The 12 Best Christmas Tree Farms and Light Displays in NC

"Holiday Lights in the Garden" is an annual light show in Fayetteville's Cape Fear Botanical Gardens. (Image via Cape Fear Botanical Gardens)

By Ryan Pitkin

December 22, 2023

Want to buy a NC-grown Christmas tree and see the lights in one night? We’ve mapped out the best destinations from the mountains to the coast of NC.

Christmas for many North Carolinians is a time to get together with family and loved ones, but even longtime residents of the state are not often aware of the divisive history the holiday has here. The story of “Old Christmas” goes all the way back to the 1700s.

In the 18th century, many colonial settlers in North Carolina recognized “Little Christmas” on Jan. 5, the day preceding the celebration of the Biblical Epiphany on Jan. 6. When the British Empire adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, the observance of Christmas was moved to Dec. 25.

Read More: 10 tiny treasures: Small towns in NC to visit this winter

With some anti-British sentiment already stirring in this time preceding the American Revolution, many settlers among the colonies refused to observe the new date, instead celebrating what would become Old Christmas on Jan. 6, merging Little Christmas with the Epiphany.

Coastal North Carolina communities were especially stubborn in their refusal to recognize the new Christmas, and would later become the communities that celebrated both—Christian-based observance on Dec. 25 and secular celebrations on Jan. 6.

According to NCPedia, Old Christmas celebrations included the blessing of fruit trees, dancing, feasting, and exchanging gifts. That sounds familiar enough, though another ritual in Dare County’s Stumpy Point is not so recognizable. NCPedia’s entry states that “girls and unmarried women sometimes set out a meal at a ‘dumb table’ on the eve of Old Christmas, hoping to glimpse the apparitions of their future husbands hovering over the empty places.”

Over time, more and more communities began to observe and celebrate only the new Christmas date, and Old Christmas celebrations were left by the wayside. Though we don’t bless fruit trees today, trees and our decorations for them play a big part in how we celebrate the holiday.

Whether you’re looking for a place to get your own tree and decorate it at home, or a destination where you and the family can check out professionally decorated displays of Christmas trees strewn with lights and other decorations, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s a look at where you can check out Christmas tree farms or professionally designed light displays depending on where you are in the state:

Northwest North Carolina

Festival of Lights

185 Chetola Lake Drive, Blowing Rock

Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock offers a short but impressive trip through a winter wonderland with its Festival of Lights, during which the entire resort is lit up with thousands of dazzling illuminations.

Drive or walk around Chetola Lake to catch the glittering ice skaters, a nativity scene, Rudolph’s “Holiday Catch,” and plenty more. You don’t need accommodations at the resort’s inn or lodge to visit the Festival of Lights, just grab a pamphlet guide from security as you enter for details on the displays and activities taking place in and around Chetola throughout the holiday season.

The 12 Best Christmas Tree Farms and Light Displays in NC

The Festival of Lights in Blowing Rock, NC. (Photo via Visit NC)

West Jefferson

According to Business NC, Ashe County produces more Christmas trees than any county in the country. Driving into town you’re sure to see the farms lining the hills around you. Pick a farm, choose a tree, chop it down, bring it home. It’s that simple.

Don’t want to put in the effort? There’s no need to leave downtown West Jefferson. Among the boutiques and emporiums; dining establishments; antique shops; coffee, tea, and wine shops; and breweries is a year-round farmers market with a focus on pre-cut Christmas trees in December.

Asheville

Christmas at Biltmore

1 Lodge St., Asheville

The historic Biltmore Estate in Asheville is one of the most beautiful properties to visit any time of the year—for the mansion known as America’s largest home, for the gardens, and for the iconic landscapes. Things get taken up a notch during Christmastime.

While a daytime trip features fragrant wreaths, glittering garland, and the sparkle of thousands of ornaments, a visit during the seasonal candlelight evenings at the estate means thousands of ornaments reflect the soft glow of candles, with added ambiance from fireplaces and twinkle lights. Nearby on the property, Antler Hill Village is festooned with glittering lights, ornaments, and other Christmas displays.

Mehaffey Tree Farm

24 Corner Dr, Waynesville

Sure, there are Christmas tree farms closer to Asheville than Mehaffey Tree Farm, but the experience makes it worth going that extra mile.

Located in Waynesville about a 45-minute drive west of Asheville, Mehaffey Tree Farm’s choose-and-cut season ends Dec. 10, remaining open a full week after most farms in the area—assuming they don’t run out of supply.

The farm offers Fraser fir trees ranging from 6 to 9 feet high, with “easy access to all trees for the young and young at heart,” according to the website. That includes dogs, who are allowed to join the family in the selection process as long as they stay on-leash.

Charlotte

McAdenville

Since 1956, residents of McAdenville have transformed this Charlotte suburb into “Christmas Town” every holiday season, with each year becoming all the more grandiose.

