Christmas Activities in Charlotte: 2020
Each has COVID-19 measures
We are adding to this list as organizers confirm details for the 2020 season. For Santa appearances across the city, head to Charlotte Parent‘s roundup of November events.
Speedway Christmas: By the Numbers
Nov. 21-Jan. 17
Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway (5555 Concord Pkwy. S., Concord) has the socially distanced benefit of being a drive-through event. Here are some figures for its 11th edition.
4 million: The number of lights around the 3.75-mile course
95,000: The seating capacity of the stadium on a non-COVID year
7,920 feet: The length of the Speed-way track that surrounds the displays
$25-$30: The price per car, depending on the day of the week
101.3 FM: The station to tune into while you’re there to listen to the displays’ accompanying Christmas music.
McAdenville Is Back … With Some Changes
More than 500,000 visitors flock each year to the massive Christmas display in this small Gaston County town just 18 miles from Charlotte. This month, the nationally recognized McAdenville is once again covered with lights for the 65th year, but COVID-19 brings changes.
The nightly lighting schedule is truncated to 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Dec. 1-26. There will be no tree lighting ceremony or Yule Log Parade, and the Christmas Town 5K is now a virtual race, meaning participants can run the 3.1 miles either on McAdenville’s course or anywhere else they please sometime between Nov. 21-28.
But thankfully, the lights still shine. That’s because the sponsoring company Pharr and the town’s residents know the effect the display has on the region: Earlier this year, McAdenville briefly brought back the lights to spread cheer during the early days of the pandemic.
Visit ChristmasTownUSA.org for more details on this month’s festivities.
Holidays at the Garden at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
Beginning in late November
This gorgeous, sprawling display is returning to the Belmont garden. Organizers are currently in the planning stages, as the previously planned Chinese Lantern Festival had to be canceled due to the effects of COVID-19. Expect thousands upon thousands of lights throughout the garden, which comprises 380 acres on the banks of Lake Wylie. Attendance is going to be limited so the garden will not be crowded this year.
Ice Skating and Lights at the Whitewater Center
The U.S. National Whitewater Center (5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.) has been open at reduced capacity for the past several months, and its holiday attractions, which debuted in 2019, will return as well. Skate on the 17,000-square-foot upper pond and explore the ice trail beginning in November, and stop by the on-ice Airstream for cold and hot beverages.
The centerpiece of the Whitewater Center’s holiday display is Lights, artist Meredith Connelly’s light-based outdoor installation that runs along a half-mile of trails. “When I approached it, I was thinking about how I (am) when I hike. I don’t look straight: I’m the person that stops and looks at the tiniest mushroom on the trail,” Connelly told this magazine just before Lights opened last winter. “That’s what I want other people to do in a way, is to look at all areas of the woods.” Massive mushrooms appear in Lights, along with fantastical bulbous forms, nests, glowing roots, cocoons, and more. Lights is free; skating requires either a Single Activity Pass ($20) or an All Access Pass.
Tweetsie Railroad in Service
A two-hour drive from Charlotte, Tweetsie Railroad (300 Tweetsie Railroad Ln., Blowing Rock) is more than just a train ride for your aspiring conductor: It’s an enormous Wild West-themed park. The site offers a three-mile trek through the Appalachian Mountains, live shows, amusement rides, and more. Tweetsie has been in operation since 1957, and organizers say they plan to bring back its Christmas attractions, though with socially distant guidelines. This means no crowding, but reservations are required. The winter wonderland version of the park is $44 for adults, $38 for kids 3-12, and free for those 2 and under. Hours and days vary; check tweetsie.com for more info.
The Light Balls of Hillside Avenue in Myers Park
Beginning in late November
On the edge of Myers Park, Hillside Avenue displays enormous balls with lights and chicken wire that hang from the trees. It started in 2012, when a Myers Park High junior working on her Girls Scouts Gold Award turned the attraction into a fundraiser. She collected 18,000 pounds of canned and dry goods for Loaves & Fishes. They’ve continued the Hillside Holiday Hunger Drive-thru ever since.
Gingerbread Lane at The Ballantyne
Each year, The Ballantyne (10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy.) hosts “Gingerbread Lane,” a competition open to creators in pro, amateur, and child categories. Participants craft gingerbread houses that the hotel displays, and visitors can vote on their favorites. There’s a $1 donation per entry; all proceeds benefit Levine Children’s Hospital.
This year, visitors can view the gingerbread masterpieces inside the hotel’s spacious Carolina Room to allow for social distancing. There’s also an option to donate online. The public, as usual, is invited inside the hotel to take part in the display. The Gingerbread Hut sells hot cocoa and is open during the same hours (Dec. 4-27, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.). Masks are required for all visitors.
Take a look at some of the dazzling entries from last year:
A (Virtual) Christmas Carol
The Charlotte Cirque and Dance Center, the school headed by aerial and contemporary dance figure Caroline Calouche, reimagines the classic tale. The live virtual show runs Dec. 19-20, and the center will broadcast it from the school. Tickets are $30.
Arndt Christmas Lights
Nov. 29-Dec. 31
14904 Carbert Ln., Huntersville
Zimnowski Light Show
Nov. 27-Dec. 31
15419 Hugh Mcauley Rd., Huntersville
Hard Family Christmas Lights
1641 Shadow Creek St., Concord
Lights on Indian Beech
Nov. 27-Jan. 3
9592 Indian Beech Ave., Concord
Fantetti Christmas Light Show
263 Palaside Dr. NE, Concord