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Christmas in Appalachia

Christmas in Appalachia

As the temperatures drop in Western North Carolina, the fun only heats up. The holiday season here is filled with events and activities aimed to celebrate the best way we know how — with friends, family and visitors alike.

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‘Lights & Luminaries.’ (JCTDA photo)

Dillsboro’s ‘Lights & Luminaries’ 

The annual “Lights & Luminaries” will return from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 2-3 and 9-10 in the streets of downtown Dillsboro

Experience the magic as the entire town is transformed into a winter wonderland of lights, candles, laughter, and song. Over 2,500 luminaries light your way to shops and studios. 

Each night, shops will stay open way into the night providing free refreshments, musicians and singers performing in individual shops. The sound of hooves will echo through the night with old-fashioned horse and buggy rides.

With retail shops offering a variety of quality arts and crafts, unique gifts, clothing, gourmet foods and wine, and specialty Christmas items, the festival also provides a unique holiday shopping experience.

Shopkeepers and restaurants are open late. See Santa and Mrs. Claus as they ride through town in their pickup truck. Write a letter to Santa and drop it off at his special mailbox. Live music on Front Street.

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For more information, call 828.586.1439 or click on dillsboronc.info.


Bryson City holiday concert

A special holiday performance by the Glory String Players will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Marianna Black Library in Bryson City.

The Glory String Players is a small Appalachian string ensemble that loves giving back to their community. And during the holidays, it seems like the perfect time to give back. 

The group consists of multiple harmonies with instruments, including the dulcimer, guitar, classical violin, band jammer, mandolin, ocarina, glockenspiel, autoharp, djembe drum, and a merlin four-string guitar. 

The event is free and open to the public. The Marianna Black Library, a member of the Fontana Regional Library, is located in downtown Bryson City at the corner of Academy and Rector. 

For more information, please call the library at 828.488.3030.


Bryson City

• The 47th annual Bryson City Christmas Parade will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, on Everett Street in downtown Bryson City. Floats, marching bands, fire trucks, Santa & Mrs. Claus, and much more. 828.488.3681 or greatsmokies.com/events.

• “Holiday Market” with local artisans will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Dec. 17 at 117 Island Street in Bryson City. Outdoor event. Leashed pets are welcome. 828.488.7857 or greatsmokies.com/events.

• “Christmas Hayrides Through the Lights” will run on Wednesdays through Saturdays until Dec. 23 at Darnell Farms in Bryson City. Enjoy the hayride and a cup of hot cocoa. Limited seating available. Reservations are priority with limited walk-ins. There will also be a “Santa’s Workshop” onsite. darnellfarms.com or call 828.488.2376.

• The popular “Polar Express” train ride will resume rides on select dates from the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad depot in downtown Bryson City. For a complete listing of departure dates and times, call 800.872.4681 or click on gsmr.com

• “Letters to Santa, Cocoa & Cookies” is now being offered by the Swain County Heritage Museum and Visitor Center in Bryson City. Complimentary hot cocoa and cookies. Kids will love the opportunity to write and mail their letters to Santa. Materials provided, with the last day to submit letters being Christmas Eve. greatsmokies.com.

• “Christmas Lights Drive-Thru” will run through Dec. 31 at the Great Smoky Mountains Event Park (formerly Inspiration Park) in Bryson City. For more information, a full schedule of activities and/or to purchase tickets, click on greatsmokies.com/christmas-light-show-bryson-city.


• Cashiers Christmas Parade will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. The one-mile parade route starts on N.C. 107 South and heads north towards the Cashiers Crossroads where participants are announced to the crowd. The parade then turns left on U.S. 64 heading west, ending at the intersection of Frank Allen Road at the Cashiers Community Center. discoverjacksonnc.com.


• Innovation Station will host its “Indoor Holiday Market” from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 3 and 10. Free and open to the public. If you’d like to be a vendor, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information, click on innovation-brewing.com.


