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10+ Awesome Beaches Near Charlotte, NC For Your Next Family Vacation

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If you are looking for beaches near Charlotte, NC, then you’ve found our list of the top beaches for your next family trip. We gathered some wonderful beaches on the SC and NC coast with kid-friendly attractions and things to do, perfect for planning your itinerary. Though finding beaches within 3 hours of Charlotte, NC is pretty tough, most of these beaches are within a 3 to 4 hour drive.

Beaches near Charlotte, North Carolina

10 Best Beaches Near Charlotte, NC

SC Beaches Within 4 Hours of Charlotte

Believe it or not, many of the beaches of South Carolina are closer to Charlotte than the ones in NC! Plus, the SC coastline offers many family-friendly beaches with lots of things to do with. We have details on ocean excursions, hotels to stay at, and even some of the best attractions at these SC beaches. 

Myrtle Beach, SC

~3.5 Hours from Charlotte
People travel from across the country to come to Myrtle Beach, SC. Over the years it has transformed many times, and the area is very family-friendly with lots to do. Plus, it is the closest beach to Charlotte, NC.

From attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium and the epic SkyWheel to fun activities for nature lovers like Myrtle Beach State Park and Brookgreen Gardens, you’ll have a full itinerary in no time. There are also luxury golf courses to check out if that’s your kind of thing. Our Travel Guide to Myrtle Beach offers ideas for great hotels and family-friendly activities.

Travel Guide to Myrtle Beach

Check out our Travel Guide to Myrtle Beach, with information about things to do, places to stay, and even places to eat!

Huntington Beach State Park

~3.5 Hours from Charlotte
Staying on the beaches of an SC State Park offers something magical, the chance to see some amazing wildlife! Plus, the earthy smell of a protected beach and the small crowds make for a relaxing time. Kids can hunt for seashells and play in the sand or head to the nature center to learn about coastal wildlife. explore. Huntington Beach State Park offers beach camping, perfect for nature lovers.

Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina

Folly Beach

~3.5 Hours from Charlotte 
This beach, located just 20 minutes from downtown Charleston, SC, is my personal favorite. You’ll find surfers lining up along the break every morning, a cute downtown area with total beach vibes, and proximity to several other beaches and the major cities of Charleston and Mt. Pleasant.

While you’re visiting Folly Beach, check out our Travel Guide to Charleston, SC! You’ll find places to stay and things to do that are worth the hype.

Edisto Beach

~3.75 Hours from Charlotte
Wanting a more nature-based vacation? Edisto Beach has tons of wildlife to see, quiet beaches to look for seashells and crabs, and trees lined in Spanish moss that make your vacation feel so dreamy! Kids will love looking for shark teeth on the beach.

Hilton Head Island

~4 Hours from Charlotte
Hilton Head Island is considered one of the most family-friendly and beautiful areas on the South Carolina coast, making it one of the best places to visit near Charlotte, NC. Our Guide to Hilton Head Island has over 20 kid-friendly vacation ideas, from pirate excursions and dolphin tours to parks and arcades.

Things to do on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Find out why Hilton Head Island is an excellent beach destination with these 20 Kid Friendly Vacation Ideas!

NC Beaches Near Charlotte, NC

The beaches of North Carolina are loaded with things to do! We rounded up five of the best beaches with watersports, beach excursions, ocean charters, and family-friendly beaches to relax on.

Carolina Beach

~3.5 Hours from Charlotte
Deemed the perfect family-friendly beach, Carolina Beach on the southern coast of North Carolina is a great beach for families with kids. The quaint boardwalk has a Ferris wheel and lots of beach vibes. Smaller crowds make this beach a great weekend trip without the hassle of finding a spot on the sand to park your things. Kure Beach is less than a 15-minute drive, so you can bounce between beaches on your vacation.

Things to do in Carolina Beach, North Carolina

See why we think Carolina Beach is an excellent family-friendly beach for your next vacation!

Wrightsville Beach

~3.5 Hours from Charlotte
With watersports like surfing and SUP being very popular, Wrightsville Beach is great for the family looking for adventure! There are also scenic tours of the island and an awesome nature center your kids will enjoy learning about the wildlife the area has and the importance of protecting it.

Holden Beach

~3.25 Hours from Charlotte
Just south of Wilmington, you’ll find Holden Beach near Ocean Isle. Holden Beach offers small-town charm and unspoiled beauty, making it a great option for a vacation with kids.

Topsail Beach

~4 hours from Charlotte
Located on the southern end of the 26-mile barrier island, Topsail Beach is worth the 4-hour trip from Charlotte. Enjoy a few hours on the expansive beach. Then head to the marsh to watch seabirds and catch a glimpse of a dolphin or two! We recommend the southern tip of the island’s pristine undeveloped beach, Serenity Point Sandbar. Here, you’ll find a peaceful day away from the busy part of the island.

Bald Head Island

~4 hours from Charlotte
Head to this island on the coast of NC if you are looking for kayaking, hiking, nature adventure with your kids, and learn about crabbing with the Conservancy staff at Village Creek Access. They also have a cool Bald Head After Dark program, where you can learn all about the night creatures that call the island home. You’ll find lots of kid-friendly things to do in the camps and recreation center as well!

Drive a Little Further: 4+ Hours Beaches in NC Worth the Drive

Outer Banks

~ 6 Hours from Charlotte
The stunning chain of barrier islands located off the coast of North Carolina is an excellent beach vacation destination. Especially if you are looking for natural beauty. You can stay in Corolla and catch of glimpse of wild horses, Nags Head, or Roanoke, or head down the dunes to Avon or Cape Hatteras for a relaxing vacation. There are tons of watersports on the sound side of the islands, boating tours, lighthouses to check out, and more! Our kids love watching the kitesurfers tearing up the waves on the sound. The islands have mostly home rentals and smaller crowds, with lots of affordable options. 

Outer Banks boardwalk and crab in Avon, North Carolina

Atlantic Beach

~5.25 Hours from Charlotte
Head to the barrier island of Bogue Banks and visit Atlantic Beach if you need a little escape from the day-to-day. With watersports galore, shopping, and a pretty neat skatepark/mini golf combo to check out, Atlantic Beach is a great option for your family. There are several beaches in the area, including Emerald Isle, so you can beach-hop for a few days during your vacation.

10 Best Romantic Restaurants in Charlotte, NC

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In need of one of The Queen City’s perfect date night restaurants? Charlotte, NC knows how to create ambiance and a romantic atmosphere for couples through exceptional dining experiences. These 10 romantic restaurants in Charlotte, NC are certain to make date night even more special. These restaurants are perfect for a night out, Valentine’s Day, or any special occasion with your loved one. We have collected fine dining establishments in addition to some affordable options, so you can fit a date night into your budget!

Date night restaurants near Charlotte, North Carolina

Best Fine-Dining, Romantic Restaurants in Charlotte, NC

For any special occasion, finding the perfect restaurant that is luxurious and offers a unique experience is top of the list. These fine-dining date night restaurants in Charlotte, NC will make for the perfect night along with a wonderful memory.

