Celebrate the Holidays in Raleigh and Beyond

Festive light shows, tree-lightings, performances and more in the Triangle and beyond.

By Janice Lewine

Experience holiday magic as the City of Oaks and surrounding towns dazzle with spectacular light displays, festive parades, joyous musicals and opportunities to greet Santa. Here’s our roundup of holiday happenings in and around Raleigh. Looking for more? Check out our Western Wake Holiday Roundup.

Magic of Lights: A Magical Drive-Through Holiday Experience
November 18–December 30
3801 Rock Quarry Road, Raleigh
Coastal Credit Union Music Park shines brightly as guests weave through a spectacular 1-mile drive-through holiday lights display. Tickets start at $20 and are limited in quantity per evening. Purchase tickets online.

WRAL Nights of Lights
November 19–December 24
2105 Umstead Drive, Raleigh

The 1.3-mile drive-through holiday light event at Dorothea Dix Park showcases large-scale light displays, in-person activations like a personal igloo rental or Holiday Outpost experience, multiple bike-only nights and a Nights of Lights 5K Fun Run/Walk. Purchase tickets online.

North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival
November 18–January 8
8003 Regency Parkway, Cary
Koka Booth Amphitheatre is transformed into a magical setting of beautiful LED lantern displays handcrafted by artisans from Tianyu Arts & Culture. These larger-than-life lantern displays are located along a half-mile loop around the amphitheater. Cultural performances are featured nightly at 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.  

Lafayette Village Holiday Market and Lighting of the Tree
November 19, 3–6 p.m.
8450 Honeycutt Road, Raleigh

Lafayette Village turns into a festive winter wonderland featuring seasonal music and shop discounts. The Lighting of the Tree takes place at 6 p.m. in the courtyard.

North Hills Tree Lighting
November 19, 4–7 p.m.
4321 Lassiter at North Hills, Raleigh
This annual holiday event in the Commons at North Hills features a live band, kids crafts and activities, food trucks and a vendor village. As Santa Claus arrives at 6 p.m., the 41-foot tree is lit amidst a joyous chorus of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”

The Dessertery
November 19–December 23; hours vary
Kennedy Theatre
2 E. South Street, Raleigh
Indulge yourself in a family-friendly, holiday-themed dessert café. The Dessertery features elaborate holiday decor, all-you-can-eat sweets and hot cocoa, plus live entertainment on select nights. Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for ages 2–6.

The Rink
November 19–January 16
500 S. McDowell Street, Raleigh
Red Hat Amphitheater
Enjoy the thrill of ice skating in the heart of downtown Raleigh. Highlights of the event include a 20-foot decorated tree, cozy furniture stations with heat warmers, fire pits, photo opportunities, a snack bar and games. Tickets are $11 for skaters and $6 for nonskaters.


78th Annual Raleigh Christmas Parade
November 19, 9:30 a.m.–noon
Fayetteville Street, Raleigh

The Raleigh Christmas Parade attracts 60,000 spectators from across the state to downtown Raleigh and reaches more than 250,000 people via ABC11 TV broadcasting and ABC11 streaming apps. 
shoplocalraleigh.org or grma.org

North Carolina Symphony Presents “The Polar Express”
November 23, 4 p.m.; November 25, 3 p.m.
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South Street, Raleigh
Paintings from the Caldecott Medal–winning book “The Polar Express” appear on a giant screen above the stage as baritone Scott MacLeod and a chorus of children join the North Carolina Symphony to bring this magical holiday tale to life.

Festival of Lights
November 24–January 1, 5:30–9 p.m.; closed November 28–December 1
Hill Ridge Farms
703 Tarboro Road, Youngsville
Immerse yourself in magical lights on a 1-mile-plus trail throughout the farm from the comfort of your vehicle. Tickets per vehicle are $20 cash, $23 credit/debit; pay upon arrival. 

“Mannheim Steamroller Christmas”
November 26, 8 p.m.
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian Street, Durham
Don’t miss this favorite holiday tradition as Mannheim Steamroller dazzles with seasonal music and dazzling multimedia effects.

“Elf the Musical”
November 29–December 4; see website for showtimes
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian Street, Durham
Follow Buddy the Elf in his hilarious quest to find his true identity and the meaning of Christmas.

