Does it snow in North Carolina?
North Carolina is known for many things, though having an extreme winter isn’t one of them. This isn’t to say that North Carolina doesn’t have a winter because, across the state, various areas get their fair share of snow.
Typically, North Carolina gets about 5 inches of snow a year. However, with towns like Charlotte and Raleigh, the Piedmont region gets about 6 inches per year, and the mountain region, where you’ll find Asheville, gets about 10-12 inches yearly. There are years when you won’t have snow at all. If you are looking for lots of snow, the town of Beech Mountain sees, on average, between 40- 50 inches.
The change in season with the array of snowfalls is a lovely addition to North Carolina’s charm. With the different landscapes, climates, and elevation changes, you can experience all different kinds of winter weather.
Winter in North Carolina
North Carolina is broken down into three geographical regions: the Mountains, Piedmont, and the Coastal Plain. Each of these areas has its own weather patterns, and you’ll find lots of fluctuation of snowfall between the different climates found within each of those regions.
The most intense winter weather will be found in the higher elevations of the Mountain region and will mostly occur between November and March. The coldest month in the Mountain region is January when the daily low temperatures are typically below freezing.
In The Piedmont region, winters are average and not too intense, but they have cold temperatures and the occasional snowfall.
Lastly, the Coastal region of North Carolina is where you will find the mildest winters, hardly any snow, and average daily temperatures above freezing.
Hopefully, now you have a general idea of what winter is like across North Carolina. In the article below, we have some fun things to do in each area during the winter months and some FAQs that we hope you find useful.
Things to Do in North Carolina in Winter
More winter activities take place in the Mountain Region of North Carolina, where they experience more snow and colder weather than the rest of the state. Here are all the fun things to look out for this winter in the Mountain Region.
❄️ Ski Resorts
The snow skiing opportunities in North Carolina are amongst the very best options in all of the southeastern United States. So if a skiing trip out west to Colorado or Utah can’t fit into your budget or schedule, a trip to the mountains of Western North Carolina isn’t such a bad consolation. There are around six ski resorts in the mountain region that all offer something different and unique and would make for an excellent winter ski resort visit.
There is a close tie between Sugar Mountain Ski Resort and Beech Mountain Resort for the best skiing in North Carolina. While Sugar Mountain is more accessible and well-known, Beech Mountain offers more trails and has a higher mountain, reaching an elevation of 5,500 feet. Both resorts offer off-site lodging, trails of all difficulty levels, lessons, rentals, and other fun winter activities.
Few ski resorts offer snowboarding along with the ski trails, but if that’s up your alley, you’ll want to head to Wolf Ridge Ski Resort or Ski Sapphire Valley, two other popular ski resorts in the Mountain Region. Both are smaller ski mountains, but both offer great amenities. Ski Sapphire Valley is a favorite amongst families and beginner skiers.
Other popular ski resorts in the Mountain Region include Appalachian Ski Mountain and Cataloochee Ski Area. The Appalachian Ski Mountain is great for a diverse selection of skiing, night skiing, and events. Cataloochee Ski Area was the first established ski area in the state (opened in 1961) and has not only tons of ski trails but also skiing for all skill levels.
❄️ Snow Tubing
Snow tubing is another extremely popular outdoor winter activity that’s great fun for the whole family. There are over 15 places in the Mountain Region of North Carolina that offer premium snow tubing.
Some of the most popular snow tubing areas are located right at the ski resorts, like Beech Mountain Resort Snow Tubing, Tube World in Cataloochee Ski Area, Wolf Ridge Tubing, and Sugar Mountain Snow Tubing. Many of these tubing lanes are at least 700 feet long and offer night tubing, refreshments, and family tubing.
One of the most popular tubing places in North Carolina and a local favorite is Hawksnest Snow Tubing. Hawksnest offers 20 tubing lanes that range from 400 to 1,000 feet long. They also have a great viewing deck where visitors can get hot chocolate and snacks and watch the tubing below.
