The holidays have always been a popular time here in Asheville and WNC. This is when George Vanderbilt officially opened his grand Biltmore Estate to family and friends with a lavish party on Christmas Eve in 1895. That tradition of hospitality continues through the month not only at the Estate but at other attractions and communities throughout the area. Whether you are hosting your own guests or enjoying the holidays with your family on a smaller scale, there is no shortage of holiday activities to discover.  Here are some of our favorites:

1.) See Asheville Sparkle

Asheville’s shops – and streets – are truly decorated in holiday style. For the third year in a row, Pack Square Park is dazzled in color as part of the Local Lights pop-up holiday light display. Produced by The North Carolina Arboretum in collaboration with the City of Asheville, the Asheville Downtown Association, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority and Historic Biltmore Village Association, the Local Lights display is located near the Vance Monument and Hoss Haley fountain area of Pack Square Park and runs through mid-January 2019. This year, the display has also extended into new locations in Pritchard Park and Biltmore Village. Come by one of these charming areas and see Asheville shine!

2.) Experience Asheville’s Brightest Holiday Tradition

Step aside Clark Griswold, The North Carolina Arboretum’s fifth annual Winter Lights holiday light show is a winter wonderland that will surely brighten up your holidays! On display nightly through December 31, from 6 to 10 p.m.,Winter Lights is an outdoor walking tour of the Arboretum’s gardens dressed in more than half-a-million holiday lights. This family-friendly holiday event includes unique holiday displays that change every year, including a 50-foot animated tree, a G-scale (garden scale) model train exhibit, nightly live entertainment, fire pits, festive food and beverages for purchase, crafts and more. Tickets will sell out quickly during the weekends and holidays, so be sure to purchase them well in advance by clicking here.

3.) Shop Local

For those looking to do some last-minute shopping, check out one of America’s first enclosed malls, the Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville. This historic building features dozens of specialty shops, galleries and dining options. During the holidays, the inside is transformed with beautiful seasonal décor. Through January 6, 2019, the Grove Arcade will be filled with jolly gingerbread houses as part of Grove Park Inn’s annual gingerbread competition. Looking to escape from the challenges of downtown parking while seeing Asheville’s beauty? Shop and enjoy nature at The North Carolina Arboretum’s Connections Gallery gift shop. Featuring many locally made items, the gift shop is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and also has a special holiday pop-up shop open daily through the holidays.

4.) See Big Festivities in Some of Western North Carolina’s Smallest Towns

While there may be a plethora of things to do in the Asheville area during the holidays, there are lots of holiday activities going on in the surrounding mountain towns, too. From the Polar Express train in Bryson City to the Aluminum Christmas Tree & Ornament Museum in Brevard, some of Western North Carolina’s tiniest towns show BIG spirit when it comes to holiday-inspired festivities, activities and more. Strap on your skates and hit the ice in downtown Hendersonville at their ice skating rink located on Main Street, which is open through January 1, 2019. To see a full list of WNC’s top 12 Christmas small towns by, please click here.

 5.) Holiday Hikes for the Whole Family

Need to burn some calories after indulging in holiday treats? The Asheville area is full of inspiring hikes that are perfect for the young and old. Just south of Asheville, The North Carolina Arboretum offers more than 10 miles of interconnecting hiking trails suitable for all levels and abilities. The property is open daily from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (except Christmas day) during the holiday season. Buildings and exhibits are closed during the day, December 22, 23, 24 and 26, as well as January 1 (parking fees are waived during these dates).

Whether it’s searching for Christmas lights or getting outside and enjoying Mother Nature, there are a variety of things to see and enjoy this holiday season in Asheville and Western North Carolina. Whichever you choose, we hope that it will make your holiday merry and bright!