A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

For Jay Spungin, holiday preparations began in October. As director of operations at BackStage Lounge, an intimate neighborhood speakeasy in Charlotte’s South End neighborhood, Spungin is helping transform the bar’s

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

For Jay Spungin, holiday preparations began in October. As director of operations at BackStage Lounge, an intimate neighborhood speakeasy in Charlotte’s South End neighborhood, Spungin is helping transform the bar’s

16 Sparkling Events for Holiday Fun in the Queen City

Ice skaters at Carowinds Winterfest

For Jay Spungin, holiday preparations began in October. As director of operations at BackStage Lounge, an intimate neighborhood speakeasy in Charlotte’s South End neighborhood, Spungin is helping transform the bar’s usual cozy decor into a festive wonderland.

The Miracle Pop-Up is a local favorite because, as Spungin describes, “It’s an over-the-top Christmas scene featuring thousands of ornaments and thousands of lights, with Christmas movies showing on all of the TVs and Christmas music playing. Our staff dresses in ugly Christmas sweaters.” Even their specialty cocktail menu is inspired by the holidays.

According to Spungin, folks gravitate toward interesting and different experiences at bars that entertain at Christmastime, and the Miracle Pop-Up lives up to expectations. “We really embrace it, and it’s fun to see all of the joy on people’s faces when they see the lounge turned into a winter wonderland.” In Charlotte, the holiday season brings a certain energy and an opportunity to continue traditions and create new experiences. “People crave Christmas and truly look forward to that time of year. It’s so celebratory,” he says.

Holiday pop-ups are just the beginning of seasonal revelry in the Queen City. Read on for a roundup of events that capture the holiday season’s magic.


The Nutcracker is an annual holiday performance from the Charlotte Ballet.

The Charlotte Ballet’s annual performance of The Nutcracker is held at The Blumenthal’s Belk Theater. photograph by Peter Zay

Catch a Show with Sparkle

Gathering as a community during the holidays is a big part of the Charlotte Symphony’s mission. This year’s musical performances will enrich souls and lift spirits. Handel’s Messiah celebrates the rich classical music traditions of the season, and A Soulful Christmas honors Black-centered Christmas music in collaboration with a community gospel choir with members from Friendship Baptist Church, led by Frank McGinnis.

For a quirky holiday extravaganza, try “A Very Thorgy Christmas” from the “Queen of Classical Music,” Thorgy Thor. It’s a bit of variety show, a bit of stand-up, and a lot of joyful music. Mical Hutson, Charlotte Symphony’s vice president of marketing and audience development, notes that the lineup reflects the symphony’s dedication to diversity and inclusivity. “Performances resonate with our community’s rich traditions, embrace the beauty of the season, and introduce new audiences to the magic of live music and the arts,” she says.

Dancers on stage at The Nutcracker, a holiday event in Charlotte NC

A Sensory-Friendly performance of The Nutcracker will take place on December 13, 2023. photograph by Taylor Jones

For your annual dose of holiday nostalgia, don’t miss Charlotte Ballet’s The Nutcracker, held in the Blumenthal’s Belk Theater. A special performance on December 13, the Sensory-Friendly Nutcracker was designed specifically with accessibility for a range of viewers in mind. Some of the modifications include a shortened performance with an extended intermission and house lights that remain at half brightness.

Watch a variety show like no other at the historic Ovens Auditorium, the Queen City’s largest performing arts theater. On the stage of A Magical Cirque Christmas, mind-bending acrobatic feats are choreographed to favorite holiday songs. Purchase tickets as soon as possible for the show that runs December 27 and 28.


Attend a Luminous Event

Charlotte’s mild falls and winters make it easy to gather the troops and venture outside. On November 22, plan to attend Novant Health’s annual Thanksgiving Eve Parade in Uptown which holds the distinction as the biggest parade in the Southeast. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. and also air live on TV.

