How to have the most Instagrammable holiday season ever in Charlotte

Photo via @DanielStoweBotanicalGarden on Facebook

This is the most millennial thing you’ll do all year.

Necessary? No. Worth it? Absolutely.

Millions of lights illuminate Charlotte, from Christmas trees to garden trails to outdoor ice rinks. Create lasting memories (both on and off of your phone) at some of the season’s best holiday displays:

Shine with a million lights


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Forget seeking a unique way to pose in front of a single holiday display — pose along multiple stops in A Mile of a Million Lights at Holidays at the Garden. Don’t miss the musical topiary display and seasonal culinary delights. Adult tickets begin at $14.95.

[Related: Celebrate the season with ‘A Mile of A Million Lights’ at Holidays at the Garden, Nov. 23 through Jan. 6]

[Related: Merry everything: Here’s where you can get into the holiday spirit in Charlotte this season]

Dress for adventure (and photos)


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Capture over five million shimmering lights and a 70-foot tree at Carowinds’ Winterfest. Holiday snacks and live performances enhance the evening event, painting the park in seasonal cheer. Pro tip: order their hot chocolate to get the perfect foodie photo. Tickets begin at $26.

[Related: 14 winter date ideas for every kind of couple, from hockey games to holiday markets]

Embark on a tree tour


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Charlotte’s holiday cheer is most evident in the sheer number of decorated trees speckled throughout the city. From Center City through South End, these glittering holiday traditions pose the ideal spot for a seasonal photo. A few favorites include the Historic South End tree near Atherton Mill, the NASCAR Hall of Fame tree near the outdoor ice rink, and the glimmering red and silver tree in the Wells Fargo atrium.

Walk in a winter wonderland


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Take a break from holiday shopping at the SouthPark Mall to visit their Winter Wonderland. Ice skating, seasonal treats and Santa’s Pub make the mall a haven for Instagram-worthy moments. Consider joining a game of Broomball (hockey with brooms and tennis shoes) on their outdoor rink every Wednesday from 7:30-9:30 p.m. It’ll make you look athletic in photos, if nothing else.

Show your Panthers pride


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Though we’re a fierce team on the field, the panther statue at the Bank of America Stadium looks slightly less intimidating with its winter gear. Pose next to the iconic blue tree or stand beside our mascot in your winter gear.

Stroll through a glittering neighborhood


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Fourth Ward hosts many of the city’s historic homes, which come alive during the holiday season, with shimmering lights and eye-catching displays. Don’t worry if you missed out on a ticket to the home tour — exterior viewing is just as magnificent. Capture a shot of Charlotte’s history or pose outside of Alexander Michael’s before enjoying a warm bowl of pasta. Pro Tip: the pasta is also very Instagrammable, if you can wait long enough to snap a photo before digging in.

[Related: 15 free outdoor fall and winter activities in Charlotte, from hitting the trails to holiday markets]

Capture larger-than-life holiday decor


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As someone who decorated her tree on November 1, there’s nothing I find quite as inspiring as giant ornament sculptures in Uptown Charlotte. Snag a shot of a golden trio outside Wells Fargo near the Mimosa Grill or stop by the Mint Museum Uptown for a picture of the giant red ornament.

Stand still but make it look like you’re a great ice skater


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Can I skate one stride without falling down? Nope.

Did I take a photo to make it look as though I can? You bet.

Don your poofy winter hat and cutest scarf before heading to the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Holiday on Ice. Market lights glitter over couples, families, and friends while the giant Christmas tree decorates the entrance. Admission and skate rental is $16/person.

Tour a racetrack sparkling with holiday lights


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Brighten up your Instagram feed with 3.5 million lights when you visit Speedway Christmas at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Tune into the radio to listen to seasonal tunes as you drive through 3.75 miles of holiday cheer. Additional picture worthy moments include gooey s’mores from a fire pit and a 50-foot ferris wheel. The speedway will be open Thursday-Sunday and tickets start at $30.

Take a quick trip to Christmas Town USA


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Capture 500,000 red, green, and white lights and 265 evergreen trees at Christmas Town USA in McAdenville, a short drive from Charlotte. Over 160 decorated homes speckle the route, posing as subjects for the perfect Instagram shot. Traffic is heavy during the holidays, so opt for a parking spot and walk the display.

Strike a pose mid-holiday shopping


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If you didn’t take a picture with the iconic red Charlotte Christmas Village mug last year, did you even go? This year’s market will feature local vendors, live performances, and specialty foods from November 22 – December 4, giving you plenty of time to capture this must-have photo.

Market lights highlight the path at the Weihnachtsmarkt at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, where you’ll find seasonal beer, locally-produced gifts for your loved ones, and a myriad of photo opportunities in the outdoor courtyard. (Fridays and Saturdays, November 30 – December 15).

[Related: Shop local at these 25 can’t-miss holiday markets, now through December]

[Related: The Charlotte Christmas Village is back to make your days merry and bright, from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve]


  1. What’s with the best of Instagrammable or Instagram-worthy (e.g. The 14 tastiest (and most Instagram-worthy) cheese and charcuterie boards in Charlotte) experiences. Why can’t one enjoy the experience itself. Maybe Charlotte lacks such places that only when Instagrammed it creates the illusion that it is enjoyable.

    When one tries too hard to cultivate happiness it often doesn’t come off quite right. Trying to impress your friends on social media, trying to prove their ironic detachment by slogging through all of this kitsch, while at the same time trying to manufacture some type of enjoyment with what a fab life you lead is a shallow endeavor at best.


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