The Fig Tree Restaurant

1601 East 7th Street, Charlotte, NC

The Fig Tree is the epitome of fine dining and romance. With an expansive wine list and main course meals like Veal Osso Buco and Pekin Duck Breast over Creamy Pumpkin Polenta, you will be dazzled by the restaurant’s curated menu. The atmosphere is cozy and warm, a perfect setting for a romantic evening.


4620 Piedmont Row Drive Suite 170B, Charlotte, NC 

If you are looking for a restaurant with a wow factor, then Peppervine is the place. With locally sourced ingredients, craft cocktails, and a large selection of worldly wines, you are certain to impress your date. The restaurant is known for its small plates shares with items like Thai Pork Spare Ribs and Spanish Octopus, or you can indulge in a large plate option of items like Lamb Pappardelle. Just, save room for dessert!


715 Providence Road, Charlotte, NC

There is nothing quite like Italian food, it originates from one of the most romantic countries in the world! Stagioni is highly recommended and with modern Italian options like Truffle Tagliatelle, Duck Confett Gnocchi, and Spicy Braised Lamb Cavatelli, it’s easy to see why. Plus, you can order to go if you want to bring the delicious menu back to the coziness of your own home. However, it’s hard to pass on the supreme romantic ambiance and vibes of dining at Stagioni.

McNinche House

511 North Church Street, Charlotte, NC

Wanting to go a little more luxury? Then McNinche House is the ultimate fine dining experience. With three, four, and five-course dining options, you will spend the evening feeling the sparks fly between you and your partner while enjoying some of the best food you’ll ever have. If you’re already going all out, we recommend the 5 Course Chef’s Tasting, because Chef knows best! The restaurant is inside a Victorian house in the Fourth Ward, so dining is set up in various rooms with variations in decor and ambiance, all of which are stunningly romantic.

More Affordable: Best Date Night Restaurants: Charlotte, North Carolina

Date night doesn’t always have to be some extravagant experience. Sometimes it’s more about quality time with someone you love. These restaurants are perfect for a laid-back, low-key date night with good food, great drinks, and lots of love!

Alexander Michaels

401 West 9th Street, Charlotte, NC
No Reservations Accepted

In need of a date night restaurant that is a little more affordable, but also has pub vibes? Alexander Michaels is loved by Charlotte locals, and with a relaxed vibe and warm lighting, it would make a great low key first-date option.


$$ – $$$
1601 Elizabeth Avenue, Charlotte, NC

With handcrafted cocktails, pasta dishes like Blue Crab Ravioli and Beef Tartare, and small plate options to share, Customshop is a wonderful option for a date night spot. The restaurant prides itself on sourcing high-quality local goods from farms and purveyors, giving a regional touch to the menu. Plus, it was voted one of Charlotte Magazine’s Top 50 restaurants.

Gibson Mill Market in Concord

325 McGill Avenue NW, Concord, NC
No Reservations Required

Just a short drive north of Charlotte, you’ll find Gibson Mill Market. Date night here would be casual and fun! You can grab a brew from one of the 3 breweries, dine at one of many food hall-style restaurants inside the mill, and then head downstairs to play board games together at Luck Factory Games. There is also an escape room called The Valcarol Missions. Sounds like the perfect date night to me!

Gibson Mill and Market in Concord, North Carolina

The Market at Gibson Mill makes for the perfect laid-back date night!


131 North Main Street, Davidson, NC

Looking for someplace fresh and farm-to-table? Kindred regularly changes its menu, so you can enjoy a date here with your significant other regularly and still have a new and unique dining experience. The restaurant is in the Davidson College area, with laid-back vibes to match.

Dilworth Tasting Room

300 East Tremont Avenue, Charlotte, NC 
Southpark Location: 4905 Ashley Park Lane, Charlotte, NC

Date night wouldn’t be complete without some handcrafted cocktails! Dilworth Tasting Room takes crafting cocktails seriously, and you’ll find gorgeous drinks, delicious wine, and a complimentary menu that will elevate date night to spectacular. Plus, they have special nights you can enjoy throughout the week with wine flights, jazz music, and ½ off-wine deals. 

300 East

300 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC

Nothing says charming quite like a restaurant located inside a renovated house. 300 East has a quirky charm to it and serves sharable plates, salads and sandwiches, and entrees like Bronzed Sesame Salmon and Grilled Gorgonzola Cream Filet. They also have some tasty-looking cocktails too.

25+ Family Friendly FREE Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

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Having fun with your family is always easier when you have free things to do! Charlotte, NC has a lot of options, from adventurous to educational. You don’t need expensive tickets to enjoy these activities, just bring your family and have a fantastic time, all without breaking the bank.

Free things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina for families.

Free Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

Finding something to do with your kids that doesn’t cost an astronomical amount in today’s economy can be difficult. Luckily, we gathered some of the best free things in Charlotte, NC that are both family-friendly and fun.

Things to Do at Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center in Charlotte

The Playground at Reedy Creek Park, Nature Center, and Preserve is so unique!

Schiele Museum of Natural History and Planetarium near Gastonia, North Carolina

The Schiele Museum in Gastonia, NC has a free Tuesday night each month.

Free Things to Do Outdoors in Charlotte, NC

Pack your bag and explore the beautiful outdoors at Reedy Creek Park, Nature Center, & Preserve in Charlotte, NC. They regularly have free events where your kids can meet and greet with animals and learn about nature. Plus, they have a nature center that is indoors, so you can visit any time of year. You’ll also find these events at the Latta Nature Preserve, McDowell Nature Preserve and Center, and Stevens Creek, all of which are part of the Mecklenburg County Nature Centers and Preserves.

Village Park in Kannapolis, NC has a gorgeous park with lots of trees, a playground, a splash pad in the warmer months, a huge greenspace, a paved walking trail, and even a Venetian carousel (only $1.50) that is stunning!

Village Park Kannapolis

Village Park in Kannapolis, NC has a free splash pad, paved trails, lots of green space, and a pretty cheap pass to ride a train!

You can also find an abundance of trails and greenways in Cabarrus County, many of which are paved. You’ll even find mountain biking on some of the trails.

Freedom Park is a beautiful park just outside of downtown Charlotte that has a huge playground area, shaded walking trails, and even a Play 60 NFL playground you can explore as well.

Head to Belmont, NC to check out the new tree house-themed playground at Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park along the Catawba River. Enjoy the beautiful wide, paved walking paths, and public dock where you can put in a canoe or kayak and enjoy the river. We love the bench swings along the dock! Pack a picnic and make a full-day adventure out of this free park.

Looking for a day outdoors? This one isn’t totally free but they offer a lot for cheap. Get a family membership for just $12 a month to Anne Springs Close Greenway In York County, SC, just south of Charlotte. The Greenway has hiking, biking, and paddle sports!