Even without a snowy forecast, sledding is possible at Light the Knights Festival at Truist Field, which is transformed from a baseball field into a winter wonderland. After snow-tubing down the 10-lane hill, stick around to enjoy ice skating, holiday lights, live entertainment, and on-field concessions. The festival runs from November 22 through January 1.

Take a walking tour among dazzling lights, sparkling fountains, and holiday decor at the Holidays at the Garden at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. The outdoor fire pit lends itself to anyone who wants to roast s’mores, or you can grab a quick bite at one of the many food trucks. Don’t forget to commemorate the night with a photo in front of the Orchid Tree outside the Great Hall.

Decorated trees next to a wood-burning hearth at Christmas Town USA in McAdenville

McAdenville becomes Christmas Town USA during the holiday season. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

West of Charlotte along the South Fork River, Christmas Town USA in McAdenville feels like a real-life storybook. The festivities kick off with a special 5K on November 25 and include light displays, a tree-lighting ceremony, and a festive Yule Log Parade.

Planning a group holiday outing? An amusement park expedition may be the answer. WinterFest at Carowinds is known for its massive holiday light display, ice-skating, and live entertainment. Feast on holiday-inspired comfort food while enjoying music performed by carolers throughout the park. Wind down the evening with the nightly WinterFest Wonderland Parade.

Christmas at the Library at Billy Graham Library offers a live Nativity, a petting zoo, horse-drawn carriage rides, Christmas carolers, and a “Journey of Faith” exhibit. Free admission and parking make it convenient to shop for holiday goodies and books at Ruth’s Attic Christian bookstore.

The snazzy hot rods aren’t the only reason to visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame during November and December. The 30-foot-tall Christmas tree outside the entrance is the first sign that Holidays at the Hall has returned to the Queen City. Snap a picture, wander past the twinkling trees filling Ceremonial Plaza, and continue inside to explore the historic cars and interactive exhibits.


Shoppers at the Mistletoe Market at Camp North End, one of the holiday events in Charlotte NC

Head to Camp North End on the first three Saturdays in December to shop from local vendors at the Mistletoe Market. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Holiday Shopping Made Easy

One of Charlotte’s long-standing traditions is the Southern Christmas Show at the Park Expo and Conference Center. “It really comes down to memories and traditions,” says Jennifer Smetana, show manager, who often attended the show as a child. It’s not just a tradition for the attendees who return every year, she adds. “Many vendors have been a part of the show for 20 to 30 years. Because of that, their products have become traditions for people’s families.”

Over the course of the Christmas Show’s 56-year run, it’s grown to attract more than 400 artisans and vendors from around the country who sell one-of-a-kind gifts. This year, the event will run from November 9 through 19 and will feature a “Nauti or Nice” Coastal Christmas theme.

The year’s signature Mistletoe Market unfolds at Camp North End during the first three Saturdays of December. The event boasts top-of-the-line local and regional vendors offering crafts, handmade products, food, and drink in a festive setting. Beyond shopping, you can check out ice-skating, live music, and a special movie screen presenting holiday classics.


Cheers to Holiday Pop-ups

Like the Miracle Pop-Up at BackStage Lounge, holiday pop-up bars across the city invite patrons to reconnect with old friends or make new ones. Just outside of Uptown Charlotte, you’ll find The Sippin’ Santa pop-up event at The Royal Tot rooftop bar. Festive original cocktails and fanciful decorations turn the establishment into a tropical-themed Christmas oasis.

Billy Sunday brings back the childhood nostalgia of Christmas with family and Santa when their Optimist Hall location becomes the Tinsel Town Pop-Up Bar November 29 through the month of December. Sip delicious themed cocktails and sample snacks surrounded by cheerful lights and Christmas trees.

Get ready to make your times merry and bright, whether you live in Charlotte or just visit for a day. Round up your crew, and prepare to embark on some holiday adventures.

This story was published on Nov 09, 2023

Paige Hachet Jacob

Paige Hachet Jacob is a freelance writer in Apex, NC, who loves to explore and write about her state.