It's beginning to look a lot like the holidays in Raleigh, N.C.! And while it's still totally fall for another few weeks, we won't blame you one bit for reaching into the closet for scarves and gloves, dreaming of hot chocolate and planning out your winter bucket list. 'Tis the season for holiday events—traditions to be enjoyed with family and friends, some dating back nearly 50 years in the Raleigh area.

North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival-Cary

Through Jan. 9, 2022
A super trip-worthy event for the whole family returns for a sixth! Back after cancelation in 2020 due to COVID-19, the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival brings more than 20 larger-than-life lanterns to Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. Made up of thousands of LED lights, displays light up the skies and mesmerize visitors on this one-hour walking tour (have your cameras ready for the spectacular Chinese Dragon that sits on Symphony Lake!). Beyond beautiful lanterns, the ticketed festival also welcomes a showcase of Chinese culture—nightly performances featuring martial arts, traditional dance, acrobatics, drum performances and more.


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Magic of Lights

Through Jan. 2, 2022
A new dazzling, drive-through holiday lights experience at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, Magic of Lights features favorite holiday scenes and characters of the season using the latest LED technology and digital animations. Tickets begin at $20 per car.


THE RINK presented by UNC Health at Red Hat Amphitheater

Through Jan. 1, 2022
New event alert! Come enjoy the thrill of ice skating in a winter wonderland created in the heart of downtown Raleigh! THE RINK features a natural ice skating rink with stunning views of the downtown Raleigh skyline.


WRAL Nights of Lights at Dorothea Dix Park

Through Dec. 24
Up for a dazzling light show? Illuminated trees, festive light displays and local art installations will delight visitors of all ages at the second-ever Nights of Lights Drive-Thru Light Show at Dorothea Dix Park. The 1.3-mile driving route features towering oak trees, open fields and rolling hills—plus views of the Raleigh skyline peeking above the trees—making it a perfect location for this holiday event. This is a ticketed experience, and purchases must be made in advance ($15 per vehicle with up to eight passengers).


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Miracle® at The Haymaker

Through Dec. 31
This gorgeous cocktail bar in downtown Raleigh is inspired by legendary boxers and '90s rappers, a combination that meshes vintage decor with classic cocktails and a menu that features quotes from the likes of Biggie Smalls and Missy Elliott. During the holidays, the bar transforms into "Miracle® at The Haymaker," an over-the-top, festive pop-up bar with holiday fun and limited-time cocktails to enjoy.


Lake Myra Christmas Lights

Through Dec. 31
This spectacular, drive-in style light show, featuring more than 400,000 total lights synced to holiday music, was created by the Williams family of Wendell, who painstakingly design and assemble the glowing (and growing) event each year. Visitors park (or stand) and watch the show—which typically runs between 30 and 45 minutes depending on the year—from the viewing area in front of the display. New for this year are walkways that lead to some of the biggest displays. Dogs are welcome (on a leash!). Admission is free, and donations are accepted. Join in on the fun seven days a week from Nov. 24 through the end of the year at 10 S. Cypress St. in Wendell.


Burning Coal Theatre presents The Road to Mecca

Dec. 2-19
Written by Athol Fugard and directed by Jerome Davis (who calls the play one of his all-time favorites), The Road to Mecca is based on the true story of a South African woman, Miss Helen, who began to create sculptures late in her life, determined for her voice to finally be heard.


Downtown Raleigh Illuminate Art Walk

Dec. 3, 2021-Jan. 7, 2022
Downtown Raleigh comes to light with Illuminate, a light-based art walk. Returning Dec. 3, this five-week activation takes place in downtown Raleigh’s Fayetteville St. and Glenwood South districts. Illuminate will transform plazas and underutilized spaces with a large-scale interactive installation, light-based sculptures and projection art.


