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Posts Tagged ‘WNC’

SUMMER FUN: Kids Ride Free on this Scenic Bryson City Train Ride in the Great Smoky Mountains

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The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has an excellent summertime deal for taking a scenic train ride out of the historic depot in North Carolina’s Bryson City. Train lovers, this is your chance to take the little ones in your family on an adventure, for much cheaper. Kids ride free on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad out of downtown Bryson City, NC this summer! The depot is only about two hours from Greenville, SC and you can stay overnight in the North Carolina mountains or do a day trip.

Great Smoky Mountain Trail: Summer Kids Ride Free

I always thought there was something oh-so-romantic about riding an old steam locomotive train. Maybe it’s just because it’s not something we do often in today’s modern world or that the old photos of these trains often had women with beautiful, full dresses and lace umbrellas and boots – something I always thought was pretty cool.

While I don’t have a hoop skirt – and won’t anytime soon – luckily you don’t need one to ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. This is the same Bryson City train that does the Polar Express during the Christmas season. We’ve got all the details on a pretty awesome deal they have for families over the summer though!

Kids Ride Free on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

During the summertime, they are offering a pretty amazing deal: they are offering a free child’s ticket (ages 2-12) with every Adult ticket purchased all summer on trains that run Monday – Friday. Coach tickets are only available for this promotion, so first-class cars will not be available for this deal. Tickets can be purchased by phone only.

Tickets are valid on one of the two scenic general excursions in Standard Coach – either the Diesel locomotive power on Tuckasegee River or Nantahala Gorge. The trains leave out of the depot in downtown Bryson City. Ticket purchases can be made to ride May 1, 2024- August 31, 2024. Tickets for Kids Ride Free can’t be combined with other discounts, are subject to blackout dates, and aren’t available for special event trains. However, you will be able to access the train museum with your ticket, which kids love! Also, ask about their boxed lunches deals as well when you call to book!

All discounts are only available by phone. Contact 800-872-4681 to complete your Kids Ride Free purchase.

The Bryson City Train Ride Through the Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains rail has 53 miles of railroad to traverse, but not every excursion uses all of those miles. There are also two tunnels and 25 bridges. Train rides roll through the majestic mountains and river gorges in an unforgettable trip. Some of the more affordable tickets even have an open-air car for the scenic train ride, with options to upgrade to coach and first class available. These Bryson City train rides are certain to make lots of memories.

The Nantahala Gorge Excursion takes guests over 44 miles to the Nantahala Gorge and back. Scenic views are plenty on this trip. You’ll see the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers and travel across Fontana Lake surrounded by the mountains. This trip is 4.5 hours long and a Standard Coach Adult ticket starts at $58.

The Tuckasegee River Excursion is a little shorter at 32 miles round trip and four hours total. Guests will see vast meadows and old railroad towns as they travel along the Tuckasegee River. Plus, you’ll pass by the set of The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford during this train ride. A Standard Coach Adult ticket starts at $58.

To purchase your tickets, call 800.872.4681 to utilize the Kids Ride Free deal.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
45 Mitchell Street, Bryson City, NC 28713

Where to Stay Near the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Use the map below to find the perfect place to stay near the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Through an affiliate relationship with Stay22, Kidding Around earns when you book through this map.

More places to stay

There are plenty of cool places to stay in the area but we recommend Sky Ridge Yurts, a beautiful little village of comfortable and spacious yurts about 20 minutes from the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad and on the edge of the Nantahala forest.

Sky Ridge Yurt interior pictures
Interior of Yurt at Sky Ridge Yurts

Or if you really want a memorable experience, stay in a renovated 1960s caboose at Buffalo Creek Vacations– on a bison farm! It sleeps five people and has a full bathroom, kitchen, and living area. Plus, it has bison that freely roam the property.

Caboose rentals in North Carolina
Caboose rentals at Buffalo Creek Vacations

Other Things to Do in Bryson City

In Bryson City, train culture is huge. But so is the great outdoors! Bryson City, NC is a beautiful spot with lots to do but during the summer, there is almost an endless number of things to do with your family.

The Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) is fantastic for families. You can go whitewater rafting down the Nantahala River there (kids need to be at least 7 years old and 60 pounds), which is quite the adventure and something the Nantahala Outdoor Center is known for. But if you have smaller kids, you can also go tubing and enjoy the area. Next to the restaurant is a shallow area of the river perfect for wading as well. You can also pick up part of the Appalachian Trail there if you want to try it out.

Learn More in our KA Review of the
Nantahala Outdoor Center

Nantahalla outdoor center water fun

You can also go tubing at Deep Creek which is at the entrance on the North Carolina side of the Smoky Mountains. There are several outfitters that offer cheap options for tubing. Or you could bring your own tubes, drive into the park, and follow the crowd to where most people put their tubes. There aren’t really any rapids so it’s great for smaller kids but it’s really cold!

