Holiday light displays across the state
North Carolina is aglow with unique and festive lighting displays over the holidays. Here is a small sampling of events (many of which are free), grouped by general region. "Mountains" indicates places west of I-77; "Piedmont" is east of I-77 and west of I-95; and "Coast" is east of 1-95.) For more events: www.VisitNC.com
Hometown Holidays, Forest City
Nov. 24–Dec. 19
Starting with the tree lighting, this sparkling downtown tradition features more than 500,000 lights, as well as "Santa Paws" photo sessions for pets and Friday and Saturday night carriage and hayrides.
High Country Lights, Ennice
Nov. 24, 2011– Jan 1, 2012
This fun, premiere light display is choreographed to music and broadcast through a low-power transmitter on 96.5 FM radio. Hosted by the Glade Creek Volunteer Fire Department, the animated show features Santa's Castle, Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters singing "White Christmas," a 3K LED American Flag, and more.
Chetola Festival of Lights, Blowing Rock
Nov. 25–Late Jan.
Chetola Resort's Festival of Lights features more than 50,000 illuminations. Drive around Chetola Lake and view glittering ice skaters, a nativity scene and Rudolph catching a "big fish."
Christmas Town USA, McAdenville
The little textile village of McAdenville is world famous for transforming into "Christmas Town U.S.A." Events include the Inaugural Festival on Dec. 3 and the Yule Log Parade on Dec. 16. The best time to view the town's fantastic light displays is Monday through Thursday. You also can enjoy them Friday through Sunday, but traffic is heavier then.
Festival of Luminaries, Dillsboro
Dec. 2–3 & 9–10
You can journey back to yesteryear when this charming village comes alive with thousands of luminaries. Shopkeepers and artisans serve holiday treats with hot cider and cocoa, carolers sing and children visit with Santa at Town Hall. Horse and buggy rides available.
Lake Myra Light Display, Wendell
Nov. 20–Dec. 31
This spectacular light show, controlled by computer programming, is synchronized to Christmas music. This year's extravaganza will feature nearly a quarter million lights that dynamically "dance" to holiday songs, and a magic show. The inspiring display is created by the Williams family, who painstakingly assembles the show yearly.
Lights on the Neuse, Clayton
Nov. 25–Dec. 24
This festive annual event at Boyette's Farms offers well more than a million lights and includes treats from Santa's Sweet Shoppe, an enchanting 3D Christmas barn, holiday hayrides and a new carousel.
Country Christmas Train, Denton
Dec. 2–4, 9–11 & 15–20
This multi-faceted event at Denton FarmPark includes a steam engine train that takes passengers on a pretty 1½ mile trek, stopping to see a brief movie about the birth of Jesus. Carolers trill "Joy to the World" while visitors enjoy chicken and dumplings, explore the craft barn and gingerbread house or wander into the church to sing songs. Visitors see around 15,000 Christmas light bulbs that outline the old 1915 Erie steam engine shovel and sparkle in the woods.
Carolina Christmas, Concord
With more than 600 different light displays featuring 3 million lights, this is one very big holiday drive-through light park. Visitors enter at zMAX Dragway, pass by The Dirt Track at Charlotte and into Charlotte Motor Speedway, where a drive on the 1.5-mile superspeedway is part of the fun. The show includes Bethlehem-themed village, a Festival of Trees and play areas with food and music.
(800) 455-FANS (3267)
Tree Lighting Ceremony, Lumberton
This festival on the Plaza includes the lighting of the city's Christmas tree, a Christmas parade, hayrides, musical entertainment, horse and carriage rides, hot cocoa and cookies and even a movie.
Christmas Flotilla, Carolina Beach
Fishing boats and pleasure crafts are electrically decorated with thousands of pretty lights for a spectacular display on the Intracoastal Waterway. The parade of boats will cruise from Snows Cut to Carolina Beach Boat Basin and back.
Tryon Palace Christmas Candlelight Tour, New Bern
Dec. 10 & 17
Costumed guides escort visitors through Palace areas, decorated for the holidays and lit with candle globes and fire baskets. Entertainment includes music by the palace's Fife and Drum Corps, musicians, acrobats and fireworks.
Meadow Lights, near Benson
Meadow, a crossroads community, celebrates the season with a Santa train, glowing lights along a country trail, an old-fashioned candy shop (with more than 300 varieties of candy), live manger scene and carousel rides. The family-owned event started from a single decorated yard to more than 30 acres of lights.
New Year's Eve Pickle Drop, Mount Olive
Make plans to ring in your New Year early at Mount Olive Pickle Company, where a lighted, three-foot pickle drops down a 45-foot flagpole into a redwood pickle tank at 7 p.m. Visitors can browse a gift shop, munch on refreshments and listen to live music.