90 of the Biggest Events and Festivals in Raleigh, N.C., in 2020
Tuesday, January 07, 2020, 2pm by visitRaleigh
Every two weeks, we send out a newsletter that includes the best of the best upcoming events. If you sign up for our E-magazine, you'll get those, plus all the best new content (the scoop on the best restaurants that opened in 2019, for example, or our up-to-date list on the best free things to do in Raleigh).
A year full of major festivals and celebrations lies ahead in Raleigh, N.C.! These events serve an important purpose—they mark history and sense of pride, plus they showcase talent, creativity and culture, delicious foods and beverages (and some surprises, too!).
Make plans now to spend a day or a weekend in the Raleigh area around these trip-worthy events in 2020!
A note: Some of the dates for these events have not yet been announced (and some major events—concerts, for example—haven't been announced at all yet). We'll update this page as information comes in!
Raleigh Little Theatre presents The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jan. 17-Feb. 9, 2020
A play by Simon Stephens based on the novel by Mark Haddon, Raleigh Little Theatre's The Curious Incident sees 15-year-old Christopher—a boy with an extraordinary brain—fall under suspicion of killing his neighbor's dog. When he sets out to identify the true culprit, an earth-shattering discovery will change his life forever.
Triangle Restaurant Week 2020, Jan. 20-26, 2020
A week-long celebration of culinary excellence, Triangle Restaurant Week sees some of the area's best restaurants offer up special, three-course menu options at fixed pricing ($15 for lunch, and $20, $25 or $30 for dinner), a great opportunity for residents and visitors alike to return to an old favorite dining spot or discover a new one.
UFC Fight Night, Jan. 25, 2020
The UFC's first visit to Raleigh will be headlined by a pair of the heavyweight division's finest—former world champion Junior Dos Santos will face third-ranked Curtis "Razor" Blaydes in the five-round main event at PNC Arena.
19th Annual African American Cultural Celebration, Jan. 25, 2020
An annual, statewide kickoff to Black History Month at the North Carolina Museum of History, the African American Cultural Celebration brings together 75+ musicians, storytellers, dancers, chefs, historians, artists and more in downtown Raleigh for a day of pride and celebration of culture.
Astronomy Days: Earth and Ocean Worlds, Jan. 25-26, 2020
From comet crafts to solar observing, lectures to rocket launches, space enthusiasts of all ages will find something to do at one of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences' most popular annual events.
Krispy Kreme Challenge, Feb. 1, 2020
One of America's most unique running events (and toughest eating events!), the Krispy Kreme Challenge requires competitors to run five miles, eat a dozen doughnuts at the halfway point and hit the finish line in under one hour. Started in 2004 with just a handful of North Carolina State University students, the annual event now draws nearly 8,000 runners decked out in costumes along with plenty of media attention. For the curious, those doughnuts total 2,400 calories and 144 grams of fat—but who's counting!
Jurassic World Live, Feb. 6-9, 2020
Jurassic World comes to life for the first time in a touring arena show at PNC Arena, where a trip to Isla Nublar takes a terrifying turn after the Indominus rex escapes and causes chaos in the park!
Celine Dion's Courage World Tour, Feb. 11, 2020
One of the best-selling female artists of all time, Celine Dion's Courage World Tour—her first tour in more than a decade—brings her to Raleigh's PNC Arena for a very special evening.
North Carolina Theatre presents Kinky Boots, Feb. 11-16, 2020
Winner of six Tony Awards, a Grammy Award and featuring 16 original songs by pop icon Cyndi Lauper, Kinky Boots is the huge-hearted, high-heeled musical hit that took Broadway by storm. Based on true events, Kinky Boots tells the story of two people with nothing in common (or so they think!).
Zac Brown Band - The Owl Tour, March 4, 2020
The multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning Zac Brown Band returns to Raleigh during the 2020 spring leg of the The Owl Tour, joined by supporting acts Amos Lee and Jason 'Poo Bear' Boyd.
Billie Eilish - Where Do We Go World Tour, March 12, 2020
Just crowned 2019 Billboard Woman of the Year, ethereal singer-songwriter Billie Eilish brings her world tour to PNC Arena, where she'll take stage in front of an expected sold-out crowd.
