The Highlands holiday lights are a long-standing tradition and are lit straight after Thanksgiving, setting the tone for a long and festive holiday season. The town park is aglow with the festive spirit of the season and millions of twinkling lights, there’s a special mailbox for Santa and a decorated sleigh for fun family photo shoots. The vibrant downtown storefronts and restaurants are decked with holly and offer plenty opportunity for unique Christmas shopping, treasure hunting for one-of-a-kind gifts and savoring Highlands fine culinary scene with festive food and wine.
A Christmas vacation in Highlands offers visitors the best of both worlds – world-class arts, culture and music, an exceptional culinary scene and endless recreation and adventure in the great outdoors. Whether you’re planning to chase waterfalls or indulge in life’s little luxuries (or a balanced combo of both!) you get to experience our charming mountain town and Smoky Mountain holiday traditions.
Highlands Holiday Events
Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park
Santa and Mrs. Claus are ready to hear your children’s wish lists, and yours! Santa letters can be addressed to 123 Elf Road, North Pole 88888 and popped into Santa’s special mailbox for collection. Keep your eyes peeled as Santa will be making special visits to the park to personally collect his mail!
The Old Edwards Inn and Spa
December 16, 2021
Time: 6pm to 8pm
Enjoy a special holiday evening of music from the heart with a Highlands favorite, Mike Kinnebrew, in the magical ambiance of The Farm at the Old Edwards Inn. This Highlands Christmas event is popular so bookings are essential, and guests must be 21+. There is a cash bar and complimentary light bites.
Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, Franklin
December 17, 2021
Time: 7pm to 9pm
Admission: $20 to $37
No-one sings Christmas classics quite like the Carpenters! Get the whole family in the holiday spirit singing along to the classic Christmas favorites and biggest hits of the Carpenters at the state-of-the-art Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, a short 20-mile drive from Highlands along the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway (US64).
Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, Franklin
December 19, 2021
Time: 3pm to 5pm
Admission: $20 to $38
Prefer bluegrass, country or southern gospel to the Carpenters? Book your tickets for an outstanding afternoon of rhythm and blues, and the traditional sounds of the Christmas season, with the award-winning Nashville based family group, The Isaacs, at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City
November 12- December 31, 2021
There’s no better way to celebrate the holiday season than on a fairy tale journey through the Blue Ridge Mountains to personally meet Santa at the North Pole! This bucket-list Christmas adventure departs from the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad depot in Bryson City and will fill the hearts of the whole family with magical Christmas stories and carols, cocoa and cookies, and a personal gift from Santa. If you can’t make the journey, you can always rent the movie and snuggle up in the comfort of home!
Highlands Holiday Activities
Go skiing and snowboarding in the Blue Ridge Mountains! Sapphire Valley opens on December 18th (weather permitting!) and is only 15 miles from Highlands. Little ones have a bunny hill and a moving carpet for learning, there’s moderate slopes for intermediates and the Frozen Falls Tube Park for family snowtubing. This small ski area is perfect for families with a base lodge park, fire pit, slopeside tavern and grill, retail shop with rentals and fun, family-friendly activities. Note: The winter Vordach Zip Line is currently closed due to Covid.
Tubing: Mon-Fri 9am to 8pm
Tubing & Coaster: Fri-Sun 9am to 8pm
Christmas Eve Hours: 9am to 5pm
For more mountain adventures, pack up the kids and head to Highlands Outpost, 7 miles from Highlands. There’s snowtubing, a kiddie hill for snow play, an outdoor ice rink (not yet open) and the brand new Scaly Mountain Screamer alpine coaster, the longest coaster in North Carolina. Enjoy a sit down lunch at the Outpost Café or pick up convenient grab & go boxes if you can’t drag the kids away from the snow play. Be sure to stop at the Blue Valley Overlook on your drive!
The Highlands Aerial Park has thrilling adventures for all ages with something for everyone! Escape into the Nantahala Forest on an exhilarating mountaintop zipline adventure, play on the giant mountain swing, climb trees or take a scenic UTV tour through the forest with the Upper Middle Creek Falls and scenic overlooks with some of the best views in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
December 21-23 from 1pm to 8pm
December 26 from 1pm to 10pm
December 27 from 1pm to 5pm
December 28-30 from 1pm to 8pm
December 31 from 1pm to 1am
Spend an afternoon or evening with some good old fashioned fun, twists and twirls, and delicious hot cocoa at the Highlands Ice Rink. The ice rink opens extra hours for the holiday season and skates are included in the $5 rink fee.
Highlands is nestled in the heart of the Nantahala National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains making it easy to get outdoors! Escape into the North Carolina mountains on a scenic drive, adventure out on the best Blue Ridge waterfall hikes or pack a picnic and go in search of the perfect North Carolina Fraser Fir, the “king of all Christmas trees” to decorate your vacation home. For a scenic Blue Ridge sunset, take a short (and easy!) 1/2 hour stroll on the Sunset Rock Trail for front row seats as the sun sets over Highlands.
Highlands Holiday Homes
Our Highlands holiday homes are the best way to relax and enjoy a Smoky Mountain Christmas with family and friends. Curl up by the fire with a good book, soak in the hot tub with good conversation and enjoy festive BBQ cookouts with good views!
A lot of good can come from spending Christmas in the Smoky Mountains and we’re sure you’ll start a new Smoky Mountain tradition of your own this festive season.
Whether you’re searching for a tiny home near downtown Highlands, or a spacious pet-friendly family home nestled in the forest, Highlands Vacation Rentals has your idyllic home for the holidays in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.