Written by: Samantha Coffin, Asheville local, writer, creator and outdoor enthusiast
One of Asheville’s brightest holiday traditions is the Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum. Whether you are looking to impress a first date, make new memories with your loved one or start a new tradition with your family, Winter Lights is a great place for dates of every kind! Open every night through December 31st, come sip hot cocoa, cider or beer while you walk through the gardens and enjoy more than half a million lights with landscapes, unique displays and your favorite holiday music.
When you arrive at the arboretum, you’ll enter through the Baker Exhibit Center where you can enter with pre-purchased tickets or buy them on non sold out nights. You’ll each get fun a hand stamp for re-entry and begin your adventure. Make sure to grab a map so you know where all the displays and activities are located. Before heading out into the winter wonderland, make sure to check out the gift shop, indoor bonsai garden and the Reclaimed Creations exhibit of sculptures made of reclaimed plastic items.
Once you head outside, you’ll quickly find the Cocoa Shack. Grab yourself a beverage and start out by following the light-filled path. From magical chandeliers to the main center tree set to the tune of holiday classics, all ages will be captivated by the beauty and twinkle of every light. Make sure to look for the princess dresses, frog and rocky cove railroad. As soon as you start to get chilly, stop at one of the fire-pits to warm up! Ask the volunteers about any hidden gems you may have missed. Our favorite view was in the middle of the bridge near the quilt garden looking towards the center tree. With the music and changing colors, the view is simply captivating.
From extra large Jenga and Connect Four, there is plenty to entertain your first date and little ones alike. If you’re a little extra chilly or in the mood to be more creative, head inside the Education Center for some paper crafts and talking animals.
Want to expand on your night of fun? Right in the Education Center, you’ll find Bent Creek Bistro. Head there where you’ll find a menu full of choices for everyone. Enjoy a glass of wine or local beer while snacking on a local cheese or charcuterie board for couples date night or dive into some soups and sandwiches followed by cake to please all the mouths in your family. Vegetarian and Gluten Free options are available.
Now, are you ready to experience the magic of the season? You can purchase your tickets here. Make sure to buy them in advance to save on the $5 convenience charge applied when you purchase them at door. As this a super popular Asheville event, we recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time, as nights often sell out. Ticket prices are $18 for adults 12+, $12 for children 5-11 and free for children 4 and under. Snag a deal by visiting on a Tuesday (except Christmas) when adult tickets are $15 and child tickets are $10.
Are you a member? Check out the awesome discounts just for you, including Tuesdays!
Buy your tickets while there is still time to visit this holiday season. Share your photos with us on Instagram using #AVLdatenight