Merry Moments: 81 Ways to Find Holiday Joy Across the Triangle

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From Carrboro to Zebulon, the Triangle is gearing up to celebrate the holiday season in grand style. From extravagant light shows and parades to dazzling live performances, there are countless ways to get into the holiday spirit. Here’s our hearty selection of seasonal offerings that even the Grinch would enjoy! 

Skate the Square
201 Fenton Gateway Drive, Cary

November 15-February 5
Glide and gather at Fenton’s ice skating rink and enjoy festive food, trendy shops and winter holiday cheer. Tickets for a 75-minute session may be purchased online in advance or on-site, on a first-come/first-served basis. 

The Dessertery
2 E. South Street, Raleigh

November 17–December 23; hours vary. Indulge yourself in a family-friendly holiday-themed dessert cafe at Kennedy Theatre. The Dessertery features elaborate holiday decor, all-you-can-eat sweets and hot cocoa, plus live entertainment on select nights. Tickets are $28 for ages 7 and up, $15 for ages 2–6.

North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival
8003 Regency Parkway, Cary

November 17–January 14. Koka Booth Amphitheatre is transformed into a magical setting of larger-than-life LED lantern displays handcrafted by artisans from Tianyu Arts & Culture. Cultural performances are featured nightly at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.  

Waverly Place Tree Lighting
302 Colonades Way, Cary

November 17, 5:30–8:30 p.m. Meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, enjoy live music and watch as Waverly Place lights its holiday tree.

79th Annual Raleigh Christmas Parade
November 18, 9:30 a.m.–noon
Downtown Raleigh

Presented by Shop Local Raleigh, the Raleigh Christmas Parade attracts an estimated 60,000 spectators from across the state to downtown Raleigh and reaches more than 250,000 through television and live video streaming. The parade will be broadcast on ABC11 and the ABC11 North Carolina streaming apps.

Lafayette Village Lighting of the Trees 

November 18, 3–6 p.m. Lafayette Village ushers in the holiday season with music, horse and carriage rides, face painting, visits with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and the lighting of the tree at 6 p.m. in the courtyard.

North Hills Tree Lighting
4191 Main at North Hills Street, Raleigh 

November 18, 4–7 p.m. Enjoy live music, kids crafts and activities, food trucks and a vendor village. Soon after Santa Claus arrives at 6 p.m., the 41-foot tree is lit amidst a joyous chorus of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.” Prior to the tree lighting, the Holiday Shop & Stroll takes place from noon–4 p.m.

500 S. McDowell Street, Raleigh

November 18–January 15. Enjoy the thrill of ice skating at Red Hat Amphitheater in the heart of downtown Raleigh. Be dazzled by a 20-foot decorated tree, cozy furniture stations with heat warmers, fire pits, photo opportunities, a snack bar and games. Tickets are $15 for skaters ages 2 and older, which includes skate rental, and $6 for nonskaters.

Straight No Chaser: Sleighin’ It Tour
123 Vivian Street, Durham

November 19, 3 p.m. The renowned a cappella group performs beloved holiday songs at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

“A Magical Cirque Christmas”
2 E. South Street, Raleigh 

November 22, 7 p.m. See world-class acrobats, contortionists and aerialists perform to a captivating musical score that will tug at your heartstrings and have you singing along to hit Christmas songs in the ultimate extravaganza at Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts.

Wool E. Bull’s Winter Wonderland
409 Blackwell Street, Durham

Select nights November 22-December 31. The Durham Bulls Athletic Parks transforms into a winter wonderland featuring igloos in the infield, a sledding hill, Bulls Express train ride, a winterland market, festive food and large-scale light installations.

Lights on the Neuse
1620 Loop Road, Clayton

Weekends and select days beginning November 24; visit the website for dates, hours and rates. Take a 1-mile, tractor-pulled hayride through a holiday light spectacular featuring s’mores and photos with Santa. 

Martina McBride: “The Joy of Christmas Tour”
2 E. South Street, Raleigh

November 24, 7:30 p.m. Country music icon Martina McBride performs holiday music and other songs from her vast repertoire at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.

The Christmas Carousel
1025 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh
November 24–26; visit the website for hours and ticket information. Over 250 exhibitors showcase holiday gift-giving merchandise.

