Things to do

30 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Charlotte

Get ready to feel merry and bright with these annual Charlotte events.

No matter how you celebrate the season, Charlotte invites everyone to get in the holiday spirit. Participate in a tree lighting, enjoy a performance or shop local at a winter market. Winter in Charlotte is a great time to don your best attire for a show in Uptown or take a stroll through the festive streets of surrounding small towns.

WinterFest - Photo courtesy of Carowinds

Christmas Dinner Theater

Date: Nov. 1 – Dec. 22
Location: NarroWay Theatre

Enjoy both a traditional Christmas dinner and a performance of “The Real Christmas Story” at NarroWay Theatre. Camel rides are available before the show and are subject to weather and availability. The audience is welcome to sing along to your favorite Christmas songs, especially during the part of the show when snow falls.

Cheer for Charlotte

Cheer for your favorite Charlotte sports team as they play at home this November and December. To get in on giveaways like the Charlotte Hornets winter hat (Dec. 4) or to participate in “giving back” opportunities like the Charlotte Checkers’ Teddy Bear Toss (Nov. 30), check their promotions schedule to see if a special theme will happen during the game.

Southern Christmas Show

Date: Nov. 14-24
Location: The Park Expo & Conference Center
Find inspiration for decking your halls at the multi-day Southern Christmas Show. 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.

Holidays at the Hall

Date: Holiday on Ice, Nov. 15 - Jan. 5 | Magical Morning, Dec. 15 | Breakfast with Santa, Dec. 21 & 22 | UnDeck the Hall, Dec. 26
Location: 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 and Holiday on Ice, Uptown Charlotte’s outdoor ice rink, from Nov. 15 – Jan. 5. Other festivities include a sensory-friendly event Magical Morning (Dec. 15), Breakfast with Santa (Dec. 21 and 22) and the fan favorite UnDeck the Hall (Dec. 26) every year the morning after Christmas.

The Polar Express

Date: Nov. 15-17, 22-24, 29 | Dec. 1, 6-8, 12-22
Location: North Carolina Transportation Museum

Inspired by the The Polar Express book and movie, this holiday favorite comes to life at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Music is played from the film’s soundtrack as passengers are served hot chocolate and cookies on board the train. Families are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride too. Be sure to visit Candy Cane Lane after your ride to take a photo with Santa.

Holiday Cooking Classes

Date: Nov. 2 and 16, Dec. 7 and 14
Location: Bar Cocoa at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte
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. Learn to make apple pie, pumpkin spice cake and pecan pralines. Add seasonal classics, like gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies, to your culinary repertoire.

See Holiday Movie Classics Live

Date: November-December
Location: Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, Bojangles' Entertainment Complex

There are certain holiday classics that are just better to experience on the big screen or live on-stage. Relive your favorite moments with tickets to see any of these shows at Blumenthal Performing Arts and Ovens Auditorium at Bojangles' Entertainment Complex.

Nov. 18 – Disney Junior Holiday Party! On Tour (Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center)
Nov. 29 – Home Alone in Concert with Charlotte Symphony (Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center)
Dec. 19 – Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Ovens Auditorium at Bojangles' Entertainment Complex)
Dec. 27 – A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage (Ovens Auditorium at Bojangles' Entertainment Complex)

Speedway Christmas

Date: Nov. 22 – Jan. 5
Location: Charlotte Motor Speedway
This year marks the 10th edition of Charlotte’s spectacular drive-through light show. Speedway Christmas revs up the holiday cheer with more than 4 million lights over a 3.75 mile course. The festivities last until Jan. 5 with a family-Dec. 31, including a family-friendly Christmas Village with a 50ft Ferris wheel, photos with Santa and fire pits to roast s’mores.

Charlotte Christmas Village - Photo by Robert Kisiah

Charlotte Christmas Village/Christkindlemarkt

Date: Nov. 22 - Dec. 24
Location: Corner of 7th Street and N. Tryon Street
From the weekend before Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, experience a European inspired traditional holiday market in Uptown Charlotte. The Charlotte Christmas Village is your place to shop for unique imported gifts and specialty foods from vendors in wooden huts. Inspired by the German tradition of Christmas markets, listen to live music as you enjoy delicious strudels, bratwurst, German beer, mulled wine and more. Everyone is welcome to attend the Christmas Tree Lighting on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 5:30 p.m.

WinterFest

Date: Nov. 24 – Dec. 31
Location: Carowinds

Christmas comes alive with holiday spirit as Carowinds transforms into a Winter Wonderland. See shimmering lights, a 70-foot tree and lavish displays. Live shows and strolling performers take place throughout the park. The culinary team also adds holiday items to the menu, and a selection of your favorite rides will be open and decked out in festive decor.

Vintage Charlotte Winter Markets

Date: Winter Market, Nov. 24 | Mistletoe Market, Dec. 7
Location: Winter Market, The Fillmore | Mistletoe Market, Camp North End

Shop one-of-a-kind merch at Vintage Charlotte Winter Markets, the city's annual showcase of trendy and throwback goods. With 60-plus vendors selling handmade jewelry, retro clothes, art and other swag, you're bound to find something you can't live without.

Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra

Date: Nov. 26 - Dec. 27
Location: Founders Hall
The animatronic Bearstein Bears are ready to spread holiday cheer with 45-minute performances throughout the day in Founders Hall, located next to Blumenthal Performing Arts – Belk Theater. Have a seat during your lunch break or stop by on your way to a show to enjoy a resounding performance courtesy of Ella, Bubbles and Bentley.

