of the Speedway up through the seating area. This is where you will begin driving through a couple of light tunnels. You will also see the synchronized light displays with giant Christmas trees matching the beat of the songs coming from your 101.3FM radio channel with the LED light displays along the bleachers. This was probably my kid’s favorite part of the drive because of how many lights were dancing to the music.

Christmas trees at Speedway Christmas in Charlotte, North Carolina

The Final Section of Lights

The third and final section is tunnels full of lights – it’s super cool. As you leave the infield Christmas Village, you get to drive through the last portion of the lights display, which honestly, was my personal favorite. You will come across an area where you can pull off and look over all the lights, which was really neat to see.

You will also go through several light tunnels. The tunnels were done so well, and each one is unique in shape and color display. You also get to see some really unique animated and stationary light displays! Our favorites were the two astronauts, a ballerina pig, and a snowman being built through animation.

The entire light show took us around 45 minutes to drive through if you choose not to stop at the Christmas Village.

Full view of Speedway Christmas in Charlotte, North Carolina

The Christmas Village at the Speedway

Once you go through the bulk of the park, you will be guided to the infield parking lot. Here, you have the option to stop at the Christmas Village and/or see the drive-in movie playing.

The Christmas Village has a lot to do! The arches of lights, giant illuminated snowflakes, and “snow bubbles” that release a puff of smoke when they pop were some of my young daughter’s favorites. They also have a really cool FREE 360-camera experience for 2023. Your family stands on a platform as a camera zooms around you three times, giving you a unique holiday memory to enjoy! 

Large outdoor light displays at the Christmas Village at Speedway Christmas

Indoor Activities: Santa and More

The indoor section of the Christmas Village has two unique mazes, Christmas crafts at the elf village, vendors, decorated Christmas trees, and the opportunity to take photos with Santa. Santa was really kind, and your child can choose to stand or sit beside him. They even offer a little stool in case a parent needs to kneel down to keep their kids from getting nervous before rattling off this Christmas list. Pictures with Santa start at $10 for 1 photo.

Outdoor Food Court

The food truck lane has a lot of vendors with everything from Gyros to hot apple cider. One of the cooler food court stalls is the kettlecorn popcorn guy. My kids (and husband) enjoyed watching him flip the giant popcorn maker and reveal the sweet goodness that is delicious kettle corn. Plus, his stall has a little train engine on top that blows smoke every once in a while, which made us giggle.

We ended our food court adventure by purchasing some marshmallows to roast by the fire. We rocked in the rocking chairs, ate marshmallows drank cider, and just enjoyed the vibes. Afterwards, we visited the reindeer (animated, but so adorable!) for the kids to pet. They are super soft and look so real!

Reindeer at Speedway Christmas Village

Drive-In Movie

And then, perhaps my favorite thing – a drive-in movie. The Speedway makes use of one of its huge screens to show different holiday movies. You can park your car facing the screen, tune your radio to the channel dedicated to the movie, eat some popcorn, and watch the movie. My kids wanted to sit in the car and watch the film so that’s what I let them do because #Christmas. They thought it was really neat.

Drive-in movie at the Speedway Christmas

Here’s the movie schedule for 2023:

  • November 17-19: “Christmas Vacation”
  • November 23-26: “The Grinch” presented by Bojangles
  • November 30-Dec 3: Classic Christmas shorts presented by Food Lion
  • December 7-10: “White Christmas” presented by Cook Out
  • December 14-19: “Elf” presented by AutoBell
  • December 20-23: “Polar Express” presented by Cook Out
  • December 28-31: “Home Alone”

There are also bathrooms right inside the Christmas Village as well as directly next to the drive-in movie, which is really nice since the route does take a while to drive.

The Christmas Village is closed on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.


Tips to Enjoy the Speedway Christmas

Knowing what to expect helps everyone enjoy the lights.

Wait Times

Because this is such a hugely popular attraction, the wait may be long. This can be said of most holiday light events anywhere during the holiday season. Make sure everyone has taken a bathroom break before heading towards the Speedway and have snacks on hand. In past years, the wait times have gotten up to more than two hours.

We went on opening night for the 2023 season right when they opened at 6 pm and while we were able to skip the lines with an Express Lane pass thanks to Explore Cabarrus, we did pass the main entrance and there was hardly a line.