You can spend the day outdoors at the Anne Springs Close Greenway in York County, SC, only 25 minutes from Charlotte. Family memberships start at $12 per month.

The Anne Springs Close Greenway in York, South Carolina

Interested in the history of Charlotte? Take a self-guided tour through the Fourth Ward, with stunning historic homes painted in pinks, blues, greens, and purple. The tour is something you can do time and time again, picking out different areas to explore each time.

Take a stroll around the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens and enjoy the sights and smells of a beautifully maintained garden while teaching your little ones about plants and how to care for the environment.

Free Things to Do Indoors in Charlotte, NC

The Schiele Museum offers Free admission on the second Tuesday of each month from 4 – 8 pm, so you can explore all of the fun science exhibits, including dinosaurs, critters, and even a mineral exhibit.

Visit your local Home Depot on the first Saturday of each month for a FREE project. Projects are usually themed for upcoming holidays or seasons, and your kids can build and make something they will love.

Home Depot has a FREE kids workshop each month that your kids will love bonding with you over.

Home Depot kids workshop

Cinergy Cinemas in Charlotte offers sensory-friendly screenings of a kid-friendly movie one Saturday per month! The theatre will brighten lights, reduce sound, and make space for people to move, talk, dance, and sing during these movies.

Wednesday Night Live at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is from 5-9 and is an excellent option for parents with older children or children who love the arts to explore the exhibits, listen to live music, and participate in an available workshop. 

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Culture Arts+Culture always has free exhibits and demonstrations you can check out.

Head to ImaginON, where you will find a plethora of free, family-friendly events. They have specialized events for younger kids like storytime, music performances, puppet shows, and so much more! Check out the ImaginON calendar to find out what’s happening the day you want to visit.

Legos at ImaginOn

You will also find free events and storytime at all 20 of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Libraries, many of which occur weekly and are a great way to socialize as a parent with young kids!

Check out a FREE Live Story Time at the Ballantyne Arts Center, part of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. These events happen a couple of times a month and you will want to register ahead of time.

You will also find that the Mint Museum has Free admission on Wednesday Nights from 5-9. The exhibits feature permanent collections along with some rotating exhibitions. This is a great option to explore with older kids and teens who can learn while also enjoying the arts. They usually have a craft section set up on Wednesday night as well.

Kids Eat FREE!

Looking for Kids Eat Free deals in Charlotte, NC? These restaurants offer meal deals throughout the week, so you can save a little money on your kid’s meal while indulging in some delicious food! 

Kids Eat Free Charlotte, NC

Kids Eat FREE throughout the week at these Charlotte, NC area restaurants.

Seasonal Free Things to Do

These seasonal things to do near Charlotte, NC are completely free! You’ll find fun summer activities like spraygrounds and flower fields in addition to winter activities like holiday lights and sledding.

Free Summer Activities in Charlotte, NC

These Apple Store Classes and Camps for Kids are FREE. Your kids will learn design, inventing, and other STEAM-style lessons at this summer camp.

You can explore the Draper WMA Sunflower Fields at the end of June, the beginning of July each year. The fields are filled with sunflowers that you can take epic photos with. Just please, pack out what you pack in!

Draper Sunflower Fields in York County, SC has 24 acres of gorgeous sunflowers you can visit each summer!

Draper wma sunflower fields

Spraygrounds: Free Water Fun!

You will find nine spraygrounds operated by the Mecklenburg Parks and Rec that are a pretty great way to beat the heat. One of the most popular, Veterans Park, even has a cover so your little ones won’t get burned while they run around in the water.

Romare Bearden is another noteworthy park since it’s located on the outskirts of the city skyline, so you have an amazing view!

First Ward Park is right beside Discovery Place, so you can add a visit to the sprayground after visiting the science center.

Winter in Charlotte, NC: Free Activities

Though Charlotte doesn’t see much snow, just west in Western North Carolina you can check out these places for FREE sledding near Charlotte if you’re looking to take a day trip!

You’re in for a treat at this epic light display in Christmas Town USA! McAdenville, NC is home to a town that lights up during the holiday season, with almost every home participating for miles.

If you need a boost to your holiday spirit, check out the FREE display of lights at the Celebration of Lights in Kannapolis, NC. Seeing the lights are free, and there is even a firework display and tree lighting on opening night!

Celebration of Lights in Kannapolis, North Carolina

The Celebration of Lights has thousands of lights, a Venetian Carousel, train rides, and more!

Stuck at Home? Free Fun With What You Have!

Sometimes, we all get stuck at home because of the weather or just don’t feel like leaving the house today (we don’t judge). These 25+ Things to Do When You’re Stuck at Home are just what you need to make the day special with the things you already have on hand.

Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

Don’t miss our full guide to things to do in Charlotte, NC!

Channel Your Inner Ninja Warrior at Ninja Nation in Huntersville, NC

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Have you been looking for a place to sharpen up your ninja warrior skills? Ninja Nation: Huntersville has courses for all ages! Even your kindergartener can climb, jump, and burn off some energy while fitting in a little hidden exercise. Their open gym is a great way to dip your toes into the world of parkour, but they also have specialized classes, birthday party packages, and even summer camps!

Ninja Nation in Huntersville, North Carolina

Ninja Nation: An Epic Arena for All Ages

Get ready to watch your kids perform some amazing stunts that may even surprise you. If you are wondering “What exactly is a Ninja course?”, then you’re in for a treat, because it is pretty unique.

The gym is huge, with over 11,000 square feet of space filled with warped climbing walls, ropes challenges, high-quality soft mats, padded foam blocks, obstacle courses, stationary rings, and so many more interactive features. If you have seen the show Ninja Warrior, then you have some sort of idea of what a course can look like.

The full course at Ninja Nation in Huntersville, North Carolina
Arena and large foam blocks at Ninja Nation near Charlotte, North Carolina

Open Gym at Ninja Nation

Kids 5 and older are welcome at Ninja Nation, and the Open Gym courses are designed for beginners, intermediate, and advanced participants.  Open Gym is a time where you can explore the course without instruction.

Younger kids will have a blast stacking the foam blocks and creating their own obstacles. Older kids will get a fantastic upper body workout trying out all the equipment as well. Plus, they’ll have to opportunity to push themselves and boost their self-esteem when they master the warped wall!

There are coaches available to help spot and give advice, but it’s more informal during these times. You and your kids will need clean tennis shoes to wear while at the gym, so make sure to pack your most comfortable pair. 

Drop in Classes

If your kid needs a little more guidance, drop-in classes at Ninja Nation are recommended. With classes like Ninja Basics, Girl Power Ninja Class, and even a Mini-Heroes Class for preschoolers, you can find a drop-in class for every skill level.

Ninja & Parkour Program

Maybe your kid is super dedicated and wants to take it to the next level! The Ninja & Parkour Program is where you should look. These 8-week courses focus on helping your kid learn the skills they need, while also strengthening their body and learning how to control their body movement.

