Get in the holiday spirit by visiting one of these "Norman Rockwell" small towns near Asheville in the North Carolina mountains! While many towns are adjusting their holiday experiences and events for the safety of visitors, you can still visit these top towns for a festive small-town Christmas experience with lights, hot cocoa, shops, and more.
1. Forest City (pic above): Our top pick for Christmas towns decks out Main Street with a million lights! The lighting ceremony is Thanksgiving night (just like those Hallmark movies!). Ride horse-drawn carriages down the street on Friday and Saturday nights. Come for lunch and step back in time with hand-patted hamburgers, cherry Cokes, and milkshakes at the old-fashion soda fountain at Smith's Drugs. Plus, see an impressive classic car collection. Read more about their Hometown Holidays.
2. Bryson City: From the depot, hop aboard the Polar Express train for the "North Pole" on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Before your trip, browse galleries, shops and find a variety of restaurants and two breweries. The town is decked out with garland and holiday lights, with a 50 ft Christmas tree in the town square. At the Visitor Center (255 Main St) kids can enjoy cookies and hot cocoa while they write letters to Santa. Don't miss the Chocolate Shoppe! Go to their website for holiday happenings.
3. Hendersonville: With the second largest downtown (after Asheville) in the mountains, there are plenty of local stores to explore, including Mast General Store, Dancing Bear Toys, and 24 local restaurants. Their Home for the Holidays includes many events throughout November and December, including ice skating, wagon rides, and the popular Peppermint the Bear Scavenger Hunt. Tree lighting the Friday after Thanksgiving and holiday concerts and theater productions at Flat Rock Playhouse. Read more about their Home for the Holidays.
4. Dillsboro: This tiny artist village near Sylva is big on art! Browse many studios and galleries, including the Dogwood Crafters Artisans Cooperative Gallery with 80 artists. Don't miss their Festival of Lights and Luminaries during the first two weekends of December. Read more.
5. Beech Mountain and Banner Elk: These two villages high in the mountains are just a few miles apart. The best chance of a white Christmas is Beech Mountain, the snowiest town in North Carolina. In fact, it's the highest town in eastern America. If mother nature doesn't cooperate with providing snow, the ski resort is a sure bet for a host of winter activities, including tubing and ice skating. Read more. Nearby is Top Ski Town Banner Elk with Christmas tree farms to choose and cut your perfect tree. See Banner Elk's Choose & Cut Christmas Tree Package.
6. Sylva: The most photographed courthouse in North Carolina sits atop a hill of Christmas Trees, overlooking Main Street filled with many places to explore, shop, and dine. Sample seasonal beers at Innovation Brewing. Their "Christmas in Sylva" weekend usually features the tree lighting, downtown concert, Winter Market, luminaries, and Christmas Parade. Check back for updates! Read more about Sylva.
7. Saluda: This adorable, tiny town (population 700) is big on great shopping with 100-year old general stores and galleries like Heartwood that have been there for 30+ years. Find some fantastic restaurants too. The extra festive Hometown Christmas is mid-December. Read more.
8. Waynesville: Lighted balls line picturesque Main Street, filled with great local shops and restaurants. The first weekend of December usually brings Holly Days, kicking off with Art After Dark on Friday evening at the many galleries and ending with the parade on Monday night. The second Saturday night of December is A Night Before Christmas, an old-fashioned celebration with caroling, wagon rides, Bethlehem marketplace, and luminaries. Check back for updates! Read more.
9. Rutherfordton: See North Carolina's largest living Christmas tree by the historic Courthouse, towering 75 feet and dwarfing the buildings along Main Street. Their Historic Small Town Christmas Celebration (first Saturday in December) includes sidewalk vendors, a parade at 5 PM, tree lighting, music, and more. During the day, visit nearby wineries in the Tryon Foothills Wine Country. Our top Christmas town Forest City is just six miles away, so you can visit both! Read about more things to do.
10. Brevard: With the stately courthouse on the town square with the towering Christmas Tree, this town is home to many great local stores including the longtime favorite O.P. Taylor toy store. Down the street is the quirky Aluminum Christmas Tree Museum.
11. Biltmore Village: While this is not a separate town since it's in the city of Asheville, this village was built by George Vanderbilt at the entrance to his Biltmore Estate. Many visitors to Christmas at Biltmore miss the charming streets filled with historic buildings and houses filled with shops, galleries, restaurants, and breweries. Read more.
12. Morganton: Enjoy the lights around the courthouse. Browse many local shops or the "Christmas Charm" Market (November 26-28), and try some local brews at the lively Catawba Brewing, Side Tracked Brewing, or Fonta Flora. The Memorial Tree Lighting will be Saturday, November 20 at 5:30 PM at Courthouse Square. The parade is on December 7, 6 PM. Carriage rides on Friday and Saturdays (November 20-December 23). Read more.