Raleigh St. Patrick's Day Parade and the Wearin' 'O the Green Festival, March 14, 2020 (Update: This event has been canceled)
In celebration of the great St. Patrick as well as Irish and Celtic traditions and culture, a parade of dancers, bagpipes, musicians and more march through downtown Raleigh and afterwards continue a day of fun with a full line-up of live music and performances in Raleigh's City Plaza.
Art in Bloom, March 19-22, 2020 (Update: This event has been postponed until a date to be announced later)
One of the can't-miss events of the year at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Art in Bloom is a four-day festival of art and flowers. More than 50 floral interpretations inspired by the museum's galleries, some more than 10 feet tall, are created on-site by world-class designers and showcased throughout the museum's West Building (have your cameras ready!). The ticketed event invites participants to attend presentations and workshops, dine at Iris and shop for one-of-a-kind gifts.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents The Jungle Book, March 20-April 5, 2020
In this action-packed adaptation of the classic adventure story, Mowgli grows up believing he’s as fierce a wolf as any of the members of his pack. When he learns he is actually a human, he must decide whether to remain with the pack or return to the human world from which he was born.
North Carolina Theatre presents Memphis, March 24-29, 2020
From the underground dance clubs of 1950s comes the award-winning musical that bursts off the stage with explosive dancing, irresistible songs and a thrilling tale of fame and forbidden love. Inspired by actual events, Memphis follows the story of a white radio DJ who wants to change the world and a black club singer waiting for her big break
Casks on Fools, late March or early April 2020
The annual kick-off party for Raleigh, N.C.'s Beer Month celebrations in April, Casks on Fools at Crank Arm Brewing features truly-unique casks from more than 20 N.C.-based breweries. We're talking everything from mango habanero IPAs to chocolate cream stouts, Irish stouts with cherries and way more. The by-the-glass cask festival celebrates the innovation of craft beer across the area—this is for the beer lovers and the adventurous drinkers!
Raleigh Little Theatre presents A Raisin in the Sun, April 10-26, 2020
In this Raleigh Little Theatre production, Walter Lee Younger hopes to use his father’s life-insurance money to open a liquor store with two partners. His mother instead uses part of the money as a down payment on a house in an all-white neighborhood. Family tensions and prejudice they face form this seminal American drama.
Mid-Town Square Spring Festival, mid-April 2020
Held at Bond Brothers Beer Company in Cary, this free-admission festival features food trucks, local artists, live music and, of course, Bond Brothers' award-winning brews (new releases and special casks included!). Kids and leashed dogs are welcome at the brewery, but heads up—this event will draw a big crowd!
Live and Local: Spring Fest on Hillsborough St., mid-April 2020
An annual, family-friendly street festival featuring a full day of music, artists, inflatables for kids, beer from Raleigh Brewing Company and more.
Carolina Ballet presents Macbeth, April 16-19, 2020
When Carolina Ballet's Macbeth premiered in 2016, it was one of the most anticipated ballets ever created by founding artistic director Robert Weiss. Featuring brilliant choreography, fascinating sets and costumes and an incredibly powerful score by J. Mark Scearce, Macbeth weaves a tale of love, power, lust and greed.
HerbFest, April 17-19 and 24-26, 2020
Those who love to cook will love HerbFest! Stroll through downtown Wake Forest's charming White St. and shop organic, non-GMO herbs and vegetables, plus heirloom tomatoes and peppers and beautiful perennials specific to the area.
French Market & Seafood Festival, April 18, 2020
Jazz music, artists in action, kids activities and tasty seafood—craw-fish and shrimp and other delicacies to go along with beer—make for a French Quarter-inspired afternoon at Raleigh's Lafayette Village.
Spring Daze Arts and Crafts Festival, April 25, 2020
Featuring more than 170 local artists, Cary's Spring Daze Arts and Crafts Festival (celebrating their 27th year in 2020) fills the streets with art-paintings, jewelry, sculptures and more-plus food vendors, children's activities and all-day live music.
