On Christmas Eve, when I was little, I was filled with excitement for Santa coming down the chimney. My parents would put me in the car and we’d drive through neighborhoods with the best Christmas lights. This tradition always made it truly feel like Christmas and brought the magic of the season full-circle. I’ll always remember those nights, and I’m sure many families have similar traditions.
But if you don’t have great displays nearby, you might be looking for some options to really ring in the holiday. In no particular order, these seventeen places are perfect.
Christmas Town USA is celebrating its 60th year with magnificent decorations. For a town with only 700 people, a short drive through the two miles is filled with millions of twinkling lights, decorated houses and buildings, and even Christmas tunes playing through speakers. McAdenville is easily the best destination in North Carolina to get both a 'festival of lights' and a festival of decorated houses.
2. 213 Valley Creek Drive
This house goes all out when it comes to Christmas decorations. With 120,000 lights, 10 inflatables, and 10,000 animated lights...you'll be mesmerized (and quite impressed) by this display.
3. Chetola Resort's Festival of Lights, Blowing Rock
Featuring 50,000 lights, this stunning display attracts thousands of visitors a year. As you circle the frozen lake you'll be treated to ice skaters, a nativity scene, and Rudolph trying to reel in a big fish! How fun.
4. Christmas Light and Train Spectacular, Wilmington
Every Friday and Saturday evening, the Railroad Museum transforms into something straight from a Christmas movie with 20,000 lights, animations, music, and even a reading of The Polar Express (with Santa included).
5. Nikita's Christmas Wonderland, Indian Trail
If you're looking for an impressive house display, check out Nikita's Christmas Wonderland. With inflatables, animated lights, and a whole lotta Christmas cheer, you'll be in awe!
6. Huntersville Christmas Lights
Not too far from Indian Trail, you'll find Huntersville Christmas Lights located at 13515 Melrose Meadow Ln. The show lasts 11 minutes and you can enjoy the music by tuning in your car radio to 89.3FM. The best part is that this impressive light show also raises money for charity. Last year, they donated $2,675 to A Child's Place. Really amazing! Watch a video of their display below.
7. Lake Myra Christmas Lights, 10 S. Cypress Street, Wendell
Lake Myra has one of the most impressive light displays in North Carolina. Visitors delight in the stunning, choreographed light show animated to match your favorite Holiday tunes.
8. Carpenter Lights, Cary
While you're in the area, stop by Carpenter Lights. This decorated house is simply magnificent and others in the area have caught on to the all-out theme.
9. Tanglewood Festival of Lights, Clemmons
This magnificent light show features over 100 displays and one million lights. It's definitely the most popular option for those in the Piedmont and surrounding areas.
10. Forest City
Forest City Christmas display has garnered national attention for good reason. The Main St. and surrounding areas become a serious Christmas wonderland with horse-drawn carriages, impressive light displays, and plenty of fun events.
11. Speedway Christmas, Charlotte Motor Speedway
With over 3 million lights, Charlotte Motor Speedway has one of the most amazing light shows in North Carolina. As an added bonus, there's a Christmas Village featuring actors and live animals, hot cocoa, and holiday movies played on the HDTV.
12. Valley Creek Lights, 213 Valley Creek Drive Clayton, NC
This family-run Christmas show is seriously spectacular! They go all out with beautiful and fun displays that both children and adults will love.
13. Biltmore Christmas, Biltmore Estate
If you love lavishly decorated Christmas trees, you'll find 56 in America's Castle and 60 more adorning the outside of the estate. Biltmore is a beloved Christmas destination for locals and visitors.
14. Old Salem, Winston-Salem
Step back in time in the enchanting Old Salem. The Moravian stars are an ode to the early German settlers who made history here two centuries ago. But the fun doesn't stop there. Wander through the cobblestone streets and pick up some Moravian Cookies, ride a horse-drawn carriage, and marvel at the period-piece attire.
15. Country Christmas Train, Denton
Next stop: Christmas! Kids will love riding the Handy Dandy Railroad that features lights and a nativity movie along the way. You can also enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride and stop by Santa's cabin.
16. Polar Express Train Ride, Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
All I have to say is...where was this when I was a kid? The Polar Express Train Ride recreates the magic for its passengers with read-alongs, hot chocolate, and of course tons of kids in their jammies awaiting their final destination of the North Pole. This is the only licensed Polar Express journey in the Southeast and a memory the kids will never forget.
17. Tryon Palace, New Bern
If you want to ring in the holidays like royalty, but Biltmore isn't an option, visit Tryon Palace.The elegant Christmas display channels its Colonial roots.
What did you think of our list? Where is your favorite place to look at Christmas lights in North Carolina? Any traditions you want to share? Tell us in the comments!