Welcome back to the gardens! We are excited to bring back the traditional walking experience – with some changes. While the walk-through is a return to our traditional immersive show (with some new whimsy thrown in!) there are a few changes designed to make Winter Lights 2021 safe, comfortable, fun and festive!

Know Before You Go

  • This year’s  Winter Lights event has been designed with COVID-19 safety in mind. In that spirit, we have made adjustments and improvements, some of which come from our experience with the 2020 drive through show. The per-vehicle ticketing allows our staff to interact with only one person in a car instead of each attendee, and the check in procedure has changed so visitors do not have to gather indoors before experiencing the show. Additionally, there are multiple “starting points” to begin the Winter Lights experience. The Connections Gallery Gift Shop will have two locations, with displays set far enough apart for you to enjoy shopping safely.

    We are pleased to be able to offer an experience with your comfort and safety in mind, and ask that our visitors engage in the following COVID-19 procedures, in accordance with Buncombe County’s resolution:

    • Masks are mandated to be worn indoors at all times by anyone older than the age of five and recommended for persons over the age of two.
    • Masks are recommended outdoors in any instance where social distancing is not possible.

    We want to thank everyone visiting Winter Lights for their help in making the experience safe and comfortable for everyone!

  • To aid the flow of traffic, please plan to approach the event from N.C. 191 South (Brevard Rd.), passing the Asheville Outlets and turning right into the event. We are asking that attendees do not turn left into the event from the Parkway. Detailed instructions will be provided to ticket-holders in advance of the event. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

    Upon arrival at the gate, please have your printed ticket ready to scan. Tickets may also be scanned on a smartphone. The wireless signal near our gate is limited, so if you plan to check in with a digital version of your ticket, please have it pulled up prior to your arrival.

    Best Address for GPS:

    20 Frederick Law Olmsted Way

    Asheville, NC 28806

    Please note: Many GPS units do not correctly identify the Arboretum’s location within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest. If your navigation system directs you to the Arboretum service entrance off Wesley Branch Road, please turn back and follow the road to the traffic light. Turn right (south) onto Brevard Road/Hwy. 191 and continue in the right lane, which will become a turn-only lane. Turn right at the light and the entrance to The North Carolina Arboretum is immediately ahead to the right.

  • All tickets are date and time specific.  Attendees may enter between the time shown on their ticket and 9:00 p.m. when the incoming gates close. Once on property, ticket holders are welcome to stay until the event closes. Please note: incoming gates will close promptly at 9:00 p.m. and the event will end at 10:00 p.m. All guests must be off the property by 10:30 p.m.

    On weekends and around the holidays, we expect the show to be busy, which may result in a wait for some guests. To avoid lines, we recommend that guests arrive later in the evening or join us during the week.

  • Once you have passed through admissions at the gate and parked, you are free to explore Winter Lights! No additional check-in or ticket validation is necessary.


  • Winter Lights tickets are date and time specific and are non-refundable. Only Flex Tickets may be exchanged for different dates or times. All other ticket-types are not exchangeable.

  • Winter Lights will be held rain or shine unless the Arboretum closes for a weather-related emergency. Closures will be announced by 3:00 p.m. on the Arboretum’s website and Facebook page unless circumstances develop later on that warrant a closure after the event opens.

    ***If the Arboretum closes due to a weather-related emergency, all tickets will be refunded for that night.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • We are so appreciative of the turnout in 2020 for our first drive-through Winter Lights, but this year, the show is once again a walk-through experience in and around the gardens.

  • No. Tickets are priced per vehicle, which means everyone in your vehicle can enjoy the show for one ticket.

  • Yes! The Cocoa Shack located in the Gardener’s Shed will sell hot cocoa, alcoholic beverages, and treats. The Bent Creek Bistro, located at the Education Center, will sell small snacks, hot cocoa, alcoholic beverages and s’more kits.

    Please check back closer to the event for details, including the Bent Creek Bistro Winter Lights Menu.


  • Yes! Restrooms will be available in the Baker Visitor Center and Education Center, and there will be portable restrooms available for use.

  • Yes. Winter Lights is designed with accessibility in mind, and displays are best viewed from the paved pathways throughout the gardens. Wheelchairs may be borrowed from the Baker Visitor Center on a first-come first-served basis.

    Click here to view the Winter Lights Accessible Paths Map.

