The weather outside is frosty and very soon we’ll have snowmen saying the fire is delightful. Yes, it's the holiday season here in Asheville, and you know what that means: pageantry, pomp, and so many gosh darn rows of Christsmas lights that we’re gonna need a bulldozer come Boxing Day.
It's one of my favorite times of year to be a local. It's not so cold as to threaten life and limb, but it's chilly enough to get you in the right mood. Every restaurant, shopping center, and grand Ashevillean monument is putting on the ritz. Some days you can practically taste the nutmeg in the air.
There’s hardly a more delightful season to visit the Paris of the South, so if you find yourself here come Solstice-tide, please read on and discover five of the best holiday events in Asheville.
For many, Christmas means revisiting their favorite holiday stories and films. Diehard, for instance. The Green Knight, that’s one of mine.
But let us not forget the classics of course. High art, if you will. Better yet: live performance. Perhaps best: The Nutcracker, that timeless story of whimsy and holly-jolly cheer.
This year, there’s stiff competition for who's got the best Nutcracker in town, but all the better for you, I say. You can either catch one of four showings the weekend of the 16th at the Diana Wortham Theater, performed by the Ballet Conservatory’s pre-professional company, or on head down to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Center on the 17th for a performance from the Ukrainian Principal Artists, promising acrobatics, puppetry, and stunning costumes.
Either way, you’re gonna be taking a trip downtown, the perfect place for dinner before your show, or perhaps some post-performance cocoa.
Spirit of the Season: Bring your own nutcracker to The Nutcracker. It's a time honored tradition and not creepy at all. Them blank unblinking eyes. Those jaws that go: “Gnah gnah gnah.” Everybody loves nutcrackers.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. It's the week before Christmas, and all through the house, one creature is stirring: it's you, not a mouse. You can’t sleep, you’re tossing and you’re turning, because you got a whole long list of people to get presents for, and somehow or other, you just can’t figure what you’re going to do.
Maybe you don’t have this problem. But I do. And so, for my fellow last-minute shoppers out there, I suggest you check out the Uncommon Holiday Market, Asheville’s largest pop-up bazaar, chock full of antiques, curios, and all manner of vintage goods.
So what if you don’t know what to get that special someone? Enter with nary an idea in that head of yours; leave with a windup music box, a sweet vintage necklace, and a potted plant.
This year, you can find them on December 9th and 10th, on the AB Tech Campus, wedged between the River Arts District and Biltmore Village. As with all these entries, be sure to check out their website to confirm just when and where the event’s taking place in the year of your own holiday visit to Asheville.
Spirit of the Season: Become a vendor. Got bric-a-brac in that attic of yours? Call it an antique, sell it for profit, use the profit to buy someone else’s antique, wrap her up, and badoom: the perfect gift. If that’s not the holiday spirit, I don’t know what is.
Now I’m harping on the joys of the Arboretum’s Winter Lights just about every article I write concerning the holidays in Asheville, but gosh darn it, it's a crowd pleaser, and for good reason too. It can be the coldest night of the year, but you bet your bottom dollar I’m making it to the light show myself. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.
It's a tradition, and not just for locals. People come far and wide to see this downright luminous celebration, resplendent with bulbs on every branch, and a fifty-footer composed entirely of bedazzling electrodes.
So get your tickets early, and drive on down early, because there’s gonna be a line. But once you got a cup of cocoa in that palm of yours, and you get to wandering through the Winter Lights, arm in arm with your beloved, I reckon you’ll say its all worth it.
Spirit of the Season: Be sure to grab those glasses they’re always giving out, that make the lights flare like a J.J. Abrams film. Myself, I got astigmatism, so I’m seeing the flares whether I like it or not.
If you happen to be in town early in the season, there’s no better place to warm up for the holidays than the Dickens Festival in Biltmore Village, usually held the first weekend of December.
Here in historic Biltmore Village, you can peruse some of Asheville’s finest galleries, boutiques, and restaurants, all the while entertained by roving carolers and musicians attired in the spirit of the Dickensian age. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to scrounge up some roasted chestnuts or the like.
Be sure to check out the Christmas craft market on the grounds of the All Souls Cathedral before you go. It's a great stop on your tour of Asheville’s best holiday events, right on the way to downtown, or better yet, the Biltmore Estate. More on that just below.
Spirit of the Season: Dress up for the festival yourself. They say there’s a prize if you never break character: all you can drink eggnog. Or so I hear.
Not to be confused with the 2023 time-travel thriller of the same name, a visit to the nationally-renowned Biltmore Estate this holiday season is sure to be the capstone on your trip to Asheville. It is our claim to fame, after all. After Dobra, that is.
Now the Estate is always makes for a heck of a tour, no matter the time of year, but once they get all those Christmas trees up, once all the mantles are hung with garlands, and all the lights come alive at night, well, the effect is downright transportational, I’ll tell you.
You can buy daytime tickets, but for my money, it is really best seen at night. Visit Antler Hill Village afterwards, across the rolling grounds of the Estate, for a boatload more holiday ornamentation and lights, plus perhaps a tasting at their winery. It sure is a magical time of year.
Spirit of the Season: Fill the Estates halls with carols unceasing. Ignore the tour guides when they ask you to stop. Nothing can overcome the power of song.
Harrah's Cherokee Center
87 Haywood St, Asheville, NC 28801
Wortham Center for the Performing Arts
18 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Uncommon Market Asheville
1 Foundy St, Asheville, NC 28801
The North Carolina Arboretum
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806
The Biltmore Estate
1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803