Perhaps the most spectacular holiday illumination event in the Carolinas is a little more than an hour northeast of Charlotte. You can almost spot the glow from I-40 when you get near Clemmons, in Forsyth County. You’ll certainly notice the traffic: Thousands of vehicles head to the Tanglewood Festival of Lights (http://bit.ly/g7Nnof).
Tanglewood itself is a 1,300-acre all-seasons park that holds a golf course, arboretum, rose garden, stables, a lake and more. And since 1992, it has staged a drive-through light show that will be Nov. 23-Jan. 1 this year. It’s so massive that setup for it began in August: More than 83 illuminations – containing at least 1 million bulbs – over a four-mile route. Average attendance: 250,000 per year. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays tend to be very busy; your wait may be as long as two hours. (Note: Admission is per-vehicle; only cash and checks are accepted at the entrance gate.)
There’s more to do than peer out your windows at giant illuminations of Santas, angels, nutcracker soldiers and animals (ranging from penguins and swans to deer, reindeer, fish and Peter Cottontail).
A gift shop midway in the driving route is stocked with items made by more than 70 area crafters; there are extra-cost tractor-pulled hayrides and horse-drawn carriage rides (call ahead for reservations).