The best way to share in the holiday spirit is to participate in the area’s festive happenings. Tree lightings, parades, festivals and performances dazzle audiences daily in November and December. Don your best attire and attend the ballet in Uptown, or venture beyond Center City to stroll the charmingly decorated streets of surrounding small towns. Explore 20 things to do in Charlotte this holiday season.
Close to Home
In addition to the classes it offers throughout the year, Cocoa Lab invites you to string up an apron and step inside Bar Cocoa at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte each holiday season. Holiday-themed culinary classes surround fun and festive topics, like the Thanksgiving meal prep tutorial on Nov. 11, during which attendees learn to make apple pie, pumpkin spice cake and pecan pralines. Add seasonal classics, like gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies, to your culinary repertoire.
NASCAR Hall of Fame
Celebrate the holidays with the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Each year, the Hall Plaza is themed with festive winter furnishings and characters like elves and reindeer. Don’t miss the crowning glory, the towering tree of twinkling lights, which graces the Hall Plaza and is lit publicly on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. Other festivities include Breakfast with Santa on select mornings and the fan favorite UnDeck the Hall event every year on the morning after Christmas.
Romare Bearden Park
From Thanksgiving Day until Christmas Eve, Romare Bearden Park in Uptown becomes the Charlotte Christmas Village. Inspired by the German tradition of Christmas markets, vendors sell handmade crafts, gifts and specialty foods from wooden huts. Strudels, bratwurst, German beer, mulled wine and more flow freely.
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 fun-filled event runs over several weekends during the month of December in the brewery’s famous biergarten.
The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge
Vote for your favorite houses among the competition that lines Gingerbread Lane at The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge each December. On Dec. 6, the luxurious hotel will hold a gingerbread house contest for professionals, amateurs and youth, and the houses are on display throughout month. Other hotel celebrations include adorning gingerbread houses and enjoying holiday afternoon tea.
Historic Fourth Ward
For the past 40 years, residents of historic Fourth Ward have opened their homes to visitors for this self-guided tour, which runs from Dec. 1 to 3. The neighborhood’s signature Victorian homes as well as their modern-condo neighbors are decked out in holiday finery. Horse-drawn carriages transport tour goers, and food, wine and beer samples from nearby Uptown restaurants are offered along the way.
Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts
Following a tradition that has spanned more than six decades, Carolina Voices presents this Charlotte favorite. Join in on the lyrics on Dec. 9 and 10 as the MainStage Choir sings your favorite Christmas jingles. The show incorporates dance, puppetry and a giant “singing” tree comprised of talented members. A version for children takes place at an earlier time each day.
Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center
Each holiday season, the Charlotte Ballet presents its take on the best-known Christmas story, “The Nutcracker.” From Dec. 9 to 23, elaborate sets and costumes and phenomenal choreography are accompanied by live music from the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Seeing this performance dazzle at Belk Theater is a staple part of each year’s celebrations.
Children’s Theatre of Charlotte
Through Dec. 23, watch holiday spirit and winter joy come to life on stage through the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s talented troupes. In addition to the performances put on throughout the year, a special winter or holiday-themed show runs every holiday season. Catch a whimsical and/or musical presentation of either a winter or holiday-themed story, like “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical,” at McColl Family Theatre at ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center.
The Park Expo & Conference Center
Find inspiration for decking your halls at the multiday Southern Christmas Show from Nov. 9 to 19. Christmas Tree Lane includes dozens of fresh Fraser firs decorated by designers in all different styles. Gifts and decorations fill the village shops inside Olde Towne at the show. Miniature trains, holiday choirs and Santa bring merriment to attendees of all ages.
Celebrate the Festival of Lights with a Southern tradition: fried chicken. At The Porch at Temple Beth El’s annual Southern Fried Chanukah celebration on Dec. 16, fried chicken is paired with latkes, mac and cheese, jelly doughnuts, and other delicious foods. Compete in a dreidel competition, enter a 50/50 cash 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.
Every year from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, Kwanza Charlotte offers seven free evening events celebrating the winter holiday. Set up in churches and community centers throughout the city, the organization invites everyone to enjoy African marketplaces, educational and cultural activities, live music, and more. Plus, if you want to dig deeper into the holiday, you can attend a daytime session at a local library; throughout December, a rotating calendar of events teach the history, philosophy and values of the African-American tradition.
Down the Road
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
From Nov. 17 to Dec. 31, 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.
Historic Latta Plantation
Skip the Black Friday shopping chaos and learn how the holidays evolved from Colonial days to the antebellum period at Latta Plantation’s living history event on Nov. 24 and 25. Located in Huntersville, about 30 minutes north of Charlotte, the site is a circa 18th-century cotton plantation. Re-enactors demonstrate period preparations for the Christmas holiday.
The Billy Graham Library
From Dec. 1 to 23, The Billy Graham Library adds to its regular year-round offerings in celebration of Christmas. A live nativity scene tells the story of Jesus’ birth, and it even includes real, adorable animals. Visitors enjoy the attraction’s storied grounds from aboard horse-drawn carriages, while children have their imaginations ignited over story time, and carolers fill the air with merriment.
Each year, at the start of December, the town of Matthews kicks off the holiday season with a special tree lighting ceremony in front of Town Hall. The community event, which takes place this year on Dec. 2, also includes festive offerings like holiday crafts and special holiday-themed entertainment.
For a handful of nights each year—this year from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2—downtown Davidson lights up with fun for the entire family. The adults shop for gifts at Main Street businesses and inside the Holiday Village. Kids enjoy arts and crafts as well as visits from and photos with Santa. Other attractions include live entertainment, holiday treats, horse-drawn carriage rides and hay rides.
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Beginning Nov. 19, Speedway Christmas revs up the holiday cheer with miles of drive-through light displays, including a portion on the 1.5-mile superspeedway. The festivities last until Dec. 31, with classic holiday movies playing on a sprawling high-definition TV on select nights and the annual Eggnog Jog 5K run to help you earn your turkey.
Belmont, located about 30 minutes from Uptown Charlotte, will celebrate the Christmas season on Dec. 8 by turning its picturesque downtown into an incredible Christmas village. Explore the Main Street shops, take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage, listen to Christmas carols, visit with Santa, and savor hot chocolate and s’mores.
WinterFest is coming to town, transforming Carowinds into an enchanting winter wonderland. Guests will delight in the park’s holiday lights (about five million, but who’s counting?), its falling “snow” and its 70-foot-tall Christmas tree. Costumed holiday characters will welcome you with holiday cheer and plenty of photo ops. It will also feature live entertainment with nearly a dozen different shows, a holiday-themed Crafter’s Village, ice skating and 16 family rides that will be open (weather permitting). WinterFest will be open select evenings, Nov. 24 – Dec. 30, 5-10 p.m.
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 on a select Saturday in December. Take a candlelight tour of the mine while it’s still daylight and purchase handmade items from local craftsmen.
Each December, McAdenville, about 15 miles west of Charlotte, transforms into 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 lights go on every year on Dec. 1 and burn nightly until Dec. 26.