❄️ Winter Hikes & Frozen Waterfalls
Hiking during winter is a fantastic way to explore and get a new nature perspective during colder months. Winter hikes are often quiet, with not many people around. All you have to do is bundle up and be sure you have proper footwear. There are some amazing winter hikes in the Mountains where you can play around in the snow, hike around the woods, and see frozen waterfalls.
There are too many winter hikes to list here, but we will name a few of our favorites:
Elk Knob State Park | Summit Trail – Elk Knob State Park is a newer state park on the Tennessee/North Carolina border. This trail is 1.9 miles long and leads you to the peak of the mountain. This trail offers gorgeous panoramic views and is not too challenging in the winter.
Looking Glass Falls | Pisgah National Forest – Looking Glass Falls is a very beautiful and popular waterfall that can be reached by an easy walk. During the winter, incredible ice formations form around the waterfall and in the waterfall itself. There is a clear path to see the waterfall, and it takes under five minutes to get there.
Mingo Falls | Great Smoky Mountains National Park – The hike to see Mingo Falls is very easy and so worth it. It is a spectacular sight that you can see right up close in the winter, as the falls are completely frozen over. The hike is just over half a mile (one-mile round trip) and starts at Mingo Falls Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
There are fantastic history museums, like the Henderson County Heritage Museum, science museums like the Asheville Museum of Science, and children’s museums like Hands On! Children’s Museum. Even a pinball museum in both Asheville and Hendersonville.
❄️ Christmas at the Biltmore
The Biltmore Estate is one of Asheville’s oldest, grandest, and largest historical castles, with 250 rooms and 8,000 acres of beautiful land. Christmas at the Biltmore has been a tradition in the area for over 120 years and is such a warm way to get into the holiday spirit.
Two Christmas events take place at the Biltmore, the first being Christmas Daytime Celebrations, which go from November 3, 2023 – to January 7, 2024. This is a chance to be enhanced by the magic of Christmas as guests are invited to walk through the decorated hallways and see the sparkling decorations and the magnificent Christmas tree.
The nighttime event takes place from November 3, 2023 – January 6, 2024, and requires tickets. This experience allows guests to experience all the beauty of the Christmas lights at night, with the addition of a warm fireplace, live music, and candlelight. Guests also have the chance to purchase tickets to the Candlelight Christmas Dinner after the tour.
❄️ Christmas Tree Farms
Visiting a Christmas tree farm is a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit and enjoy quality family time outdoors. There are dozens of Christmas tree farms scattered all around the Mountain Region of North Carolina, and here are some we highly recommend.
Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm | Waynesville, NC – One of the best and most well-known Christmas tree farms, cut by appointment only
❄️ Enjoy Craft Breweries in Asheville
Enjoying a hardy craft beer can be a great way to spend time with friends indoors on a cold winter day. In Asheville, tons of friendly breweries have great beers, games, food, and entertainment, and some even have cozy fire pits on their outdoor patios.
Some craft breweries in Asheville with all of the above features include New Belgium Craft Brewery, Wicked Weed Brewpub, and Wedge Brewing Company on Foundry Street.
❄️ Cross Country Skiing or Snowshoeing on The Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is beautiful in many ways, and it is also an ideal place to cross-country ski or snowshoe. The most popular trails are among the Moses Cone Manor Carriage Trails, where there are over 25 miles of old carriage trails that make for perfect cross-country skiing. All of these trails are very well-maintained and easily accessible.
❄️ Linville Caverns
The Linville Caverns is a unique and beautiful experience located in Marion, North Carolina. These caves are the only caves open in North Carolina for tours where visitors can see the naturally forming limestone stalagmites and stalactites. The Linville Caverns is a great activity to do on a cold winter day because the temperature inside the cave naturally remains around 52 degrees all year long.
Guided tours take place daily and last between 30 and 40 minutes. Guests are encouraged to take pictures and enjoy the caves and the blind fish that live in the cave waters.
