Top Place to be in November

Nov 15, 2015 | Last Updated Mar 11, 2021
1015 words (4 min read)

Christmas season kicks off in November, making Asheville even brighter and more extravagant than usual. The holiday season brings everyone, young and old to our beautiful mountain town. With all of the great events, festivals and celebrations, it’s no wonder Asheville is among the top tourist destinations this November.


The Biltmore Estate is even more magical when adorned for the holidays. The Christmas at Biltmore extravagant celebration includes dozens of elaborate hand-decorated Christmas trees (including the favorite 35-foot Fraser fir in the Banquet Hall), 1,000+ poinsettias, miles of garland and lights, live music and inspirational holiday  demonstrations. This year’s design draws inspiration from the theme “A Gilded Age Christmas," incorporating grand and elegant details that are rooted in authentic Vanderbilt Christmas stories.

Daytime Celebration: November 6, 2015–January 10, 2016 

Candlelight Christmas Evenings: November 6, 2015–January 2, 2016. 

Purchase your Biltmore Estate Tickets at our 24-hour concierge desk for your convenience; for only $60 you receive a 2-day pass. (Tickets are valid for 2 consecutive days.) When you book a stay with us at The Residences at Biltmore, you also receive a promotional code to upgrade one of those nights to include a Candlelight Evening visit for only $15! Candlelight Christmas Evenings require a separate ticket for entry from daytime admission - and reservations are required.

Gingerbread House Competition

For a sweet treat, tour the amazing display at the 23rd Annual National Gingerbread House Competition at The Omni Grove Park Inn. Except for the base, the entries are constructed entirely of edible materials. Judging will take place on November 16 and the awards ceremony is open and free to the public. While guests with hotel, spa or restaurant reservations may view the display at any time, others can stop by to view entries November 18, 2015-January 3, 2016 on Sunday-Thursday, 9 AM until 9 PM (excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day).

While there is no admission charge to view the gingerbread creations, there is a $10 per car parking fee. Half of this fee goes to local non-profits and the other half covers the extra expenses to accommodate the big crowds. Most entries are on the main lobby floor in both wings. Get a map at the information desk in the lobby. As you walk to the various display areas, see some of the 80 decorated trees in the historic, grand hotel.

The Polar Express

A favorite area holiday tradition for kids of all ages (including the adults!) is the Polar Express Train excursion on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. More than 70,000 passengers rode last year! Dates for this season: November 13, 2015-January 3, 2016. The 1.25-hour round-trip excursion departs the Bryson City depot for a journey through the countryside to the North Pole. Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, guests enjoy warm cocoa and a treat while listening and reading along with the magical story. Bring your camera! Christmas carols will be sung as they return back to the Depot. (They do not run on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.)

Ticket prices begin at $42 for adults and $28 for children ages 2-12. Children under two years old ride complimentary. All fares subject to 7% Historic Preservation Fee and 6.75% state tax. Book early to get your preferred date and time. Many excursions sell-out. Go to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad website to buy tickets. Arrive Early: You should arrive at least 30 minutes before departure. Or arrive earlier to explore downtown Bryson City a bit. Take photos on the caboose and browse the shops. Directions: From downtown Asheville, it's 65 miles (allow 1.5 hours to drive) to the depot in Bryson City (for GPS, use 45 Mitchell St. Bryson City, NC for parking area)

Light Shows in Asheville

November 20, 2015 @ 6:00 pm - January 2, 2016 @ 10:00 pm

Don’t miss The North Carolina Arboretum’s elaborate Winter Lights show. It’s a three-acre nightly walking tour of The North Carolina Arboretum's nationally-known gardens, including its Quilt Garden and Bonsai Exhibition Garden, transformed into a nighttime winter wonderland. Stroll through spectacular lighted displays and see the gardens in a completely new way. New exhibits will include animated displays that are programmed to illuminate to the sounds of musical holiday favorites. $16-$18 per person. Tickets are date-specific and sold in limited quantities. All tickets must be purchased in advance; no tickets will be sold at the gate.

November 25-December 30, 2015

Drive through Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher (near the Asheville Airport). This award-winning Christmas light and music extravaganza is a two-mile maze filled with hundreds of thousands of LED lights performing in perfect synchronization with the Christmas tunes playing through your car radio. This season, catch a glimpse of how Santa and his friends spent their summer vacation at the beach with a section of huge displays featuring comical snapshots of the North Pole crew playing in the sand, rather than the snow. This tech-heavy show will also include the all-new animated arch with 3,600 computerized channels. At the end of the drive route, visit Santa’s Village with Santa Claus under a big tent. Refreshments like hot cocoa, S’mores, funnel cakes and more are available for purchase. Fun activities for kids include a Santa train, giant spider bungee jump and inflatables. Christmas Wonderland supports Toys for Tots. Open every day, Dusk-10 PM, even in the rain. Tickets are purchased on-site from the comfort of your own vehicle. Credit cards accepted! The cost to experience Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland: Cars or Family Vans: $20

December 4-22, 2015

Drive through a festive holiday light display along Lake Julian in south Asheville (near Biltmore Park). Their Festival of Lights is lit with thousands of colored lights and 50 animated and stationary light displays. The road circling this Buncombe County park becomes a magical journey. The light show is open 6-9 PM and admission is $5/car. A walk-through preview is December 3. Lake Julian Festival of Lights Address for GPS is: 406 Overlook Road Ext., Arden, NC 28704 .



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