Charlotte, NC header

Posts Tagged ‘Charlotte NC’

AMAZING Views: Hiking Up Crowders Mountain Near Charlotte, NC

Posted on |

For incredible views of the Charlotte, NC skyline and North Carolina mountains, nothing beats a trek up Crowders Mountain. 

I always have trouble choosing between waterfalls and views when picking out my next hike but that decision comes pretty easy when choosing the trek up Crowders Mountain near Charlotte, NC because the views are incredible. 

Crowders Mountain State Park Photos
Crowders Mountain Views

About Crowders Mountain 

Crowders Mountain State Park is a North Carolina State Park that encompasses a little more than 5,300 acres and is located in Gaston County only 32 miles from Charlotte. There are two summits of Crowders Mountain State Park: Pinnacle and Crowders Mountain.

The mountain rises sharply from pretty flat land and is near Kings Mountain State Park and Kings Mountain National Military Park where a key Revolutionary War battle took place. The state park has hiking trails, a lake, lots of areas for rock climbing, paddling, fishing, and camping that is accessible only by backpacking. 

Watch! Our Visit to Crowders Mountain State Park

Hiking Crowders Mountain Trails

There are a couple of trails you can take to get in some cardio and amazing views. Both times we visited the park, we did the approximately six-mile loop that takes you to the top of Crowders Mountain. Expect to spend at least three hours on this trail and bring enough water, especially if it’s a hot day. 

I also recommend going counterclockwise when you come to the loop part. It’s certainly a decent climb but a little less strenuous than the hundreds of steps going up the other side of the mountain. If you go counterclockwise, you’ll be about 1.4 miles from the summit. The opposite direction is about 1.8 miles up. We did the entire loop so ended up going down the stairs once we reached the summit. 

The climb up is honestly a lot of fun. The rocks rise so sharply from the ground that they form many great places to climb and explore. But you need to be very careful and stay close to the trail. There are warning signs everywhere – since the rocks jut up so sharply, they are basically sheer cliffs so you cannot, and should not, get anywhere near the edges. 

Crowders Mountain Trails
Gotta choose one way to go

The climb isn’t easy but it’s also not like the Table Rock Trail to the summit or the Dismal Trail near Caesars Head in South Carolina. It’s doable for kids even (we saw lots of kids on the trail) and if you get tired, just take breaks. 

The summit is pretty amazing. On a clear day, you can see the Charlotte skyline to the south and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the north. 

The other trail to the Pinnacle Summit is shorter, around four miles. I’ll be doing that trail next time. I did overhear the Ranger say at the Visitors Center that Pinnacle is the highest point at the park and has awesome views. 

Crowders Mountain State Park Visitor Center

I feel like visitor centers are always overlooked at parks. I love checking them out because I always learn something new about the history or landscape of the area. 

This Visitors Center at Crowders Mountain had interesting information about local birds and wildlife plus a little kids’ area for drawing and coloring. It’s next to the bathrooms so definitely take a look. 

Crowders Mountain Visitors Center
Crowders Mountain State Park Visitor Center

The Lake at Crowders Mountain

While there are no boat rentals inside the park, if you have your own paddleboard or kayak, you can paddle around the manmade seven-acre lake at the park. 

While you are allowed to paddle on the lake, swimming is prohibited. The entrance is at the Sparrow Springs Access road. 

Visiting Crowders Mountain State Park 

The park is totally free to visit. We parked at Sparrow Springs Access and Visitors Center. Due to this park being one of the closest for hiking with elevation, it’s very popular. The park opens daily at 8 am and I’d suggest getting there early, especially in the spring and fall, to be sure to get a spot on weekends. There is overflow parking available. 

Dogs are allowed but they must be on a leash. 

Please follow Leave No Trace principles and pack out what you pack in. Unfortunately, we saw some trash along the trail. 

There are bathrooms and a station to fill your water bottle at the Visitors Center so be sure to get what you need done there before heading out on your hike! 

Crowders Mountain State Park
522 Park Office Lane, Kings Mountain, NC 28086
Crowders Mountain State Park Website

Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

Have More Adventures!

Here’s our HUGE Guide to Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

Discover Gold and a Nugget of History at Reed Gold Mine in Midland, NC

Posted on |

Have you heard about Reed Gold Mine in Midland, NC? The very first gold ever discovered in the United States was at Little Meadow Creek and what would soon become the Reed Gold Mine. Visit Little Meadow Creek, tour the underground gold mine, and try your hand at panning for gold. Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site is an amazing place to visit. Admission is totally free. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your own visit to Reed Gold Mine.

Bridge over Little Meadow Creek

Watch! Come along on our visit to Reed Gold Mine

We learned to pan for gold and ventured unground into the mine!

History of Reed Gold Mine

Where was the first gold in the United States discovered? Right in Cabarrus County, NC at Little Meadow Creek. Really! In 1799, 12-year-old Conrad Reed skipped church to go fishing at Little Meadow Creek where he found a 17-pound gold nugget.

