The Carolinas include both North Carolina and South Carolina in the United States. While the East Coast region is known for its diverse landscape, it also offers visitors a calming escape from their day-to-day lives. This, along with its beach communities, delicious culinary offerings, and rural farms, has made both states popular holiday destinations. Travelers adore the small-town feel that each state has to offer. With a homey atmosphere, beautiful scenery, and iconic locales, these two states offer lovely possibilities for vacationing families, couples and solo adventurers.

This is no less true when it comes to vacation ideas during the winter months. Families looking to get away for the holiday season will find each state’s unique culture and historical sites a unique opportunity for a Christmas vacation. With that in mind, take a look at this lineup of the best Christmas events in the Carolinas. Each state has its own style of festive celebration and famous events that keep travelers coming back each year during the holiday season. Plan a trip for one this year and compare it to the other on next year’s trip.

Most Popular Things To Do in North Carolina 

North Carolina is a popular state to visit for Christmas. 
pictured: a red car in North Carolina streets covered in pine and Christmas presents with a decorated tree in the background

Asheville, North Carolina is one of the most popular places to be during the holiday season. The city (and others nearby) offers up beautiful light displays, live performances and holiday shopping that should not be missed. Whether visitors want to experience luxury yuletide celebrations or take part in small town cheer, North Carolina has plenty to offer. 

Christmas at the Biltmore 

From early November to early January, the estate offers its visitors a chance to explore the stunning grounds. The breathtaking home hosts Candlelight Christmas Evenings, which include live music and intricately decorated Christmas trees and rooms. Travelers who stop at the Biltmore can also reserve tickets to holiday celebration tours which are led by a local expert on the country’s largest private residence. Guests of the estate can also enjoy the botanical garden before they are guided to Antler Hill Village. This area is a hub for shopping, restaurants and wineries. 

The Polar Express

This train ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is an iconic experience that attracts many visitors. The story (originally told by Chris Van Allsburg) was adapted to the screen in a 2003 animated film featuring the voice of Tom Hanks. Each year, visitors of Bryson City can experience the magical train ride for themselves. But, travelers should be sure to book their rides ahead of time due to the train’s popularity. Many families wear matching Christmas pajamas and ride the train together every year, so it may be a struggle to get tickets since they sell out nearly every year. 

Sugar Mountain Resort 

This resort is located near Banner Elk and is a perfect location for snow sports. If a white Christmas sounds like the perfect holiday experience, this resort will not disappoint. Guests of the Sugar Mountain Resort can sled, ski, snowboard or even ice skate. Outdoor activities are all the rave in this area, so visitors can even book exploratory tours or take up a new hobby. SugarFest is held at the resort in early December and is a popular event for people who enjoy live music, fireworks, ski and snowboarding demos as well as North Carolina BBQ. 

Best Things To Do in South Carolina

Visit South Carolina for a great active Christmas that you will not forget. 
pictured: a festively decorated front walkway in South Carolina

South Carolina has many exciting events that will bring family and friends together. The state offers many community events that are beautifully decorated. A visit to these South Carolina towns may even provide visitors with the opportunity to acquire the perfect Christmas presents or reinvigorate their excitement for the holiday season.


Old Town Rock Hill hosts the most popular Christmas Festival in the area every year, which has been coined ChristmasVille. The last weekend of November is when the jolly celebrations begin. The four day festival is even kicked off with an opening ceremony that seemingly ignites the local holiday spirit. There’s tons of events and activities that visitors can partake in to celebrate the season. These include a gingerbread house contest, historic tours, carriage rides and Santa events. There is even musical entertainment, theater events and holiday workshops which excite locals and visitors every year.  

Pendleton Christmas Market 

The festively decorated streets of Pendleton are no match for all the holiday fun that visitors will have at the market. This market is located in one of South Carolina’s best towns for Christmas. The market is filled with entertainment and artisan goods. Visitors will find an array of offerings at the market, including handcrafted holiday decor and gifts and yuletide themed food and drinks. The area hosts an annual tree lighting ceremony, Christmas parade and some caroling events, so after visitors explore the market there is still plenty to do. 

Hilton Head Jingle Jangle Bridge Run 

This seasonal run is a vibrant and exciting way for visitors of the area to interact with locals. Participants, excluding children and pets, can choose between a 5k and 10k run. Held on Christmas Eve, this race is a popular community event that even has an award ceremony with music, refreshments and prizes. A portion of the proceeds for the event (from merchandise and registration) go to a local charity, so visitors can give back during the holiday season and get a good workout in.