Must-See Holiday Light Shows Across North Carolina

Here are our top picks of light show extravaganzas across the state


Published:

Biltmore Estate's 2017 theme is “A Vanderbilt Christmas,” featuring 135,000 LED and mini lights.

Photo courtesy of Biltmore Estate

’Tis the season for dazzling light displays. These annual sparkling and twinkling displays are a great way to celebrate festive fun with the family. Here are our top picks of holiday light shows across the state to help bring out your family’s holiday spirit. Shows are listed in alphabetical order. Scroll through the slides or jump to specific light shows below:


Biltmore Candlelight Christmas Evenings

biltmore.com
One Lodge St., Asheville
Admission: $85 for adults; $42.50 for ages 10-16; free for ages 9 and younger. Purchase tickets online.
Dates: Nov. 3-Jan. 6

See the Biltmore Estate adorned in its holiday splendor during a daytime and/or evening visit. The 2017 theme is “A Vanderbilt Christmas,” featuring the gilded age and grand look. A lit 55-foot-tall Norway spruce encircled by 20 other illuminated evergreens decorates the front lawn for candlelight evenings. Enjoy 55 decorated Christmas trees inside Biltmore House, as well as 30,000 lights and 150 candles. In addition, there are 135,000 LED and mini lights sparkling around the estate. New this year, Antler Hill Village features a constellation of lights as dusk descends. This must-see experience features “waterfall” lights cascading from treetops; stars and orbs draping tree branches; miniature lights outlining archways and buildings; and glowing ornaments in the Village Green illuminating holiday evenings.


Chinese Lantern Festival

boothamphitheatre.com/nc-chinese-lantern-festival-cary
Booth Amphitheatre, 8003 Regency Pkwy., Cary
Admission: $15 for ages 18 and older; $10 for ages 3-17; free for ages 2 and younger
Dates: Nov. 24-Jan. 14, 2018. Tuesdays-Sundays 6-10 p.m. Closed Mondays except for Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.

Booth Amphitheatre is transformed into a dazzling walk-through display with larger-than-life lanterns. Enjoy holiday treats and beverages from venue stands.



Photo courtesy of Booth Amphitheatre


Country Christmas Train at Denton Farm Park

dentonfarmpark.com/country-christmas-train
4259 Handy Rd., Denton
Admission: $5-$15 ages 5 and older; free for ages 4 and younger. Additional fees for photos with Santa, wagon and pony rides.
Dates: Nov. 24-26, Dec. 7-10, Dec. 14-17, Dec. 20-23, Dec. 26-27. Friday-Saturday 4:30-11 p.m.; other nights 4:30-10 p.m.

Enjoy a lighted walking tour of the park. Stop at the church to hear a Christmas story and then take a ride on the Handy Dandy Railroad. Enjoy a nativity movie, Christmas carols, a petting zoo, Santa’s cabin, arts and crafts exhibits, and more. New for 2017, enjoy online ticket sales, additional light displays and an expanded, walk-through gingerbread house to accommodate a cookie-decorating area for kids.



Photo courtesy of Denton Farm Park


Enchanted Airlie

airliegardens.org/events-news/enchanted-airlie
300 Airlie Rd., Wilmington
Admission: $27 per car; $55 for vans
Dates: Nov. 24-25, Dec. 1-2, Dec. 8-10 and Dec. 13-22. There are two runtimes each evening, 5-7 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.

Take a festive self-guided walking tour through Airlie Gardens to view a spectacular display of lights and holiday displays. Visit with Santa and enjoy coffee, hot chocolate, popcorn, cookies, beer, wine and more.



Photo courtesy of Enchanted Arlie


Festival of Lights at Chetola Resort

chetola.com
185 Chetola Lake Dr., Blowing Rock
Admission: Free
Dates: Begins at dusk on Thursday, Nov. 23 and runs through the end of Blowing Rock’s Winterfest, Jan. 26-28, 2018.

Chetola Resort is known for its sparkling display of lights each winter season. Drive or stroll around Chetola Lake, view glittering ice skaters, “Rudolph” reeling in a big fish, strolling carolers and many more festive scenes.



Photo courtesy of Chetola Resort


Hill Ridge Farms’ Festival of Lights

hillridgefarms.com/festival.php
703 Tarboro Rd., Youngsville
Admission: $8-$12 (rate depends on age, night of the week and senior or military status)
Dates: Nov. 23-Dec. 31. Friday-Saturday 5-10 p.m.; other nights 5-9 p.m.

Enjoy a covered-wagon hayride through a beautiful display of lights, bonfires, s’mores, hot chocolate, apple cider, heated indoor dining, an old-fashioned toy and candy store, giant slide, jumping pillow and slide house.


