If you’re a big fan of Christmas lights and love to drive around and look at the light displays in your neighborhood every year, there’s a town in North Carolina with your name on it.  Each December, McAdenville, a small textile town located about sixteen miles outside of Charlotte, morphs from a quiet community into “Christmas Town USA” with over 500,000 red, white and green lights.

Nearby Belmont has lots of great restaurants.
Nearby Belmont has lots of great restaurants.

Where to Eat

Since McAdenville is a small town, there are only three restaurants in town, all of which close at 9 p.m. and will most likely be mobbed when you visit.  So it’s best to plan to eat first in one of the surrounding areas like Belmont or Gastonia.

Credit: city.expert

Where to Park

The town offers four parking areas – behind the McAdenville Baptist Church, on Poplar Street (behind the business area of town), next to the lake and beside McAdenville Elementary School.  There is no fee for parking or to view the lights.

Walking through McAdenville will let you see the lights up close.
Walking through McAdenville will let you see the lights up close.

What to Keep in Mind

McAdenville is a small town and there is only one route through it, so you WILL have to wait in line.  So make sure you plan ahead and allow yourself plenty of time.  The town lights all operate on automatic timers, which means they will shut off at closing time each night, regardless of how many cars are still in line.  You can plan on taking about 30 to 45 minutes to drive the full route through town.

Although you can just drive through the lights, walking is recommended to see them up close, as well as to enjoy the sound of the church bells.  So be sure to wear comfortable shoes, wear a coat and if you are bringing a pet, keep them on a leash.  Since the homes that are decorated are private residences, walkers also need to stay on the sidewalks and not go into the yards or onto the porches.

Mon-Thurs nights are best for visiting the lights.
Mon-Thurs nights are best for visiting the lights.

When To Go

Since Christmas Town USA is an extremely popular attraction, it is pretty much busy every night that it’s open from December 1st to 26th.  The lights are on from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and from 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  However, since traffic increases significantly on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, it is recommended to visit from Monday to Thursday.

The official lighting ceremony will take place on December 1st beginning at 5:00 p.m., with the switch being pulled to light the lights at 6:00 p.m.

 

McAdenville, NC - Christmas Town U.S.A.
McAdenville, NC - Christmas Town U.S.A.

How It Started

The lighting tradition in McAdenville started in 1956 when members of the McAdenville Men’s Club decided to decorate nine trees that surrounded the town’s Community Center.  The tradition continued, and as residents began decorating their homes, the attraction grew in size, with lights being added to all the trees in town.  Now, the small town street is one of the most popular holiday light displays in the country, with over 300,000 vehicles visiting each year.

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