Must-See Holiday Light Shows Across North Carolina

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


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Biltmore Estate displays 135,000 LED and mini lights during the holidays.

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:

Christmas at Biltmore

One Lodge St., Asheville, North Carolina
Admission: $85 for adults; $42.50 for ages 10-16; free for ages 9 and younger. Purchase tickets online.
Dates: Nov. 3-Jan. 5, but not available Nov. 13, Nov. 22 and Dec. 24-25.

See the Biltmore Estate adorned in its holiday splendor during an evening visit. A lit towering Norway spruce decorates the grand front lawn. Enjoy the many decorated Christmas trees inside the Biltmore House. In addition, there are 135,000 LED and mini lights sparkling around the estate. Visit Antler Hill Village and Winery, included with admission, for an extraordinary display of holiday lights and wine tastings.


Chinese Lantern Festival

Booth Amphitheatre, 8003 Regency Pkwy., Cary, North Carolina
Admission: $15 for ages 18 and older; $10 for ages 3-17; free for ages 2 and younger
Dates: Nov. 23-Jan. 13, 2019. 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

Enter at 4259 Handy Road, Denton, North Carolina
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. 23-25, Nov. 30-Dec. 2, Dec. 7-10, Dec. 13-16, Dec. 19-23, 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. See a nativity movie, hear Christmas carols, and visit the petting zoo, Santa’s cabin, arts and crafts exhibits, the gingerbread house, a doll museum and general store.



Photo courtesy of Denton Farm Park


Enchanted Airlie

300 Airlie Road, Wilmington, North Carolina
Admission: $30 per car; $55 for vans
Dates: Nov. 23-24, Nov. 30-Dec. 1, Dec. 7-22. There are two runtimes each evening, 5-7 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.

Undeterred by the loss of an estimated 275 trees during the hurricane, “Enchanted Airlie will not miss a beat this year,” says Tara Duckworth, director of parks and gardens for New Hanover County, owner of Airlie Gardens. "The iconic structures and Airlie Oak survived the storm. We’ve redone all the lighting with LEDs, and the displays will be even brighter; our signature attractions, including the mesmerizing Singing Christmas Trees are returning; and, we have a lot of new things planned. The Gnome Invasion art exhibit was cut short by the hurricane in September. Some of the gnomes will make an appearance Enchanted Airlie,” Duckworth says.

Visit with Santa and enjoy hot chocolate, popcorn, cookies, beer and wine for purchase. Advance tickets only. Tickets often sell out in early December.



Photo courtesy of Enchanted Arlie


Festival of Lights at Chetola Resort

185 Chetola Lake Drive, Blowing Rock
Admission: Free
Dates: Begins at dusk on Thursday, Nov. 22 and runs through the end of Blowing Rock’s Winterfest, Jan. 24-27, 2019.

Chetola Resort is known for its sparkling display of lights each winter season. Drive or stroll around Chetola Lake and enjoy a bonfire by the water.



Photo courtesy of Chetola Resort


Hill Ridge Farms’ Festival of Lights

703 Tarboro Rd., Youngsville
Admission: $8-$12 (rate depends on age, night of the week and senior or military status), includes hayride.
Dates: Nov. 22-Dec. 29. Sunday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4-9 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

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, 6500 S. New Hope Road, Belmont
Admission: Monday-Thursday, $7.95 for ages 2-12, $12.95 ages 13 and older. Friday-Sunday, $8.95 for ages 2-12, $14.95 for ages 13 and older.
Dates: Open nightly Nov. 23-Jan. 6, 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. New for 2018, enjoy the musically orchestrated topiary display and wander through the new illuminated prairie garden.


Holiday Lights in the Garden

Cape Fear Botanical Garden, 536 N. Eastern Blvd., Fayetteville
Admission: $12 for ages 2-12, $12 ages 13 and older. Add-on packages available. 
Dates: Nov. 30-Dec. 2, Dec. 7-9, Dec. 14-16, Dec. 19-23; 5:30-9 p.m.

Celebrate the season on the Polar Express; enjoy a synchronized show of lights and music over Cypress Pond; take a mile-long stroll featuring thousands of lights aglow; hop on a free caroling hayride; take photos with Santa; roast S’mores over the fire pit; and enjoy entertainment on select evenings and free crafts for children.


Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla

Carolina Beach
Admission: Free to spectators
Dates: Dec. 1, 6 p.m.

Boats decorated with thousands of lights will cruise the Intracoastal Waterway for a festive display.


Lights Before Christmas

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, 500 Wildlife Pkwy., Columbia, South Carolina
Admission: $10-$12, children younger than 2 admitted free.
Dates: Nov. 17-Dec. 30, 5-9 p.m. Closed Nov. 22 and Dec. 24-25.

Enjoy nearly 1 million lights, animated images, visits with Santa, a bonfire, hot cocoa and s’mores.


Lights on the Neuse

Boyette Family Farms, 1620 Loop Road, Clayton, North Carolina
Admission: $9 for ages 3 and older; free for ages 2 and younger
Dates: See the website for dates and hours.

Take a 1-mile, 30-minute tractor-pulled hayride through a beautiful lights extravaganza to see more than 1 million lights that 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. 


McAdenville (Christmas Town USA)

Downtown McAdenville
Admission: Free
Dates: Nov. 30-26. 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 lamp-post wreaths, music, a life-size Nativity scene, a lake fountain and more.



Photo courtesy of Steve Rankin


Meadow Lights

4546 Godwin Lake Road, Benson, North Carolina
Admission: Free, but train/carousel tickets are $2.
Dates: Nov. 16-Dec. 30; 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

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Admission: Free
Dates: Nov. 23-24

Enjoy Thanksgiving weekend at the beach during this two-day celebration. The fun 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 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and enjoy inflatable slides, bounce houses, a coloring contest, a train ride, festival food and more. The lighted boat parade begins Saturday at 6 p.m. The best viewing is along Banks Channel. Following the colorful and festive water parade, the flotilla ends with a massive and dazzling Zambelli fireworks display.