The Piedmont Region of North Carolina has some of the state’s most popular cities, biggest museums, and largest populations. While this region doesn’t see too much snow each year, they still have great activities to do during the chilly season, especially lots of holiday-themed celebrations.
❄️ Raleigh Museums
Raleigh, NC, has often been called the “Smithsonian of the South” because of the large number of free museums. If you are one who loves museums or who is a history or science buff, Raleigh is a great place to come during the winter to spend long indoor days exploring new things.
The North Carolina Museum of History, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Marble Kids Museum, and CAM Raleigh are all amazing museums in the city that you don’t want to miss.
❄️ Charlotte Museums
Charlotte is a city well-known for its plethora of museums and culture. You could easily spend days visiting all the museums in Charlotte. Some of the museums you don’t want to miss include the NASCAR Hall of Fame, The Mint Museum, Discovery Place Science, the Museum of Illusions, and Discovery Place Nature.
❄️ North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival
The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival is a stunning holiday tradition where Chinese artists craft over 40 lanterns and light displays. Some of these displays include larger-than-life interactive features that capture Chinese culture.
The event will occur from November 17, 2023 – January 14, 2024. You can find tickets online to purchase any time night tickets, twilight experience tickets, VIP tour tickets, date-specific tickets, sensory-friendly night tickets, and large group or student tickets. The location is in Cary, NC.
❄️ Nutcracker with the Charlotte Ballet
Seeing the beautiful Nutcracker Ballet is an age-old holiday tradition that takes place in December each year. Dancers with the Charlotte Ballet train tirelessly to perform the grandest and most magnificent Nutcracker around.
The Nutcracker will be playing every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and a couple of Thursdays from December 8-23, 2023, at the Belk Theater in Charlotte. Tickets can be purchased online.
❄️ Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights
Tanglewood Park’s Festival of Lights is the annual tradition of turning the park into a magical winter wonderland. From November 17, 2023 – January 1, 2024, the park will be decorated with thousands of twinkling lights and holiday decor; there will be horse-drawn carriage rides and hayrides, a s’mores station with sweets and drinks, and a gift shop filled with holiday gifts, decor, crafts, and artisanal treats. Located in Clemmons near Winston-Salem, NC.
❄️ Illuminate Art Walk Raleigh
Illuminate Art Walk is an annual community-building art walk that is open every day from December 1, 2023 – January 1, 2024. Local artists start by displaying fun holiday light installations in shop windows and large-scale interactive light pieces that line downtown Raleigh. These beautiful art pieces are a great way to feel holiday joy and are a nice thing to do with the family.
❄️ Holiday Express At Pullen Park
The Holiday Express is a popular holiday-themed train ride and event at Pullen Park in Raleigh, NC. The event includes tons of holiday decorations and lights, a train ride, kid-friendly dance parties, music, arts and crafts, carnival games, Santa meet-and-greets, a carousel, treats, and holiday drinks. The Holiday Express is a great activity to do with the kids.
This year, the Holiday Express will be taking place for 17 nights from November 29 – December 15, 2023. Tickets go on sale on October 4, 2023, and anyone interested is encouraged to get tickets as quickly as possible, as this event sells out very fast.
❄️ Winter Wonderlights at Greensboro Science Center
Winter Wonderlights at the Greensboro Science Center is a beautiful light display lighting up the zoo. There are millions of twinkling lights, holiday exhibits, interactive light displays, music, and the Snow Globe Theater, with animated penguins singing Christmas carols.
❄️ Christmas Town USA | McAdenville NC
McAdenville’s Christmas Town USA event is one of the most popular displays of holiday lights and decorations around and one you and the family don’t want to miss. For the whole month of December, nearly the entire town of McAdenville is transformed into a winter wonderland with over 100 decorated homes, millions of twinkling lights, Christmas music, a massive Christmas tree, events, and more.
The celebrations start with the Christmas tree lighting on December 1, followed by the Yule Log Christmas Parade on December 14. It is free to visit the town, though certain events, food, and other activities may cost a little money.
