23 must-do festive holiday events in Charlotte

23 must-do festive holiday events in Charlotte
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This story is proudly presented by Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates.

Christmas trees are beautiful but did you know they can cause allergies? If your holiday decor is giving you the sniffles, hit up the experts at CEENTA (FYI they just opened a new Uptown office).

Ho, ho, ho! The holiday season is upon us. Here’s a list of the 23 most festive events in Charlotte.


(1) Shop at the massive Southern Christmas Show

Date: Now through Sunday, November 24

Vendors: Expect 450-plus merchants selling crafts, holiday decor and, yes, there’s an entire room where you can sample wine from NC vineyards. Pro tip: don’t leave the show without a warm cone of Bavarian Roasted Nuts.

Details: It takes place at the Park Expo and Conference Center. Tickets are $13-$15 (you can save $2 if you buy online). Hours vary depending on the day. Don’t forget $8 for parking. More details.

Southern Christmas Show | Park Expo and Conference Center, 800 Briar Creek Road | $13+

southern christmas show charlotte

(2) Ice Skate at Uptown’s Holiday on Ice

Date: Select days now through January 5, 2020

Details: 10,000 gallons of water turn NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza into an ice rink throughout the holiday season. 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. Boulevard. More details.

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

ice skating rink in uptown charlotte holiday on ice

(3) Ride the Polar Express

Date: Every weekend in December

Details: I remember the first time I saw “The Polar Express” in theaters and I’m not sure I’ve experienced greater magic. So treat your inner child (or actual child) to a holiday train ride at the N.C. Transportation Museum. Rides are every weekend, Friday-Sunday, now through December, starting at 4 p.m. daily $37 kids, $43 adults. More details.

The Polar Express Train Ride | N.C. Transportation Museum, 1 Samuel Spencer Dr, Spencer, NC | $37 kids, $43 adults

(4) Shop Vintage at the 2019 Vintage Charlotte Winter Market

Date: November 24

Details: For the eighth year, 60-plus local vendors are coming together for an afternoon of holiday shopping. Fuel from HEX Coffee and food from Bleu Barn Bistro and The Dumpling Lady will be available for purchase. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $2 general admission, $7 early bird special. Details.

2019 Vintage Charlotte Winter Market | The Fillmore, 820 Hamilton St. | $2+

(5) Watch the Panthers Tree Lighting

Date: November 26

Details: Expect appearances by Sir Purr, the TopCats Cheerleaders, the PurrCussion Drumline, and the Black & Blue Crew. The tree lighting ceremony program will also include new family-friendly performances, children’s activities, festive music, and a special visit from Santa Claus. Bottled water and hot cocoa will be available free of charge with additional food and drinks also available for purchase from various local food trucks on site.

Panthers Tree Lighting | Corner of Mint and Graham streets | Free

(6) Cheer on the 2019 Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade

Date: November 28

Details: A well-loved Charlotte tradition has been going strong for 72 years. You can buy VIP tickets for a seat in the bleachers along Tryon or take your chances of find a viewing spot elsewhere Uptown for free.

2019 Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade | Tyron Street | Free

(7) Experience a German Christmas market at OMB

Date: December 6-8

Details: OMB’s annual Weihnachtsmarkt Weekend is back with 40-plus vendors for you to shop from. Expect tons of lights, Gluhwein (spiced wine pronounced “Gloo-vine”), holiday music, hot cocoa, festive food, fire pits, and tons of beer.

OMB’s Weihnachtsmarkt Weekend | OMB, 4150 Yancey Road | Free to attend

christmas village courtesy of omb

olde mecklenburg brewery christmas village

food and beer at olde mecklenburg brewery christmas village

fire pit at olde mecklenburg brewery

(8) Listen to and see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Date: December 7

Details: Plan to get chills listening to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra perform “Christmas Canon” and their other holiday classics live. The show starts at 3 p.m.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra 2019 | Spectrum Center, 333 E. Trade St. | $49+

(9) Go ice skating at the U.S. National Whitewater Center

Date: Open now

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

ice skating whitewater center charlotte

(10) Visit the Charlotte Christmas Village

Date: November 22 to December 24

Details: Christkindlmarkt, the annual European-inspired Christmas Market, is back at the corner of 7th 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. 

