What can you expect in the Charlotte area this holiday season? A host of time-honored favorites. And in a metropolis this large, it’s hard to experience all of them in just one year.
The Carolina Renaissance Festival (www.royalfaires.com/carolina) continues weekends through Nov. 24 on Poplar Tent Road. It began in 1994 with six acres of exhibits, attractions and entertainment; now it takes up 20 acres and is one of the largest Renaissance festivals in America. Artisan vendors offer one-of-a-kind items that range from banners and costumes to glass, leather and metalwork, pottery to musical instruments.
The Southern Christmas Show – on the seasonal radar since 1962 – returns to The Park Expo on Independence Boulevard, Nov. 14-24 (www.southernshows.com). The main draw is the mix of roughly 600 merchants – from to local entrepreneurs to specialized manufacturers – with items targeted to holiday shoppers: Wreaths, foodstuffs, jewelry, clothing, decor and more. You’ll find holiday entertainment and presentations offering holiday home tips.
The season officially kicks off with the Thanksgiving Day Parade through central Charlotte on Nov. 28 (http://bit.ly/15tNJEF). Its future was in doubt until late August when Novant Health agreed to be its primary sponsor for the next three years. The city breathed a sigh of relief: The parade has been a tradition for more than six decades.
Also returning is Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway (www.charlottemotorspeedway.com), in Concord. The Nov. 22-Dec. 30 illumination extravaganza has more than 800 displays composed of more than 3 million lights to be seen as you drive from the dragway through the parking area and into the infield, where Speedway Christmas Village has a live nativity, plus attractions and activities for the whole family.
Have a yen for the old-fashioned? Latta Plantation will again hold A Plantation Christmas on Nov. 29 and 30. Visit the main plantation buildings to learn how the holiday was observed in 1860; a Victorian St. Nick will be in attendance. The plantation (www.lattaplantation.org) will stage a Candlelight Christmas event Dec. 14. And in uptown’s historic Fourth Ward, where classic Victorian homes endure, the weekend of Dec. 6-8 brings the Fourth Ward Holiday Home Tour (www.fofw.org).
Two more established Charlotte winter attractions: The 59th annual Singing Christmas Tree presentation, Dec. 14-15 at Ovens Auditorium (www.ovensauditorium.com), and the WBT Holiday on Ice, Nov. 22-Jan. 5 at NASCAR Hall of Flame Plaza (www.wbt.com/holidayonice).
The latter is a classic example of Charlotte’s knack for balancing tradition and innovation. It’s a 7,200-square-foot ice rink that migrated two winters ago from The Green to the doors of the Hall of Fame. Despite often warm winter weather, dress for winter: the frozen expanse chills temperatures. Bring your own skates or rent them there.