15 Unique Gift Experiences for Your Family

Spend time with loved ones and make memories of a lifetime
Downtown Hendersonville At Christmas Time
Henderson, NC / photo courtesy of Derek Diluzio

If you’re full up on trinkets, toys, and gift cards, consider giving your family an experience instead. View something beautiful together, learn a new skill, or have an outdoor adventure. Here are 15 ways to celebrate the season with kids and extended family:

Believe, Asheboro, NC
Head to the North Carolina Zoo on Dec. 4, 5, 11, and 12, and see the zoo decked out for the holidays. Visit Santa and Mrs. Claus, enjoy s’mores kit with a hot beverage, and take part in a seasonal scavenger hunt.

Christmas Candlelight Tours at Historic Brattonsville, McConnells, SC
Visit this annual event on Dec. 4 and 11 between 3 and 9 p.m. Historical interpreters show how people in the Carolina Piedmont celebrated the holiday in 1852. Expect Father Christmas, a brass band, and make-and-take activities. 

Dickens of a Christmas, Spartanburg, SC
Embrace your inner-Scrooge at Spartanburg’s Victorian-era holiday extravaganza. Carolers and City Police dress the part while visitors take horse-drawn carriage rides and ice skate on Morgan Square. Don’t miss Denny’s Plaza Christmas Tree.

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana, Pigeon Forge, TN
Head to Pigeon Forge through Jan. 2 and see the park decked out in five million lights, catch special holiday performances, and enjoy holiday-themed food.

Festival of Lights at Chetola Resort, Blowing Rock, NC
Drive or walk around Chetola Lake to view the sparkling display of lights through Jan. 30. Look for glittering ice skaters, Rudolph reeling in a big fish, strolling carolers, and many more holiday scenes. Plan your stay around Blowing Rock WinterFest at the end of January.

A Golden Christmas at Reed Gold Mine, Midland, NC
Tour the candlelit underground mine on Dec. 4 at the site of America’s first discovery of gold. Walk through 450 feet of the restored mine shaft lined with candles, and snap a photo with Santa before you go.

Home for the Holidays, Hendersonville, NC
Pack up the family and head to Hendersonville for a holiday-themed experience through Jan. 1. Get tickets for A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas at Flat Rock Playhouse or come for Luminary Night on Dec. 10. Help the kids find a stuffed teddy bear during The Peppermint Bear Scavenger Hunt.

A Kannapolis Christmas, Kannapolis, NC
December events include the Festival of Lights, Winterland Express train rides, and a nighttime parade on December 11.

Kersey Valley Christmas, Archdale, NC
Follow one million LED lights to this attraction in the Heart of North Carolina. The Christmas Experience includes a 200-foot dual-track Super Mega Ride ‘N Slide, the Kersey Valley Express Train, Christmas Wagon rides, and visits from Santa and the Grinch. 

Moonshine Mountain Snow Tubing Park, Hendersonville, NC
Take the park’s lift to the top of the mountain and slide down as many times as you’d like in a two-hour time frame. Be aware the park only accepts cash.

National Gingerbread House Competition™ The Omni Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC
See the largest gingerbread house competition in the world at the Grove Park Inn through Jan. 2. Houses are on display to the public on specific days and times; refer to website for details.

Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge, Concord, NC
Twinkling lights, daily snowfall in the lobby, visits from Santa, and an indoor water park kept at a perfect 84-degrees will transform everyone’s winter blues.

Speedway Christmas, Concord, NC
Roll through Charlotte Motor Speedway through Jan. 16 and see four million LED lights and a 100-foot LED-lighted tunnel.

Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, Banner Elk, NC
Ride down a 3,300-foot long coaster in a self-operated cart: One lap is five minutes and speeds range from walking pace to 27 mph. Head to the coffee shop for local baked goods and warm up with a hot beverage. (Review age and height requirements for the coaster.)

Winter Lights at NC Arboretum, Asheville, NC
Dazzle the family with an elaborate walk-through winter light show through Jan. 1. Explore glowing landscapes, an enchanted forest, and more than holiday 500,000 lights.