He brought it home to his father but no one realized it was gold for another 3 years when Conrad’s father, John Reed brought the nugget to Fayetteville and sold it to a jeweler for just $3.50, a single week’s wages for the farmer, even though it was actually worth $3,600.

Shortly after this John Reed partnered with some of his neighbors and started mining operations at the creek and surrounding area.

The whole thing sparked this country’s first gold rush. Who knew!? I love discovering new things with my kids.

Seriously cool history happened at Reed Gold Mine and you can see it for yourself!

Reed Gold Mine sign
To the entrance of the underground mine at Reed Gold Mine

Things to See When You Visit Reed Gold Mine

When you first arrive at Reed Gold Mine you’ll pull into the gravel drive and park in the large lot. Then, head to the Visitor’s Center building. Here you’ll be able to grab a free map for a self-guided tour of the mine, both above and underground. If you are interested in panning for gold, this is also where you can purchase tickets for gold panning.

Panning for Gold

If you’d like to try your hand at panning for gold, purchase your tickets at the Visitor’s Center upon arrival. Tickets are $3 per pan of dirt. We were told about 1 in 7 pans actually contains gold. But, each of my 4 kids panned and 3 of them had gold in their pans!

Just take your tickets down the gravel path the short distance to the panning area. There you’ll be given a pan of dirt from Little Meadow Creek. While you won’t find any 17-pound chunks of gold like Conrad Reed, there is still gold to be found and a lot to learn.

The gentlemen who helped us with the panning were a wealth of knowledge about panning for gold and the mine. For example, did you know the phrase “get down to the nitty-gritty” comes from gold mining? The “nitty-gritty” is the pile of rocks and gravel, and maybe gold, left after the dirt is washed away. The gold is denser than the dirt, so even small flakes stay with the “nitty-gritty” as the dirt is swirled and rinsed out of the pan. That makes the nitty-gritty the important part in your pan, hence the saying “get down to the nitty-gritty.”

If you do find gold in your pan, the gentlemen at the panning area will put it into a small vile for you to bring home!

The Reed Gold Mine Tour

Pick up a FREE self-guided tour brochure at the Visitor’s Center. It has an easy-to-follow map of the underground and surface mining areas of Reed Gold Mine, with numbered stations. Just read the short text at each stop and you’ll be learning a lot of gold mining history.

Underground in the Reed Gold Mine

On your tour, you will actually be able to go 50 feet underground into the mine. There you’ll see quartz veins that were followed in search of gold as well as old mining equipment. You’ll also learn about how mining was done in Reed Gold Mine and North Carolina. The self-guided tour page will be extremely helpful as there is nearly no explanatory signage within the mine beyond labels that match the tour sheet.

Things to Remember in the Mine

A note for parents: This is NOT a place to let kids run on ahead. There are old sections of the mind blocked off with boards such that you can see into the old tunnels, but small kids could squeeze through. Stay together.

Worried about being underground? I am not a fan of small spaces so, I was a little worried about going underground. But, really, it was so cool, I didn’t care. The mine is well lit, the paths are gravel and clearly marked, and you don’t need to be underground for a really long time to see everything. That said, I was glad to see the sun again, and it did make me think about the people who spent many hours underground mining quartz veins for gold right in that very spot.

When we are in the area again, I’m definitely going back.

Continue the Reed Gold Mine Tour Above Ground

The tour continues on the surface with a trail that takes you past the surface equipment at the top of the mine shaft, through the area where the small mine town of Brunerville stood, and past mill stones and a stamp mill showing how mining in methods at this site changed over time.

The Visitor’s Center

Inside the Visitor’s Center, you’ll find a small but informative museum on gold, mining at Reed and in the area, as well as other types of mining. It’s not a hands-on type of museum but it’s very informative and interesting to see examples of the equipment used for this work over time. The museum is also free to explore.

Reed Gold Mine Visitors Center

A small gift shop is located at the entrance to the Visitor’s Center and restrooms are located just outside the museum and Visitor’s Center.

What we loved about Reed Gold Mine & Things to Know

  • The grounds and the mine are very well maintained. And, the self-guided tour is extremely informative and interesting. This site would be excellent both as a family adventure or a group field trip.
  • Gold panning is amazing. Even if you don’t find gold, you’ll learn so much science and history about gold mining!
  • Allow about 2 hours to visit everything, more if you really want to take your time.
  • There is a picnic area on site. No food is available for purchase, so do plan to bring your picnic or snacks to enjoy.
  • Admission is free. We LOVE free things to do, especially educational free things to do. Even if you choose to pay for panning, it’s a very inexpensive place to visit.

Reed Gold Mine Hours:
Tuesday through Saturday 9 am to 5 pm
Panning is available from April through the end of October, weather permitting.

Will you find Carolina gold?

Reed Gold Mine
9621 Reed Mine Road
Midland, NC

10 Best Romantic Restaurants in Charlotte, NC

Posted on |

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.