Brewgaloo, April 24-25, 2020
N.C.'s largest craft beer festival-featuring 100 breweries, 50 food trucks and drawing 30,000 people-Brewgaloo takes over downtown Raleigh for two days each April. The festival, which has free admission on Sat. (so bring plenty of friends!), allows you to purchase either beer samples or full pints from breweries located across the state. The event is part of Beer Month in Raleigh, N.C., a month-long celebration of the nearly 30 craft breweries that call the area home.
Meet in the Street Festival, May 2, 2020
A day filled with food, fun and entertainment in historic downtown Wake Forest for more than 35 years running, Meet in the Street pulls together all-day live music plus an additional stage of entertainment with dancers, martial arts, magicians and more. Plenty of food trucks and a beer garden headed by Wake Forest's own White Street Brewing Company are sure to keep festival-goers happy.
40th Annual Apex PeakFest, May 2, 2020
Salem St. in historic downtown Apex comes alive with more than 20,000 visitors during PeakFest. For 40 years now, the arts and crafts festival has brought families together for a day of fun, food and fellowship. The town of Apex's largest annual event, PeakFest has all-day live music, all the arts and crafts you can imagine, entertainment for kids and food vendors that bring their best State Fair-style goodies.
Spring Into the Arts Walk, early May 2020
Located in Wendell's historic downtown district, this open-air arts competition features a classic car show, chalk art demonstrations, live music, a silent auction, tons of activities for kids and more.
Thrive NC, May 7-8, 2020
A two-day event featuring 50 of the area's top chefs and restaurants, Thrive NC is a collaborative event that offers attendees unlimited sampling of top-notch eats and craft beer.
Longleaf Film Festival, May 8-9, 2020
A free-to-attend film festival that highlights the best short- and feature-length documentary and narrative films, the Longleaf Film Festival is held annually at the North Carolina Museum of History in downtown Raleigh. In 2019, the festival screened 59 films with a Tar Heel State connection, drawing more than 1,000 attendees for the films, panels and popcorn.
Carolina Ballet presents Cinderella, May 14-17, 2020
Closing out Carolina Ballet's 2019-2020 season, this cherished tale of fantasy and true love comes to life through Robert Weiss' choreography, telling the story of Cinderella's transformation into a beautiful princess, all while accompanied by live music from The Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle.
Got to Be NC Festival, May 15-17, 2020
Putting the best of N.C. food and beverage on display, the Got to Be NC Festival offers tons of eating opportunities, live music, a huge collection of antique tractors, a carnival for children and more activities (plus free parking and admission) at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.
Artsplosure - The Raleigh Arts Festival, May 16-17, 2020
One of the Southeast's premier arts festivals, Artsplosure - The Raleigh Arts Festival attracts more than 80,000 people to downtown Raleigh during the third weekend of May each year. Celebrating fine visual art and live music since 1980, the festival puts more than 180 artists' work, using countless mediums, on display for all to see and enjoy during the free festival.
Animazement, May 22-24, 2020
Get in on the action at Animazement, a three-day Japanese animation and culture celebration over Memorial Day weekend that draws 15,000 attendees to the Raleigh Convention Center. Cosplay is a huge draw: guests are encouraged to dress up as their favorite characters simply for fun, or to participate in contests showcasing their talents!
NC Sugar Rush, tentatively May 24, 2020
One of the sweetest events of the year, NC Sugar Rush is an all-dessert food truck rodeo held at Raleigh's City Market. More than 20 vendors—offering a range of goodies from cotton candy to cupcakes to cherry pies—will be on hand, along with face painters, balloon artists and more to keep the kids entertained.
Out! Raleigh Pride, May 30, 2020
Out! Raleigh Pride is the area's annual, family-friendly street festival that celebrates the LGBT community and its allies, and the festival celebrates 10 years in 2020! Organized each year by the LGBT Center of Raleigh, the festival's speakers, performers and vendors (and a Kids Zone) bring eight hours of fun and family to downtown Raleigh's Fayetteville Street district.
Raleigh's 5th Annual International Food Festival, June 6, 2020
Celebrate Raleigh's diverse community and welcoming spirit by trying food, beer and wine (plus listen to live music and see more entertainment) from around the world. Nearly 20,000 attendees are expected in downtown Raleigh's City Plaza for the event.
