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Best Cheap Holiday Escapes Near Charlotte

December 14, 2013 7:00 AM

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Photo Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Holidays are for homecomings, especially with the halls all decked with pretty decorations and the wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen. Sometimes, though, a little trip away from hearth and home is refreshing. You can get inventive ideas for next year, taste seasonal goodies and breathe fresh air while enjoying a change of scenery. A getaway does not have to add burden to the holiday budget. From free to relatively low cost, here’s a list of holiday escapes about 200 miles or less from Charlotte. Ask for AAA, veterans or senior discounts for more savings.
35th Annual Christmas Bird Count
Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge
23734 US Highway 1
McBee, SC 29101
(843) 335-8401

Date: Dec. 15, 2013 at 6:15 a.m.

Here’s a free holiday event for lovers of the great outdoors. The National Audubon Society has sponsored this activity for 114 years, but it’s year 35 for the Christmas Bird Count at the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday, December 15. Sightings start at 6:15 a.m. and end at sunset. Bring binoculars, pack a lunch and wear sturdy walking shoes as a 15-mile radius will be surveyed, including lakes, forests of tall pines and open fields. The 46,000-acre forest is home to nearly 200 species of birds, scores of amphibians, reptiles, mammals and hundreds of plant species.

Christmastown USA
100 Main St.
McAdenville, NC 28101
(704) 824-4448

Date: Through Dec. 26, 2013

Since 1956, people have parked and walked or driven through the little town of McAdenville to see 375 trees decorated by the residents at their own expense. With more than 600,000 seasonal visitors expected this year, it is suggested that you plan to arrive and park by the lake in the middle of town at 5:15 p.m. to have enough time to go through the two-mile route. Visits on weeknights should result in less traffic. Lights are on timers and go out unfailingly at 9:30 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. This fantastic display, a local family favorite also covered by international media, is open through December 26 with no admission or parking charge.

Christmas At The Library
Billy Graham Library
2330 Westmont Drive
Charlotte, NC 28217
(704) 401-3200

Date: Through Dec. 23, 2013

A living nativity, horse-drawn carriages, choirs and hand bells, story time for little ones and Christmas dinner are but some of the experiences to enjoy. Shop for ornaments at Ruth’s Attic or enjoy scrumptious holiday treats at the Dairy Bar. A tour of Graham’s boyhood residence, which was moved from Myers Park, has the feel of home, down to the artifacts in the kitchen and the living room. Designated as one of the top 20 events by the Southeast Tourism Society, lines will be longer as the December 23 end date approaches. The start time for most activities is 5 p.m., except the noon to 2 p.m. window for children to pet the animals. Parking is free until 3 p.m.

Related: Top Five Free Date Ideas In Charlotte

Tanglewood Park Festival Of Lights
4201 Manor House Circle
Clemmons, NC 27012
(336) 703-6400

Date: Through Jan. 1, 2014

Family cars, commercial limos and buses are able to drive through the park, located near Winston-Salem, to view this spectacular display through January 1 for $15 to $90 depending on the size of your vehicle. Long lines are the rule on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, when visitors may have a two-hour wait. The best bet is to visit on Mondays through Thursdays. Imagine the delight of going to sleep at the Manor Bed and Breakfast, a 10-room facility located inside of Tanglewood Park, with rooms from $90 to $135 per night. AAA’s “Go Magazine” suggests the UNC School of the Arts production of “The Nutcracker” (December 14-22) while in the Winston-Salem area.

Comfort Suites Asheville
890 Brevard Road
Asheville, NC 28806
(828) 665-4000

This location offers its popular one-night Biltmore package throughout the year. This includes a two-day pass for two for a self-guided tour of the Biltmore Estate – a must see for the holidays, daytime and evening – and a satisfying breakfast buffet, all for $222. While in Asheville, literature lovers might visit the Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site downtown, where the famed American author grew up as described in “Look Homeward, Angel.” The National Gingerbread House Competition is displayed at the Grove Park Inn through January 2, 2014. Hear revered folklorist Sheila Kay Adams perform ballads and tell tales of Christmases long ago for $10 if you are in the area on December 21. Call (828) 253-8304 for details.

Related: Best Christmas Tree Cutting Experiences In The Charlotte Area

Jacquelin Celeste Peters has produced award winning radio programs at WPFW Pacifica-Washington. She is a Culture and Events Examiner in Charlotte, North Carolina, which she calls home. Her work can be found at


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