The second-most anticipated time of the school year is almost upon us. In only a few days, the kids will have a two-week respite from classes and you’ll have a two-week window of being a cruise director and a magician – able to pull out fun and exciting family activities out of thin air. Never fear! There are plenty of places to go and things to do around town (and slightly farther away) to keep everyone occupied this holiday season.
Close to home you have the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village, a collection of historical structures including a country doctor’s office, a general store, a one-room schoolhouse, and more. Check out their Christmas gift shop for unique treats.
Located in Midland, the Reed Gold Mine is the site of the first documented gold find in the United States. You can take a tour and visit their museum, all free of charge.
If you want to stay indoors, you can take the entire family roller skating at Kate’s Skating Center in Indian Trail. It costs less than $10 per person (to skate as long as you want) and you can choose either traditional roller skates or roller blades.
Love skating and the cold? Head over to Extreme Ice in Indian Trail or Pineville Ice House. They both have huge indoor rinks along with shops and snack bars / pubs which means everyone will have a great time.
But if you want to skate outdoors and feel the wind on your face, don’t miss Holiday on Ice in Uptown, right outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It’s currently open from 5pm until 10pm on weekdays and 10am until 10pm on weekends but starting on December 22, it’s open from 10am until 10pm every day. It costs just $10 to enter and $4 to rent skates. Bring your own if you have them! And for all the Frozen enthusiasts, on Sunday, December 18, the Holiday on Ice Kingdom will welcome Elsa and Cinderella to the rink to join all their royal fans.
As long as you’re there, you should visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame. They have a ton of holiday-themed events going on while the children are out of school. Specifically, don’t miss Breakfast with Santa on Saturday, December 17. After eating a delicious breakfast, making an ornament, and visiting Santa, the kids can go outside and skate. Or wait until the morning after Christmas and head over for Undeck the Halls. The Great Hall is lined with trees decorated with NASCAR themed gifts and fans are invited to select a gift to take home. Get there early!
If you want another active outing and don’t mind a drive, check out the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden near Belmont. It’s open from 9am until 9pm and their holiday lights come on at 5pm. There is so much to do at Daniel Stowe, you might have to visit more than once. Visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus; live music; horse-drawn carriage rides; hand-crafted cocoa, lattes, and espresso; food trucks; and a model train display are just a few of the activities to occupy your time. Check out their website for a full listing of holiday events.
Near Belmont sits the little town of McAdenville, better known as Christmas Town USA. Entering its 61st year, McAdenville never disappoints with its festive lights and joyful music. Plus, it’s free! Make plans to go on a weekday night; the weekends are extremely crowded and traffic is insane. Lights come on at 5:30 every night and go off at 9:30 on weekdays and 11pm on weekends.
Moving a little further out to Gastonia, your little ones will love the Train to Christmas Town. Trains depart at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30pm (depending on the day), and during the trip all guests will have their ticket punched, listen to music, enjoy cookies and hot cocoa, and meet Santa and his elves on board. Make sure to purchase tickets ahead of time from their website; you can choose from first class or standard class.
If you are looking to have a memorable, fun few days away with the kids over the holiday break, consider heading up to the mountains for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. For tubing, look no further than Hawksnest in Seven Devils, NC. It’s the largest snow tubing park on the East Coast and boasts over 30 lanes of snow tubing that span from 400-1000 feet long. They also have ziplining. It would be a trip not soon forgotten.
For fans of skiing and snowboarding, the NC mountains offer plenty of options. Sugar Mountain is one of the largest resorts with nine lifts and 21 trails as well as tubing and ice skating for the non-skiiers. Beech Mountain, another great resort, is the highest ski area in the Eastern US and has eight lifts and 17 trails. Beech also has tubing for even more cold fun.
You could let your kids sit inside for two weeks, watching TV and playing video games. But why not make the holiday break active and fun? Visit a few of these places and get their feet moving and pulses racing. And don’t forget your camera! Those smiles will be ones you’ll treasure for years to come.