Things to do

Experience These 7 Wonders of Holiday Lights

Whether you’re visiting Charlotte for the holidays or are a local looking to impress out-of-town friends and family, the Queen City is even more magical during the holiday season.

Whether you’re visiting Charlotte for the holidays or are a local looking to impress out-of-town friends and family, the Queen City is even more magical during the holiday season. To truly get into the holiday spirit, make sure to visit these special spots in and around Charlotte.

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Christmas Town USA

McAdenville, North Carolina, is known as Christmas Town USA – and for good reason. The quaint area goes all out when Santa Claus is coming to town. For 64 years, McAdenville residents have put together over-the-top light displays that are free for visitors to enjoy. Cruise through with family as holiday music plays over the radio, or bundle up, grab some hot chocolate and stroll through on foot. See the lights weeknights from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and weekends from 5:30 to 11:00 p.m. If you visit on December 2, you can catch the tree lighting ceremony, complete with charming performances from some of the area’s most talented students.

Holiday Home Tour - Photo by Austin Caine

Fourth Ward Holiday Home Tour

The Fourth Ward Holiday Home Tour is a can’t-miss if HGTV is your favorite channel. You’ll be begging to move into the abodes you tour, ranging in style from Victorian to sleek and modern, all impeccably decorated for the season. The self-guided tour lets you peek inside these beauties, while enjoying food and beverages and the sounds of choirs and handbell ensembles. Buy tickets early because the tours sell out quickly. When you’re done, take advantage of complimentary samples at neighboring restaurants.

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U.S. National Whitewater Center

While the U.S. National Whitewater Center is a terrific place to spend a warm, summer day, the expansive facility has added to its winter offerings, too. New this year: a 17,000-square-foot ice skating rink located in the upper pond of the USNWC. When you need to catch a break, head over to the on-ice Airstream trailer and warm up with some hot chocolate. Skates are available for rent on-site.

Photo Courtesy of Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont (just 20 miles outside of Center City) is the perfect, magical setting to view millions (yes, really) of holiday light displays during their Holidays at the Garden. Take in the Mile of a Million Lights as you stroll the 110-acre property; enjoy live merry tunes; and roast a marshmallow by the crackling fire. Little ones will love the model train displays and the chance to get some face time with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Speedway Christmas - Photo by Kyo H. Nam

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Charlotte Motor Speedway welcomes back its Speedway Christmas event for its 10th year. Visitors will be treated to more than 3.5 million twinkling lights, spanning a nearly 4-mile course that makes for a festive holiday drive for the whole family. While you’re there, check out the brand new 50-foot Ferris wheel, make s’mores at the fire pit and enjoy a Christmas-themed drive-in (Thursdays through Sundays) where you can watch your favorite holiday movies on a giant screen.

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Zootastic Park

Zootastic Park in Troutman, North Carolina gets into the holiday spirit with its Christmas Wonderland of Lights. Now through January 4, enjoy a drive-through light show, Ferris wheel rides, train rides and a fire pit to enjoy s’mores. You can also take advantage of a photo opportunity with Santa and some adorable baby kangaroos if you’re looking to really make your holiday cards stand out this year.

Winterfest Photo Courtesy of Carowinds

Carowinds

Carowinds seamlessly blends the heart-pumping thrills you love with merriment and cheer of the holiday season during Winterfest. Beyond the enchanting light displays, check out festive parades with lavish floats, special holiday performances and a visit from Santa Claus. The event runs through December 31.

These festive experiences will delight your group, regardless of age or the size of your list for Santa Claus.