30 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Charlotte
Get ready to feel merry and bright with these annual Charlotte events.
by Amanda Lea Nov 09, 2021
No matter how you celebrate the season, Charlotte invites everyone to get in the holiday spirit. Participate in tree lightings, enjoy a festive performance, or shop local at a holiday market. Winter in Charlotte is a great time to don your best attire for a show in Uptown or take a stroll through the festive streets of surrounding small towns.
When: Nov. 13 – Jan. 2
Gather your loved ones for a sleigh-full of fun as Carowinds transforms into a Winter Wonderland. See shimmering lights, a 70-foot tree and lavish displays, with live shows and strolling performers throughout the park. The culinary team also adds holiday items to the menu, and a selection of your favorite rides will be open and decked out in festive decor.
When: Nov. 6 – Dec. 30
Where: NarroWay Theatre
Enjoy both a traditional Christmas dinner and a performance of “The Real Christmas Story” at NarroWay Theatre. Camel rides are available before the show and are subject to weather and availability. The audience is welcome to sing along to your favorite Christmas songs, especially during the part of the show when snow falls.
When: Nov. 11-21
Where: The Park Expo & Conference Center
Let your nose lead the way to the holiday morsels and seasonal treats at this year’s “A Sweet Christmas” Southern Christmas Show. Be sure to stroll down Christmas Tree Lane, which includes dozens of fresh Fraser firs decorated by designers in all different styles. Miniature trains, holiday choirs and Santa bring merriment to attendees of all ages.
When: Nov. 12-13, 19-21, 26-28 | Dec. 3-5, 9-12, 14-23
Where: North Carolina Transportation Museum
Inspired by The Polar Express book and movie, this holiday favorite comes to life at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Music is played from the film’s soundtrack as passengers are served hot chocolate and cookies on board the train. Families are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride too. Be sure to visit Candy Cane Lane after your ride to take a photo with Santa.
When: Nov. 26 - Jan. 2
Where: Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden becomes a winter wonderland via the beloved Holidays at the Garden spectacular. As part of the ornate decoration, hundreds of thousands of lights illuminate the garden. One of the event’s most popular features is its stunning orchid tree, which invites reverie. Family-friendly fun ranges from marshmallow roasts to visits with Santa and holiday shopping.
Pop-up Shops and Markets
When: Nov. 12-Dec. 22- weekends only (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) through Dec. 10, and then daily until Dec. 22
Where: METROPOLITAN in Midtown Charlotte
This is a month-long celebration in Midtown to bring in the holiday season. Get some holiday shopping done at the market and take pictures with Santa.
When: Nov. 21
Where: The Fillmore
Shop one-of-a-kind merch at the VTGCLT Winter Market, the city's annual showcase of trendy and throwback goods. With 60-plus vendors selling handmade jewelry, retro clothes, art and other swag, you're bound to find something you can't live without. HEX Coffee will be on hand to keep you cozy and caffeinated, and several local food trucks will be onsite if you need to refuel.
When: Dec. 11-12
Where: Charlotte Convention Center
Support women-owned businesses as you check off your holiday gift list. Girl Tribe Popup was started in 2015 to connect and support female entrepreneurs. You won’t want to miss this fun shopping event complete with great music and treats. Shopping is for everyone, so guys and kids are welcome to come shop as well.
When: Nov. 26 - Dec. 23
Where: Truist Field
The season comes to life with a holiday market and European delights like bratwurst, schnitzel, and strudel, along with the popular Gluhwein, hot cider, beers, and of course, hot chocolate. From Christmas Tree Lane to the Snowtastic Winter Wonderland, you'll be treated to tens of thousands of lights, trees, and displays as you stroll through the ballpark culminating at the market village.
When: Nov. 29-Dec. 23 (Christmas activities begin at 5 p.m.)
Where: The Billy Graham Library
Get a photo with the live nativity scene, complete with real animals, at The Billy Graham Library. Explore the Library’s storied grounds from a horse-drawn carriage. Children can participate in story time and everyone is welcome to sing along with the carolers filling the air with merriment.
When: Dec. 3-26
Where: Blumenthal Performing Arts Center - Belk Theater
Each holiday season, the Charlotte Ballet presents its take on the best-known Christmas story, “The Nutcracker.” Elaborate sets and costumes and phenomenal choreography are accompanied by live music from the Charlotte Symphony. Seeing this performance dazzle at Belk Theater is a staple part of each year’s celebrations.
