Home over the holidays? 14 festive things to do around Charlotte with your family

Home over the holidays? 14 festive things to do around Charlotte with your family
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Your family has been in town four hours. Cabin fever is already setting in. Luckily, Charlotte has plenty of Christmas spirit, so here are 14 fun, festive activities for you to do with your family.


(1) Ice skate at Uptown’s Holiday on Ice (even on Christmas day)

Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. now through New Year’s Day.

Holiday hours: 5-10 p.m. on Christmas, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, December 29.

Details: Skate around the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza which is filled with 10,000 gallons of ice. Admission is $16 with skate rental or $12 if you bring your own skates (card only, no cash). It’s located in the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza, 400 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. More details.

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Holiday on Ice | 400 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. | $12-$16

ice skating rink in uptown charlotte holiday on ice


(2) Combine your love for adventure and holidays at WinterFest at Carowinds

Dates: December 23 and December 26-31. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Details: They have a 70-foot tree, 5 million twinkly lights, live shows, performers all around, and festive hands-on activities — plus some of the usual rides.

Ice skating: Snow Flake Lake at Carowinds’ Winterfest is open now through December 31. It’s $15 in addition to WinterFest admission.

Festive deal: I’m a sucker for reusable cups, so I’m eying the $12 WinterFest mug, which gets you free hot cocoa the first time, $1 refills after.

WinterFest | Carowinds, 300 Carowinds Blvd. | $20+


(3) Marvel at all the lights at Christmas Town USA

Dates: December 2-26

Details: McAdenville, a tiny 600-person town located less than 30 minutes west of Charlotte, transforms into Christmas Town USA. Residents set up more than 500,000 lights creating a citywide display that attracts national attention — it’s been going on for 64 years.

Schedule: The lights are on 5:30-9:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 5:30-11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Christmas Town USA | 212 Wesleyan Drive, McAdenville| Free

decorations at mcadenville christmas


(4) Ice skating at the U.S. National Whitewater Center

Date: Open daily, including Christmas. You can check the daily activity schedule to make sure there are no day-of changes.

Details: This new ice skating 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 will also have an on-ice Airstream trailer serving craft beer, hot chocolate, and coffee. Skate rentals are included, but you need to bring your own socks. $20 for single activity pass. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. More details.

Ice Skating | 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy. | $20 for a single activity pass, skates included


(5) Visit the Charlotte Christmas Village

Date: Now to December 24. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Details: Christkindlmarkt, the annual European-inspired Christmas Market, is back at the corner of Seventh and North Tryon streets. Expect the usual speciality foods, Glühwein in a souvenir village mug, cider, hot chocolate, vendors, photos with Santa, and holiday performances. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free. More details.

Christkindlmarkt | Seventh and North Tryon streets | Free entry


(6) Pack your car with cocoa and blankets for Speedway Christmas

Dates: Now through January 5. Closed Christmas Day.

Details: Nothing says Christmas in the Carolinas like 4 million lights arranged around a race track. Expect a Ferris wheel, Bethlehem village, photos with Santa, fun foods, games, fire pits for s’mores roasting, and drive-in style Christmas movies, too. 6-10 p.m. $25+. More details.

Speedway Christmas | Charlotte Motor Speedway, 5555 S. Concord Pkwy., Concord | $25+ per car

tunnel at speedway christmas at charlotte motor speedway


(7) View lights at Daniel Stowe

Dates: Now through January, 5-9 p.m. Closed Christmas Day.

Details: Stroll through the gardens and see a mile of lights. Roast a marshmallow by a crackling fire, shop, visit Santa and Mrs. Claus (select nights), and listen to holiday music.

Experience: Halfway through the one-mile walk, there’s a hut that sells s’mores, beer, wine, coffee, and hot chocolate, and there’s free popcorn. Make sure to check out the 15-foot orchid tree, new LED cherry tree along Canal Garden, model train displays, and live music.

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.

Holidays at the Garden | Daniel Stowe, 6500 S. New Hope Rd., Belmont | $14.95+

location daniel stowe christmas lights in charlotte


(8) Walk the holiday light trail at the USNWC

Date: Open daily, including Christmas. You can check the daily activity schedule to make sure there are no day-of changes.

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.

Lights | U.S. National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy. | Free

usnwc lights


(9) Stroll down Gingerbread Lane at the Ballantyne Hotel

Date: Now through December 26

Details: The Ballantyne hosts an annual gingerbread house competition for amateurs, pros, and kids. The houses will be on display most of December and are free to view. You can stop by any time, and it’s free. But you can pay $1 to vote for your favorite house, with all proceeds benefitting Levine Children’s Hospital.

Pro tip: Head there 2-5:30 p.m. for cocoa for the kiddos and hot toddies for you in the Great Room.

Gingerbread Lane | The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge, 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy. | Free

Gingerbread Lane


(10) Get weird at Christmas-themed pop-up bar Jingle City

Date: Now through December 29. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Details: This is where you take your cousins to get festive and buzzed off Rudolph Tipsy Spritzers.

Each room in the 12,000-square-foot, two-story bar is decked out in Christmas decorations and holiday-themed vignettes.

The whole thing was built with Instagram in mind, so there are five main photo ops: Santa’s throne; a toy land blowup display; a candy-themed corner with Lost & Found vibes; Frosty on a park bench; and a white and gold winter wonderland scene. More details

Jingle City | 300 E. Morehead St. | $15 for adults, $5 for children under 12 

Jingle City santa

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