In Season: Holiday Lights Blanket Belmont and McAdenville

Warm your season with lights in North Carolina.


The Thanksgiving turkey has been carved and pumpkins have been transformed into pies already eaten. But you’re still not feeling ready for the season of Santa?

Time to plan a pre-holiday escape to Belmont, North Carolina, for a jolt of jolly good times and seasonal spirit.

From the shimmering beauty of nature at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden’s Holidays at the Garden to one of the nation’s biggest lights presentations in nearby McAdenville—dubbed Christmas Town, USA—memory-making opportunities are around every bend. Throw in a little adventure at the U.S. National Whitewater Center as well DSBG Holidays at the Garden - Photo Courtesy of DSBGas boutique shopping and small-town charm, and you’ll give yourself the gift of merriment and nostalgia before the holiday arrives.

At Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, the lights are twinkling and Santa has already made a guest appearance for the annual Holidays at the Garden, an event that runs through December 31. Sip cocoa by a roaring fire or explore much of the Garden’s 380+ acres, including the Orchid Conservatory: an 8,000 square-foot, five-story glass house dedicated to the display of orchids and tropical plants.

DSBG Orchid TreeOrchids, says Executive Director Kara Newport, are a consistent attraction to the Garden, but particularly during Christmastime. “One of the most popular attractions at Holidays at the Garden has always been our orchid tree,” she says. “Our horticulture staff builds the 16-foot-tall tree completely from more than 300 orchids.  It’s spectacular and truly unique. We don’t know of another botanical garden that does this.”

This year’s holiday display also features more than 500,000 LED lights sparkling across plants, trees and pathways as well as craft classes and a Holiday Wine Pairing event on December 14, designed to share proper wine etiquette and a “tantalizing array” of complementary food and wine.

“Last year the Garden obtained an ABC permit to allow us to sell wine by the bottle and by the glass. So come with your girlfriends and sip and stroll,” says Newport.

But ensure you save a few extra moments for The Garden Store before your departure. “Our wine nook in The Garden Store carries a really nice collection of wines from North Carolina and beyond,” says Newport. “You’ll also find a lot of nice items for your holiday entertaining as well as jewelry, pottery and other pieces from local artists.”

Continue your shopping throughout Belmont, which features a variety of small, specialized boutiques and antique shops. Discover southern classics, such as fried okra chips, for unique stocking stuffers, or that perfect one-of-a-kind gift at a store along brick-lined Main Street.

Mere minutes from Belmont, escape into a simpler, nostalgic time in McAdenville.

“It’s the Christmas of your childhood,” said Mel Collins, vice president of Pharr Yarns and spokesperson for McAdenville’s annual lights celebration. “A pure celebration of Christmas that you thought was long gone.”

Since 1956, McAdenville has annually transformed into Christmas Town, USA for thousands upon thousands of guests per year—approximately 600,000 visitors seek this small town’s streets each December for its festivities.

This year, from December 1st through 26th, find hundreds of illuminated trees lining the Christmas Town route as well as vintage displays, 200 lit lamppost wreaths and Carillon bells chiming holiday carols. A lake surrounded by more than 30 decorated trees with a 75-foot multi-colored fountain serves as the centerpiece for the festive lights display.

Calling it a “Norman Rockwell-esque experience,” Collins noted McAdenville as one of few noncommercialized Christmas events that individuals can discover in 2014.

“It’s always free. Just a pure, unselfish gift to the region, to the families, and to the young at heart.”

Mentioning the beautiful Christmas feeling McAdenville’s lights provide, even for those who may have forgotten the holiday spirit in adulthood, Collins added, “It’s an opportunity for people of all ages to see through the eyes of a child.”

Looking for a full weekend of activities? Does that include thrill-seeking to bid 2014 adieu? The Belmont area boasts adventure in its own backyard at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, which still hosts hours through the end of year. To boost your holiday-readiness, participate in this December’s Santa 5K Trail Run—creatively don your most festive holiday gear and jog along the path on December 13. Not only will race winners receive awards, but nods will be given to the best dressed Santa Claus as well.

Whether you lace up for five kilometers or arrive for lights that recapture the merry flutter experienced long ago, Belmont provides a little something for the kid in every adult this holiday.

McAdenville Home2

More Information…

Belmont, N.C., is located in Gaston County, 15 minutes west of Uptown Charlotte. Once a place where textile industries served as the lifeblood of the community, the city now stands as a successful example of commerce and redevelopment, while maintaining charm and hospitality. Picturesque Belmont offers historical homes, vintage streetlamps, red brick sidewalks and memories of a simpler time. It’s a community that embraces entertainment, the arts, unique local retail and a variety of special events. For more information, visit

– Text & images courtesy Lyerly Agency; home and lake credit Steve Rankin; orchid tree and garden courtesy DSBG

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