When: Nov. 26-28: Dec. 3-5, 10-12, 17-19
Where: The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
Sip craft beer, shop local products and indulge in freshly baked goods at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s annual Weihnachtsmarkt. The event honors the German tradition of a Christmas market, where vendors sell goods from open-air booths. The event runs over several weekends during the month of December in the brewery’s famous biergarten.
When: Nov. 29 – Jan. 16
Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway
This year marks the 12th edition of Charlotte’s spectacular drive-through light show. Speedway Christmas revs up the holiday cheer with more than features four million lights strewn across a remarkable four-mile course, with hundreds of creative displays and lights synchronized to Christmas-themed music. It's the ultimate holiday-themed spectacle, perfect for families and fans of all ages.
When: Dec. 2-4
Where: Historic Fourth Ward, Uptown
For more than 40 years, residents of historic Fourth Ward have opened their homes to visitors for a self-guided tour. The neighborhood’s signature Victorian homes as well as their modern-condo neighbors are decked out in holiday finery. This year, enjoy a festive stroll around the neighborhood with this “porch-crawl-style” tour. Delicious food and beverage tastings, seasonal live music, and carriage rides will be available to complete the experience.
Date: Dec. 3-26
Location: The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge
Vote for your favorite houses among the competition that lines Gingerbread Lane at The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge each December. The luxurious hotel holds a gingerbread house contest for professionals, amateurs and youth, and the houses are on display throughout the month. Other hotel celebrations include adorning gingerbread houses and enjoying holiday afternoon tea.
Date: Dec. 2-4
Location: Downtown Davidson
One weekend each year, downtown Davidson lights up with fun for the entire family. Shop for gifts at Main Street businesses and inside the Holiday Village and enjoy the live music and entertainment.
Date: Dec. 1 - Dec. 26
Every December, McAdenville, about 15 miles west of Charlotte, becomes Christmas Town USA. The tradition of homeowners decorating their houses and yards with lights dates back to the mid-1950s. Visitors can explore the 1.3-mile route via car or foot. The annual tree lighting will be held on Dec. 1 and the town’s lights will burn nightly through Dec. 26.
When: Dec. 4
Where: Lake Norman
View the parade from the deck of Hello Sailor while enjoying a tiki drink, or from the shoreline at the Lake Norman Yacht Club clubhouse. Join the holiday festivities after the parade at the clubhouse for food, beverages and live music.
When: Dec. 11
Where: Lake Wylie
The Lake Wylie Boat Parade takes off from the docks at Papa Doc’s Shore Club, which also typically hosts a Christmas celebration at the same time.
When: Dec. 18
Where: Lake Norman
The parade starts at Blythe Landing, then goes to Ramsey Creek Park, and then to the Duke Energy Explorium. Each of the parks will be open until 30 minutes after the parade has passed each location.
When: Dec. 11
Where: U.S. National Whitewater Center
Bring your red coat and white beard to the Santa 5K Trail Race for some pre-holiday fun on the USNWC trails. A prize is awarded to the best Santa Claus look-alike. You can also get your pup in on the fun and trudge by your side through the race.. Stick around to check out the 24,000 square foot ice skating surface (including a brand new skating trail in the Upper Pond). When you need a break from your twists and twirls, grab a hot or cold beverage from the on-ice Airstream.
When: Dec. 4
Where: Reed Gold Mine
Visit the site of the first-documented gold find in the country, which stands about 25 miles east of Charlotte, to see how miners celebrated the holidays in the early 1800s. Festivities take place one weekend in December. Take a candlelight tour of the mine while it’s still daylight and purchase handmade items from local craftsmen.
When: Dec. 4
Where: Downtown Belmont
Belmont, located about 30 minutes from Uptown Charlotte, celebrates the Christmas season by turning its charming downtown into an incredible Christmas village. Explore the Main Street shops, listen to Christmas carols, visit with Santa and savor hot chocolate and s’mores.
When: Dec. 5
Where: The Porch at Temple Beth El
Celebrate the Festival of Lights with a Southern tradition: fried chicken. At The Porch at Temple Beth El’s annual Southern Fried Chanukah celebration, fried chicken is paired with latkes, mac and cheese and jelly doughnuts. There will be plenty of indoor and outdoor fun for the whole family, including games, candle lighting and singing. Compete in a dreidel competition, enter a raffle and be sure to stick around for Havdalah. Attendees are asked to bring a nut-free dessert or snack to share, and those over 21 can bring their own beer or wine.
See Holiday Classics Live
There are certain holiday classics that are just better to experience on the big screen or live on-stage. Relive your favorite moments with tickets to see any of these shows at Blumenthal Performing Arts and Ovens Auditorium at Bojangles' Entertainment Complex.
Nov. 16-21 – Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical (Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center)