For the month of December, McAdenville, NC, a quintessential small town about 15 miles west of Charlotte, transforms into a twinkling holiday wonderland. Every house, building, light post and tree is draped and wrapped in sparkling lights and Christmas trimmings.
Starting December 1, you can drive through “Christmas Town, USA.” But for the full sensory experience, consider walking instead.
Here’s what you get when you opt for a stroll: Wrap up in your favorite scarf and mittens. Enjoy the fresh air. Linger at your favorite displays. Hear the church bells and holiday music. Stop for hot chocolate at the town fire station. Share a friendly greeting with fellow revelers. And take advantage of abundant photo opportunities.
Here’s how to discover the magic of McAdenville on foot.
How to get there
Park at McAdenville Elementary School (275 Wesleyan Dr, McAdenville, NC 28101) just inside the town limits and conveniently located at one end of the Christmas light route. From there, it’s a 0.75 mile stroll to the Pharr Family YMCA, which makes a good turnaround spot.
To get to the school, take Wilkinson Blvd. (US 74W) away from uptown approximately 15 miles. Turn right on Wesleyan Drive (there’s a Burger King on your left at the intersection). The school will be on your right in 0.2 miles.
The town lights are on a timer and switch on at 5:30 p.m. seven days a week. They stay on until 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and 11:00 p.m. on weekends. The earlier in the evening you go, the less traffic you’ll encounter. Same goes for weekdays versus the weekend. Admission is free.
The streets throughout town are lined with sidewalks, making it pedestrian friendly (including strollers!). And the cars drive at a leisurely pace, so traffic doesn’t feel overwhelming. To be safe, wear brightly colored, reflective clothing. To be comfortable, wear good walking shoes.
Leaving the school parking lot, follow Wesleyan Dr. toward the lake. You’ll be greeted with your first walking reward at the roundabout. Cars must follow the traffic flow of the main route, while pedestrians can detour to some of the side streets.
Each private home’s displays are impressive. To take them in up close and at your leisure is indulgent. All houses are adorned in string lights, but some play music, have animated decorations or adhere to a clever theme, which can only be fully appreciated when you’re in no rush to move along.
One of the more breathtaking displays comes at the lake just down the hill from the roundabout. The lighted trees and their twinkling mirrored reflections lining the water are resplendent.
At the lake, you’ll cross a bridge and pass McAdenville Fire Station 40 where, on many evenings, you can stop for a cup of hot chocolate.
Next, you’ll approach the town center. Take a left on Main St. The intersection is crowded, but there are police on hand to direct traffic. They will gladly manage the cars to help you across.
Here you’ll amble down the idyllic main street, complete with a town clock, town hall, post office, bakery and shops. Across from the business side of the street is Legacy Park, a lovely gathering area with playground equipment for the kids.
Further up Main Street and around a bend is the McAdenville Baptist Church, which displays a near-life-size nativity scene. And just past the church is the Pharr Family YMCA. The lights continue, but the road is a little less pedestrian-friendly past this point.
The lights run nightly from December 1-26, but there are also some special events worth considering.
The Official Lighting Ceremony of Christmas Town, USA takes place Friday, December 1, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. on the plaza in front of the Pharr Family YMCA. A student from McAdenville Elementary School will pull the switch at 6:00 p.m.
The annual Yule Log Parade and Ceremony is on Friday, December 15, 2017, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in front of Pharr Yarns main office on Main Street. During this tradition, which started in 1950, residents and visitors follow the Yule Log, which is pulled on a sled by children through town, in a parade to Legacy Park where the log is positioned in the open fireplace and lighted. Area schools and churches provide music and entertainment throughout the evening. Santa makes an appearance as well.
- McAdenville decorates 375 trees and hangs more than 200 wreaths through town.
- This tradition began in 1956 with the assistance of Pharr Yarns, the largest employer and land owner in the town.
- The lights are entirely maintained by volunteers from the community.
- Pharr Yarns pays the electric bill for the event.