75+ Things to Do in Charlotte, NC: Fun Days Start Here

Posted on | No Comments

Looking for fun things to do in Charlotte, NC? Here’s a list of just a few of the fun things in the Charlotte area. Don’t forget to let us know your favorite things to do in the comments!

Here’s just some of the fun that awaits you in the Queen City! Be sure to check back as we add more first-hand accounts of adventures we have in the Charlotte area. 

Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

Things to Do in Charlotte: Highlights

🆓Our free things to-do list is full of family fun on a budget.

🐰Easter is coming and that means fun Easter Bunny photos and Easter Egg Hunts. We have it all in our HUGE list of Easter Egg Hunts and Events: Charlotte, NC.

🍓Spring is here! It’s time for strawberry picking and we know just where to go! 9+ Strawberry Farms near Charlotte, NC.

🏎️ 4 Wide Drag Racing comes to ZMAX in April!

NEW! Our Summer Camp Guide is packed with the best summer camps near Charlotte, NC!

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

Check out our HUGE list of totally FREE Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

Things to Do in Charlotte, North Carolina

Discovery Place Science Center 
Purchase advance time reserved tickets online year-round
This large kid-friendly science museum in the heart of downtown Charlotte is a great way to spend a rainy day with your family. The museum offers exhibits with live animals, STEM topics, an Imax theatre, and more. 

Reedy Creek Nature Preserve
This is an amazing nature center and preserve about 6 miles northwest of downtown Charlotte, which is located inside of the larger Reedy Creek Park. The park includes a playground, a science center, hiking trails, and more. 

US National Whitewater Center
Purchase online activity passes in advance for 30+ recreational activities

Ice skating at the Whitewater Center

If you are looking for a place full of outdoor adventure, this is it. The center offers white water activities and provides visitors with the opportunity to rock climb, hike, mountain bike, zipline, and much more. We went ice skating at the Whitewater Center and really enjoyed the experience.

Readers shared their love for the US National White Water Center on Facebook with us recently when we asked if they had been. 

Several times and loved it! The rafting is a short loop, but it’s intense depending on where the raft guide decides to go. The zip line is the best I’ve ever been on. There are events for smaller children too, like rock climbing. It’s well worth the trip.

Tina M.

Yes! Have season passes. Great for kids 6 & up, plus families. As an adult that is not crazy about being outdoors I love the white water rafting and flat water kayaking. Plenty to do for a whole day’s visit!

Virginia W.W.

Many times and we’ve done it all! Mountain biking to zip line to rafting and even experienced their live music series, River Jam…. enough to spend a full day there with the fam (10yo+)

Nikki W.

Carolina Raptor Center
Purchase advance tickets online year-round
This rehabilitation and education center is home to falcons, hawks, owls, eagles and vultures from all over the world. Guests will have the chance to learn about and meet these magnificent birds up close.

Raptor Center

Carowinds Amusement Park
Purchase online tickets in advance seasonally.
Find out what makes this park a favorite of Upstate’s families, including how your younger children can get in for free!  

The Rooftop Pool At The Omni Hotel 
Reserve your day pass online through the Coin Bar 
Do you want to live like a high-end traveler, sunning yourself next to a rooftop pool, but sleep in your own bed at night? The Omni hotel offers visitors to the Queen City day passes to use this large pool deck that overlooks the city.

Unique date ideas: Charlotte, NC

Looking for things to do for couples in Charlotte, NC? Our list of unique date ideas has some really great options!

Ninja Nation

Check out Ninja Nation or one of the many camps and classes at Ninja Nation in Huntersville. Kids (and parents) will get to live out their Ninja Warrior dreams.

14120 Statesville Road, Huntersville, NC

Arena and large foam blocks at Ninja Nation near Charlotte, North Carolina

Stay Inside!

If you’re looking for things to do indoors, you’ll want to visit our Indoor Fun Guide.

Seriously, our list has more than 50 great ideas.

Indoor things to do in Charlotte NC

Things to do in Cabarrus County, North Carolina

Plan an entire day in Concord, NC with our guide to the area

Visit Charlotte Motorspeedway
Whether you’re attending a race at the speedway, an event at ZMAX Dragway, an event at the dirt track or stopping by for a tour, there’s always a lot to see at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Look for family-friendly deals like free kids’ tickets at select events, take advantage of activities and music in the fan zone outside the track, and enjoy a race at one of the iconic tracks that make up the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Great Wolf Lodge – Concord
An easy drive from the Upstate, Great Wolf Lodge is a great one-stop destination for families, and your stay includes an indoor waterpark that’s nice and warm even in the winter. The activities provided at the Lodge mean that no extra planning has to be done to make this a fun-filled trip. 

iFLY in Concord
iFLY is an indoor skydiving simulator where you enter a wind tunnel that is strong enough to allow you to float in the air. 