The main attraction in Christmas Town is the 1.3-mile light display made up of 200 evergreen trees covered with a half-million red, white, and green Christmas lights and culminating with a large lake dotted with floating, beautifully lit Christmas trees. And that’s just the official town display—homes all along the path are decorated to the nines as well.

Bonus: In the opposite direction, just northeast of Charlotte, the Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts the Speedway Christmas Lights until Jan. 7, a drive-thru experience featuring more than 5 million lights on a 4-mile course usually driven by NASCAR’s best.

The 12 Best Christmas Tree Farms and Light Displays in NC

“Christmas Town USA” in McAdenville, NC.

Grace Tree Farm

1292 Beth Haven Church Road, Denver

The Sidell family in Denver, a small town on Lake Norman located northwest of Charlotte, aims to ensure you’ll create lasting memories while shopping around for a Christmas tree.

A large timber pavilion on the property serves as the perfect backdrop for holiday family photos. The farm grows four types of trees: white pine, Leyland cypress, green giant arborvitae and Carolina sapphire.

Research Triangle

NC Chinese Lantern Festival

8003 Regency Parkway, Cary

This display in Cary has become a holiday tradition for folks in the Triangle area over the last eight years.

Chinese artisans have crafted more than 40 all-new displays in 2023, each one comprising hundreds of parts and thousands of LED lights. Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre hosts.

Last year’s festival drew guests from all 100 counties in North Carolina, plus visitors from 50 US states and territories, according to William Lewis, Cary’s cultural arts manager. Don’t be the one to miss it this year.

Boyce Farms

2813 Mount Vernon Church Road, Raleigh

Located in the northern suburbs of the state capital, Boyce Farms’ mission statement and motto is, “Making Christmas affordable one tree at a time.”

Mike and Sheila Boyce planted their first crop of trees in 1982 and sold their first tree seven years later. They’ve become a staple in the Raleigh area and a popular spot for family photography, which has led to new restrictions—no professional photography on weekends.

The farm offers wreathing, roping, and flocking, which refers to the white powder that can be placed on the tree to resemble snow.

“At Boyce Farms, we want every family in the Raleigh, Durham, Wake Forest ‘Triangle’ area to have a memorable experience selecting their Christmas tree,” wrote the Boyce family on their website.

Bonus: If you’re looking for close-by convenience in the Triangle, Cranberry Tree Farm has locations in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Cary.

Fayetteville

Holiday Lights in the Garden

536 N. Eastern Blvd., Fayetteville

Fayetteville’s original holiday lights display is still going strong at the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, featuring thousands of lights and displays, Santa and the Grinch, animations, photo opportunities, holiday music, food, beverages, a vendor market, and more.

Visit on Dec. 10 for a holiday-themed family concert by the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra at no extra cost. Note that walk-up tickets are not available, so be sure to order online beforehand. Act quick because they will sell out.

The 12 Best Christmas Tree Farms and Light Displays in NC

Not just a light show, “Holiday Lights in the Garden” gives you an opportunity to sit, chat, and take a picture with Santa. (Photo via Cape Fear Botanical Garden)

B&D Christmas Tree Farm

1206 Elliott Farm Road, Fayetteville

B&D Christmas Tree Farm enjoys a sterling word-of-mouth reputation in the Fayetteville area.

They’re open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and they’re only accepting cash or checks. They stopped selling Fraser firs about five years ago, as those are difficult to grow in the flatlands of eastern North Carolina, but they’ve got a healthy stock of other choose-and-cut trees for sale.

Outer Banks

Elizabethan Gardens WinterLights

1411 National Park Drive, Manteo

Stroll along garden walks illuminated with holiday lights that transform this 10-acre garden into an enchanted winter wonderland. The radiant glow, holiday décor, and a crackling open-air fire all add to the festive atmosphere.

Live music is scheduled throughout the month. Santa will also make daily appearances Dec. 15-23. Seasonal plants and holiday gifts are available in the gift shop and nursery.

Justice Farms

1325 Gould Road, Jacksonville

The farther east you go in North Carolina, the harder it becomes to find a Christmas tree farm, as they grow better in higher elevations. That’s why this selection is just a bit outside of the Outer Banks, located on the “Inner Banks” of the New River in the town of Jacksonville. It’s worth the drive, however, to create family memories at this choose-and-cut farm.

Bonus: Just looking for a pre-cut tree nearby? The locally-based Kitty Hawk Kites retail chain is now offering Fraser fir Christmas trees grown on a family farm in Avery County. Check out any of their 11 locations on the Outer Banks.

The 12 Best Christmas Tree Farms and Light Displays in NC

(Photo via Justice Farms in Jacksonville, NC)

Author

  • Ryan Pitkin

    Ryan Pitkin is a writer and editor based in Charlotte, where he runs an alternative weekly newspaper called Queen City Nerve. He is also editor of NoDa News, a community newsletter in the neighborhood where he has lived for 15 years.

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