Where you can still see Christmas lights, holiday displays

From historic homes and popular attractions draped in sparkling lights to romantically lit gardens and parks, the Carolinas shine bright during the holiday season.

Some places and events have had to trim their offerings and add new safety protocols because of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, so be sure to use the links we’ve provided to find out the most up-to-date policies.

Without further ado, here are a few of our favorite places to enjoy the magic of Christmas:

Biltmore Estate – A holiday tradition dating back 125 years will be celebrated this year when Christmas at Biltmore transforms Asheville’s most famous address into an unforgettable Yuletide destination. This year’s theme, “An 1895 Christmas,” pays homage to the first holiday season when Biltmore’s founder George Vanderbilt opened the doors of Biltmore House to family and friends. Christmas at Biltmore runs through Jan. 10. Click here for details.

Charlotte Motor Speedway – For the 11th year, Charlotte Motor Speedway will shine brightly for the holidays during its annual drive-thru light display. Speedway Christmas features more than 4 million lights that span a 3.75-mile course illuminating the iconic racetrack. Christmas-themed movies will be shown on the giant 16,000-square-foot Speedway TV Thursday through Sunday, and new this year, the speedway has added a 5,400-square-foot ice rink. Open through Jan. 17. Click here for details.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden – The garden’s annual Holidays at the Garden event is set to return Nov. 28 and will continue through Jan. 3. The show will be a bit smaller than in years past, but there will still be plenty to see, including the popular musically orchestrated topiary display, blossoming lighted cherry trees and more than 10 acres of colorful cascading lights. Click here for details.

North Carolina Transportation Museum – See this historic site illuminated by thousands of holiday lights during the museum’s first-ever drive-thru light show from Nov. 20 through Dec. 30. In addition, daytime train rides will be offered aboard the Candy Cane Train, which will also be decorated for the holidays. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served following the ride. Click here for details.

Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium – Walk under a 180-degree ocean tunnel that’s illuminated in holiday lights as sharks, rays, and other fishy friends swim right over your head! Plus, the aquarium is decked out with more than 10,000 holiday lights to celebrate the season. Sea of Lights is open through Jan. 3. Click here for details.

Tanglewood Park – See nearly 5 miles of lights and more than 100 festive displays during Tanglewood Park’s Festival of Lights in Clemmons, which is about a 1-hour drive from Charlotte. The Gift Village will be closed this year due to COVID-19. Open through Jan. 1. Click here for details.

Tweetsie Railroad – Take a nighttime train ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains, see thousands of dazzling lights and meet Santa during Tweetsie Christmas. Open select nights through Dec. 31. Click here for details.

Village Park – The Celebration of Lights in Kannapolis features more than 250,000 lights, plus Santa, singing bears and marshmallow roasting. Visitors can also take a train ride on the Winterland Express. There’s no cost to walk through the park but reservations are required for the train ride. Open through Dec. 30. Click here for details.

Zootastic Park – See more than 4 million lights at the park’s annual drive-thru display. Open from 6 - 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6 - 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission costs $8 per person for ages 2 and older. Open through Jan. 1. Click here for details.