Looking for ideas of what to do in November and December during the holiday season in Asheville and western North Carolina?
Here are our Top 12 Things to Do throughout the season, followed by our favorite festive events calendar with 40+ choices.
1. Christmas at Biltmore Estate: The biggest holiday event kicks off on November 7, 2014, as America's largest home is decked out in festive finery. Candlelight Evenings are especially magical. Continues through January 11, 2015. See our Christmas at Biltmore Guide. And see exclusive photos of Christmas decorations inside Biltmore House. Take a Candlelight Tour.
See five other local house museums to tour during the holidays!
2. Shop Downtown Asheville: Make holiday shopping more fun and relaxing while finding truly special gifts. Browse through more than 200 locally-owned shops, 30 art galleries and a dozen antique stores. Don't miss the Grove Arcade. And if you need a break, stop at one of the 50 restaurants or many coffee shops. See our Downtown Asheville Guide. For more great local shops with unique gifts, explore the quaint downtowns of nearby Brevard, Hendersonville and Waynesville. See our Shopping Guide.
3. Gingerbread Houses at The Omni Grove Park Inn: For a real treat, see the amazing display of gingerbread houses from the National Gingerbread House Competition at the famous Grove Park Inn starting November 19. Guests at the hotel or any of their restaurants can view the display at anytime. If you're not a guest, please visit on Mondays-Thursdays. For more info, see our Grove Park Gingerbread House Display Guide (including photos and video of winners.)
4. Pick your Christmas Tree: North Carolina is the number two state in the country for growing Christmas Trees! Go to a "choose and cut" Tree Farm to pick the perfect one for your home. Many farms offer hayrides and other holiday-related events. See our Asheville Christmas Tree Farms Guide.
5. NEW! Winter Lights at NC Arboretum: A brand new event for 2014, walk through the gardens decked out in creative light displays and enjoy festive activities. See our Winter Lights Guide.
6. Stay in Holiday Style: Stay in a home away from home, complete with the sights, sounds and smells of the holidays, at one of the elegant bed and breakfast inns. See our complete list of romantic bed and breakfast inns in the area. Many of them have special holiday packages and specials. For a quiet retreat from the holiday madness, escape to a romantic cabin or cottage. See photos of decorated bed and breakfast inns.
7. Shop Biltmore Village: What a charming area for holiday shopping! Located across from the entrance to Biltmore Estate, the Village is home to more than 40 unique shops and 10 cafes and restaurants. Most businesses are housed in historic cottages and buildings. Tree-lined streets, brick sidewalks and period architecture make it a delight to stroll through and explore. (Dickens in the Village, Dec 5-7) See our Biltmore Village Guide.
8. Art: Asheville is a mecca for artists, so this is the place to find one-of-a-kind gifts. With more than 100 galleries and even more artist studios, you will need plenty of time for exploring. In addition to the galleries downtown and Biltmore Village, head to the Folk Art Center and meet artists working in their studios in the River Arts District. See our Gallery Guide.
9. Foodie Favorites: Our nationally-recognized food and beer scene makes a delicious getaway. Tour breweries, visit wineries, and enjoy plenty of farm-to-fork restaurants. See our Foodie Favorites Guide.
10. Antiques: The best area in Asheville to find antiques is the Biltmore Antiques District with 13 stores within a mile and a half of the Biltmore Estate. Included is the local long-time favorite, the Antique Tobacco Barn. See our Antique Shopping Guide.
11. LaZoom Comedy Bus Tours: Their Special Holiday Tour (November 14-December 31) on the purple bus takes you on a fun guided tour of the city. While their regular city tour is rated PG-13, their Holiday Tour is family friendly. Meet a real Asheville fruitcake, a lonesome pine tree, a traveling Gingerbread Man and possibly catch a glimpse of Santa whizzing by the bus! One of our talented tour performers will show you a hysterically, historical side of Asheville the likes of which you've never seen. See our LaZoom Tours Guide.