On busy nights, the express pass will save you about an hour of that two-hour wait. The Express Lane has a different entrance (5197 Morehead Road, Concord) than the Main Gate and there are signs indicating where you need to go.

Visiting Monday through Wednesday is suggested because attendance will be at its lowest on those days.

Bathrooms

The Speedway has set up port-a-potties along the route for guests to use if they need to. You do need to remain in your car while driving but there is plenty of room to pull over for these bathrooms if you need. You will also find clean bathrooms at the Christmas Village.

Pets

Pets are allowed but they must stay in your car the entire time, including if you choose to visit the Christmas Village

Purchasing Tickets

Guests have the option to purchase tickets ahead of time online at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s website but they also have passes available at the gate. The tickets you purchase online must be used on the date you choose so if you’re not sure when you’re going, you can just purchase your ticket at the gate. Stay tuned to the website to be notified of any closures due to bad weather.

Dress for the Weather

The light show obviously happens during the colder winter months so dress for the weather with jackets, hats, and gloves, especially if you want to go to the Christmas Village, much of which is outdoors.


Tickets for Speedway Christmas

Ticket prices range from $35-$45 per car depending on when you go. General admission tickets are typically $35 Monday through Wednesday, and $45 Thursday through Sunday night are more expensive.

On Thursdays through Sundays, there is also an express lane option for $75. If you have more than 15 people in your vehicle, you’ll be paying the van and bus rate of $140 to $175.

You can see the exact price on the day you’d like to go at the Speedway Lights ticket site.

While Monday through Wednesday visits are cheaper, remember that the Christmas Village is not open on these days. The exception is December 18th through the 20th, 2023 when the village will be open and tickets will be at the regular $45 price.

Speedway Christmas runs from Friday, November 17, 2023, through January 7th, 2024.


Honest Mom Review of Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas Lights

My kids and I just loved this light show. It was almost overwhelming how many lights there were at the Speedway Christmas. I kept thinking, “How long did all of this take to set up?”! It is very well done and obvious the organizers take great pride in the light display and making sure it’s top-notch.

Part of the Christmas Village at the Speedway Christmas

For kids who may have sensory issues, the light show may be a little much in some parts. I thought the Christmas Village and drive-in movie was a great rest stop to just hang out and enjoy the atmosphere before heading out to the last part of the show. And staying nearby at the Embassy Suites was fantastic. I didn’t need to worry about driving home late at night and my kids could enjoy the pool before bed. We were at the light show in its entirety – driving and the Christmas Village – about an hour and a half total.


Cabarrus, North Carolina

We think spending a day in Cabarrus, North Carolina is a great day trip. We’ve had several of our writers spend a lot of time there and have stories on some of the fun things to do in Cabarrus County, NC.  You can spend the day there or make it a weekend with a stay in the Great Wolf Lodge, another favorite destination for us, here at Kidding Around.  Regardless of the length of your trip, we think the Charlotte Motor Speedway’s light display should be on your itinerary.


Lodging in Concord near the Speedway

Embassy Suites in Concord

Explore Cabarrus sent us to stay at the lovely Embassy Suites in Concord in 2022 right off I-85 and five minutes from the Speedway. I’ve stayed at Embassy Suites in the past and always like them for their spacious rooms, free breakfasts, and great amenities.

The room we had was a one-bedroom suite with a living space area, full bathroom, and a bedroom with a closed door. The beds were comfortable and there was plenty of space for my two kids and I. But this could easily fit a family of five even since the couch in the living space area is a pullout.

Embassy Suites Concord, NC Pool

The free breakfast in the morning was a hit with my kids. They had pancakes, eggs, French toast, yogurt, cereal, toast, biscuits and gravy, fruit, and a made-to-order omelet and waffle station. They also had coffee, tea, and juice.

This Embassy Suites also had a heated indoor pool, which my kids enjoyed after we went to the light show. It was a great way to wind down the night.

Homewood Suites By Hilton Concord/Charlotte

For our visit in 2023, Explore Cabbarus sent us to Homewood Suites by Hilton, located right beside the Embassy Suites. This lovely hotel is located right off of 1-85 and is only a 5-minute drive from the Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas lights. It is also close to tons of options for dining.

