3 Free Family-Friendly Events in Charlotte to Kickoff the Holiday Season

3 Free Family-Friendly Events in Charlotte to Kickoff the Holiday Season

From a parade through Uptown on Thanksgiving Day to shopping events and festivities, these free holiday happenings in Charlotte are the perfect way to kick off the season with the whole family. 

When you’re bringing the whole family along, holiday events without a price tag are always nice. Luckily, some of the best (and biggest) festivities in Charlotte this season are free and full of fun for all ages.

Get ready for a few merry days with loved ones and neighbors alike in Uptown and South End this winter, because these events have a lot of holiday cheer to share.

Novant Health Thanksgiving Parade — November 28, 2019

charlotte free holiday events

A spectacle of sight and sound, the Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade is a Charlotte tradition with seven decades of history behind it.

Now, with the impressive reputation as the biggest of its kind in the Southeast and the fourth largest in the country, the Parade drew 110,000 live spectators and 1.5 million household viewers via broadcast last year (2018). Whether Charlotteans knew it or not, people were watching online all over the world, too—from Washington to Mexico to Sweden.

This year’s event will step off at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2019. It will proceed south along Tryon Street for a “Mile of Smiles” from 9th Street to Stonewall Street. It is free to attend, but if you want seats for the family in front of the performance area, VIP tickets are available. VIP tickets also include Breakfast with Santa, which takes place before the Parade.

For all other details—from parking to performances—check out the Novant Health Thanksgiving Parade website.

Pro Tip: Worried about navigating around the city? Click here for an updated Uptown Charlotte map you can print out and bring with you.

South End Small Business Saturday — November 30, 2019

Gift Shopping Charlotte Small Business Saturday


Start your holiday shopping off on the right foot at South End Small Business Saturday.

On November 30, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., you can explore local shops, restaurants, and breweries as you find unique holiday gifts. Much more than a mere market, Small Business Saturday is more of a festival, featuring 200 Charlotte shops, 70 places to eat and drink, and holiday music.

The festive atmosphere is easy to access, too—there will be free trolley rides throughout South End, and maps and free shopping totes will be up for grabs throughout the neighborhood. Park anywhere, use a ride share, or ride in on the Light Rail. Once you’re in the district, the family can hop along the stops using the free trolley—each one features a different experience. Dads might like to s  At sundown, join the crowd for the South End Tree Lighting at the newly redesigned Atherton Mill (click for Google Map).

Free trolley stops during Small Business Saturday:

  • Stop #1: New Bern Station. Stop here for food, drinks, and light shopping. This new festival area is home to Suffolk Punch, Triple C Brewing, and Eight + Sand Kitchen, in addition to plenty of parking and a few pop-up shops.
  • Stop #2: Camden Road. Shop ’til you drop on South End’s bustling main street. Camden will become the best holiday shopping destination in Charlotte with more than 150 pop-up shops and activities filling the street from end-to-end—from Atherton Mill to Summit Avenue. Pop into the year-round shops on Camden, too, such as Girl Tribe, 704 Shop, Candlebar, and Adair Boutique.
  • Stop #3: Lincoln Street. Lincoln Street and Riva Finoli Alley in South End’s Gold District will transform into a holiday wonderland during this one-day festival. Head here for holiday shopping plus music, photo opportunities, gingerbread cookie decorating, and maybe a special visit from a jolly, red-suited man!
  • Stop #4: Dudeapalooza at Alchemy on Distribution Street. To buy “everything but potpourri,” for the guys in your life, head to the annual Dudeapalooza pop-up at C3 Lab’s new venue, Alchemy.  Hosted by Jon Wilson of WCCB’s Wilson’s World, this event will feature gifts from local businesses and the artists and artisans of the C3 Lab creative community.

Pro Tip: Prefer to plan around parking? Look in the Gold District (Lincoln Street) and near the New Bern Light Rail station for free parking. There’s also a paid lot at S. Mint and Quincey Streets in the Gold District.  

Poptopia Holidays — December 4-7, 2019

Gift Shopping Charlotte Poptopia 2019


From December 4 through 7, you’ll be able to shop 14 of the area’s favorite shops in the atrium of 101 N. Tryon Street (next to Coco & the Director in Uptown).

Be surrounded by holiday cheer as you shop the unique (and free) Poptopia HolidaysThere will be music, “insta-llations,” and specials to enjoy. Poptopia Holidays will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 4 through 7, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7.

Poptopia 2019 participating shops:

  • Jordan McDowell Illustration
  • CLT Boutique
  • Ribenclt
  • CLT Find
  • Johnny Fly
  • Roses and Azalea
  • Juelerye
  • Vue by SEK
  • YEWO
  • Artisan Village Design
  • L’Esharpe

Pro Tip: Every day during Poptopia from 2 to 4 p.m., if you buy a cup of coffee from Coco & the Director, you’ll receive a free holiday cookie.

Feeling ready to take on the holidays in Charlotte? For more information about the above events, please visit the event websites, listed below again:

About Charlotte Center City Partners

Charlotte Center City Partners envisions and implements strategies and actions to drive the economic, social and cultural development of Charlotte’s Center City. The organization’s vision is to help create a viable, livable, memorable, and sustainable Center City with modern infrastructure, a tapestry of unique neighborhoods, and a diversity of thriving businesses. For complete information about Charlotte Center City Partners, visit www.charlottecentercity.org.f