Asheville Holiday Markets and Events

A Guide To Asheville’s Holiday Events and Markets

The holiday season is Asheville is such a special time. It’s chilly out, hot chocolate is abundant and Christmas lights are all around. There are also a ton of fun markets, events and other holiday-themed activities that are great for the whole family.

This post shares so many fun things to do in Asheville for the holidays this year. We also have a guide to winter in Asheville, so make sure to check that out for additional ideas of how to spend the cold winter months here.

Popular Holiday Events in Asheville

The activities mentioned below include some of our favorite holiday traditions for our family. We try to attend as many of these events each year and we love experiencing new ones too, like the Winter Wonder Walk that opened in 2021.

National Gingerbread House Competition

November 27, 2023 – January 2, 2024

There is no better way to get in the Christmas spirit than a visit to the Omni Grove Park Inn when the gingerbread houses are on display. This years marks the 32nd annual event.

Expect beautiful, elaborate displays and even a life-size 10′ x 10′ Great Gingerbread House serving up hot chocolate.

Competitors from all over and of all ages compete for the grand prize. The houses have to be at least 75% edible, but sky is the limit as far as designs go. You will be amazed at what these artists come up with!

About the gingerbread house competition

Quick details: An annual event held during the holiday season at the Omni Grove Hotel. Competition winners are selected in November and the gingerbread houses remain up through the season.

Location: The Omni Grove Park Inn (290 Macon Ave | North Asheville)

Cost: The gingerbread houses are free to view. Self-parking for day guests is $25 and for night guests it is $20. A portion of their parking proceeds goes to local non-profits.

Dates: The display begins November 27, 2023 through January 2, 2024. It is closed for viewing December 23, 24, 25, 30, 31 and January 1. If you aren’t staying at the resort, you can view the houses anytime Monday through Thursday and after 4:00 p.m. on Sundays. All Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for registered resort guests and those that have confirmed dining reservations.

Winter Lights At The Arboretum

November 17 – December 31, 2023

Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum

Bundle up and head to the NC Arboretum for the evening to enjoy a spectacular outdoor light display featuring over one million lights. Their 50 foot tree is lit up and lights in the Quilt Garden are time to holiday music.

Our kids especially love it because the Rocky Cove Railroad model trains run during Winter Lights. Apart from lights, the train, hot chocolate booths and live music, you’ll also find firepits and heaters. Smore’s kits are available for purchase

About the Winter Lights

Quick details: An open-air walk-through light show held annually at the Arboretum. You’ll find amazing light displays, live performances, lights timed to music and the Rocky Cove Railroad runs each evening.

Location: The NC Arboretum (100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way | South Asheville)

Cost: Price varies based on when you purchase your tickets and the types of tickets purchased. Prices range from $30 (budget night) to $75 (flex tickets) for cars. Tickets are on a per vehicle basis. Members receive a $5 discount.

Dates: November 18 – December 31, 2023

Additional Notes: Winter Lights is rain or shine and you will need to purchase your tickets in advance. If you are worried about weather, get a flex ticket. Tickets are date and time specific.

Biltmore’s Candlelight Christmas Evenings

November 3, 2023 – January 6, 2024

Exterior of the Biltmore House with Christmas trees on the lawn

Christmas at The Biltmore House is like no other. There are twinkle lights and trees everywhere, with candles and fireplaces guiding the way. It is so much fun to imagine what Christmas was really like in the house for the Vanderbilt family.

Though it’s somewhat costly to enter, it makes for an extraordinary evening. To keep costs down, you can opt for a daytime ticket at a reduced rate.

If you have an annual membership, you’ll still have to buy a separate Candlelight ticket. However, you will get a member discount.

About Biltmore’s Candlelight Christmas Evenings

Quick details: Tour America’s Largest Home® when it is at its best during Christmas. You’ll truly feel the magic of the season in the flawlessly decorated Biltmore House. There’s a soft glow from candles and twinkle lights everywhere you turn.

Location: The Biltmore Estate

Cost: Tickets range from $110 (audio-guided visit) to $410 (expert-guided visit) for daytime tickets. Evening tickets start at $115.

Dates: November 3, 2023 – January 6, 2024

Additional Notes: Antler Hill Village is also decked out for Christmas at the Biltmore. Tickets include entry to the gardens and Antler Hill Village in addition to a tour of the house.

Lake Julian Festival of Lights (December 2-23)

December 2-23, 2023

Lake Julian Park Festival of Lights display in Asheville

A favorite holiday tradition of ours! The Festival of Lights is the longest running drive-thru holiday light show in the area. It’s an especially great activity when it’s cold out because you can stay bundled up in your car while still getting in the holiday spirit.

Not only can you drive through the light show, but they also have two nights at the beginning of the month where you can walk through instead.