The hotel check-in was a breeze, and all the staff we interacted with were extremely helpful and kind. Our room was very clean, and even smelled good when we entered (that is always a good sign!) Our room was a suite, with a kitchen and living room, with a separate bedroom with double queen beds. The separate bedroom really helped us out because were able to put the kids down to bed, and then rest in the living room. We were very happy that the hotel was clean, quiet, and close to everything we would need.

The hotel offers free breakfast in the morning, which my husband took full advantage of. We had fresh waffles from the “make your own” waffle station, a mix of fruit, sausage patties, delicious muffins, cheesy omelets, orange juice, and fresh coffee.

Homewood Suites Concord

Other Lodging

If you need another place to stay near the Speedway, you can see the map below. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.

There’s a lot to do in Concord and the Speedway Christmas show is a great way to end a day or weekend trip to Cabarrus County!

Have you made it out to the Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas lights? What was your favorite part?


Places to see Christmas lights in Charlotte, North Carolina

Want more lights? We have that!

Here are more than 10 places to see awesome Christmas Lights in Charlotte, NC!


The NC Arboretum Is A Dreamy Holiday Light Experience in Asheville, NC

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Have you visited Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum in Asheville, NC? While the Greenville area has its good share of fantastic Christmas light displays, a completely over-the-top experience at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville for their Winter Lights exhibit is worth the drive. Winter Lights has returned to walk-through light displays, exhibits, treats, smores, activities, and more!

The Arboretum, which is adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway and part of the Pisgah National Forest, is set on over 434 acres of gorgeous gardens, biking trails, and streams, meticulously planned out and designed to deliver a top-notch experience for guests.

Christmas activities in Asheville, North Carolina

Make a day of the visit to North Carolina with The Kidding Around List of Ways To Celebrate Christmas In Asheville!

The Winter Lights at NC Arboretum

The Winter Lights exhibit is no less than that. With nearly half a million LED lights lit up for the exhibit, there is no shortage of amazement.

Guests are greeted in the parking lot – the parking lot – with rows of huge trees adorned with red, blue, green, and white lights, all leading to the entrance, a two-story lodge with staff and volunteers ready to scan tickets and send guests on their merry way into the gardens.

These trees are gorgeous with the lights and make for an incredible entrance. The staff at the Arboretum started putting up the lights on September 1st. That’s how expansive this exhibit is.

Guests first exit the lodge onto a patio where they can choose to begin their walk through the lights or go straight to the Cocoa Shack, where they can purchase hot chocolate or hot cider and many different goodies like a chocolate-dipped Oreo cookie or chocolate-covered pretzel rod, or even a s’mores kit to be used at one of the supervised fire pits throughout the Arboretum.

Bent Creek Bistro will also be selling sandwiches, soups, and more during Winter Lights. Here is the Bent Creek Bistro Menu for Winter Lights 2023

What To Expect: Gum Drops and Chandeliers

Passing the Cocoa Shack, guests can meander under a lighted trellis where lights on the ground look like gumdrops. Gaze to your left and you’ll be greeted with an enormous structure of string lights that look like a Christmas tree. Head to your right for the light display that lights up in sync with captivating Christmas music.

Keep walking to the white lights strung up on trees that mimic snow falling off of branches. Or stroll under the tunnel of lights that lead to chandeliers – several of them – hanging from trees. The Arboretum also expertly decorated some of the larger trees to look like elaborate gowns, which made that part of the gardens look like a gorgeous, darkened dance hall, where a ghost of Christmas past may be seen floating among the chandeliers, dressed in a flowing gown.

The imagination can easily wander in this place.

The NC Arboretum Wishing Tree

Heading past the chandeliers is the Wishing Tree in the bonsai garden (where bathrooms are as well, in case you need to know). Guests are invited to write their warm holiday wishes on little cards and hang them from the Wishing Tree.

This was honestly my favorite part. While people wrote all kinds of interesting wishes (one guy wrote his name and number and asked pretty ladies to call him…), there were some that left me feeling like I was peeking into someone’s heart. One woman wrote that she wished to see her late husband. Another wrote that they wished everyone would feel valued this holiday season.

It was beautiful. I’m not going to say what I wished for, though.

Reindeer Games and Crafts

Past the Wishing Tree was the “Reindeer Games” section, where people could play “tic tac snow” – you and your partner could press buttons that would correspond to a tic, tac, toe board of holiday wreaths, which would light up according to the moves each player would make. They also had a game of Jenga and a nearby fire pit for making s’mores.