12. Great Outdoors: For the best views of the year, take a winter hike. With leafless trees, cool temperatures, less crowds and frequent bright blue skies, it may become your favorite time of the year to hit the trail. See our hiking guide for our top picks. Take a snowy hike on Roan Mountain. And don't forget to find some of our spectacular waterfalls. Most area ski resorts open by early December, including Beech Mountain. Or zip line at Navitat Canopy Tours on Nov 28, 29, 30 and Dec 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20.
Holiday & Christmas Events in and near Asheville
November 7, 2014–January 11, 2015: Christmas at Biltmore
November 6-9, 2014: Asheville Cinema Festival
November 7, 2014-January 5, 2015: Polar Express Train excursions on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
November 8-9, 2014: River District Artists Studio Stroll with 150+ artists in 25 buildings.
November 19, 2014-January 4, 2015: Carolina Christmas at Smith-McDowell House museum with decorations from the Victorian period.
November 19, 2014-January 1, 2015: National Gingerbread House Competition on display at Grove Park Inn.
November 20-December 21, 2014: A Christmas Carol at Flat Rock Playhouse, State Theatre of NC. Don't miss this professional production of this holiday tradition.
November 20, 2014: Taste of Asheville: Big annual fundraising event features food from 40 restaurants as well as wine tasting and beer tasting from local breweries. Read more.
November 21-January 4: Winter Wonderland with wintery décor, gingerbread houses and great shopping at Grove Arcade. Kick off is November 21, 5-8 PM with music by the Asheville Symphony Chorus.
November 22, 2014: Asheville Holiday Parade, downtown, 11 AM. A fun and creative parade that kicks off Asheville's holiday season with marching bands, floats, dance & theater troupes, walking groups and Santa Claus himself.
November 22, 2014-January 4, 2015: Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum, stroll through impressive displays in the gardens.
November 26-January 4: Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland two-mile drive through light spectacular.
November 27-30, 2014: More about Thanksgiving Weekend
November 28-29, 2014: Hard Candy Christmas Fine Art & Craft Show in Cullowhee with more than 100 artisans will fill Western Carolina University's Ramsey Center arena.
November 28 & 29, 2014: Dickens' A Christmas Carol at Diana Wortham Theatre. This version is a one-man hilarious with Jeremy Webb playing 25 characters, including puppets for ghost. Three shows: November 28th at 7 PM and 29th at 2 & 7 PM. Go to their web site.
November 28-January 3, 2014: Cherokee Lights and Legends Christmas. At this new event at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds, stroll under the lights through fun, interactive displays that tell ancient Cherokee Christmas legends. Enjoy carnival rides, a 40-ft. Christmas tree, a visit with Santa Claus, or a synthetic ice rink. Open Wednesday-Saturday.
November 28, 2014–January 1, 2015: WinterFest in the Gorge. The village of Chimney Rock joins Lake Lure in the Hickory Nut Gorge with lights and Fairy Village. On December 5, 6, 12 and 13, eat s’mores by a beachside bonfire, take pictures with Santa, and enjoy hayrides and a trolley ride.
November 29, December 6, 13, 20: Holiday Bazaar at the North Asheville Tailgate Market outside on the campus of UNC Asheville, 12 Noon until 3 PM. 60 vendors and artists with fresh baked goods, meats and cheeses and lots of local art and crafts.
November 29, 2014: Christmas at Connemara. Hot cider and cookies will be served. This free festive celebration honors Carl Sandburg and the family holiday tradition of music. The house will be decorated in the simple style of the Sandburgs with poinsettias and a traditionally decorated Christmas tree throughout December until January 6, 2015.
November 29-December 20, 2014: Aluminum Christmas Tree Museum in downtown Brevard features vintage trees and ornaments, inside the Transylvania Heritage Museum.
November 30, 2014: The Big Crafty at the Asheville Art Museum downtown, shop indie with artists, crafters, food and music, 12-6 PM, free admission.
December 5-6, 2014: An Old Fashioned Dickens of a Christmas Festival is held in historic Biltmore Village transforms with horse-drawn carriages, carolers, tree lighting, storytellers and instrumentalists. Read more.
