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Try This: Illuminate the holidays with the North Carolina Arboretum’s Winter Lights

Ready to celebrate the season? Do it in the most festive way possible: with the NC Arboretum’s Winter Lights.

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A unicorn made of colored lights

Who needs reindeer when you have a glorious unicorn?

Photo by AVLtoday

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City Editor Brook here. 👋 With all the obligations and responsibilities the holidays bring, I’ll admit: I can be a bit of a grinch.

Yet after walking through Winter Lights, the North Carolina Aboretum’s annual open-air lights display, I was transformed and back in touch with a child-like sense of wonder.

The experience is a true feast for the senses — the air is full of holiday music and woodsmoke from the toasty fire pits. And thanks to the Cocoa Shack and Bent Creek Bistro, there’s also beer, wine, hot cocoa, and s’mores to warm up with. Most importantly, there are over 1 million dazzling lights draped across the Arboretum grounds.

Want to experience a festive, once-a-year event that makes you feel like a kid again? Here’s how you can Try This.

A reindeer made of lights

Literally everywhere you look, there’s something delightful.

Photo by AVLtoday

What we tried (with pricing):

We set out to see the rain-or-shine event at 6 p.m. on a brisk November night. Tickets (which start at $30 in advance + $40 at the gate) are sold on a per-vehicle basis with timed entry. Attendees can choose from three entry times: 6 p.m., 7 p.m., and 8 p.m.

Pro tip: As always, this is a walk-through event, so be sure to dress warmly.

Arboretum quilt.jpeg

The quilt garden and 50 ft. tree are simply spectacular.

Photo by AVLtoday

What not to miss:

The quilt garden. This cozy nook of the Arboretum is already stunning, but the music and lights make it a magical, must-see experience. Oh, and the 50-ft. tree doesn’t hurt, either.

A narwhal made of lights

The shimmering narwhal is the holiday touch we never knew we needed until now.

Photo by AVLtoday

What we’re still talking about:

The wild and wonderful whimsy. Holiday Lights excels at delivering the unexpected + exciting. Case in point? The magical mushroom, the caterpillar that you can walk through, and the narwhal that’s so delightful it practically deserves its own nativity scene.

Arboretum caterpillar.jpeg

You can wander through this glittering caterpillar’s body.

Photo by AVLtoday

How you can experience this:

Simply grab your ticket in advance and get thee to the Arboretum. While the event is rain or shine, you can also reschedule your visit with the “flex ticket” option.

Things to know if you go:

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