Day trip or overnighter, setting out for these driving-distance seasonal attractions is sure to awaken the holiday spirit.
by Michael J. Solender
While temperatures cool heading into winter, seasonal fun is heating up across the region. Here are a few close-by winter attractions to tempt road-trippers.
Note: Given the unusual circumstances facing venues and event organizers during this time, please check in advance to confirm details and hours of operation before heading out.
Arts haven, culinary adventureland and bohemian village, this mountain town about two hours west of Charlotte sparkles during the winter months.
America’s largest home celebrates “An 1895 Christmas” this year, taking inspiration from the estate’s archives with a focus on a traditional and classic Christmas. Both daytime and evening candlelight tours of Biltmore House treat guests with extensive holiday décor, including 55 hand-decorated Christmas trees in the home and a 35-foot Fraser fir in the banquet hall. Be awed by 25,000 ornaments, 100,000 holiday lights, 6,000 feet of garland and 1,200 traditional poinsettias. From Biltmore House to the winery and Antler Hill Village, guests can linger and shop on the estate to experience it all. Through Jan. 10. biltmore.com
Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum
Take a dreamy ride through the arboretum’s enchanted forest and experience thousands of holiday lights safely from your own vehicle. Navigate a 1-mile stretch of the arboretum’s 434-acre campus to view the unique displays. Through Jan 10. ncarboretum.org/winter-lights
About two hours from Charlotte, Greenville welcomes visitors with warm Southern charm, an easy to navigate downtown and a surprisingly sophisticated culinary scene.
Ice on Main
Greenville’s own mini Rockefeller Center welcomes skaters of all ages with enhanced Covid protocols including limited capacity and timed entries — all the more room to twirl about. Through Jan. 31. greenvillesc.gov
White Christmas: The Exhibition at Upcountry History Museum
Greenville is only the second U.S. city to host this exhibit showcasing original White Christmas film costumes created by legendary designer Edith Head. Props, sheet music, personal memorabilia, replica backdrops and more invite visitors to experience firsthand the musical genius of Irving Berlin and the making of this beloved holiday film. Through Jan. 30. upcountryhistory.org
The Very Merry Local Christmas Market at Travelers Rest
Be reminded of the timeless rhythm of the season and an era when Christmas was crafted and curated by the hands of friends and neighbors. Market stalls include bakers, blacksmiths, quilters, potters, jewelers, printmakers and food artisans. Santa appears between 2 – 4 p.m. Dec. 12, 12:30-4:30. visitgreenvillesc.com
BANNER ELK/BLOWING ROCK
Snow sports, fly-fishing and hiking attract outdoor enthusiasts to these western North Carolina communities. The holiday season is a perfect time to visit.
SugarFest at Sugar Mountain Resort
This annual weekend of mountain fun includes a ski clinic with Olympic Super G medalist Andrew Weibrecht, fireworks, consumer demos and after-ski parties with live music, skating, tubing, a hot chocolate and whipped cream bar, and a homemade Soup Safari. Dec. 11-13. skisugar.com/sugarfest
A Small Town Christmas
A weekend of holiday fun in downtown Banner Elk includes breakfast with Santa, a candy-cane hunt, storytelling, ornament making, cookie decorating, a parade of lights, train rides through luminaries in the park and a tree-lighting ceremony. Dec. 4-6. bannerelk.com
Festival of Lights at Chetola Resort
Drive through the Blowing Rock resort’s annual holiday extravaganza featuring nearly 30,000 lights. New this year: a nativity scene and musical displays. Park the car and take a stroll around the lake at this 78-acre resort adjacent to Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. Through Jan. 31. chetola.com
This nearby mountain jewel is a top wintertime Carolina getaway in the cradle of the Blue Ridge. Downtown Hendersonville is home to several stops on the Heritage Trail, an assemblage of 13 historically significant sites defining the region’s origins. On the way home, stop by one of the many choose-and-cut tree farms dotting western N.C. and bring home a fresh Fraser fir, wreaths and garlands.
Olde Fashioned Hendersonville Christmas
Enjoy entertainment and merchants’ open houses while wandering the historic downtown district, where shop owners compete for the best holiday display. Dec. 4.
Main Street Holiday Hayrides
Take the family on a tractor-drawn wagon ride through festively decorated Main Street. Passengers board at the Hendersonville Visitor Center. Dec. 11-12.
Historic Johnson Farm Christmas Tours
Experience an 1880-built farmhouse decorated for the holidays and learn about this former boarding house and tourist retreat that’s now on the National Register of Historic Places. Enjoy hot chocolate, make a Christmas craft and peruse holiday items for sale in the Interpretive Center and in the Heritage Weavers & Fiber Artists’ Gift Shop. Dec. 1-22.
Holiday time in Winston-Salem holds great charm as the large Moravian community here celebrates traditions with old-fashioned treats, handcrafted wares and festive décor.
Salem Pathways at Old Salem Museum & Gardens
Though Covid restrictions have limited Old Salem’s access, visitors can take a self-guided tour of the attraction and follow the journey of nine different people who lived and worked there over two centuries. Walk or drive to experience traditional holiday décor and a guided narrative available through a smart-device app. Launching early December. oldsalem.org
Festival of Lights at Tanglewood Park
Four miles of lights are illuminated at one of the largest holiday displays in the Southeast. Drive along in your own vehicles, or groups of four or fewer can experience the light show from a traditional white carriage drawn by a Percheron horse. Tractor-pulled hayrides (for individual family groups only) are also available. Through Jan. 1. forsyth.cc/Parks/Tanglewood
Holidays at Reynolda
Highlights at the historic Reynolda Estate include an antique glass ornament display, wreath-decorating workshops and an after-hours experience with live organ performances.Through Dec. 31. reynoldahouse.org SP
Photographs by Kris Decker, Bush Photo