About Lake Julian Festival of Lights

Quick details: A drive-thru Christmas light show held nightly from 6-9pm December 2nd through the 23rd. There are two walk-thru nights on December 2 and 3.

Location: Lake Julian Park (37 Lake Julian Rd) | South Asheville

Cost: Cars are $10 each, large cans are $25 and buses are $50. The two walk-thru nights (December 2 and 3) are $4 per person while kids under 16 are admitted for free.

Dates: December 2-23, 2023

Additional Notes: 20% of proceeds are donated to Special Olympics Buncombe County and the remainder is reinvested in the show for the following year.

Winter Wonder Walk

December 15-30, 2023

This one is new to the game as of 2021, but it’s such a great holiday event for the whole family. The Winter Wonder Walk is an immersive experience created by Asheville Plays and is held at the Adventure Center of Asheville.

Escape into an outdoor holiday land where live characters guide you through an immersive story walk. After that, enjoy some pizza, hot chocolate and family fun in the warm festival tent.

The Holiday Aerial Glow Trail is also open during these evenings. This is an elevated aerial trail of swinging bridges, cable walks, beam walks, tunnels and other challenges for ages 4 and up.

About Winter Wonder Walk

Quick details: A live-action immersive story-walk on an outdoor trail. Expect live characters, tons of lights and happiness all around!

Location: The Adventure Center of Asheville

Cost: $17 general admission (kids 3 and under are free.) $1 of every ticket is donated to support MANNA Food Bank.

Dates: December 15, 16, 27, 28, 29, 30, 2023

Additional Notes: There is a warm festival tent on site with local vendors, concessions and activities. You can pre-order a Mellow Mushroom pizza with your ticket purchase. Slices are available at the event.

Rudolph’s Rooftop Pop-up At Pillar

Rooftop seating at Pillar's Rudolph's Rooftop pop-up event in Asheville, NC

We can’t get over just how festive the Rudolph’s Rooftop pop-up at Pillar in downtown Asheville is! It’s open through New Year’s and features live music on the weekends and holiday themed cocktails. The kitchen is open daily from 5 to 10pm.

You’ll find fun drinks like Santa’s Eggnog, Scrooge’s Hooch, and even Butter Beer on the menu. You can view the full drink menu here.

Are you planning to be there on a Thursday in December? Make sure to dress up for their weekly ugly sweater party held on Thursdays!

Pillar Rooftop Bar

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Holiday performances, ballets and musicals in Asheville

There are several holiday productions that will take place this winter in Asheville. This list includes multiple versions of the beloved Nutcracker, an orchestra concert and even a musical rendition of feel-good movie The Elf.

Asheville Ballet Nutcracker

December 8-10, 2023

A classical version of the hit holiday ballet The Nutcracker. Their Nutcracker performance has been beloved by Asheville for over half a century. Expect new choreography for several dances this year, as well as scenes you know and love from previous performances.

Showings are December 8 (7:30pm), December 9 (2:30pm and 7:30pm) and December 10 (2:30pm) at the Diana Wortham Theater.

Vienna Light Orchestra Concert

December 22, 2023

Prepare to be amazed at the one-day only performance of the traveling Vienna Light Orchestra’s Christmas concert. The concert hall will be lit up with over 2000 flickering candles while world-class musicians play Christmas favorites.

The Christmas concert will be held on December 22 at the AMT Theatre. Showings are at 4pm, 6pm (sold out) and 8pm.

NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet

December 17, 2023

Featuring dancers from Ukraine, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Turkey and more, this traveling production is not to be missed.

This NUTCRACKER! performance will be held on December 17 at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium at Harrah’s Cherokee Center. There is a 2:00 performance and a second at 6:00.

Elf The Musical (December 1-23)

Elf The Musical

December 1-23, 2023

A musical comedy based on the beloved film Elf performed by the Asheville Community Theater. Except to laugh, tear up, sing along and become a believer.

Showings are held Fridays at 7:30 and Saturdays + Sundays at 2:30 between December 1 and December 23, 2023. Additionally, there’s a special Thursday night show on December 21 at 7:30pm.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

December 1-2, 2023

Expect the unexpected at this version of The Nutcracker presented by Asheville Contemporary Dance Theater. The story told is based on the original and “darker” version of The Nutcracker written in 1816 by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann.

Showings are December 1 at 7:30pm and December 2 at 2pm and 7:30pm at the Diana Wortham Theater.

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Asheville Holiday Markets

Check everyone off your list with these local holiday markets in Asheville. It’s the perfect way to shop locally and support our makers, bakers, farmers and fellow citizens.

