Wondering what to do with the kids over winter break 2021/2022? Look no further. Here’s a list of some cheap and free things that will be fun for kids during Christmas Break. Included are special holiday activities to do the first few days of break, plus some Charlotte area activities that are always free or cheap.
Scroll down for some good discounts on kids’ activities, some ideas of things to do during break, and then keep scrolling for a big day-by-day list of 100+ kid-friendly events during break.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools’ winter break, including work days and weekends, is from December 18th, 2021, to January 3rd, 2022.
Make sure to subscribe to Charlotte on the Cheap by email so you will learn about all the free and cheap events all year. Check out Groupons for kids’ activities in the Charlotte area, including museums, skating, trampoline parks and much, much more!
- Santa (and more) at Bass Pro Shops: Every day through December 24th, 2021, kids can meet Santa and get a free picture at Bass Pro Shops at Concord Mills, and at Cabela’s, in Fort Mill, SC.
- Walks and hikes around Charlotte: Check out our big list of 50 hikes and walks in Charlotte and beyond. We have a ton of detail in the articles to help you decide where to go.
- Gingerbread Lane: Visit Ballantyne Hotel and view an amazing collection of gingerbread houses. It’s free to visit and a minimum donation of $1 to Levine Children’s Hospital to vote for your favorite. Through December 26th, 2021.
- Sea-Life Aquarium: Sea-Life Aquarium, at Concord Mills, offers kids a close up look at fish and other aquatic creatures. Through January 3rd, 2022, enjoy Sea Lights. Prices vary.
- Visit ImaginOn: There’s always something fun and free for kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens, at ImaginOn, including the children’s library; Studio I, where teens and families can create videos; the StoryLab, computers that allow kids to create stories; and much more. Free.
- North Carolina Transportation Museum: This museum in Spencer is a hit with train buffs, and The Polar Express Train Ride is taking place through December 23rd, 2021. Then on December 26th, and December 28th to 31st, 2021, there will be special Winter Holiday Train Rides.
- Indoor Play Areas: Check out our big list of indoor bounce houses, trampoline parks, climbing gyms and more. Always make sure to check Groupon before you go, because there are lots of discounts!
- Parks and Rec: Mecklenburg County Parks and Rec has a full schedule of hikes, nature activities, sports and more during break. Here are a number of free family activities taking place at nature centers. Visit the parks and rec website to find more activities. Many are free and all are reasonably priced.
- Christmas Town USA: Nearby McAdenville boasts one of the best Christmas light displays in the country. It’ll be going through December 26th, 2021. Lines can be long. Try on a week night. Free.
- Mecklenburg County Greenways: The Greenway system in winter can be wonderful. No bugs, no humidity! Walk or bike these trails to be close to nature and get some exercise. Check out the history statues on Little Sugar Creek Greenway. Free.
- Reed Gold Mine: Tour the underground mines for free. Pan for gold for $3. Reed Gold Mine is in Midland.
- Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden: These gardens in Belmont are well worth the visit, especially around the holidays. The children’s garden, Lost Hollow, will excite kids’ imaginations. Holidays at the Garden takes place on Wednesdays through Sundays, through January 3rd, 2022. Tickets are $14.95 for adults, $12.95 for seniors age 60+, $7.95 for children ages 2-12, and free for children under 2.
- Ice Skating: The U.S. National Whitewater Center has expanded their skating rink this year. It’s now over 24,000 square feet, including two ice trails and two free skate zones. You need to purchase an activity pass, which is $25 (including skate rental), and parking is $6.
- Kannapolis Christmas: Kannapolis’ holiday celebration is one of the best. Every night Village Park lights up with multiple displays. Walk through the park for free or take the Winterland Express train for $2. (Reservations required.) Carousel rides are also available for $2.
- Speedway Christmas: Charlotte Motor Speedway’s enormous light display ranges from $20 to $30/car to drive through, depending what night of the week it is. Obviously the way to make this one frugal is to make sure you have a packed car or minivan. Cost includes entry to Christmas Village, when open, and holiday movies on the big screen. Follow the above link for details on additional discounts.
- James K. Polk State Historic Site: This site is always free to visit. Learn what life was like in the 1800s for one of our presidents.
- Christmas Lights: Here’s a list of some of the most spectacular displays, including many at private homes around the region.
- Charlotte’s museums: Winter break is a great time to take the kids to Mint Museum Uptown, Mint Museum Randolph, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture and Levine Museum of the New South. Mint Museum Uptown, Bechtler and the Gantt Center are all part of the Levine Center for Arts, so are very easy to visit together.
- Discovery Place Museums: Visit Discovery Place Science ($19-$23 for adults, $15-$18 for kids), or Discovery Place Kids in Huntersville ($11-$14).
- Discovery Place Nature: This museum is geared toward young kids and features a Butterfly Pavilion, Insect Alley, and Creature Cavern. Maybe best of all, you can take the fun outside at Ford Wild (a play area), the Paw Paw Nature Train, and Freedom Park. Admission is $8.
Current Groupons for Kid-Friendly Activities in Charlotte
These deals change all the time, but check out some great deals from Groupon on trampoline parks, climbing gyms, and more.