The town of McAdenville, North Carolina, is named "Christmas Town USA," and with good reason. Each winter, the small town comes alive with a fantastic light display that draws in over 600,000 visitors annually.
Located about 15 miles west of Charlotte, this tiny town full of the Christmas spirit has put together an over-the-top lighting tradition since 1956. The town of McAdenville itself puts up over 500,000 lights, and the majority of residents decorate their houses to an extravagant degree as well.
McAdenville has gained plenty of national recognition, with USA Today, Time Magazine, and Southern Living Magazine counting it among the top holiday destinations in the nation. Good Morning America and numerous other local news stations have broadcast live from the town as well.
Christmas Town USA is open to visitors in December 2020, albeit with some changes from most years. Many of the signature events are canceled in 2020, including the inaugural tree lighting ceremony that kicks off the holiday season. However, visitors are welcome to visit and see the lights from December 1–26, 2020, which are turned on every night from 5:30–10 p.m.
Since the entire town makes up the light display, there is no charge to see the lights. You're just driving through a public city filled with the glow of Christmas.
It's recommended to visit the town between Monday and Thursday nights, since Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights have much higher traffic. The approximately 1.3 mile-long route may take about 30–45 minutes to drive on weekends, although on most weeknights it will be quicker.
Getting to McAdenville
There are a few ways to access McAdenville during the Christmas lights season, but don't rely solely on your GPS app. Some highway exits are closed to non-residents in order to control incoming traffic, so be sure to take a look at seasonal road closures before you go.
From the Gastonia area, take North Carolina Highway 7, U.S. Route 29/74 East, or Interstate 85 North. If you are coming from the Charlotte area, take U.S. Route 29/74 South and West or Interstate 85 South.
If you aren't familiar with the area or which entrances are closed, don't worry. If you're even in the vicinity of Interstate 85 or U.S. Route 29/74, you can't miss the signs leading you to Christmas Town.
Walking or Driving Through McAdenville
Many locals believe that walking through town is the best way to experience the city and make a family tradition out of the walk. Church and Academy streets, two dead-end streets near McAdenville Elementary School, will be closed to cars but open to pedestrians. If you plan to stroll around, your best bet is to park in one of the four free parking areas in town:
- Behind the McAdenville Baptist Church/CaroMont Family Medicine
- Behind the small business area on Poplar Street
- Beside the lake in the heart of Christmas Town USA
- Next to the McAdenville Elementary School (easy if you are entering from U.S. Route 29/74)
Christmas Town USA History
It all began in 1956 when the McAdenville Men's Club used Christmas-colored lights on nine trees near the local community center. The following year, the men decorated trees around the lake. Every year, more trees were adorned and, by 2004, almost 400 trees were lit in the area. Over time, the event has turned into something about much more than trees: Residents decorate their homes, lampposts hold lovely wreaths, holiday music plays, and a huge display of Santa Claus and his reindeer all bring additional cheer.