This season, we’re forging new holiday traditions in the Elizabethtown-White Lake Area of North Carolina, where the nostalgia and magic of Christmas are amplified by a warm, welcoming community.
Affectionately known as “Mother Nature’s Playground” for its abundance of outdoor things to do, Elizabethtown also boasts a charming downtown brimming with gift shops, clothing stores, and restaurants. If all the shopping slows you down, check into Barefoot Brew for an espresso recharge or go a bit more decadent with a sweet treat from Burney’s Sweets & More.
SPONSORED by the Elizabethtown-White Lake Chamber of Commerce
Here Comes Santa Claus
Holiday festivities in Elizabethtown run from Thanksgiving through Christmas, starting with the annual Lighting of the Lake. From Dec. 3-18, the docks along the shore are illuminated by a magnificent display of stringed lights. After dinner, visitors can take a jaunt around the lake to marvel at the lights from four viewpoints: Goldston’s Pier, White Lake Marine, Timberlodge Pier, and Camp Clearwater.
Weekend mornings in Elizabethtown are best spent browsing the eclectic merchant booths at the Christmas Farmers Market, which operates on Saturdays from Nov. 26 to Dec. 17. This is not your run-of-the-mill artisan market! Each weekend the market and vendors collaborate on a different theme.
The most popular Elizabethtown holiday bash – the annual Festival of Lights – kicks off at the Lu Mil Vineyard on the day after Thanksgiving then runs Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 11 and nightly from Dec. 15-23. Sup on savory southern dishes at The Country Buffet and fill up on sweets at the Candy Shop next door. Pack the whole family in the car and drive through the spectacular lights display.
Adventure About Town
The Elf Scavenger Hunt, hosted by the Elizabethtown-White Lake Chamber of Commerce, challenges the young and young at heart to find the elf in stores around town. Receive a punch in your card for each spotting, and upon the tenth punch, return your card to the Chamber Office to enter into a raffle contest. The winner will receive an enormous Christmas stocking brimming with presents from local merchants like People’s Emporium, Lu Mil Vineyard, Burney’s Sweets, and more!
Of course, a child’s most coveted Christmas wish is to see Santa Claus. On Sunday, Nov. 27, children can eat breakfast with Santa and whisper their Christmas gift requests into his ear at the Cape Fear Winery before hopping over to the annual Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting Celebration. Watch kids stand in awe as floats, marching bands, baton twirlers, and dancers strut through the downtown area near Broad Street.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace
Roast your chestnuts (or s’mores) over an open fire at one of these charming Elizabethtown properties. Lu Mil Vineyard pours daily tastings of wines made from Muscadine, Scuppernong, Carlos, Magnolia, and Noble grapes – all native to North Carolina. Spend the night in a cozy cabin overlooking the unfurling acres of vines and sparkling lakes.
While Lu Mil offers a rustic escape from the city, Cape Fear Winery & Distillery is closer to the downtown action. There you’ll find 16 cottages that hug the exquisitely manicured property, where guests can sip on holiday concoctions from the comfort of rocking chairs looking out onto the adjacent lake and creeks. Dine at Cape Fear Winery’s restaurant, The Cork Room, where you’ll find a host of spirits from the distillery and red and white vintages from the vineyard.
The Grand Regal overlooks White Lake, a hidden gem beachfront claiming the clearest water in North Carolina! Guests can choose from relaxing Lake Side vacation rentals or stay in the Bay Side manufactured home park. A quick walk next door lands you at Goldston’s Beach, which is transformed into a winter wonderland in December.
If camping is more your style, you’re in luck! The Elizabethtown area boasts two large campgrounds. You’ll find a private sandy beach on White Lake and four piers at Camp Clearwater, with accommodations for tent camping up to modular homes. Nature lovers will embrace the 600-acre Sandy Ridge Campground. it has two dog parks, catch-and-release ponds, paths, playgrounds and the usual campground amenities. Sandy Ridge Campground accepts primitive tent camping, RVs and even tiny homes. Whichever accommodations you choose, you’re guaranteed a restive slumber and plenty of activities to occupy your time during the day.
Take A Hike This Christmas
Among the markets, parades, and light exhibits, there are plenty of other recreational activities to take part in during the month of December, and all year long. Some of the oldest state parks in North Carolina – the Jones Lake and Singletary Lake State Parks – grant access to more than 50 picnic tables surrounded by cypress, white cedar, and loblolly trees. Look out for wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and red-cockaded woodpeckers as you hike through the forest, while frogs, lizards, and turtles crawl closer to the lakeshore.
If you’re seeking more of an adrenaline-pumping experience, Bladen County is also known for its excellent mountain biking trails. Peppered with creek crossings, arduous climbs, sudden drops, and switchbacks, Brown’s Creek Bike Park and Nature Trail maintains almost 13 miles of all-level trails.
While many local accommodations boast on-site restaurants, you’ll find several satisfying dinner options in Elizabethtown. A visit to Elizabethtown is incomplete without a meal at Melvins’ Hamburgers & Hotdogs. Rumor has it that loyalists even fly into the regional airport to devour a Melvins’ burger with coleslaw! Burney’s Sweets & More is a great breakfast or lunch option offering a smorgasbord of sugary morsels. From red velvet cake donuts and banana pudding- stuffed croissants to macaroons and slices of 15-layer caramel cake, there’s a delectable dessert for everyone!
Also tucked into the downtown area is Giorgio’s Restaurant & Pizza. This is a popular destination for its expansive menu (and the pizza) and its slightly more intimate, yet relaxed family atmosphere. At Giorgio’s you’ll find the usual suspects of Italian dishes, plus buckets of country fried chicken! They’ll even pack the meal to go – hello picnic!
Sample piping hot empanadas, succulent Al Pastor street tacos, and sizzling fajitas at San Jose Mexican Restaurant. If your family is particularly ravenous, go for the classic Molcajete – a hot stone bowl replete with chicken, shrimp, ribeye steak, poblano peppers, pineapple, and more toppings. It’s enough to feed the entire horde!
Down the road, Cindy’s Restaurant spoils residents and visitors daily with a round-up of southern-style meat-and-three selections. Pile your plate up with fried chicken, catfish, or BBQ ribs and accompany them with collards, mac-n-cheese, and sweet potato souffle. A meal at Cindy’s is guaranteed to launch you into a deep, peaceful slumber on Christmas Eve!
While we cannot promise a White Christmas morning, the sands on the shores of White Lake provide the next best thing in the coastal Carolinas. Whether you’re venturing into town to purchase one-of-a- kind gifts for loved ones, impress your family with dazzling lights displays, or experience a beachfront Christmas morning, the holiday spirit is ringing all throughout Bladen County during the month of December, and your family will be received with a warm welcome.