There is always something so special about small towns in America. They hold a certain charm that big cities just don't have. This is especially true during the holidays.
If you’re looking for something a little different this Christmas -- a slower pace, friendly charm, winter fun, and old-fashioned Christmas goodness -- look no further than Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
Less than two hours from downtown Charlotte you will be transported to the storybook-like streets of Blowing Rock. Quaint boutiques, independent restaurants, art galleries, and antique shops. On Main Street, in the center of town, Memorial Park gives the town a magical feel.
The magic begins in November when, as one local told us, “Christmas explodes overnight.” All around town, light poles are all decorated with traditional green wreaths and red bows. Everywhere you look, lights begin twinkling. The holiday season intensifies the weekend after Thanksgiving. Here's how you can experience the magic of winter and Christmas in Blowing Rock.
Christmas In The Park
Memorial Park on Main Street is in the center of Blowing Rock and is the center of Christmas activities. The Christmas in the Park and Lighting of the Town festivities are held every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
The day is filled with Christmas games, crafts, activities, and caroling. Take a hayride around town, participate in a gingerbread house contest, and of course, meet Santa! There is always plenty of fun and free hot chocolate and apple cider.
In the evening, when the sun sets, enjoy live music and get ready for the main event -- the Lighting of the Town. Dozens of trees come to life all at once with hundreds of twinkling lights. It's a beautiful sight.
Continuing the holiday traditions, another fun-filled event is the Christmas Parade down Main Street on Saturday morning. The costumes, both human and animal, decorated floats, and music are guaranteed to put you in the Christmas spirit.
Festival Of Trees
Enjoy the season while supporting the community. Christmas trees and wreaths are sponsored and decorated each with a unique theme. They are then displayed in various shops and businesses around Blowing Rock and nearby Boone.
Locals and visitors alike can see the displays while strolling around town, or online, the week after Thanksgiving Day. Bids are taken and the highest bidder takes home a fresh, beautiful, already decorated Christmas tree. Many come with presents under them, too! All proceeds benefit the community and youth through Western Youth Network.
Festival Of Lights
A truly magical winter wonderland of lights awaits visitors at Chetola Resort. This magical display of brilliant lights is a wonder to behold. Drive around the resort or park and stroll around Chetola Lake while enjoying thousands of dazzling Christmas lights and holiday scenes. Don't miss Rudolph and Santa, carolers and snowmen.
After strolling the grounds, warm up in Timberlake’s Restaurant or Headwaters Pub while enjoying a nightcap in the historic building.
Festival of Lights is free and open to the public every evening in December through January 31.
Chetola Resort offers several packages just right for a winter wonderland trip. Extended condo stay, sporting, and spa packages are only a few.
Christmas has arrived at Tweetsie Railroad, the first North Carolina theme park, opened on July 4, 1957. Located just 4 miles north of Blowing Rock on US Hwy 321, Tweetsie is fun for all ages, especially when she's decked out for Christmas.
Take a 20-minute nighttime train ride pulled by a historic steam locomotive through thousands of dazzling Christmas lights and displays. Other Christmas activities include a visit with Santa in the Gingerbread House and roasting s'mores over a campfire. To round out the fun, there are amusement rides, restaurants, and shopping on Tweetsie Main Street.
Tweetsie Christmas opens at 5 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and select weeknights from mid-November through December 31. Advance ticket purchase is required. Free parking. The train has one accessible train car. Dress warm. The train ride is an open-air box car that can get quite chilly in the mountain night air.
Choose And Cut A Tree
Visit a Christmas tree farm for a magical holiday adventure. Starting in mid-November, tree farms near Blowing Rock are open to help you search for your perfect tree. Not your ordinary trip to a city tree lot. A trip to a Christmas tree farm is a fun-filled experience for everyone. Walk (or ride) through rows and rows of White Pine, Blue Spruce, and Fraser Firs. When you select the perfect one, friendly farm folks will cut, bale, and load your tree.
But that's not all. Many tree farms offer wreaths, garland, and ornaments. They have hayrides and other attractions including hot chocolate, apple cider, and other Christmas goodies. Santa has even been known to visit local tree farms.
Christmas tree farms near Blowing Rock plus maps, directions, and other information can be found on the Watauga County Christmas Tree Association website.