Escape Game: Concord Mills

The Escape Game in Concord Mills

We visited Escape Game to try out one of their new escape room games. It’s a great place to bring the family or a group of older kids and test yourselves with the puzzles needed to escape the room.

Here’s our review of the Escape Game.

8111 Concord Mills Boulevard #129b, Concord

Visit Reed Gold Mine

Explore the site of the first gold discovered in the United States, learn to pan for gold, walk through the mine and much more! This site is totally free to visit and panning for gold costs just $3. See how our visit went in our review of Reed Gold Mine.

Explore the Outdoors

Go see something beautiful!

Crowders Mountain State Park

Hike Crowders Mountain for Amazing Charlotte views!

Seasonal Fun in The Charlotte, NC Area 

Don’t miss these annual events and things to do happening seasonally in the Charlotte, NC area.


Spring in Charlotte, NC

Warmer weather arrived?

Here’s the Kidding Around Guide to Spring in Charlotte, NC


Splashpads near Charlotte


Charlotte, NC Winter Things to Do

Love Winter?

Here’s our Kidding Around Winter Guide to Charlotte!

Go Ice Skating at the Whitewater Center from mid-November to mid-February each year. We went with our family of 6, including those hard-to-please teens, and we all had such a great time! You can see our full review of skating at the Whitewater Center.

Here’s where you can go snow tubing near Charlotte, NC

Snow tubing Charlotte NC

Valentine’s Day in Charlotte, NC

Time to plan your Valentine’s Day? No problem! Here’s our big Charlotte Valentine’s Day Guide!


Christmas Town USA – McAdenville, NC
This tiny town of just under 700 people takes the Christmas season very seriously. It all started with nine trees being decorated by the Men’s Club. The following year they did a few more, and that continued every year. By 2004 nearly 400 trees were decorated, and the town residents all decided to join in the fun. The joint effort resulted in almost half a million lights adorning the 1.3 mile stretch of road that visitors see as they pass through the town.

Christmas Lights at The Charlotte Motor Speedway
Purchase advance tickets online
Speedway Christmas is unique in that you get to drive your own car on the racetrack that is normally driven on by professional NASCAR drivers.  Unfortunately your mini-van will be going at a snail’s pace, but it’s still pretty cool in my opinion. On the 3.75 mile drive-thru course visitors get to view displays consisting of over four million lights!  

Charlotte Motor Speedway Lights

Kannapolis Village Park
Enjoy the totally free Christmas light display you can walk through at Kannapolis Park. Or, hop aboard the Winter Express train for just $2 and view the lights from the rails. The park’s double-decker carousel also operates during the lights events.

Fall in Charlotte, NC

Pick Apples! Here are all the best apple orchards near Charlotte, NC.

Apple picking at Grandad's

Carolina Renaissance Festival
Fall: Purchase advance tickets online

Fans of a time long forgotten can weave their way through huge roasted “turkey legs”, unique handcrafted item vendors, mermaids, fairies, sword jugglers, falconry demonstrations, and a jousting tournament. Your child can even be knighted by Queen Isabella while you are there!

More Seasonal Things to Do in Charlotte

The Quarry at Carrigan Farms
Summer: Purchase online tickets in advance for Open Swim all summer
Looking for a unique place to cool off this summer? The Quarry at Carrigan Farms in Mooresville, NC, might be just the place. The quarry at Carrigan Farms offers guests a full day of water activities, including several rock jump-off points, rope swings, swimming areas, and a sand beach volleyball area. Slots book up quickly, and planning is recommended. 

York County, SC: Fun Just Across The Border from Charlotte in South Carolina 

Charlotte is so close to the state border that several popular attractions straddle both states. For example, did you know that Carowinds is in both North Carolina and South Carolina? In addition, visitors to the area often zip back and forth across state lines, so we decided to include some of our favorite things in the Charlotte area, across the state line in South Carolina. 

Plan an entire day in York County, SC with our guide to the area.

Kings Mountain State Park 
The Kings Mountain State Park and the Kings Mountain National Military Park are right next to each other and visible from I85.  You will cross into North Carolina and then back into South Carolina to get to the park, that’s how close this historical state park is to Charlotte. 

The Sunflowers of Draper Wildlife Area
If you are looking for a magical place to take family photos or just a place to visit for fresh air and a change of scenery, we found a place just south of Rock Hill that won’t cost you a dime to enjoy. The Sunflower Fields of Draper Wildlife Area are only in bloom for few weeks over the summer, but if you plan correctly you can see them in full bloom in July.

Kings Mountain Battlefield

Anne Springs Close Greenway
The Greenway is a 2,100 nature preserve that is a continuation of the Springs’ family tradition of providing recreation options to the workers of the Springmaid Brand Mill workers. The park is a little more than a third of the land that the Springs family purchased from the Catawba Indians. The preserve includes hiking trails, lakes, creeks, wildflower gardens, and so many other things for your family to enjoy. 

