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Nov. 15, 2023, 2:18 p.m.

Blue Ridge Holidays

Holidays in McDowell County

Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a truly special time when North Carolina mountain communities come together to celebrate the season. If you dream of a small-town holiday full of simple pleasures and Southern cheer, leave the crowds behind and come explore our communities of Marion, Old Fort, Little Switzerland, Lake James, and Linville Falls who are all eager to welcome you.

Holiday Festivals And Events

Our hometown holiday celebrations are a festive way to support local businesses and non-profit organizations. Come join our community as we gather together to celebrate these traditional events.

  • Old Fort Lighting Ceremony Holiday celebrations kick off in Old Fort on November 18 with the town-wide lighting ceremony where the switch is flipped to illuminate the town in holiday lights. Live music, caroling and a free ornament craft table make this a fun event for the family. Kids will be thrilled with the mailbox ready to accept letters to Santa at the North Pole, along with a commemorative picture spot to capture the magic.
  • Marion Christmas Parade Enjoy a fun and festive holiday parade with floats, a marching band and the arrival of Santa Claus on November 19.
  • Appalachian Potters Market A perfect place to finish your Christmas shopping is the one-day Appalachian Potters Market on December 2 at McDowell High School. More than two dozen vendors sell pottery and clay work that has been handmade in the southern Appalachian region.
  • Old Fort Winter Gift Market Pick out a tree in the Christmas Tree Lot and get pictures with Santa at The Old Fort Winter Gift Market on December 2 at Old Fort Elementary School. Hosted by the Old Fort Business Association, you will find plenty of local crafters and vendors to help you finish your gift shopping. Live music, hot beverages and a free gift are even more reasons to come and enjoy the event.
  • Blue Ridge Artisan Show Shop a selection of handcrafted items available from Black Friday through Christmas Eve. Stop by the McDowell Arts Council Association on Main Street in Marion to support local artisans and pick up some interesting finds.
  • Shop Small Main Street Crawl The annual Shop Small Craft Stroll is just one part of the fun Shop Small Main Street Crawl in and around downtown Marion. It is a great opportunity to support the small businesses that make up the craft cottage industry in McDowell County, as well as enjoying local foods during a relaxed day of shopping.
  • Festival of Trees Enjoy a self-guided tour of more than 35 uniquely decorated trees at this indoor event that supports local charities from November 20 through December 30. Non-profit organizations each sponsor a tree and choose the decorations, ensuring that no two trees are alike. The public can vote for their favorite by leaving a toy for a child underneath their best-loved tree.
  • Arrowhead Gallery Holiday Open House Make an ornament and visit with Santa during this festive open house on December 2 in Old Fort. Enjoy hot cocoa and seasonal treats while watching art demonstrations and browsing the handmade crafts from local artists.

Fly Fishing

Seeking peace and serenity during the busy holiday season? Fly fishing on one of the many creeks in the area is the perfect way to escape the rush and enjoy the beauty of nature.

You will find few crowds in the off-season, yet the fish are still active, the creeks and Catawba river are still accessible, and it might just be the perfect time to cast a rod.

Water access points include Curtis Creek, Armstrong Creek, Newberry Creek and Catawaba River Greenway in Marion.

Flavors on Main in Marion can outfit all your needs in their fly shop, while the Mountain Gateway Museum lets you check out a rod and reel for the day to enjoy the area’s waterways.


Whether you are buying gifts for friends and family or treating yourself to a Christmas present that you are guaranteed to love, you will find one-of-a-kind treasures in our shops and galleries. These unique finds are crafted or curated by locals and are sure to be heartfelt gifts.

  • Arrowhead Gallery Explore art created by regional artists in this Old Fort destination located downtown. Handmade items in all price ranges can be found in the shop. Some of the artists offer hands-on classes each month which are great outings for those seeking experiential gifts with friends and family.
  • Marion Main Street Stroll along the shops downtown to discover independent retailers in our historic district. Enjoy a scoop of Artesana’s Peppermint Chocolate Chip artisanal ice cream made from scratch on Main Street while enjoying the small town charm.
  • Vintage Market If you love unique finds that are from the ordinary, be sure to stop by the Vintage Market in Marion. Inside you will find a variety of eclectic vendors offering everything from handmade and rustic décor, refurbished antiques, custom made furniture and more.
  • Davis Country Store and Café Shop an array of locally sourced crafts, candy and art at this country store that also sells seasonal foods from the region. Sip a coffee while exploring the selection of handcrafted candles, fire starters, lotions and other novelties found in the downtown Old Fort location.
  • Flavors on Main A great place to pick up last-minute entertaining items and hostess gifts, this general store offers olive oils, spices, balsamic vinegars, seasonings, party dip mixes and loose-leaf teas.
  • Artisan League of Little Switzerland Art Gallery Works of art made by local artisans can be found at this gallery located on the second floor of Little Switzerland Books and Beans. Choose from items such as jewelry, marbled paper, fiber arts, woodwork and cards.
  • Seeker Coffee For the coffee lover on your list, get a box of Rowan Coffee, a regionally produced coffee, at this independent coffee house in Old Fort. Grab yourself a hot seasonal beverage and a pastry before continuing a day of shopping and exploring.


Take some time to enjoy a great meal together when exploring our mountain towns. There are a variety of restaurants for everyone during the winter, whether you are gathering with friends and family for celebrating or simply want to experience the culinary finds at our independent restaurants.

  • Blanton House Restaurant Enjoy an elegant dinner or brunch at this stunning Greek Revival home that is more than 100 years old. While sipping a cocktail or indulging in the fine dining menu, you will no doubt be impressed with the historic details that were created by the home’s architect Richard Sharp Smith, well known for being the supervising architect on the Biltmore Estate.
  • Burrito Bros. Vibrant and colorful, this Mexican restaurant offers classic dishes and cocktails.

  • Crabby Abby’s This casual restaurant and cocktail bar is a great place to enjoy seafood and steaks.

  • McDowell Local Located on Marion’s historic Main Street, this family-owned restaurant uses locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, sharing their list of farms and suppliers from the area that they support. The neighborhood eatery is well known for pickling just about anything they can, so be sure to try an unusual pickled item from the menu.

Blue Ridge Holidays

by Kimberly Button