Photo courtesy of Ned Leary Photography


Speedway Christmas

5555 Concord Pkwy. S., Concord, North Carolina
Admission: $20-$30 for cars; $40-$50 for vans
Dates: Nov. 18-Dec. 31, 6-10 p.m. Closed Dec. 25.

Experience more than 3 million lights synced to music while driving the 3.5-mile track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Christmas Village is open Thursday-Sunday and includes a petting zoo, Bethlehem village and photos with Santa. You can also enjoy watching holiday movie classics drive-in style on a 16,000-square-foot screen on nights when Christmas Village is open. Movies begin at 6:30 p.m.​


Tanglewood Festival of Lights

4061 Clemmons Road, Clemmons
Admission: $15 for cars; $35 for vans; $100 for buses and motorcoaches
Dates: Nov. 16-Jan. 1, 2018, 6-11 p.m.; Dec. 31, 6-10 p.m.

To see 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

100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, North Carolina
Admission: $18 for ages 12 and older; $12 for ages 5-11; free for ages 4 and younger.
Dates: Nov. 16-Dec. 31, 6-10 p.m.

Stroll through the arboretum gardens to enjoy this annual holiday light exhibition. More than 500,000 LED lights shine to light your way through a festive winter wonderland. Listen to favorite holiday tunes and sip warm beverages along the way.



Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Arboretum
 


Christmas Wonderland of Lights at Zootastic Park

385 Ostwalt Amity Road, Troutman, North Carolina
Admission: $7 for ages 2 and older; free for children under age 2.
Dates: Nov. 21-Jan. 1. Sunday-Thursday, 6-9 p.m; Friday-Saturday, 6-10 p.m.

Choreographed light show, petting zoo, s’mores, carousel, wagon rides and animal encounters. New this year is a Ferris wheel and train ride, plus an additional 2 miles of lighted trails. Santa will be taking photos after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve. Photos with Santa and the baby kangaroos are available for an additional cost, or take your own photo with Santa only at no additional charge.


Myra Wright is a North Carolina-based freelance writer. She enjoys traveling and finding educational opportunities for her three kids.

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August 2019

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: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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

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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: 24.00

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


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Website »

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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

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Experience the vibrant Latin American culture through music, entertainment, arts and food. Enjoy dancing, music, authentic Latino food, kids’ activities and much more. A two-hour outdoor...

Cost: Free

Where:
West Weaver Street
Carrboro, NC  27510


Website »

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Hundreds of artisans from across the Southeast, festival foods, demonstrations, a kids' play area and live music highlight the town's signature arts and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

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Geocaching is a treasure hunt where participants use GPS coordinates to track down hidden "caches." We will learn how to use traditional GPS units and the Geocaching App (by Groundspeak) and then...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

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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...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

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Ages 11 and older with disabilities make spaghetti, meatballs and a salad. Register online. Choose course #1247467.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
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These programs are open to students 6–12 years old. Parent/guardians are welcome to stay for the program or drop-off. Preregistration is required. Learn about predator and prey...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #124969.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Unexpected NC is hosting a Mommy Meet-up at SnickerDoodles. This event is for new and experienced moms alike. Kids are more than welcome to attend and make some new friends.    ...

Cost: Free with registration

Where:
SnickerDoodles
3721 Lynn Road
Raleigh, NC
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Sponsor: Unexpected NC
Telephone: 99-717-7298
Contact Name: Morgan Price
Website »

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Explore the ways you can plan ahead for the heat and care for yourself while outdoors on hot days. For ages 6 and up (adult accompaniment is required for all children); FREE. Registration is...

Cost: Free

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


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Plus-Plus is one shape with endless possibility. Younger kids can build 2-D mosaics and older kids can create 3-D masterpieces. Come into Learning Express Falls Pointe for an instructional...

Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
Website »

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Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
Website »

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Read the story by Laura Numeroff and make brownies. Register online. Choose course #124737.

Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

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Listen to a story about Johnny Appleseed, the legendary character who's based on John Chapman, the American frontier nurseryman who planted apple trees in many states. Play the game of fruit...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Enjoy a showing of the movie as Indiana Jones himself leads an expedition into the jungle, where explorers like yourself will search for the artifact: The Ark of the Covenant.  We’re...

Cost: $2 members, $5 nonmembers

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-707-9965
Contact Name: Hugo Romero-Sanchez
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Families take part in an unconventional family adventure race on a muddy obstacle course. Spectators may watch families compete. Parking is $5/car.

Cost: $30-$40/person for race

Where:
Hill Ridge Farms
703 Tarboro Rd.
Youngsville, NC  27596
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Website »

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Shop for local handmade arts and crafts from local vendors. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Website »

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Celebrate African-American culture and history with an art gallery walk, vendors, kids' activities, food and more. See website for hours.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
Fayetteville Street
, NC  27601
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Website »

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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30 & 3:00 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

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


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

East Cloud Kungfu hosts a Parent's Night Out event, featuring a safe environment for kids as they about the wide world of kungfu.   Check it out!...

Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
Website »

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Enjoy a charity radio controlled model flying event and fundraiser benefiting Meg's Smile Foundation. See all sizes/types of electric radio controlled aircraft and watch a drone...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sugg Farm at Bass Lake Park
2401 Grigsby Avenue
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Holly Springs Skyhawks RC Group
Telephone: 919-270-8467
Contact Name: Doug LeRoy
Website »

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