The hustle, bustle, fun and excitement of the Raleigh area certainly doesn't slow down the week of Christmas! Whether you’re hosting friends and family from out of town or visiting yourself, there are countless festivities to enjoy during the peak of the holiday season. Choose from a variety of magical performances, dazzling light displays, nail-biting sporting events and even a few Santa sightings that will guarantee your holidays are merry and bright.

Festivals and festive performances

Carolina Ballet's The Nutcracker and Broadway Series South's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical
Nutcracker through Dec. 29; Rudolph through Dec. 24
For classic Christmas tales brought to life this holiday season, settle in for The Nutcracker, performed for more than 20 years now by the Carolina Ballet, or fall in love again with the many endearing characters from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical, a classic Broadway Series South production running through Dec. 24. Catch both shows over at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

Theatre Raleigh presents Oh, What A (Holy) Night!
Dec. 19-22
Why stop at two shows at the Duke Energy Center when you can ease yourself into a third? Jump into the holiday spirit with a Christmas cabaret presented by Theatre Raleigh, featuring a talented and professional cast of performers from local and national stages.

25th Annual Kwanzaa Celebration
Dec. 27
A celebration for all people, focusing on family and friends, Town of Cary and the Ujima Group, Inc., will host the 25th annual Kwanzaa Celebration at the Cary Arts Center. The event will feature a vendor market, a children's village, dance performances, a traditional Kwanzaa ceremony and more.


Twinkling light displays

Piper Lights
Through Jan. 3
In Wake Forest, Piper Lights—a family-run light display that's been in action for 30 years now—is well underway for another big holiday season. The seven-acre light display received national recognition in 2016 when it was crowned the winner of ABC Television’s Network's Great Christmas Light Fight.

Lake Myra Christmas Lights
Through Dec. 31
As one of the largest lights displays on the East Coast, the Lake Myra lights will dazzle, dance and twinkle their way into your heart this holiday season. Pile your friends and family in the car and head to Wendell where more than 400,000 lights await visitors. Note: This is a park-and-walk activity.

North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival-Cary
Through Jan. 12
A super trip-worthy event for the whole family is back in Cary for a fifth-consecutive year! The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival brings more than 20 larger-than-life lantern displays to Koka Booth Amphitheatre. Made up of thousands of LED lights, these displays light up the skies for a mesmerizing experience. Note: This is a self-guided walking tour that is wheelchair accessible.

Christmas trees in downtown Raleigh
Through Dec. 31
Stroll through downtown Raleigh to find two massive Christmas trees (one out front of the Duke Energy Center, one in front of the North Carolina State Capitol). Or you can take a free, self-guided tour of the Capitol to appreciate the festive holiday decorations inside (guided tours available every Sat. at 11am and 2pm!).

The Great Raleigh Trolley Holiday Tours
Through Dec. 30
The Great Raleigh Trolley, which provides some of our favorite guided tours, will thrill you with one of their Holiday Tours. Grab a blanket and get ready for an evening filled with Christmas cheer as well as spectacular holiday displays throughout the Raleigh area. The tours include an exciting stop at the North Pole where you-know-who will be waiting to personally meet you.


On-the-ice and on-the-court

North Carolina State University Men’s Basketball and the Carolina Hurricanes
For some on-the-court action, go out and cheer on the North Carolina State University Men’s Basketball team as they battle The Citadel (12/22) and Appalachian State (12/29) at PNC Arena. Enjoy action on the ice as well with the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes taking on the Washington Capitals (12/28)! For those wishing for a Canes’ victory this Christmas, you might just be in luck!

Carolina Hurricanes 2017 02-205.jpg


Seasonal specials and sips

Dinner at Herons at The Umstead Hotel and Spa
If you’re simply tired of spending hours in the kitchen preparing the perfect Christmas feast, Herons—one of only 64 Forbes Five-Star restaurants in the world—in Cary has you covered. For Dec. 24, you can make reservations for a fabulous four-course Christmas Dinner. Heron’s will get your family’s taste buds tingling, while also taking the planning and cooking stress out of your Christmas meal.

Miracle at The Haymaker
On the beverage side of things, Raleigh’s Christmas pop-up bar, Miracle at The Haymaker, is back and more festive than ever through Dec. 31. From clever Christmas cocktails (Snowball Old Fashioned and SanTaRex, for starters) to holiday karaoke and gift exchanges, this new holiday tradition is one not to miss!

For more cocktails and laid-back drinking spots, read up on a bunch of our favorite cozy bars here.

Raleigh Beer Trail
If you prefer beer over cocktails, consider checking off some of the 30+ breweries on the Raleigh Beer Trail, where the more breweries you visit, the more rewards you earn!


More holiday happenings

Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection at the North Carolina Museum of Art
Through Jan. 20
Few artists have captured the public's imagination with the force of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and her husband, the Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera. Experience the lives, loves and influence of two art icons of the 20th century. And for even more great art, check out the neighboring exhibit, Scott Avett: INVISIBLE, featuring works from Scott Avett, co-founder of the band The Avett Brothers.

Toy Boom! at the North Carolina Museum of History
Through Jan. 5
Remember when Christmas was all about getting that special toy you’ve been waiting for all year long? Well, recapture some of that excitement with a visit to the North Carolina Museum of History and its exhibit, Toy Boom!. There, you’ll find retro playthings ranging from the Easy Bake Oven to Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots—toys loved by the Baby Boomers generation and reflective of the ambitions, abundance, and uncertainty of the 50’s and 60s.

Jon Reep at Goodnights Comedy Club
Dec. 27-29
For a few holiday chuckles, stop by Goodnights Comedy Club for hysterical stand-up performances by comedian Jon Reep, a former champion of NBC’s Last Comic Standing.

Southbound: Photographs of and About the New South at North Carolina State University's Gregg Museum of Art and Design
Through Dec. 29
As the largest exhibition of photography capturing the American South in the twenty-first century, Southbound: Photographs of and About the New South is an eye-opening experience providing visitors multiple perspectives. A whopping 56 photographers share their visions of the South as a place steeped in tradition, transformed by Americanization and globalization and filled with surprising realities.

Live music
Ready to take in a show or hit the dance floor? A few of our top picks for Christmas week include:

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