Lights on the Neuse
Visit the website for operating dates and to purchase tickets.
1620 Loop Road, Clayton
Take a 1-mile, tractor-pulled hayride through a holiday light spectacular featuring s’mores and photos with Santa.

“Dave Koz and Friends 25th Anniversary Christmas Tour”
December 2, 8 p.m.
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South Street, Raleigh
Grammy-nominated saxophonist Dave Koz, along with trumpeter Rick Braun, guitarist Peter White, pianist Keiko Matsui and vocalist Rebecca Jade, perform original holiday songs.

Lighting of Wake Forest
December 2, 6–8:30 p.m.
Centennial Plaza
301 S. Brooks Street, Wake Forest
This year’s ceremony features the lighting of the Christmas tree at 6:15 p.m., musical performances and Santa’s arrival in a Wake Forest fire truck. 

“Handel’s Messiah”
December 2–3, 8 p.m.
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South Street, Raleigh
The North Carolina Symphony and the North Carolina Master Chorale perform Handel’s masterpiece featuring the resounding “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Chapel Hill–Carrboro Community Parade
December 3, 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Franklin Street, Chapel Hill
Get festive this winter season by joining the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro for a parade that celebrates community and diversity. The parade begins on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill and ends on Main Street in Carrboro.

Wake Forest Historic Home Tour
December 3, 1–7 p.m.
Downtown Wake Forest
This self-guided tour showcases historic homes and other properties in downtown Wake Forest, dressed in their holiday finery and open for viewing. Purchase tickets online. 

“The Holly Jolly Joshua Show”
December 3, 11 a.m.
Carolina Theatre of Durham
309 West Morgan Street, Durham
Joshua Holden entertains all ages with singing, tap dancing and a zany cast of puppets in this delightful holiday story. Tickets are $5.

Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express
December 3–4, 10–11 and 17; departure times are 9:30 and 11 a.m.; and 12:30, 2:15 and 3:45 p.m.
New Hope Valley Railway
3900 Bonsal Road, Apex

Search for Santa’s nine missing reindeer—including Rudolph—during a 50-minute ride in the New Hill woods. Take a camera for a photo with Santa. Purchase tickets online.

Light Up the Night Hillsborough Holiday Parade
December 4, 4 p.m.
Old Courthouse
104 E. King Street, Hillsborough
This long-standing parade also features a tree-lighting ceremony and community singalong.

Rolesville Christmas Parade
December 4, 2 p.m.
Downtown Rolesville
Festive floats and marching bands highlight this annual event in downtown Rolesville.

“Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox: A Very Postmodern Christmas”
December 4, 7 p.m.
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South Street, Raleigh
Listen as New York City pianist Scott Bradlee remakes the pop hits of Christmas today into the classic sounds of yesterday.

Evening With Elves
December 9, 6–8:30 p.m.
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett Street, Raleigh
Immerse yourself into the magic of the holiday season with s’mores outdoors, arctic museum play and a special visit from the Snowflake Fairy. Kids are encouraged to wear pajamas. Children must be accompanied by at least one adult over the age of 18. Purchase tickets online for $25–$30/person.

North Carolina Symphony Presents “Holiday Pops”
December 9, noon
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South Street, Raleigh
The North Carolina Symphony performs treasured holiday favorites and traditional carols.

Raleigh Boychoir’s “Carols of Christmas”
December 9, 7 p.m.
Edenton Street United Methodist Church
228 W. Edenton Street, Raleigh
The Raleigh Boychoir delivers yuletide favorites to brighten your holiday spirit. Tickets are $10–$20 online.

Ira David Wood III’s “A Christmas Carol” 
December 9–11 and 14–18
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Raleigh
Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham
Ira David Wood III’s “A Christmas Carol,” a musical comedy adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, celebrates its 49th year. Performances take place December 9–11 at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts and December 14–18 at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

Olde Towne Louisburg Candlelight Christmas Tour
December 10, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Christmas will be on display in specially selected historic homes, churches and buildings in Louisburg’s Historic District. Louisburg’s own Victorian Carolers will perform during check-in at the Historic Person Place. Hot cider, compliments of Chartwells, will be served. Baked goods by the Franklinton Women’s Club will be on sale. Horse and carriage rides will carry you through the the streets of Louisburg’s Historic District — tickets for horse and carriage rides are sold separately at the event.

Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl
December 10 and 17, 2–9 p.m.
Downtown Raleigh
Wear your ugliest Christmas sweater, elf costume or seasonal onesie to dash in style through downtown Raleigh’s bars, where you can enjoy holiday drink specials, costume contests and more. View the venue list at barcrawllive.com. Tickets are $15 and must be purchased online. This event is for ages 21 and older.

Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour
December 10 and 11, 1–7 p.m.
Historic Oakwood Neighborhood, Raleigh 
The 51st annual self-guided tour features 11 properties dating from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. Each home is staffed with docents who describe the rich history of the home. 
Tickets are $30–$35 and can be purchased online and in person at 418 N. Person Street, Raleigh.

“Plaid Tidings: A Holiday Edition”
December 10, 3 and 7 p.m.; December 11, 3 p.m.
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre for the Arts
405 S. Brooks Street, Wake Forest
Plaid Tidings sings yuletide’s greatest songs in perfect harmony. Tickets are $25 online.

Carolina Ballet Presents “The Nutcracker”
December 10–24; see website for showtimes
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Raleigh
Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham
Carolina Ballet honors past productions of “The Nutcracker” by George Balanchine and Robert Weiss while presenting refreshed choreography for today’s audiences. Performances take place December 10–11 at the Durham Performing Arts Center and December 16–24 at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh.

North Carolina Master Chorale Presents “Joy of the Season”
December 13, 7:30 p.m. 
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South Street, Raleigh
The Chorale’s 170-voice Symphonic Choir, Chamber Choir and Youth Choir accompanied by a brass ensemble, percussion, piano and organ return to Meymandi Concert Hall to sing familiar carols and new settings. Tickets are $28 and up.

“Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Ghosts of Christmas Eve”
December 14, 7 p.m.
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh

The progressive rock group delivers an electrifying holiday show. Tickets are $39 and up.

“NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet”
December 15, 7 p.m.
Carolina Theatre of Durham
309 W. Morgan Street, Durham
Relive your fondest childhood dreams, overflowing with larger-than-life puppets, breathtaking acrobatics, dazzling costumes and the exquisite artistry of an international cast, including Ukrainian ballet performers.

Raleigh Ringers’ Holiday Concerts
December 17–18, 4 p.m.
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South Street, Raleigh
Hear the Raleigh Ringers present interpretations of sacred, secular and popular music arranged for handbells. Purchase tickets online, $14–$26.

Gingerbread Jamboree
December 17–18, 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett Street, Raleigh
Create special memories this holiday season by decorating a keepsake gingerbread house. Purchase tickets online, $15/members and $18/nonmembers.

“A Magical Cirque Christmas”
December 19, 7:30 p.m.
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian Street, Durham
Magical hostess Miss Lucy takes audiences on an enchanting adventure featuring breathtaking cirque artists and live holiday music.

“Jim Brickman: A Very Merry Christmas”
December 20, 7:30 p.m.
Fletcher Opera Theater.
2 E. South Street, Raleigh
Songwriter and piano sensation Jim Brickman presents a concert experience that blends yuletide memories and holiday favorites with his own hit songs, such as “The Gift,” “Sending You a Little Christmas,” “Angel Eyes” and “If You Believe.”

“The Hip Hop Nutcracker”
December 23, 7:30 p.m.
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian Street, Durham
Legendary emcee Kurtis Blow leads theatergoers through a remixed and reimagined version of the classic ballet that celebrates love, community and the magic of the holiday season.

First Night Raleigh
December 31; 5 p.m.–midnight
Downtown Raleigh
Ring in the new year with live entertainment, roving street performers, arts and crafts stations and the Acorn Drop at midnight. Tickets are $12–$16.

Kwanzaa Fest
January 1, noon–5:30 p.m.
212 Foster Street, Durham
The African American Dance Ensemble hosts the 37th annual Kwanzaa Fest at the Durham Armory featuring a children’s village, vendor market and live performances that highlight family, cultural and social values.