Christkindlmarkt | 7th and North Tryon streets | Free entry

christmas village in charlotte

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

Dates: Now through January 5

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. $20-$30. More details.

Speedway Christmas | Charlotte Motor Speedway, 5555 S. Concord Pkwy, Concord | $20-$30 a car

(12) View lights at Daniel Stowe

Dates: Now through January 5

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, too.

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, Wednesays, and Thursdays December 3-19 for free.

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

(13) 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.

Tree lighting: The official tree lighting to kick off this season is on December 2, starting at 5 p.m. Then everyone will turn their lights on at 6 p.m.

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

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

Dates: November 24 to 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 the usual rides.

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+

(15) Walk the holiday light trail at the USNWC

Date: 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.

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

usnwc lights

(16) Stroll down Gingerbread Lane at the Ballantyne Hotel

Date: December 6-26

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.

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

Gingerbread Lane

The gingerbread houses at The Ballantyne’s Gingerbread Lane are legit

(17) See Fourth Ward’s most beautifully decorated homes

Date: December 7-9

Details: Take a self-guided walking tour through the most beautifully decorated private homes in Charlotte’s quaintest neighborhood. You’ll find carolers, bell ensembles, and horse-drawn carriage rides along with tasting stations and free samples at select stops. Hands down one of my favorite Charlotte traditions. Times are 5-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $30 for a single-day pass and $45 for a weekend flex pass.

2019 Holiday Home Tour | Fourth Ward | $30-$45

(18) Support women and shop at the Girl Tribe Pop up

Date: December 14-15

Details: More than 200 women-owned businesses will be there so you can treat yourself, stock up on Christmas gifts, sip bubbly, and support local women. Plus, they’ll have on-site piercing from the Renegade Pearl and free braids and dry styles from Drybar.

Charlotte Girl Tribe Pop Up Holiday | Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St. | $5 GA in advance, $10 at the door GA, $25 VIP

(19) Be fancy and see The Sweet Melodies of Christmas at Duke Mansion

Date: December 16

Details: The mansion will be decorated for the holidays, Carolina Vocal Projects is performing, and drinks are available at the cash bar.

The Sweet Melodies of Christmas | Duke Mansion, 400 Hermitage Road | SOLD OUT

(20) Drive down Hillside Avenue in Myers Park

Dates: Starts in December

Details: The entire street hangs giant light balls in their trees which canopy the street. It’s iconic. My boyfriend took me here for the first time four years ago (classic) and I remember thinking “I guess I have to move to Charlotte now.” It’s truly that mesmerizing.

Christmas street lights | Hillside Avenue, Myers Park | Free

(21) Lace up for Plaza Midwood’s Running of the Balls 5K

Date: December 20

Details: The 5K route takes you through Plaza Midwood — starting at Resident Culture — under hundreds of Christmas light balls. The race starts at 7:15 p.m. (prime light-viewing time) and you can buy a T-shirt for $15. The race is $15 per person, or $13 for k-12 students.

Running of the Balls 5K | Resident Culture, 2101 Central Ave. | $13 k-12 students, $15 adults

(22) Get dressed up and watch Charlotte Ballet’s Nutcracker

Date: December 6-23

Details: One of the best-loved holiday traditions in the city, the “Nutcracker” is a Christmas classic that never gets old. 

Charlotte Ballet’s Nutcracker | Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St. | $25+

(23) Shop Local at South End Small Business Saturday

Date: November 30

Details: Expect 50 local shops, 70 places to eat and drink, and free trolley rides throughout the district. This year, they’ve got four different festival hubs and you can take the free trolley between them. Maps and free shopping totes will be available, too. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., followed by the South End tree lighting at Atherton Mill at sundown.

Tree lighting: The tree lighting will start around 5:30 p.m., and Sugar food truck, hot chocolate and cider, and holiday performances will be on site. Santa will be there, too.

South End Small Business Saturday | Throughout South End | Free to attend

Looking for more seasonal events? Check out our Agenda event board with 50+ of the most popular upcoming events.

This story is proudly presented by Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates. The editorial selection is not influenced or endorsed by this sponsor.

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