  • No. To keep both visitors and pets safe, pets are not permitted at evening events at the Arboretum.

  • Arboretum Society members receive a $5.00 discount on tickets for all vehicle sizes when they buy in advance. The member discount does not apply to Flex tickets or tickets purchased at the gate on the night of the event.

    Looking for our most affordable ticket? Bronze tier tickets are available on off-peak dates and start at only $30.00 per vehicle.

  • Online, in advance – RECOMMENDED

    The best way to purchase your Winter Lights tickets is in advance online at www.ncwinterlights.com. Email  winterlights@ncarboretum.org for assistance.

    On-site, in advance

    Tickets may be purchased on-site at the gatehouse between 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily, beginning November 1st. There are no discounts for purchasing in-person or for purchases made with cash.

    On-site, during the event

    Once the show opens each night, tickets for that evening’s event may be purchased at the gate between 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. if space allows. In some cases, visitors without pre-purchased tickets may be turned away. Please note, ticket prices increase by $10 at the gate and Member discounts do not apply.

  • Advance tickets are available for each date of the event until the show opens at 6:00 p.m. that night, unless they sell out first.

  • Yes. Tickets may be purchased at the gate between 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. if space allows. In some cases, visitors without pre-purchased tickets may be turned away. Please note, ticket prices increase by $10 at the gate and member discounts do not apply.

    We strongly recommend purchasing your tickets in advance online at www.ncwinterlights.com.



  • Yes. A valid Personal Vehicle ticket will be required in order to gain access to the show. Rideshare services will be allowed entry (without additional passengers) until 9:00 p.m. in order to pick up guests. We recommend scheduling pickups in advance.

  • Yes, ticket prices include all taxes and fees.

  • Tickets for Winter Lights are available in three different tiers: Bronze, Silver and Gold. These tiers reflect peak and off-peak pricing based on historical visitation data. The tiers and per-vehicle pricing allow visitors to pay less by choosing off-peak dates.

  • Personal Vehicle tickets are valid for vehicles up to 20’ in length. This covers nearly every private passenger vehicle. If you can park in a standard parking space, your vehicle falls within this category. For reference, a Suburban SUV is just under 19’ long.


  • Flex Tickets are a great option for attendees who would like the ability to change their ticket date. While all other ticket-types are non-exchangeable, Flex ticket-holders may change the date of their ticket to another non-sold-out night for any reason by contacting Winter Lights guest services at winterlights@ncarboretum.org before 5:00 p.m. on the date shown on their ticket. Flex ticket prices do not vary based on Bronze, Silver, and Gold dates.

    Member discounts do not apply to Flex tickets.

  • Gates open at 6:00 p.m. and the last entry is at 9:00 p.m. Please refrain from lining up early for Winter Lights. Blocking the main gates poses a safety hazard and may inhibit the flow of outgoing traffic as well as traffic on the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance Ramp and N. C. Highway 191 (Brevard Road).

  • On weekends and around the holidays, we expect the show to be busy, which may result in a wait for some guests. Our staff will be working diligently to get folks into the show in an efficient manner, but to avoid lines, we recommend that guests arrive after 7:00 p.m. or join us on non-peak dates


  • Advance ticket sales are limited. In the event that we sell out of advance tickets for a given night, tickets may be purchased at the gate between 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. if space allows. In some cases, visitors without pre-purchased tickets may be turned away. Ticket prices increase by $10 at the gate and Member discounts do not apply. To get the best price and ensure that you are able to attend on your preferred date, we strongly recommend purchasing in advance.

  • You are welcome to purchase a ticket as a gift and either email the e-ticket to the desired recipient or print it out to give to them directly. We do not offer gift certificates or non-dated tickets.

  • Tickets are available for large vehicles and buses, based on vehicle size. There is no discount for multiple tickets purchased.

  • No. Winter Lights is a walk-through display and we do not provide a tram or other transportation through the gardens.

  • No. Due to safety concerns, during Winter Lights guests may only enter the property in a motorized vehicle, such as a car, truck, limousine, bus, van or motorcycle. Bicycles and pedestrian access will not be permitted.

  • No. Only pedestrian traffic is permitted within the gardens.

  • No. All attendees under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult for the duration of their visit.

  • Yes, we plan to offer live entertainment on select evenings. Check back closer to the event for the performance schedule. If you want to attend on a night with scheduled entertainment, weekends will be your best bet!