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Looking for a fantastic place to spend the holidays? The Charlotte area has some of the most notable Christmas lights in the southeast US. Plus, the weather is typically milder than the larger cities of the north.
The Thanksgiving parade, the uptown Charlotte German inspired Christmas market, the tree and lights at the Panthers stadium are all local favorites. But, if you’re also looking for the biggest and best Christmas light events, here is a list of our favorites.
One of the newest winter celebration events in the area is also one of the largest. 5 million lights turn this theme park into a winter wonderland. Enjoy multiple themed performances throughout the park, an ice skating rink, elaborate decorations, and a 70-foot tree of lights. There’s also a 9 pm larger than life parade. It winds its way throughout the park and culminates at the main stage where a dance party ensues until closing.
Bonus! 25 of the parks rides are open. Most are for a younger audience but some larger coasters, like Copperhead Strike and Afterburn, are open.
Read More on Carowinds WinterFest.
Lights on: November 24, 29, 30 & December 1, 6 – 8, 13 – 15, 19 – 23, 26 – 31 | Hours vary by day
Adult Pricing: from $26 online (plus a convenience charge) to $41 at the gate
Parking: $16 online and $20 on the day
Address: 300 Carowinds Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28273
Speedway Christmas Lights
Over 4 million lights decorate the 3.75-mile driving course. It’s pretty cool to weave your way around the racecourse (albeit slowly), infield, then under the grandstands. Enjoy quirky and cute light displays on the first half of the course. On the second half, the Christmas lights dance to the music on the radio.
Thursday through Sunday, then every night from the 12th to the 29th, enjoy the Christmas Village in the infield. With food and craft vendors, a Ferris wheel, carousel, fire pits to make smores and more. You can even enjoy a Christmas movie on the giant Speedway big screen TV.
Lights on: November 22, 2019 – January 5, 2020 | 6 pm – 10 pm nightly | Closed Christmas
Website: Speedway Christmas
- Monday – Wednesday: $20 per car
- Thursday & Sunday: $25 per car
- Friday & Saturday: $30 per car
- Express Pass: Additional $20 to above pricing
Radio Channel: 101.3 fm
Address: Charlotte Motor Speedway, 5555 Concord Parkway South, Concord
- Several promotional discounts are available. See their website for details.
- Tickets purchased online must be printed.
McAdenville’s Christmas Town USA
One of our personal favorites, is in a little town just west of Charlotte. Every year McAdenville transforms itself into a glowing celebration of the season. For about a mile, gorgeous big homes decorate every square inch of their façade. The centerpiece is the town’s lake, reflecting the tall decorated trees surrounding it.
The town has received so much national recognition over the years, over 600,000 visitors descend on the tiny town every year. This causes horrible traffic lines, which are easily avoided with good planning. For more details and to know how to miss the traffic, see our post on Visiting McAdenville’s Christmas Town USA, the Right Way.
Lights on: Evenings from December 2nd to December 26th
- December 2nd: 6 pm
- Monday – Friday: 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
- Saturday and Sunday: 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Website: McAdenville Christmas Town
Adult General Admission: Free
Daniel Stowe’s Holiday at the Garden
Nicknamed the “Mile of a Million Lights” Daniel Stowe’s Botanical Garden turns into a glittering garden for the holidays. They did a lot to improve it a few years ago, if it has been a while since your last visit, it’s well worth heading back. Don’t worry the big, beautiful orchid tree is still there, so are the model train displays.
Lights on: November 29, 2019 – January 5, 2020 | 5 pm – 9 pm nightly | Closed Christmas
Website: Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
- Online for Monday – Thursday: $14.95
- At the gate Monday – Thursday: $16.95
- Online Friday – Sunday: $16.95
- At the gate Friday – Sunday: $18.95
Address: 6500 S New Hope Rd, Belmont, NC 28012
Billy Graham Library Christmas Lights
Pretty little white lights bring a classic Christmas feel to the library. Horse drawn carriages ($8 for adults) are the best way to see the beautifully lit grounds.
As you make your way to the library, the large barn building, carolers harmonize their Christmas songs and hymns.
Take a peek in Billy Graham’s parent’s home before exiting to the live nativity scene. Stop to say hello to the grazing animals before heading into the library.
In the library, you can step through time in the footsteps of Billy Graham. Learn of his message and his impressive influence. You can visit the graves of Billy and his wife, Ruth, in the Prayer Garden on the grounds.
This is a fantastic place for families and couples, but it is worth noting there is no Santa here. It’s a stripped back to basics, christian spirit of Christmas.
Before you head back into the cold, grab a bite and a few holiday goodies available to purchase at the Dairy Bar.
They also do a nightly Christmas dinner. This sells out long before the season starts.
- December 2 – December 23, 2019 | Library opens at 9:30 am, Christmas activities from 5 pm
- Monday – Thursday: 5 pm – 9 pm
- Friday & Saturday: 5 pm – 10 pm
Website: Billy Graham Library
Adult Pricing: Free
Address: 4330 Westmont Dr, Charlotte, NC 28217
Winterland Express & Celebration of Lights
Over 250 thousand lights decorate Village Park in Kannapolis. You can walk the park but the best way to see the lights is on the Winterland Express, the park’s rotary train. Other features of the park include the animatronic singing bears which perform carols for 30 minutes each hour on the hour. Model train displays are set up Wednesday through Sunday nights. In addition, various shows are put on throughout the month.
- November 25 – December 30, 2019 | Closed Christmas Eve & Day |
- Sunday – Thursday: 6 pm – 9 pm
- Friday & Saturday: 6 pm – 10 pm
Adult Pricing: Free, Train and Carousel rides $2
Address: Village Park, 700 W C St, Kannapolis, NC 28081
U.S. National Whitewater Center – Light Installation
This is something a little different, and definitely not Christmas lights, but an interesting night out none the less.
The center is trialing a few winter activities with the goal of helping us get outdoors and stay active.
Designed by local resident and artist Meredith Connelly, a half-mile forest walking trail guides visitors through a series of light displays. The installations resemble mushrooms, crystals, vines, honeycombs and other curious shapes.
Tip: The trail can be dark in places so we recommend bringing a flashlight.
The center has also installed a 17,000 square foot ice skating rink for the season. The light trail starts just behind the ice rink.
- Starting November 19 – The lights and ice-skating rink will run for the season.
- Times vary by day. Check the center’s website on the day. Typically,
- Light installation runs 6 pm – 10 pm
- Ice-skating rink same as “Pass Activities”: Weekends 10 am – 10 pm, Weekdays 12 pm – 10 pm
Website: U.S. National Whitewater Center
Adult Pricing: Free entry, but ice-skating requires a Single Activity Pass ($20) skates included, bring socks
Address: 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy, Charlotte, NC 28214
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