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Raleigh Little Theatre presents Cinderella

Dec. 3-19
After a year off due to COVID-19, Cinderella is returning to Raleigh Little Theatre (RLT) for its 37th year in 2021! This musical comedy is a holiday sugarplum for the whole family. Just the right mixture of comedy and romance can add the sparkle of magic to your holiday season. This visually stunning musical combines elegant costumes and scenery with singing, dancing, conniving step-relatives and resourceful fairy folk. This version of Cinderella is inspired by the style of British Pantos. It's the perfect family outing during the holiday season, with the Royal Ball taking place on Christmas Eve. Join the cast in singing "We Wish You a Merry a Christmas," and celebrate the holidays at RLT!


Wendell Wonderland

Dec. 3
A perfect chance to experience historic downtown Wendell lit up for the holidays, with a visit from Santa Claus, trolley rides through town, lighting of the town tree, live music, hot chocolate, food trucks, a craft market and more. The previously mentioned Lake Myra Christmas light show—one of the East Coast's most dazzling displays—will also be in full swing, featuring more than 400,000 lights—and it's all free! More details on food vendors and toy donation opportunities for the 2021 event are expected to be announced soon.


Lighting of Wake Forest

Dec. 3
A chance to visit beautiful downtown Wake Forest to experience the wonder and magic of the holiday season! Presented by Wake Forest Downtown, Inc., and sponsored by Holding Village, this year's ceremony will begin with musical performances by local groups followed by the lighting of a 20-foot Christmas tree and Santa's exciting arrival upon a Wake Forest fire truck.


Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express

Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12 and 18
Visitors to the New Hope Valley Railway—just 30 minutes southwest of Raleigh—are in for a treat this season as they line up to ride a real locomotive. The train and railway route are festively decorated, and Santa Claus will once again be in the rail yard to take photos with families (using your own camera) and young train fans can search for Santa’s nine missing reindeer (including Rudolph) during the 50-minute ride. Children will also receive one individually wrapped candy cane. Tickets for these rides sell out fast!


Holidays with the Popes

Dec. 4 and 5
As the only African American house museum in the state, the Pope House Museum in downtown Raleigh offers a look into the life of one of Raleigh’s prominent African American citizens, Dr. Manassa Thomas Pope. For the holidays, children can safely explore the museum and schedule a visit with Santa Claus (and photography will be available for purchase).


Heart of the Holidays in Town of Cary

Dec. 4
This festive celebration in downtown Cary will culminate in the official tree lighting ceremony—with the help of actors, singers and musicians—at 6pm. From 3-6pm visitors can also take part in a Victorian Christmas at the Page-Walker Arts and History Center, featuring an old-fashioned Christmas atmosphere with cookies, carolers, an activity for kids, heritage music and opportunities for festive photos in the garden.


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Apex Rotary Christmas Parade

Dec. 4
Christmas carols, a marching parade, shopping and food vendors and a visit from Santa in charming historic downtown Apex—this annual tradition has so much to love!


Raleigh Beer Garden Christmas Market

Dec. 4
One of America's biggest beer gardens hosting a dog-friendly shopping event with hot chocolate, Santa Claus, live music and more? Count us in!


Fuquay-Varina Christmas Parade

Dec. 5
A wonderful local tradition, the Fuquay-Varina Christmas Parade is thrilled to be back to an in-person event for 2021. Come out to see marching bands, Santa Claus, decorated floats and more!


29th Annual Boylan Heights ArtWalk

Dec. 5
For 29 years and counting, the Boylan Heights Art Walk has featured more than 100 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!). This a juried show, which means artists are reviewed for quality, variety and originality, and as always, the event is free to attend.


North Carolina Master Chorale presents Joy of the Season

Dec. 7
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 an orchestra since 1942. Joy of the Season fills the Duke Energy for the Performing Arts' Meymandi Concert Hall with nearly 200 voices, guest choirs, a brass ensemble, Meymandi's pipe organ and the Master Chorale’s newly established Youth Choir.


Disney On Ice presents Mickey's Search Party

Dec. 8-12
Disney On Ice brings the magic closer to you than ever before at PNC Arena. Join Mickey Mouse and his friends at Disney On Ice presents Mickey’s Search Party, a brand-new adventure filled with world-class skating, high-flying acrobatics and unexpected stunts. Make memories with your whole family during Aladdin, Toy Story and The Little Mermaid as the search party becomes an all-out magical celebration on the ice, in the air and all around!