Town of Cary's Pimento Cheese Festival, June 6, 2020
In downtown Cary, food trucks will line the streets to serve their regular menu, along with new dishes featuring a Southern delicacy: pimento cheese! Enjoy live music at Downtown Park, grab a drink from local breweries and taste some of the best pimento cheese samples from local restaurants. Come hungry!
Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo, June 14, 2020
Food trucks as far as you can see (literally!). The Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo brings more than 50 food trucks to the city center, spanning a half-mile and 11 city blocks and drawing thousands of hungry visitors to taste the best of the best from local trucks. It's one of the biggest rodeos in the country!
Peak City Pig Fest, June 19-20, 2020
Live music, a beer garden, a barbecue competition (sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society) and more make for one of Apex's tastiest events of the year.
Raleigh 4th of July Fireworks Display, July 4, 2020
You can't miss Raleigh's Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza! Having returned to West Raleigh in 2018, the city's annual July Fourth fireworks are held near the Stadium and Arena Complex (Carter-Finley Stadium and PNC Arena area). With plenty of free parking available, this breathtaking show is a must-see (and best enjoyed with lots of family and friends!).
Town of Cary July 4th Celebration, July 4, 2020
Relax under the pines at Koka Booth Amphitheatre for the Town of Cary's July 4th Celebration, where you'll be able to enjoy family-friendly activities, including rides and games, a venue-wide scavenger hunt, watermelon eating contests and even a 50-foot Ferris wheel! Live music—often performed by the Cary Town Band and followed by a performance from the North Carolina Symphony—caps the evening just before fireworks light up the sky.
Cary Downtown Chowdown, July 12, 2020
Enjoy a food-filled afternoon in downtown Cary. Taste some of the area's best food (barbecue, burgers, beignets and more!), enjoy cool beverages from craft beer and wine vendors and relax to the music of great local performers. More than 30 total vendors will be on hand—see you there!
SunFest at Dorothea Dix Park, mid-July 2020
A gorgeous field of sunflowers was temporarily a well-kept secret in 2018 before being unveiled at the first ever SunFest event at Dorothea Dix Park-a celebration of summer for the whole family that included live music, performing arts, arts and crafts, food trucks and more. The sunflowers, and the celebration, is expected to return even bigger and better for a third time in 2020.
North Carolina Theatre presents The Sound of Music, July 28-Aug. 2, 2020
From raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, to captivating classic tunes, The Sound of Music sweeps audiences away to the hills of Austria to tell the story of Maria, a would-be nun turned governess who proves too high-spirited for the religious life. Featuring unforgettable hits you know and adore, including "My Favorite Things," "Edelweiss," "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" and more.
GalaxyCon Raleigh, July 30-Aug. 2, 2020
A three-day festival for fans of pop culture, superheroes, science fiction, anime and more, GalaxyCon Raleigh will be back and bigger than ever at the Raleigh Convention Center in July. Featuring celebrity guests, comic book creators, artists, cosplayers and other industry guests, GalaxyCon Raleigh is expected to bring an incredible 30,000 attendees together in downtown Raleigh to see and be seen, to meet celebrities, go head-to-head in video games and have a blast participating in all things geek!
Sir Walter Miler, early Aug. 2020
One of America's best (and fastest) track events, the Sir Walter Miler, is a free-admission event featuring an elite field of men and women runners and allows fans onto the track at Meredith College to scream and cheer as athletes look to set some of the fastest mile times of the year in the U.S. Since the inception of the Sir Walter Miler in 2014, the collective men's elite field has broken the four-minute mile barrier a total of 26 times, and the women's elite field has broken 4:30—a time that had never previously been beat in the history of N.C.—nine total times.
Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival, Aug. 7-8, 2020
Beer sipping, bourbon tasting, music listening and barbecue eating-what's not to love? Don't miss the two-day Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival at Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheatre. Admission buys you a souvenir sampling glass so you can enjoy an all-you-care-to-taste sampling of beer and bourbon, plus chow down on some pulled pork, ribs, biscuit and more, all while enjoying all-day live music.
