Visiting McAdenville Christmastown USA in North Carolina

Downtown Christmastown USA. (McAdenville) North Carolina on December 12, 2014
••• Elizabeth W. Kearley / Contributor / Getty Images

The town of McAdenville, North Carolina is named "Christmas Town USA," and with good reason. Each year, the small town of fewer than 700 residents comes alive each winter with a fantastic light display that draws in over 600,000 visitors annually.

Located about 15 miles west of Charlotte, a visit to the tiny town is a holiday tradition for most locals and has been for over 50 years. 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 Time Magazine and Yahoo just in the past few years alone counting it among the top 10 destinations in the nation. Good Morning America has broadcast live from the town, as have countless local news stations.

McAdenville Christmas Basics

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.

The lights will begin glowing every single night usually starting on December 1. They usually glow until the night after Christmas. The hours for McAdenville are Monday to Friday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday: 5:30 to 11 p.m.

How to get to McAdenville

To get to the town, just head to exit 22 on I-85 and follow the signs (or, the line of cars). Many locals though, go the "back way" - Wilkinson/Franklin Boulevard (U.S. 29/74. Taking this entrance will probably be less busy, and you'll see the same lights - just in reverse order.

Friday and Saturday nights from 5 to 10 p.m. will see the most traffic, so expect backups on both I-85 and Wilkinson Boulevard. Be sure to take one of these routes, because if you plug "McAdenville" into your GPS or a mapping service, it will most likely take you to the actual McAdenville exit on I-85, which will be closed.

Of course, if you're even in the vicinity on the interstate or 29/74, you won't miss the town or signs.

There's only one route through town, so you can't miss anything. If you start at I-85, it will take you to 29/74. Starting at 29/74 will take you to I-85.

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. If that's your plan, your best bet will be to park in one of three lots recommended by the town. A parking lot is located behind the McAdenville Baptist Church/Caromont Clinic, another lot is located behind the Village Restaurant on Main Street, and there's a large parking lot is located beside the lake in the heart of Christmas Town. Many people also park in the shopping center parking lot that's on your left as you come in on 29/74 (from Charlotte). The route is approximately 2 miles long from start to finish ‚Äčand should take you 30 to 45 minutes to drive on a weekend (weeknights will be less). Vehicles do move slowly, and it's considered courtesy to turn off your lights (you won't need them anyway, even at night).

Planning a Hayride

The town of McAdenville actually does allow for hayrides, but only if the vehicle being pulled is pulled by a motor vehicle - no animals are permitted to pull a hayride through the town.

Dogs, of course, are permitted if you're just walking or driving along the parade route.