10 things you MUST do around Charlotte in December


Blame it on the infectious holiday spirit — or one too many spiked eggnogs — but making this December to-do list entirely holiday focused was irresistible. ’Tis the season for sparkling lights and sweet treats, and whichever side of the holiday you fall on (glacier or tree), we can all appreciate a little cheer.

So, take this list and check it twice to be sure you soak in in all the holiday happiness Charlotte has to offer this month.

(1) Take a twirl on uptown’s ice rink

Skaters take to the ice at the Holiday on Ice rink in front of the NASCAR Hall of Fame while at CLT New Year's Eve (formerly First Night), Charlotte's official New Year's Eve celebration, on Wednesday, December 31, 2014.

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 seven thousand square feet of ice, rinkside concessions like hot cocoa, and the occasional visit from Santa.

(2) Watch the Leonard Bearstein Symphony in Founders Hall

Look! It is singing bears. #CLT #visitnc Leonard Bearstein Orchestra

A photo posted by Leigh Powell Hines (@hinessightblog) on

Sure, animatronic costumed bears performing holiday favorites like “Frosty the Snowman” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” may seem a little weird. But checking out the 45-minute program of these beloved bears in uptown’s Founders Hall is a must.

(3) Take in the tunes of the Charlotte Symphony


If you’re thinking you’re too cool for giant bear performances (coughScroogecough), at the very least catch one of the performances of the Charlotte Symphony’s Magic of Christmas. Each season conductor Albert-George Schram leads the symphony and its chorus in this spirited concert, which features sing-alongs and festive decor in the Belk Theater uptown.

(4) 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 beer, wine, bites and a band under 10,000 square feet of tents Dec. 4 at EpiCentre’s Rooftop 210 alongside hundreds of other Charlotteans stylishly decked out for this black-tie-optional event. Everyone wins.

(5) Line up for the lights in McAdenville


Pack your thermos of hot cocoa, crank up some holiday tunes and settle in to 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.

(6) Click a pic with the giant ornament

Balls, balls, everywhere !

A photo posted by Marissa (@marissa.plummer) on

Move over Firebird. Artist Niki de Saint Phalle’s sparkling creation in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art may be the city’s most Instagrammable sculpture the rest of the year, but this month it’s all about the giant red ornament in front of the Mint Museum Uptown. (Pro tip: The red really shines in the Valencia filter.)

(7) Stroll through twinkling trees at Daniel Stowe

IMG_dsbglights2_4_1_AJ6BC0AC_L174906266 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.

(8) Order a Cook Out eggnog milkshake

Hitting the Cook Out drive-thru may be the fastest way to make your day merry and bright this season. The N.C.-based chain’s eggnog milkshake is only available in December (there’s a reason they call it the most wonderful time of the year). So save your calorie counting for January’s resolutions and indulge in this creamy dessert.

(9) Shop local at holiday markets


Charlotte has gotten serious about its local pop-up holiday markets this year. Our advice? Hit them all and shop till you drop. You’ll find fun gifts at Tinselbox inside Foundation for the Carolinas, Pink Social Girl Tribe’s market at Sugar Creek Brewing, OMB’s Weihnachtsmarkt, 7th Street Public Market’s Holiday Sip & Shop, VTGCLT Pop in the old Goodyear building on Stonewall, the fancy Goodwill boutique in the EpiCentre and more.

(10) Treat yourself to tea at the Ritz

If you think afternoon tea sounds like something for your grandmother or, like, the Queen of England, think again. The annual $46-per-person holiday offering at uptown’s swanky Ritz-Carlton includes savory mini-sandwiches, freshly baked scones with preserves and cream, and sophisticated sweet treats from Bar Cocoa, all paired with your choice of eight different teas. Make your reservations now because these fill up.

Photos: David T. Foster/Charlotte Observer; Courtesy of Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden


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