Day Trips from Charlotte

Things to Do in Gastonia, NC

Plan an entire day in Gastonia, NC with our guide to the area. 

Schiele Museum of Natural History
Purchase online tickets in advance year-round
This museum makes a great day trip. We had a lot of fun visiting the museum and enjoyed exhibits on dinosaurs, minerals, animals, critters, nature, and so much more! If you haven’t been yet, you should add it to your museum bucket list.

Hickory, NC

Head up to the Catawba Science Center for lots of fun learning opportunities. We love their hands-on exhibits and aquarium space.

Catawba Science Center

Things to Do in Greenville, SC

We know a thing or two about Greenville, SC! Our sister-site, Kidding Around Greenville is the top family- fun resource in Greenville. Check out these awesome things to do in Greenville, SC.

Things to Do in Columbia, SC

We’re also covering all the family fun things to do in Columbia on our Kidding Around Columbia sister-site. Check out our huge list of things to do in Columbia for a super-fun day trip.

Places To Eat In The Charlotte Area 

Finding a spot to eat in the big city can be daunting, but luckily there’s good food to be found with a little bit of guidance. 

Kids Eat Free Charlotte, NC

Looking for kids’ meal deals? Visit our list of restaurants in Charlotte, NC where kids eat free (or cheap).

Food Halls in Charlotte

I love places where you can go and everyone can decide what they want, and it can be varied. My kids can usually only agree to disagree and this makes mealtime easier. 

Optimist Hall

A food hall in a converted warehouse that offers a kaleidoscope of options for hungry families.

  • AVA – authentic Italian and wood fired pizza
  • Bao & Broth – Bao buns and ramen bowls
  • Billy Sunday – award-winning cocktails and elevated bar menu
  • Botiwalla – Indian street food
  • Boxcar Betty’s – Fried chicken sandwiches
  • The Dumpling Lady – Szechuan street food
  • El Thrifty – Mexican inspired menu 
  • Felix Empanadas 
  • Harriett’s Hamburgers 
  • Honeysuckle Gelato
  • Mezeh Mediterranean Grill – a unique twist on the “mezze” dining experience
  • Noble Smoke – Southern barbecue
  • Papi Queso – grilled cheese kitchen
  • Suarez Bakery & Barra – Donuts and Cuban food
  • Undercurrent Coffee – coffee, tea, and light fare
  • Velvet Taco – funky tacos
  • Village Juice Co. – organic raw juice and clean food
  • Xiao Bao – Southeast Asian favorites
  • Zukku – rice bowls, sushi, burritos, poke

Camp Northend 

This multi-use venue is a 100-year-old Ford Model-T factory that now houses art exhibits, food vendors, and more. 

  • Babe & Butcher – charcuterie boxes and boards
  • La Caseta – the pocket size version of Sabor Latin Street food that we also have in Greenville
  • PopBar CLT – a handcrafted gelato pop vendor
  • Leah & Louise – (reservations recommended) Elevated deep south menu 
  • Plus vendors that serve burgers, plant-based menu items, cocktails, coffee and more! 
Gibson Mill Market in Concord

Gibson Mill

Gibson Mill has been renovated into a multi-use space with antique stores, entertainment like escape rooms and ax throwing, as well as a family-friendly food hall, the Gibson Mill Market.

We tried food from several of the vendors, and can report that the chicken sandwich from Johnny Rogers BBQ and Burgers is about as crispy as it gets. The kids really enjoyed their pizza from Livy’s Neapolitan Pizzeria.

You’ll also find vendors with tacos, cookies, ice cream, seafood, and more. For your adult beverages, there’s a cocktail bar upstairs and also a tap room downstairs.

Seating is available both indoors and outdoors.

For the kids, there is a small arcade room upstairs off the dining area.

And, for kids, families, and kids at heart, you’ll want to check out the board game cafe downstairs. Admission to the Luck Factory game cafe is $8 per person for a day pass. Stay and play games from their huge library all day long.

Gibson Mill Market
325 Mcgill Avenue NW, Concord
Hours vary by individual business

More Restaurants in Charlotte


I like to eat like the locals do when I travel, and in Charlotte that means soul food, BBQ and Fried Chicken dishes. 


Save room for dessert, because there are too many delicious spots to skip if you don’t! 

Food from Sunflour Baking Company

One of our favorites for breakfast or lunch, stop by a Sunflour Baking Company location!

Get a delicious donut or pastry at OMG Donuts

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

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

Posted on |

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!

Scratch-Made Breakfast & Lunch at Sunflour Baking Company in Charlotte, NC

Posted on |

Are you looking for a great place for breakfast or lunch in Cabarrus County? If you’ve never visited Sunflour Baking Company you are missing out. The flakiest most delicious breakfast pastries, sandwiches, cookies, and cupcakes are waiting for you at one of Sunflour’s five locations near Charlotte, NC and we think you’ll want to pop in and enjoy their delicious offerings. We spent a weekend in Cabarrus County and we so enjoyed our breakfast that we stopped in for lunch the next day.

