As the holiday season ramps up, North Carolina comes alive with wonderful celebrations and holiday light displays. With beach towns, mountain resorts, and big cities, this lovely state offers varied landscapes and atmospheres during the Christmas season. Book a stay at one of many North Carolina vacation rentals to easily visit the most exciting holiday events and festivities. Take a look at the five best places to see Christmas lights in North Carolina.

christmas town mcadenville
Source: Flickr/Kreg Steppe

1. Speedway Christmas, Charlotte

You wouldn’t normally think of NASCAR and Christmas lights but the Charlotte Motor Speedway changes that opinion with the Speedway Christmas each year. With more than three million lights, the speedway comes alive with Christmas cheer. Stay warm in the car as your family drives past the more than 15 miles of lights, styled in a different theme each year such as “Santa’s Mountain.”

After driving past the lights, stop at Christmas Village on the track’s infield for more festive cheer. Kids can get their fill of animals with a petting zoo and pony rides while you enjoy a cup of hot chocolate to stay warm. At Christmas Village, you can enjoy a holiday movie on weekend nights. There’s a station to heat and eat your own s’mores, and the chance for kids to take a photo with Santa Claus. End your evening with a horse-drawn sleigh ride around the track and infield.

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2. Christmas Town USA, McAdenville

For a town with only about 700 people, McAdenville comes to life and pitches in to create Christmas Town USA filled with holiday cheer and amazing Christmas light displays. You can drive through town and the residential area to see all the stunning lights and decorations. The path of lights is only about two miles long so you can walk if you dress warmly. The town provides speakers that pipe out all of your favorite Christmas songs to enhance the merriment. The town puts up more than half a million lights in the downtown area starting in early December and running through the end of the month. After you see the lights, stop by Hillbilly’s Barbeque and Steaks for dinner or enjoy some comfort food at Georgio’s.

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3. Chetola Resort’s Festival of Lights, Blowing Rock

Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, find the Chetola Resort’s Festival of Lights in Blowing Rock. Most of the more than 500,000 lights are set up around the lake, and you can stay warm in your car as you cruise slowly by them or bundle up and walk around the lake and resort. As you walk along, you’ll see many of the most popular displays, including one of Santa’s reindeer who caught a fish, carolers, ice skaters, and a variety of popular and iconic Christmas scenes.

In downtown Blowing Rock, you can check out the town’s Christmas tree that’s unveiled each year at the Christmas in the Park Celebration that includes visits with Santa, Christmas carols, and plenty of hot chocolate to stay warm. Book your tickets with the Ensemble Stage to see the production of “An Ensemble Christmas” that they produce each year and reminds audiences of Christmas television specials from the 1940s and 50s. Finish up any last minute Christmas shopping on Main Street when you stop by 100 West Union or Monkee’s of Blowing Rock.

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4. Christmas Light and Train Spectacular, Wilmington

Throughout the month of December and on the weekends, the Wilmington Train Museum hosts the Christmas Light and Train Spectacular. Listen to the sounds of all your holiday favorites as you meander through this museum to view the more than 20,000 lights and animations set up for the Christmas season. Throughout the evening, there are many readings of the popular children’s book, “The Polar Express.”

Another Wilmington hidden gem over the holiday season is Poplar Grove Plantation. You can take a Candlelight Tour of the gorgeous manor house in the evenings and see the festive Christmas decorations. In early December, attend the Star of Wonder, Star of Night on the plantation’s grounds to tour the holiday lights, roast marshmallows in the fire pit, and watch a classic Christmas movie outside. Pick up some last minute gifts or stocking stuffers at the Grinch’s Toy Junk Shop during the festival and get dinner from one of the food trucks from local restaurants.

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5. Tanglewood Festival of Lights, Clemmons

Christmas lights turn into festive displays at the Tanglewood Festival of Lights in Clemmons. You’ll find more than 100 displays that are created by more than a million lights. This celebration of lights begins in mid-November each year and runs through the first day of the new year. Don’t worry about cold weather since you drive through the display in the warmth of your own car.

After seeing the lights, stop by Gift Village to soak in the holiday spirit. Each year, Lowes Food sponsors the S’moresville, where you can buy a marshmallow on a stick or kit to make your own s’mores in the fire. Inside the village, you can do some last minute shopping at the gift shop or pick up a new tree ornament to commemorate your trip.

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