Pullen Park Holiday Express
520 Ashe Avenue, Raleigh

November 29–December 15. Enjoy a winter wonderland of holiday happenings throughout Pullen Park.

Fuquay-Varina Tree Lighting, Sleigh Rides and Santa
Downtown Fuquay-Varina

November 30, 6–8 p.m. This highly anticipated event on Main Street features a tree-lighting ceremony at 6 p.m., ticketed sleigh rides and a visit from Saint Nicholas.

A Shopping Spree!
1025 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh

November 30–December 3; visit the website for hours and ticket information. Fashion and home decor trends, specialty foods, unique gifts and holiday merchandise highlight this shopping experience that raises funds for nonprofit programs and community service initiatives in Wake County. 

Apex Tree Lighting Ceremony
220 N. Salem Street, Apex

December 1, 4–6 p.m. This annual event at The Depot features local school choirs, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and holiday-themed activities.

Infinity Ballet Presents “Dances of the Nutcracker”
237 N. Salem Street, Apex 

December 1–3; see website for times. Talented dance students present the holiday ballet at Halle Cultural Arts Center. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for ages 16 and younger.

Town of Morrisville Tree Lighting
Indian Creek Trailhead
101 Town Hall Drive, Morrisville

December 1, 6 p.m. Santa makes an appearance at the Town of Morrisville’s tree lighting.

Lighting of Wake Forest
301 S. Brooks Street, Wake Forest

December 1, 5–8 p.m. This year’s ceremony in Centennial Plaza features the lighting of the Christmas tree at 6:15 p.m., musical performances and Santa’s arrival in a Wake Forest fire truck.

Santa Paws
212 Foster Street, Durham

December 1, 5–8:30 p.m. Take your canine friend to meet Santa at the Durham Armory. Enjoy a canine ugly sweater contest, holiday pet market, pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a canine food and toy drive.

16th Annual Apex Christmas Tree & Wreath Exhibit and Auction
237 N. Salem Street, Apex

December 1–18. Drift into a whimsical wonderland at the Halle Cultural Arts Center and see what Apex area businesses, schools, performing groups and other organizations have dreamed up for their themed greenery. Take a chance on the silent auction and bid on a favorite display. 

Festival of Lights
703 Tarboro Road, Youngsville

November 23–26 and December 1–30, 5:30–9 p.m. Immerse yourself in magical lights on over a mile-long trail throughout Hill Ridge Farms from the comfort of your vehicle. Tickets per vehicle are $20 cash, $23 credit/debit; pay upon arrival. 

Apex Farmers Market Holiday Festival
1517 Beaver Creek Commons Drive, Apex

December 2, 9 a.m.–noon. Take the family for live music and kids activities to celebrate the yuletide season.

Gingerbread House Competition
Downtown Cary

December 2–9. Visit select downtown businesses displaying gingerbread houses created by local participants. The winning houses will be displayed throughout December at the Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Avenue.

Town of Apex Pancake Breakfast
210 N. Salem Street, Apex

December 2, 7:30–11 a.m. The Apex Rotary Club hosts this annual breakfast which includes pancakes, choice of sausage/bacon, and unlimited orange juice and coffee. Proceeds will be donated to scholarships at Apex High School, Apex Friendship High School, and Wake Tech CC.

Let It Snow
220 N. Salem Street, Apex

December 2, 3–5 p.m. Enjoy a wintertime mix of fun with interactive booths, a snow-themed selfie station and guest appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus at The Depot parking lot prior to the Apex Christmas Parade at 5 p.m. 

Apex Christmas Parade
Downtown Apex

December 2, 5 p.m. Bring lawn chairs to set up along the town’s evening parade route.

Hillsborough Holiday Parade
Downtown Hillsborough
December 3, 4 p.m.

Hillsborough turns on the holiday charm with a festive parade on N. Churton Street.

Cary Ballet Company: “The Nutcracker”
AJ Fletcher Opera Theater, 2 E. South Street, Raleigh
December 2, 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Avenue, Cary

December 15, 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.; December 16, 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; December 17, 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. Travel with Clara to a magical world of sweets, dueling mice and a dazzling prince. The show on The 11 a.m. shows on December 15 are sensory-sensitive, one-hour narrated mini shows for all ages. A Ballerina Tea follows both of these shows and tickets are sold separately at the Cary Arts Center box office.

