Not much snow falls in North Carolina. Almost every town has a chance of seeing a white Christmas, but the possibility becomes more remote the closer you get to the coast. The good news is you can find Hallmark-style Christmas towns everywhere in North Carolina, with real snow, manufactured snow, or no snow. The heart, spirit, and warmth of the season burn bright in the state’s communities and welcome all who want to join in the celebration. The following is a small sample of North Carolina towns that promise to make visitors feel as if they’ve been transported into the center of a Hallmark Christmas movie.
1. Elizabeth City
Known as the Harbor of Hospitality, Elizabeth City is a delightful coastal town worth visiting any time of year. But during the holidays, it transforms itself into the quintessential Hallmark Christmas town.
The 2021 debut of Elizabeth City’s Hot Cocoa Crawl has every chocoholic hoping it will become an annual event. From November 20 through January 2, 2022, local businesses showcase their most flavorful hot cocoa creations. Cocoa with plenty of whipped cream woo the youngsters, while cocoa-based cocktails, such as the Dirty Snowman, keep the adults soothingly satisfied.
The Hot Cocoa Crawl may be the new Christmas kid on the block, but partaking can easily be partnered with the town’s annual holiday festivities. Every year, Elizabeth City presents homey holiday musical and theatrical productions. The annual Main Street Lighting Ceremony, the evening after Thanksgiving, is an old-fashioned, small town celebration. And the Lighted Boat Parade, accompanied by caroling, circles the harbor.
It seems the friendly, jovial residents of Goldsboro can’t wait to get in the holiday spirit, which makes this coastal plain town an ideal candidate for Hallmark Christmas movie status. The lighting up of the downtown area takes place before Thanksgiving, and festivities ramp up before the turkey leftovers cool down.
The switch-flipping that lights up the town is a family-friendly event free to the public. It features visits from Santa, real snow, hot cocoa, horse-drawn trolley rides, and live entertainment. An ice/snow slide adds to the already festive scene.
The Downtown Holiday Drive-In series presents free, family-friendly holiday movies on an enormous 40-foot screen. Bring those Thanksgiving leftovers, or grab some tantalizing takeout from one of the downtown restaurants.
Of course, there is an annual Christmas Parade in early December. This holiday tradition sees a new record number of parade entries each year.
The holidays are magical in Statesville, where the downtown area lights up with the warmth and joy of the season, just like the set of a Hallmark Christmas movie. In early December, the town bursts into a glittering ball of colorful lights, seasonal sounds, and joyfully frantic activities.
The annual downtown Christmas tree lighting and the first of many horse-drawn carriage rides kick off the holiday festivities. On the following evening, Statesville residents and visitors come out to make merry at the Holiday Shop & Stroll Spectacular, featuring trolley and train rides through downtown, merchant open houses, and a live nativity scene.
The evening becomes even more magical when City Hall transforms into Santa Central for the little ones — with refreshments, arts and crafts, and a visit from Santa. The kids can send their special letters express to the North Pole — no stamp necessary — in Santa’s magic mailbox, and they’ll even get a personal reply.
Located in Cleveland County in North Carolina’s Piedmont, the town of Shelby is home to the kind of Christmas cheer that warms you from within. A strong sense of community and genuine southern hospitality makes Shelby a perfect Hallmark Christmas town.
Be among the first to see local businesses unveil their festive finery and new Christmas merchandise during the Open House Crawl. Also, the Arts Council’s Handmade for the Holidays includes a gift gallery.
The evening following Thanksgiving is when Shelby presents seasonal live music and the annual tree lighting on Court Square. This is also the first evening when a series of horse-drawn carriage rides begins. The following day is Small Business Saturday, and the day the youngsters can start filling Santa’s Mailbox with requests outside the Antique Market.
The first week in December sees the Foothills Farmers Market expand with extra craft vendors. And the week before the big day, Shelby holds its colorful Christmas parade.
