Top 14 Kid-Friendly Christmas Lights Shows in North Carolina

When people say Santa lives “up north,” you’ll swear they are talking about North Carolina, as the Tar Heel state is home to some of the best Christmas lights in the South. With snow-capped mountains in the West and floating Christmas parades by the beach, you’ll find plenty of holiday distractions.

We organized NC’s Christmas light shows into regions for easy navigation, so click the links to find the best Christmas light show near you.

Best Charlotte Christmas Lights

Christmas Town USA

McAdenville, NC

Affectionately known as Christmas Town USA, McAdenville, NC, has been making Christmas bright since 1956. Located between Charlotte and Gastonia, McAdenville’s lights were heralded as the #2 Christmas lights display in the nation, according to a national survey by USA Today.

Best of all, you can park and walk, or drive through this Christmas light show free!

Check their event schedule for the Tree Lighting Ceremony, Yule Log Ceremony, and more fun and family-friendly events leading up to Christmas. Some events have been canceled as a result of Coronavirus precautions.

Speedway Christmas

Concord, NC

Drive through nearly four miles of lights at Speedway Christmas, the holiday light show at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. This is the 12th year of the drive-through Christmas lights show, which features more than 4 million lights over a remarkable 3.75-mile course that includes most of the oval as well as the infield. On the weekends you can enjoy movies on the Speedway’s giant screen (Thursday-Sunday). The Speedway Christmas display is open rain or shine. 

Given the show’s popularity — especially on weekends — Speedway Christmas organizers recommend a mid-week visit if your schedule permits. For the best experience, plan to arrive early.

Speedway Christmas runs Saturday, November 19, 2021 – Sunday, January 2, 2022. Ticket prices for 2021 have not been announced (as of 9/19/21), but last year tickets were $30 per car (max 10); $50 per van (max 36); $175 bus (max 57)

Zootastic Chrismas Wonderland of Lights

Troutman, NC

Best known as a drive-through animal park, Zootastick brightens holiday evenings with Christmas light displays along the 100-acre park route. Here you can treat the family to evening animal encounters, Christmas lights and even an area where you can stretch your legs and walk around animal enclosures. 

We’re still waiting for dates and ticket prices, but last year Zootastic’s Christmas Wonderland of Lights took place November 25th, 2020, to January 1st, 2021. Tickets were around $10. Zootastic Park, 385 Ostwalt Amity Road, Troutman. 

Best Christmas Light Shows in Western North Carolina

While the snow often hits after the Christmas season, the falling leaves and cool mountain air should set the mood for your little guy or girl to meet Santa.

Dazzle the whole family with a weekend trip to see one or all of these Christmas lights displays in western NC.

Biltmore Candlelight Christmas

Asheville, NC

Christmas at the Biltmore is more than an annual celebration of the season. It’s a completely magical Christmas experience for all ages in North Carolina’s mountainous backyard.

Stroll around the grounds ooh-ing and aah-ing at expertly dressed live Fraser Firs, wreaths and boughs. Get inside for a peak into the past of how “America’s Largest Home” would have been decorated.

The Biltmore sells tickets for two enchanting experiences: the Biltmore by day or in the evening by candlelight. In our opinion, neither is to be missed!

Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum

Asheville, NC

The North Carolina Arboretum is a celebration of the native species in the Carolinas and nature. What better place to watch the lights glow while teaching your children about the wonders of botany?

This year, you can safely experience the bright and cheery one-mile stretch of Christmas lights from the safety of your own vehicle. Bring a thermos of cocoa and get ready to cruise slowly—you won’t want to miss a single Christmas lights display.

Tweetsie Railroad Christmas

Blowing Rock, NC (near Boone)

The old West themed village of Tweetsie Railroad nestled between the winter-loving towns of Boone and Blowing Rock, NC, offers the most well-rounded Christmas experiences for kids.

Not only will your children’s eyes light up as they board the train that takes them through the Christmas light show in NC, but they’ll have a chance to meet Santa in a Gingerbread House, and play with an in larger-than-life snow globes.

Note: This attraction was questionable due to COVID-19. Check with the venue before planning your trip.