You can increase your fun by making a day trip of finding the perfect tree. After spending a couple of hours at a tree farm, warm up and have lunch at one of Blowing Rock's scrumptious restaurants or brewery. Hotels like Meadowbrook Inn even offer a Choose and Cut package to make a memorable weekend out of your trip. Who knows, a trip to Blowing Rock to cut down your own Christmas tree might become an annual tradition.
Snow Sport Adventure
Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? A trip to Blowing Rock in the Blue Ridge Mountains will help make those snowy dreams a reality. Whether it's your first time to the snow or you're an avid snow adventurist, Blowing Rock at Christmas is for you. Take a break from the city this holiday season and head to the slopes.
Appalachian Ski Mountain offers downhill skiing, snowboarding, and outdoor ice skating. The award-winning French Swiss Ski College is the perfect place to learn to ski or snowboard. Group and private lessons are offered.
Whizzing down snow-covered hills at nearby Hawksnest Snow Tubing is great winter fun for winter adventure seekers of any age.
Check out the Holiday Inn Express in Blowing Rock for their Stay and Ski package.
Main Street Holiday Stroll
A town-wide holiday open house happens on the first Friday evening in December. The tree-lined streets have been lit with bright Christmas lights. Strolling carolers bring the smiles of passersby on the sidewalk. Shops and businesses keep their doors open late, welcoming in shoppers with holiday warmth and cheer. Some may even offer hot chocolate and other goodies.
Not to worry if you missed the December first-Friday Holiday Stroll. You can shop for unique holiday gifts all month long. Every shop is decked out in its holiday finest. Lights, trees, music, and presents galore. Spend the morning browsing and shopping on Main Street in historic downtown Blowing Rock.
You'll be pleased to find unique gifts at Gregory Alan's, Final Touches, and The Last Straw, as well as high-end women's and men's apparel and accessories at Monkee's and 100 West Union, plus a bit of everything in between.
If you're looking for more shops and want to “shop ‘til you drop,” you'll love the Tanger Outlet Mall on Valley Boulevard just a mile from historic downtown.
Experience Winter In Nature
One of the best reasons to spend Christmas in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the great outdoors. There are several ways to enjoy nature in the heart of Blowing Rock.
Any trip to Blowing Rock has to include visiting North Carolina's oldest attraction, The Blowing Rock. Over a million years old, Ripley’s Believe It or Not deemed The Rock, “The only place in the world where snow falls upside down.”
Within walking distance of downtown Blowing Rock, just two blocks from Main Street, is Mayview Lake, New Years Creek, and the Annie Cannon Gardens. We stumbled across this sweet little oasis on our last visit. Mayview Lake is encircled by a paved walkway with park benches and a gazebo. New Years Creek runs from the little lake through Annie Cannon Gardens and down into John's River Gorge.
The Glen Burney Trail (PDF) is considered one of the High Country's best waterfall hikes. Just over 3 miles, this trail features three waterfalls as you descend into John's River Gorge. The trailhead is conveniently located inside Annie Cannon Memorial Gardens. The trail’s difficulty is listed as “moderate” but can be strenuous for those with health issues.
Best Restaurants In Blowing Rock
After a day of shopping or outdoor fun, you'll want to relax while having an amazing lunch at a friendly local eatery. There are so many unique places to eat in Blowing Rock. Here are some of my favorites. Warm, friendly, and authentic, Six Pence Pub has the best fish and chips around. The Town Tavern is inviting, lively, and fun -- more than just a sports bar. You can't go wrong with anything on the menu. Fine dining in a comfortable setting, lunch or dinner at Bistro Roca is by reservation only.
Best Hotels In Blowing Rock
There are many great lodges and bed and breakfasts in Blowing Rock, Meadowbrook Inn and Blowing Rock Inn to name a couple. Another option, Holiday Inn Express, is minutes from downtown on US Hwy 321. My favorite, with its many amenities, is Chetola Resort and Spa. They offer a selection of accommodations to fit your family size and budget. A hotel-like lodge, B and B in a historic building, and 2-4 bedroom condominiums.
If you love the holidays as much as we do, you’ll enjoy our other festive articles!