Outdoors Recreation

Winter Lights Celebrates 10 Years

Photo by Camilla Calnan Photography

Asheville’s brightest holiday tradition turns ten this year, as Winter Lights returns to The North Carolina Arboretum nightly from Friday, November 17, through December 31, from 6–10 p.m., promising larger-than-life displays and even more to enjoy and explore.

“The event has grown exponentially over the past decade in both the volume of lighting designs and lights,” says Clara Curtis, the Arboretum’s senior director for mission delivery. “The number of guests who choose to spend time with us during the holiday season has also risen from a few thousand to more than one hundred thousand in 2022.”

Photos by Camilla Calnan Photography

In keeping with the theme Larger than Life, highlights throughout the gardens include towering flowers, giant butterflies and monumental mushrooms. Guests can wander among these new displays while also enjoying classics like the animated 50-foot Tree of Light, the Polar Express-themed Rocky Cove Railroad, the illuminated Quilt Garden synchronized to holiday music and debuting a new pattern, and Rainbow Land, home to the ubiquitous unicorn. In total, more than one million lights illuminate the gardens and woodland edge.

Each year, guests experience Winter Lights while sipping hot cocoa and other beverages from the Cocoa Cabin and shopping for unique seasonal treasures in the holiday-themed gift shop. This year, a second Cocoa Cabin will be located mid-show. A selection of commemorative 10-year branded retail items in Connections Gallery, the gift shop and the Cocoa Cabin will be available for purchase.

Winter Lights is the North Carolina Arboretum Society’s largest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds generated from the display directly support the organization’s mission-driven programming.

“My colleagues and I truly care and work creatively and tirelessly through the year to make this holiday event joyful and an experience to remember,” says Curtis. “We are committed to the continued success of our largest annual fundraiser event.”

Tickets to Winter Lights are on sale at NCWinterLights.com and are purchased per-vehicle. Tickets are for specific entry times—6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.—but guests are welcome to stay as long as they like up until closing time at 10 p.m. Tickets are sold in a three-tiered system based on the date guests want to attend, with off-peak dates costing less than those that are most popular. The Arboretum strongly recommends purchasing tickets in advance online, as nights at Winter Lights do sell out. To keep both visitors and pets safe, pets are not permitted. Service animals are always welcome.

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