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.
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.
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.
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.
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.