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Celebrate Smoky Mountain Holiday Traditions

Jackson County holiday lights

Enjoy a cozy and festive holiday escape in the North Carolina Smokies. There are plenty of gorgeous winter-time mountain views to go around. Wander among dazzling light displays, ride the Polar Express, enjoy a small-town parade on main street, and support local small businesses as you check off the gifts on your shopping list. Take part in the holiday cheer happening across the Smoky Mountains at one of these great events. Please note that scheduled events are subject to change—refer to event websites and organizers for the most up-to-date information. We’ll update this blog as we learn of new events.

Our Top Picks For Holiday 2022 Events in the Smoky Mountains

People boarding The Polar Express in Bryson City
The Polar Express. Photo courtesy of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.

The Polar Express Train Ride

November 10 – December 31, 2022

All aboard! The Polar Express is waiting to take you and your family on a fantastic holiday ride to The North Pole to meet Santa Claus. This 1¼ hour round-trip excursion comes to life as the train departs the Bryson City depot for a journey through the quiet wilderness. Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, guests on board will enjoy warm cocoa and a treat while  they listen and read along with the magical story. Children’s faces show the magic of the season when the train arrives at the North Pole to find Santa Claus waiting. Santa will board the train, greet each child and present them with a special gift as in the story, their own silver sleigh bell. Christmas carols will be sung on the return back to the Bryson City Depot.

Christmas Cookie Walk and Bazaar

December 3, 2022, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Fill your basket with a remarkable selection of Christmas cookies and treats while getting in some early  holiday shopping. Visit the Christmas Cookie Walk and Bazaar at the United Methodist Church at 76 Main Street in Bryson City. All proceeds benefit the United Methodist Women’s Group’s outreach efforts.

NEW for 2022! Smoky Mountain Christmas Light Spectacular

Now through December 31, 2022 from 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. (Check here for specific days.)

Create a new holiday tradition in Bryson City this year at the 1st Annual Christmas Light Spectacular! Drive through the giant LED light displays of the 12 Days of Christmas while listening to festive music on your mobile device.

Franklin’s Winter Wonderland Nights

Kids on ice slide in Franklin
Winter Wonderland in Franklin

Saturdays, November 26 & December 3, 2022, 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Visit the town of Franklin for their 2022 Winter Wonderland festivities! Enjoy unique holiday experiences like living window displays, live sounds of the season, extended shopping hours, and you may even catch a glimpse of Santa! Attendees can witness the annual lighting of the Christmas tree during the first night of the event.

Andrews Magic on Main Electric Christmas Parade

Saturday, December 10, 2022, 5:30 p.m.

You don’t want to miss the Small Town, Bright Lights Christmas Parade! Festively decorated floats will be gliding through downtown Andrews, filling the cozy, small town with holiday cheer. Bring your favorite candy-catching sack to fill with the sweet treats being thrown to the crowds. New this year, Santa will be visiting Cocoa Alley from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., immediately following the parade. Bring your cameras to capture the holiday memories. Special note: The parade route has been changed to begin at the West End Plaza this year.

Christmas in Highlands

Light Up the Park and Santa in Highlands, November 26, 2022, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Highlands, N.C. welcomes you to join them in their holiday celebrations for their annual tree lighting. The trees in Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park will sparkle with millions of lights, to be switched on promptly at 6  p.m. and can be enjoyed by car or on foot. Tune in to WHLC 104.5 FM for a festive program with holiday music, Christmas carols and Santa Claus reading The Night Before Christmas.

Evenings set amongst the softly lit trees of the park, joy and laughter from the ice-skating rink, it’s all available for you throughout the holiday season.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be stationed in the Kelsey Hutchinson Park that evening to hear your Christmas wish list.

Trim Our Town,  November 26 – December 24, 2022

Light Up the Park kicks off Trim Our Town, where local storefronts engage in a holiday decorating contest. When you vote for your chosen window, you can also win a special prize! Watch for posters at participating stores and vote online for your favorite.

Highlands Christmas Parade, December 3, 2022, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

This long-standing Highlands Christmas tradition features camels, bands, and floats decorated by community organizations parading down Main Street.

Insider Tip: Don’t miss the beloved dancing ladies from Mountain Garden Club leading the way at 10 a.m., before the parade begins!

Dillsboro luminaries
Dillsboro luminaries. Photo courtesy of Discover Jackson NC

Dillsboro Festival of Lights and Luminaries

December 2, 3, 9, and 10, 2022, 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

The Dillsboro Festival of Lights and Luminaries is a step back into Christmas past. Experience Christmas magic as the entire town transforms into a winter wonderland of lights, candles, laughter and song. 2500 luminaries light your way to shops and studios. Horse and buggy rides are available each night, shopkeepers provide live music and serve up holiday treats with hot cider and cocoa, carolers sing, and children visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Murphy Farmers Christmas Market

Saturday, December 3, 2022, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Experience holiday magic in beautiful downtown Murphy, NC at the Murphy Christmas Parade starting at the Valley Village Shopping Center.

Sylva NC holiday display
Sylva, NC, holiday display.

Robbinsville Christmas Parade

December 10, 2022, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

The Town of Robbinsville will ring in the start of the holiday season with the Robbinsville Christmas Parade. Floats, Cars, Fire Trucks, Santa, and much more are in store. Bring the family to enjoy the excitement of Christmas. The parade starts at Robbinsville High School.

Holiday Fireworks

Friday, December 16, 2022, 7:30 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.

Celebrate the season with the 3rd Annual Holiday Fireworks display, visible from all over downtown Sylva, NC. Prior to the fireworks, the Jackson County Chamber and Visitor Center is hosting a holiday-themed concert, featuring Terri Lynn Queen and Scott Baker on the chamber’s front porch. Rumor has it there may be a special appearance by Ol’ Saint Nick himself! Enjoy a cup of hot cocoa during this free event.

A Night Before Christmas

December 10, 2022, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Waynesville turns into a holiday playground for children and children at heart. Shop and dine along a luminary lined street, tell Santa (and Mrs. Claus, too!) your Christmas wishes and enjoy musicians and carolers.

Insider Tip: Visit the Living Nativity under the stars, sponsored by First Baptist Church in Waynesville!

Appalachian Christmas at Shelton House

Sunday, December 4, 2022, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

The whole family will be dazzled by the twinkling lights of Tinsel Trail at the Shelton House, a museum of NC handicrafts, in Waynesville, NC. The Tinsel Trail will stay lit every evening from dusk until dawn for the month, so everyone should get outside to celebrate the season. Santa Claus will be on the scene with his real sleigh on December 4th, so bring the kids for a special photo opportunity! Make sure they bring their letters for Santa to be sent along the “Reindeer Express” to the elves waiting for their Christmas list.