Past the games was another inviting building, where families could do a free craft with their child (or just do it themselves because it was fun). When we went, my kids made a butterfly that had a glowstick inside, which was perfect for when we got back outside.

In the same room, there was an animal storytime, “Storytime at Woodland Cove”, a set-up of deer and bears and squirrels that all talked (think a Disney ride but without any actual ride) and told a story of a baby bear going through his first winter alone.

On our way back through the exhibit outside, we happened to come across a train exhibit, which was fun to watch. We saw it atop the bridge that led to the big Christmas tree-like light display, but you could walk down below and see the trains up close as well. My oldest wanted to go to see, as did I, but my youngest was reaching her breaking point so we had to head out. Next time!

Winter Lights

Making The Trip To Asheville, NC

The NC Arboretum is just over an hour from Greenville. There are nearby restaurants that are great for families if you want to eat before you go. I was given the recommendation to go Papas & Beer, which is five minutes from the Arboretum, and it was awesome.

It’s a late night for little ones but depending on your child’s temperament and mood, they will probably love it. My three-year-old was hitting her limit about an hour and a half into the exhibit so opted to head out.

There were a bunch of families, children, couples, and grandparents all enjoying the exhibit. One dad even had on a hiking backpack where he stowed his smaller child. Smart thinking.

To enjoy as much of the exhibit as possible, try to get there when it opens at 6 pm. You’ll have to show your tickets and park, which takes about 20-25 minutes, and then you have the rest of the time to wander around the exhibit and enjoy the magical experience.

2023 Winter Lights Ticket Info & FAQ

  • DATES
    November 17th, 2023 – December 31st, 2023
  • HOURS
    The gates open for the Winter Lights Display at 6:00 PM. Tickets are timed and guests may enter anytime between the time on their ticket and 9 pm. All guests must be off the property by 10:30 pm. Don’t not arrive early and block the gate.
  • TICKETS
    Tickets for a standard passenger vehicle range in price from $40-$70 per car when purchased in advance. Peak days will be priced at a premium. All the pricing details can be found on the NC Arboretum Winter Lights Ticket page If you have your ticket on your smartphone, take a screenshot before you arrive. Cell service is limited at the ticket gate.
  • North Carolina Arboretum Winter Lights -100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC | 828.665.2492

Know Before You Go

  • Animals are not allowed in the Arboretum and food and drink cannot be brought in either.
  • Bathrooms are in the main lodge entrance building, near the Wishing Tree in the bonsai garden, and in the building where the restaurant and crafts are located.

Visit Bryson City, NC for the Holidays

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Are you searching for Bryson City holiday things to do? Most known for the Polar Express, there is so much more than just the train ride to do and explore in this friendly mountain town. Bryson City, NC also has a drive-thru light show, outdoor ice skating, delicious food, and much more! 

Looking for more holiday day trip ideas? Be sure to check out our festive guide!

Bryson City: A Real-Life Christmas Wonderland 

Bryson City is a quaint, peaceful mountain town along the Great Smoky Mountains. Just a quick 3 to 4 hour drive from Columbia, SC, this makes for the perfect weekend getaway. During winter each year, Bryson City transforms into a real-life Christmas wonderland with beautiful decor, twinkling lights, and Christmas magic all around. My family took a quick 1-night trip to the mountains and we spent one of our evenings exploring Bryson City. I left wishing we would have had more time to spend and know we will definitely be returning! 

Tree farms in Bryson City, NC

Things to do in Bryson City, NC for the Holidays

Take a Ride on the Polar Express 

One of the most popular things to do in Bryson City over the holidays is the Polar Express Train Ride! My family recently got to experience this magical event and both of my kids (ages 4 and 1) absolutely loved it. Be sure to check out the Kidding Around Pplar Express review for more tips and info! 

Bryson City Polar Express

Explore the Smoky Mountain Train Museum 

The train museum sits right next to the railroad tracks and is a great place to pass the time while waiting to board a train ride! Inside the museum, there is a huge display of model trains that are so fascinating to watch! My son loved pointing out all of the detailed features he saw. With a train ticket, entrance into the museum is free! 

Along with the model train display, the museum also offers a large gift shop area with plenty of trinkets and souvenirs. 