City Light Shows in and around the Triangle

Busy parents won’t need to drive far to mesmerize their kids with dazzling Christmas lights. Visit these unique and well-established festivals of lights in NC’s piedmont.

Chinese Lantern Festival

Cary, NC

For a different Christmas experience, Koka Booth Amphitheatre hosts an absolutely mesmerizing display of creative paper lanterns. The Chinese Lantern Festival features colorfully crafted butterfly lanterns, dragons, plants, and this year, a 200-ft long, 21-ft tall phoenix, set the atmosphere for a magical experience.

This event is a self-guided walking tour on paved walkways and is wheelchair accessible.

Note: This attraction was questionable due to COVID-19. Check with the venue before planning your trip.

Tanglewood Festival of Lights

Clemmons, NC (near Winston-Salem)

Lighted castle entrance spans the road at the Tanglewood Festival of Lights

Drive through the Tanglewood Festival of Lights in Clemmons, NC.

Drive through the Tanglewood’s Festival of Lights, an amazing Christmas lights display adored from the comfort of your own vehicle. Alternatively, book a horse-drawn carriage or tractor-pulled hayrides to view the splendor of these lights.

Your children will not only love the light show, but they’ll get a chance to meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus and their helpers. Perhaps most exciting of all – kids can visit S’moresville next to the gift shop for a marshmallow roasting experience worthy of the North Pole.

Meadow Lights

Benson, NC

Get the full North Carolina Christmas light show experience at the largest and oldest Christmas lights show in Eastern NC.

At Meadow Lights, kids can snack on old fashioned candy as your family makes its way through 30 acres of light displays. Jump on the train to glide through 10+ acres more. After riding the 16 horse carousel, kids can sit pretty on Santa’s lap for a photo.

This 40 year old light show is especially popular among religious families as their light show “honors the true meaning of Christmas” with Christian displays.

Note: This attraction was questionable due to COVID-19. Check with the venue before planning your trip.

Moonlight in the Garden

Raleigh, NC

Did you know the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh holds a magical light show every year? Celebrate the season with food trucks, live music, marshmallows and fire pits. Not to mention the after-dark light show!

Tickets sell out fast, so be sure to check the website before you go.

Note: This attraction was questionable due to COVID-19. Check with the venue before planning your trip.

Hill Ridge Farms Festival of Lights

Youngsville, NC

Food, music and a winter wonderland light show in NC? Hill Ridge Farms makes it happen.

Your kids are guaranteed to exhaust themselves. With a covered wagon hayride through the Festival of Lights, bonfires with s’mores and hot chocolate, American food at the Chuckwagon Grill, a giant slide, cornhouse, jumping pillow, slide house, roller slight, web and pipe swing, and train rides available, there’s no shortage of Christmas spirit here.

Best Holiday Light Shows in Coastal Carolina

In North Carolina, the coast exchanges snow for white sand beaches. But that doesn’t mean Christmas cheer is in short supply. Check out these Christmas light shows for a truly memorable holiday.

Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla

Carolina Beach, NC

It’s a sight to see and even more exciting to participate in! Carolina Beach’s Christmas light show makes the Intracoastal Waterway sparkle and shine as boaters deck out their vessels to compete for prizes.

Holiday Lights in the Garden

Fayetteville, NC

Visit the Cape Fear Botanical Garden in Fayetteville to impress your children with a mile-long jaunt through thousands of dazzling lights.

Snap a photo of your kids with Santa, enjoy a free caroling hayride, and let your kids make s’mores and create free Christmas crafts. 

North Carolina Holiday Flotilla

Wrightsville, NC

A bay of glowing boats light up the night at the Holiday Flotilla in Wrightsville Beach, NC. With categories for best sailboat, best power boast 31’ and over, and best costumes and crew spirit, the competition for the most holiday spirit brings out the best of the best.

Note: This attraction was questionable due to COVID-19. Check with the venue before planning your trip.

Did we miss any of the best Christmas light shows in NC?

Where does your family make their holiday memories? Tag us @carolinatravelr on Instagram to let us know!