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Celebrate Smoky Mountain Holiday Traditions

Jackson County holiday lights

Not much beats the the Smoky Mountain holiday season!  Enjoy a cozy and festive holiday escape with plenty of gorgeous winter-time mountain views to go around in addition to the small town feel of holiday spirit.  Wander among dazzling light displays, ride the Polar Express, enjoy a parade on main street, and support local small businesses while checking off gifts off your shopping list. Get a big helping of holiday cheer at any 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.

2023 Holiday Events in the Beautiful Smoky Mountains

People boarding The Polar Express in Bryson City

The Polar Express Train Ride

November 9 – December 31, 2023

Toot!! Toot!!  All aboard!! The Polar Express is ready to take you and your family on a fantastic holiday ride to The North Pole to meet you know who, 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. Have the cameras ready when the train arrives at the North Pole to find Santa Claus waiting to greet the kiddos. Santa will board the train and present each child with their own special gift, just like in the story – their own silver sleigh bell (but shhhh!  Keep that a Christmas surprise!). Christmas carols will be sung on the return back to the Bryson City Depot.

Christmas in Cashiers

November 24 -25, 2023

Visitors to The Village Green in Cashiers, NC, will enjoy twinkling light displays and festive decorations from Thanksgiving Weekend through New Year’s Day. On November 24, head out for Santa on the Green and the Mistletoe Market, a special artisan gift market featuring pottery, jewelry, handmade wreaths, and homemade goodies.

That same weekend head out for the Cashiers Festival of Trees, a two-day, family-friendly event filled with decorated Christmas trees, holiday décor, a variety of entertainment, and free personalized crafts. Celebrate literacy on the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Storytime Stage, enjoy a pop-up Build-A-Bear Workshop®, watch football games in the Gameday Lounge, and shop one-of-a-kind gifts in the Gift Zone.

Franklin’s Winter Wonderland Nights

Saturdays, November 25th & December 2nd, 2023, 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Visit the town of Franklin for their 2023 Winter Wonderland festivities! Enjoy unique holiday experiences like living window displays, live sounds of the season, extended shopping hours, plus maybe even catch a glimpse of Santa himself!

Kids on ice slide in Franklin

Christmas in Highlands

Light Up the Park and Santa in Highlands, November 25th, 2023, 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 6pm 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.

Ice skating opens up on November 16th, starting at 3:30pm, where set amongst the softly lit trees of the park, you can skate to your heart’s content throughout the holiday season, weekly Thursdays-Sundays.

Highlands Christmas Parade, December 2nd, 2023, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

This long-standing Highlands Christmas tradition, the Olde Mountain Christmas Parade 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 10am., before the parade begins!

Following the Parade, head to Flat Mountain Farm’s Merry Christmas Market to shop from 12n-4p.  There’s a $5 entry fee per family for the holiday shopping, photo opps, music, coffee and treats for all ages.  If you’re feeling creative, register for the Wreath Workshop from 1-3p.

Home For the Holidays presented by the Mountain Theatre Company

Beginning December 8th with showtimes of 2p and 7:30p, grab a ticket, sit down and relax into the holiday season with this all ages fun, high-energy and most of all, cheerful production.  Go to for show dates and ticket information.

Holiday luminaries line the street in Dillsboro NC

Dillsboro Festival of Lights and Luminaries

December 1st, 2nd and 8th, 9th, 2023, 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

The Dillsboro Festival of Lights and Luminaries is a step back into Christmases 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 Market Christmas Event

Saturday, December 2, 2023, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Get into the Holiday Spirit at the annual Christmas at the Depot indoors at the The Ballroom at 51 Hiwassee Street in Murphy and delve into holiday treats and unique gifts from local crafters.

Appalachian Christmas at Shelton House

Sunday, December 3rd, 2023, 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 Dec 4th through January 1st, starting at dusk. Santa Claus will be on the scene with his real sleigh on December 3rd, so bring the kids for a special photo opp! Make sure they bring their letters for Santa to be sent along the “Reindeer Express” to the elves waiting for their Christmas list.

There are also Special Holiday Evening Candlelight Tours of the Tinsel Trail on December 8th, 9th and 15th by reservation ($20/per person) which include holiday refreshments

Robbinsville Christmas Parade

December 9th, 2023, 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.

A Night Before Christmas

December 9th & 16th, 2023, 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!