Daniel Stowe Christmas + Our Favorite Tradition

Is it just me or are Christmas lights bringing extra joy this year? We are loving them, so this weekend we surprised the girls with an light-filled evening. First, we visited Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens Holiday Display, followed by a drive through Christmas Town USA, but first up, we completed one of our favorite family traditions!

Every year we divide the four of us into two teams, switching the kids each year. Then we take a modest budget and go shopping for the members of the other team. It’s always fun to see what the kids think you will like, and often times, they are spot on! For example, a favorite gift of years’ past was a giant spatula for David because he’s the pancake master of our house. 


This year Kaitlyn and I were a team and she came up with hoodie footie rainbow pajamas for Hailey (plus a slime kit… yay…) and cherries for David because he likes to “put cherries in his drink” – AKA, his bourbon. Ha!

After our afternoon shopping adventure, we grabbed some Mexican food, then headed to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, which is south of Charlotte, so a decent drive for us. We spent the drive going around the car and having each person request their favorite Christmas song to listen to, so we jammed out to everything from Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (me) to I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas (Kaitlyn).

We bought tickets to the 5:00-6:30 time slot, as Daniel Stowe is limiting visitors this year. It was a great time slot because we got to see the gardens transform from daylight into a Christmas light wonderland!

Inside they had a giant orchid tree and an elaborate Dickens’ Christmas Village set up, which the girls adored. They play with our village and train at home with little Lego people and I could tell it was driving them crazy not to have Lego Hermione and Lego Harry there to play with.

Wandering out the back door brought us to the most impressive lights; the set up that danced around with whatever holiday tune happened to be playing. They had a food truck and bar with drinks from wine to hot chocolate set up, but we skipped it in favor of having extra time to wander. 

The girls are at great ages (9 and 6) for the event. With no stroller needed, they bounded all over the place to observe the lights up close, yet still got the biggest tickle out of searching for the scavenger hunt items, like a giant yeti and the giant toy train. 

In the field in the back, Hailey found a red “star” shining brightly and asked if it was Mars. David’s sky app confirmed that it was, and we went on to be able to find Jupiter and Saturn as well. It was a highlight for our little space loving lady, while the fountain you can run through was the highlight for Kaitlyn.

Since we were already so far south, and were finished at Daniel Stowe by 6:30, we decided to try and visit McAdenville, also known as Christmas Town USA. It’s a famous little town that goes all out with their decorating and the line to drive through extends for hours sometimes onto the highway.

We ended up with about an hour wait, passing the time with endless games of War in the car. Thank goodness I had cards because we had a tired crew. However, they perked up when it was time to see the lights! Being able to stick our heads out the sunroof and shout Merry Christmas to passer-bys made the wait worth it. Despite the whole drive through being over in 10 minutes, it was such a fun evening. We decided next time we’ll park and walk so we can soak in the sites and visit the little restaurants, too.

In a year that makes it so easy to focus on what we’re missing, finding the magic through making new memories really helps heal the heart and bring out the joy of the season. 

Do you have a holiday tradition that you love?

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