Counter at Sunflour Baking Company

Our breakfast was courtesy of Explore Cabarrus County, our lunch was not. Thank you to Explore Cabarrus County for introducing us to what might be our new family-favorite restaurant!

Amazing coffee, a variety of indoor and outdoor seating, with scratch-made baked goods using local ingredients makes Sunflour Baking Company the perfect place for a relaxing family breakfast, lunch, brunch, or even just a snack.

Food from Sunflour Baking Company

Breakfast at Sunflour

Sunflour has hands down the most delicious pastries we’ve ever had. And, that’s really saying something because I have a sweet tooth that’s probably a little too big. My vanilla sweet roll was somehow light and flaky and soft at the same time with just the right amount of sweetness. Even my husband who isn’t big into sweets raved about the cinnamon rolls and the kids loved their selections, too. We also enjoyed breakfast sandwiches on homemade bread that was so good we knew had to head back to this place to try their lunch options. Which, we did.

Pastries at Sunflour Baking Company


I didn’t get any photos of lunch. I’m sorry but I was too excited to bite into that bread again. We enjoyed BLTs and turkey avocado sandwiches for lunch. But you’ll also find a variety of paninis and other sandwiches on the menu, plus soups.

Sunflour Pastry Counter

Pastries and More at Sunflour

You’ll find kid favorites like cream-filled sprinkled cookies and cupcakes, as well as all sorts of muffins, rolls, and sweet and savory pastries at Sunflour. Everything is fresh and made from scratch. We really had trouble picking just one item and opted to split a few things to try a variety. It was a good way to go and highly recommended.

Sunflour Baking Company: Review

Since our initial visit to Sunflour Baking Company, we’ve returned whenever we’re in the area. We love the pastries and sandwiches and the friendly atmosphere.

My husband loves to get his breakfast sandwiches on Sunflour’s delicious cheddar biscuit. I love the Vanilla sugar roll- so light and flaky. The kids really enjoy the cinnamon rolls. Sunflour is a place where we’ve found great food and a good cup of coffee again and again.

Sunflour Baking Company exterior

Visit Sunflour Baking Company

Sunflour Baking Company locations:

Harrisburg Sunflour Baking location: 5040 NC-49, Harrisburg, NC
Dilworth Sunflour Baking location: 220 East Boulevard, Charlotte, NC
Elizabeth Sunflour Baking location: 2001 East 7th Street, Charlotte, NC
Ballantyne Sunflour Baking location: 14021 Conlan Circle, #B-9, Charlotte, NC
Noda Sunflour Baking location: 515 Jordan Place, Charlotte, NC

Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

Looking for more delicious options in Charlotte, NC? Check out our list of places to eat out on our Things to Do in Charlotte list.

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

Posted on |

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

Grab A Sweet Treat From OMG Donuts in Concord, NC

Posted on |

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

4 Miles, 4 Million Lights: Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas Lights in Concord, NC

Posted on | No Comments

With more than four million lights, the Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas lights at Speedway Christmas in Concord, NC is one of the biggest in the country and we’re here for it!

Thanks to Explore Cabarrus for media tickets and an overnight at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Concord so we could review the experience for our readers. All opinions are our own.

Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Speedway Christmas Presented by Atrium Health is unique in that you get to drive your own car on the racetrack that is normally driven on by professional NASCAR drivers.  Unfortunately, your mini-van will be going at a snail’s pace, but it’s still pretty cool. On the four-mile drive-thru course, visitors get to view displays consisting of over four million lights!  The Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas lights are easily one of the biggest displays in the country and there is just so much to see.

The Speedway is about an hour and 45 minutes from Greenville so if you want to stay overnight nearby, we’ve got just the place to do so at the Embassy Suites in Concord. Read on for the full review.

The Completely Epic Light Display with the Speedway Christmas Lights

There are four miles of more than four million lights at the Speedway Christmas. I’ve been to most of the Christmas light drive-through shows in our area so had a decent idea of what to expect but I can say with confidence that I was wrong. This light show is just unreal with so many cool surprises that it kept my kids and me enamored the whole time. For 2023, you get to see some awesome beach-themed displays in celebration of the theme, A Christmas Beach Party.

Entering the Racetrack for the Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas Lights

Once you get past the gate, you’ll go right onto the massive track. I had to squash the urge to floor it because really, how many times do you get to drive on a real racetrack? I did no flooring and went very slow with my headlights off like the other drivers, which is exactly what you need to do, so pay attention.

You will follow along with a string of red or blue lights, so you don’t have to worry about taking a wrong turn. If you’re behind someone going super slow, there are several places to pass cars if you want to do that. The speedway also recommends that slower traffic stay to the right, so those who want to go a little faster through the light show can pass on the left.