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State Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony

Dec. 9
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! Governor Roy Cooper, along with Santa Claus, will make an appearance at this free event.


A post shared by visitRaleigh (@visitraleigh)


Theatre In The Park presents A Christmas Carol

Dec. 9-12
This theater production from local passionate mind Ira David Wood III 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!


North Carolina Symphony presents Holiday Pops

Dec. 10-11
If you can only see one or two of the nearly 200 performances by the North Carolina Symphony each year, this may be the time to do it! At this festive performance, vocalist Yolanda Rabun joins the Symphony to spread cheer with traditional favorites including "White Christmas" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." Enjoy "Sleigh Ride," music from The Nutcracker and more—sure to get you in the spirit of the season!


NCAA Men's College Cup

Dec. 10 and 12
Four teams, one ultimate prize—the final four NCAA Men's soccer teams will battle it out on the pitch at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary to crown a champion in of the year's biggest sports events held in the Raleigh area.


A post shared by GRSA (@raleighncsports)


Happy Hollydays Christmas Parade

Dec. 11
Floats, bands, dancers, decorated vehicles, horses, marching groups and other entertainment are ready to take to the streets in Holly Springs! The theme for this year's floats is holiday movies.


MAKRS Holiday Fest

Dec. 11
The MAKRS Society will take over downtown Raleigh's City Plaza for their biggest event of the year—150-plus vendors, food trucks, live music performances, beer and wine, selfie studios, face painting and more make this a can't-miss holiday hang out event!


50th Annual Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour (update: sold out)

Dec. 11-12
Historic Oakwood, one of Raleigh's prettiest and most historic neighborhoods (many of which are dated to the mid-1800s to early 1900s), has its own small-town feel. Elegantly decorated for the holidays, this favorite event gives you the rare chance to step inside about a dozen private homes, each of which is staffed with docents who tell the rich history of this Century Victorian neighborhood.


The Justice Theater Projects presents Black Nativity in Concert

Dec. 11-12
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. This year's 45-minute concert is free open to the public, taking place at the outdoor amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art!


Raleigh Ringers Holiday Concerts

Dec. 12-13
There’s no better way to ring in the holidays than by joining The Raleigh Ringers for their annual holiday concerts at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. This Raleigh holiday tradition will feature the group’s unique interpretations of sacred, secular and popular music, including a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll.


Trans-Siberian Orchestra (and more rocking live music)

On Dec. 15, multi-platinum, progressive rock group Trans-Siberian Orchestra is bringing its highly anticipated Winter Tour back to PNC Arena! This year’s long-awaited tour celebrates the 25th anniversary of the group’s landmark album "Christmas Eve and Other Stories," the 3x certified platinum album that launched the group to superstardom. Here's who else is jamming in the City of Oaks this month: 



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Rob Schneider, Taylor Tomlinson and more laugh-out-loud comedy

'Tis the season for LOL-ing! Actor, comedian and movie director Rob Schneider will headline Raleigh Improv Dec. 17 and 18, and Taylor Tomlinson—one of the youngest comedians to headline theaters in decades—will take over Meymandi Concert Hall at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 18 as well. Here's who else will have the mic this month:

At Goodnights Comedy Club

At Raleigh Improv


Carolina Ballet presents The Nutcracker

Dec. 17-24
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 12 performances at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.


27th Annual Kwanzaa Celebration

Dec. 30
A celebration for all people, focusing on family and friends, Town of Cary and the Ujima Group, Inc., will host the 27th annual Kwanzaa Celebration at the Cary Arts Center. During Kwanzaa, people are invited to ponder the Nguzo Saba, seven powerful principles derived from African heritage, as a means of taking stock, celebrating achievements and entering the future refreshed and renewed. The event will feature a vendor market, a children's village, dance performances and more.


A post shared by EnjoyCary (@enjoycary)


Drive Shack New Year's Eve Party

Dec. 31
Swing into the new year in a big way at Drive Shack, with unlimited golf, party favors, food and drink and more (outdoors, but heated!). 