North Hills Restaurant Week and Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week, early Aug. 2020
Who doesn't love a good meal for a good deal? Expected to be back for a third year, North Hills is hosting their very own Restaurant Week—more than 20 participating restaurants will offer prix-fixe menus, special offers, promotions, giveaways and more. Right on its heels, Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week kicks off a week of celebrating culinary excellence with $5 and $10 lunch specials, along with $20 and $30 dinner options. Sign us up!
Packapalooza, Aug. 22, 2020
This annual, all-day block party and street festival, drawing more than 80,000 attendees, caps off North Carolina State University's Wolfpack Welcome Week at the start of another academic year. The free and open-to-the-public event features more than 300 vendor booths lining Hillsborough St., along with food, games, arts and crafts, a water slide (bring your bathing suit!), visual and performing arts and more. Music will take center stage to close out the evening.
CaribMask Carnival, Aug. 22, 2020
A festival to promote diversity, equality and create a deeper appreciation for Afro-Caribbean culture in the Raleigh area, CaribMask returns for its ninth annual event in downtown Raleigh in 2020. A parade of bands, flag ceremony, live music and tons of food and drinks keep a joyful crowd of more than 15,000 people plenty happy.
Summer Daze Music Festival Vol. 3, Aug. 15, 2020
Celebrate summer at the second annual Summer Daze Music Festival at Coastal Credit Union Midtown Park in North Hills, a celebration of music, local businesses, culture and, of course, summertime vibes. The 2020 artist lineup will be announced soon!
Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival, Aug. 22-23, 2020
For more than 40 years, the Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival has put local artists and craftsmakers in the spotlight. Today, the Cary festival has grown to two days, features more than 300 artists from 16 states, has multiple stages of live music, a beer garden and plenty of food trucks to keep everyone happy.
10th Annual African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County, late Aug. 2020
An annual celebration of African American culture expressed through art, music, food and community, this two-day downtown Raleigh festival showcases local, national and international artists, performers, food vendors and area business owners.
Dreamville Festival, Aug. 29, 2020
Back for a second year and curated by platinum-selling rapper and N.C. native, J. Cole, Dreamville is a one-day, multi-stage festival at downtown Raleigh's Dorothea Dix Park with a one-of-a-kind celebration of local culture, food and art that also features a curated selection of music performers blending together some of today’s biggest national acts with exciting up-and-comers (full lineup coming soon!).
39th Annual Raleigh Greek Festival, early Sept. 2020
A tradition in Raleigh since 1982, the Raleigh Greek Festival—held at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds—features live music and traditional folk dancing plus all the authentic food options you could ask for (gyros, souvlaki, baklava, cookies, pizza, stuffed grape leaves, wine and more).
Hopscotch Music Festival, Sept. 10-12, 2020
Three days, nearly 150 bands, 12 venues in downtown Raleigh, 50 totally-free day parties and 25,000 fans-it's no wonder why Hopscotch Music Festival is time and time again named one of America's can't-miss music events. The acts-and genres-are as wide ranging as the venues they play in (the 5,000-seat Red Hat Amphitheater and a tiny dive bar, Slim's Downtown, for example). Headlining acts in recent years have included Angel Olsen, Big Boi, Solange, Run The Jewels, Margo Price, The Flaming Lips and more.
BugFest, tentatively Sept. 19, 2020
Experience more than 100 exhibits, crafts, games and activities at BugFest, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences' annual event that lets you interact with entomologists and other scientists while learning about the fascinating world of bugs. Featuring the ever-popular Café Insecta, where the brave can sample buggy dishes prepared by local chefs. The best part? The event is totally free for the expected 35,000 attendees.
Apex Music Festival, mid-Sept. 2020
The Apex Music Festival attracts thousands of fans to historic downtown Apex to enjoy live music, street vendors, food trucks, beer and wine and an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. Two outdoor stages and one indoor theater will host a variety of acts from local, regional and national performers from many musical genres-rock, folk, R&B, bluegrass, country and more.