❄️ Ice Skating | US. National Whitewater Center
The U.S. National Whitewater Center is a huge outdoor recreation center with over 30 different activities and sports. During the winter months, the Upper Pond is transformed into a beautiful, unique ice skating rink that is open to everyone of all ages and skill levels. This includes multiple skating areas with free skate zones, ice trails, skate rentals, and hot cocoa.
The ice skating rink at the US National Whitewater Center will be open from mid-November through mid-February.
❄️ Spa Day
Treat yourself this cold season to a fulfilling spa day for some much-needed rest and relaxation. Tons of full-service luxury spas throughout the Piedmont will have you coming out feeling like royalty.
Some spas that are a must in this region include Adara Spa in Raleigh, Skin Sense in Raleigh, Pastara Spa in Charlotte, The Spa at Ballantyne in Charlotte, The Ritz-Carlton, and Nature’s Spa and Wellness in Charlotte. You can also check out The Spa at Pinehurst, The Umstead Spa in Cary, and The Spa at Fearrington in Fearrington Village.
❄️ Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh
The Krispy Kreme Challenge is a wild 5-mile race and donut-eating challenge all in one. Participants of the race set off to run 2.5 miles to the nearest Krispy Kreme, eat a dozen donuts, and finish the other 2.5 miles of the race in under one hour.
This nationally acclaimed race has been held annually since 2004, draws in thousands of people, and has raised millions of dollars for the University of North Carolina’s Children’s Hospital.
The race date is set for February 3, 2024, and registration is now open.
❄️ THE RINK | Ice Skating at Red Hat Amphitheater
The RINK is a beautiful natural ice skating rink at the Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC. Activities new this year include the winter wonderland theme, outdoor lounge stations with seat warmers and firepits, a 20 ft decorated Christmas tree, a snack bar with drinks and food, outdoor games, themed nights, and live music.
Dates for this year’s season are November 18, 2023 – January 15, 2024. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door and include two-hour skate time and rentals.
❄️ Wings over Water Encore | Bird Migration
The Wings over Water Encore Festival, or the WOW Encore Festival, is a two-day event to witness over four hundred species of migratory birds and waterfowl make their home for cold weather. The event will take place from December 8 – 10, 2023.
The WOW Encore festival is a fundraising event that raises money for the Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society and provides educational grant money for the Outer Banks school systems. Wings over Water Encore is a beautiful event to witness and take pictures of.
❄️ Quiet Beach Getaways
The beaches during the “winter” season in the coastal region are fabulous because there are hardly any other visitors, no bugs, and it’s very quiet. This is a great time to get the sand all to yourself and enjoy some solitude.
Shelling is a wonderful activity to enjoy while you are exploring the beaches. With rainy winter storms, lots of beautiful shells and sand dollars are washed on shore, and you have a much better chance of finding these pieces with fewer people around.
- Bird Watching
Bird watching is a very popular winter activity on the North Carolina coast because many birds make this area part of their migration route.
❄️ Drive a 4×4 on the Beaches
Driving 4x4s on the beaches is a popular outdoor activity on the Outer Banks. The Outer Banks towns of Nags Head, Kill Devils Hills, and the southern portion of Corolla only allow driving on the beaches between October 1 and April 30, so the winter season is the perfect time to grab a 4×4 and hit the dunes.
Driving on the beaches in the Outer Banks requires a permit that can be purchased at town piers or visitor centers. Some 4×4 rental companies also have rentals that come with the permits themselves. Always drive responsibly and follow the rules and regulations.
❄️ Annual Celebration of The Wright Brothers First Flight
On December 17, 1903, The Wright Brothers flew the first powered flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Every year, there is an anniversary event at the Wright Brothers National Memorial to celebrate this important day in history. This year will mark 120 years since the flight took place.
❄️ Explore Lighthouses
There are a total of nine lighthouses on the North Carolina coast, including the famous five lighthouses that line the Outer Banks. These lighthouses all have fascinating histories and stories to tell; they also make for great picture moments.
