Find holiday happiness in Highlands, North Carolina
Words by Ashley Locke
Each winter, a soft hush falls over Highlands—the chill in the air and the snow on the ground ushers in a magic that beckons people to pause. The rush of regular life takes on a slower pace as to-do lists are replaced with holiday gift lists. Everyone you meet is full of cheer—and a warm drink—as the cozy winter season settles in. Perched on a mountain plateau, there’s simply nothing like the holidays in Highlands.
As soon as you drive into downtown, you’ll be met with twinkling lights that line the streets. The storefronts take their decorating seriously—you can vote online for which one you like best during the Trim Our Town event. Make sure you visit each holiday-themed storefront before casting your vote.
For generations, the shops along and near Highlands’ Main Street have offered unique items and experiences. Passionate merchants and dreamers, artists and artisans, families and friends—the small business owners offer insight and friendly chats while sharing collections and services that have been thoughtfully curated. You’re sure to discover something for everyone on your list!
After shopping for gifts to go under the tree, you can hunt for the tree itself! The smell of pine drifts from the local farms, where you can go to pick out the perfect Christmas Tree—a fun holiday adventure for the whole family.
You can’t visit Highlands during the holidays without going to Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park. There, a special mailbox awaits letters to Santa—and Santa and Mrs. Claus are known to stop by to pick up their mail and visit. While you’re there, you can spend some time at the ice-skating rink, and after Christmas you can enjoy Snow Fest at 4118 (a nod to the town’s elevation)—a weekend festival in January that celebrates the season with snowballs, ice slides, smores and more.
Small-town spirit is plentiful at Highlands’ Christmas Parade. You’ll see bands, colorful floats, horses, camels, classic cars and even local llamas parading on Main Street. After the parade, you can go off the beaten path for more winter magic—ask a local about the infamous “sledding hill!”
From shopping to sledding and twinkling string lights to evergreens dusted with snow, the holidays are happier in Highlands.
Highlands Shopping List:
THE BASCOM SHOP
The Bascom Shop showcases a wealth of local and regional artistic talent, representing more than 150 artists each year. A center for the visual arts, The Bascom is committed to the development of Highlands’ creative economy and to the artist-entrepreneurs of our region, whose unique journeys and artistic styles enrich the community. More: thebascom.org
Handblown, multi-colored glass pumpkins by Asheville artist Annie Jacobsen range from $50-$75.
Ceramic whimsy “ Guardian Angel” animals by Atlanta artist Barry Gregg. Price: $95
Citizen Wilder feels like an enchanting garden. It features live and dried plants, art and select antique pieces, and other thoughtfully curated home and garden décor. Its signature item may be its Stick Candles, handcrafted from beeswax and real tree branches. More: instagram.com/citizen.wilder or stickcandles.com
The Bittersweet Oak Colossal Taper in Forest Green, 13” tall with a burn time of 17 hours. A Bittersweet Vine grows around the rough bark in a spiral. Retail: $28.00
ACORNS: The Shop at Old Edwards Inn
Located on Highlands’ 4th Street, Acorns features artfully curated pieces for interior spaces. More: Acorns Boutique (acornshighlandsnc.com)
These hand-crafted porcelain pieces will add character and elegance to a charcuterie board or table setting, serving as elegant reminders of your visit to Highlands. Each piece incorporates an original lace pattern and unique glaze, both of which are signature touches of the ceramic artworks created in Michael Hofman Studios in Asheville, NC.
Monkey Bowl: $35
Salt Cellar: $45
Coffee Cup: $75