Things to Do

Family Friendly Things to Do This Holiday

Winter is just around the corner and for many, that means family time, holiday gatherings, and finding ways to keep the kids (and yourself) both warm and entertained. Whether showing out-of-town family around or hunkering down with your brood, Charlotte has tons of family-friendly activities and sites to visit all season long.

Marriott International

This post is brought to you in partnership with Marriott International.

Looking for a central homebase for out-of-town guests or for your own staycation? Charlotte Marriott City Center and The Westin Charlotte are ideal spots to set up shop. From these chic hotels in the heart of Uptown, you’ll be ready to venture out to explore the many museums, theaters and greenspaces in the Queen City.

Start your day at the Westin with a quick workout then a hearty breakfast at JP Charlotte. After a long day of exploring, settle in at SoCo Bar for a well-deserved meal or cocktail. When staying at the Marriott, start your day with breakfast at Coco and the Director and end it with a dreamy dinner at Stoke Charlotte, then head off to Stoke Bar to unwind.

Champ the Cheetah at NASCAR Hall of Fame - Photography by Kyo H Nam

Take a day discovering Discovery Place Science. Marvel over scientific and biological wonders as you traverse an indoor rainforest, engage in live science demonstrations and perk your senses as you lie on a bed of nails. Kids up to age seven have their own special place to play, experiment and create in KidScience while older children and adults will be inspired by the current exhibit Apollo: When We Went to the Moon on display until January 2.

Take a victory lap at NASCAR Hall of Fame. Enjoy learning the history of NASCAR and Trying out the racing simulators. Kids will have a blast creating and building their own race car in the Virtual Painting Booth, meeting Champ the Cheetah and getting a glimpse of Lightning McQueen.

#CharlottesGotALot

Enjoy ballets and musicals at Blumenthal Performing Arts or settle in for a movie as the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra performs the soundtrack live. Try morning and afternoon shows, or look for the “relaxed performances” descriptor for a more low-key theater experience.

Bundle up and grab lunch to-go from one of the many vendors at The Market at 7th Street. On those warm and sunny winter days, head across the street to First Ward Park as you enjoy an outdoor meal with plenty of greenspace to work out the wiggles.

Charlotte Christmas Village - Photography by Robert Kisiah

No family trip to uptown Charlotte is complete without a stop in ImaginON, Charlotte’s kids-centric library. Open for exploration, ImaginON provides play space, a children’s library and a teen-only zone upstairs.

Housed in ImaginON is Children's Theater of Charlotte, perfect for introducing children to the performing arts, with sensory-friendly show times and performances for every age.

For full Christmas-immersion, don’t miss the Charlotte Christmas Village at Truist Field from November 26 and December 23. A quick walk from your room at the Marriott will take you into a winter wonderland of trees, lights, music, vendors and a prize at the end — hot chocolate for the kids, cider or Glühwein for the adults!

#CharlottesGotALot

Venturing out from Center City, Charlotte offers a host of outdoor activities. Most are available year-round, with special winter experiences awaiting. From November to February spend a day ice skating at U.S. National Whitewater Center. From experienced skaters to the youngest of children, all will enjoy the magic of watching skaters glide across the ice and the sweetness of hot treats from the on-ice Airstream trailer.

Winterfest at Carowinds - Photo courtesy of Carowinds

For big holiday energy, nothing compares to Carowinds Winterfest. Sure, there are roller coasters, but on select nights November 13-January 2, there are lights, themed games, baked goods, carolers, a giant Christmas tree and a Wonderland Parade. Kids can write letters to Santa and adults might just find that elusive gift they’ve been searching for.

After exerting lots of energy at an amusement park, sometimes you just have to get back to nature. Thankfully, Mecklenburg Parks and Recreation has reopened their nature centers. Reedy Creek Park, McDowell Park, Stevens Creek and Latta Nature Preserve all have nature centers perfect for young children and school-age kids alike to touch, explore and learn. And when you’re done inside the center, there are trails leading out into the parks to put the new knowledge into action. Tromp through the woods, play in the leaves, and circle ponds full of turtles. The fresh air will do everyone some good.

#CharlottesGotALot

If you choose Latta Nature Preserve for your outdoor fun, stick around and visit the Carolina Raptor Center just down the road. With discounted student tickets and free entry for kids under three, this is a Charlotte-area attraction everyone should experience. Rarely will you ever get a chance to see such majestic birds this close and your visit supports the good work of the raptor rehabilitation hospital.

For family members who love visual arts, there are more chances to view the Van Gogh Exhibit now that it’s been extended to January 2. If you have a budding artist, this show is perfect for inspiring awe and creativity.

For sports-loving families, attending a Charlotte Checkers game is a must. Special ticket prices for families and teachers and close-by parking makes going to a game even easier. Kids will enjoy upcoming promotional events like the Teddy Bear Toss on December 11, and theme nights like Superhero Day on January 16.

#CharlottesGotALot

After watching others play sports, maybe it’ll be time to play some of your own. Visit Frankie’s Fun Park in Huntersville to do some bowling, play mini golf, or ride the bumper cars. Challenge your teenager to a go kart race and see who can cut the turns like a pro.

If you need a staycation, but also need to feel some heat, Great Wolf Lodge delivers. And from November 28 to January 5, they have the best holiday lodge vibes going on. Snowland features visits with Santa, snowfall, holiday family dance parties, and a chance to end your day with a snowflake story time.

If you’re looking for another activity in Concord, check out SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium. It may be a chilly winter day outside, but you’ll be too busy walking through a tropical ocean tunnel to remember.

#CharlottesGotALot

If museums are your thing, there are plenty to choose from in and around Charlotte. For children 0-7 years old, Discovery Place Kids is ideal. They can build, create, learn, and explore in this hands-on setting of play and pretend.

The Schiele Museum of Natural History has indoor and outdoor exhibits for people of every age. Dinosaurs, mammals, and insects share space inside, while farm animals and aquatic creatures hold domain over the outside.

For local history, children pre-K and up will learn a lot at the Charlotte Museum of History. Tour the Alexander Rock House and Homesite and get a look at all the fun and colorful signs from businesses at the temporary exhibit “Charlotte: Signs of Home.”

#CharlottesGotALot

And if you want to venture a bit further out of town, the NC Transportation Museum gives young ones - and the young at heart - a chance to see, touch, and ride in all types of transportation vehicles. Trains, planes, and automobiles live in glory at this sprawling site next to the Southern Railway. On select dates throughout the holiday season is the much-anticipated Polar Express Train Ride.

When you’re ready for some fresh air and invigorating exercise, take some time to go for a hike. Morrow Mountain, in Albemarle, has an easy loop trail at the top of the mountain that is close to restrooms and suitable for younger kids. Longer trails start out from the lake and include both flat and inclined paths.

Nearby Crowders Mountain is one of Charlotte’s most popular spots for hiking. The trails require a bit more endurance to get to the top, but they offer beautiful views of Uptown on a clear day.