Holidays at the Garden

Date: Nov. 29 - Jan. 5
Location: Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
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.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical

Date: Nov. 29 - Dec. 29
Location: McColl Family Theatre at ImaginOn
Watch the reason for the season come to life on-stage through the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s talented troupes. In addition to the incredible performances put on throughout the year, a special holiday-themed show runs every winter season. Catch a musical presentation of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical” at McColl Family Theatre at ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center.

Victorian Christmas

Date: Nov. 29-30
Location: 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. 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.

Christmas Town USA

Date: Nov. 30 - Dec. 26
Location: McAdenville
Every 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 every year on Dec. 1 and burn nightly until Dec. 26.

The Billy Graham Library - Photo by Tim Robison

Christmas at the Library

Date: Dec. 2-23
Location: The Billy Graham Library

Get a photo with the live nativity scene, complete with real animals, at The Billy Graham Library. Explore the Library’s storied grounds from aboard a horse-drawn carriage. Children can participate in story time and everyone is welcome to sing along with the carolers filling the air with merriment.

Gingerbread Lane

Date: Dec. 4-26
Location: The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge

Vote for your favorite houses among the competition that lines Gingerbread Lane at The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge each December. The luxurious hotel holds 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.

Christmas in Davidson

Date: Dec. 5-7
Location: Downtown Davidson

One weekend each year, downtown Davidson lights up with fun for the entire family. Adults can shop for gifts at Main Street businesses and inside the Holiday Village, while kids can 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 Ballet's “The Nutcracker”

Date: Dec. 6-23
Location: Blumenthal Performing Arts Center - Belk Theater
Each holiday season, the Charlotte Ballet presents its take on the best-known Christmas story, “The Nutcracker.” Elaborate sets and costumes and phenomenal choreography are accompanied by live music from the Charlotte Symphony. Seeing this performance dazzle at Belk Theater is a staple part of each year’s celebrations. If you’re ready to jump-start the holiday festivities early, grab tickets to see the holiday mash-up “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” on Sunday, Dec. 1 too.

Fourth Ward Holiday Home Tour

Date: Dec. 6-8
Location: Historic Fourth Ward

For more than 40 years, residents of historic Fourth Ward have opened their homes to visitors for a self-guided tour. 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.

Weihnachtsmarkt

Date: Dec. 6-8 and 13-15
Location: 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 event runs over several weekends during the month of December in the brewery’s famous biergarten.

Holiday Tree Lighting

Date: Dec. 7
Location: Downtown Matthews

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 also includes festive offerings like holiday crafts and special holiday-themed entertainment.

A Golden Christmas

Date: Dec. 7
Location: 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 one weekend in December. Take a candlelight tour of the mine while it’s still daylight and purchase handmade items from local craftsmen.

Downtown Christmas Village

Date: Dec. 7
Location: Downtown Belmont

Belmont, located about 30 minutes from Uptown Charlotte, celebrates the Christmas season by turning its charming downtown into an incredible Christmas village. Explore the Main Street shops, listen to Christmas carols, visit with Santa and savor hot chocolate and s’mores.

Charlotte Symphony's Magic of Christmas and Carolina Voices' The Singing Christmas Tree - Photo courtesy of Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

Magic of Christmas & The Singing Christmas Tree

Date: Dec. 13-15 and 20-22
Location: Blumenthal Performing Arts Center - Knight Theater

Two of Charlotte's favorite holiday traditions will partner together to present - Charlotte Symphony’s Magic of Christmas and Carolina Voices’ The Singing Christmas Tree. Following a tradition that has spanned more than six decades, the show incorporates dance, puppetry and a giant “singing” tree comprised of talented members. Join in on the lyrics as the MainStage Choir sings your favorite Christmas jingles. A family performance will take place on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 11 a.m. for an abridged version of the concert designed especially for young children and their families.

Girl Tribe PopUp

Date: Dec. 14-15
Location: Charlotte Convention Center

Support women-owned businesses as you check off your holiday gift list. Girl Tribe Popup was started in 2015 to connect and support female entrepreneurs. You won’t want to miss this fun shopping event complete with great music and treats. Shopping is for everyone, so guys and kids are welcome to come shop as well.

We Believe – Santa Trail Race and Dog Jog

Date: Dec. 14
Location: U.S. National Whitewater Center
Bring your red coat and white beard to the Santa 5K Trail Race for some pre-holiday fun on the USNWC trails. A prize is awarded to the best Santa Claus look-a-like. Get your pup in on the fun to troth through the We Believe Santa 5K Dog Jog as well. Then, stick around to check out the 17,000 square foot ice skating surface with a skate-up bar and Lights, an illuminated walking experience.

The Porch Southern Fried Chanukah

Date: Dec. 22
Location: The Porch at Temple Beth El
Celebrate the Festival of Lights with a Southern tradition: fried chicken. At The Porch at Temple Beth El’s annual Southern Fried Chanukah celebration, fried chicken is paired with latkes, mac and cheese and jelly doughnuts. Compete in a dreidel competition, enter a 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. Click here for more Hanukah celebrations throughout Charlotte.

Kwanzaa Charlotte

Date: Dec. 26 - Jan. 1
Location: Multiple Locations

Every year from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, Kwanzaa 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.

For more holiday events throughout the season - www.charlottesgotalot.com/events