Unlike Katie, who would rather hibernate until temperatures rise above 60 again, I love the cold just as much as I hate it: Love the clothes, coziness and food and drink that comes with the drop in temperature, hate the feeling of wondering if I’ll ever be able to feel my hands and face again.
But let’s just cut to the chase and acknowledge the very best part of the cold, which is the free pass to take part in all of the stereotypical, campy activities that are second-to-none this time of year without being judged for it… especially if they’re done with someone you wouldn’t mind huddling up with or kissing under the mistletoe.
They’re cliché for a reason, right?
Build a gingerbread house
Not feeling so crafty? Take in some seriously impressive gingerbread architecture by people that are at the Ritz, where a life-size gingerbread house will be on display until the 27th, the Ballantyne Hotel’s Gingerbread Lane competition (vote until December 28).
Catch a hockey game
Checkers games run until April, and nothing says romance like drinking hot chocolate and eating stadium food while cheering on fights between players, right? See the full schedule here.
Create your own cold weather cocktail-themed crawl
You’re on your own for this one when it comes to creating an itinerary, but I’ll give you a jumping off point: In no particular order, and certainly not your only options, hit The Punch Room for Bob Peters’ When Figs Fly ($18), Fahrenheit for the Doc Holiday ($15), Reindeer Games ($14) and Krampus ($14), City Lights for Hot Buttered Rum ($13) and Apple Cider Toddy ($15) and Olde Mecklenburg Brewery for mulled wine ($6).
Curl up by a fire
If you and your date can get past the very real threat of smelling like a campfire for the rest of the night and want an excuse to huddle even closer together, head to Craft (order a cheese plate or charcuterie board if you want to look extra fancy), Selwyn Avenue Pub (get there early to snag the prime seats) or Fahrenheit (can’t beat the view) for outdoor fire pits. If you can’t – or just don’t want to spend the night trying to hide your chattering teeth – get to The Workman’s Friend and drink an Irish coffee by the fireplace.
Find Christmas music
Charlotte’s Christmas music scene ranges from creepy (the Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra, playing until December 26) to cute (the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical”, playing through December 30, $12) to silly (The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical, playing through December 23, $28-$50) to classic (Charlotte Symphony’s holiday calendar). Get cultured, or something.
Go ice skating
Head to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza for Charlotte’s Outdoor Ice Rink, which comes complete with a view of Uptown, string lights and a 39 foot Christmas tree. Admission and skate rental is $14, and days and hours of operation vary, but it’ll be there waiting for you and the date you “need to hold on to for support” (wink) until January 8.
Grab a mug of hot cocoa and roast some s’mores
You’ve got an open invitation to City Lights’ holiday party (which runs through Christmas Eve). Take it, and order a mug of spiked cocoa (flavors include Cocoa Mocha and Peppermint Forest, $13) to go with your s’mores platter, which should satisfy that craving for the rest of the year. The Classic Campfire option is always a hit ($16), but if you’re feeling a little more daring, try the bourbon option (bourbon-infused marshmallows, chocolate graham crackers and raspberry, $22).
Hit all of the Christmas markets in one afternoon
Stop by the Charlotte Christmas Village (through December 24), VTGCLT’s pop-up market (through December 21), Holiday Sip and Shop (December 15, 22) and OMB’s Weihnachtsmarkt (December 16, 17)… but go easy on the judgement.
Hunt for Christmas lights
Load up the car with hot chocolate and Christmas cookies and hit the road to find the best decorated streets, houses and trees in the city, then get out and walk underneath them on places like Hillside Avenue in Myers Park or Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Check out this cheat sheet of places to get you started.
Want to see really impressive displays without having to give up the seat heater? Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Speedway Christmas has over 3 million lights spread out over a 3.5-mile drive (now through December 31, $25-$175 per vehicle) and Christmas Town U.S.A. will put Whoville to shame (nightly through December 26, free).
Take a carriage ride
You can do this any time of year, but there’s something special about seeing Fourth Ward at Christmas from a carriage. Check out Charlotte Center City Carriage Tours’ everyday tours, which range from 20 minutes ($12) to an hour ($40). If you want the true Christmas experience, find the carriages at Billy Graham Library during Christmas at the Library until December 23 ($7, details) Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden until December 31 ($6, details) and unexpected spots like the Arboretum and Waxhaw. See the full list here.
Taste test local breweries’ holiday creations
A quick look at the sort of drinks you’re in for:
Birdsong Brewing Co.: MexiCali Stout (coffee, cinnamon, chocolate and chili spice. 5.8% ABV.)
Legion Brewing: Lost in the Midwoods (caramel malt, seasonal spices and cinnamon. 5.3% ABV.)
NoDa Brewing: Hoppy Holidays (spruce IPA available in restaurants and bottle shops), Cold Crash (malt flavors, dark fruit and winter spice. 6.3% ABV.)
Olde Mecklenburg Brewery: Yule Bock (traditional German holiday beer. 7.0% ABV)
Sugar Creek Brewing: Barleywine (cherry, bread and burnt sugar flavors. 10% ABV)
See a Christmas movie
Feature photo via Charlotte’s Got A Lot