The ultimate guide


December 14, 2018

Pause Netflix and live a real-life Hallmark movie around Charlotte. Outdoor ice rinks, glittering trees and Christmas markets speckle the city with holiday cheer. Catch a show or sip a hot cocoa to get into the spirit of the season.

Outdoor activities

Winter Wonderland

An outdoor ice rink, Santa’s Pub, and Broomball add fun to holiday shopping at SouthPark Mall.

Where: 4400 Sharon Road
When: November 17 – January 7. Times vary (see website)
Price: Free admission; $17 for skating (includes rental); $99 pre-season pass special/$149 regular

Speedway Christmas

Drive through a 3.75 mile course featuring over 3.5 million lights while listening to holiday tunes at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Where: 5555 Concord Pkwy. S.
When: November 18 – December 31. 6 – 10 p.m.
Price: $20+ per car



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Carowinds (@carowinds) on

Five million shimmering lights, a 70-foot tree, holiday snacks and live performances decorate Carowinds in seasonal cheer.

Where: 300 Carowinds Blvd., Fort Mill
When: November 18 – December 31
Price: $26+ per ticket

[Related: 14 winter date ideas for every kind of couple, from hockey games to holiday markets]

Historic Homes

The Holiday Home Tour is sold out, but don’t fret — the Fourth Ward Victorian homes remain illuminated for external viewing during the holiday season. Walk the historic neighborhood then dine in an old home at Poplar or McNinch House Restaurant.

Where: Historic Fourth Ward neighborhood
When: throughout the holiday season
Price: free

[Related: 15 free outdoor fall and winter activities in Charlotte, from hitting the trails to holiday markets]

Holidays at The Garden


View this post on Instagram


#Christmas #lights #danielstowe #botanicalgardens #christmaslights #dsbg #holidaysatthegarden #gardenoflights #festival #merrychristmas #christmastime #beautiful #thelittlelightsweretwinkling #itsabeautclarkitsabeaut #lightseeing #iphonexsmax #iphonephotography #iphoneography

A post shared by Parrish Turner (@parrisht13) on

Catch “A Mile of A Million Lights”, a musical topiary display, and seasonal culinary delights at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens.

Where: 6500 S. New Hope Road
When: November 23 – January 6. 5 – 9 p.m.
Price: $12.95+ per ticket

[Related: Celebrate the season with ‘A Mile of A Million Lights’ at Holidays at the Garden, Nov. 23 through Jan. 6]

[Related: Merry everything: Here’s where you can get into the holiday spirit in Charlotte this season]

Larger-than-life decor


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by CharlotteFive (@cltfive) on

Pose for a photo near oversized ornaments in Uptown Charlotte.

Where: Red ornament — located outside the Mint Museum Uptown; Golden Trio – located outside of Mimosa Grill
When: throughout the holiday season
Price: free

Christmas Town USA

Drive (or stroll) through the town of McAdenville, which features over 160 decorated homes, 500,000 lights and 265 evergreen trees.

Where: McAdenville
When: November 30 – December 26
Price: free

[Related: 12 things to know about visiting McAdenville (aka Christmas Town USA]

Holiday on Ice

Ice skate (or give it your best shot) under market lights and a glittering tree at the NASCAR Hall of Fame throughout the holiday season.

Where: 400 E Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
When: November 16 – December 17. 5 – 10 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday, times vary Sunday (see calendar)
Price: $16/person (includes skate rental); $40 season pass

Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by NBC Charlotte (@wcnctv) on

Live your holiday movie dreams in a horse-drawn carriage ride around the Billy Graham Library grounds.

Where: 4330 Westmont Drive
When: November 29 – December 22.  5 – 9 p.m. Monday – Thursday, 5 – 10 pm. Friday, 2 – 10 p.m. Saturday
Price: $8 for adults; $4 for children under 12

Holiday Races

Get in Christmas-cookie shape at one of Charlotte’s annual races. The faster you run, the more cookies you deserve. Upcoming races:

Santa Run 8k and Snowman Dash

Where: 300 S. Church St.
When: December 15. 9 a.m.
Price: $25 – $45

Plaza Midwood’s Running of the Balls 5k

Where: Resident Culture Brewing (2101 Central Ave.)
When: December 14. 7 – 8 p.m.
Price: free (or $20 for race entry + shirt)

RiRa 5k Santa Run

Where: 208 N. Tryon St.
When: December 16. 3 p.m.
Price: $40 pre-registration; $45 day-of registration (all proceeds benefit the local Patriot Family Military Foundation)

Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k/5k

Where: TBA
When: January 1. 5k at 7:45 a.m.; 15k at 8:05 a.m.
Price: $49 for 5k; $69 for 15k


Peppermint Forest


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Peppermint Forest Christmas (@peppermintforestchristmasshop) on

Ornaments, collectibles and a trail of holiday trees make the Peppermint Forest Christmas Shop a must-see holiday shopping destination.

