One of my favorite holiday memories as a child was going for a ride to see the holiday light displays on Christmas Eve. I would “oh” and “ah” at the lights, convinced if I looked hard enough I would catch a glimpse of Santa’s sleigh flying through the air. This year we experienced something new; Winter Lights at The North Carolina Arboretum, one of Asheville, North Carolina’s holiday traditions. A perfect family activity with something for everyone to enjoy, the Winter Lights exhibit is truly a winter wonderland with over 500,000 LED lights displayed throughout seventeen stations set up throughout the gardens.
You’ll be greeted with glimpses of the light displays from the moment you enter the gate. As you wind your way up the path to park, a “forest” of lighted trees await. Once parked it’s only a short walk to the Winter Welcome Center to start the adventure.
Some of Our Favorite Features:
*StoryTime at Woodland Cove & Craft Station– Enter the magical forest of Woodland Cove where animatronic animals move and tell a story of their life. Stop by and pet the “bears” who line the edge of the display and then make a glow in the dark butterfly craft. This is a good place to stop and warm up on those chilly evenings. Plus, the kids will be captivated by the displays. A snack bar is located inside the building as well as restrooms.
*Rock Candy Cottage– Like stepping into the pages of Hansel and Gretel, these walkways are covered arbors of lights flanked by gingerbread men. A line of “candy gumdrop” lights and peppermint swirl lollipops entice children to come closer.
*Rocky Cove Railroad- Travel down the short flight of stairs and up the platform to the model trains. The “conductor” stops by for a word with the kids and a train sticker. The large railway with two working trains was a hit with kids of all ages, especially when the whistle sounded.
*Plantasia Light Show & Wishing Tree– Remember watching scenes from Fantasia? This is the same concept, except with plants shapes on the wall.
*The Dream Quilt– A rocking display set up to look like a quilt, this exhibit features flashing light patterns to the sounds of holiday carols.
*The Tree of Light– a massive Christmas tree with a spectacular light show. Sit in one of the colorful chairs that look straight out of a scene in Alice to Wonderland and watch the lights.
Who am I kidding? I think the baby and I were equally fascinated by all of the exhibits! We weren’t the only ones to feel this way. I overheard someone on the steps behind me tell their family members, “I am so glad we came! I think this is the best Christmas exhibit in Asheville.”
Of course, you don’t want to miss any of the exhibits. Everywhere we looked we found something new. We spent our time saying things like, “Is that Winnie the Pooh made from Christmas lights?” to “I want to see the Wishing Tree!” If you have attended in the past, there’s two new exhibits this year; Reindeer Games and the Feature Exhibit, “Wicked Plants.”
Tips: The temperature drops rapidly in the mountains after the sun sets. Although there are fire pits scattered around the park, it’s a good idea to dress warmly!
Don’t trust your GPS. After winding through a curvy road, we found ourselves at a back entrance where a sign greeted us with the message our GPS had brought us to the wrong place and instructions to the main entrance. This must be a common occurrence because five cars followed us out. Instead, follow the clearly marked green signs on the roadway.
Things to Know Before You Go:
*This is a walking tour, but most areas of the garden were handicapped accessible.
*Tickets are not sold at the gate. All tickets must be purchased in advance.
*Winter Wonderland Hours are 6:00 PM until 10:00 PM each night from November 17th until December 31st. All patrons must enter by 9:00 PM. The gates close at this time.
*Tickets are $18 for adults, $12 for children ages five to eleven, and four and under are free. Group discounts are available.
*Each Tuesday is Friends and Family Day. Tickets are discounted to $15 for adults and $10 for children.
*Parking is free!
Have you attended Winter Lights at The North Carolina Arboretum?
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