December 5-7, 2014: Toe River Studio Tour, About an hour north of Asheville, tucked in the lush green mountains is one of the finest collections of artists and craftsmen in the world and the acclaimed Penland School of Crafts. A unique blend of contemporary and traditional cultures. More than 100 fine artists and crafts people in every medium open their studios for a free, self-guided cultural adventure.
December 5, 2014: Asheville Downtown Gallery Art Walk. Galleries stay open late with special exhibits and artist mingling.
December 5, 2014: Olde Fashioned Hendersonville Christmas, walk down Main Street in downtown with hot cider and cookies with carolers, music, food and great shopping! 5-8 PM
December 5-6 and 12-13, 2014: Dillsboro Festival of Lights & Luminaries takes you back to the days of yesteryear. Experience the magic as the entire town is transformed into a winter wonderland of lights, candles, laughter and song! Shopkeepers provide live music and serve holiday treats with hot cider and cocoa.
December 5, 2014: Art After Dark in downtown Waynesville with shows, refreshments, live music at many galleries. 6-9 PM. Saturday Stroll follows the Friday night event with live artist demonstrations in each participating gallery from 11 AM-3 PM.
December 5-21, 2014: A Charlie Brown Christmas by Asheville Community Theatre. From Snoopy the beagle to the beleaguered Charlie Brown, it is a faithful adaptation of the classic special that has aired every year since 1965. Performances on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 PM and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 PM. Fo more details and tickets, go to their Web site.
December 5-23, 2014: Lake Julian Festival of Lights drive-thru show with more than 50 animated light displays and thousands of colored lights from the comfort of your vehicle. $5 for a car. 6-9 PM. From Asheville take I-26 East to Exit #37. Turn left at the light onto Long Shoals Road. Travel 1.1 mile to Overlook Road traffic light. Turn right on Overlook Road Extension. Travel .1 mile. Park entrance is on the left.
December 6, 2014: Asheville Bookfest with two dozen authors and several local publishing companies. Enjoy author readings, workshops, music and presentations. Haywood Park Hotel downtown, 10 AM-6 PM.
December 6, 2014: Concert for Change Benefit, starring Taylor Hicks, former American Idol winner along with The Incredible APB, featuring legendary recording artist Artimus Plyle, in the US Cellular Center’s Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. This fun-filled evening of music will include Asheville’s own Underhill Rose and Velvet Truckstop; The Captain Midnight Band; Amanda Anne Plat and Crying Wolf. Benefits Eblen-Kimmel Charities. Many hours of music and tickets are only $25/person. More info & tickets.
December 6, 2014: Christmas Candlelight Tour at Vance Birthplace transports you to an 1830s era Christmas as it may have been celebrated in the mountains of North Carolina, just 15 minutes north of Asheville. The two-story reconstructed log house, will be decorated and costumed guides will relate the symbolism of each of the decorations. Live music. $3/person. 4-8 PM
December 6, 2014: Holiday Twilight Tour in downtown Brevard. After the parade at 4 PM, Main Street will be closed to traffic so you can enjoy live music, horse drawn carriages, bonfires, shopping, vendors and more, 5-9 PM.
December 6-17, 2014: A favorite holiday play, A Christmas Carol, by Montford Players in Asheville Masonic Temple downtown.
December 6 & 13, 2014: Guild Artist Holiday Sale at the Folk Art Center: This popular event has expanded to two dates this year! The Guild Artist Holiday Sale provides an opportunity for individual members and the organization to sell over-runs, discontinued stock and studio seconds in a festive atmosphere during the holiday season. 10 AM-4 PM
December 6 & 13, 2014: Santa on the Chimney at Chimney Rock State Park. Watch Santa practicing for his world-wide chimney-dropping tour on Christmas Eve. Only his "practice chimney" is 312 feet tall! Santa Claus will rappel down the 535-million-year-old monolith known as Chimney Rock, wearing his traditional red suit and hat, and a rope, of course. See photos and video!
