10 things you MUST do around Charlotte in December 2016


Blame it on the spiked eggnog. Or the fact that our new CharlotteFive offices are just a few floors up from uptown’s festive ice rink and sparkling tree. Whatever the case, we’re officially in the holiday spirit. So, from sweet treats to seasonal tunes, we’ve made this month’s list (and checked it twice) full of holiday cheer.

(1) Stroll through twinkling trees at Daniel Stowe.

If you can visit Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden’s annual Holidays at the Garden and not be in the holiday spirit, then you’re probably green and hate Whos. This ultimate festive experience includes holiday crafts, horse-drawn carriage rides, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, model trains, a fire pit, s’mores, and hot cocoa, all beneath thousands of twinkling lights in the gardens. Open until Jan. 1. 


(2) Take a twirl on uptown’s ice rink.

OK, it’s not exactly Rockefeller Center, but Charlotte does have an outdoor ice rink nestled among skyscrapers and decked in sparkling white lights. Holiday on Ice on the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza features more than 7,000 square feet of ice, rinkside concessions like hot cocoa, and the occasional visit from Santa. Open until Jan. 8.


(3) Take in the tunes of the Charlotte Symphony.

If you’re thinking you’re too cool for twirling on ice with Santa (coughScroogecough), at the very least catch one of the performances of the Charlotte Symphony’s Magic of Christmas Dec. 9-11. Each season conductor Albert-George Schram leads the symphony and its chorus in this spirited concert, which features sing-alongs, festive décor and even a little falling snow in the Belk Theater uptown.

(4) Indulge in the delicious decor at the Ritz.

Sure, you may think you prefer your pastries on a plate, but that’s just because you’ve never seen a 12-foot tree made with 8,000 macarons or an eight-foot tree composed of 1,700 French profiteroles. You can change that this month at uptown’s Ritz-Carlton, which features both as well as a life-size gingerbread house. Craving a sweet treat yet? After you’ve perused the sugary seasonal décor, stop by the hotel’s Bar Cocoa for actual edible desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth.

(5) Line up for the lights in McAdenville.


Pack your thermos of hot cocoa, crank up some holiday tunes and settle into a toasty car because you’ll have some time sitting in line to see the thousands of sparkling lights in Christmas Town USA. Just to the west of Charlotte, the tiny town of McAdenville goes all out each year with one of the largest light displays in the country. From life-size Santa and reindeer to carols chiming on local church bells, this a full immersion holiday experience. Lights shine until Dec. 26.


(6) Take a trip to a German village via South End.

If you’re looking for a spot to eat, drink and be merry this season, save a Saturday afternoon for Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. The Lower South End spot’s annual Weihnachtsmarkt is held on the first three weekends of the month in its festive beer garden and features live music alongside vendors selling gifts and baked goods. And, for an especially jolly time, you can indulge in the brewery’s winter beers and German spiced red wine while you shop.

(7) Peek inside historic homes decked in holiday décor.

If you’ve ever wished your holiday experience looked like one of those miniature porcelain Dickens-style Village scenes, now is your chance. The annual Fourth Ward Holiday Home Tour Dec. 2-4 is basically a life-size version complete with historic Victorian homes, carriage rides, holiday carolers, and sips and samples of local fare. Really, the only thing missing is a miserly old man, a few ghosts, and Tiny Tim.

(8) Have visions of sugarplums at the “Nutcracker.”

Let’s put aside for one moment that the “Nutcracker” is one of the most famous ballets in the world and that this production includes performances from the talented members of Charlotte Ballet and music from Charlotte Symphony. And let’s not even focus on the fact that this year’s production includes all new elaborate sets and costumes from a famed design team. Let’s just focus on the fact that this is a story that includes a life-size nutcracker doll, an army of gingerbread men and a mouse king. Turn off the Netflix. THIS is entertainment. Dec. 3-23.

(9) Walk down Gingerbread Lane at The Ballantyne Hotel.

It’s officially the most wonderful time of year at this south Charlotte resort. You can soak in the season with fireside holiday teas in its cozy lobby or festive holiday brunches. Or, on a chilly night, snag a seat in the Gallery Bar for hot chocolate, cider and toddies. For the ultimate sweet and seasonal experience, visit its Gingerbread Lane filled with the colorful creations starting Dec. 8.

(10) Party (for the kids) at Second Chance Christmas.

Here’s how it works: You buy a ticket and bring a toy to benefit local children in need this Christmas. Then you get to enjoy drinks, bites and a band inside uptown’s Flight Beer Garden & Music Hall alongside hundreds of other Charlotteans stylishly decked out for this black-tie-optional event Dec. 2. Everyone wins.

Photos: David T. Foster III; Robert Lahser; Jeff Siner


  1. Yes skating outdoors when its 70 degrees a must. It is somehow predictable that this is on the list every year. Granted it will get below 50 degrees at some point this month its become a joke in the community. The original intention of the Rink was to get people to visit the empty NCHOF , but just never happened. I hope you realize that any given day you can skate at one of 2 rinks in Charlotte ? Fresh sheet of ice and its actually frozen and longer than 2 strides.


    Add a visit to MIDWOOD MARKET!!!

    Plaza Midwood is celebrating the holidays with an urban sidewalk market on Commonwealth, Thomas, Gordon and Central Avenue from 11-4pm Saturdays in December!

    Music | Dance | Tasty Treats | Gift Shopping

    Fun for the family on a Saturday afternoon!


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