❄️ Hike Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
Pea Island is part of the Outer Banks, just 10 miles south of Nags Head, and has a beautiful section of land called the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. This sanctuary has over 5,000 acres of land and provides lots of land and shelter for migratory birds and other wildlife.
Hiking Pea Island is always a treat, but it tends to get busy during the summer, which makes winter the perfect time to take a quiet nature walk. The top trail on Pea Island is called North Pond Wildlife Trail, an easy 1.2-mile trail that allows for great sights and chances to see lots of wildlife. Dogs are not allowed on the trail.
❄️ WinterLights at The Elizabethan Gardens
The Elizabethan Gardens are a gorgeous botanical garden area and historical site in Manteo, NC. The gardens have ten acres of themed gardens, gift shops, statues, and hundreds of species of flowers and plants.
From November 17 to December 30, 2023, the Elizabethan Gardens will be beautifully transformed into a winter wonderland in this annual holiday tradition that you don’t want to miss. The entire ten acres will be fully decorated in twinkling lights, elegant holiday decor, fire pits, and candles to cherish the Christmas cheer. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.
❄️ Enchanted Airlie
The Enchanted Airlie is a beautiful holiday light display at the Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, NC. Guests are invited to take self-guided tours through the gardens to explore the festive displays and music.
The dates for this year’s season go from November 24 – 25 and then December 1 – 21. Buy tickets quickly and ahead of time since this event always sells out.
❄️ Island of Lights Festival
The Island of Lights Festival is a holiday celebration that takes place at Carolina Beach, NC. The event includes huge interactive light displays along the lake and boats with extraordinary decorations to win prizes. This year will also feature meet and greets with Santa, a family-friendly DJ, refreshments, dancing, and party favors.
Spending a chilly day inside and exploring an aquarium is a great way to pass the time. There are a handful of exciting aquariums all along the coastal region of North Carolina.
- North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher | Kure Beach, NC – The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is a teaching and conversation aquarium and learning center. Their mission is to teach and inspire everyone about the importance of our ocean and the animals that call it home. This is a perfect place to bring younger kids to get up close and explore ocean life. They have great programs for everyone, including toddlers. Tickets must be purchased online ahead of time.
- North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores | Pine Knoll Shores – The sister aquarium to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. This location also offers a large submarine tank and an interactive touch pool.
- North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island | Manteo – The third sister museum. This aquarium is the largest of three and has a 285,000-gallon shark feeding tank and more interactive exhibits; also, they are the leader of the STAR system, Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation.
❄️ Fort Fisher State Historic Site
Fort Fisher was an important army blockade during the Civil War and was the site of the largest land-sea battle during that time. Today, guests can visit the site, explore the bunker, and visit the museum with artifacts and more information.
❄️ Fort Macon State Park
Fort Macon is 1.5 miles of ocean, swimming, hiking, fishing, and a chance to visit the fully restored Fort Macon that played a part in the Civil War. This beautiful state park has many outdoor activities to offer and is the second most visited state park in North Carolina.
Winter in North Carolina: FAQs
📌 Is North Carolina good in winter?
Between the milder weather and all of the activities available, North Carolina is a great place to be during the winter.
📌 Where is the warmest place in North Carolina in winter?
Southport, located just south of Wilmington, is believed to be the warmest place in North Carolina during the winter. Other towns and cities near the southeastern portion of the North Carolina coast have comparable weather.
📌 Does North Carolina have four seasons?
North Carolina does experience all four seasons, especially Western North Carolina.
📌 Does North Carolina get blizzards?
North Carolina rarely sees heavy blizzards, though the mountain region is the most likely area of the state to experience blizzard-like conditions, especially the areas at higher elevations.
📌 How long is winter in North Carolina?
A typical winter goes from December to February, though certain regions see snow in March.
While many think of winter as a boring, drab time of year, it doesn’t have to be, especially not in North Carolina! Just think, are you looking for a snowy winter or a more mild beachy winter? Whatever you decide can be found right in North Carolina.
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