Tubing at Deep Creek

Tubing Down Deep Creek, NC
Everything You Need to Know!

Another great tubing spot is in nearby Cherokee, NC at Smoky Mountain Tube & Raft. Ages 5 and up are able to tube.

You can also hike the Deep Creek Loop at the same entrance to the park, a trail that has three waterfalls. It’s an easy hike about two miles long.

If you love animals, history, and natural beauty, you may get a glimpse of the elk at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, about a 30-minute drive from Bryson City. There is an interesting homestead you can tour there and be sure to do the Junior Ranger Program at the visitor’s center. Elk are there usually in the mornings and late afternoon.

Also in nearby Cherokee, NC, Mingo Falls is a beautiful waterfall to see. It’s a really short hike, just a third of a mile, but it does have a lot of steps. The falls are worth it!


Are you ready for your Bryson City train ride adventure?

Tryon International Equestrian Center Saturday Night Lights: The Cheap Event You Should Not Miss

Up for a cheap new adventure only a short drive from Greenville, SC that the whole family will love? Tryon International Equestrian Center is only an hour or so from Greenville and a unique experience you will look forward to visiting again and again! We’ll fill you in on where this hidden secret is, what they offer and why you should visit!

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Team ECCO: Don’t Miss This Pint-Sized Powerhouse Aquarium in Hendersonville, NC

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Did you know Hendersonville, NC has an aquarium? Team ECCO Aquarium and Shark Lab is located right on Main Street in Downtown Hendersonville, NC. Squeezed in beside stores, restaurants, and coffee shops, Team ECCO ‘s footprint may be small, but the education squished between those walls is massive. The aquarium’s true charm is in interactive experiences led by its knowledgeable volunteers. Here’s a bit about our visit to Team ECCO, plus everything you need to know to plan your family’s visit.

Team Ecco Charlotte the sting ray, Hendersonville, NC
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Lots of Winter Family Fun at Black Bear Snow Tubing in Hendersonville, NC

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Are you thinking about snow tubing at Black Bear Snow Tubing in Hendersonville, NC? Western North Carolina has great snow tubing and Black Bear Snow Tubing is a stellar option for families! They have a huge mountain to get your winter in high gear with a fun snow tubing trip for the whole family! We took a trip up to try out that snow-tubing mountain and it was so much fun! Now we have all the details to share so you can plan your trip!

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

Snow tubing at Black Bear in Hendersonville, NC

While there aren’t any places to snow tube in the Upstate, SC, there are definitely options nearby and one of them is Black Bear Snow Tubing in nearby Hendersonville, NC, just over an hour from Greenville, SC. The snow tubing family-owned operation has been in business for over seven years and they really have a good thing going there, which I’m going to tell you all about in this story.

Scenes From the Slope

Take a sneak peek at this video at Black Bear Snow Tubing.

Snow Tubing at Black Bear

The slope at Black Bear Snow Tubing is 600 feet long with an 80-foot drop and it’s pretty fast. They make their own snow (unless they get a big snowstorm, which doesn’t happen too often) and the hill is well-maintained by their attentive staff.

How it works is that when you get to Black Bear, you go to a little shed to watch a short safety video, where you learn how to get out of your tube on the run and not to start snowball fights, sign a waiver, and head inside the cozy lodge to pay. Then you get your tubes and head to the hill.

They have a pulley system to get you to the top of the hill, which works by slipping the handle of your tube on a cable that takes you, while sitting inside your tube, right up the hill to the top. Once at the top, you’ll wait for a few minutes before being situated into your group by the staff and then sliding down the hill.

On the snow tube pully at Black Bear in Hendersonville, NC
Black Bear Snow Tubing Pulley System

Why Black Bear is Different

I’ve snow tubed at many places in our area and I think Black Bear Snow Tubing is pretty fantastic. Here’s why:

  • You can (and should) make a reservation ahead of time, which is crucial for us in Greenville who need to travel out of state to go snow tubing. It’s quite a bummer to get to our snow tubing place and either find out that they are sold out or having to wait hours for an open slot.
  • The staff is attentive and efficient. They were always around watching the hill to make sure things were running smoothly and safely. When there was a slight backup at the top of the hill, they figured out how to manage to get us all down the hill and back up to keep snow tubing without interruption.
  • The lodge is super cozy and warm and has reasonable concessions. I got a $2 hot chocolate and it was amazing. Plus, they have food, including apple cider donuts, that is affordable and you can get warm by the wood-burning stove inside or watch on the deck if you don’t want to go tubing.
  • The setup takes into account smaller kids. There is playground next to the place where you wait in line to go up the hill so smaller kids can get out their energy and there is a big fire pit also near the waiting area where you can warm up.
  • If you forgot a hat or gloves, they have them for sale inside the lodge. I feel like us parents can relate when our kid gets out of the car to go snow tubing and forgot his or her winter hat.
  • The check-in is fast. This is important because you want to get on the hill and start having fun as soon as possible!
  • Black Bear has excellent communication. They post daily on their Facebook page about current snow conditions, which is super helpful when you’re unsure about the weather.
  • The snow is real. They don’t have any synthetic chemicals in the snow – it’s the real deal.