The charming town of Benson, located in Johnston County, has a happy Hallmark-like vibe that begins on Main Street and radiates outward.
The Southern Vintage Christmas Market in late November kicks off the festivities, offering locally produced items to give folks a head start on their holiday shopping. If that doesn’t get the Christmas juices flowing, Christmas on Main — a festive parade featuring special shopping opportunities and a tree lighting event — surely will.
A few miles outside Benson, Meadow Lights, the largest and oldest Christmas light show in eastern North Carolina, spreads Christmas cheer over 30 acres. More than 8,000 lights illuminate the family owned and operated property, which offers a train ride, a carousel, and photo ops with Santa.
Pro Tip: The Old Country Store, one of the largest of its kind in the state, carries over 300 varieties of Christmas candy and old-fashioned treats.
The most photographed former courthouse in North Carolina, now Jackson County Public Library, perches atop a hill overlooking Sylva’s Main Street. And in late November, it’s joined by a twinkling Christmas tree that signifies the start of the holiday season. The official tree-lighting and holiday concert take place at the library steps, and echoes of a Hallmark Christmas movie begin to solidify in this delightful mountain town.
Flickering luminaries, a jolly Christmas parade, and colorful decorations bolster spirits as townsfolk go about their holiday shopping. A mailbox is available for children’s letters to Santa, and of course, Santa photo ops help the kids reinforce their Christmas wishes in person.
If good things do indeed come in small packages, the tiny mountain town of Dillsboro, population less than 300, is the perfect example. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in heart and hospitality. What better setting for a Hallmark Christmas movie than this adorable artisan town?
The annual Dillsboro Festival of Lights & Luminaries makes the town sparkle every year for the first two weekends in December. More than 2,500 candles in white bags line the streets and envelop the town in a warm glow. The tradition is adapted from a Scandinavian custom of lighting the way for the Christ child.
Cheerfully decorated shops and restaurants stay open late so townsfolk can make the most of the chilly December evenings. The galleries are stocked with handmade crafts, pottery, and other inspired creations that make wonderfully unique gifts. Santa and Mrs. Claus ride through town in a pickup truck, and live music on Front Street provides a joyful holiday soundtrack.
Pro Tip: Dillsboro lies a mere 2 miles from Sylva, so enjoy both towns in one visit.
Each year, the delightful mountain town of Brevard in Transylvania County goes all out to create a holiday celebration worthy of a Hallmark Christmas movie. Holiday warmth and cheer flows from every house and business, onto the streets, and through the town. That joyful Christmas feeling is not only possible, it’s mandatory.
A tall, brightly lit tree stands stately in Brevard’s historic town square. Downtown Brevard is stunningly decked out in holiday lights and decorations. The charming local shops and galleries are ideal for finding unique gifts.
Black Friday heralds the official start of the holiday shopping season with the Window Display Competition & Walking Tour. Businesses creatively decorate their storefronts to participate in the competition. Meandering through the vibrant displays adds enjoyment to the laid back small town shopping experience.
Pro Tip: Be sure to poke your head into the wonderfully quirky Aluminum Christmas Tree Museum.
9. Bryson City
The quaint mountain town of Bryson City is located on the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and, during the holidays, it’s every Hallmark Christmas movie lover’s dream come true.
Imagine a 50-foot, brilliantly lit, and lavishly decorated tree in the town square. Then picture Main Street transformed into a winter wonderland with brightly lit storefronts, wreaths adorning every window, and snowflakes hanging from street poles. But the most spectacular Bryson City Christmas experience is the Polar Express on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
Every November and December, upward of 90,000 joyful passengers board the Polar Express at the Bryson City Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Depot, bound for the North Pole. The round trip takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. When the train arrives, Santa comes aboard with a special gift of a silver sleigh bell for every child, and then it’s back to the Bryson City Depot.
Pro Tip: Be sure to visit the local toymaker, Tim the Storyteller, and listen to him spin Christmas tales by the tree in his workshop.
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