La Fiesta del Pueblo, tentatively Sept. 20, 2020
Back for a 27th year, La Fiesta del Pueblo, a Hispanic cultural event held in the Fayetteville Street district in downtown Raleigh, draws nearly 20,000 attendees each year and showcases music, art, dance performances, educational booths, children's activities and food from different regions of Latin America, all in celebration of the diversity of Latin-American culture.
Groove in the Garden, mid-to-late Sept. 2020
Groove in the Garden is back for year five at Raleigh Little Theatre's beautiful Stephenson Amphitheater. The annual music and arts festival shines the spotlight on some incredible local talent. Two stages of music, plus food trucks, beer, wine, local artists and vendors, a kids' zone and more make this a can't-miss late summer event in Raleigh.
N.C. Pride at Night Festival and Celebration, late Sept. 2020
Thirty years ago, Raleigh’s first Gay Pride celebration was held on Sat., June 25, 1988. Participants, numbering more than 2,000, gathered at North Carolina State University's Memorial Belltower on Hillsborough St. and marched to Capitol Square. In 2020, participants will again honor the past and celebrate the future with a free street festival outside of Legends Nightclub, a leader in LGBT nightlife in the Raleigh area for more than 25 years.
World of Bluegrass, Sept. 29-Oct. 3, 2020
The arrival of a toe-tappin', banjo-strummin' week of non-stop week of bluegrass in downtown Raleigh is one of the most anticipated times of the year. The International Bluegrass Music Association brings their business conference, along with the world's most talented bluegrass musicians, to Raleigh during this week. Those musicians then perform in clubs, on street corners and in hotel lobbies-anywhere they can find a jam session-during the IBMA Bluegrass Ramble. Then the week is capped off with IBMA Bluegrass Live! powered by PNC, a two-day festival that sets up five stages of free music, a dance tent, a barbecue championship, tons of art vendors and more. The free Main Stage at Red Hat Amphitheater has featured the Steep Canyon Rangers with Steve Martin, Sierra Hull, The Infamous Stringdusters and more in recent years.
93rd Annual Wendell Harvest Festival, early Oct. 2020
A tradition dating back to 1927, the Wendell Harvest Festival features a parade, more than 100 craft vendors, a beer garden, games for kids and adults and live music (fun for the entire family!).
Tatse of China Food and Cultural Festival, tentatively Oct. 3, 2020
This third annual event, presented by the Chinese-American Friendship Association of N.C., features delicious Chinese food, traditional arts and live performances (dragon and lion dances, martial arts demonstrations, musical performances, children's activities and more) at Bicentennial Plaza in downtown Raleigh.
Casktoberfest, early Oct. 2020
Cheers to seasonal beers! Big Boss Brewing Company’s Casktoberfest transforms the brewery into a giant beer hall with 30+ one-of-a-kind cask ales, just in time to head into the new fall season.
Beericana Craft Beer and Music Festival, Oct. 10, 2020
This fast-growing beer and music festival held at beautiful Sugg Farm Park brings together more than 70 breweries (including most of the nearly 30 craft beverage brewers in Raleigh, N.C.) and more than 20 food trucks, along with a full lineup of Americana jams, to celebrate good friends, good beer and good times in Holly Springs.
N.C. Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Festival, tentatively Oct. 10, 2020
This fifth annual event at Lafayette Village gets bigger and better every year. Taste local and regional chocolates and cheeses paired with a variety of wines from across the world (including some local favorites). Sit, sample and listen to live music, shop local vendors and take home a souvenir wine glass at the end of the day.
2020 N.C. State Fair, Oct. 15-25, 2020
The largest annual event in the state, the N.C. State Fair draws one million visitors through the gates each Oct., marking what many consider to be the unofficial beginning of the fall season. Eleven days of high-flying rides, deep-fried foods, live music, stunt shows and other entertainment (including nightly fireworks) has been a can't-miss event for generations of families—the 2020 version of the N.C. State Fair marks the 153rd year of the event!
SAS Championship, Oct. 9-11, 2020
See some of golf's best at the SAS Championship, a PGA Tour Championships event. Held annually at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, the event is widely recognized as one of the most important events of the year. The tournament is expected to once again play host to ‘Wildcard Weekend’—the last full-field event before the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs.
