Asheville’s winter bucket list

Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum | Photo by @avltoday

AVLtoday intern Jordan Puckett is an Asheville native, recent University of Tennessee graduate + lover of all things outdoors, brews + eats.

Seasons greetings, Asheville. ❄️To help you get the most out of the most wonderful time of the year, we’ve compiled our Asheville winter bucket list, complete with 30+ events and activities to try. So jingle all the way through this list to make sure you don’t miss anything. ☃️

👟 Activities

Take pictures of the local plant life at the Asheville Botanical Garden

Take time to stroll through the Asheville Botanical Garden near UNC Asheville for viewing local plants + trees – even in the winter. The multi-trail garden is perfect for family photos. Protip: Snap your shot at their beautiful bridge above the river.  

Run a race

Get out + movin’ with a race, whether it’s a 5K or more. Check out Santa’s Showdown 5K + more in our Dec. Plan Ahead calendar

Evade obstacles in the treetops at Adventure Center Asheville 

Illuminated trails + obstacles are tons of fun for kids (and kids at heart) aged four and older at the Holiday Twilight in the Treetops event. 

Soak + relax in the warm mineral water of nature’s very own hot springs, just up the road in the aptly-named Hot Springs.  

💡 Where to see lights

Festival of Lights | Tues., Dec. 1-Wed., Dec. 23 | Lake Julian Park, 406 Overlook Rd., Arden | $10+ | A driving-only tour of dazzling lights circling Lake Julian Park. 

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland | Tues., Dec. 1-Sun., Jan. 3 | Tryon International Equestrian Center, 25 International Boulevard, Mill Spring | $35 | Drive-thru lights with performances from holiday characters like The Grinch, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer + more. 

Winter Lights | Fri., Nov. 20-Sun., Jan. 10 | The North Carolina Arboretum, 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way | $20 per vehicle | Due to the pandemic, the Winter Lights have been transformed into a drive-thru show that features unique exhibits covered in dreamy lights. 

Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore | Fri., Nov. 6-Sun., Jan. 9 | 1 Lodge Street | $114+ | This event starts with a magical tour of the Biltmore House, featuring live music + choirs. The grounds feature a 55-foot tree with 45,000 lights. 

🎄 Local tree farms

Mehaffey Tree Farm | Fri., Dec. 4-Sun., Dec. 6 | 24 Corner Drive, Waynesville

Check out their selection Fraser firs at their choose + cut, pet-friendly farm with your furry friend. Offering trees up to 10 feet in size. 

Sandy Hollar Farms | Fri., Dec.4-Sun., Dec. 6 | 63 Sandy Hollar Lane, Leicester 

Wagon rides, fresh wreaths + garlands are just a few of the things you can find along with your tree. This choose + cut farm is a family favorite for our intern, Jordan. 

Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm | 1373 Dellwood Rd., Waynesville

Although the choose + cut farm is sold out for 2020, you can still find one of their fresh cut trees at their retail lot near Lake Junaluska.

Smoky Mountain Tree Farm | Until Thurs., Dec. 24 | 756 Hemphill Rd., Waynesville

Check out their fraser fir in all sizes, wreaths, garland + pre-cut trees until Christmas Eve or until they run out. 

🎟️ Winter holiday markets

ASAP Holiday Farmers Market | Sat., Dec. 5, 12, 19 | Fernihurst Dr. | Free

Shop for locally-made gifts like art, jewelry, dried flowers + wreaths, soap, body care, CBD products, gourmet specialty foods + more.

Holiday Market | Sat., Dec. 5- Sun., Dec. 6 | Uncommon Market, 1 Foundy St. | $3 

Shop from over 80 small businesses + check off your gift list for the holiday season.

Holiday Open Air Market | Fri., Dec. 11-Sat., Dec. 12 | 20 Integrity Dr. Woodfin | Free 

Check out a variety of craftsmen, potters, bakers + more at Gateway Church’s market. 

Mingle + Jingle: Holiday Craft Market | Sat., Dec. 12 | The Grey Eagle, 185 Clingman Ave. | Free 

Holiday tunes, handmade goods + more at this outdoor event. 

