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Charlotte is full of Christmas cheer in December, and I have compiled this list of celebrations happening in and around the Queen City to keep your bells jingling all month long. Whether you want to look at Christmas lights, watch a bawdy play, drink holiday cocktails, or just go ice-skating, I’ve got you covered.
Mcadenville Christmas Lights: Drive or walk through the 1.3 miles of the town of McAdenville, NC. The town itself decorates the trees, light posts, and public buildings, and nearly all of the residents take part by decorating their own houses and yards. The lights are on 7 days a week starting at 5:30 from Dec 1-26. There is no fee/admission to view the lights. Note: the wait time can be very long on weekends and the week leading up to Christmas day. Take your potty break before you get in the traffic line, you’ll thank me for that tip. 😀
Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas: Drive the 3.7-mile course to view the more than 3 million lights on display. Your admission also includes fun family activities like a petting zoo and pictures with Santa. The speedway is open nightly from Dec 1-31 but is closed on Christmas day. The wait time here can also be rather daunting, but they do offer a fast-pass upgrade for $10.
Holiday at the Garden: Visit Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens from Nov 18-Jan 1 for their annual holiday celebration. The garden itself is decorated with over 600,000 lights (lights go on at 5 pm), and Santa is on-site to visit with the children on the weekend days. There is also live music, carriage rides, marshmallow roasting, and a model train display to enjoy. The garden shop has holiday gifts, and Crowders Creek Coffee is on-site for hand-crafted beverages.
Holiday on Ice: Head to Uptown for a fun (and freezing) evening of ice-skating. The rink is located in the Nascar Hall of Fame plaza on the corner of Brevard and MLK. The rink is open Wed-Sun through Jan 8. Admission is $10 or $14 with skate rental. TIP: the admission fee is good for the whole day. If you need to go grab some lunch and warm-up, you can still hit the ice again later!
Gingerbread Lane: Visit The Ballantyne Hotel from Dec 8-28 to view the gingerbread houses on display made by local bakers both professional and amateur. You can vote for your favorite house with a $1 donation that goes to the Levine Children’s hospital. If you are lucky, you might even see Santa there!
Leonard Bearstein Symphony: A Charlotte tradition, this animatronic bear orchestra performs several times daily at Founders Hall from Nov 28-Dec 26. The bear musicians play various Christmas songs in 45-minute sets throughout the day starting at 10 am. Admission is free.
Christmas Village: From Nov 24-Dec 24, Romare Bearden Park in Uptown will be transformed into a quaint European village market. There will be food vendors, family activities, live performances, hand-made items for sale, and visits from Santa. For the full experience, order a cup of Glühwein, a mulled wine served warm.
Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Children’s Theatre of Charlotte is doing this musical comedy from Nov 25-Dec 23 at the McColl Family Theatre. Tickets start at $12, but several days are close to selling out! The Children’s Theatre offers a sensory-friendly performance as well as a sign language interpreted performance (check the website for exact dates).
Nutcracker: The Nutcracker is a holiday classic, and this year’s Charlotte Ballet production is full of brand new sets and costumes. The Charlotte Symphony will provide the live music for the show. Tickets start at $25, and the show runs from Dec 3-23.
A Christmas Carol: Join Theatre Charlotte for their 10th annual production of the Charles Dickens’ classic story. The show runs from Dec 2-Dec 11, and the tickets are $27 each. Theatre Charlotte is the oldest continuously running community theater in the state!
The Singing Christmas Tree: This year marks the 62nd annual performance of the Carolina Voices and the Singing Christmas tree (honestly, I am not sure why I have never heard of the tree before. This thing has been going on for 62 years!?!). The tree stands 32 feet tall and holds 100 singers (seriously? How did I not know about this?). It will be presented at the Duke Theater on Dec 11 & 12 with tickets starting at just $13.
The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical: Affectionately referred to as “the trashiest Christmas celebration”, this ATC musical is in its third year of production. You can join the residents of Armadillo Acres from Dec 7-23 with tickets starting at $23. You may want to leave small children and your grandma at home for this one (unless grandma is super cool) as the show does contain a bit of adult language. NOTE: This show does tend to sell out, so I suggest purchasing tickets sooner rather than later.
FOR THE GROWN-UPS
Cocktails with Santa: Head to Blackfinn in Uptown on Dec 16th to indulge in some holiday-themed cocktails and treats. Your $10 ticket will get you a taste of six different beverages, a photo with dirty Santa, and a holiday goodie bag! Make sure to come in your best Christmas attire for a shot at the costume contest.
Ugly Sweater at Whisky River: Also on Dec 16th is Whisky River’s Ugly Sweater contest, the winner receives a $100 gift card and a t-shirt. Bring in a toy to donate to Toys for Tots and you can hit up the appetizer buffet for FREE, also there will be Egg Nog samples (blech. nasty stuff, precious) from 9-10.
Santa Bar Crawl: Saturday, Dec 10 marks the 17th annual Santa Bar Crawl through Uptown Charlotte. Last year the crawl had 1800+ participants, and this year they are going for a cool 2000. The drinking and debauchery starts at 3 pm and carries on until you die of alcohol poisoning or whenever the bars close, I guess 😀 Your ticket price helps support the First Harvest Food Bank, as well as getting you into over 20 bars/pubs without a cover. There will be drink specials galore.
OTHER CELEBRATIONS (since not everyone celebrates Christmas)
Community Hanukkah Celebration: Join the Temple Israel Men’s Club for a Hanukkah celebration on Dec 24. The celebration includes Hanukkah candle lighting, dinner, dancing, and dessert! Tickets are $18 per person (family max of $54) and can be paid in advance or at the door.
Kwanzaa Celebration: Kwanzaa Charlotte has several free family events hosted at various spaces from Dec 26-Jan 1. This year marks the 32nd year of local celebrations in the Charlotte community. Many of the events will have sign language interpreters.
Well, I hope you find at least one activity to enjoy on this list. Actually, if you can’t, you are probably the Grinch 😉 I know I am excited for quite a few of these (ahem, singing trees and singing bears. Come on!). I wonder if I will have time to cram all those plays in…
What holiday celebration are you most excited to see or do? Did I miss something great that is happening in Charlotte?