Winter is a magical time in the Western North Carolina Smoky Mountains. There’s a glittering display of celebration and festive fun for the holiday season that lasts from November all the way through February. Then after Christmas is over, you can keep the post-holiday blues away with fun winter activities like arts & crafts festivals, skiing, snowboarding, tubing and so much more!

There are so many magical events throughout the 2021 winter season, that it’s tough to keep track of them all. Keep reading for a list of some of the most popular events that both locals and travelers look forward to every year.

Disclaimer: Please check with each venue before visiting to find out the latest details on safety precautions, times, or closures. 

The Polar Express (Bryson City, NC)

Smoky Mountains Winter Events

November 12 to December 31, 2021

Take a memorable Christmas journey when you board the Polar Express at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Depot in Bryson City. A favorite holiday tradition for kids of all ages, this exciting train ride will have you believing in magic all over again. Hop on board for a 1¼-hour round-trip ride over the river and through the woods to the North Pole. Set to the delightful sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, riders will stay warm with hot cocoa and cookies while reading along with the story.

And when the train pulls into the North Pole, kids’ faces will light up with joy when they’re greeted by Santa and Mrs. Claus. Each child will receive a special gift – their very own silver sleigh bell just like in the story. On the return journey, riders will sing Christmas carols to round out the trip.

Christmas at The Biltmore House (Asheville, NC)

November 5, 2021 to January 9, 2022

The Biltmore House takes on even more magic when its halls are decked for the holidays. This majestic fairy tale castle in the mountains is adorned with a plethora of ornate hand-decorated trees, including the favorite 35-ft. live Fraser fir in the Banquet Hall. You’ll see a thousand poinsettias, miles and miles of festive garland, and enjoy live music during your tour!

Winter Wonderland in Franklin, NC

November 27 to December 4, 2021

Just down the road from the Meadowlark Motel, the charming town of Franklin, NC presents its annual Winter Wonderland  from 5:00pm to 8:00pm each evening. Its historic downtown area is transformed into a magical Christmas adventure with everything from living window displays of Christmas, live holiday music at the downtown gazebo and inside stores, FREE holiday attractions, refreshments, hot cider, great sales from local small businesses, and so much more!

Tinsel Trail & Appalachian Christmas at Shelton House (Waynesville, NC)

December 5, 2021

The historic Shelton House  in Waynesville is hosting their Appalachian Christmas Event on December 5 from 5:00pm to 7:00pm. Enjoy a visit from Santa Claus himself as you and your family marvel at the hundreds of twinkling lights that adorn the property. The Tinsel Trail kicks off on the evening of 12/5 but will stay lit every evening from dusk till dawn through January 2, 2022, so you can enjoy it throughout the entire holiday season.

Santa on the Chimney (Chimney Rock, NC)

December 4 & December 11, 2021

Everyone knows that Santa enters houses through the chimney, but where do you think he goes to keep his climbing skills sharp? Chimney Rock State Park is his favorite place to train for his Christmas deliveries. Kids of every age love to come by and watch Santa practice as he repels down one of the largest chimneys ever. Write out your Christmas wish list and bring it to Santa and Mrs. Claus. Enjoy festive live music, hot chocolate, cookies, special kids activities, and even meet live Park animal ambassadors!

Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries (Dillsboro, NC)

December 3-4 and 10-11, 2021

The first two weekends of December – from 5:00pm to 9:00pm each Friday and Saturday – you and your family can journey back to ‘ye days of old’ and experience the magic of the holidays. The entire town of Dillsboro is completely transformed into a wonderland of winter delights. Enjoy live holiday music and marvel at 2500 luminaries that will light your way along charming shops, artists’ studios, and restaurants. Wave to Santa and Mrs. Claus as they ride through town in their pickup truck. You can even write a letter to Santa and drop it off at his special mailbox!

Burn’s Night (Maggie Valley, NC)

January 21, 2022

Robert Burns is the national poet of Scotland and is one of the most widely read Scottish poets both in Scotland and around the world. His works represent the rich local Scottish heritage in the western North Carolina Smoky Mountains, and you’ll find people honoring his birthday all across the area. Join us right here at the Meadowlark Motel when we host our annual event that includes traditional Scottish food, bagpipe players, and storytellers reading Burn’s iconic works.