Cary Players Present “A Gift to Remember”
101 Dry Avenue, Cary

December 1, 7:30 p.m.; December 2, 3 and 7:30 p.m.; December 3, 3 p.m., and December 4, 7:30 p.m. During a Christmas Eve snowstorm, a group of strangers take shelter at a small depot and find ways to celebrate the true spirit of Christmas. Shows take place at the Cary Arts Center.

A Gift to Cary Celebration
327 S. Academy Street, Cary

December 2. Celebrate the opening of Downtown Cary Park with a full day of live performances, a skating rink, Santa’s workshop, creative activities and the town’s tree-lighting ceremony. 

Garner Christmas Parade and Tree-Lighting
Main Street, Garner

December 2, 4:30 p.m. See the town’s annual parade on Main Street, followed by a holiday block party and tree-lighting ceremony at 6 p.m.

Victorian Christmas at the Page-Walker
119 Ambassador Loop Road, Cary

December 2, 2–5 p.m. Enjoy old-fashioned holiday fun as the Page-Walker Arts & History Center welcomes guests with cider, cookies, carolers, storytelling and carriage rides. 

Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express
3900 Bonsal Road, Apex

December 2–3, 9–10 and 16; departure times are 9:30 and 11 a.m.; and 12:30, 2:15 and 3:45 p.m. Travel on the New Hope Valley Railway to search for Santa’s nine missing reindeer, including Rudolph. Bring your camera for a photo with Santa. Purchase tickets online.

Apex Holiday Tour of Lights
Throughout Apex

December 2–31, 6–9 p.m. See holiday light displays of 32 homes and businesses across Apex. The Tour of Lights provides two route maps with the most efficient way to see all the stops along the tour. Hop in the car, turn on your favorite holiday playlist and enjoy the lights.

Rolesville Christmas Parade
Downtown Rolesville

December 3, 2 p.m. Festive floats and marching bands highlight this annual event.

“Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas”
123 Vivian Street, Durham

December 5–10; see website for times. The Grinch discovers there’s more to Christmas than he bargained for in this holiday classic featuring the hit songs “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas” at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

Disney on Ice Presents “Magic in the Stars”
1400 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh

December 6–10; see website for times. Chart a course through the night sky where every story starts with a wish. Experience the magic of ”Frozen 2” and celebrate the power of love with Elsa, Anna, Olaf and Kristoff.

Holly Springs
300 W. Ballentine Street, Holly Springs

December 7, 5–8 p.m. Enjoy games, live music, festive food, face painting and holiday crafts before Santa and the mayor light the town tree at the Holly Springs Cultural Center.

Ira David Wood III’s “A Christmas Carol”
2 E. South Street, Raleigh
123 Vivian Street, Durham

December 8–10 and 13–17; see website for times. Ira David Wood III’s “A Christmas Carol,” a musical comedy adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, celebrates 50 years of holiday magic, and is also Wood’s final performance as Scrooge before turning the role over to his son, Ira David Wood IV. Performances take place December 8–10 at the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh and December 13–17 at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

Grinch Candy Cane Hunt
801 High House Road, Cary

December 9, 10–11 a.m. Find all of Santa’s candy canes hidden in Bond Park before the Grinch swipes them. $9/resident, $12/nonresident. Reserve a spot at using course code 031177. 

Chapel Hill–Carrboro Community Holiday Parade
Downtown Chapel Hill and Carrboro

December 9 at noon. The towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro host a parade that celebrates community and diversity. The parade begins on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill and ends on Main Street in Carrboro.

Deck the Hall-Z
Downtown Zebulon

December 8, 5:30-9 p.m. Zebulon turns on the holiday charm with live music, holiday displays, an outdoor movie showing, and more. 

Evening With Elves
201 E. Hargett Street, Raleigh

December 8, 6–8:30 p.m. Immerse yourself into the magic of the holiday season at Marbles Kids Museum with s’mores outdoors, arctic museum play and a special visit from the Snowflake Fairy. Wear pajamas.

