A Christmas vacation in North Carolina means you can look forward to exciting holiday events and festivities. After settling into your vacation rental in North Carolina, explore the cities and towns where you’re sure to find beautiful holiday lights, Christmas trees, ringing bells, and carolers. You might even bump into Santa. Check out North Carolina’s top winter destinations.

1. McAdenville

McAdenville’s Christmas decorating tradition began in the 1950s, growing annually to earn the city nickname Christmas Town, USA. Homes and businesses line the streets with cheerful holiday music and millions of colorful lights that capture your senses with the magic of the season. Visitors come from miles around to drive through town and witness the merry decorations in Christmas Town, USA, where there are more Christmas trees than people. Festive events encourage folks to stay awhile, including the Yule Log Parade, concerts, and the Annual Christmas Town 5K. When you need to come out of the cold, head for the haven of Hillbilly’s Barbecue & Steaks, where they offer a selection of rustic Southern food to soothe the soul.

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2. Asheville

Asheville is an artistic mountain town, brimming with arts, crafts, and performing artists. Spend your days skiing and tubing one of the slopes in the region, with rental options such as Ski Country Sports and Moonshine Snow Tubing Park ready to start your adventure. Cuddle up to a crackling fire at a lodge, or huddle together under some blankets and enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride, complete with jingle bells and maybe a few snowflakes. The main attraction for locals and visitors alike during the holidays is the Biltmore House, which hosts one of the most elegant displays in America. The Christmas trees are vividly decked-out, and the decorations are lavish. The dramatic banquet hall is the centerpiece of the Biltmore Estate Christmas celebration, where George and Edith Vanderbilt hosted their Christmas dinners.

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3. Charlotte

Charlotte Christmas shows, tours, and shopping offer more activities than you can shake a candy cane at. A quaint European-inspired Christmas Village in Romare Bearden Park features vendors and performers that bring the sights, sounds, and aromas of Christmas to life. Follow the aromas of classic Austrian strudels, Bratwurst with Sauerkraut, mulled wine, and almond shortbread cookies throughout the village as you browse thousands of unique gifts and listen to chorales and carolers. The city is lit up from stem to stern with all the trees, bells, and whistles you can imagine, but there are plenty of other events and performances to get you in the Christmas spirit. If you enjoy classical entertainment, the Charlotte Ballet presents the Nutcracker at the luxurious Belk Theater. When you’re done, head across the street and into the past to Prohibition Bar, a speakeasy-style watering hole with 1920s-style drinks to keep you in-character.

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4. Concord

There are so many Christmas attractions in Concord, including North Pole University at Great Wolf Lodge. Kids delight in completing holiday-themed activities to earn their official “Snowplomas” along with a Rowdy the Reindeer trading card. The indoor water park features 80,000 square feet of pools, slides, and rides. In addition to the beautiful lights decorating the streets in town, Charlotte Motor Speedway features one of the country’s largest Christmas light shows. A typical annual show includes millions of lights in 800 displays.

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5. Bryson City

For a small town that goes all out for Christmas, you can’t go wrong with Bryson City as your vacation destination. Just like something out of a Currier & Ives painting, bright Christmas lights and garlands decorate the streets where galleries and quaint shops feature lots of unique gifts, delicious foods, and local wines. Be sure to visit the Chocolate Shoppe for a taste of the holidays. Throughout the holiday season, you can find attractions and events, including the Christmas parade and visits with Santa. Thrill the kids when you take them aboard the Polar Express train for an enchanted hour-long ride via the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Dress the kids in their pajamas for the trip for singing Christmas carols, enjoying hot chocolate, and listening to a story. When Santa boards the train, he gives each child a silver bell. During your visit in Bryson City, remember to visit the old Appalachian Toymaker, just across from the train depot. Kids enjoy watching the toymaker create wooden toys as they listen to a Christmas story or two.

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6. Chimney Rock

If you want to show the kids something truly different, check out Santa keeping in shape with a 200-foot rappel down Chimney Rock. Unlike days past, when Santa smoked and his belly shook like a bowl full of jelly, this modern Jolly Old St. Nick likes to stay fit and keep in practice for climbing down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve. The park office gives you his rappelling schedule, so you can arrive for the stunt that caused “USA Today” to call it one of the “10 Great Places to Catch up With Santa.”

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7. Corolla

There’s white stuff at the beach, just outside the door of your Corolla vacation home, and it isn’t even cold. Trade the snow shovels, boots, and mittens for sand buckets and flip flops where the off-season winter rates keep Black Friday savings going throughout the holidays. In between savoring fresh-baked pies and the warm Southern hospitality on offer in the area, check out “Christmas in Corolla,” held in Historic Corolla Park. This special candlelight tour shows you what Christmas was like in the 1920s, with wine samplings and splendid Christmas light displays. If the weather does happen to feel a bit nippy, just slip into the hot tub as you listen to Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas.”

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