This guide is proudly presented by Charlotte Country Day School. Country Day knows family time is important. This year, get creative finding fun and safe ways to be together and celebrate the season. A holiday light tour of Charlotte sounds like a good place to start.
Put on your matching Christmas pajamas, pour some cocoa, and hop in your cars. Here are 12 must-see holiday light displays in Charlotte.
This list includes streets, individual homes, and organized displays like the Speedway. Listed in no particular order.
Dates: December 1-26
Details: Every December, more than 600,000 people head to McAdenville (aka Christmas Town USA) where 160 homes go all out on the holiday decorations with around 500,000 lights total. The tradition has been going on for 65 years. Lights are on 5:30-10 p.m. weeknights and weekends. Note: This year’s version is scaled down due to Covid.
Bonus: Go on a weekday and arrive before sunset.
Where: McAdenville (use 212 Wesleyan Drive for the GPS if you need it)
Related Agenda guide: How to survive a trip to McAdenville without killing your family
(2) Menorah Lighting at StoneCrest
Details: On the first night of Hanukkah (Thursday, December 10), the Ballantyne Jewish Center will light a menorah of gratitude to say thank you to all of the frontline workers during the pandemic. You can watch from your car or stand socially distant outside as the lighting happens around 5:30 p.m. There were also be jugglers, individually packed donuts and latkes, and goody bags. It’s free and all are welcome.
When: December 10 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: StoneCrest Shopping Center in the parking lot of the Regal Theater at 7824 Rea Rd.
(3) Hillside Avenue
Details: This street-long light display is one of the hallmarks of Charlotte Christmas. Some of the houses are decorated but nearly all of the trees are adorned with giant light balls – it really is magical.
Where: Enter from Park Road and Selwyn Avenue
Details: Expect hundreds of Charleston-style homes decked out in classic Christmas decor (think: garland, white lights, and wreaths). The great thing about this spot is there isn’t one house that stands out – almost every house is decorated in some fashion. You can drive around, or park and take a stroll through the picturesque neighborhood.
Where: A subdivision in Ballantyne, not far from Blakeney. If you need a street address for GPS purposes, plug in Wheatfield Road.
Dates: Now through December 23
Details: New for the 2020 holiday season, Light the Knights is a dazzling display of over ten thousand lights covering the infield and the stands. Enjoy the lights and while you’re there, pick up some Europen fare at the Charlotte Christmas Village.
Where: Truist Field, 324 S. Mint St.
Details: This light show is synchronized to music and since the Coleman family has started, the neighborhood has made it a tradition to compete for best light show. You can check out some other residential light shows here.
Bonus: While you’re in Denver, you can check out the Lights of Raz – a house with hundreds of blowups in the front yard. Check the Facebook page for updates.
Where: 1212 Misty Creek Dr, Iron Station NC
Dates: Now through January 3 (closed Christmas).
Holiday Lights: The annual Holidays at the Garden, a mile of a million lights, is back at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Roast a marshmallow by a crackling fire, shop, 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. Grab ingredients and make tasty s’mores by the fire pit. Make sure to check out the 15-foot orchid tree.
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.
Where: 6500 S. New Hope Road, Belmont
(8) Drive-Thru Chanukah Celebration
Details: Scissor lifts and cranes are just a part of every day Charlotte now — including holiday light displays. This menorah lighting at SouthPark mall on Sunday, December 13 will feature lights on scissor lifts so everyone can see it from their vehicles. There will also be live music and individually packed refreshments to-go.
When: Sunday, December 13 at 5 p.m.
Where: SouthPark Mall in the Dick’s Sporting Goods parking lot near Symphony Park.
(9) McAlpine Farm Road
Details: Similar to Hillside, this is another street in Charlotte that’s decked out in Christmas light balls. The display is slightly smaller than Hillside, but the neighborhood has a decent amount of decorations throughout for an overall festive, scenic drive.
Where: Montibello neighborhood, off Carmel Road
(10) Speedway Christmas
Dates: Now through January 5 (Drive-thru closed December 8 and 9 for private events and Christmas)
Details: Nothing says Christmas in the Carolinas like 4 million lights arranged around a 3.75-mile race track. Drive-in holiday movies and a new 5,400 square-foot outdoor ice rink are added attractions to the lights. The track is open 6-10 p.m. daily.
Note: Make sure you turn your radio dial to 101.3 FM to hear the Christmas music that goes along with the lights throughout the course.
Price: $20-$30 a car (up to 10 people), $40-$50 a van (up to 36 people)
Traffic tip: To avoid long wait times, go on non-peak nights (Sunday-Thursday). Admission is less expensive and there are fewer out-of-town visitors. These two weekends leading up to Christmas are annually the busiest, so be sure to get there early.
Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway, 5555 Concord Pkwy S, Concord
Dates: Now through mid-February
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.
Ice skating: While you’re there, get a $20 single activity pass for ice skating. This new open-air 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 also has a skate-up bar where you can buy craft beer, hot chocolate, and coffee.
Related Agenda story: Ice skating is back at the Whitewater Center this month — plus an immersive light trail
Price: Free, $6 parking
Where: U.S. National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
(12) Zimnowski Light Show
Details: If you’re in the north Charlotte area, or heading up there for other light displays, be sure to swing by this house. It’s another great one with synchronized lights and music. They’re typically running 6-10 p.m. on weekdays and 5:30-10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Where: 15419 Hugh Mcauley Road, Huntersville
Looking for more things to do this holiday season in Charlotte? Here’s the full Agenda event board with 65+ biggest events and here’s an Agenda list of the 16 festive things to do in Charlotte this holiday season.