Holiday Craft Market | Sat., Dec. 12 | Fleetwoods, 496 Haywood Rd. | Free 

Sip champagne + shop at multiple vendors with amazing handcrafted art, unique crafts + jewelry.

Holiday Vendor Market | Sun., Dec. 13 | Mills River Community Center, 120 School House Rd., Mills River | Free 

See a variety of vendors + local craftsmen and find everything from handmade items to unique toys for children.

Last Minute Holiday Market | Sun., Dec. 20 | The Regeneration Station, 26A Glendale Ave. | Free 

With over 70 vendors, snatch that perfect last-minute gift for your loved ones. 

🎭 Plays + virtual events

A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas | Mon., Nov. 30-Sun., Dec. 20 | Virtual | $50  

This year, experience the magic + merriment of ringing in the holidays with this local favorite Christmas show in your home. 

The National Gingerbread House Competition | Dec. | Virtual 

The fan favorite 28th Annual National Gingerbread House Competition is in a virtual format this holiday season. Check out the Omni Grove Park Inn’s gingerbread activities, online classes + more here

Holiday Gallery Tour | Wed., Dec. 2- Tues., Dec. 15 | Virtual | $55

Meet + learn from local artists from Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Blue Spiral 1, Center for Craft, LEAF Global, Momentum Gallery, Penland Gallery, Pink Dog Creative, River Arts District Artists, Southern Highland Craft Guild + Tracey Morgan Gallery. Viewings are via Zoom, daily from 5-6 p.m.

☕ Food + drinks

The Golden Snowflake from Earthling Coffee

Grab your coffee fix before snuggling up fireside with this toasted caramel blizzard of white mocha + vanilla. 

Peppermint Eggnog from Whirly Bird

With notes of chocolate peppermint bark + full fat eggnog. 

Peppermint Bark from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge 

This fan favorite is back in time for you to snag stocking stuffers + maybe just a few for yourself. 

Mini-Pies from Malvern Hills Bakery

Already missing those Thanksgiving pies + looking for something to hold you over until Christmas? These mini-pies are perfect for the job.

❤️ Donating

Adopt an angel with the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program + bring the joy of Christmas to a local child in need or start a virtual Red Kettle fundraiser.

Help out our homeless community by donating blankets, jackets + more to groups like BeLoved Asheville + Homeward Bound WNC

Check out the Annual Holiday Pet Food + Supply Drive by Animal Hospital of North Asheville. They will be collecting wet or dry pet food, supplies, + monetary donations for the Asheville Humane Society + Meals on Wheels of Asheville & Buncombe County

Help save a life by donating blood at one of the American Red Cross’ Blood Drives

Bring the joy of the holidays to children by donating Toys For Tots or volunteer with Santa Pal + help stock their store with Christmas gifts for everyone.  

Volunteer with or donate to Manna FoodBank + help feed local families in need for the holiday season.

Donate a book to local students during the United Way’s Holiday Book Drive by purchasing online or in store at Barnes + Noble. The books come from a diverse suggested reading list suited for children of many ages. 

See our full roundup for more ways to give back to the community this holiday season. 

❄️ Skiing, snowboarding + everything in between

Moonshine Mountain Snow Tubing | Open Fri., Dec. 18 | 5865 Willow Rd., Hendersonville | $30

Moonshine Mountain has over 500 feet of snowy mountain fun for kids + adults of all ages. Group discounts are available.  

Zip + Slip Snow Tubing | Open Thurs., Dec. 17 | 10725 US Hwy 23 N., Mars Hill | $30

Three snow tubing lanes of pure fun, with a nighttime tube available until 9 p.m.

Cataloochee Ski Area | Peak Season, Sat., Dec. 12-Sat., Mar. 6 | 1080 Ski Lodge Rd., Maggie Valley | Prices Vary

Shred the slopes + view beautiful mountain scenery. Check out their packages, rates + offers here.  

Wolf Ridge Ski Resort | Open Soon | 578 Valley View Circle, Mars Hill | Prices Vary 

Ski, snow tube, snowboard + more in the beautiful Mars Hill mountains. 

🍾 NYE events

Ring in the New Year + set your 2021 intentions with Richard Fabio of Asheville Yoga Center. All levels are welcome to join this live Zoom session to reflect on the year + plan your intentions for the upcoming one.