Christmas is coming and it’s time to start making plans. If you’re like me you are now fully immersed in the holiday spirit.  If you’re looking for some fun family-friendly Christmas events around the Carolinas we’ve got you covered. We’ve told you about all the events happening locally in the immediate Charlotte area (and boy are there a lot of them!). But for this list, I want to zero in on family-friendly Christmas trips you can take in the Carolinas. A couple of these I would consider “local” but others are a short drive. They are perfect for a day (or night) trip and are easily doable without a hotel stay. Though you can’t go wrong with a full weekend getaway this time of year either! Each attraction on this list is one of the top holiday destinations in North or South Carolina (or both). They are the perfect opportunities to make life-long memories with your family that you will treasure forever. So grab your kids, jump in the car, and have a good old-fashioned family Christmas. It’s what the season is all about after all. Merry Christmas!

Here are 10 of our favorite family-friendly Christmas trips in the Carolinas:

  • The Grove Park Inn- Asheville, NC

    Best known for its hosting of the Annual Gingerbread Competition, but the impressive houses are just some of the beauty of Christmas at the Grove Park Inn. Stroll through and look at the incredibly detailed houses from a variety of categories. Sit by the gigantic fireplace, and enjoy the festive decorations. Plus you’re close to another favorite destination on this list The Biltmore Estate. Even if you don’t want to pay to stay at Grove Park this time of year (and it can be pricey) you can still visit and stroll the magnificent historic hotel and maybe dine at one of the fabulous restaurants.

  • The Polar Express Train Ride- Spencer, NC

    Just a short drive up I-85 will take you to Spencer, NC home of the North Carolina Transportation Museum. And this time of year, it plays host to the beloved Polar Express train ride. Passengers will board a train to “the North Pole” set to the sounds of The Polar Express soundtrack, complete with hot chocolate and cookies served on board the train. On board, they will be entertained by a reading of Chris Van Allsburg’s classic, The Polar Express. Upon arrival at the North Pole, passengers deboard to watch Santa present the first gift of Christmas.

  • Speedway Christmas- Concord, NC

    You don’t have to go far from Charlotte for this next stop. In fact, it’s probably just a few minutes drive from most people. You’ll get to drive on the iconic track and the course features four million LED Christmas lights strewn across a four-mile course, with displays and lights synchronized to Christmas-themed music. Every Thursday-Sunday night you can catch drive-in movies on its 16,000-square-foot HDTV. And there’s the Christmas Village in the infield where you’ll find Santa, food and merchandise vendors, and rides!

  • Riverbanks Zoo Christmas Lights- Columbia, SC

    Take a trip down I-77 for Lights at Riverbanks at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC. The zoo is decked out in over 1 million twinkling lights and features lighted animal lanterns. There is also a Santa’s village, Winter Wonderland, rides, smores, and hot cocoa.

  • Christmas at Tweetsie Railroad- Blowing Rock, NC

    Tweetsie Christmas features a nighttime train ride in an open-air car behind one of the park’s historic steam locomotives. You’ll wind through a three-mile route lined with over 1 million Christmas lights. Other highlights of the event include a heartwarming live Christmas variety show, kid-friendly amusement rides, meetings with Santa in his Gingerbread House filled with candied furnishings, and roasting s’mores over an outdoor fire.

  • Holidays At The Garden- Belmont, NC

    At the holidays, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is decked out in dazzling lights, sparkling fountains, and holiday décor. Spend time together around an outdoor fire making s’mores while the kids, young and old, delight in the experience. Enjoy a snack and a warm beverage at one of ther food trucks. And shop at The Garden Store for gifts for everyone on your list.

  • Christmas Town USA- McAdenville, NC

    Walk or drive through Christmastown USA or McAdenville. On your journey, you’ll see a large Nativity scene, over 250 Evergreens covered in more than
    one-half million red, white and green lights. The large lake at the center of the town is circled with dozens of trees covered in lights. Seasonal music is played and over 100 homes are festively decorated.

  • Zootastic Park's Christmas Wonderland of Lights- Troutman, NC

    Drive through a wildlife safari amid a spectacular display of lights at Zootastic Park. With nearly 4 million lights, a S’mores pit, pony rides, petting zoo, Tiger and Giraffe feeding, pictures with Santa and the zoo’s baby animals, and more, it’s an experience you won’t forget.

  • Christmas At Biltmore- Asheville, NC

    Christmas at Biltmore features more than 100 decorated trees, 10,000 ornaments, 100,000 twinkling holiday lights, and an array of festive Christmas displays. The holiday season offers two different experiences. First is a daytime celebration perfect for viewing garlands, trees, and other decorations that deck the luminous halls. The second experience is Candlelight Christmas Evenings which features live music, lit fireplaces, and candlelight as you stroll through Christmas the way it would have felt in the late 1800s.

    It’s not just the house that’s decorated the hotels on the property, the village, the winery, the conservatory, and the restaurants are all dressed in their Christmas best.

  • Carowinds Winterfest- Charlotte, NC

    Celebrate the holiday season at Carowinds with millions of shimmering lights, ice skating, family activities, live entertainment, holiday-inspired comfort food and beverages, and select attractions. Find the perfect present at specialty holiday gift shops, play holiday-themed games, and catch the season’s festive live entertainment. Enjoy the WinterFest Wonderland Parade, a nightly Christmas parade with lavishly decorated floats, festive music, and performers.

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