Smoky Mountain Train Museum

Smoky Mountain Rail

Go Outdoor Ice Skating

Outdoor ice skating is such a fun, classic winter activity! Unfortunately, on the evening we were there, the ice rink was not open, but now that I know it’s there we will be sure to plan accordingly for future visits. Along with ice skating, there is also a food truck and full-time bar. For $20 per person you will get 1 hour of skating time, skate rentals (smallest size is youth size 9), and 1 hot chocolate! Hours are as follows:

  • Thursdays and Fridays from 4 pm to 8 pm beginning November 17th, 2023
  • Saturdays and Sundays from 1 pm to 8 pm beginning November 19th, 2023

The Yard Ice Skating

Bryson City shops

Visit the Local Shops 

With so many locally-owned shops and businesses to choose from, picking a favorite would be hard! We popped into a few and really enjoyed all of the Christmas shops. We purchased an ornament from Uncle Bunky’s Christmas Cottage where they also had tons of holiday decor, small toys, sweet treats, etc. Loose Moose is another great gift store with lots of unique items to choose from. 

Madison’s on Main and Humanite Boutique are both great options for trendy women’s clothing! There are also several antique stores around that are always fun to browse through – you never know what you might find! 

Enjoy a Tasty Sweet Treat 

If you’re anything like me, the sweet tooth is at an all-time high throughout the holidays. The good news is, Bryson City has so many opportunities for delicious treats! After our ride on the Polar Express we stopped into the Heavenly Fudge Depot and let me just say, it lived up to its name! The peanut butter fudge from here was divine. They also had several festive sweet treats for kids – chocolate “believe” tickets and trains, cookies, bite-sized sweets, and more! 

The Chocolate Shoppe, Soda Pop’s Ice Cream, and Pop-N-Jacks Gourmet Popcorn are also great options to cure the sweet tooth! The popcorn from Pop-N-Jacks can even be brought onto the Polar Express with you and smells so good. I’m a little upset we didn’t stop in and give them a try, too! 

Take Festive Pictures 

Still need a family pic for this year’s Christmas card? There are tons of great holiday photo-ops everywhere you look in Bryson City! From the large, lit-up Christmas tree in the middle of the plaza to stationary train carts, a tractor, and more, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for family photos. 

Get Your Live Christmas Tree 

While there are no Christmas tree farms in Bryson City, there are several to choose from nearby. During our trip, we chose to get our tree at Smoky Mountain Tree Farm. They had a large variety of trees to choose from and even some that you could cut down yourself. The big red barn and beautiful Smoky Mountain scenery made for great pictures as well! 

There are two other tree farms within a few minutes of Smoky Mountain Tree Farm: Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm and Mehaffey Tree Farm. Boyd Mountain Farm has several log cabins available for families to stay in as well as stocked fishing ponds, 4 miles of hiking trails, biking, and more!  

Christmas Tree Farm

Have you ever been to Bryson City during the holidays? What is your favorite thing to do?

The Annual Cashiers, NC Christmas Parade Is A Perfect Day Trip This Holiday Season

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Love a small-town Christmas parade? Head to Cashiers, NC for Christmas this year! Celebrating in the mountains for the Cashiers Christmas Parade sounds like a great day trip from the Upstate!

As much as we love being in Greenville for the holidays, there are just some events that prove to be too much for the younger kids, one example being the Poinsettia Christmas Parade. Between finding parking downtown, getting there early enough to get a good spot, keeping the kids occupied until the parade starts, and then managing the hungry little guys upon getting home late, parade day could be extremely taxing on this mom’s holiday spirit!

I can’t exactly remember how we first heard about our new holiday tradition, but our Christmas in the Upstate now includes a trip to the mountains for the Cashiers Christmas Parade!

Be sure to check out our guide to the holidays for more fun things to do during Christmas near Greenville, SC.

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Tis the Season of Awesome: Christmas in Hendersonville, NC

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If you’re ready for a little fa la la la boost of holiday spirit, the events celebrating Christmas in Hendersonville, NC should do the trick. The Hendersonville, NC Christmas parade is one of the most festive we’ve been to, and the rest of the town’s holiday events are loaded with fun and cheer.

Our list includes some of the very best Christmas Hendersonville, NC events and our all-time favorites. Most of these events and things to do are actually totally free, so they’ll be easy on your budget. Here’s your guide to celebrating Christmas in Hendersonville, NC.