Homeschool Program

It can be difficult to find programs for kids that fit the requirement for physical education when it comes to Homeschooling. Ninja Nation’s Homeschool Classes are a great way to help keep your kids fit while also having a lot of fun. Kids 5 – 15 are welcome, and classes are once per week for an hour.

Hours and Cost at Ninja Nation: Huntersville

You can visit Ninja Nation every day of the week if you want. They are open Monday through Thursday from 4 pm to 7 pm, Friday from 4 pm to 8 pm, and Saturday through Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm. 

The Huntersville location has several pricing options to choose from. Drop-in rates for open gym are $20 per hour $30 per hour for two hours, and an all-day pass is $35. Children must be 5 and older to participate. Bring clean shoes, they are required!

If you plan to visit more than once, a punch pass would be a smart option. They have a 5 or 10 punch pass. The 5 punch pass (5 hours total) is $80 while a 10 punch pass (10 hours total) is $160.

Class passes are also available, and are helpful if you are in Ninja Nation’s Development, Homeschool Ninja Basics, Teen&Adult, or Mini Heroes classes. A 4 class pass is $100, 8 class pass is $200, and 12 class pass is $300.

You can also get a monthly membership! They have two options, an Open Gym Membership for $125 (plus a $39 initiation fee) or the Unlimited Access Pass that is $210 per month (plus a $79 initiation fee). The memberships are a great option if you have kids who are very serious about honing their ninja skills.

Birthday Parties at Ninja Nation

Looking for a birthday party that your kid will never forget? How about a ninja birthday party at Ninja Nation? Your party will have access to the open gym arena for 90 minutes along with a party room to enjoy birthday treats.

Prices start at $395 for a Standard Party, with other options available. They have an add-on pizza and drink package to help make it easier on you when planning out your kid’s party.

Ninja Camp

Have an energized kid who needs to do something epic on their days off from school? Ninja Nation has camps for most “no school” holidays throughout the year. They also have summer camp! Your kids will do ninja activities, have open gym time, work on their teamwork, and play games.

Camps are full-day, and you can purchase day camp passes or week-long passes depending on what you’re looking for.

14120 Statesville Road, Huntersville, NC

How excited are you to visit Ninja Nation?

stuck at home things to do

These 25+ Ideas For Things to Do While Stuck at Home will keep everyone happy!

Unwind Indoor Play Cafe: This Indoor Playground Has a Giant Sandbox!

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If you are looking for an epic indoor play place, then Unwind Indoor Play Cafe is an excellent idea for your next play day! The indoor playground in Pineville, NC has a play structure, ball pit, and several other sensory-enriching features that will keep your young kids busy while you enjoy something delicious from the cafe.

Unwind Indoor Play Cafe near Charlotte, North Carolina

Special thanks to Unwind Indoor Play Cafe for providing play passes for this review!

Check out these 20+ Things to Do Near Charlotte, NC to have some wonderful family fun!

Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

What to Expect at Unwind Indoor Play Cafe: Review

When you enter the play cafe, you’ll head straight to the counter to purchase your tickets and socks. If you have been before, you can bring along the socks from your first visit to save you a few bucks. The play area is open to kids 7 years old and younger, so keep that in mind before your visit.

At the counter, you can also purchase yummy snacks and treats while your kids get their wristbands and head through the gate to play. The entire play area is visible from the cafe area, or you can find a seat inside that’s comfortable.

The Playground Area

Let’s just say this playground is truly Instagram-worthy! The main playground features a climbing tunnel and twisty slide that my daughters loved going down over and over into the ball pit below. The ball pit is filled with hundreds of balls, so your kids can play along the ground and make ball snow angels if that’s their vibe. The area is lined with soft padded seating, making it easy for parents to sit along the edges and interact with their kids.

The Sensory Floor

This was my favorite! They have an entire section covered in sensory flooring. It’s like the floor is colorful lava that you can press and watch the colors morph. You will also see several Rody ride-on horses here, a color-changing wall, and several other things your kids (and you!) can enjoy playing with.

A Section Just for Babies!

Thankfully, Unwind wanted to make sure babies had a separate, safe section to play. There are developmentally appropriate climbing toys and soft blocks to enjoy. Parents can sit around the edges and watch their little ones explore without worrying that a big kid will come along and bump them.

The Sandbox

If you head toward the front corner of the play area, you’ll find a huge sandbox. The sand in the box is so soft, and my tactile toddler loved running her hands through the sand. You can get into the sandbox if you would like, but there is also space in front where parents can hang out and chat. Unwind has utility brushes right outside of the sandbox where you can brush down your kid’s clothes and feet so that they do not track sand to the other areas.

The Climbing Wall

In the back corner, there is a climbing wall I couldn’t keep my four-year-old out of. She loved it! The wall has rock climbing grips so your kids can climb and then jump into a pit of foam blocks. If you have younger kids, just be mindful of the bigger kids jumping off the walls onto them.

Large sandbox at Unwind Indoor Play Cafe
Climbing wall at Unwind Indoor Play Cafe in Pineville, North Carolina

Cost of Admission and Hours

Passes for Unwind Indoor Play Cafe are $12.99 per hour of play. Two adults are free per child. You will need to purchase socks if you do not already have Unwind-branded socks. Parents are required to fill out a waiver online or in person before their child can play. 

The play cafe is open Monday through Friday from 9 am – 6 pm, Saturday from 9 am – 7 pm, and Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm.

The Cafe at Unwind

It wouldn’t be a play & cafe without delicious snacks! The cafe has several options for prepackaged snacks, coffee, a selection of lattes, hot chocolate, tea, and a variety of drinks. They occasionally have some yummy items like empanadas, tequenos, and sweet treats like cheesecake and milhojas. If you forget your kid’s snacks, they have items like veggie straws and juice. There are several tables throughout the venue to eat your snacks.

Birthday Parties

Looking for a place to host your kid’s next birthday? Unwind has several birthday party packages to choose from. Prices range from $350 for a party rental room, to $1500 if you would like to rent out the entire venue. Party packages do not include play passes, so keep that in mind when budgeting your party. Contact Unwind directly if you have any questions or concerns before your next party!

Things to Know Before You Go

  • There are bathrooms at the venue, so no need to worry if you need to rush your potty-training toddler to the restroom.
  • The weekends are popular, and it gets very busy. This means that older kids may be running around, so keep that in mind if you want to put your baby in the ball pit.
  • If you live in the area, monthly memberships to Unwind Indoor Play Cafe are available and could save you money if you plan to attend regularly.
  • Outside food is prohibited.
  • Parents must stay with their children as the play area is not equipped for drop-off childcare.
  • You can find all the rules and policies on the Unwind regulations page.
Unwind Indoor Play Cafe playground

Unwind Indoor Play Cafe
601 North Polk Street Suite A
Pineville, NC 28134

Gibson Mill in Concord, NC Has Delicious Dining & Unique Vintage Shopping All in One Place

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Have you experienced Gibson Mill? Concord, NC is no stranger to exciting shopping and dining, but Gibson Mill has all of that in one unique place, a refurbished textile mill! Learn about what dining options are available and more about the antique vendors, breweries, and entertainment you will encounter when visiting this wonderful gem in Concord, NC.

