When hand-painted wooden Santas start popping up on Dillsboro’s street corners, residents know that Christmas is coming — and that Brenda Anders has been hard at work. The longtime member
When hand-painted wooden Santas start popping up on Dillsboro’s street corners, residents know that Christmas is coming — and that Brenda Anders has been hard at work. The longtime member of Dogwood Crafters paints them every year for Lights & Luminaries, Dillsboro’s two-weekend Christmas celebration. “We don’t have a big budget to decorate like a lot of towns, so it’s mostly handcrafted,” Anders says. Twinkle lights and paper-bag luminaries line the streets, musicians perform on the sidewalks, and shops stay open late and offer hot chocolate and holiday treats (the artists at Dogwood Crafters bake hundreds of cookies every year). “You go in [to a store], and whether you buy anything or not, you get into the spirit,” Anders says. “It just sweeps over you when you’re there.” At the post office, kids write letters to Santa — and volunteers answer every one of them. Families take rides in horse-drawn carriages and visit with Santa at town hall. “There’s not a lot of hustle and bustle, and you can really get in the mood,” Anders says. “There’s just a feeling of home about Dillsboro.”
Lights & Luminaries
December 3-4, 10-11
Dogwood Crafters. Anders joined this craft co-op soon after she moved to Dillsboro in 1978, “and it’s been my life ever since,” she says. Twelve rooms display the works of 85 artists, and “there is nothing in there that is not handmade. Each crafter has a story and a special craft.”
Front Porch General Store. This shop is relatively new to Dillsboro, but most of the items inside aren’t. A mix of cottage- and farmhouse-style antiques and vintage decor — from kitchenware to books to furniture — mingle with handmade pottery, quilts, and embroidered linens. “It’s the things your mother threw away and now you’re buying again,” Anders says.
The Corn Crib. When Carolyn West opened her shop in 1983, she made everything in the store by hand. These days, with the help of her daughter, Anita, and granddaughter, Madison, West’s offerings have expanded to include home decor and clothing, but she still designs the wreaths and flower arrangements that started it all.
Nancy Tut’s Christmas Shop. From May through December, this shop spreads Christmas cheer in the form of ornaments, snow globes, Nativities, and other holiday decorations. “It’s a wonderful old house. Even the closets are made into display rooms,” Anders says. “Every nook and corner feels like Christmas.”
Whistle Stop Inn. Built in 1878, this four-room bed and breakfast downtown has been given “a breath of fresh air” by new owners Gladys and Larry Pilarski, Anders says. Gladys loves to cook and bake for her guests, including from-scratch buttermilk pancakes and peach French toast for breakfast, and afternoon treats like festive cupcakes during Christmastime.
Dillsboro Inn. This rustic inn is a short walk to downtown and just steps away from the rushing Tuckasegee River. A multilevel deck filled with chairs, benches, and swings overlooks the water, and on most nights, guests can enjoy a bonfire with toasted marshmallows under the stars.
Innovation Station. Sylva’s Innovation Brewing opened a second taproom and production facility inside Dillsboro’s old train station on the banks of Scott Creek. “At night, you can’t get a parking place anywhere in Dillsboro because of the craft beer and our restaurants,” Anders says. The more than 25 beers on tap include familiar standbys and experimental concoctions, like Key lime and barrel-aged raspberry sours.
Boots Steakhouse. When Jerry and Colleen Sims came to Dillsboro from Louisiana and Mississippi, they loved Boots so much that they convinced the restaurant’s previous owners to sell it to them. Today, Boots serves meat loaf, chicken-fried steak, seafood, and “unbelievable steak,” Anders says.
Foragers Canteen. Chef Kevin Faini grew up in nearby Rutherford County, watching his grandmothers grow and preserve their own food. In 2018, he turned his appreciation for fresh, local ingredients into a farm-to-table restaurant that serves globally inspired Southern cuisine like sweet tea-brined fried chicken. Anders often goes for Sunday brunch and orders the eggs Benedict.
Dillsboro Chocolate Factory. “It’s an old-fashioned house,” Anders says. “The entire downstairs is filled with the candy-making area, and they make it right before your eyes. Everyone needs to go home with a piece of candy — especially the sea salt caramel; it’s my favorite.”