The holidays are here in Western North Carolina and with that comes food, family, friendship and…free time! After the turkey has been carved and the pie has been sliced, you may find yourself looking for things to do with loved ones for the rest of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. If you are local staying put or visiting from out of town, check out the following list of Thanksgiving weekend “must do’s” in Asheville and Western North Carolina.

1.) Shop local downtown

With turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie oftentimes comes a side of post-Thanksgiving shopping sprees and sales. While there may be plenty of online deals and specials, some of the best finds can be found just minutes away. Get out the house this weekend and head to downtown Asheville where you can browse through more than 200 locally owned shops, galleries and antique stores. Meet dozens of artists, craftspeople and owners who have truly shaped the character of Asheville. Plus, many of the items are handcrafted and can’t be found anywhere else.

winterlightsdowntownIf you need a break from the stores, check out Pack Square Park and view the magical display of Winter Lights Downtown. This year, the Arboretum partnered with the City of Asheville to create a new nighttime holiday light display centered around the Vance Monument and Hoss Haley fountain area of Pack Square Park. Brightly colored lights are carefully placed to illuminate the park’s trees, while hundreds of strands of LED lights drop down the tree’s branches to create an illusion of falling snow. Winter Lights Downtown is on display nightly through January 1, 2017.

2.) Home for the holidays in Hendersonville

Approximately 25 miles south of downtown Asheville, you can find dozens of holiday activities in the quaint town of Hendersonville. While small in size, this mountain town has a BIG holiday spirit. Throughout November and December, there are a wide variety of celebrations and events being held in honor of the holiday season, including a greenery market, hot chocolate workshop and merchant decorating contest. Don’t miss the downtown street lighting and Santa arrival on November 25 starting at 6:30 p.m. or the Curb Market’s Old-timey Christmas Celebration on November 26 from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays through January 1, locals and visitors also have the opportunity to take a holly, jolly trolley ride to the Arboretum’s Winter Lights show. The Winter Lights Holiday Tour is a specialty-ticketed event and reservations must be made in advance by visiting or calling 828-606-8608.(The trolley tour option is also available from downtown Asheville.)

 3.) Give Back on Green Friday

If the long shopping lines of Black Friday aren’t your cup of tea, then head over to the Adventure Center of Asheville for their sixth annual Green Friday event. Fifty percent of all revenue generated on Friday, November 25, will be donated to environmental non-profit organizations, including Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), RiverLink, TreesGreenville, Walhalla Heritage Oaks, the Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River and the Arbor Source hemlock treatment programs. Children four and over can zipline at the KidZip or climb at one of the Treetop Park locations. Participants ages 10 and over are eligible to enjoy one of the center’s Zipline Canopy Tours. To date, the Adventure Center’s Green Friday has generated more than $10,000 in donations to plant trees and improve green spaces in the community. Now that’s a cause to “zip” about!

4.) Winter Lights

WinterLights2016_QuiltGarden_webWalk off those Thanksgiving calories at The North Carolina Arboretum’s Winter Lights holiday light display. Open nightly from 6 – 10 p.m. through January 1, this three-acre outdoor walking self-guided tour of the Arboretum gardens includes uniquely lit displays and landscapes dressed in nearly 500,000 energy-efficient LED holiday lights. From a 50-foot animated tree to a lighted Quilt Garden to a special animatronic children’s program, Winter Lights has something for the entire family, no matter what age. Tickets must be purchased in advance via

Do you or your family or friends have any other Thanksgiving weekend activities planned in Asheville or Western North Carolina? Share with us below in the comments field.