Cary Jaycees Christmas Parade
Downtown Cary

December 9, 2–4 p.m. The Cary Jaycees lead this joyful celebration that features marching bands, mascots, floats and local businesses.

Holiday Pops
101 Dry Avenue, Cary

December 9, 7:30 p.m. The Concert Singers of Cary symphonic choir and guest musicians present this family-friendly program of popular holiday tunes.

Durham Holiday Parade
Main Street, Durham

December 9, 10 a.m. Cheer on floats, hometown bands, drill teams, schools and community groups as they make their way down Main Street in downtown Durham. The procession concludes with a guest appearance from Santa.

Happy Holly Days Parade 
Downtown Holly Springs

December 9, 10 a.m. Celebrate the season in Holly Springs as floats, bands, decorated vehicles, horses, marching groups and more travel Main Street. The parade has an expanded route this year, starting near Oakhall Drive and ending at Oak Avenue.

Raleigh Youth Choir’s “Carols of Christmas”
228 W. Edenton Street, Raleigh

December 8, 7 p.m. The Raleigh Youth Choir delivers yuletide favorites. Tickets are $10–$20.

Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour
Downtown Raleigh

December 9 and 10, 1–5 p.m. The 52nd annual self-guided tour features 11 properties dating from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s and are staffed with docents describing the rich history of each home. Tickets are $30–$35 online and in person at 418 N. Person Street in downtown Raleigh.

Apex Chanukah Festival
December 10, 3-6:30 p.m.
Downtown Apex

Enjoy a Chanukah Wonderland organized by Chabad of Cary featuring crafts and games at the John M. Brown Community Center (53 Hunter Street) followed by a menorah lighting, fire show, kosher food truck and gelt drop at 5:15 p.m. at The Depot (220 Salem Street).

Durham Craft Craft Market Holiday Show
501 Foster Street, Durham

December 10, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. More than 50 local artisans showcase holiday-themed foods and gifts.

North Carolina Master Chorale Presents “Joy of the Season”
2 E. South Street, Raleigh

December 12, 7:30 p.m. Enjoy familiar carols and new and contemporary settings.

​​Trans-Siberian Orchestra: “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve”
1400 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh

December 13, 7 p.m. Celebrate Christmas with Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s allegorical rock opera.

Cary Hanukkah Menorah Lighting
101 Dry Avenue, Cary

December 13, 5:30–6:30 p.m. Join Chabad of Cary as it lights a menorah on the seventh night of Hanukkah. Enjoy treats, kids activities and holiday music.

Morrisville Menorah Lighting
December 14, 5:30 p.m.
Indian Creek Trailhead
101 Town Hall Drive, Morrisville

Enjoy a live flame lighting of the town’s menorah with Rabbi Cotler on the final night of Hanukkah.

Carolina Ballet Presents “The Nutcracker”
2 E. South Street, Raleigh

December 14–24. Carolina Ballet honors past productions of “The Nutcracker” by George Balanchine and Robert Weiss while presenting refreshed choreography for today’s audiences in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.

The Raleigh Ringers’ Holiday Concerts
2 E. South Street, Raleigh

December 16–17, 4 p.m. Hear The Raleigh Ringers present interpretations of sacred, secular and popular music arranged for handbells.

Gingerbread Jamboree
201 E. Hargett Street, Raleigh

December 16–17; 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Decorate a keepsake gingerbread house at Marbles Kids Museum. 

Wreaths Across America
December 16, noon

Honor service members by placing wreaths on the graves of all veterans in both Hillcrest Cemetery (608 Page Street) and First Christian Church Cemetery (300 W. Cornwall Road) in Cary.

“Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet”
123 Vivian Street, Durham 

December 20, 4 and 8 p.m. Showcasing the exquisite artistry of Ukraine ballet performers, this ballet dazzles with larger-than-life puppets, breathtaking acrobatics and dazzling costumes. 

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Christmas Ballet Show”
309 W. Morgan Street, Durham

December 20, 7 p.m. Classical Arts Entertainment presents the Brothers Grimm fairy tale as a ballet with staging by The State Ballet Theater of Ukraine.

Cary Kwanzaa Celebration
101 Dry Avenue, Cary 

December 29; time TBA. This cultural celebration at the Cary Arts Center honors African American people and their heritage. 