Gibson Mill and Market in Concord, North Carolina

We visited Gibson Mill to grab lunch at the market and were blown away by all of the vintage items at the antique depot and other things to do, including an escape room, breweries, and an ax-throwing venue.

Special thank you to Explore Cabbarus for recommending Gibson Mill as a dining option and putting together an excellent guide to the mill while we were visiting Concord, NC!

Breweries & Restaurants at The Market at Gibson Mill: Concord, NC

From pizza, burgers, and tacos to ice cream and even a board game cafe, Gibson Mill Market has a little bit of everything for diners looking for a meal. You can even grab a coffee and a beer here! Our family tried out Taco Street and loved their El Cabon and Calabonzitas tacos, which were fresh and had a delicious sauce to top it off. 

Plus, the food hall has both indoor and outdoor seating, so you can head outside on a nice day, or hang out inside when the weather isn’t so great. Indoor seating is cafeteria style, so your family can grab whatever you want from the vendor that looks the most appetizing, and meet up at a table in the center of the food hall. We’ve listed out each restaurant with a little about what they offer, so you can place your next visit with ease.

Dining Options

We tried out Taco Street when we visited Gibson Mill and were not disappointed. They have trompo tacos, Birria tacos, and a variety of other tacos to choose from. They also have specialty drinks that pair well with Latin-inspired foods!

Barco’s Sports and Seafood offers a relaxed vibe, snacks, steamers, salads, and boat rolls. A lot of their menu features seafood and they have a couple of kid-friendly options, including hand-breaded chicken tenders.

Craving a scoop or two of ice cream? Churn Buddies has several options that you can pick from their case of ice creams. They also have sundaes, yum!

Cara’s Cookie Co has a yummy selection of cookies, cookie push pops, and cookie cakes that look delectable. They take custom orders and also offer birthday party packages.

Need a pick-me-up? Defined Coffee has brewed coffee, craft lattes, espresso, seasonal drinks, and tea. They even have kid’s hot chocolate and kid’s steamers.

Johnny Roger’s has BBQ and burgers, so this would be an excellent option if you are looking for American cuisine.

Looking for a fresh, delicious slice of pizza? Livy’s Neapolitan Pizzeria has a lot of savory options, including Margherita, Siciliana, and several other specialty pizzas along with the traditional cheese pizza.

Drinks & Breweries at the Gibson Mill Market

Right as you walk into the Gibson Mill Market, you’ll find The Market Bar. They have a large selection of draft cocktails, hand-crafted cocktails, beer, and wine to choose from.

High Branch Brewery is located on the bottom level of the market. It is a family-owned brewery with drinks, food, and space for special events!

Cabarrus Brewing Co. is where to be when looking for a great time. They have lots of special events, and an expansive outdoor seating area perfect for warmer weather. They consider themselves a “brewpub” with lots of delicious food available as well. The pig fries are calling my name!

Though technically not a brewery, Luck Factory Games has a decent selection of craft draft beer and canned beer for sale, along with a light snacks menu. This place is excellent because you can grab a drink and play some board games for a few hours.

Antique Mall: The Depot at Gibson Mill in Concord, NC

My daughter and I were immediately blown away when we walked into the doors of the antique mall. And it’s easy to see why this antique mall is considered the largest in the Southeast.  There is cool stuff everywhere! The Depot is home to over 750 vendors that take over the 88,000-square-foot sales floor. 

Everything is organized, clean, and purposely placed so that you can walk down the long aisle and browse, yet captures the “more is more” vibe of maximalism design. We visited during the Christmas season, so there were tons of vintage decorations, ornaments, and classic toys that caught our eye. My daughter was particularly drawn to a set of midcentury green glass reflector ornaments that screamed retro. I couldn’t be more proud of her design choices! 

You will find furniture, home goods, unique decor, art, and homemade goods, so you can easily spend hours here enjoying looking at all the neat stuff and finding pieces to curate every room in your home with your unique style. Another great furniture of the way the depot is set up is that it easily accommodates strollers, so you can lug along your toddler without having to worry about wandering hands. 

The Depot is open from Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 7 pm, and Sunday from 1 to 6 pm.

Entertainment and Things to Do at Gibson Mill

Though the food hall or the antique mall may be what draws you into Gibson Mill, they also have some other resident businesses that are fantastic! So, grab a bite to eat then head out to enjoy one of these resident entertainment venues.

If you have never tried ax throwing, you’re in for a thrill. Iron Ax Society at Gibson Mill has ax throwing starting at $26 per person per hour. One great thing is that when you play longer, you pay less. They offer group pricing if you want to take a group of 7 or more.

Looking for a mystery to solve or a way to show off to your boss? Then The Valcarol Missions Escape Room is where you should go for your next date night, family night, or team-building event. They have three escape room missions to choose from, along with a game show-style time travel mission that looks awesome! We recommend booking online so you don’t show up and have to wait.

Luck Factory Games is more than just a place to kick back, relax, and enjoy some friendly competition with your friends while you demolish them at your favorite board game. They also have snacks and beer to purchase, so you can enjoy game night with your friends. They do require reservations Tuesday through Sunday for larger groups planning to play (please reserve five days before!).

What’s your favorite thing to do at Gibson Mill: Concord, NC?

Gibson Mill
325 McGill Ave NW, Concord, NC 28027

Best Holiday Events & Things to Do This Christmas: Charlotte, NC & Cabarrus

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With the holiday season in full swing, there are lots of things to do this Christmas! Charlotte, NC, and Cabarrus County have some of the best events, with epic light displays, parades, and magical month-long celebrations. These events will give your family many opportunities to make beautiful memories this Christmas season. We have also included a guide to places to find your perfect Christmas tree.

Christmas in Charlotte and Cabarrus County, North Carolina.

A special thanks to Explore Cabarrus for giving recommendations and providing tickets to special events and lodging for our visit to Concord and Kannapolis so we could create these reviews!

A Queen City Christmas: Charlotte, NC Holiday Events

Winterfest at Carowinds

If you’re looking for a full-day event this Christmas, Charlotte, NC has one of the best in the Southeast. Winterfest at Carowinds is the perfect family-friendly holiday event. Not only do you have the opportunity to ride many of the epic rollercoasters and rides, but the amusement park is decked out in decorations, millions of sparkling lights, amusing live entertainment, and even an ice skating rink. Plus, the park will have some special holiday-themed foods to try out.

Daily tickets start at $32.99 per person, with additional bundles available. Winterfest occurs from November 17, 2023 through January 1, 2024.