Speedway Christmas 2023 Santa's Beach Party

The First Section of Lights

There are three different areas of the light display but they all sync up to Christmas music that you listen to through your car radio. The first section is more of a fun light display with Santa doing funny things. As you enter the racetrack, you will see lots of animated displays following the theme. Wakeboarding Santa, Penguins splashing into a pool, Santa cruising on a boat with his reindeer friends shooting a canon of light, just to name a few.

The Second Section of Lights

The second section is a massive display of flashing lights from the bottom of the Speedway up through the seating area. This is where you will begin driving through a couple of light tunnels. You will also see the synchronized light displays with giant Christmas trees matching the beat of the songs coming from your 101.3FM radio channel with the LED light displays along the bleachers. This was probably my kid’s favorite part of the drive because of how many lights were dancing to the music.

Christmas trees at Speedway Christmas in Charlotte, North Carolina

The Final Section of Lights

The third and final section is tunnels full of lights – it’s super cool. As you leave the infield Christmas Village, you get to drive through the last portion of the lights display, which honestly, was my personal favorite. You will come across an area where you can pull off and look over all the lights, which was really neat to see.

You will also go through several light tunnels. The tunnels were done so well, and each one is unique in shape and color display. You also get to see some really unique animated and stationary light displays! Our favorites were the two astronauts, a ballerina pig, and a snowman being built through animation.

The entire light show took us around 45 minutes to drive through if you choose not to stop at the Christmas Village.

Full view of Speedway Christmas in Charlotte, North Carolina

The Christmas Village at the Speedway

Once you go through the bulk of the park, you will be guided to the infield parking lot. Here, you have the option to stop at the Christmas Village and/or see the drive-in movie playing.

The Christmas Village has a lot to do! The arches of lights, giant illuminated snowflakes, and “snow bubbles” that release a puff of smoke when they pop were some of my young daughter’s favorites. They also have a really cool FREE 360-camera experience for 2023. Your family stands on a platform as a camera zooms around you three times, giving you a unique holiday memory to enjoy! 

Large outdoor light displays at the Christmas Village at Speedway Christmas

Indoor Activities: Santa and More

The indoor section of the Christmas Village has two unique mazes, Christmas crafts at the elf village, vendors, decorated Christmas trees, and the opportunity to take photos with Santa. Santa was really kind, and your child can choose to stand or sit beside him. They even offer a little stool in case a parent needs to kneel down to keep their kids from getting nervous before rattling off this Christmas list. Pictures with Santa start at $10 for 1 photo.

Outdoor Food Court

The food truck lane has a lot of vendors with everything from Gyros to hot apple cider. One of the cooler food court stalls is the kettlecorn popcorn guy. My kids (and husband) enjoyed watching him flip the giant popcorn maker and reveal the sweet goodness that is delicious kettle corn. Plus, his stall has a little train engine on top that blows smoke every once in a while, which made us giggle.

We ended our food court adventure by purchasing some marshmallows to roast by the fire. We rocked in the rocking chairs, ate marshmallows drank cider, and just enjoyed the vibes. Afterwards, we visited the reindeer (animated, but so adorable!) for the kids to pet. They are super soft and look so real!

Reindeer at Speedway Christmas Village

Drive-In Movie

And then, perhaps my favorite thing – a drive-in movie. The Speedway makes use of one of its huge screens to show different holiday movies. You can park your car facing the screen, tune your radio to the channel dedicated to the movie, eat some popcorn, and watch the movie. My kids wanted to sit in the car and watch the film so that’s what I let them do because #Christmas. They thought it was really neat.

Drive-in movie at the Speedway Christmas

Here’s the movie schedule for 2023:

  • November 17-19: “Christmas Vacation”
  • November 23-26: “The Grinch” presented by Bojangles
  • November 30-Dec 3: Classic Christmas shorts presented by Food Lion
  • December 7-10: “White Christmas” presented by Cook Out
  • December 14-19: “Elf” presented by AutoBell
  • December 20-23: “Polar Express” presented by Cook Out
  • December 28-31: “Home Alone”

There are also bathrooms right inside the Christmas Village as well as directly next to the drive-in movie, which is really nice since the route does take a while to drive.

The Christmas Village is closed on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Tips to Enjoy the Speedway Christmas

Knowing what to expect helps everyone enjoy the lights.

Wait Times

Because this is such a hugely popular attraction, the wait may be long. This can be said of most holiday light events anywhere during the holiday season. Make sure everyone has taken a bathroom break before heading towards the Speedway and have snacks on hand. In past years, the wait times have gotten up to more than two hours.

We went on opening night for the 2023 season right when they opened at 6 pm and while we were able to skip the lines with an Express Lane pass thanks to Explore Cabarrus, we did pass the main entrance and there was hardly a line.

On busy nights, the express pass will save you about an hour of that two-hour wait. The Express Lane has a different entrance (5197 Morehead Road, Concord) than the Main Gate and there are signs indicating where you need to go.

Visiting Monday through Wednesday is suggested because attendance will be at its lowest on those days.


