Asheville – From November 17 through December 31st more than one million lights will illuminate The NC Arboretum’s gardens and woodland edge. For the 10th year, visitors can experience an awe-inspiring walk throughout their gardens. This is a spectacular open-air walk-through light show—which has been happening annually for 10 years and very popular. As the visitors wander through the expansive paths, they can stop and rest on a bench, chat with each other, or stop near a fireplace to warm up as they listen to live music. They will be able to enjoy the views of towering lit flowers, brilliant butterfly shapes and monumental mushrooms—all lit in a variety of colors and shapes. A powerful drama is continually unfolding as they meander along the paths. Some of the new displays are classics like the animated 50-foot Tree of Light, the “Polar Express”-themed Rocky Cove Railroad, the illuminated Quilt Garden synchronized to holiday music and debuting a new pattern, and explore Rainbow Land, home to the ubiquitous Unicorn. Winter Lights is sure to delight and amaze everyone who sees it.
With the holiday season just around the corner, a visit to The NC Arboretum in the evenings from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM with these amazing displays will certainly start the season off on the right path. Guest can enjoy sipping hot cocoa and other beverages from the Cocoa Shack or go shopping for unique seasonal treasures in the expanded, holiday themed Winter Lights Gift Shop. In fact Clara Curtis, the Arboretum’s Senior Director for Mission Delivery, said, “We want guests to be able to easily purchase their cocoa, so we have designed a new Cocoa Cabin located mid-show. Guests can sip and stroll while enjoying all of the fabulous designs.”
Tickets to Winter Lights are on sale now at ncwinterlights.com and are purchased per-vehicle. Once again, the tickets are sold in a three-tiered system based on the date guests want to attend. The Pink, Blue and Yellow tiers offer a range of admission prices, with off-peak dates costing less than those nights that are the most popular. Purchasing a Flex ticket option allows guests to change the date of their visit as well. The Arboretum strongly recommends purchasing tickets in advance online, as nights at Winter Lights do sell out. Tickets are on sale now for specific entry times – 6:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. – but guests are welcome to stay as long as they like up until closing time at 10:00 PM. Winter Lights is The North Carolina Arboretum’s largest annual fundraiser and supports many parts of their mission driven programming.
Service animals are always welcome, but please leave your other furry friends at home! To keep both visitors and pets safe, pets are not permitted at Winter Lights.
A Public Garden Par Excellence
For more than 35 years amid a 434-acre public garden, The North Carolina Arboretum is located within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest just south of Asheville and adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393. The North Carolina Arboretum is set in one of the most beautiful natural settings in America. The Arboretum offers year round educational programs and learning experiences for adults, families, youth, school groups and trade professionals. Many permanent exhibits and special exhibits are continually held. As a Bee City Campus in the Baker Exhibit Center until January 7, 2024, the Monarchs and Milkweed exhibit explores how the survival of these magnificent pollinators is threatened in todays world. There is a permanent Bonsai Exhibition Garden; visitors can find the Arboretum’s stunning bonsai collection of more than 100 specimens carefully cultivated with a Southern Appalachian accent. And for the more adventuresome, there are miles of biking trails for the novice or experienced mountain biker.
The Arboretum was established as an affiliate of the University of North Carolina System by the State General Assembly in 1986, nearly a century after Frederick Law Olmsted, the Father of American Landscape Architecture, first envisioned a research arboretum as part of his legacy and plan for George Vanderbilt at Biltmore Estate. The role of demonstrating, interpreting and celebrating the importance of plants to our economy, culture and enjoyment is expressed through the Arboretum’s mission, vision and values, and is closely aligned with Olmsted’s four key design criteria: environment, economics, aesthetics and social factors.
The North Carolina Arboretum’s mission is to advance our state’s future by creatively connecting people, plants and places through education, design and economic development. George Briggs is the Executive Director and Drake Fowler the Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operations Officer. Both are landscape architects and have contributed to the growth of The Arboretum for many years. Members can enjoy year long perks with free parking throughout the year as well as discounts on tickets to Winter Lights. Individual membership start at $50, with household members, $75 and many other categories, available. Membership donations to The North Carolina Arboretum Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, are tax-deductible as allowed by law. All memberships are valid for a full year from the time you join. There are currently 17,088 members.