I used to like Christmas.
It was nice to visit with extended family every year and watch old Christmas movies with my sisters. But that was the extent of my Christmas festivities.
Then I had children.
And now I LOVE Christmas. Like, REALLY love it.
I start listening to the holiday music channels November 1st and I get my tree up earlier and earlier each year. But what I really love is getting to experience the wonder and excitement of Christmas through my children. When we moved to Charlotte from New England two years ago, I was concerned that the more mild climate might mean a milder Christmas spirit. Boy was I wrong! Charlotte has just as many, if not more, holiday activities for the family to enjoy. I’ve narrowed it down to my top 10, but I assure you there are many, many more. But for now, enjoy reading about my faves!
10 – Southern Christmas Show
This event is the perfect combination of olde town charm, shops (over 450 merchants!), festive music, holiday crafts and gifts for all ages, food and wine all under one roof. Oh, and did I mention that Santa is there too?? The event has already come and gone this year, but I have next year’s info below!
Location: The Park Expo & Conference Center, 800 Briar Creek Road, Charlotte NC 28205
Date: November 12-22, 2020
Time: Sunday and Tuesday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., All other days 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Price: $4 kids 6-12, $13 adults
9 – Frozen 2
My husband and I took our girls to go see this the weekend it came out and…WE LOVED IT. Loved the story, loved the music, loved it all! The follow up to the original blockbuster answers the question “Why was Elsa born with magical powers?” She and the original gang (Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven) set out on a dangerous but remarkable journey to find the answer which is threatening her kingdom. In “Frozen,” Elsa feared her powers were too much for the world. In “Frozen 2,” she must hope they are enough. Don’t walk, run to your nearest theater to check this out with your kids!
8 – The Best Worst Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical
For all you moms with younger kids, this entertaining musical is funny and, at only 70 minutes, perfect for those with short attention spans. My husband will be taking my younger daughter to see this while my older daughter and I have a special night out at “The Nutcracker”. (See #7 below.) This funny and heartwarming comedy, adapted from Barbara Robinson’s classic story, tells the story of the Herdmans, six misfit children who volunteer to star in their town’s Sunday school Christmas pageant, and end up teaching the town the true meaning of Christmas.
Location: McColl Family Theatre
Date: November 29 – December 29, 2019
7 – Charlotte Ballet’s Nutcracker
I’ve been waiting for my daughter to be old enough to join me at the Nutcracker, and this year is the year! This Christmas classic is loosely based on the E.T.A. Hoffmann fantasy story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”, and is about a girl who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve and wages a battle against the evil Mouse King. I remember seeing this when was younger and being absolutely taken with the music and the costumes and the dancing and the story. It was breathtaking. I can’t wait to see if my daughter feels the same!
Location: Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon Street, Charlotte NC 28202
Date: December 6-23
6 – Weihnachtsmarkt at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
I’m REALLY looking forward to checking this one out…maybe even without the kiddos! For three weekends in December, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery transforms into a German-inspired Christmas Market, with over 60 vendors selling gifts and baked goods from open-air booths. And, as expected, there will be plenty of beer to imbibe (including Yule Bock which was released on 11/30 to celebrate the season!).
Location: The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, 4150 Yancey Road, Charlotte NC 28217
Date: December 6-8, 13-15, 20-22
Time: Friday 4-9 p.m., Saturday 2-9 p.m.
5 – Winterfest
Every year at this time, Carowinds Amusement Park turns into a winter wonderland. The park undergoes a magical transformation, complete with over 5 million shimmering lights, a 70-foot tree, live shows, strolling performers, interactive experiences, arts and crafts, Santa and special holiday dishes that are sure to delight. Oh and did I mention that there’s a Parade too AND a bunch of kiddie rides will be open!? My kids love going to Carowinds and this event is no exception!
Location: Carowinds Amusement Park
Date: Select Nights from November 24-December 31
Price: Tickets start at $20
4 – Speedway Christmas
We missed this event last year (our first Christmas in Charlotte) so I was excited to take the kids this year. We went the day before Thanksgiving while my dad was in town and it was the perfect way to kick off the holiday season! The 3.5-mile drive-through holiday light display features 3 million lights and choreographed illuminated displays as well as a drive-in movie theater showing classic holiday films and a festive holiday village with food, beverage and gift vendors.
Location: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Date: November 18 – December 31
Time: 6-10 p.m.
Price: $20-$30 per car
3 – The Polar Express Train Ride
All aboard The Polar Express at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer, N.C! This is a family favorite of ours during the holidays! Here, the classic children’s book comes to life with a magical train ride to the North Pole. The interactive show last about 70 minutes and passengers receive hot chocolate, a sweet treat and a silver bell souvenir. And don’t forget to wear your pajamas!
Location: NC Transportation Museum, 411 S. Salisbury Avenue, Spencer NC 28159
Date: November 16-18, 23-25; November 30 – December 2, 7-9, 13-22
Time: Trains run 4-8:30 p.m. Check the schedule here
Price: $32-$42 kids, $38-48 adults
2 – Ice Skating and Lights, at the U.S. National Whitewater Center
I’m soooo excited for this! I grew up figure skating and living in New England most of my life, I miss skating outdoors! But not anymore! This year, the U.S. National Whitewater Center has introduced a one-of-a-kind skating environment that includes 17,000 square feet of ice on the Upper Pond of the whitewater river. It’s designed with three areas — free skate, winter sports and a 600-foot ice trail. The skating area has an on-ice Airstream trailer serving craft beer (yay!), hot chocolate and coffee. Skate rentals are included but you need to bring your own socks. In addition, “Lights” is a new half-mile walking trail in the woods that takes you through a series of light installations featuring honeycombs, vines, crystals, and more. The works are site-specific to the Whitewater Center and are created by Charlotte artist Meredith Connelly (Art by Meredith Connelly). Both experiences will be available with an Annual Pass, Day Pass, or Single Activity Pass, and will be open to the public in mid-November.
Location: The U.S. National Whitewater Center
Date: November 19 – February 16
Time: Friday 4-9 p.m., Saturday 2-9 p.m.
Price: Vary based on the pass (“Lights” is free)
1 – Light Peeping at Christmas Town USA
I’ll be honest…I’m almost afraid to let you all know about this one because it’s such a gem and I don’t want it to get too busy. BUT, in the spirit of Christmas, I’m being generous! During the Christmas season, this little village gets DECKED OUT with houses covered in lights (think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation), 375 lit trees and over 200 wreaths attached to city light poles. You can either drive through the village or you can park and walk. Last year we started the night with dinner at Nellie’s Southern Kitchen in nearby Belmont, grabbed some hot chocolate at Dunks and then drove through the village. This year, I think we might walk and take our time enjoying all the lights.