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10 ways to celebrate the holidays – all for free!

By Jody Mace
Correspondent
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There are so many ways to celebrate the season in the Charlotte area. This list of free events will take you all the way through New Year’s Day. Meet Santa, tour an underground mine decorated for Christmas, watch a lighted boat parade and even experience a daily “magical snowfall” in the middle of Charlotte.

Community Nativity festival

10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7036 McIlwaine Road, Huntersville. www.nativityfestival.com.

View 500 Nativities, enjoy nightly musical performances, make crafts with your children, dress in nativity costumes and take a photo for your family Christmas card. Cameras are welcome.

Gingerbread Lane

Dec. 12-29. Ballantyne Hotel, 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway. www.theballantynehotel.com.

Visit Ballantyne Hotel and see more than 40 gingerbread creations on Gingerbread Lane. It’s free to visit. For a minimum donation of $1, you can vote on your favorite house and the donation goes to Levine Children’s Hospital, dedicated to caring for the physical and emotional needs of children and their families.

Lighted Boat Parade

6 p.m. Dec. 14. Peninsula Yacht Club, 18501 Harbor Light Boulevard, Cornelius. www.peninsulayacht.com.

The Peninsula Yacht Club’s annual Lighted Boat Parade features members’ boats decorated for the holidays and a decorated fireboat carrying Santa Claus. The public is invited to watch from the boardwalk or back lawn. Bring lawn chairs or blankets. Concessions will be sold.

Santa’s Workshop at Romare Bearden Park

11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Romare Bearden Park, 300 S. Church St. www.parkandrec.com.

Romare Bearden Park hosts Santa’s Workshop, a Christmas festival for families. Create crafts, visit with Santa and listen to holiday-themed music performances. Families are also encouraged to contribute to a toy and gift collection drive to benefit local children and families in need.

Golden Christmas at Reed Gold Mine

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Reed Gold Mine, 9621 Reed Mine Road, Midland. www.nchistoricsites.org/reed/reed.htm.

Reed Gold Mine offers a unique opportunity – a candlelit tour through the underground mining tunnels, which will be decorated for the holidays. Also enjoy performances by local choirs as well as refreshments. Craftspeople will display quilting, lace, handmade toys and other work. Donations will be collected for food pantries.

Christmas in Davidson

6-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Downtown Davidson. www.christmasindavidson.com.

Davidson celebrates the season with a festival on Main Street. Visit Santa’s house, enjoy hayrides and carriage rides, compete in an ugly sweater contest, watch live music and dance performances, see a dog fashion show, shop for Christmas trees, let the kids make holiday crafts and much more.

Holiday Central at Plaza Midwood

4:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday. Commonwealth Avenue between Thomas and Pecan avenues. www.plazamidwood.com.

The Plaza Midwood neighborhood invites the public to its annual festival, Holiday Central. Entertainment will be provided by the Plaza Family Band, Open Door Studios and Behailu Academy. City Council member Patsy Kinsey will light the tree at 6 p.m., and Santa will be available for photos. Also on site will be vendors, food trucks and local craftspeople. There will be plenty of activities for the kids.

Kids’ holiday party at EpiCentre

3-5 p.m. Dec. 14. EpiCentre, 210 E. Trade St. www.epicentrenc.com.

Bring the kids to the EpiCentre for a holiday party. Santa will be there with some his friends, and you can get a free photo of your child with the big man. Radio Disney Charlotte will be spinning tunes, leading games and giving out prizes. The event will end with a “magical snowfall.” As a matter of fact, there will be a magical snowfall every day around 5:15 p.m. at the “Snowflake Tree,” through Dec. 24.

Just Be Claus Festival

Noon Dec. 14. U.S. National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway. www.usnwc.org.

U.S. National Whitewater Center’s Just Be Claus Festival includes the Santa 5K trail run, followed by a festival with a bonfire and music by the Mike Strauss Band. There’s a charge to participate in the 5K, but it’s free to watch all the Santas run and to enjoy the bonfire and music. Parking is $5.

First Footin’ at Historic Rural Hill

11 a.m. Jan. 1. Historic Rural Hill, 4431 Neck Road, Huntersville. www.ruralhill.net.

Experience the Scottish New Year tradition of First Footin’ at Rural Hill. Participants will walk the borders of the property, stopping together to listen to stories of history and folklore. The walk is between 2 and 3 miles, so dress comfortably. Following the “First Footin’” will be a dramatic reading of the story “Stone Soup” and a luncheon. The event is free, but please bring something to share for the luncheon.

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