30 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, there’s no shortage of holiday events in Charlotte.
by Arielle Patterson Nov 08, 2023
This blog is brought to you in partnership with Charlotte Ballet.
There’s something magical about the holiday season in the Queen City. Charlotte dazzles with miles of twinkling lights, festive performances and jubilant festivals that create warm memories and cherished traditions. Celebrate the spirit of the season with these holiday events and activities in Charlotte.
'Tis the season for dazzling performances.
When: Dec. 8-23
Embark on a magical adventure to the Land of Sweets with Charlotte Ballet’s production of “Nutcracker.” Join Clara and her nutcracker-turned-handsome prince as they journey to a kingdom filled with vivid characters and holiday magic. Glittering snowfall, jumping candy canes and captivating costumes take the stage at the elegant Belk Theater. Both the young and the young at heart can delight in this holiday tradition, showcasing dancing sweets and a battle against the Mouse King. This magical and theatrical experience features choreography from Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s timeless score performed live by the acclaimed Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.
When: Nov. 17-19, 24-26, Dec. 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 20-22
Children’s Theatre of Charlotte presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical,” a hilarious and heartfelt musical comedy for families of all ages, at the McColl Family Theatre at ImaginOn. Find out what happens when the “worst kids in the history of the world” audition for the annual Christmas pageant.
When: Dec. 15-17
Charlotte Symphony’s holiday extravaganza returns with performances at Knight Theater. Conductor Christopher James Lees leads the Charlotte Master Chorale and CSO in festive arrangements. Sing along during this live performance and keep your eyes peeled for falling snow and an appearance from Santa.
Visit Charlotte for the Holidays
When: Dec. 27-28
Area: East Charlotte
Celebrate the holiday season with jaw-dropping stunts in a captivating show, “A Magical Cirque Christmas.” You’ll be amazed as world-class acrobats and entertainers take the stage at Ovens Auditorium, performing amazing feats to the soundtrack of holiday music.
Family-Friendly Holiday Events
Both kids and adults alike can get into the holiday spirit at these family-friendly events.
When: Nov. 10-11, 17-19, 24-26, Dec. 1-3, 7-10, 12-23
Area: Spencer, N.C.
All aboard the Polar Express! Inspired by the hit holiday film, “The Polar Express,” the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer offers festive train rides set to the movie’s soundtrack. Enjoy hot chocolate and cookies on your way to the North Pole.
When: Select nights Nov. 17-Jan. 1, 2024
Area: South Charlotte
WinterFest at Carowinds is one of the most immersive holiday events in the Carolinas. The theme park is decked out with shimmering lights that invite you experience the live entertainment, holiday-inspired food and drinks, ice skating, shops and the nightly WinterFest Wonderland Parade.
When: Dec. 1-23
Area: West Charlotte
Take a horse-drawn carriage ride around Billy Graham Library before making your way to the live nativity scene, complete with animals. Hear Christmas carolers each night then warm up with story time at Ruth’s Attic Bookstore and indulge in a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.
When: Dec. 1-26
Area: McAdenville, N.C.
People come from all over the country to visit Christmas Town USA in McAdenville, located less than 20 miles from Uptown Charlotte. Spend the evening walking along charming downtown McAdenville, including the historic area adorned with thousands of lights. The celebration kicks off with the annual Christmas tree lighting on Main Street.
The night sky shines a little brighter during the holidays at these light displays in Charlotte.
When: Nov. 17-Jan. 7, 2024
Charlotte Motor Speedway glitters with more than five million lights on a four-mile course during Speedway Christmas. The largest drive-thru holiday light show in the Southeast offers a unique chance to travel along the Speedway’s legendary oval, pit road and in-field road course.
When: Nov. 21
The Carolina Panthers and Charlotte FC invite fans, friends and families to watch as a 50-foot Norway spruce tree, garnished with 50,000 string lights, is lit up for the season at Bank of America Stadium. This Charlotte tradition will also include appearances by Sir Minty, Sir Purr and Santa.
When: Select nights Nov. 22-Jan. 1, 2024
Truist Field, home to the Charlotte Knights, transforms into a winter wonderland. Nearly every part of the stadium, from the concourse to the seats and baseball diamond, are decorated with colorful lights. There’s even a choreographed light show set to the soundtrack of holiday music.
When: Nov. 24-Dec. 23
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden dazzles during the holidays with light displays throughout the garden. As you make your way along the lighted paths, passing ornate decorations, stay warm with hot chocolate and cider then stop at one of the on-site food trucks for a bite to eat.
Grab your blankets and chairs and settle in for these festive parades.
When: Nov. 22
The Novant Health Thanksgiving Eve Parade is a tradition that dates back over 70 years. The parade has grown to become the largest of its kind in the Southeast. Ornate parade floats light up the night as they make their way down Tryon Street.
