Thanksgiving is just around the corner (tomorrow, actually!) and there is so much to be thankful for this year. In Western North Carolina, the fall season shined brightly with beautiful, colorful foliage, and Asheville kicked off the holiday season last weekend with its 73rd annual Asheville Holiday Parade and the unveiling of the city’s Local Lights holiday light display in Pack Square Park. Now that the holidays are officially here, you may find yourself looking for things to do during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend and beyond. Check out our “must do’s” in Asheville and Western North Carolina for this Thanksgiving weekend.

1.) Experience Asheville’s Brightest Holiday Tradition

Burn off those Thanksgiving calories while making holiday memories at The North Carolina Arboretum’s Winter Lights holiday light show, open nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. through January 4. Visitors are invited to walk through the Arboretum’s nationally known gardens and see unique displays and landscapes covered in more than half-a-million holiday lights. Perfect for the entire family, Winter Lights includes interactive games, a giant 50-foot animated tree, lighted Quilt Garden, fire pits and more. Tickets are date- and time-specific and can be purchase online here. Note: Sell outs are likely to occur during the holiday weekend, so be sure to buy your tickets well in advance.

2.) Go Green on Black Friday

Go “green” on Black Friday by heading outside and supporting a great cause. The Adventure Center of Asheville will be hosting its annual Green Friday event on Friday, November 29. Up to 50 percent of all revenue generated from Green Friday will be donated to environmental or sustainable programs and projects in the Asheville and Western North Carolina region. 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. Since its inception, 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!

Looking for more outdoor “green” adventures? The North Carolina Arboretum offers more than 10 miles of hiking and biking trails throughout its 434-acre campus located in Pisgah National Forest. The property will be opening during the day on from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the holiday weekend, including Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Please click here for building hours and holiday parking fees.

3.) Support Small Businesses Downtown

Western North Carolina is home to many local galleries, bookstores and shops, specializing in unique, homemade crafts, artwork, designs and décor. Downtown Asheville alone houses more than 200 locally owned shops, galleries and antique stores. Celebrate “Small Business Saturday” on November 30 by heading downtown to meet dozens of artists, craftspeople and owners who have truly shaped the character of Asheville.

If you need a break from the stores, check out Pack Square Park and view the magical Local Lights display downtown in Pack Square. In its fourth year, the Arboretum has partnered with the City of Asheville, the Asheville Downtown Association and the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to create a magical nighttime holiday light display centered around the Vance Monument area of Pack Square Park. Don’t miss the display’s iconic lighted “star flake” situated on top of the Hoss Haley Fountain.

4.) Be A Patron during Museum Store Weekend

Knock out some holiday shopping while supporting your local cultural institution or museum as part of Museum Store Sunday – an annual event and shopping campaign that encourages consumers to consciously contribute to each museum and cultural institution’s future sustainability and success by shopping local during the holiday season. On Saturday, November 30, and Sunday, December 1, seven museum stores in and around Asheville, including The North Carolina Arboretum, the Asheville Art Museum, the Asheville Museum of Science, Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, the Moogseum, the WNC Nature Center and the Vance Birthplace, will be hosting a special Museum Store Weekend “Passport Program.” Members and visitors can travel around the Asheville area with their museum “passport” and redeem the listed discounts and promotions for each institution, including free parking at the Arboretum on Sunday, December 1, and 25% off all items at the Arboretum gift shops for both days. In addition, participants who earn four stamps at a location outside of downtown Asheville can earn a free Kamibashi string doll and also enter to win a gift basket worth more than $200. Passports can be picked up from participating stores or printed off the Arboretum website

5.) Go Crazy for Cookies at the National Gingerbread House Competition

Did someone say cookie? You will find plenty of these spicy holiday treats at the Omni Grove Park Inn’s 27th annual National Gingerbread House Competition. Gingerbread entries from around the world will be on display through January 4, ranging from sugary castles to rustic, edible cabins. A minimum $25 parking charge will apply to all non-hotel guests and parking may reach capacity on busy days. Half of each parking charge collected this season will be returned to the community in support of various local non-profit organizations.

Best wishes to all for a wonderful holiday weekend!