Triangle Oktoberfest, mid-to-late Oct. 2020
The sixth annual Triangle Oktoberfest at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary is set to provide plenty of family-friendly activities including live music, storytelling, dancing and traditional Bavarian food and fare (plus local and authentic German beers on hand).
Day of the Dead 5k, late Oct. 2020
A day for reflection and honoring the memories of loved ones, the 9th annual Day of the Dead 5k—hosted by Centro—expects hundreds of attendees to participate in the run, bike rides, altar offerings and live music.
Moonlight in the Garden, mid-Nov. 2020
A magical lighting exhibition that's suited for the entire family, Moonlight in the Garden at JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University is a once-per-year opportunity to see the nationally-acclaimed gardens artfully illuminated by colorful lights. Each evening of the ticketed event is paired with live music, food trucks, hot apple cider, fire pits and marshmallows to roast!
American Indian Heritage Celebration, mid-to-late Nov. 2020
Musicians, dancers, artists, storytellers and authors from N.C.'s eight state-recognized tribes will gather for this popular family event. For all ages, the celebration is a firsthand opportunity to learn about the state’s American Indian culture, past and present. Activities include craft demonstrations, hands-on activities, games, foods and much more.
North Hills Tree Lighting Celebration, mid-to-late Nov. 2020
The annual lighting of a 41-foot-tall Christmas tree, a visit from Santa Claus, trackless train rides for kids, live music and plenty of vendors on hand make this celebration an equally great event for families and a fun date idea. Arrive a tad early to join in on the Holiday Sip & Shop to knock out some shopping at local retailers like Peter Millar, Quail Ridge Books, Scout & Molly's plus more while enjoying complimentary hot chocolate and cider.
76th Annual Raleigh Christmas Parade, Nov. 21, 2020
A Raleigh tradition for more than 75 years, the Raleigh Christmas Parade is the largest parade of its kind between Atlanta and Washington, D.C. The parade-filled with marching bands, dancers, classic cars, super heroes and more- marches through downtown Raleigh for two hours along a 1.4-mile route that draws a crowd of 60,000 spectators.
North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival-Cary, late Nov. 2020 through mid-Jan. 2021
The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival puts hundreds of larger-than-life lanterns on display at Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheatre, creating an incredible, colorful adventure for you to walk through during the holiday season. In all, the lanterns and more than 15,000 LED lights make up 20 distinct displays, including a 200-foot-long, 21-foot-tall mythical phoenix that sits on Symphony Lake.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical, late Nov. through mid-Dec. 2020
Based on the animated television special "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" and the stage production directed and conceived by Jeff Frank and First Stage, the characters you know and love-Rudolph, the Abominable Snowman, Santa and Mrs. Claus and more-come to life in this Broadway Series South production.
Holiday Express at Pullen Park, early-to-mid Dec. 2020
This year-round favorite destination for families is now all dressed up for the holiday season, festively decorated with thousands of lights. The major attractions? A rideable, miniature train that meanders through and around the park plus a carousel that keeps kids of all ages happy for hours. Note: This incredibly-popular event sells out quickly when tickets go on sale in mid-July—mark your calendars to plan ahead for next year!
Boylan Heights Art Walk, early Dec. 2020
For 26 years and counting, the Boylan Heights Art Walk has featured more than a hundred artists and craftspeople selling a wide range of glasswork, jewelry, woodwork, clay work and ceramics, photography and prints, multimedia, painting and other art from the neighborhood’s porches, yards, and sidewalks (in of the area's prettiest neighborhoods!).
State Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony, early Dec. 2020
With luminaries lighting the Capitol grounds and local choral groups filling the air with seasonal songs, the lighting of the tree at the North Carolina State Capitol building is a sign for many that the holiday season is officially here. After the lighting of the tree, stick around to tour the inside of the Capitol, covered in wreaths and draped in garland.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents Cinderella, early Dec. 2020
Celebrating its 37th year at Raleigh Little Theatre in 2020, the musical comedy Cinderella is a holiday surgarplum for the whole family. Just the right mixture of comedy and romance, plus a visually stunning set and costumes, make this fairy tale a favorite holiday tradition in Raleigh.
