A Carolina Christmas
Local sights, sounds and shops to make the holidays specialBy Lori Grossman
Cheerwine BBQ sauce. Red Bird candy puffs. Thin, crunchy, Moravian cookies. And of course — Santa rappelling down Chimney Rock. Where else but in North Carolina? This list to help celebrate the holidays “North Carolina style” is by no means complete, but, hopefully, it will help newcomers and natives enjoy the sights, sounds and regionally-sourced products associated with a Tar Heel Christmas. Call or check websites for the latest times and admission requirements.
Concord | 800-455-FANS
This is one of the largest drive-through holiday lights display in the Southeast. It takes more than 5,000 hours to create this wonderland of over 4 million lights at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Visit the Christmas Village in the infield Thursday through Sunday night and make s’mores, shop, and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Don’t miss the drive-in Christmas movies shown on the Speedway’s 16,000 square-foot TV!
25th Annual Santa on the Chimney
Chimney Rock State Park | 828-625-9611
This 315-foot-tall rock formation draws over a quarter million visitors each year — including Santa Claus! Bring the little ones to watch Old Saint Nick rappel down Chimney Rock on the first two Saturdays in December. Other kid-friendly activities include photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, hot cocoa and cookies, and holiday music.
Christmas Town USA
McAdenville | 704-824-3190
Throughout December, this small town glows with red, green, and white lights and resounds with seasonal music. Drive through or skip the long lines and walk. The website will clue you in on what you’ll see and how to get there, including information about entrance routes. Weekends can be crowded, so try to go on a weeknight.
National Gingerbread House Competition
Asheville | 800-438-5800
No, these aren’t your Nana’s gingerbread houses, but they’re amazingly detailed works of art. Hosted annually at the Omni Grove Park Inn, prizes for the competition are awarded in Adult, Teen, Youth and Child categories. Nibbling is not allowed.
Red Bird Peppermints
Lexington | 336-248-2477
It wouldn’t be an NC Christmas without these yummy candies from Piedmont Candy Company. They’re allergen-free, Kosher, non-GMO, and 100% cane sugar. No nasty corn syrup! Mini Puffs are peppermint or lemon. Candy Puffs come in a range of flavors. Find them at retail stores (check “Where To Buy” on website), or order online.
House of Morgan Pewter
Kinston | 252-526-1605
Stuck for gift ideas? This family-owned company offers over 800 handcrafted pewter items. They have something for everyone — choose from Christmas ornaments, jewelry, ceiling fan light pulls, party favors and decorations, and more. Free shipping is offered on all U.S. orders.
Weaver’s Department Store
Weaver’s is based in Huntsville, Alabama, but wait! This store’s website is bliss for any Andy Griffith Show/Mayberry fan. Collectibles, food items, clothing (including Loaded Goat T-shirts), books, CDs — you name it — can all be purchased online.
Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook
Winston-Salem | 336-727-4844
North Carolina is the nation’s No. 1 producer of sweet potatoes. This eatery has many versions on its menu. You can enjoy some of their tasty offerings at home, too, with their cookbook, “Well, Shut My Mouth! The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook” — available at the restaurant or on Amazon.
Mrs. Hanes’ Hand-Made Moravian Cookies
Clemmons | 888-764-1402
Everyone loves them — even Oprah! Indulge your cookie craving with your choice of six flavors: sugar, chocolate, ginger, lemon, butterscotch and black walnut. They come in tins or tubes. Other items are available, too, including a cookbook, apron, and those beautiful Moravian stars. Order online, or come by the bakery to pick up a prepaid order.
O.P. Taylor’s Toy Store
Brevard | 828-883-2309
John Taylor is the big kid who owns this store, plus locations in Hendersonville and Greenville, South Carolina. No video games here. Show your kids the toys you loved. For a preview of what’s in store for you, watch the video on their website. Hula hoops! Slot-cars! You can also order online through Amazon.
Cheerwine Official Store
Salisbury | 704-637-5881
How about socks, Cakalacky Cheerwine BBQ sauce, or a golf umbrella? All things Cheerwine are available online or at the headquarters. You can also find scads of recipes. (Whip up some Cheerwine gummy bears for the kids’ Christmas stockings!)
Christmas in Carolina