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Put on your matching Christmas pajamas, pour some cocoa, and hop in your cars. Here are the 13 best places to see holiday lights in Charlotte.
This list includes streets, individual homes, and organized displays (think Speedway). Listed in alphabetical order.
Details: Expect hundreds of Charleston-style homes decked out in classic Christmas decor (think garland, white lights, wreaths, etc.). The great thing about this spot is there isn’t one house that stands out – almost every house is decorated in some fashion. You can drive around, or park and take a stroll through the picturesque neighborhood.
Where: A subdivision in Ballantyne, not far from Blakeney. If you need a street address for GPS purposes, plug in Wheatfield Road.
Dates: Open now
Details: Every December, more than 600,000 people head to McAdenville (aka Christmas Town USA) where 160 homes go all out on the holiday decorations with around 500,000 lights total. The tradition has been going on for 64 years. Lights are on 5:30-9:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 5:30-11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Where: McAdenville (use 212 Wesleyan Drive for the GPS if you need it)
Agenda related guide: How to survive a trip to McAdenville without killing your family
Details: This light show is synchronized to music and since the Coleman family has started, the neighborhood has made it a tradition to compete for best light show. You can check out some other residential light shows here.
Bonus: While you’re in Denver, you can check out the Lights of Raz – a house with hundreds of blowups in the front yard.
Where: Village of Denver, 7661 Natalie Commons Drive
Dates: December 6-8
Details: This 42-year tradition is one of the best opportunities to see homes all decked out for the holidays.
Take a self-guided walking tour through the most beautifully decorated private homes in the quaint Uptown neighborhood. You’ll find carolers, bell ensembles, and horse-drawn carriage rides, along with tasting stations and free samples at select stops.
Dates: Now through January 5 (closed Christmas).
Holiday Lights: The annual Holidays at the Garden, a mile of a million lights, is back at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Roast a marshmallow by a crackling fire, shop, visit Santa and Mrs. Claus (select nights), and listen to holiday music, too.
Experience: Halfway through the one mile walk, there’s a hut that sells s’mores, beer, wine, coffee, hot chocolate and free popcorn. Grab ingredients and make tasty s’mores by the fire pit. They’ve also got free popcorn. Make sure to check out 15-foot orchid tree, new LED cherry tree along Canal Garden, model train displays, and live music.
Photos with Santa: Santa Claus will be available for professional photos with families from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on December 2, 9, and 16, for an additional fee (reservations required). Or you can opt for personal photos (as in using your own phone/camera) with Santa from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays December 3-19 for free.
Price: Admission purchased online in advance for Monday through Thursday is $14.95 per adult, $12.95 per senior, $7.95 per child. Children under 2 get in free. Admission purchased online in advance for Friday through Sunday is $16.95 per adult, $14.95 per senior, $8.95 per child. Children under 2 get in free.
Where: 6500 S. New Hope Road, Belmont
(6) Hillside Avenue
Details: This street-long light display is one of the hallmarks of Charlotte Christmas. Some of the houses are decorated but nearly all of the trees are adorned with giant light balls – it really is magical.
Where: Enter from Park Road and Selwyn Avenue
(7) McAlpine Farm Road
Details: Similar to Hillside, this is another street in Charlotte that’s decked out in Christmas light balls. The display is slightly smaller than Hillside, but the neighborhood has a decent amount of decorations throughout for an overall festive, scenic drive.
Where: Montibello neighborhood, off Carmel Road
Dates: Now through December 28 (closed Christmas Eve and day)
Details: They have holiday lights throughout the garden, plus hot chocolate, fire pites, and s’mores throughout December for an extra festive light-viewing experience. (The usual beer and wine will be available, too). The Winter Wonderland is open 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. on Friday, noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Dates: Now through December 29
Price: Free entry, s’mores kits are $1.50, hot cocoa is $1.50, and wine prices vary. Three-sample wine flights are $16.
Where: Rosie’s Wine Garden, 940 N. Davidson St.
(9) Sherwood Forest
Details: Only a few houses on the street are decorated, but one in particular makes the trip worth it (there was a line down the street when I went last year). The house and yard are both covered in lights, giant blowups, a giant sleigh, and other holiday decorations. You can even make donations to St. Jude.
Where: Right off of Colony Road
(10) Speedway Christmas
Dates: Now through January 5 (Closed on Christmas)
Details: Nothing says Christmas in the Carolinas like 4 million lights arranged around a 3.75-mile race track. The Christmas Village is open Thursday-Sunday every night December 12-29 with a Ferris wheel, 100-foot slide, Bethlehem village, photos with Santa, fun foods, games, fire pits for s’mores roasting, and drive-in style Christmas movies, too. The track is open 6-10 p.m. daily.
Note: Make sure you turn your radio dial to 101.3 FM to hear the Christmas music that goes along with the lights throughout the course.
Price: $20-$30 a car (up to 10 people), $40-$50 a van (up to 36 people)
Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Dates: Open now
Details: This isn’t your average holiday light show. Artist Meredith Connelly created tons of immersive light installations inspired by nature that line the half-mile walking path. It’s free to go, but don’t forget $6 for parking.
Ice skating: While you’re there, get a $20 single activity pass for ice skating. This new open-air rink includes 17,000 square feet of ice on the Upper Pond of the whitewater river, and it has three areas (free skate, winter sports, and a 600-foot ice trail). The skating area also has a skate-up bar where you can buy craft beer, hot chocolate, and coffee.
Price: Free, $6 parking
Where: U.S. National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Dates: Now through December 31
Details: They’ve got a 70-foot tree, 5 million twinkly lights, live shows, performers all around, and festive hands-on activities — plus some of the usual rides. Pro tip: Get the reusable WinterFest mug ($12) which gets you free hot cocoa the first time + $1 refills after.
(13) Zimnowski Light Show
Details: If you’re in the north Charlotte area, or heading up there for other light displays, be sure to swing by this house. It’s another great one with synchronized lights and music. They’re typically running 6-10 p.m. on weekdays and 5:30-10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Where: 15419 Hugh Mcauley Road, Huntersville
Looking for more things to do this holiday season in Charlotte? Here’s the full Agenda event board with 65+ biggest events and here’s an Agenda list of the 23 most festive things to do this holiday season.