My kids, ages 11 and 8, and I had such a blast snow tubing at Black Bear Snow Tubing. We went down the hill about 10 times (maybe more, I lost count honestly) and had so much fun together. I really love places where adults can carelessly be kids again. My kids are already asking to go back. The hill was super fast and seeing my kids faces light up with joy was special. I love those moments.

Tips on How to Enjoy Snow Tubing at Black Bear

Winter being winter, it’s usually cold when you go snow tubing. I’ve found that bringing hand and foot warmers is a really good trick to keeping everyone warm and comfortable. You can get them at Wal-Mart, Amazon, or most drug stores and they stay warm for hours.

Sliding down in a tube at Black Bear Tubing

It’s also really important to make a reservation when you know you want to go snow tubing. This is especially true during school breaks and holidays. Snow tubing is an awesome family activity on a day off but a lot of people also have the same thought. Don’t forget to make a reservation.

You don’t need to wear snow bibs or snow pants. I had on fleece leggings, hiking boots, and a couple layers of tops with a heavy coat (it was really cold when we went!) and I was fine. I saw people wearing all kinds of clothes that worked for them like pants, leggings, jeans, and sweatpants. The snow wasn’t wet at all when we went but if you go on a warmer day, you may want to bring a change of pants in case they get wet.

There are port-a-potties outside the lodge to use and no bathrooms indoors.

Double-check Black Bear’s Facebook page before heading out. Snow tubing is very dependent on weather, which changes often in the mountains. They will post current conditions and if they are open or closed most days.

Ticket Prices and Policies at Black Bear Snow Tubing

Tickets are $30/hour or $40/two hours for snow tubing. Kids must be 4 years old in order to go snow tubing. You can either sign a waiver when you get to Black Bear Snow Tubing or print one out online ahead of time. Either is fine.

While Black Bear Snow Tubing does take walk-ups, it is much better to make a reservation ahead of time instead of getting there and finding out they are full. Online reservations are fantastic for this very reason so definitely make use of them.

And be sure to check Black Bear Snow Tubing’s Facebook page before heading out to double check they are open and running. Winter tubing runs mid-December through February usually depending on the weather, of course.

And if you want to tube during other times of the year, you totally can! They have warm-weather tubing in the fall.

Black Bear Snow Tubing
373 Kerr Road, Hendersonville, NC
828.685.1155

Want to spend the day in Hendersonville? We’ve got lots of ideas on what to do in this fun town!

Things to Do in Hendersonville, North Carolina

Hendersonville is full of family fun.
Check it out!

Kidding Around Guide to Hendersonville

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?

10+ Ways To Celebrate Christmas In Asheville, NC

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If you are planning a festive day trip, then Christmas in Asheville, NC will check off all the boxes on your itinerary! Asheville, North Carolina offers a variety of things to do for the holidays, from Christmas lights to gingerbread houses, parades, and more!

We’ve got a list of kid-friendly holiday events to do in Asheville, NC, and all the details you’ll need to plan your visit.

Christmas activities in Asheville, North Carolina

Christmas in Asheville, NC

I never need much of a reason to visit Asheville. I love the view of the mountains in the background while walking around downtown. There is always live music by musicians busking outside and all the shops welcome you with a smile. There are a variety of different restaurants and historical landmarks to visit within walking distance or just a small drive away. Plus, with the gorgeous backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, maybe you’re family will get a magical snowy adventure while you celebrate the holiday season in Asheville.

Watch A Holiday Parade To Kickoff The Season

Get in the holiday spirit by watching a Holiday Parade. Everyone gathers together to welcome the beginning of the holiday season.

The Asheville Holiday Parade
November 18th, 2023 | 11 AM to 12:30 PM, with streets closing and traffic beginning around 7 AM
Downtown Asheville will have a variety of streets closed for this event, but come early and you can snag a spot along the one-mile route. There will be over 100 entries to enjoy as they travel down the main part of town. The parade starts at Biltmore Avenue and travels up, ending at South French Broad Avenue. There will be photos with Santa at the Restoration Hotel from 2 pm to 4 pm following the parade.


Attend A Tree Lighting Ceremony or Festival In Asheville

The Grove Arcade Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony is the place to be the weekend after Thanksgiving. In addition, the Ingles Giving Tree lighting ceremony is always spectacular! You can also explore the decorated Christmas trees throughout December at the Monte Vista Hotel.

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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 8th Holds a BIG Holiday Celebration in Hendersonville

Downtown Hendersonville, North Carolina
Old Fashioned Christmas has been postponed to December 8th, 2023 (from December 1st)

What comes to mind when you think of a holiday Christmas small-town celebration? Whatever just popped into your head, it’s probably happening 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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