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Swain visitor center lights

We may be a Small Town, but We Celebrate Holidays in a Big Way!

The streets are decorated with holiday lights and garlands; and our shops offer plenty of gifts and one-of-a-kind arts and crafts, as well as tasty foods and wines. Our 20-foot Christmas tree on the town square is in front of the Visitor Center, where kids can write a letter to Santa (now through Christmas Eve), and find  “to-go cups” with cookies and hot chocolate packets. The Visitor Center is open every day. Scroll down for all events.

All Aboard the Polar Express!™ Sing some Christmas carols, and enjoy warm cocoa and a treat, while listening to this magical children’s story. Santa is waiting at the North Pole, where he’ll board the train, greeting each child, giving them their own silver sleigh bell. (1-1/4 hour round trip). Don’t forget to wear your pajamas! November 9 – December 31. Tickets and more info

For a small town, we have a surprising variety of restaurants to tempt you with meals from fine dining to pizza and burgers. To satisfy that sweet tooth, save time for a treat at a bakery, a chocolate shop, or ice cream parlor. Try some of our local brews at one of three breweries.

During the November – December Polar Express season, expect wait times at restaurants. Reservations, where accepted, are recommended.


Annual Bryson City Christmas Parade

Enjoy a small-town Christmas parade with hometown spirit.


Bryson City Holiday Events

November 9 – December 31

Letters to Santa, Cookies & Cocoa. Available every day. Write your letter to Santa and mail it at the Swain County Visitor Center. All materials provided. Letters to Santa may be mailed through December 24. Complimentary packets of cookies and cocoa mix available “to go” in the lobby.

All Aboard the Polar Express! The 1-1/4 hour round trip excursion takes riders to the North Pole to pick up Santa, who visits with each child on the train and presents them with the silver sleigh bell. Enjoy singing, warm cocoa and a treat. Steam train on December 31. Schedules vary by the day. More info

Saturday, November 11

Holiday Arts Market at the Nantahala School for the Arts. Great Christmas gifts made locally by students and instructors. Learn more

Saturday, November 18

Turkey Strut 5K Walk/Run in Cherokee. 10:30 am registration. Race starts at noon. Race begins and ends at the Kituwah Mound. Learn more

Mid-November – mid-December

Holiday Market. Fridays & Saturdays,  November 17, 18, 24, 25; and December 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16. Local artisans market at 117 Island Street in front of the Aquarium. 10 am – 3 pm. Market Info

Mid-November – mid-December

Christmas Wonderland Hayrides through the lights at Darnell Farms.  Limited Seating available. Receive hot drink and sweet treat.  Order tickets at US 19 East of Bryson City, on the Tuckasegee River. Facebook

Friday & Saturday, November 24-25

You’re invited to visit local artists’ studios and galleries during the Annual Stecoah Arts & Crafts Drive-About Tour. Find that one-of-a-kind holiday gift made by a local artisan in Bryson City and Robbinsville/Stecoah. Free self-guided tour. More info and directions.

Saturday, November 25

Shop Local Saturday! Bryson City is a great town to shop at small businesses. You’ll find unique crafts, trendy clothing, souvenirs, furniture, antiques, bakeries and more. And a surprising variety of restaurants for a small town.

Christmas Tree Lighting Event. 5:00 pm. Christmas caroling and live nativity. Tree lighting by Bryson City Mayor Tom Sutton at 6 pm. Free cookies and hot cocoa, letters to Santa, take family photos in front of the tree. Please bring a non-perishable food item or an unwrapped toy for donations to local Swain County charities. Visitor Center / Heritage Museum.

Saturday, December 2

Beginning at 9 am. Annual Cookie Walk & Christmas Bazaar. Fellowship Hall, Bryson City United Methodist Church. 76 Main Street.

9 am – 11:30 am. Breakfast with Santa at River’s End Restaurant. Enjoy the buffet and deliver your letters to Santa in person as he visits each table.

2 pm. “The Biggest Little Christmas Parade in the Smokies” takes to the streets. This year’s theme is “Home for the Holidays.” The annual parade features floats, fire trucks, bands, classic cars, beauty queens and more …and of course, Santa! More infoParade Entry Application

Thursday, December 7

6:30 pm. Holiday Concert with the Glory Strings Players at the Library in Bryson City. Enjoy dulcimers, guitars and more. Free event. Event info

Saturdays, December 9 & 16

11 am – 3 pm. The Merry Market at Nantahala Outdoor Center. Local artisans, store sales, meet Santa, hot drinks and treats, holiday music, games and more. Market Info

More events just a short drive away

Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, Franklin. Various Christmas programs. More info

December 1, 2, 8, 9. Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries 2,500 luminaries light your way to shops and studios, carolers, holiday treats, live music and a visit with Santa. More info

December 16, 7:30 pm. Holiday Fireworks in Sylva. Fireworks info

Come enjoy our crisp, mountain air and breathe in some holiday spirit!

Sponsors of Bryson City / Swain County Chamber of Commerce Events

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad logo
Town of Bryson City NC logo
Explore Bryson City logo

Bryson City - Swain County
Chamber of Commerce

P.O. Box 509
Bryson City, NC 28713

Karen Proctor
Executive Director


Visitor Guide pages

Order a free Visitor Guide featuring Bryson City and the North Carolina Smokies