December 11-14, 2014: Asheville Ballet presents The Nutcracker at the Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville. The full length, professional performance, and favorite holiday family tradition, about Clara’s magical journey to the Lands of Snow and Sweets, performed by North Carolina’s oldest non-profit ballet company.
December 12, 2014: Candlelight Christmas Stroll in Weaverville, 6-9 PM, with luminaries along the streets, local choirs and bands will provide music, and horse and buggy rides will be available through town. Local businesses will be open late and the offical tree lighting at 7:30 PM.
December 13, 2014: Warren Haynes Christmas Jam in downtown Asheville with a stellar, rocking line-up.
December 13, 2014: A Night Before Christmas along Downtown Waynesville's Main Street area is filled with bright lights, friendly folks, the wonderful sounds of the Christmas season, delicious food & drink. 6-9 PM.
December 13, 2014: Montford Home Tour. Explore Asheville’s oldest, most historic neighborhood comprised of Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Greek Revival and Dutch Colonial homes built in the 1890s to 1920s.
December 13, 2014: Thomas Wolfe’s Gimcracks Day features free tours of the Old Kentucky Home in downtown Asheville. Make holiday ornaments and learn about Victorian holiday traditions. Great for families. A gimcrack, pronounced ˈjim ˌkrak, is a cheap and showy ornament; a knickknack. 9 AM-4:30 PM. See our Thomas Wolfe Memorial Guide.
December 13, 2014: Jingle Bells Trolley Train Ride on the Craggy Mountain Line, leaving on each hour from 11 AM- 7 PM. Fun for all ages. See our Craggy Mountain Line Guide.
December 16, 2014: Celebrate Hanukkah with Chanukah Live at the Crowne Plaza Expo Center near downtown Asheville. Hosted by The Chabad House, it includes the Billy Jonas Band, grand menorah lighting, holiday crafts, kosher food court, games, buffet, wine bar and much more. Festival admission is free, but tickets will be sold at the door for food and attractions. 4:30-7:30 PM. Go to their Web site.
December 20, 2014: Holiday Homecoming at Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 10 AM-2 PM. Located near Cherokee, see old time crafts being demonstrated. Learn by observing the practical arts of quilting, weaving, and basket and doll making, apple cider and apple butter. Free
December 20, 2014: Jingle Bells Trolley Train Ride on the Craggy Mountain Line, leaving on each hour from 11 AM- 7 PM. Fun for all ages. See our Craggy Mountain Line Guide.
December 20, 2014: Grove House Holiday Showcase presented by Brother Wolf Animal Rescue with a wonderland of decorations through the complex. 1-7 PM. Free admission. 11 Grove St.
December 21, 2014: A Swannanoa Solstice is a tapestry of joyful and thoughtful seasonal reflection beautifully woven from the mountains’ Appalachian, Scots-Irish and world influences. Two shows at Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville: 2 PM and 7 PM.
Things to Do on Christmas Week
December 25, 2014: Christmas Day restaurants open include Bistro at Biltmore, Cedrics at Biltmore, Drucker Tea Room at Doubletree, Green Tea Sushi, Grove Park Inn (Edison, Vue 1920), Grovewood Café, Kathmandu, Red Stag Grill at Grand Bohemian Hotel, Scully’s Bar & Grill.
Through January 11: Christmas at Biltmore. Open both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day nights.
Through January 4: Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum, stroll through impressive displays in the gardens. Open both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day nights.
Through January 4: Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland two-mile drive through light spectacular. Open both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day nights.
Through January 5: Polar Express Train excursions on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Runs December 24, 26-29 and
Through January 4: Carolina Christmas at Smith-McDowell House museum with decorations from the Victorian period. Closed Dec 24-26. Open Dec 27, 28 and 31.
Through January 1: National Gingerbread House Competition on display at Grove Park Inn.
December 31, New Year's Eve: Head downtown Asheville for many choices for dining and music or dancing afterwards. See our New Year 2015 Celebrations and Things to Do.
January 1, 2015: Take the chilly plunge at the Polar Plunge at Lake Lure!