Bent Creek Bistro & NC Arboretum Winter Lights

Every year the North Carolina Arboretum has a “Winter Lights” walking tour where you can walk through the gardens in a bonafide winter wonderland of magical lights. 

I had family in town for the holidays - so we decided to check out the festivities as well as eat some dinner at the (on site) Bent Creek Bistro; since I’ve been following the Bistro on IG for like all of eternity. 

The arboretum itself is located just up the road from the Asheville outlets, right off of 191 (Brevard Road).
Parking is included in your admission price - just stop at the gate and show the nice peeps your ticket, then follow the long windy road to the illuminated tree forest/parking lot.

After you park, continue on the walkway over to the main entry house - and show the (other) nice peeps at the door your ticket.

Since I was meeting the fam there, I decided to check out the gift shop in lobby that’s just right up the stairs to the right, while I was waiting. 

The shop has super fun stuff for sale that’s great for holiday gifts - such as bath bombs and fairy statues, soaps, sponges, socks - and much more. I got an *absolutely* adorbs “Dog Bed Fairy” book for some little ones  - $7 out of $10 cost goes to a charity that supplies dog beds for homeless dogs.

Once the families showed up; we headed out into the gardens themselves to check out the exhibit. 

I definitely suggest wearing a hat and mittens - even if you do look like a big goobersmooch; it’s cold. If you do happen to forgot your hat and mittens at home - they sell some in the gift shop where they sell the adorable dog bed puppers books.

When you first walk in the gardens you’ll see some large ornaments to your right and hear lots of people saying; “look at the big balls!”

Soon after you see the big balls, you’ll stumble upon the Cocoa Shack - which is a great place to stop for a hot coco or cider to enjoy while you view the lights; they also have cider beer wine and snacks. The hot chocolate that I had was super yum - filled with lots of delish marshmallows, and perfect for keeping my hands warm.

There’s lots of ah-mazing lights to be seen throughout the arboretum - such as red geisha-esque trees sans geishas.

A very enchanting fairy-tale-type area with a piano that plays music by itself, and large (headless) dresses. 

Not that dresses normally have heads, I suppose.

While I was there, I was tempted to hide behind a tree, jump out from behind, and “boo” people - since it’s an age old Phantom tradition, and the perfect dark setting. 

But, I didn’t want to spook anyone with a heart condition - that never goes well. I also didn’t want to get arrested. (No one likes a ghost in jail - the lights flicker all night, power goes out, and the other inmates complain that they can’t get any sleep between the combination of that and the ghastly whaling all night- and then no one wants to sit with you at lunch.)

Instead I acted like a normal (nearly) two thousand year old phantom that lives in a millennial age woman’s body and had my Aunt & Uncle take my picture in this purple trellis.

You can’t see me because, well - I’m a ghost (duh).

Eventually, I came upon a sign that said “Bent Creek Bistro” so I knew I was close; but ventured down the gold tunnel real quick to see the Japanese Bonsai Gardens - which were also very cool, and totally worth the short walk off the beating path.

The Bistro itself is kinda toward the end of the arboretum light show, in the education center - and a great place to stop and warm up. At that point in time I broke off from the rest of my group for a solo meal - since they had had a late lunch and were skipping dinner.

Bent Creek Bistro has a large selection of yummy stuff like soup, salads, sandwiches, fried brussel sprouts, and much more! As delish as the Broccoli Cheddar and French Onion soup, and all the other stuff sounded on a cold winter night - I got an Appalachian Tempeh Reuben, because I’d been eyeing it on their menu online for quite some time.

Order at the counter, grab your water, wine, beer, soft drink (or whatever you decide on) & number - then seat yourself and they’ll bring your meal over for you.

I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to find a seat since it seemed pretty crowded, but the turnover was fairly quick and a lovely single seat table magically appeared - it must have been fate. 

Since I sat by myself, I decided to  eavesdrop on other people’s conversations to entertain myself (my usual M.O.). I overheard another diner at the table next to me said that he was able to “Capture the Santa Clause” which I thought was wildly cruel and inappropriate. Eventually (right before before I interrupted his conversation to demand where Santa was and what he had done with him), I realized he meant he was able to take a picture of a light up Santa (therefore “capturing” him) - and felt pretty silly for contemplating an impromptu - highly emotional and heated interrogation.

Anyway, The Tempeh Reuben came with a side of crunchy chips. The sammich itself was super delish, had a nice mild spicy sauce, was super cheesy, and topped with a scrumptious sauerkraut and yum small squares of tasty pickles. The bread it came on was very toasty and nomz. 

While I was eating - the chef was nice enough to come out and ask how everything was; which was fabulous and extremely professional.

Near the Bistro there’s also a super cute holiday shop with lots of fun ornaments, Christmas socks, and holiday jammies for sale - don’t forget to stop by and check it out to finish up your holiday shopping.

After you leave the Bistro, go through the Blue Tunnel to get back to your car; I was totally lost after leaving the building the Bistro was in and had to go back inside shouting “I’m trapped... I’m trapped! Help me!”

Kidding (don’t do that).

I did - however go back inside and ask the nice lady at the information desk how to get back to my car, plus - it gave me the opportunity to ask where all the Avatars were hiding.

After you exit the blue tunnel (and take a super fabulous selfie) just head back to the red and green tree forest. Since I parked closer to the road (further from the entry house), I didn’t have to walk far to get back to my car and wait to turn up the heat to re - toast myself.

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