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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ballantyne Hotel's Gingerbread Lane

For 2015: Open for public viewing daily, at no fee December 10-27, 2015, open during hotel hours. Inquire at 704 248 4055

https://www.theballantynehotel.com/upcoming-events/


Our gingerbread house kits at home don't hold a candle to the gingerbread inspired works of art that line Ballantyne Hotel's Gingerbread Lane. 



Each year both professional and amateur confectionery artists compete for prizes by submitting their awe inspiring interpretation on gingerbread houses, mansions and villages. The frosting laden details are impeccable, and the price to visit (FREE) is perfect! It's a fun holiday must-see here in Charlotte. 


The hallway can be a little crowded so if you have a stroller I don't recommend bringing it through during peak times. We wore our baby and it was perfect. During regular hours they offer hot cocoa for purchase.


Bring some cash for donation to vote for your favorite creation and winner of the people's vote. Donations benefit Levine Children's hospital. 



Holiday Lights at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens

I'm a Northern girl, and as such, I'm giddy that living in Charlotte means I'm able to walk around and look at holiday lights with a light jacket on. I feel like I'm getting away with something! Luckily the South, and particularly The Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens know how to do the holidays up right!
We visited for the Holidays at the Garden event and it was - enchanting.  The beautiful night, whimsical lights and mesmerized kids with the elegant back drop of Daniel Stowe will make it an annual family tradition. My pictures don't begin to capture the glimmer of the lights - its a must see in person experience.

They have lots of fun events planned throughout the evening. Check out their calendar of events here, which include s'more making by the bonfire ($3.75 for the kit), kids crafts, horse drawn carriage rides (additional cost), garden express tram rides and carolers.


Plus... SANTA! So... E wasn't so into it, but he did give me at least a few non-smile, non-crying shots. He was cajoled into sitting on Santa's lap with candy canes - I know my kid's currency...

They also had a cute model train set and a tasty coffee bar serving up peppermint coffee and hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream - yum! I bundled the kids just in case it got chilly and we were able to easily stroll around the gardens and take in the sights. There was plenty of parking and it wasn't too crowded the night we went. This family experience would be great for kids of all ages.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden runs Holidays at the Garden from 11/22/13 - 12/31/13, noon to 9pm, with lights twinkling at 5pm. The cost is $12 per adult and $6 for kids 4-12.

McAdenville, NC - Christmas Town USA

We just completed our second annual trip to McAdenville - Christmas Town USA. This year we packed the car full of kids and grandparents and headed West to experience the lights.

We arrived a little later (6:40) than the year before (5:30) and were met with about 40 minutes of stand still traffic. Christmas Fail! Luckily everyone had extra Christmas cheer (especially E) and we were able to wait out the traffic. This year we went on a Friday, whereas last year we went on a Sunday. Christmas Town USA lesson: go on a weekday and arrive early!


In the end the lights were beautiful, and definitely worth the trip there. The pond is particularly fetching as it reflects the glowing trees. McAdenville houses sparkle nightly on the 2 mile route from 5:30-9:30 (M-F) and 5:30-11:00 (S-S). You can park downtown in several locations and walk the route to completely immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit, but it is hilly and can be cold. It's a FREE event (yeay!) and free to park in designated locations.

A few of the shops stay open but most are closed. Gastonia is only a couple of miles away and has every chain restaurant you could think of if you plan to catch dinner.

The pictures really don't do the town justice, it's definitely a must see in person experience to get the real feel that the lights bring.






Penland Christmas Tree Farm


 
I've never been a big Christmas fan until I had kids -  now it's something that I've come to enjoy each year. This is our second Christmas where we ventured into a tree forest to pick out and cut down our own Christmas tree. We went to Penland Christmas Tree Farm this year located in York, SC about a 25-30 minute drive from Fort Mill. We went on a weekend and they had free coffee, hot chocolate, hay rides and a mulch play area for the kids. I purchased 4 marshmallows and a long clean roasting stick for $1 and S and I roasted marshmallows after we picked out our perfect Christmas tree.

Penland provides a saw to cut down your prized tree and wagons to haul it back to the car after you've tagged and paid for it. They will also drill a hole in the tree if needed. There were several species to choose from and this year we made sure we selected one (I mean S selected one) that would hold ornaments better than the one we chose last year. We adventured around the tree farm for at least 40 minutes while S painstakingly searched for our perfect Christmas tree. It's a nice large farm and it was a beautiful Carolina day to enjoy the outdoors. We spent $35 on the tree because it was under 8 feet, although they have some trees up to 16 feet tall.

Penland Christmas Tree Farm also sells landscaping trees throughout the rest of the year. It was a fun experience and we hope to go back next year.