Holiday Events Farther Afield


Christmas at Biltmore
November 4–January 8
1 Lodge Street, Asheville
“Christmas at Biltmore Daytime Celebration” ($99–$399/ticket) showcases the elegant rooms of Biltmore House beautifully bedecked in Christmas trimmings. Both the Visit Plus and Expert-Guided Visit options feature the immersive, multi-sensory exhibition “Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius.” “Candlelight Christmas Evenings” ($119–$409) allows guests to step back in time with an experience reminiscent of the Vanderbilts’ first Christmas in Biltmore House in 1895. Musicians stationed throughout the house perform seasonal favorites. A 55-foot Norway spruce sparkles in the front lawn and luminaries line the walkway. Arrive early to experience “Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius,” which is included with the Visit Plus and Expert-Guided Visit options.


Winter Wonderlights
November 17–January 1
4301 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro
The Greensboro Science Center’s zoo and 11-acre expansion transform into a holiday extravaganza of 12 Magical Realms. See the Polar Pond, Forest of Light and Snowball Surprise, and have fun in the Treehouse Lights and Dino Disco. Visit the website for operating hours and ticket prices.

Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights
November 11–January 1, 6–11 p.m.
4061 Clemmons Road, Clemmons
See dozens of dazzling holiday light displays from the comfort of your car. Tickets are $20 cash or $23 credit per family vehicle.

Festival of Trees
November 16–20; Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
The Carolina Hotel
80 Carolina Vista, Pinehurst
The annual Festival of Trees at The Carolina Hotel benefits children who have special developmental needs at Sandhills Children’s Center, helping to provide vital therapies to ensure them the very best start in life. Donations are accepted at the door.

Tweetsie Christmas
Open select evenings November 25–December 30, 5–9 p.m.
300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane, Blowing Rock
Tweetsie Railroad transforms into a winter wonderland featuring a nighttime train ride among thousands of dazzling lights. Enjoy amusement park rides and meet Santa in his house filled with candied furnishings. Tickets are $52 for ages 13 and older, $35 for ages 3–12. Online ticket purchase is recommended.

Winter Lights at The North Carolina Arboretum
November 18–December 31, 5:30–10:30 p.m.
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville
Drive through the arboretum’s enchanted forest to view unique exhibits covered in thousands of holiday lights. Prices vary by date and can be purchased online or at the gate.

North Carolina Holiday Flotilla
November 26, 6 p.m.
Wrightsville Beach in Wilmington
See boats decorated in their holiday finest sail down Motts and Banks channels, followed by evening fireworks. Admission is free. For those arriving early, don’t miss A Day in the Park, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., at the Town Complex featuring food vendors, live music, a car show and kids activities.

Deck the Trees
December 1–January 2
308 W. State Street, Black Mountain
Discover beautifully decorated Christmas trees at the Monte Vista Hotel, and in stores and businesses throughout Black Mountain and the Swannanoa Valley area. Each tree, uniquely decorated around the theme “Let Heaven and Nature Sing” are created by businesses, organizations, or individuals to help raise funds for the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry Fuel Fund. 

Crystal Coast Holiday Flotilla
December 3, 5:30–8 p.m.
315 Front Street, Beaufort
See boats, yachts, oars, kayaks and commercial vessels decorated for the season beginning at 5:30 p.m. on the Morehead City waterfront and at 6:15 p.m. on the Beaufort waterfront.

Holiday Lights in the Garden
December 2–22
Cape Fear Botanical Garden
536 N. Eastern Boulevard, Fayetteville
Experience a Winter Wonderland, see Santa, enjoy s’mores and more. Tickets are limited. Check the website for ticket sale dates and prices.

Santa on the Chimney
December 3 and 10, 11 a.m.–2 p.m.
Chimney Rock State Park
431 Main Street, Chimney Rock
For the 25th year, Santa will rappel down Chimney Rock, an iconic natural landmark. Visitors can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, enjoy animal education programs by a park naturalist and make holiday crafts. This event is included with park admission: $17 for adults, $8 for ages 5–15, and free for ages 4 and younger.

Candlelight Night at the Palace
December 10 and 17, 4:30–9:30 p.m.
529 S. Front Street, New Bern
Spend your evening exploring the historic homes at Tryon Palace and with entertainment in the Performance Tent. Stop by Mistletoe Corner to enjoy drinks and delicious snacks in a festive holiday setting. The evening ends with a grand display of black powder fireworks. Online ticket purchase is recommended.