The Big Crafty

December 2-3, 2023

The Big Crafty Logo

The Big Crafty is an amazing event held semi-annually in downtown Asheville that features local artists and makers. It’s such a fun way to feel a part of the community and support the local creatives (many of which are women!)

Shop the market on December 2 and 3 at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville.

Uncommon Holiday Market

December 9-10, 2023

This indoor + outdoor event is always a great way to spend an afternoon! There are several uncommon holiday markets throughout the year, but this is the only holiday-themed one.

The Uncommon Holiday Market will be held at the Mission Health/A-B Tech Conference Center on December 10 and 11 from 10am-4pm. Admission is $5 and includes access for both days. Kids are free!

North Asheville Tailgate Market Holiday Bazaar

December, 2023

One of my favorite Asheville farmers markets gets a holiday makeover each year! The Holiday Bazaar hosted by the North Asheville Tailgate Market is such a great way to get in the spirit and be a part of the community. Shop handmade goods, local product and Christmas craft.

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Family-Fun Holiday Activities in Asheville

Below is a list of fun holiday activities in Asheville for the whole family. You’ll find everything from a Dickens-themed festival, a visit with the one and only Santa, a showing of A Christmas Story and a ride on a magical trolley.

Choose and cut your own Christmas tree

Mid-November – December, 2023

There are several Christmas tree farms near Asheville that make for the perfect holiday outing. Plan to go early this year (around Thanksgiving) because trees are in high demand. Many of the local Christmas tree farms have fun events like hayrides, holiday markets, Santa visits and hot chocolate.

A Dickens Christmas In Biltmore Village

December 1-2, 2023

Exterior of Asheville Christmas Shop in Biltmore Village

Step back in time at this annual event in Biltmore Village. This part of town always feels magical, but it’s truly a different world when there are dickens carolers, a chestnut roaster and a 15 foot tree in the Village Green. It’s the perfect spot to get in the holiday spirit.

A Dickens Christmas will be held on December 1 and 2, with various events scheduled on each date.

Santa at the Biltmore Estate

Weekends in November and December

Don’t miss Santa at The Biltmore Estate! This event is also known as “Santa at the Bandstand.” He’ll be greeting kids of all ages in the months of November and December. It’s the perfect opportunity to experience the magic of Christmas at the Biltmore with your younger ones.

Find Santa in the Biltmore Estate’s Antler Hill Village, which also has an ice cream shop, a playground, a working farm and several places to eat and shop.

This event is included in the cost of admission at the Biltmore Estate. Dates include: Nov. 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 24-26 and Dec. 2-3, 9-10, 16-22 from 1-5pm.

Grove Arcade Christmas Tree Lighting

November 25, 2023

Another magical place to find Santa in Asheville is at the Grove Arcade’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on November 25th, 2023. Not only will Santa himself be there, but you’ll also enjoy holiday music, dance performances, refreshments and caroling.

The Christmas tree lighting ceremony is November 25 from 6-8pm at the Grove Arcade.

Holiday Movie Nights at Asheville Pizza

Throughout December

Catch a showing of your favorite holiday movie all December-long at Asheville Pizza & Brewing’s North Asheville location. They haven’t announced the lineup yet, but last year’s classics included A Christmas Story, Scrooged, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Love Actually. Tickets are $3 for their holiday classics.

Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley Tour

December 2023

We absolutely love riding on the Gray Line Asheville trolley and it’s even better during the holidays! Hear tales of local holiday traditions, sing classic carols and catch the sights of the holidays on their Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley Tour.

You’ll ride through the historic Biltmore Village, downtown Asheville, the historic Montford neighborhood and the Grove Park Inn.

Swannanoa Winterfest 2023

December 17, 2023

Ending this list with a FREE event by the Swannanoa Community Council, Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS), and the Friends of the Swannanoa Library.

Modeled on the traditional European holiday markets, the Swannanoa Winterfest will feature a variety of artisans and vendors selling holiday-themed items under tents decked with festive lights. Attendees can warm their hands over a fire pit, while enjoying the delicious food, holiday treats, and hot drinks that will be available for purchase.

Musical entertainment, caroling, and holiday lights will fill Grovemont Square with the sounds and sights of the season. There will be activities for the kids, too, including a visit from Olaf the Snowman. Bring the whole family and enjoy the holiday festivities with your friends and neighbors!

This free event takes place in Grovemont Square (adjacent to the Swannanoa Library, 101 West Charleston Ave.), on Sunday, December 17th, from 2 – 6:30 pm. Make sure to bring nonperishables or monetary donations to support the Healthy Food & Fund Drive sponsored by local nonprofit Bounty & Soul.

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Disclaimer: Hours, pricing, menus, etc. may have changed since we last updated this post, so make sure to confirm all of this directly prior to visiting any business or attraction listed on our site.

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