12 Must-Do Holiday Events for Families in Charlotte
Pack up the cookies and hot chocolate and head to one (or all 12) of these merry holiday "to-do's."
Gingerbread Lane at Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge
The Charlotte area is bubbling over with fun, family-friendly holiday happenings. With everything from a whole-town light display to farmers’ market-style holiday shopping and a heartfelt celebration of the first Christmas, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So pack up the cookies and hot chocolate and head to one (or all 12) of these merry holiday "to-do’s."
Whether it’s a winter wonderland in the Queen City or not, WBT and K107.9 Radio brings its annual outdoor skating rink to frost noses and toes in the heart of uptown. Located at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Brevard Street on the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza, the rink opens Nov. 18, with a tree lighting on Nov. 26. Harry Potter Night with special Harry Potter-themed activities is Dec. 9; and on Dec. 18, skate with Elsa and Cinderella at Princess Day. Skate rentals are $3, and the $10 per person admission is good for skating all day. Cash and checks only are accepted on site, but you can purchase tickets online ahead of time to avoid lines at the ATMs near the rink. holidayonicecharlotte.com
Nature is all a-twinkle at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens’ annual holiday display. Happening Nov. 18 through Jan. 1, the gardens, located at 6500 South New Hope Road in Belmont, display more than 500,000 lights, as well as a model train display and horse-drawn carriage rides. There is also the Children's Holiday Discovery Trail. Santa will be there Fri.-Sun. Nov. 25-Dec. 18 from 6-9pm, and then daily Dec. 19-23, 6-9pm. Children can tell him their wish list and have a picture made. Ticket prices vary – check the website for details. dsbg.org
Be overtaken by holiday spirit Dec. 1-4 in downtown Rock Hill for the annual ChristmasVille event. Actually a composite of more than 70 individual events, four days of festivities include old standbys such as a parade, carriage rides, carolers, kids’ crafts, festive foods and, of course, Santa Claus. The affair also features a BMX stunt show, carousel, a Ferris wheel, a gingerbread house contest, Lego creation contest, a rock-climbing wall and ice-skating rink. ChristmasVille is free to enter, but some events do charge for participation. christmasvillerockhill.com
A Charlotte classic for more than 60 years, the Singing Christmas Tree is a specially designed 32-foot “tree” filled with members of Carolina Voices who sing holiday songs, from traditional to pop and family favorites. The Singing Christmas Tree for Kids is a kid-friendly, hour-long version of The Singing Christmas Tree where members from Carolina Voices are joined by Grey Seal Puppets, Carolina Kids’ Voices Choir, a purple dancing hippo and Santa. Recommended for children ages 3-10. Happening Dec. 10, 11 a.m. and Dec. 11 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $14-$20. carolinavoices.org. Enter The Singing Christmas Tree for Kids contest to win a four-pack of tickets.
A popular holiday tradition at the Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge, Gingerbread Lane is a display of confectionary edifices created by local professional chefs and amateurs alike for the hotel’s annual competition. From Dec. 8-28, the public is invited to view the gingerbread houses and vote on their favorite for the people’s choice award. Admission is free, but a minimum donation of $1 is required to vote, and proceeds from the voting goes to Levine Children’s Hospital.
Drive the oval … slowly. More than 3 million lights, NASCAR style, and an improved lights-to-music drive-thru section along the track for holiday enchantment, along the 3.5-mile course. The drive-thru experience is open Nov. 19-Dec. 30. At the end of the course, you can park and walk (and eat!) your way through the special Christmas village set up on the infield to visit the petting zoo, a Bethlehem Village complete with live animals and actors, food and gift vendor booths, and photos with Santa. The village is open Thurs.-Sunday, and all Christmas week. Admission is $25-$30 per car when village is open, and $20 per car when village is closed.
Celebrate the season with heart at the Billy Graham Library, Dec. 1-23. Visit 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 5-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday to see the live nativity scene (free of charge) and take a horse-drawn carriage ride ($7 for adults, $3 for kids) through light displays. Or go early and spend the day taking a tour of the library, viewing the animals from the nativity scene when they’re off duty, shopping at Ruth’s Attic gift shop, and snacking on home-style goodies at the Dairy Bar. There are also scheduled story times throughout the month of December. Visiting the library is free and parking is free. billygrahamlibrary.org
Delight the little ones with a quick trek into uptown to see the Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra. The 18-piece display of adorable animatronic bears performs classic holiday songs at Founders Hall in the Bank of America Corporate Center (located at 100 N. Tryon St.) Nov. 28-Dec. 26. The show starts on the hour, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., but times are subject to change. The 45-minute program features holiday favorites including: “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” For the most up-to-date schedule go to foundershall.com.
Hop aboard the holiday train for a delightful experience with Santa filled with a photo opportunity and a few presents. Plus, enjoy a special reading of the holiday story and find a few of the characters walking throughout the train! The first train of the season departs on Dec. 9 and runs through Dec. 23. Tickets start at $29. traintochristmastown.com
A pop-up Christmas Village like one you might find in a German town is setting up in Romare Bearden Park beginning Thanksgiving Day through Christmas Eve. Shop for gifts from local store owners, have a Christmas sweet treat, chocolate, beer or sausage — all in the German Christkindlmarkt spirit — while enjoying the sights and sounds of uptown. There is a variety entertainment planned for the Performance Stage, too. The village is open Tues-Wed, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; and Sun., noon-9 p.m., closed Monday. Admission is free. cltchristmasvillage.com
Each year since 1956, the town of McAdenville, located in Gaston County, has glowed with holiday lights, attracting national attention and countless visitors. The display has grown from a few trees around McAdenville Lake to more than 375 live trees, 200 wreaths, and a 46-foot wide image of Old Man Winter blowing snowflakes over the lake. This year, the festivities kick off with a tree-lighting ceremony on Dec. 1 and continue each night until Dec. 26. The two-mile route is drivable or you can walk, and there’s no admission fee either way, but be prepared to wait in traffic, especially on weekend nights. mcadenville-christmastown.com
Take in a theatrical production of the classic holiday special in the family-friendly atmosphere of ImaginOn. Based on the book by Barbara Robinson, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte is sure to entertain with its performance of the holiday classic that showcases "the worst kids ever" who decide they want to be in the Christmas pageant at church after hearing their are free snacks at Sunday School. Nov. 25-Dec. 23. ImaginOn is located at 300 E. 7th Street. Tickets start at $12.