For a unique and completely charming holiday experience, Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries in Western NC is the place to go for the whole family. It’s just two hours from Upstate, SC and three hours from Charlotte, NC. Go make some magical Christmas memories in Dillsboro, NC.
Thank you to Discover Jackson NC, Jackson County for inviting us to experience Lights & Luminaries.
Taking time to slow down during the weeks leading up to Christmas can seem like an impossible task but when you make the decision to do so and really experience the joy of the magical season, that’s when those special memories happen. And those memories await you and your family in the small, mountain town of Dillsboro, North Carolina, a beautiful two-hour drive from the Upstate in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Lights & Luminaries in Dillsboro
Lights & Luminaries in Dillsboro is the Hallmark experience you’ve been searching for. The quaint town twinkling by the light of sparkling radiance. The candles lit along the streets. The shops that carry all kinds of locally made goods that you can only find there. The kindest people you’ll ever meet who are happy to see you.
Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries encompasses all of that and more. The festival started in 1983 as a way to celebrate the holidays and has been going strong for 40 years.
There is a calming, magical ambiance at this festival. There are white lights Christmas lights everywhere, plus 2,500 candles in white paper bags along every street. It’s like you stepped out of your life and into a time from many years ago.
There are carolers and horse and buggy rides. Santa & Mrs. Claus are available for timeless Dillsboro, NC Christmas photos. Nearly every shop sells only handmade goods from local artists or vintage items like cast iron cooking pans, antique furniture, and iron-wrought bed frames. There are shops that look like the North Pole exploded inside. Cookies, hot apple cider, and candy were in many of the shops and along the streets. I finally had to put a stop to my kids eating their monthly allotment of cookies all in one night.
And for myself, I was elated to find a grown-up nativity set while browsing at one of the Christmas-themed shops. Everyone was so kind and helpful and wishing us “Merry Christmas”.
It all felt authentic and genuine and just lovely.
Where to Eat During Lights & Luminaries
There are a handful of restaurants in the small town that have everything from BBQ to pub grub to Greek and Italian cuisine. We chose the Quirky Birds Treehouse & Bistro because it looked really cute. We walked in to a very cozy dining room and friendly employees. We had nachos, vegetarian chili, pizza, and grilled cheese. It was great! The nachos were my favorite as they had guacamole, cheese, chili, and sour cream. I thought the prices were reasonable, around $7-$12/person.
Dillsboro is small but mighty when it comes to food. Haywood Smokehouse is one of the Top 25 BBQ Restaurants in the country. We weren’t able to try it but it looks amazing. Next time!
Be sure to stop by the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory where you’ll be greeted by an array of handmade chocolates, fudge, and coffee.
Where to Enjoy the Outdoors in Dillsboro
Dillsboro is close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, home to nearly 900 miles in hiking trails. It’s also only a 20 minute drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where you can get to places like Waterrock Knob, the 16th highest mountain in the Eastern United States.
Cashiers, the Land of the Waterfalls, and a big favorite of us at Kidding Around, is about 40 minutes from Dillsboro. There are no shortage of gorgeous hikes and waterfalls to explore there.
The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
When we were pulling into our hotel, the Best Western Plus River, we saw the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad train and it was so cool! It was chugging along right in front of us, smoke billowing out from the top. It turns out the railroad is only 20 minutes away in Bryson City.
If your family goes on the Polar Express ride during November and December, Dillsboro is the perfect spot to enjoy time together, especially if you make the trip during the Lights & Luminaries festival.
Where to Stay in Dillsboro
Discover Jackson NC put us up in the Best Western Plus River Escape right on Tuckasegee River. Our room overlooked the river and it was so calming and peaceful.
The hotel is beautiful and you could walk to the town of Dillsboro if you wanted to. They have a heated indoor pool and hot tub, which we made good use of after eating all those cookies at the festival.
They also have a free, hot breakfast in the morning, which is pretty much equal to Christmas for my kids. They have eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy, yogurt, oatmeal, a coffee maker that will make pretty much anything you want, juices, pastries, and our favorite: a pancake maker that looks like it came from The Jetsons. Rooms are spacious and clean and the lobby has a beautiful fireplace and cozy chairs.
Planning Your Own Trip to Dillsboro
Lights & Luminaries takes place the first two weekends of December every year, each Friday and Saturday from 5-8 pm. The last two dates for 2023 are December 8th and 9th. There’s still time to plan a last-minute getaway!
For next year, we will update this story with those dates and anything new that the festival has going on. There is no cost to attend Lights & Luminaries either, which makes it a wonderful, low-cost Christmastime adventure with your family.
I think the biggest thing I loved about Lights & Luminaries was that it was the perfect opportunity to slow down, to enjoy the magical season, and to spend that quality time with my kids that I strive and long for. As I’m sure many parents can relate, the time we have with them goes quickly. I want to make the most of that time and this was a weekend well-spent.
Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries
December 1, 2, 8, and 9, 2023 from 5-8 pm each night