Winter wandering 

Entertainment Travel

November 29, 2021

by Amanda Lea

The days are getting shorter, the winter chill is creeping in and the holiday season is in full swing. If you’re in search of some seasonal magic to keep you warm, plan a day trip or weekend escape to one of these nearby attractions.


Believe … In the Magic of the Season at the North Carolina Zoo 

Dec. 4, 5, 11 and 12

Roam the beautifully decorated zoo grounds, enjoy cookies and hot cocoa and be sure to stop by for a photo with Mr. and Mrs. Claus at this annual holiday event. The kids will enjoy the holiday scavenger hunt and frolicking about at Treehouse Trek, a large play area with rope bridges and whimsical treehouses.

Christmas at Biltmore Estate

Through Jan. 9

The beloved Biltmore Estate and adjacent Antler Hill Village are bedecked with more than 100 decorated trees, 10,000 ornaments, 100,000 twinkling holiday lights and an array of festive Christmas displays. Imagine yourself a guest at the first Vanderbilt family Christmas in 1895 – with flickering candlelight, stunning holiday trees and welcoming hearths. Also on view through March 5: Catch the Van Gogh Alive immersive art experience at Biltmore’s event center, Amherst at Deer Park.

National Gingerbread House Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn

The National Gingerbread House Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn

Through Jan. 2

What began as a small group of community members celebrating the season has grown into a worldwide holiday tradition. This year marks the 29th year that gingerbread enthusiasts will participate in the largest competition of its kind. Winning gingerbread houses will be on display for viewing by hotel guests and visitors.

Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum 

Through Jan. 1

Take a dreamy ride in your own vehicle or opt for the traditional walk-through experience to see the enchanted forest bedazzled with thousands of holiday lights. The 1-mile stretch of the arboretum’s 434-acre campus includes unique displays, like the 50-foot lighted tree and the Quilt Garden.


A Small Town Christmas 

Dec. 3-5

Bask in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains for a weekend of holiday cheer. Arrive Friday evening for the lighting of the official town tree and stay for a holiday variety show. Join the 5K Reindeer Run Saturday morning and have breakfast and story time with Santa. From there, you can visit the Apple Hill Alpaca Farm, view the luminaries, watch synchronized light shows, and pick out a Christmas tree to take home.


Chetola Resort Festival of Lights 

Through Jan. 30

Drive or stroll around Chetola Lake to view holiday scenes and dazzling displays throughout the 78-acre resort adjacent to Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. The holiday extravaganza features nearly 30,000 lights and illuminates at dusk each evening.


The Polar Express Train Ride at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Through Dec. 31

This holiday favorite brings The Polar Express book and movie to life. Pajama-clad passengers enjoy cookies and cocoa aboard the train while listening to the film’s soundtrack. The train stops to pick up Santa at the North Pole Village, which is illuminated by 62,000 colorful lights.


Winter Wonderlights at Greensboro Science Center 

Through Jan. 2

Festive fun zones, treehouse lights, dancing fountains and an illuminated forest are just a few of the family-friendly attractions at Winter Wonderlights. This year’s event includes a new 11-acre zoo expansion.


Ice on Main 

Through Jan. 17

Show off your best twirling skills in the heart of downtown Greenville. The open-air ice skating rink is like stepping into a mini Rockefeller Center, with tree-lined sidewalks and twinkling lights providing the perfect backdrop.

The Very Merry Local Christmas Market at Travelers Rest

Dec. 11, 12:30-4:30 p.m.

Just north of Greenville, experience a timeless winter market with handcrafted goods from local quilters, potters, jewelers and food artisans. Sip on cocoa and cider while visiting the market stalls, and Santa will make an appearance between 2-4 p.m.


Festival of Lights at Tanglewood Park 

Through Jan. 1

Drive through 4 miles of illuminated holiday displays, one of the largest of its kind in the Southeast. Groups of four or fewer can experience the light show from a traditional horse-drawn carriage. Tractor-pulled hayrides (for individual family groups only) are also available.

Reynolda House Museum

Holidays at Reynolda 

Through Dec. 31

Step back in time and explore the tranquil 170-acre setting that comprises Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Reynolda Gardens and Reynolda Village. This year, authentic early 20th-century glass ornaments adorn the Christmas trees in the historic house. Additional highlights include wreath-decorating workshops, poinsettia and plant sales, live music and shopping days.  SP

Event details are subject to change. Be sure to check with venues before heading out.

Intel of Your Wildest Dreams!


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