Christmas: Hendersonville, NC

The Big Events: Christmas, Hendersonville, NC

Hendersonville really turns up the Christmas charm every year. This year, their season is Home for the Holidays and they are loaded up on free, family fun, beautiful downtown decorations, and lots of lights. Christmas is gorgeous up here, and these events are 100% worth the drive for locals and visitors alike.

Hendersonville Christmas Tree Lighting

Hendersonville Courthouse: November 24th, 2023, 5 to 8 pm

Kicking things off, it’s the Christmas Tree Lighting on November 24th, 2023 from 5 to 8 pm. Santa will arrive with Mrs. Claus to light the tree at about 6 pm. Kids will get to visit with Santa for free after he’s lit the tree, and there will also be free carriage rides. Downtown Hendersonville is beautiful at Christmas, and we can’t think of a more festive way to say hello to the Christmas season.

December 1st Holds a BIG Holiday Celebration in Hendersonville

Downtown Hendersonville, North Carolina

What comes to mind when you think of a holiday Christmas small-town celebration? Whatever just popped into your head, it’s probably happening on December 1st, 2023 in Hendersonville. There are several simultaneous events and happenings occurring all along Main Street and most of it will be free. From an Old Fashioned Christmas with songs and shopping, to visits with Santa, cookies, cocoa, and carriage rides, you’ll find it all in Downtown Hendersonville.

  • Santa Claus in the Square: Bring your camera and take a free photo with Santa. You’ll also get to enjoy hot cocoa, games, and crafts. You’ll find Santa in front of the courthouse from 5 pm to 8 pm
  • Live holiday performances, carolers, and festive music spread throughout Downtown Hendersonville
  • Holiday Shopping: Tonight the shops are open late, so feel free to wander amongst the twinkling lights and holiday music while you find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list
  • Free Carriage rides: Enjoy an Old Fashioned Christmas favorite and take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage down the beautifully lit and decorated Main Street. Rides begin at Historic Courthouse Plaza

The Hendersonville, NC Christmas Parade Might Be My Favorite Ever

Downtown Hendersonville, NC
December 2nd, 2023, 6 pm

If you are in need of Christmas cheer and you can only go to one event all season, the Downtown Hendersonville Christmas Parade should probably be that one event. Everyone from high school marching bands, to the fire department, the local plumber, and the llama farm come out to celebrate the season together with a giant parade, full of lights, floats, music, and more. You’ll get Christmas spirit thrown at you no matter where you look, in the best possible way. Of course, the parade ends with the final float carrying Santa straight from the North Pole.

See Santa Hendersonville NC

Parent Tips for the Hendersonville, NC Christmas Parade

  1. Check the weather and dress warm if needed. We were pretty chilly last year. Especially if you’re coming from a town in nearby Upstate, SC, don’t forget that it’s colder in Hendersonville.
  2. Arrive early for a good seat along Main Street. Pick up something delicious to eat and enjoy while you’re sitting out along the street waiting for the parade to start. Black Bear Coffee and Mike’s on Main are two good places to grab a bite to eat to go.
  3. Of course you could also bring a picnic dinner and a thermos full of cocoa to enjoy while you wait!
  4. Bring a bag for candy passed out during the parade.

Linda’s Plants and Shrubs

We were visiting Linda’s and saw them setting up their 2023 Christmas Haybale maze! Check back soon for dates and details. In the meantime, you can read all about last year’s holiday maze at Linda’s Plants and Shrubs.

Play space in the Christmas Maze at Linda's

Awesome & Free Things to Do for Christmas: Hendersonville, NC

One of the things I absolutely love about Hendersonville is all the free things to do any time of the year. But at Christmas time, they really take the cake. We’ve already covered the free opportunities to see Santa and carriage rides, but there’s so much more!

December 2nd, 2023 Free pictures with Santa at Ace Hardware. We LOVE free pictures with Santa and this time he’ll be at Carolina Ace Hardware with Paula Roberts Photography for FREE photos, plus cookies, cider and candy canes. Visit Santa between 11 am and 2 pm.

December 2nd and 3rd, 2023, Go skating for free! And that includes the skate rentals. It’s an iceless rink that allows for skating no matter the weather. Find it at 85 Howard Gap Road in Fletcher. The rink will be open from 3 to 6 pm on the 2nd and from 1 to 4 pm on the 3rd. December 2nd will also have a festival event including vendors, live music, and inflatables.