Holidays at the Garden

dsbg.org
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, 6500 S. New Hope Rd., Belmont
Admission: $8.95 for ages 2-12, $14.95 ages 13 and older
Dates: Open nightly Nov. 17-Dec. 31, 5-9 p.m.

More than 600,000 lights and illuminated displays will light up Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Roast a marshmallow, take a horse-drawn carriage ride, enjoy music and sip a warm beverage as you tour the displays, visit with Santa and more.


Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla

pleasureislandoflights.com/christmas-flotilla.html
Carolina Beach
Admission: Free to spectators
Dates: Dec. 2, 6 p.m.

Boats decorated with thousands of lights will cruise the Intracoastal Waterway for a festive display. Watercrafts will cruise from Snows Cut to the Carolina Beach Boat Basin and back as they compete for prizes.


Lights Before Christmas

riverbanks.org/events/lights-before-christmas.shtml
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, 500 Wildlife Pkwy., Columbia, South Carolina
Admission: $9-$11
Dates: Nov. 18-Dec. 30, 5-9 p.m. Closed Nov. 23 and Dec. 24-25.

Enjoy nearly one million lights, animated images, visits with Santa, a bonfire, hot cocoa and s’mores.


Lights on the Neuse

lightsontheneuse.com
Boyette Family Farms, 1620 Loop Rd., Clayton
Admission: $9 for ages 3 and older; free for ages 2 and younger (cash only)
Dates: See the website for dates and hours.

Take a 1-mile, 30-minute tractor-pulled hayride through a beautiful lights extravaganza. You’ll see more than one million lights line the way to the banks of the Neuse River. Enjoy concessions, a visit with Santa, cookie decorating, Santa’s Sweet Shoppe and more holiday fun. 

Tickets include the Christmas Lights Hayride, and reservations are required for the hayride only. An ATM is located onsite.


McAdenville (Christmas Town USA)

mcadenville-christmastown.com
Downtown McAdenville
Admission: Free
Dates: Dec. 1-26. Monday-Friday 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 5:30-11 p.m.

Experience the wonder of the season in Gaston County’s Christmas Town USA, a tradition since 1956. Walk or drive by the awe-inspiring displays of more than 375 decorated trees, 200 lit lamppost wreaths, music, a life-size Nativity scene, a lake fountain and more.



Photo courtesy of Steve Rankin


Meadow Lights

meadowlights.com
4546 Godwin Lake Rd., Benson
Admission: Free, but train/carousel tickets are $2.
Dates: Nov. 17-Dec. 31; Sunday-Thursday 5-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 5-11 p.m.

Meadow Lights is the largest and oldest Christmas light show in Eastern North Carolina with lights on more than 30 acres. Visit the Old Country Store for old-fashioned candy, ride a train or carousel, and visit with Santa.


North Carolina Holiday Flotilla

ncholidayflotilla.org
Wrightsville Beach
Admission: Free
Dates: Nov. 24-25

Enjoy Thanksgiving weekend at the beach during this two-day celebration that kicks off Friday night with a tree lighting and visit with Santa at 5:45 p.m. at Wrightsville Beach Town Hall. On Saturday, take the kids to Festival in the Park, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., to enjoy inflatable slides, bounce houses, a coloring contest, a train ride, festival food, an antique car show and more. The lighted boat parade will begin at 6 p.m. and is followed by a fireworks show. The best viewing is along Banks Channel.


Speedway Christmas

charlottemotorspeedway.com/tickets/speedway-christmas
5555 Concord Pkwy. S., Concord
Admission: $20-$30 for cars; $40-$50 for vans
Dates: Nov. 19-Dec. 31, 6-10 p.m. Closed Dec. 25.

Speedway Christmas features more than three million lights, a Christmas Village, and the unique opportunity to drive the track in a lights-to-music show along the 3.5-mile course. The village is open Thursday-Sunday and includes a petting zoo, Bethlehem village and photos with Santa. You can also enjoy movie nights when the village is open. See Christmas classics on a giant 16,000-square-foot Speedway TV.


Tanglewood Festival of Lights

forsyth.cc/parks/tanglewood/fol
4061 Clemmons Rd., Clemmons
Admission: $15 for cars; $35 for vans; $100 for buses and motorcoaches
Dates: Nov. 17-Jan. 1, 2018, 6-11 p.m.; Dec. 31, 6-10 p.m.

Tanglewood’s Festival of Lights is one of the largest and most spectacular light shows in the Southeast. Drive through Tanglewood’s rolling countryside, which is transformed into a winter wonderland. Be sure to stop at the Gift Village to roast marshmallows. See the website for more information about horse-drawn carriage rides and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus.



Photo courtesy of Tim McCulloh Photography
 


Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum

ncarboretum.org/exhibits-events/winter-lights
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville
Admission: $18 for ages 12 and older; $12 for ages 5-11; free for ages 4 and younger (discounted rates for members, groups and during Friends & Family Tuesdays)
Dates: Nov. 17-Dec. 31, 6-10 p.m.

