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 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.