First Night Raleigh
Downtown Raleigh

December 31; 2 p.m.–midnight. Visit the website for ticket information. Ring in the new year with live entertainment, roving street performers, arts and crafts stations and the Acorn Drop at midnight. 

Kwanzaa Fest
December 28 (Ujima), 4 p..m.; 5291 Capital Boulevard, Raleigh
January 1 (Imani), noon; 212 Foster Street, Durham

The African American Dance Ensemble hosts the 38th annual Kwanzaa Fest for two days of festivities. including live performances, a vendor market and more.


Christmas at Biltmore
One Lodge Street, Asheville

November 3–January 7. Biltmore House offers two holiday events this season. “Christmas at Biltmore Daytime Celebration” showcases the elegant rooms of Biltmore House beautifully bedecked in Christmas trimmings. Tickets for the daytime celebration range from $105–$405. “Candlelight Christmas Evenings” allows guests to step back in time with an experience reminiscent of the Vanderbilts’ first Christmas spent in Biltmore House in 1895. Setting the scene is a 55-foot Norway spruce sparkling in the center of the front lawn and luminaries lining the walkway to Biltmore House. Musicians stationed throughout the house perform seasonal favorites. Tickets for the evening celebration range from $120–$420.

Speedway Christmas
5555 Concord Parkway S., Concord

November 17, 2023–January 7, 2024. Experience a holiday lights spectacle at the iconic Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Festival of Trees
80 Carolina Vista Drive, Pinehurst

November 15–18; 10 a.m.–8 p.m. The 27th 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 ensuring these children have the very best start in life. Donations are accepted at the door.

Winter Lights at The North Carolina Arboretum
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville

November 17–December 31, 6:00–9:00 p.m. Visit the website for ticket information. Drive through the arboretum’s enchanted forest to view unique exhibits covered in thousands of holiday lights. 

Winter Wonderlights
4301 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro

Open select evenings November 22–December 31, 5:30–10 p.m. Visit the website for ticket information. Tour the 12 “magical realms” at the Greensboro Science Center’s holiday extravaganza. 

Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights
4061 Clemmons Road, Clemmons

November 17, 2023–January 1, 2024. See dozens of dazzling holiday light displays from the comfort of your car.

Tweetsie Christmas
300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane, Blowing Rock
Open select evenings November 24–December 30, 5–9 p.m.

Tweetsie Railroad transforms into a winter wonderland featuring a nighttime train ride among thousands of dazzling lights. Ride amusement park rides, enjoy a live Christmas show, roast s’mores and meet Santa in his house filled with candied furnishings. Online ticket purchase is recommended.

Enchanted Airlie 
300 Airlie Road, Wilmington

November 24–25; December 1–21; one-hour reservation times begin at 5:30 p.m. Enjoy festive holiday music as you walk through beautiful displays of twinkling lights at Airlie Gardens.

North Carolina Holiday Flotilla 
Mott’s and Banks Channels at Wrightsville Beach 

November 25, 6 p.m. See boats decorated in their holiday finest sail down Wrightsville Beach channels, followed by evening fireworks. Admission is free. And don’t miss Day in the Park, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., at the Wrightsville Beach Municipal Complex featuring food vendors, live music, a car show and kids activities.

Deck the Trees
308 W. State Street, Black Mountain

December 1, 2023–January 2, 2024. See decorated Christmas trees situated at The Monte Vista Hotel and in stores and businesses throughout Black Mountain and the Swannanoa Valley area. Each tree, uniquely decorated around a theme, is created by businesses, organizations or individuals to help raise funds for the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry’s Fuel Fund.

Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla
315 Front Street, Beaufort

December 2, 5:30–7 p.m. 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.

Santa on the Chimney
431 Main Street, Chimney Rock

December 2 and 9, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Visit the website for ticket information. For the 26 th year, Santa will rappel down Chimney Rock, the 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.

Candlelight Night at the Palace
529 S. Front Street, New Bern

December 9 and 16, 4:30-9:30 p.m. Spend your evening exploring the historic homes at Tryon Palace and being entertained in the Performance Tent. Stop by Mistletoe Corner to enjoy drinks and snacks, and watch a grand display of black powder fireworks at the end of the evening. 

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