Mountain Holiday Traditions
Updated: 12/21/2022 • Bernie Gilchrist
Like the song says, ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the Year!” The holidays are magical in Western North Carolina and there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be than right here at home in The Blue Ridge Mountains. Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are huge here. Did you know that most of America’s Christmas Trees come from these old mountains, in fact, this year’s Christmas Tree for the White House in Washington, DC is from Haywood County.
For as long as folks can remember, there has always been a jubilation and love for the holiday’s here along with deep family traditions of celebrating the season. There’s just something that stirs the soul with an open fireplace in an old rustic log cabin overlooking the mountains on a snowing day. It’s what postcards are made of.
Many families come and rent cabins for the holidays and enjoy skiing over at Cataloochee in Maggie Valley, cutting their own Christmas Tree and visiting America’s largest private home, The Biltmore Estate.
If you’re planning on visiting us this year for the holidays, then here are a few things you want to make sure to add to your bucket list.
Western North Carolina is truly a Winter Wonderland!
My first recommendation is visiting Biltmore Estate for their Christmas at Biltmore and their Candlelight Evenings. Giant Christmas Trees along with thousands of ornaments, ribbons, garlands, decorations, and millions of twinkling lights are strategically placed on the 127-year-old estate to celebrate Christmas in the Vanderbilt tradition of excellent. The Biltmore House is transformed into a fairytale castle that Disney himself could not even have imaged. Each room has its own holiday flare and spirit decorated in the Victorian Christmas fashion of the good ole’ days gone by.
It's truly the most enchanted time of the year at Biltmore!
The mountain magic continues throughout the whole estate with dazzling lights cascading throughout Antler Hill Village with outrageous displays of ornaments, decorations, and even trains carrying presents.
All aboard! Be sure to visit the Biltmore Gardens Railway – ,The Wonders of the World, while at the village and for the Train Lovers of all ages visit the popular large-scale model train in the Conservatory with 800 feet of track. The Biltmore Gardens Railways will bring transport you to your fondest childhood dreams.
Biltmore makes Christmas shopping and dining whimsical and fun! Enjoy numerous shops, restaurants, a tavern, and winery featuring wine tasting while you explore the magic of Biltmore Christmas. For more information visit: https://www.biltmore.com/things-to-do/events/christmas/
For the best Christmas light show in the mountains, trek on over to the NC Arboretum located just off Hwy 191 south of Asheville. This year’s theme is ‘Forest and Garden Enchantment” showcasing all new designs and storied features that will dazzle your senses and will tickle your imagination.
This year’s open-air walk-through show has over a million designer lights with a 50-foot lighted Christmas Tree, a luminated Quilt Garden, light tunnels and more.
All aboard! The Rocky Cove Railroad returns this year by popular demand. Kids of all ages love the G-Scale model train as it makes its nightly trip to the North Pole. The details in this model set is spectacular and worthy of exploring.
The Arboretum is focused on family fun! Grab a Hot Chocolate at the Coca Shack and enjoy smores by the fire and afterwards mosey on over to Storytime at Woodland Cove for an educational exhibit of a young bears journey. Your kids will love you for it!
Make a date for the night and enjoy a wonderful meal with the Bent Creek Bistro. Here’s the menu: https://www.ncarboretum.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Winter-Lights-2022-Menu-with-logo-NO-PRICING-1.pdf
Enjoy beer or wine as you stroll the gardens this year and if you need something to warm you up, there’s always hot coco.
Winter Lights is open from November 18th-December 31 2022.
Tickets must be purchased in advance.
To order your tickets go here: https://www.ncarboretum.org/winter-lights-2/
For more information: https://www.ncarboretum.org/winter-lights/event-info/
Old Fashion Hayrides Through the Lights
Just over the mountains in Bryson City, NC- Darnell Farms ( https://darnellfarms.com/) are giving old fashion hayrides through the lights of The Smoky Mountains Christmas Light Spectacular ( https://www.greatsmokies.com/christmas-light-show-bryson-city/ ) . They’ll have hot cocoa ready to help keep you warm.
You can also drive yourself through giant LED displays and custom-built light displays while listening to festive music on your own radio. This will be fun for the whole family!
For more information and hours of operation:
All Aboard the Polar Express
Leaving from Bryson City is The Polar Express by The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, a 1 ¼ hour fantasy round-trip passenger excursion where the train transforms to a magical train ride to the North Pole. You will journey through the countryside and the quite wilderness of the Candy Cane Forest until you reach the home of Santa. Children of all ages will be elated as Santa boards to present each child a gift as in the story and to give each one their own silver sleigh bell. Enjoy Christmas Carols with Hot Cocoa and Christmas treats while riding through the magical forest of Western Nort Carolina.
When you arrive back to the station, feel free to shop and pick up your own copy of the classic novel; The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg now in its 35th anniversary hard cover version. And don’t forget the Polar Bear Plush toy as you have them all wrapped up by elves.
This train is magical!
For more information on tickets and times: https://www.gsmr.com/events/polar-express/
Cut your Own Tree
You may not hear angles singing when you find your tree like the Griswold’s, but you will give your family a fond Christmas memory and hopefully a new family tradition.
There are 3 local Tree Farms I recommend for selecting and cutting your own tree.
1st is Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm. https://boydmountainchristmastreefarm.com/
This farm has been operating as a working farm for over 100 years:
2nd Smoky Mountain Tree Farm https://smokymountaintreefarm.com/
They also have charming mountain cabins for rent. They call them Christmas Tree Cabins. Check them out here: http://www.christmastreecabins.com/
3rd Mehaffey Tree Farm https://www.mehaffeytreefarm.com/
Family owned since 1984 Featuring Fraser Firs.
Make this the year to explore Western North Carolina and discover it’s magical venues and attractions that helps you celebrate the season, and begin a new tradition for you and your family.
Photo Credit: Chris Cassels~Casablanca Digital Media 2022