The Charlotte area is bubbling over with fun, family-friendly holiday happenings. With everything from a whole-town light display to farmers’ market-style holiday shopping and a heartfelt celebration of the first Christmas, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So pack up the cookies and hot chocolate and head to one or all of these merry holiday “to-do’s.”
Whether it’s a winter wonderland in the Queen City or not, WBT and K107.9 Radio brings its annual outdoor skating rink to frost noses and toes in the heart of uptown. Located at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Brevard Street on the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza, the rink opens Nov. 18, with a tree lighting on Nov. 26. Harry Potter Night with special Harry Potter-themed activities is Dec. 9; and on Dec. 18, skate with Elsa and Cinderella at Princess Day. Skate rentals are $3, and the $10 per person admission is good for skating all day. Cash and checks only are accepted on site, but you can purchase tickets online ahead of time to avoid lines at the ATMs near the rink. holidayonicecharlotte.com
Nature is all a-twinkle at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens’ annual holiday display. Happening Nov. 18 through Jan. 1, the gardens, located at 6500 South New Hope Road in Belmont, display more than 500,000 lights, as well as a model train display and horse-drawn carriage rides. There is also the Children’s Holiday Discovery Trail. Santa will be there Fri.-Sun. Nov. 25-Dec. 18 from 6-9pm, and then daily Dec. 19-23, 6-9pm. Children can tell him their wish list and have a picture made. Ticket prices vary – check the website for details. dsbg.org
A popular holiday tradition at the Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge, Gingerbread Lane is a display of confectionary edifices created by local professional chefs and amateurs alike for the hotel’s annual competition. From Dec. 8-28, the public is invited to view the gingerbread houses and vote on their favorite for the people’s choice award. Admission is free, but a minimum donation of $1 is required to vote, and proceeds from the voting goes to Levine Children’s Hospital.
Drive the oval … slowly. More than 3 million lights, NASCAR style, and an improved lights-to-music drive-thru section along the track for holiday enchantment, along the 3.5-mile course. The drive-thru experience is open Nov. 19-Dec. 30. At the end of the course, you can park and walk (and eat!) your way through the special Christmas village set up on the infield to visit the petting zoo, a Bethlehem Village complete with live animals and actors, food and gift vendor booths, and photos with Santa. The village is open Thurs.-Sunday, and all Christmas week. Admission is $25-$30 per car when village is open, and $20 per car when village is closed.
A pop-up Christmas Village like one you might find in a German town is setting up in Romare Bearden Park beginning Thanksgiving Day through Christmas Eve. Shop for gifts from local store owners, have a Christmas sweet treat, chocolate, beer or sausage — all in the German Christkindlmarkt spirit — while enjoying the sights and sounds of uptown. There is a variety entertainment planned for the Performance Stage, too. The village is open Tues-Wed, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; and Sun., noon-9 p.m., closed Monday. Admission is free. cltchristmasvillage.com