Where: 11729 Carolina Place Pkwy.
When: Now – January
Price: Depends on how magical you want your holiday season to feel

Girl Tribe Holiday Pop-Up


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Girl Tribe Co.✌️ (@girltribeco) on

Stuff stockings with a little girl power this year with goodies from local women-owned brands while enjoying brews and snacks at the Girl Tribe Lab.

Where: 1800 Camden Road Suite 102
When: December 15 – 16. 12 – 5 p.m.
Price: Free general admission; VIP tickets are $20 advance and $25 day-of

[Related: Find holiday gifts under $40 at these 20 spots in Charlotte]

Charlotte Christmas Village

Enjoy live performances, Glühwein and specialty foods while shopping for loved ones at Charlotte’s annual Christmas Village.

Where: Corner of 7th and N. Tryon streets
When: November 22 – December 24, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday
Price: Free

[Related: The Charlotte Christmas Village is back to make your days merry and bright, from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve]



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by oldemeckbrew (@oldemeckbrew) on

Shop local vendors’ goods while enjoying a seasonal beer or Gluhwein at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s German-themed holiday market.

Where: 4150 Yancey Road
When: November 30 – December 15. 2 – 9 p.m.
Price: Free

[Related: Shop local at these 25 can’t-miss holiday markets, now through December]

Holiday Trees

Gather inspiration for your Christmas tree around Charlotte, where towering pines shimmer with holiday cheer. A few of our favorites: Historic South End tree near Atherton Mill, the NASCAR Hall of Fame tree near the outdoor ice rink, and the glimmering red and silver tree in the Wells Fargo atrium.


The Magic of Christmas

Listen to tunes from the Nutcracker and The Polar Express during the Charlotte Symphony’s riveting holiday performance at the Knight Theater.

Where: 430 S Tryon St.
When: December 14 – 23. Times vary (see performance schedule here)
Price: $19 – $195

The Nutcracker

Catch the sugar plum fairy in action at Charlotte Ballet’s rendition of the Nutcracker at the Belk Theater.

Where: 130 N Tryon St.
When: December 7 – 23
Price: $35 – $100

The 64th Annual Singing Christmas Tree


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Carolina Voices (@carolinavoices) on

Listen to an all-new production of the Carolina Voices’ Singing Christmas Tree, featuring incredible arrangements of favorite holiday classics highlighting the MainStage Choir, Miller Street Dance Academy and special guests.

Where: 430 S Tryon St.
When: December 8 – 9. Times vary (see performance schedule here)
Price: $26 – $45

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical

Back by popular demand, the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte School of Theatre Training will perform a family-friendly holiday show adapted from Barbara Robinson’s classic story.

Where: 300 E. 7th St.
When: November 24 – December 28
Price: $15+

Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by TJ Washington (@tjwashington76) on

Founded in 1997 by Spintastic Sounds Inc., the Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra of audio-animatronic bears brings Christmas cheer to Founders Hall throughout the holiday season.

Where: 100 N. Tryon St.
When: November 26 – December 27. View performance schedule here.
Price: free

A Christmas Story, The Musical

Follow Ralphie on his quest to get his Christmas wish at Ovens Auditorium in a musical version of the 1983 classic A Christmas Story.

Where: 2700 E. Independence Blvd.
When: December 4 – 9. Times vary (see performance schedule here)
Price: $25+

Trans-Siberian Orchestra


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (@transsiberianorchestra) on

Join the Trans-Siberian Orchestra as they perform A Ghost of Christmas Past at Spectrum Center this month.

Where: 333 E. Trade St.
When: December 8. 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Price: $47.50+

Intel of Your Wildest Dreams!


Good stuff, right? Sign up to get our newsletter delivered to your inbox every Friday. It’s free, so no excuses.


By entering your email address you are agreeing to our TERMS OF USE