• “Winter Wonderland Nights” is now underway in Franklin. Downtown will feature living window displays of the holidays, live sounds of the season outdoors at the gazebo and inside stores, free holiday attractions (weather permitting), refreshments, hot cider, great sales from local merchants, and much more. The celebration will continue throughout the holidays in December. franklin-chamber.com.

• “Scott Thompson: Christmas Back Home” will hit the stage at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin. Filling the stage with music, stories, laughs and more, “Christmas Back Home” will kick start your holiday season and have your toes tapping to your favorite Christmas tunes. From blues to reggae and jazz to rock, they’ll turn classic holiday tunes new again with a delightful twist on some well-worn favorites as well as original songs that are sure to become classics. Tickets start at $18 per person. For more information, click on smokymountainarts.com or call 828.524.1598.

• Mountain Voices Christmas Concert will hit the stage at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, at the First United Methodist Church in Franklin. An evening of Christmas music, both secular and sacred. The performance will include songs by the full chorus and feature additional instrumentalists. Admission is free. Donations will be collected to support Mountain Voices: a community chorus under the direction of Beverly Barnett and accompanied by Mary Pittman with 50 members from around Southern Appalachia.

Lake Junaluska

• ”Christmas at Lake Junaluska” will be held Dec. 9-11 at the Lake Junaluska Conference & Retreat Center. Lessons & Carols will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at Memorial Chapel. The service will be led by the Rev. Susan Giles, with music provided by Hilda Ryan and special guest guitarist Mark Shultz for a candlelit singing of “Silent Night.” From noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, board the four-passenger vis-a-vis carriage or eight-person wagonette for a leisurely 15-minute ride that offers breathtaking lakeside mountain views and a unique view of the decorated Rose Walk along North Lakeshore Drive. To participate in this activity, reserve your seat online. Stop into Junaluska Gifts & Grounds and the Lake Junaluska Golf Course Pro Shop, or visit Christmas Memories in historic Lambuth Inn for your last-minute gifts. To book the lodging special, call 800.222.4930. For more information on the Christmas activities, click on lakejunaluska.com/events-calendar/christmas-lake-junaluska


• There will be a Polar Express and Teddy Bear Sleepover at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, in the Community Room at the Jackson County Public Library in Sylva. Join the event in your PJs and don’t forget your teddy for a fun Polar Express-themed night. After a story, the group will tuck in their teddies for their sleepover. Just don’t forget to pick them up on Friday. This program is free and open to the public. This event is co-sponsored by the Friends of the Jackson County Public Library. For more information, please call the library at 828.586.2016. The Jackson County Public Library is a member of Fontana Regional Library (fontanalib.org).

• Sylva Christmas Tree Lighting will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, in front of the Historic Jackson County Courthouse on West Main Street. There will also be a Christmas music concert onsite. discoverjacksonnc.com.

• Sylva Christmas Parade will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, on Main Street. The parade takes place along Historic Main Street for celebration, cheer and a chance to see Santa. The floats start at, and end at, Mark Watson Park after a loop through town. discoverjacksonnc.com.

• “Holiday Fireworks” will be held from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, on West Main Street in Sylva. discoverjacksonnc.com.


• “Strand of Lights” drive-thru light show will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 30 at the Smoky Mountain Event Center (formerly the Haywood County Fairgrounds). Tickets for the nightly show are available online at 38main.com, with only 100 cars per one-hour time slot. This helps reduce wait time and traffic congestion for a more enjoyable experience. Admission is $20 per vehicle. The drive-thru winds around the Smoky Mountain Event Center campus for nearly one-mile. Play your favorite carols (and sing-along) as the route takes you past numerous 2D displays, mixed with lighted buildings and holiday experiences throughout.

• Waynesville Christmas Parade will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, on Main Street. Parade starts at First Presbyterian Church and proceeds down Main Street to Bogart’s Restaurant. downtownwaynesville.com.

• “A Night Before Christmas” will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 10 and 17 in downtown Waynesville. Hundreds of Luminaries, live music, clogging, church choirs, Santa & Mrs. Claus, storytelling, holiday treats and beverages, and more. For a full list of participants and events, click on downtownwaynesville.com.

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