Nov 28, 2022 - Food and Drink

You can now grab a cocktail after exploring Christmas Town USA

The River Room

Exterior of The River Room, located inside Dynamo 31 in McAdenville. Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

McAdenville’s Christmas Town USA will look — and taste — differently this year with the addition of a new taproom serving both beer and liquor.

The River Room opened in McAdenville in September. It’s the project of local nonprofit, The Catawba Riverkeeper.

Context: A 30 minute drive from Charlotte, the small textile town of McAdenville is recognized both locally and nationally for its annual light display known as Christmas Town USA. 

  • McAdenville has transformed into Christmas Town USA every December since 1956. 

[Go deeper: This tiny 600-person town 17 miles from Charlotte is known as Christmas Town USA]

Why it matters: Historically, McAdenville has been a dry town — residents didn’t vote to approve alcohol sales until 2012, WBTV previously reported. 

  • The opening of bars like The River Room notes a significant change for a town built on tradition. 
  • It’s only the second place in McAdenville to have liquor on the menu since residents voted to approve alcohol sales.

The intrigue: Unsurprisingly, Christmas Town USA has been a dry attraction in the past. A local Italian restaurant, Terra Mia, was the first to offer alcohol to Christmas town visitors a few years back — but the influx of customers was overwhelming.

By the numbers: Christmas Town USA garners about 600,000 visitors each year, according to the town’s website. 

What they’re saying: “McAdenville caught onto that and was like, ‘Well, this wouldn’t be so bad to have a bar,’” said Megan Kermode, bar manager at The River Room.

Zoom in: The River Room is located in Dynamo 31, a former mill building turned adaptive-reuse space.

  • The taproom is owned and operated by The Catawba Riverkeeper, a nonprofit that aims to preserve, protect and restore the waters of the Catawba River.

Details: The Riverkeeper Foundation opened The River Room in hopes of diversifying its income. 

  • “All of The River Room’s revenue goes to supporting the organization’s mission,” said Catawba Riverkeeper, Brandon Jones. 
  • Every draft beer at The River Room comes from local breweries who brew with Catawba River water.

“We’re protecting the water we’re serving,” Kermode said.

Kermode is the mixologist behind all of the bars’ craft cocktails. Most of the cocktails center on tea or herbs, like the apple whiskey hibiscus, featured on November’s menu. 

  • “We’re fighting for the ecosystem,” she said. “So I want to be able to incorporate the herbs and things that we are looking to protect into our cocktails.”
The World Court Mocha Blonde Stout from Legal Remedy Brewing is one of the brews on tap at The River Room. Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios
The River Room apple whiskey hibiscus
The Apple Whiskey Hibiscus cocktail, made with a hibiscus tea base, whiskey, apple juice and a sugar rim. Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

What’s next: Kermode says talks to turn McAdenville into a social district have taken place. But that won’t happen overnight, and certainly not in time for this year’s Christmas Town visitors.

  • A social district allows patrons to take their alcohol outside of a bar or restaurant. It’s already been seen in communities like Hickory and Salisbury.
  • In McAdenville’s case, a social district could allow visitors to sip and stroll through the lights. 

Hours: The River Room will be open Wednesday to Sunday from 4-9pm during December.

Zoom out: The River Room won’t be the only bar to grab a drink this year. 115 Craft, a bottleshop and tap room, opened in June in downtown McAdenville.

  • You’ll be able to grab craft beer and wine before, during or after your trip through the town. Their holiday hours will be 3-10pm, seven days a week through December 23rd. 
  • Of note: Christmas Town USA will run Dec. 1 through Dec. 26 every night from 5:30-10pm.

My thought bubble: I grew up minutes from McAdenville, and my grandparents still live there. Christmas Town was, and still is, a holiday tradition for me. It wasn’t unusual to take a trip through the lights every night (yes, every night) growing up.

  • Needless to say, the town has witnessed a lot of change these last few years. I’m excited to see more small businesses put down roots in McAdenville.
Craft 115
Interior of bottle shop and taproom, Craft 115. Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios
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