The Speedway has set up port-a-potties along the route for guests to use if they need to. You do need to remain in your car while driving but there is plenty of room to pull over for these bathrooms if you need. You will also find clean bathrooms at the Christmas Village.


Pets are allowed but they must stay in your car the entire time, including if you choose to visit the Christmas Village

Purchasing Tickets

Guests have the option to purchase tickets ahead of time online at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s website but they also have passes available at the gate. The tickets you purchase online must be used on the date you choose so if you’re not sure when you’re going, you can just purchase your ticket at the gate. Stay tuned to the website to be notified of any closures due to bad weather.

Dress for the Weather

The light show obviously happens during the colder winter months so dress for the weather with jackets, hats, and gloves, especially if you want to go to the Christmas Village, much of which is outdoors.

Tickets for Speedway Christmas

Ticket prices range from $35-$45 per car depending on when you go. General admission tickets are typically $35 Monday through Wednesday, and $45 Thursday through Sunday night are more expensive.

On Thursdays through Sundays, there is also an express lane option for $75. If you have more than 15 people in your vehicle, you’ll be paying the van and bus rate of $140 to $175.

You can see the exact price on the day you’d like to go at the Speedway Lights ticket site.

While Monday through Wednesday visits are cheaper, remember that the Christmas Village is not open on these days. The exception is December 18th through the 20th, 2023 when the village will be open and tickets will be at the regular $45 price.

Speedway Christmas runs from Friday, November 17, 2023, through January 7th, 2024.

Honest Mom Review of Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas Lights

My kids and I just loved this light show. It was almost overwhelming how many lights there were at the Speedway Christmas. I kept thinking, “How long did all of this take to set up?”! It is very well done and obvious the organizers take great pride in the light display and making sure it’s top-notch.

Part of the Christmas Village at the Speedway Christmas

For kids who may have sensory issues, the light show may be a little much in some parts. I thought the Christmas Village and drive-in movie was a great rest stop to just hang out and enjoy the atmosphere before heading out to the last part of the show. And staying nearby at the Embassy Suites was fantastic. I didn’t need to worry about driving home late at night and my kids could enjoy the pool before bed. We were at the light show in its entirety – driving and the Christmas Village – about an hour and a half total.

Cabarrus, North Carolina

We think spending a day in Cabarrus, North Carolina is a great day trip. We’ve had several of our writers spend a lot of time there and have stories on some of the fun things to do in Cabarrus County, NC.  You can spend the day there or make it a weekend with a stay in the Great Wolf Lodge, another favorite destination for us, here at Kidding Around.  Regardless of the length of your trip, we think the Charlotte Motor Speedway’s light display should be on your itinerary.

Lodging in Concord near the Speedway

Embassy Suites in Concord

Explore Cabarrus sent us to stay at the lovely Embassy Suites in Concord in 2022 right off I-85 and five minutes from the Speedway. I’ve stayed at Embassy Suites in the past and always like them for their spacious rooms, free breakfasts, and great amenities.

The room we had was a one-bedroom suite with a living space area, full bathroom, and a bedroom with a closed door. The beds were comfortable and there was plenty of space for my two kids and I. But this could easily fit a family of five even since the couch in the living space area is a pullout.

Embassy Suites Concord, NC Pool

The free breakfast in the morning was a hit with my kids. They had pancakes, eggs, French toast, yogurt, cereal, toast, biscuits and gravy, fruit, and a made-to-order omelet and waffle station. They also had coffee, tea, and juice.

This Embassy Suites also had a heated indoor pool, which my kids enjoyed after we went to the light show. It was a great way to wind down the night.

Homewood Suites By Hilton Concord/Charlotte

For our visit in 2023, Explore Cabbarus sent us to Homewood Suites by Hilton, located right beside the Embassy Suites. This lovely hotel is located right off of 1-85 and is only a 5-minute drive from the Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas lights. It is also close to tons of options for dining.

The hotel check-in was a breeze, and all the staff we interacted with were extremely helpful and kind. Our room was very clean, and even smelled good when we entered (that is always a good sign!) Our room was a suite, with a kitchen and living room, with a separate bedroom with double queen beds. The separate bedroom really helped us out because were able to put the kids down to bed, and then rest in the living room. We were very happy that the hotel was clean, quiet, and close to everything we would need.

The hotel offers free breakfast in the morning, which my husband took full advantage of. We had fresh waffles from the “make your own” waffle station, a mix of fruit, sausage patties, delicious muffins, cheesy omelets, orange juice, and fresh coffee.

Homewood Suites Concord

Other Lodging

If you need another place to stay near the Speedway, you can see the map below. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.

There’s a lot to do in Concord and the Speedway Christmas show is a great way to end a day or weekend trip to Cabarrus County!

Have you made it out to the Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas lights? What was your favorite part?

Places to see Christmas lights in Charlotte, North Carolina

Want more lights? We have that!

Here are more than 10 places to see awesome Christmas Lights in Charlotte, NC!

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

Posted on |

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