December 16th, 2023, Mountain Fresh Orchards is bringing their Apple Express Train downtown for free Holly Jolly Train Rides down Main Street. In addition to the holiday train rides, the orchard will also have their delicious baked goods available for sale. Hop aboard the train at the Courthouse Square in Downtown Hendersonville.

December 22nd, 2023, Christmas Sing Along at The Buzz. The Apple Country String Band will be at The Buzz playing all your favorite Christmas songs and everyone is invited to sing along. If you’ve never visited The Buzz, this sober bar and coffee shop offers unique mocktails and lots of delicious coffee beverages in an alcohol-free environment. They’re on our list of favorite coffee shops in Hendersonville, NC.

November 24th through December 31st, 2023, Visit Marked Tree Vineyards for free holiday lights and decorations. You can hike or drive through the lights at the vineyard for free. You can also enjoy their Wine with Winter Wonder series of live holiday music on Saturday nights. Reservations are recommended for the live music events. Visit the Marked Tree Vineyards website for information closer to December.
623 Deep Gap Road, Flat Rock

All holiday season: Find the Peppermint Bears in Downtown Hendersonville. Visit the Hendersonville Welcome Center to pick up a brochure and then get hunting through Henersonville’s downtown businesses. Once you find at least 12 bears, you can bring your brochure back to the visitors center and drop it in the mailbox to win a prize.

November 24th, 2023- January 7th, 2024: E.L.F’s Holiday Light Show offers a free family holiday light show annually. This year they are taking donations for the Blue Ridge Humane Society. This family has been running these light shows in Hendersonville since 2019 and is bringing new lights and props to the show in 2023.

Worth the Drive: More Christmas Fun Near Hendersonville

Winter Lights – This popular light show at the NC Arboretum in Asheville is a walk-through light experience unlike any other! The show runs from November 17, 2023 – December 31, 2023 nightly from 6 pm – 10:30 pm.

2023 Festival of Trees Greenville, SC: Come see the holiday trees on display from November 17th through December 25th, 2023 at the Hyatt Regency Downtown, the Courtyard Greenville Downtown, and the Hampton Inn & Suites River Place.

St. Francis Festival of Trees at the Hyatt

You Can Hike With Llamas at Earthshine Lodge

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If your family needs a break, head to the mountains for a chance to hike with llamas at Earthshine Lodge! Kidding Around Greenville contributor Liene visited a retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her family, and found the llama hike to be an enthralling experience – one of many experiences Earthshine Lodge has to offer! Find out about the llamas, the Earthshine Lodge property, and their upcoming holiday event that includes brunch with Santa. Get ready for a great time!

Media tickets were provided for this review, but opinions are solely those of the author.

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Celebrate the Season With Your Family: Holiday Day Trips Near Upstate, SC

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Searching for “Christmas day trips near me”? Or maybe you’re interested in taking a trip out of Greenville to enjoy the holiday spirit? There are a bunch of places you can head for the weekend or just the day to enjoy some holiday fun away from the Upstate.

Check out our list of popular destinations for day trips during the holiday season. From train rides to giant light displays and towns all decked out for Christmas, there are some fantastic ideas on this list!

Christmas Day Trips from Greenville


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30+ Best Christmas Towns in the South for a Festive Holiday Season

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Are you looking for the best Christmas towns in the South to visit over the holidays? Southern states are loaded with festive celebrations and unique holiday traditions from the mountains and foothills to coastal beach town celebrations. We gathered an awesome list of over 20 festive Christmas towns in South Carolina. But, we didn’t stop there! North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee also have some amazing towns for Christmas celebrations. Many include everything from horse carriage rides and traditional downtowns to historic Christmas home tours.



Celebrate the holiday season at any of these southern Christmas towns. While you’ll rarely find a white Christmas here in the South, that doesn’t mean you can’t strap on those ice skates and head into a Southern winter wonderland.

Fill up on holiday spirit with light displays, Christmas carols, and a tree lighting ceremony. Now is the perfect time of year for a small-town Christmas or a giant city celebration with twinkling lights. Get that Christmas spirit bubbling at one of these southern Christmas towns.

Holiday and Christmas day trips

Looking for a short trip?

Make the season even more memorable with a holiday day trip to one of these towns!

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