Winter Wonderland in Charlotte: 2023 Holiday lights guide

The holiday season here and the Queen City has transformed into a winter-themed wonderland, with lights displays and Santa sightings all over town.

From Concord to Uptown and Ballantyne, we’ve compiled a complete guide on where to experience holiday lights and over-the-top Christmas decor in the Charlotte area.

Here’s what’s happening:

McAdenville – Christmasville, USA

McAdenville is the quintessential Charlotte-area lights experience. It’s Christmas come to life with over 100 homes covered in holiday lights, a town center made with a large nativity scene, half a million lights covering hundreds of evergreens and more. McAdenville can be a walkable or drive-through experience.

What we love: It’s FREE. And it’s a years-long local tradition.

Average Cost: $0

When: Dec. 1 – 26

Where: McAdenville, N.C.

Light the Knights

Light the Knights 2023 map. (Light the Knights)

Light the Knights at Truist Field is an ultimate winter wonderland activity in the center of Uptown Charlotte. Guests can expect ice skating, light displays, over-the-top Christmas trees, shopping, snow tubing and more. There’s also a holiday walkthrough that includes lighting throughout the stadium, snacks and a choreographed show. Light the Knights is open as late as 10 p.m. on some days.

What we love: The Whole Family (all ages)

Average Cost: Admission $10, Admission with ice skating and tubing $40

When: Select dates from Nov. 22 – Dec. 10 and Dec. 14 – Jan. 1

Where: Truist Field, 324 S. Mint Street

Live show at Carowinds’ Winterfest. November 2022. (QCity Metro)

Winterfest at Carowinds

Ice skating, live holiday shows, a holiday parade and more are just a few of what Winterfest has to offer.  Around the holidays, Carowinds becomes a winter-themed destination, complete with rides, activities, a curated holiday menu — with cocktails available — and a giant Christmas tree. 

What we love: There’s something for everyone — cocktails or the adults, cookie decorating for kids and lots of photo opportunities for selfie-lovers.

Average Cost: Admissions $32.99 | Ice skating $15 | food varies

When: Select dates Nov. 17 to Jan. 1, 2024

Where: Carowinds, 14523 Carowinds Boulevard

Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Screenshot of 2023 Speedway Christmas map. (Charlotte Motor Speedway)

This event is the largest drive-through holiday lights experience in the region. The four-mile course features millions of lights and has a “synchronized show” that syncs lights to music played through your car’s radio. Speedway Christmas also offers drive-in movies every weekend evening through Dec. 24. Plus, there’s tubing and a Christmas Village offering a selfie station, food, shopping and Santa.

What we love about it: This event happens rain or shine.

Average Cost: Entry $45 (per car), Express Entry $75 (per car) | Tubing $20 (adults), $10 (12 and under) | Shopping/food varies

When: Nov. 17- Jan. 7 (excludes Dec. 24)

Where: 5555 Concord Parkway, Concord, NC 28027

Carolinas Holiday Light Spectacular

At Ballantyne’s Backyard, there are over one million lights, snow tubing, a holiday village with shopping and food, face painting, special performances and Santa. Expect walking paths lit with lights, holiday-themed decorations, candy canes and lots of photo opportunities.

What we love about it: It’s immersive; there are performances, food and other interactive elements.

Average Cost: Adults $25, Seniors $23, Children $15

When: Dec. 7- Dec. 30

Where: Ballantyne’s Backyard, 11611 N Community House Road

Holidays at the Garden

Holidays are made up of a thousand lights at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden this time of year. Expect an outdoor fire, gardens of holiday lights, and food and drinks to enjoy among the decorations. Holidays are the Garden is a cozy and picturesque outdoor walking tour.

What we love about it: The views — lush gardens covered in lights — are unmatched.

Average Cost: Adults $25, Seniors $23, Children $15

When: Nov. 24- Dec. 23 (excludes Mondays)

Where: 6500 South New Hope Road, Belmont, N.C. 28012

Bonus: Mistletoe Market + Ice Skating at Camp North End

Camp North End’s annual holiday pop-up is set to return with a new addition: an ice skating rink. Guests can expect several holiday installations during Mistletoe Market, including live music, cocktails, small business vendors and more on select days. Ice skating includes skate rental and is open daily — including holidays — Nov. 22 through Jan. 7.

What we love about it: There are chances to support small businesses at CNE.

Average Cost: Shopping, food varies | Ice skating – Adults $10, Children 5 and under $10

When: Market – Dec. 2, 9, 16 | Ice skating – Nov. 22 – Jan. 7

Where: Camp North End, Ford Factory, 400 Camp Road

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