By Leah Hughes
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza
Nov. 26. Event runs 5-9 p.m.,
lighting around 7:15 p.m.
Bank of America Stadium
Nov. 23. Event runs 6-7:30 p.m.
Nov.18 at 6 p.m.
Nov. 19 at 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 1. Event begins at 6 p.m., lighting around 6:45 p.m.
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.