Enjoy this annual holiday light exhibit throughout the arboretum’s gardens. More than 500,000 LED lights will light your way as you walk through a festive winter wonderland. Listen to favorite holiday tunes and sip warm beverages while you walk.



Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Arboretum
 


Christmas Wonderland of Lights at Zootastic Park

zootasticpark.com/events/christmaslights.aspx
385 Ostwalt Amity Rd., Troutman (physical address)
Admission: $7 for ages 2 and older; free for ages 1 and younger.
Dates: Nov. 22-Jan. 1, 6-9 p.m.

Choreographed light show, petting zoo, s’mores, carousel, photo with Santa, wagon rides and animal encounters.

Lights for Lupus

vimeo.com/193740720
1413 Whittington Dr., Raleigh
Admission: Donations are not required, but are welcome.
Dates: Dec. 1-27; 5:30-10 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 5:30-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; lights will be on until midnight the week of Dec. 20-27.

​The Reid Family of Raleigh has turned their annual Christmas lights display into a lupus fundraiser. Visitors can tune into 95.9 FM, which features music coordinated with the light show. Last year the light show raised more than $3,000 for the Lupus Foundation of America, North Carolina Chapter. 


Myra Wright is the digital editor of Carolina Parent and Charlotte Parent.

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Calendar

June 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

More information

The summer heat is back, and so are the insects! Join us in the Finley Center exhibit hall to do some fun insect-themed crafts. We will make butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and other insect...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  17560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Learn more about Earth's amazing star, the sun. Safely view the sun through a solar telescope, hear about unusual space weather and current solar research, and more. International SUNday...

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences Nature Research Center
121 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Telephone: 919.707.8239
Contact Name: Rachel Smith
Website »

More information

Discover Historic Yates Mill - a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of water...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

The Eno River Farmers Market celebrates its 10th anniversary. Take a blanket and dish to share.

Cost: Free

Where:
Eno River Farmers Market
144 E. Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC
View map »


Website »

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The summer heat is back, and so are the insects! Join us in the Finley Center exhibit hall to do some fun insect-themed crafts. We will make butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and other insect...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

The Art Therapy Institute has been working in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools with the Exceptional Children's Program for the past ten years. Enjoy a summer art therapy groups in June and...

Cost: $20 per session

Where:
Art Therapy Institute of NC
200 N Greensboro St. Suite D-6 (2nd Floor Carr Mill Mall)
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Telephone: 919-381-6068
Website »

More information

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Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Weekly basic skills cooking class offered for children ages 5-10 at Whole Foods North Raleigh.  This free class meets at the cafe each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and is offered by registering...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Website »

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Enjoy "They Say Blue."

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Children's author Darren Farrell reads from his book, "Letter Town: A Seek-and-Find Alphabet Adventure." From Avenue A to Zoo Z, there's always something to spot and see in Letter...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

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Join us at Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro every Thursday at 10 a.m. for a casual storytime on the porch or even out in the yard. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Chatham Marketplace
480 Hillsboro St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Sponsor: Chatham Marketplace
Telephone: 919-542-2643
Contact Name: Craig Kolman
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take part in a 5K on a USATF certified course hosted by Inter Development Futbol Club. Enjoy post-race refreshments and prizes for winners. Register online. 

Cost: $25/advance registration; $30/day of race

Where:
WakeMed Soccer Park
201 Soccer Park Dr.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Inter Development Futbol
Contact Name: Lydia Matombo
Website »

More information

Summerfest Celebration features an autograph session, inflatables, games, free giveaways, guest speakers from the Hurricanes, appearances by Stormy and the Pepsi Storm Squad, discounted...

Cost: Free

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate the wonderful world of exotic animals and reptiles. Enjoy live specimens, presentations, raffles, vendors and much more. Purchase tickets online.  

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds, Kerr Scott Building
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Before he was the beloved Pete the Cat, he was Pete the Kitty. Join Pete on a cat-tastic playdate as he learns a lesson about sharing with his friend, Grumpy Toad. Activities to follow. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Ride the train in a Hawaiian setting complete with craft beer, barbecue and music. Iconic Productions’ DJ Harry will host games prizes and giveaways, including limbo, hula hoop and dance...

Cost: $10-$12

Where:
New Hope Valley Railway
3900 Bonsal Rd.
Bonsal, NC  27562
View map »


Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

The Children’s Saturday Matinee series presents performances by three of the acclaimed professional dance companies that perform during the season. These one-hour performances are specially...

Cost: $17.25/person

Where:
Reynolds Industries Theater
Duke University
125 Science Dr.
Durham, NC
View map »


Sponsor: American Dance Festival
Telephone: 919-684-6402
Contact Name: Sarah Tondu
Website »

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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Education Guide

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