Holiday Bucket List | Charlotte's got a lot | Charlotte NC Travel & Tourism
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Holiday Bucket List

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 and attend the ballet Uptown or travel beyond Center City and stroll the charmingly decorated streets of surrounding small towns.

By Leah Hughes

Southern Christmas Show, The Park Expo and Conference Center

Find inspiration for decking your halls at the Southern Christmas Show Nov. 10-20. 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.

Holiday Cooking Classes, Bar Cocoa

Cocoa Lab invites you to string up an apron and step inside Bar Cocoa at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte’s kitchen to work alongside the chefs. Holiday-themed classes include Thanksgiving Preparation on Nov. 12, Christmas Time on Dec. 10 and House Party on Dec. 17. Add holiday classics like pumpkin pie, fruitcake, gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies to your culinary repertoire.

Holidays at the Garden, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Belmont’s Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden becomes a winter wonderland with Holidays at the Garden Nov. 18-Jan. 1. More than 600,000 lights illuminate the garden. One of the most popular features is the stunning orchid tree. Activities include marshmallow roasts, visits with Santa and holiday shopping in The Garden Store.

Speedway Christmas, Charlotte Motor Speedway

Speedway Christmas revs up the Christmas cheer Nov. 19-Dec. 31 with 3.7 miles of drive-through displays, including a portion on the 1.5-mile superspeedway. Classic holiday movies play on the 16,000-square-foot high-definition TV Thursday through Sundays. And the Egg Nog Jog kicks things off on Nov. 19 with a 5K run through the light show.

Charlotte Christmas Village, Romare Bearden Park

From Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, to Christmas Eve, Romare Bearden Park in Uptown becomes the Charlotte Christmas Village. Inspired by the German tradition of Christmas markets, vendors will sell handmade crafts, gifts and specialty foods from wooden huts. Strudels, bratwurst, German beer and mulled wine will flow freely.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical,” Children’s Theatre of Charlotte

The world premiere of this musical comedy is adapted from Barbara Robinson’s classic book. Recommended for all ages, this play recounts the story of the time the Herdmans wreaked havoc on the Sunday School Christmas pageant. The play runs Nov. 25-Dec. 23 at McColl Family Theatre at ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center.

One Hundred Years of Christmas, Historic Latta Plantation

Learn how the holidays evolved from Colonial days to the antebellum period at Latta Plantation’s living history event Nov. 25-26. Located in Huntersville, about 30 minutes north of Charlotte, the site is a circa 18th-century cotton plantation. Re-enactors will demonstrate period preparations for the Christmas holiday.

Holidays at the Hall, NASCAR Hall of Fame

Celebrate the holidays with the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The Hall Plaza will be themed with reindeer, elves and a giant polar bear. Don’t miss the 39-foot-tall tree of twinkling lights! Other festivities include Breakfast with Santa Dec. 3 and Dec. 17, UnDeck the Hall Dec. 26, and much more.

Christmas at The Library, The Billy Graham Library

The Billy Graham Library adds to its regular offerings in celebration of Christmas Dec. 1-23. 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 under 12 have their imaginations ignited over story time on the patio.   

Christmas in Davidson, Davidson

For three nights, Dec. 1-3, 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 Santa and Mrs. Claus. Other attractions include live entertainment, holiday treats and horse-drawn carriage rides.

Christmas Town USA, McAdenville

Each 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 lights go on Dec. 1 and burn every night until Dec. 26.

Fourth Ward Holiday Home Tour, Uptown

For nearly 40 years, residents of historic Fourth Ward have opened their homes to visitors for this self-guided tour, which runs this season Dec. 2-4. The neighborhood’s signature Victorian homes 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.

Charlotte Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

This year’s production of the “Nutcracker” by Charlotte Ballet showcases new sets and costumes. Choreographer Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux presents this classic tale with live music from the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. The ballet runs Dec. 3-23 with a special holiday soiree, Night at the Nutcracker, on Dec. 2.

Weihnachtsmarkt, 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. This year’s event runs in the Biergarten on Fridays and Saturdays for three consecutive weekends—Dec. 2-3, 9-10 and 16-17.

A Golden Christmas, 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 throughout the day on Saturday, Dec. 3. Take a candlelight tour of the mine while it’s still daylight and purchase handmade items from local craftsmen.

Gingerbread Lane, The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge

Vote for your favorite houses among the competition that lines Gingerbread Lane at The Ballantyne. The hotel holds a gingerbread house contest for professionals, amateurs and youth, and the houses are on display Dec. 8-28. Other hotel celebrations include decorating gingerbread houses and enjoying holiday afternoon tea.

Downtown Christmas Village, Belmont

Belmont, located about 30 minutes from Uptown Charlotte, celebrates the Christmas season on Dec. 9, when the picturesque downtown becomes 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 enjoy hot chocolate and s’mores.

The 62nd Annual Singing Christmas Tree, Knight Theater

Following a tradition that has spanned six decades, Carolina Voices once again presents this Charlotte favorite. Join in on the lyrics Dec.10-11 as the MainStage Choir sings your favorite Christmas jingles. The show incorporates dance, puppetry and a 32-foot-tall “singing” tree comprised of talented members. A version for children ages 3 to 10 takes place at an earlier time each day.

Community Hanukkah Celebration, Temple Israel

Sponsored by the Temple Israel Men’s Club, Temple Israel invites family and friends to join in a special celebration of the lighting of the season’s first Hanukkah candle on Dec. 24. Bring your family menorah and candles and enjoy a Chinese-inspired dinner, a DJ, dancing and dessert.

Six tree lightings to start the season

Tree Lighting at the Hall

NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza

Nov. 26. Event runs 5-9 p.m.,

lighting around 7:15 p.m.

Carolina Panthers Tree Lighting

Bank of America Stadium

Nov. 23. Event runs 6-7:30 p.m.

Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony

Downtown Concord

Nov.18 at 6 p.m.

Historic South End Tree Lighting

Atherton Mill

Nov. 19 at 5:30 p.m.

Uptown Tree Lighting


Dec. 1. Event begins at 6 p.m., lighting around 6:45 p.m.

Matthews Holiday Tree Lighting


Dec. 3. Event runs 3-6 p.m., lighting around 6 p.m.

This article ran in the November 2016 issue of Charlotte Happenings magazine.