Light the Knights at Truist Field

If you are looking for a combination of excellent light displays, snow tubing, a holiday market, and ice skating, then head to Truist Field for the 4th annual Light the Knights. The event has so much going on, that you could spend the entire evening here and not get to everything.

There are even opportunities for your little ones to meet with Santa. Check the Light the Knights Christmas hours calendar before heading to the event if you want to see the big man himself, because he is only there on select dates (he is a busy man this time of year).

Light the Knights runs from November 22nd, 2023 through January 1st, 2024. Tickets start at $10 for admission only, or $40 if you want to participate in all activities.

A Christmas in Concord, NC: Holiday Events

Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway

It’s a beach party at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas for 2023! This spectacular display features over 4 million lights, which is one of the largest in the country. You also get to drive on the track itself, which is really cool as the LED lights lit up the infield and the seating area.

You’ll be dazzled by dozens of light displays, large Christmas trees, dancing lights, and a Christmas Village in the center. Here, your kids can meet with Santa, grab food at the food court, roast marshmallows, watch a Christmas movie on the big screen, and enjoy some extra magical light displays. We visited in 2023 and were blown away by how amazing this setup really is.

You can visit Speedway Christmas most nights from November 17th, 2023 through January 7th, 2024. You will find everything you need to know about this year’s Speedway Christmas in our KA review, including what you’ll see, pricing information, and why we think it’s a definite must this holiday season.

You Love Christmas Lights? Us TOO!

Here’s a huge guide to all the lights for Christmas: Charlotte, NC, in fact, there are over 17 options for and lots of them are FREE!

Sea of Lights at the Sea Life Aquarium

One of the best times of year to visit the SEA LIFE Charlotte aquarium at the Great Mills Mall is during the holidays. From December 1st, 2023 through January 3rd, 2024, the Aquarium will deck the halls with their Sea of Lights: Holiday Beneath the Waves celebration. The aquarium goes all out with decorations! You’ll get a double treat of seeing your favorite sea creatures, while also getting a little bit of Christmas magic through the lights, decorations, and over 25 beautifully decorated Christmas trees.

Tickets start at $18.99 per adult and $15.99 per child. 

The Concord Christmas Parade

We visited the 2023 Concord Christmas Parade, and this wholesome, family event was the perfect way to kick off the holidays. There was a plane flyover at the beginning of the parade which had our kids giggling with excitement.

There were lots of local businesses, parade floats, dancers, bands, and a lot of adorable dogs strutting down the street, which had the crowd around us giddy! This was the Concord Christmas Parade’s 95th year, and it was charming. Be sure to check out the Concord Christmas Parade next year in November 2024!

Kannapolis, NC: Holiday Celebrations Throughout the City

Kannapolis Tree Lighting Ceremony in Village Park

Kannapolis Tree Lighting Ceremony

The annual Kannapolis Tree Lighting Ceremony is held at Village Park and kicks off the start of the Celebration of Lights. At the ceremony, the community gathers around the large tree in the green area of the park. Then guest speakers talk about the year past and what to look forward to for the city.

Santa makes an appearance on stage, which really had our toddler squealing. As soon as the trees light up with red, green, and white, fireworks rise in the sky! This was such an epic moment, as the entire crowd was awestruck. Be sure to check out the Tree Lighting Ceremony in 2024!

Kannapolis Celebration of Lights

The Kannapolis Celebration of Lights occurs from November 18th, 2023 through December 30th, 2023. The annual celebration features over 250,000 lights strung throughout Village Park. There are even train rides on the g-24 scale train throughout the park, rides on the famous Venetian Carousel, and your kids can meet with Santa. We visited for 2023 on opening night, and found it to be a magical, memory-making experience for our family! 

Celebrate the Holiday Season at the Celebration of Lights in Kannapolis, NC

Celebration of Lights in Kannapolis, North Carolina

The Kannapolis Christmas Parade

The Kannapolis Christmas Parade every year in Downtown Kannapolis near City Hall. This event is held at night, which makes it super special. You’ll see the floats glowing with lights, local performers, floats decked out in tinsel and lights, and so much holiday joy! The parade will be held on December 9th, 2023 at 6 pm near City Hall.

Where to Find a Fresh Tree for Christmas: Charlotte, NC

There is nothing quite like the fresh Christmas tree smell. Especially when you get to wake up every day to it! We gathered all of the best places to get a fresh Christmas tree in our Guide to 15+ Christmas Tree Farms Near Charlotte, NC. Our guide includes choose and cut Christmas tree farms, precut Christmas tree farms, and local tree lots. So, you can find something that fits your budget and needs! There are also some tree farms in Western North Carolina listed if you’re looking to take a truly memorable day trip.

Find more Christmas fun nearby!

Grab A Sweet Treat From OMG Donuts in Concord, NC

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If you haven’t visited OMG Donuts in Concord, NC, then what are you waiting for? We visited for breakfast and knew we were in the right place when we saw how happy customers were going in and leaving the bakery. Find out why we highly recommend OMG Donuts & Bakery the next time you want a sweet dessert or breakfast treat.

OMG Donuts & Bakery in Concord, North Carolina

Special thanks to Explore Cabarrus for their excellent recommendation to visit OMG Donuts & Bakery during our visit to Concord, North Carolina!

Only the Best at OMG Donuts: Concord NC

When you walk into OMG, you are instantly drawn to the glass display cases of donuts, pastries, and fritters. And it smells divine! My kids literally ran to the case to look inside and were giddy with excitement trying to figure out what they wanted.

We were quickly helped by staff, who were super friendly and answered all our questions before we decided to settle on a variety pack of donuts. This way, we could all try a little of each other’s donuts. The donuts themselves are pretty large, bigger than the donuts you would get from Krispy Kreme, which is always a plus. You can choose to get a few to share with your friends or family or enjoy them yourself (we aren’t judging).

Case of donuts and pastries at OMG Donuts & Bakery in Concord, North Carolina

The shop prides itself on offering handcrafted and yeast-raised donuts. This makes the dough soft and easy to pull apart, not gummy like some chain donut establishments. They top each one with special toppings, including strawberry sprinkles and strawberry cheesecake, both of which were my favorite.

They have other toppings like chocolate Oreo, chocolate M&M’s, and the traditional glazed along with a lot of other flavors to choose from. I spotted a maple bacon one that I will give a try another time. We didn’t get to try the apple fritters, but from the reviews I have read, they would be worth a try! Keep an eye out for their seasonal flavors each season, because their menu is always adding new things.

Are you ready for a delicious treat from OMG Donuts & Bakery?

OMG Donuts & Bakery
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 6:30 am – 4:30 pm
10005 Weddington Road Ext, Concord, NC

Spark Your Christmas Spirit at the Celebration of Lights: Kannapolis, NC

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It’s the time of year again to enjoy the spectacular display of holiday lights at Village Park in Kannapolis at the annual Celebration of Lights. We visited the event on opening night and were thrilled to watch the annual Christmas tree-lighting celebration. Along with the FREE light display of over 250,000 lights adorning the trees and buildings, there are also some pretty unique things to do throughout the month-long celebration in this beautiful park.

