I recently visited Cabarrus County, North Carolina for the weekend and boy are they ready for the holidays! After spending time there last summer, I couldn’t wait to head back and see what they were up to for the holidays. I wrote about all there was to do in the warmer weather (Start Your Engines and Head to Cabarrus County, North Carolina and Hands in the Air! We’re Going to Whiskey Prison) and they add so much more come the holidays it’s definitely worth going several times a year.
Everywhere you turn, there is another event or celebration taking place! Everyone thinks of the area as the place to go during racing season at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But when the engines stop running – the entire area turns into one huge holiday celebration and is definitely a great spot to visit during the holidays!
Where to Stay
There are tons of places for your family to stay in the area. My family and I stayed at Great Wolf Lodge in Concord. We all know how wonderful Great Wolf Lodge is for family travel. There was something planned hourly in the lodge to keep families and kids entertained. And of course, the water fun, in December! The in-door water park fun at Great Wolf Lodge shouldn’t be missed. It was even snowing in the lobby! There was a life-size gingerbread house, face painting, pictures with Santa, story time, button making, and more – you can actually never leave Great Wolf Lodge and have a very full and active time.
Each year, Great Wolf Lodge transforms into “Snowland” for the holidays offering free events added to their normal everyday activities. Imagine swimming all day in a comfortable 84 degrees in the middle of December!
There are many other options in the area for a family stay. You can easily find many well known brand hotels in the area like Comfort Inn & Suites, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn or Residence Inn by Marriott. There are too many to name and one for every family budget right in the heart of everything there is to do in Cabarrus County.
What To Do
To be honest, there is so much to do in the area and so many spots offering holiday festivities and events in Cabarrus County, a weekend isn’t really long enough to experience it all.
Celebration of Lights & Winterland Express at Village Park in Kannapolis is one of North Carolina’s best Christmas experiences and just a short 15 minute car ride from the Great Wolf Lodge. You can take a ride on the Winterland Express train and ride a double decker carousel before starting your stroll through the village. You can visit with Santa, watch the Kannapolis Singing bears, make s’mores and enjoy more than 250,000 lights!
During the month of December and the Celebration of Lights, you can enjoy entertainers, musicians and artists that will help everyone that visit stay in the holiday spirit. In addition to the light displays throughout the park, all sorts of activities take place. You can roast marshmallows, make s’mores and visit Santa. The Winterland Express takes you through the lights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission to the park and viewing of the lights is free; tickets to ride the train and carousel are $2.00 per person per ride.
Downtown Concord Holiday Happenings – Free horse-drawn wagon rides and a Gingerbread Candy Hunt! Lots of fun for the entire family while you stroll (and shop) historic Concord. Concord is one of those little towns that I could spend hours roaming around. Heading in and out of shops owned by locals that are full of unique and interesting finds – and stopping for ice cream at Cabarrus Creamery. is a perfect way to spend a day in Concord. Add in the holiday fun and this is another time you’ll wish you had more time.
Reed Gold Mine, America’s first discovery of gold site, lets you tour the underground mine by candlelight! Holiday crafts and a Christmas market keep the entire family entertained. You can combine some history with holiday celebrations here since the mine is a North Carolina historic site. I don’t know who loved this more – my son or his daughter.
Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway – OMG – the highlight of a holiday visit to the area! The best holiday light show I have ever seen. My grandchildren were mesmerized! Cabarrus County is home to a large racing complex and community which includes Charlotte Motor Speedway (which hosts three NASCAR Cup Series events a year) so is no stranger to large numbers of visitors and their welcome mat is always out.
Speedway Christmas runs November 19 through December 31 – Thursday through Sunday. Three million lights wind through the 3.75 mile course and one display is more fabulous than the next. This year is the eighth edition of the drive-through light show and highlights a “Santa’s Mountain” theme of light displays that wind all throughout the speedway. Seven thousand 12-foot strands of lights (that total nearly nearly 16 miles) provide one of the most visual experiences I have ever had. When you set your car radio so that the lights are dancing to the beat of each song our car became a huge Christmas party with all of us dancing and oooohhh-ing and aaaahhh-ing at the lights! Based on the crowd, I would say it is most definitely a tradition for everyone that lives in the area as well as people who come to town just to see it.
After winding your way through all of the lights, you can head into the center of the track to one of the best Christmas Villages I’ve seen. It’s full of attractions like horse drawn carriage rides, a Christmas train ride, pony rides, shops and food, and more. And of course – visits with Santa!
- ANIMAL PETTING ZOO
- FOX 46 MOVIE NIGHTS On the biggest giant TV
- CARRIAGE RIDES
- S’MORES MAKING: Bring your own supplies or purchase a s’mores kit from the Christmas Village
- BETHLEHEM VILLAGE
- PHOTOS WITH SANTA
- FUN FOODS AND VENDORS: You can do Christmas shopping for friends and family in the Village – full of jewelry makers, homemade soap vendors, craft artists and more. The best mini donuts, Greek foods, funnel cakes and barbecue are all availabale.
- OVERLOOK: New for 2017, spectators can park their cars above the Turn 3 and 4 overlook for photo opportunities and a unique viewing angle above the lights. Look for the directional signage as the course heads through the concourse.
SPEEDWAY CLUB: Bring the family for dinner in The Speedway Club, a world class dining experience overlooking the light show. The Club is open to the public, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas brunch, during Speedway Christmas and reservations are required.
I do recommend if you plan to visit the Speedway Christmas, arrive early. Hours are 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. I would recommend arriving at least 30 to 45 minutes early. We visited on Saturday evening and the line to get in was long – hours long. Fortunately I was provided with a “fastpass” which cut my wait time tremendously. One thing I will say – you won’t be disappointed after waiting! It’s worth every second you wait.
Fit as many family members as you can in the car since cost is by the car full: $25 per car on Thursday and Sunday; $30 per car on Friday and Saturday.
I was provided accommodations and attraction tickets by Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau. All opinions are my own. #Hosted #Sponsored #Travel #FamilyTravel #WhereRacingLives