Find a spot on Main Street to watch the 41st Annual North Mecklenburg Holiday Parade. This two-mile route travels along Highway 115 from Davidson through Cornelius, ending at the intersection of North Main Street and Catawba Avenue. After the parade, watch teams compete in the Merry Main Street Tricycle Race.
When: Dec. 16
Area: Lake Norman
Watch as decorated boats cruise along Lake Norman to celebrate the holiday season. The waterfront parade route starts at Blythe Landing and concludes at the EnergyExplorium. After the parade, stick around for food trucks and a visit from Santa.
When: Dec. 16
Area: Lake Wylie
Papa Doc’s Shore Club is the waterside destination to observe this holiday boat parade along Lake Wylie. Watercraft vessels are festively decorated with colorful lights, and even playing music, to ignite holiday cheer.
Shop for everyone on your gift list at these local holiday markets.
When: Nov. 9-19
Area: East Charlotte
The largest Christmas show in North America returns to the Park Expo and Conference Center for 12 days of holiday shopping. Browse vendors to find gifts for everyone on your list, marvel at the ornate trees on Christmas Tree Lane, nibble on festive snacks and let the kids take a picture with Santa.
When: Dec. 2, 9, 16
Neighborhood: Camp North End
Explore the Mistletoe Market Saturdays at Camp North End. Eat, drink and shop local vendors throughout the campus, where all three districts feature festive decorations and photo opportunities. Head into the Ford Building for hot chocolate, snacks and a family-friendly movie.
When: Nov. 24-Dec. 17
Neighborhood: Lower South End
Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s Christmas market has something for all ages. Adults can shop over 140 vendors while sipping the brewery’s Yule Bock holiday beer, while kids drink hot chocolate and take their photo with Santa at Saturday markets.
When: Weekends Nov. 17-Dec. 7, Daily Dec. 8-23
Neighborhood: Camp North End
Shop 90-plus vintage and handmade brands as VTGCLT takes over Camp North End for six consecutive weekends. Retro apparel and accessories, as well as other one-of-a-kind items, make the perfect gifts for everyone on your holiday list.
Holiday Pop-Up Bars
Holiday pop-up bars in Charlotte are sure to make your spirits bright.
Holiday Spirit Speakeasy at Supperland
When: Nov. 24-Jan. 6, 2024
Neighborhood: Plaza Midwood
Come dressed in your best (or worst) holiday sweater for festive cocktails at Supperland’s Speakeasy. Tickets are required for this holiday spirit experience, with seatings at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. each night. Each of the four cocktails featured on this themed menu are paired with a dish from Supperland’s kitchen.
Miracle at Backstage Lounge
When: Nov. 22-Dec. 30
Neighborhood: South End
Backstage Lounge transforms into a winter wonderland, complete with colorful lights and garland. You’ll need a password, which you can find on social media, to enter this speakeasy-style bar. Sip a themed cocktail as you watch a holiday movie on one of the bar’s TVs.
Sippin’ Santa at The Royal Tot
When: Nov. 21-Dec. 31
Neighborhood: Belmont neighborhood
The holidays get a tropical twist at The Royal Tot, Charlotte’s location for the Sippin’ Santa pop-up bar. Enjoy tiki-style cocktails inside the decorated bar or by one of the rooftop firepits overlooking Uptown. You’ll almost forget it’s winter when you’re drinking a frozen cocktail from a mermaid-shaped cup.
Tinseltown at Billy Sunday
When: Nov. 29-Dec. 31
Neighborhood: Optimist Park
Billy Sunday’s Optimist Hall bar is decked out with holiday decorations during the Tinseltown pop-up. Take a seat at the bar or at one of the outdoor fire pits with a merry cocktail that’s named after a classic holiday movie. Other festivities include cocktail classes and s’mores on the patio.
When: Dec. 10
Chabad of Charlotte presents a one-of-a-kind Chanukah celebration at Le Meridien Charlotte. Chassidic rapper, Nissim Black, will perform his impactful lyrics that rejoice the joy of this holiday. Before the concert, don’t miss the menorah lighting ceremony, highlighting the miracle that happened during Chanukah.
When: Dec. 11
Kick off Chanukah with the annual menorah lighting at Matthews Town Hall Library, presented by Chabad of Charlotte. This free, family-friendly event includes music, dreidels, Chanukah treats and more.
When: Dec. 26-Jan. 1, 2024
Celebrate Kwanzaa with historical, educational and artistic programs throughout Charlotte. Each day is inspired by one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).
Visit Charlotte for the Holidays
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture celebrates Kwanzaa during the center’s Wednesday Night Live series. In past years, this free event has included family-friendly activities such as a candle-making workshop, dance class and informational session on the history and traditions of Kwanzaa.
New Year’s Eve Events
When: Dec. 31
CLT NYE presented by Ally is a free way to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Uptown Charlotte. Ring in the new year with a DJ, live music, fireworks and the lighting of the Queen City crown. Festivities start at 8 p.m. on Tryon Street at Levine Avenue of the Arts.