Celebration of Lights in Kannapolis, North Carolina

A special thanks to Explore Cabarrus for their recommendation of the Celebration of Lights and for providing lodging at Homewood Suites by Hilton in Concord so we could enjoy this holiday celebration!

The Celebration of Lights: Village Park, Kannapolis

From November 18th, 2023 – December 30th, 2023, Village Park in Kannapolis is illuminated by lights of all colors, animated light displays, and the town’s Christmas tree display that makes for a magical photo opportunity with your family. To complement the lights, you can also take a train ride around the park, ride a Venetian carousel, and meet with Santa. Or, take the walking trail and just enjoy the lights around the park. Either way, you’re in for a treat!

Celebration of Lights in Kannapolis, North Carolina

Ride the Winterland Express Train Through the Lights

One of the Celebration of Lights most popular attractions is the Winterland Express, a train ride weaving through the light displays! The g-24 scale replica train travels throughout the entire park, blowing its little whistle, while going through light tunnels and beside animated displays while you look for the 12 days of Christmas. The train gives guests the best view of the lights and is a lot of fun for all ages. For 2023, they even added an additional train.

The train runs every 10 minutes and is by reservation only during the week. You can purchase tickets for the Winterland Express for $2 per passenger through the City of Kannapolis. Guest can make train reservations for Sunday through Thursday, but Friday and Saturday will be walk-up only. All you have to do is print your ticket or bring your mobile ticket to the train depot for boarding. The popularity of this attraction makes lines grow long quickly, so keep that in mind and plan for a little bit of a wait.

Winterland Express at Village Park in Kannapolis.

The Carousel

The double-decker Venetian carousel was one of my daughter’s favorite experiences of the holiday season so far! The carousel is housed indoors at Village Park and features beautifully crafted horses, chariots, gorgeously painted in pastels, with 1800 lights along the Brazilian oak decking. We went on the carousel during opening night, so there was a significant line, but it didn’t take long before it was our turn. If you have a tendency for motion sickness, I would recommend grabbing one of the seats instead of standing beside the horse (I learned this very quickly).

Tickets for the carousel are $2 per person, and you do not need to make reservations ahead of time.

Carousel at Village Park in Kannapolis during Celebration of Lights

Meet With Santa, Roast S’mores, and More

It wouldn’t be a true holiday celebration without Santa! You can visit with Santa in his adorable studio and take a photo of your kids rattling off their growing Christmas list. Afterward, head over to the firepits to roast some delicious s’mores and enjoy the warmth. The Celebration of Lights will also have a 30-minute caroling experience from the Kannapolis Singing Bears every hour to really set the mood for the holidays. 

Things to Know Before You Visit the Celebration of Lights

  • Bathrooms– There is a small bathroom located at the park that is kept fairly clean, along with a changing table in the largest stall in the women’s bathroom. 
  • Fireworks occur on the opening night of the Celebration of Lights in conjunction with the annual tree-lighting ceremony. These start right as the tree is lit up, making for a truly magical experience.
  • Lines– If you plan to go to the event on opening night or during the weekend, expect longer lines for the attractions than if you visit during the week.
  • Parking– There is ample free parking at the Kannapolis YMCA, which is located right beside the park. You will also find free parking at Village Park.
  • Inclement weather– If the weather turns bad and the City of Kannapolis decides to cancel events for the night, you can use your tickets another night.

What is Your Favorite Part of the Kannapolis Celebration of Lights?

Kannapolis Celebration of Lights
Village Park, Kannapolis
700 West C Street, Kannapolis, NC
Nightly, November 18th – December 30th, 2023
Open 6 pm – 9 pm
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day
Tickets and Reservations of the Wonderland Express

Places to see Christmas light displays in Charlotte, North Carolina

Looking for more holiday lights? One of these 17+ holiday light displays near Charlotte is sure to get you into the Christmas spirit!

Village Park in Kannapolis is a great place to visit year-round. Check out why we think it is worth the trip.

Village Park Kannapolis

17+ (2023) Magical Christmas Lights: Charlotte, NC

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It’s finally the time of year to see some dazzling displays of Christmas lights! Charlotte, NC has options to drive through thousands of lights, or your family can explore the lights as you walk about. There is something for every family. Plus, many of these events have extra attractions, including snow tubing, ice skating, and visits with Santa.

We even added a few neighborhoods you can drive through to give your kids a quick burst of joy on your way home. So get that hot chocolate ready. Here’s everything you need to enjoy the season with the illuminated magic of lights!

Places to see Christmas lights in Charlotte, North Carolina

Drive-Through Christmas Lights: Charlotte, NC

One of the most magical things about the holidays is the twinkly, dazzling lights around the city. These professional light displays take that magic to another level! With thousands of LED lights, holiday installations, decorated Christmas trees, and winter wonderland attractions, these drive-through Christmas light displays are an awesome memory maker for your kids.

Speedway Christmas 

Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC
November 17, 2023 – January 7, 2024
Admission cost: $35 – $175; Weekends are more expensive. Express passes are available for $75 per car.

We love Speedway Christmas. If you want to know more, check out our Kidding Around Review of Speedway Lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The annual Speedway Christmas at the Charlotte Motor Speedway is a unique experience that your kids will absolutely love! One of the most popular Christmas Lights events in North Carolina, you’ll be blown away by over 5 million synchronized lights as you drive through a 4-mile course. Plus, you get to drive on the iconic race track! There is also a Christmas Village where you can stop and enjoy an illuminated walking trail, photos with Santa, market vendors, food, and smores by the fire.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Lights
Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Free Christmas Lights in Charlotte, NC

Kannapolis Celebration of Lights

Village Park, Kannapolis, NC
November 19th, 2023 – December 30th, 2023
Admission cost: Free; Train Ride: $2 per person; Carousel: $2 per person

Take a walk through the 250,000 dazzling lights that adorn Village Park in Kannapolis during their annual Celebration of Lights. Your kids will be bursting with excitement to ride the Winterland Express, a train ride that cruises through the light displays. Your family can also enjoy the carousel, make s’mores, visit with Santa, and enjoy Christmas carols. The light displays will not be open on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, so plan accordingly. 

Village Park is an awesome place to visit any time of year. We absolutely love the beautiful carousel. Don’t miss this one! Here’s our Kidding Around Review of Village Park!

Carousel at Village Park in Kannapolis during Celebration of Lights

Christmas Town USA

McAdenville, NC
December 1, 2023 – December 26, 2023
Admission cost: Free 

If you are looking for a truly immersive holiday experience, then Christmas Town USA should be on your holiday bucket list! You can drive through the town and see the astounding number of light displays and decorated houses. Or, you can take a walk around and feel the magic.

Be sure to check out the tree lighting ceremony on December 1st, in addition to the annual Christmas parade and Yule Log Ceremony on December 14th, 2023. We recommend visiting during the week to avoid long lines and cars because this experience is super popular.

