Asheville – A treat awaits those who decide to visit The North Carolina Arboretum over the holiday. This is south of Asheville off Rt 191 at Frederick Law Olmsted Way. Once again, the garden and grounds are filled with a dazzling display of colorful lights. For 2021, the popular Winter Lights is returning to The Arboretum as a walk-through experience, with one million lights gracefully draping the trees and buildings as they twinkle in the distance. The Arboretum’s expansive gardens and grounds are open through January 1.
This year’s theme, “Forest and Garden Whimsy,” promises new surprises alongside the popular 50-foot Tree of Light, Magical Maples and Storytime at Woodland Cove.
Sadly last year, due to pandemic restrictions, the Winter Light Festival could only be seen in someone’s car. Walking was not permitted. This year, you must drive the winding Olmsted Way to the parking lot as you see silhouettes of lighted deer near the roadside and a screen of snowflakes on the building off in the distance. Once parked, you can start your leisurely walk to gaze at the bright red tall spruce tree or walk nearby the colorful patterned blanket of lights in the quilt garden. Along the path, a gigantic white stag can be seen, off in the distance colorful arches invite you to continue your walk towards the huge marguerite daisies lit off in the distance. The sounds of Christmas drums call and lead the way. Goodness, are those huge colorfully lit mushrooms in the distance? Is that the sound of a bird tweeting in the tree? Perhaps it is time to stop and sit on the bench to allow yourself to just absorb this festival of lights.
Safe and Festive
“There is so much to take in and experience,” said Mary Rose Ridderbusch-Shearer, show producer. “We can’t wait to share this holiday spectacle with our guests.” The North Carolina Arboretum has taken special care to make this event safe and comfortable for guests in the interest of public health. There are fewer indoor gathering spots, multiple outdoor starting points, and an expanded holiday gift shop space to enjoy. Face coverings are currently required for everyone five years of age and older while indoors, and are encouraged outside where social distancing is not possible, in accordance with Buncombe County mandates. This is a true visual feast with every color of light imaginable. Guests will enjoy the spectacle of amazing light displays which outline animals and trees of all sizes and hear the sounds of Christmas music or birds in the woods. Later for a little warmth, a guest can enjoy hot cocoa, alcoholic beverages and/or other treats at the Cocoa Shack in the Gardener’s Shed. A few hours wandering along the paths of the Arboretum’s gardens is sure to remind one that the holiday season is a special time of year.
Winter Lights is The Arboretum’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and the show has become a must-see holiday tradition in Western North Carolina. This year, tickets are being sold per vehicle, which means everyone in a vehicle can enjoy the show for the price of just one ticket. Tiered pricing is based on peak and off-peak days and offers guests the ability to choose the best option for their schedule and budget. Tickets for standard-size vehicles will be $30 (Bronze), $45 (Silver) and $60 (Gold) when purchased online in advance. Admission will also be available at the gate for an additional $10 on the night of the event. Evening hours for Winter Lights are 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., with the entrance gate closing at 9 p.m. Once inside, however, visitors may stay until 10:00 p.m. More ticket information can be found at ncwinterlights.com. or by calling. (828) 665-2492. However, do dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes for your visit.