Put on your matching Christmas pajamas, pour some hot cocoa and hop in your cars. These are the 13 must-see Charlotte-area holiday light displays.
This list includes streets, individual homes, and organized displays like the Speedway. Listed in no particular order.
Editor’s note: This guide is updated every year and was most recently updated Dec.13, 2022.
Dates: Now through Dec. 26, 5:30-10pm.
Details: Every December, more than 600,000 people head to McAdenville, aka Christmas Town USA, where 100+ homes go all out on the holiday decorations — it’s a tradition that’s been happening for 67 years. You’ll also see more than 250 evergreens covered in half a million red, white and green lights.
This year, you can grab a beverage at recently-opened taprooms, 115 Craft and The River Room.
Lights are on seven days a week from 5:30-10pm.
Pro tip: Go on a weekday and arrive before sunset.
Bonus: Attend McAdenville’s annual Yule Log Parade on Dec. 15 at 5pm. It starts on the lawn of the Pharr corporate office.
Where: McAdenville (use 212 Wesleyan Drive for the GPS if you need it).
[Related Axios Story: You can now grab a cocktail after exploring Christmas Town USA]
When: Sunday-Thursday, 7am-10pm and Friday-Saturday, 8am-11pm.
Details: The best way to spread Christmas cheer? Visiting the holiday garden at Rosie’s in NoDa for some coffee, wine or beer. The rose garden has completely transformed into a cozy winter wonderland, making it the perfect spot for everything from a happy hour to a date night.
Note: Outside food is welcome.
Where: 940 N. Davidson St.
(3) Chanukah Laser Show at StoneCrest
When: Dec. 19 at 5:30pm.
Details: Holiday lights, but make them lasers — that’s what you can expect at the Chanukah Laser Spectacular, presented by The Ballantyne Jewish Center. The event will also feature a menorah lighting, an LED juggler, plus latkes and doughnuts.
When: Dec. 19 at 5:30pm
Where: StoneCrest Shopping Center (7824 Rea Road).
(4) Carolina Holiday Lights Spectacular at Ballantyne’s Backyard
When: Dec. 15-31, 5-10pm
Details: Explore an outdoor walking trail jam-packed with Christmas magic, including over one million holiday lights, hundreds of Christmas trees, several larger-than-life installations and interactive elements. You’ll also find a holiday village with boutiques, shops and rotating food trucks.
Note: Visit with Santa and see live performances Friday through Sunday.
(5) Hillside Avenue
Details: This street-long light display is one of the hallmarks of Charlotte’s Christmas. Some of the houses are decorated, but nearly all of the trees are adorned with giant light balls – it’s the definition of 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 best part? There isn’t just one house that stands out – almost every house is decorated for the season.
You can drive around, or park and 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.
When: Now through Jan. 6
Details: Light the Knights is a walkthrough holiday experience of over 10,000 lights, plus Christmas trees, seasonal displays (and maybe even some snow) at Truist Field. While you’re there, pick up some European fare at the Charlotte Christmas Village (through Dec. 23).
Where: Truist Field (324 S. Mint St).
(8) Holidays at the Garden at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
When: Now through Dec. 31, 5-9pm. Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Details: The annual Holidays at the Garden is back at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Enjoy dazzling lights, sparkling fountains and holiday décor as you stroll through the one-mile walk. Afterward, you can purchase ingredients to make tasty s’mores by their fire pit or grab a bite to eat at one of their numerous food trucks (check their calendar to see who’ll be there).
Price: Timed tickets can be purchased online; limited tickets are available at the door. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors (60+) and $10 for children 2-12. Children under 2 are free. Members get a 25% discount.
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
When: Now through Jan. 8, 6-10pm. Closed on Christmas Eve.
Details: Nothing says Christmas in the Carolinas like four million lights arranged around the four-mile race track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The show happens every night, rain or shine.
Every Thursday through Sunday, visitors can enjoy a bustling Christmas village and catch holiday classics like The Grinch, A Christmas Story and Home Alone.
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: Tickets start at $30 per car on Monday-Wednesday. On Thursday-Sunday, it’s $40 per car.
Traffic tip: Consider going Sunday-Thursday for cheaper admission and to avoid out-of-towner traffic.
Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway, 5555 Concord Pkwy S, Concord
When: Now through mid-February.
Details: This isn’t your average holiday light show — it’s a brand-new sensory experience of more than 50 installations meant to represent the Whitewater story and mission.
Grab a walking buddy and explore the half-mile, self-guided trail, located in the Ridge and Canyon activity areas.
Ice Skating: While you’re there, get a $25 single activity pass for ice skating. The 24,000 square feet ice rink consists has four skating areas, including two ice trails and two free skate zones. You’ll also find an on-ice Airstream serving hot and cold beverages.
Price: Free admission; $6 parking
Where: U.S. National Whitewater Center (5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy).
When: Nightly, 6-10pm. Check their Facebook page for updates.
Details: This south Charlotte residence puts on a holiday light display that gives the Griswold house some serious competition. The Harbin family puts on a dazzling display each year to raise money for Make-A-Wish.
Where: 10223 Summer House Ct.
(13) Zimnowski Light Show
When: Most nights 6-10pm, but you can check their Facebook page for updates.
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.
Note: Be sure to follow the five asks for visitors. Stay off the front lawn, dim your headlights, don’t block driveways, remain in your car, and tune into 101.3 FM for synchronized music.
Looking for more things to do this holiday season in Charlotte? Find 25 festive things to do in our 2022 holiday guide.