Rosie’s Coffee and Wine Bar Decorates for Christmas

940 North Davidson Street, Charlotte
Admission: Free

You can enjoy a beautiful Christmas display with your coffee or wine on the patio at Rosie’s Coffee and Wine Bar. Their 2023 display is nearly ready! Get a sneak peek in their Instagram post below.

Walk Through Beautiful Charlotte Christmas Lights

Light the Knights

Truist Field, Charlotte, NC
November 22, 2023 – January 1st, 2024
Admission Cost: $10+ for entry only; $40+ for all activities; Ages 3 and under are free

You can take a walk through Truist Field and enjoy over 10,000 lights! They have some pretty epic additions to the lights, including snow tubing, ice skating, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and lots of beautiful, larger-than-life decorations.

You’ll also want to check out The Market, which has 20 vendors selling everything from donuts to glow toys, perfect for your upcoming gift exchange. Be sure to check the schedule before heading to the field if you plan to see Santa, he’s a busy man this time of year and is only available during specific times.

Carolina Holiday Light Spectacular

Ballantyne’s Backyard, Charlotte, NC
December 7th, 2023 – December 30th, 2023
Admission cost: $10 – $20 for general admission. Preordering tickets is recommended.

Enjoy the season with a half-mile walk along a trail that is illuminated with over 1 million lights! The display at Ballantyne’s is unique in that the displays, lights, hundreds of decorated trees, and other installations are so strategically designed that you are truly immersed in the lights.

Plus, there is Christmas music to enjoy, an Alpine Avalanche Snow Tube slide, several kid’s activities, performers, food trucks, and nightly visits from Santa. The trail is stroller-friendly, so you can take your time exploring. The tree lighting ceremony happens on opening night, which is sure to be a spectacular experience! 

Fun & Festive: Lights Plus Lots of Fun Things to Do

High Seas Minature Golf, Pirate Christmas

High Seas Minature Golf
Opening mid-November, check the High Seas Minature Golf Facebook page for updates on Pirates Christmas

What’s better than mini golf? Um, mini golf with lots of Christmas lights of course! Play through the festive course, complete with glowing pirate ships lit by strands and strands of lights. In years past they’ve had a life-size snow globe photo op, snowfalling, and other activities.

Check out this Pirates Christmas video from 2022.

Winterfest at Carowinds

Carowinds, Charlotte, NC
November 17, 2023 – January 1, 2023
Admission cost: $32.99+

Dazzling Christmas light display AND roller coasters! Count us in. Carowinds is already an epic experience, but each winter they break out thousands of lights for Winterfest. You will also enjoy live holiday performances, ice skating, holiday foods, a parade with decorated floats, and more. 

Christmas Lights Displays Close to Charlotte, NC

Holidays at the Garden

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, Belmont, NC
November 24th, 2023 – December 23rd, 2023
Admission cost: $15 – $25; children under 2 are free.

There is something special about a garden display adorned with lights, especially with its perfectly curated display! Enjoy the dazzling lights, fountains, a cozy outdoor fire, and food trucks while you walk about the botanical garden. Tickets are timed entry, with a 5 pm and 7 pm option. It is recommended to purchase your tickets online, and members receive a discount.

Kings Mountain Christmas Extravaganza

Patriot’s Park
202 South Railroad Ave, Kings Mountain
2023 TBA- Likely end of November through New Year’s Day
Kings Mountain Christmas Extravaganza

Christmas lights with an extraordinary history, hand-made by the Costner family, and taken over by Kings Mountain after their passing, the extravagant Christmas spirit lives on. Bring the family and walk through this amazing display.

Kings Mountain Downtown Christmas Lights

After checking out the Christmas Extravaganza, you can enjoy a free synchronized light show in Downtown Kings Mountain!

Greenville, SC

If you’re headed towards Upstate, SC, you have lots and lots of options when it comes to Christmas lights. Check them all out in the Kidding Around Guide to Christmas Lights Displays in Greenville, SC.

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland

Tryon Equestrian Center
Drive time from Charlotte: About an hour and a half
Admission: $30-35 per car, $10-12 per child for Winterfest Village activities (no charge for adults)

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland and Winterfest Village  is a very popular option in Tryon, NC, not too far from the Upstate. The drive-thru light experience at the Tryon Equestrian International Center runs nightly from November 17, 2023 – January 7, 2024, from 6-10 pm. The Winterfest Village is open weekends in December through December 23rd from 5-9 pm with activities like bounce houses, carousel rides and visits with Santa.

Columbia, SC

Worth the drive from Charlotte, Columbia has a couple of really awesome lights displays. You can check them all out in our Columbia, SC Christmas Lights Guide.

We have two favorites in the Columbia area!

Holiday Lights on the River at Saluda Shoals

6071 St. Andrews Road, Columbia, SC
November 23 through December 31, 2023
Cost: $25 per car; $50 for passenger vans 

Holiday Lights on the River is a drive-through Christmas Lights Display in Saluda Shoals. In addition to lights, there are a bunch of activities including a giant slide, smores, letters to Santa, and more.

Holiday Lights on the River is a Columbia favorite. Find out more in our Kidding Around Review of Holiday Lights on the River

Fireflies Holiday Lights

Segra Park, 1640 Freed Street, Columbia
November 16th, 2023- December 31st, 2023
Cost: $10-12 per person

Fireflies Holiday Lights was new last year and we loved our visit. You’ll get to walk through massive lights displays in Segra Park, Columbia’s baseball venue. Then you can enjoy visits with Santa, smores, and even a tree farm!

Great Neighborhoods to See Christmas Lights in Charlotte

If you are looking for a way to see some lights on an evening drive with the kids without having to pay any money, a Christmas lights drive through these Charlotte area neighborhoods will not disappoint. These festive neighborhoods gather each year to decorate their streets to spread the magic of the Christmas season.

Ardrey Neighborhood: This neighborhood goes all out, with most houses participating in decorating their homes. You’ll see Christmas lights, decorated trees, holiday installations, and more. Take a drive through the area, or park and let your kids walk the sidewalks. GPS Wheatfield Road, Charlotte if you need navigation.

Plaza Midwood: The Plaza Midwood has a unique tradition of adorning the tree-lined streets with Christmas light balls! They are colorful and beautiful, making it a great stop while driving around looking for lights with the kids.

Hillside Avenue: If you head near Myers Park in Charlotte, you’ll come across the gorgeous display of lights on Hillside Avenue. Light balls adorn most of the trees, and your kid’s eyes will sparkle while they enjoy the drive through the neighborhood.

Private Property Displays

1417 Deer Spring Court, Indian Trail, NC
This walk through display is lit from 5 pm to 10 pm until January 2nd, 2024

Want to see more Christmas lights? Our sister sites have lots more!
See Christmas Lights Near Greenville, SC.
Enjoy Christmas Lights Near Columbia, SC and the Midlands