Champagne and Caviar at The Umstead

Dec. 31
Celebrate New Year's Eve in luxury with an amazing meal at one of America's finest restaurants. Sommelier Troy Revell will take you on a true epicurean journey through five courses of caviar dishes paired with the most exceptional bottles of Champagne from our cellar. This offer is limited to 48 guests. 


New Year's Eve Gala 2022

Dec. 31
Hosted by Rocky Top Catering, this black tie, all-inclusive gala features four floors of delicious food, open bars, craft cocktails, rockin' DJs and a live band at the wonderful North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. If you're looking for a unique place to ring in the new year, you've found it! This event is for ages 21 and up.


Official NYE Celebration at Raleigh Union Station

Dec. 31
At beautiful Raleigh Union Station, enjoy a VIP red carpet entrance, valet coat check, paparazzi portrait session, full bar, multiple DJs and all the dancing you can handle. 


WRAL First Night Raleigh 2022

Dec. 31
Raleigh's biggest New Year celebration fills the city's center with crowds and activities: entertainment, live music, vendors and an epic grand finale that sees a giant copper acorn drop from the sky as the clock strikes midnight.


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Shen Yun Performing Arts

Dec. 31-Jan. 1
Shen Yun Performing Arts, the world's premier classical Chinese dance and music company, brings classical Chinese dance, ethnic, folk and story-based dance, with orchestral accompaniment and solo performers to downtown Raleigh's Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts for two can't-miss evenings.


Carolina Hurricanes games

Seven home games in Dec.
The NHL's Carolina Hurricanes, back in action and off to a hot start this season, will play an important seven home games at PNC Arena this month. They'll take on: 


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Wine and Design Holiday Classes

Various dates throughout the month
A perfect girls night or date night activity, Wine and Design—founded in Raleigh and seen on ABC's "Shark Tank"—has a full schedule of events that dot the upcoming calendar, and guests will create painted scenes of winter landscapes, holiday wreaths, cheery snowmen, mistletoe, beloved Christmas characters and more (date ideas!).


Exhibition: Wings of the City

Through March 31, 2022
Raleigh's beautiful Dorothea Dix Park has welcomed its first international art exhibit (and it's a big one!). Mexican artist Jorge Marín’s traveling exhibition, Wings of the City, features nine larger-than-life bronze sculptures on display throughout the park—some winged and poised to take flight, others delicately balanced in acrobatic poses. The exhibit is free to see, explore and enjoy!


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Exhibition: Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau Visionary

Through Jan. 23, 2022
One of the most celebrated artists in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris, Alphonse Mucha created sumptuous posters and advertising—promoting such everyday products as cigarette papers and tea biscuits—that transformed the streets of Paris into open-air art exhibitions. This special exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of Art celebrates the Mucha Trust collection’s first major U.S. tour in 20 years, featuring a vast array of posters, illustrations, ornamental objects and rarely seen sculptures, photography and self-portraits.


Exhibition: Dressing the Abbey

Through Jan. 17, 2022
First aired in 2010, Downton Abbey™ was once among the most widely watched television dramas in the world, and one of the many things we loved about it was savoring the gorgeous costumes worn by the British aristocracy of the early 20th century. Coming this fall, you can experience them once again in all their exquisite glory at the North Carolina Museum of HistoryDressing the Abbey features 35 costumes worn by the stars of Downton Abbey™ and show the progression of style from 1912 to 1923. The exhibition showcases the turbulence and changes in the late Edwardian era through the 1920s by means of the fashions of the period while evoking fans’ favorite moments from the highly successful six-season run.


Exhibition: Exquisite Creatures

Through March 20, 2022
This stunning, ticketed exhibit by artist Christopher Marley at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is a vibrant exploration of art, nature and human need to connect with the outside world. Exquisite Creatures is a collection of 350 stunning three-dimensional displays of rare (and real) reclaimed organisms (vertebrates that died of natural causes while in the care of individuals or institutions). 


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