Unwrap Holiday Cheer in Hendersonville

The Blue Ridge Mountain town of Hendersonville, North Carolina, transforms into a winter wonderland for its annual Home for the Holidays celebration. Each year, the town invites residents and visitors to delight in the spirit of the season by making memories with friends and family.

Beginning in November and continuing through the New Year, visitors to Hendersonville enjoy festive decorations, holiday-themed performances, downtown events, a skating rink and more.

Hendersonville officially welcomes the holiday season on Nov. 23, the Friday after Thanksgiving, with the Downtown Holiday Street Lighting. Attendees gather on the Historic Courthouse Plaza and sing Christmas carols. Santa arrives at dusk and flips the switch to illuminate two large trees at the courthouse and the lights along Main Street. Hendersonville’s serpentine Main Street, lined with trees and brick planters, transforms into a storybook Christmas town with block after block of twinkling lights and elaborately decorated storefronts. On Dec. 1, a traditional hometown Christmas parade makes its way down Main Street, complete with marching bands, floats and antique cars.

“All of our holiday events are family-oriented,” says Beth Carden, executive director of the Henderson County TDA. “We want families to come and spend time and make memories; that’s what it’s all about.”

A favorite tradition returns for a third year Dec. 18-Jan. 1 and is bigger and better than before. The holiday skating rink at the Visitor Center will be larger this year, allowing 60 people to skate at one time. The synthetic “ice” creates a smooth surface that is ideal for beginners, yet authentic enough for seasoned skaters. The iceless rink allows for skating in any weather. Also new this year, the rink includes two curling lanes, so visitors can try their hand at the winter sport.

Plenty of activities are available for skaters waiting their turn or for family members who prefer not to skate. Visitors can play games, roast marshmallows over a fire pit, take photos in Christmas-themed cutouts and sip hot chocolate and cider. New this year, tractor-drawn hayrides will board at the Visitor Center and circle downtown to see the lights. On Dec. 21-23, Santa Claus will be on the Visitor Center stage listening to Christmas wish lists and taking photos.

“A lot of our visitors to the skating rink are families, so they bring kids, parents, grandparents,” says Mia Freeman, a downtown merchant who oversees the skating rink. “We want everyone to have something fun to do even if they don’t want to be on the rink.”

Downtown Hendersonville’s impressive variety of retail shops includes boutiques, art galleries, antiques stores and more. Each shopkeeper tries to outdo his or her neighbor for the annual Downtown Merchant Decoration Contest. Throughout the season, stores welcome shoppers with complimentary sweets, hot cider and Christmas carols. On Friday, Dec. 7, merchants celebrate an Olde Fashioned Christmas with extended shopping hours and special treats. Several markets throughout Hendersonville sell fresh greenery, wreaths, garland and Christmas trees.

Flat Rock Playhouse, the official state theater of North Carolina, spreads holiday cheer with two shows. The main location in the village of Flat Rock presents “A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas,” Nov. 29-Dec. 22. The original musical revue builds on last year’s record-breaking Christmas show, incorporating favorite seasonal tunes with a few new surprises. Children are the focus at the downtown location with “Junie B. in Jingle Bells Batman Smells,” Dec. 6-16. Based on the beloved Junie B. Jones book series by Barbara Park, the show is cute and catchy with a life lesson tucked in between the laughs.

Step back in time with Christmas at Connemara at the Carl Sandburg Home on Saturday, Nov. 24. Poinsettias and simple decorations reflect the style of the Sandburg family. The day includes musicians, storytellers, arts and crafts, hot cider and cookies.

On Dec. 9, spend the afternoon touring some of Hendersonville’s beautiful bed-and-breakfasts during the Cookie Caper & Historic Inn Tour. Learn the history behind these prestigious properties and receive a sweet treat at each one.

Season’s at Highland Lake — an elegant restaurant known for its seasonally focused menu, well-appointed dining room and wine list — serves special meals throughout the holidays. Trust the expert staff with buffet meals for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Or treat yourself to a night out for the holiday wine dinner on Dec. 13 or New Year’s Eve dinner on Dec. 31.

With so much to do in Hendersonville, you’ll want to make plans to stay. Whether you’re looking for a convenient hotel, romantic inn, homey vacation rental or pet-centric property, Hendersonville offers a variety of lodging options.

For a full schedule of Home for the Holidays events and a complete list of accommodations, go to www.VisitHendersonvilleNC.org or call (800) 828-4244.

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