49th Annual Oakwood Candlelight Tour, early Dec. 2020
Historic Oakwood, a community of homes, many of which are dated to the mid-1800s to early 1900s, has its own small town feel. Elegantly decorated for the holidays, you can step inside about a dozen private homes, staffed with docents who tell the rich history of this Century Victorian neighborhood.
Theatre In The Park presents A Christmas Carol, early Dec. 2020
This theater production from local passionate mind Ira David Wood III, celebrating its 46th year during the 2020 holiday season, has wowed more than a million guests throughout the years. The beloved musical comedy, in which Wood himself puts on an incredible performance as Scrooge, has been a longstanding tradition for families in the area-tickets tend to go quickly so plan ahead!
Carolina Ballet presents The Nutcracker, early Dec. 2020
Grace, grandeur and mysterious illusions. Carolina Ballet's holiday classic is a can't-miss tradition for locals, visitors, families and friends. The only production in the country using illusions created by renowned magician Rick Thomas, The Nutcracker will make characters levitate, disappear and reappear before your eyes in 14 performances at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
The Justice Theater Project presents Langston Hughes' Black Nativity, mid-Dec. 2020
This gospel music experience, a production of The Justice Theater Project, takes the audience on a journey back to the Bethlehem of Mary and Joseph, resplendent in African costumes and uplifting songs of worship. With a joyous inspirational score, Black Nativity is a legendary family show that shares this unforgettable story of the Nativity through compelling gospel music and the beautiful poetry of Langston Hughes. Through love and faith, the story finds strength and triumphs over adversity to offer powerful messages of joy and hope, all brought to life by more than 70 show-stopping singers, dancers and musicians.
North Carolina Master Chorale presents Joy of the Season, mid-Dec. 2020
The North Carolina Master Chorale, hailed by critics as the area's premier choral ensemble and the recipient of a Raleigh Medal of Arts award, has performed choral masterworks with orchestra since 1942. Joy of the Season celebrates its 20th anniversary this year—this Raleigh holiday tradition fills Meymandi Concert Hall with nearly 200 voices, guest choirs, brass ensemble, Meymandi's pipe organ and incredible accompanist Susan McClaskey Lohr's piano playing.
Holiday Open House at the North Carolina Executive Mansion, mid-Dec. 2020
The North Carolina Executive Mansion, designed by prominent architect Samuel Sloan, is one of the state’s architectural gems and serves as a repository for a fine collection of 18th- and 19th-century N.C. furnishings and paintings. For four days, visitors are invited to tour the home, take in the decorations and enjoy seasonal musical entertainment by local performing groups. The first floor of the mansion will be decorated with N.C.-grown Christmas trees, floral and mixed evergreen arrangements and ornate mantle displays. The Holiday Open House is one of the only times each year for visitors to enter the house without a prior reservation or group tour scheduled.
First Night Raleigh, Dec. 31, 2020
First Night Raleigh, a downtown Raleigh New Year's Eve celebration for more than 25 years, is an all-day event with more than 100 performances (music, dance, theater, comedy and more) across 35 venues. Tons of kids' activities, a 90-foot-tall Ferris wheel and a countdown to midnight (where, yes, a giant acorn drops from the sky as the clock strikes 12) and celebratory fireworks highlight a full day of festivities.
Photo credits: Header, Garrett Poulos; Food, Jessica Crawford Photograph; Krispy Kreme Challenge, North Carolina State University; Art in Bloom, Michael Robson; Dreamville, Garrett Poulos; 'Cuegrass, Empire Eats; Brewgaloo, Will Hardison; Artsplosure, Brian Magee; Out! Raleigh, Michael Robson; Food truck rodeo; Michael Robson; GalaxyCon Raleigh, Fisticuffs Photography; Packapalooza, North Carolina State University; Hopscotch, Michael Robson; World of Bluegrass, Michael Robson; Raleigh Christmas Parade, Michael Robson; First Night Raleigh, Sandra Davidson
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Note: Authored by David Menconi, this piece has been produced in partnership with Raleigh Arts. Menconi's latest book,... View More