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.
 

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. Tickets are not required but entry is subject to capacity.

 

Burning Coal Theatre presents Silent Sky

Dec. 1-18
Directed by Rebecca Holderness, Burning Coal Theatre's production of Silent Sky tells the true story of astronomer Henrietta Leavitt and her battle for recognition after making an astonishing discovery despite limited access to equipment as an entry-level worker at the Harvard Observatory. 

 

Lighting of Wake Forest

Dec. 2
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.

 

WinterFest with the Tree Trail at Ting

Dec. 2-3
An annual favorite event in Holly Springs, WinterFest includes the lighted Tree Trail, a vendor market, visits from Santa, live entertainment and more. 

Related: Holly Springs Tree Lighting, Dec. 1

 

NCAA Women's and Men's College Cups

Women's, Dec. 2 and 5; Men's, Dec. 9 and 12
Four teams, one ultimate prize! For the first time ever, both the the final four NCAA Men's and Women's soccer teams will battle it out on the pitch in back-to-back weeks in the same location—Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary—to crown a champion in one of the year's biggest sports events held in the Raleigh area. Don't miss out!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by GRSA (@raleighncsports)

 

Skate the Square at Fenton

Through Jan. 16, 2023
At Fenton—the mixed-use, 440,000-square-foot live-work-play district in Cary—an outdoor skating rink is set to be put to good use this holiday season. Surrounded by spectacular food, trendy shops and wintry holiday cheer, the skating is open every day—including Christmas—through Jan. 16. 

Tickets are required ($16 includes skate rental). Online purchase recommended but also available at gate.

 

Raleigh Little Theatre presents Cinderella

Dec. 2-18
Cinderella returns to Raleigh Little Theatre (RLT) for its 38th year in 2022! This musical comedy is a holiday sugarplum for the whole family, with just the right mixture of comedy and romance that 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.

 

Magic of Lights

Through Dec. 30
A dazzling, drive-through holiday lights experience—using 2 million total lights!—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, including the all-new Prehistoric Christmas, Mega Tree displays and the 32-foot-tall animated Mattel’s Waving Christmas Barbie®. Returning favorites include the drive-through Blizzard Tunnel, 12 Days of Christmas, Winter Wonderland and The Night Before Christmas.

Tickets begin at $20 per car and must be purchased online. Open nightly, 5-10pm.

 

Piper Lights

Through Jan. 1, 2023
In Wake Forest, Piper Lights—a family-run light display that's been in action for 30 years now—is set for another big holiday season. The seven-acre drive-thru light display that connects yards and jumps across a pond received national recognition in 2016 when they were named winners on ABC television network's Great Christmas Light Fight.

Enjoy this year’s light display seven days a week at 5725 Fixit Shop Rd. Admission is free but donations are accepted. Open daily, 5:30-9pm, Sun.-Thurs; 5:30-10pm, Sat. and Sun.

 

North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival-Cary

Through Jan. 8, 2023
This annual favorite is back for a seventh year! A super trip-worthy event for the whole family, the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival brings 50 larger-than-life lantern displays to Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary for this self-guided walking tour that takes approximately one hour.

This event requires the purchase of a ticket, starting at $25 for adults. Food and drinks are available for purchase.

 

James Cameron: Challenging the Deep at North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Through May 7, 2023
Explore the deepest oceans and discover shipwrecks at this blockbuster exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of Natural SciencesChallenging the Deep traces explorer and filmmaker James Cameron's passion for deep-ocean science, technology and exploration—including his record-breaking dive to the bottom of the ocean—using cinema-scale projections, personal artifacts and specimens from his expeditions.

 

Wendell Wonderland/Lake Myra Christmas Lights

Wendell Wonderland festival is Dec. 2; light show runs through Dec. 31
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 at the annual Wendell Wonderland celebration on Dec. 2.

One of the area's most popular light shows, the Lake Myra Christmas light display, will also be in full swing, featuring more than 400,000 total lights synced to holiday music. The display was created by the Williams family of Wendell, who painstakingly design and assemble the glowing (and growing) event each year.

Visitors park and watch the show—which typically runs between 30 and 45 minutes depending on the year—from the viewing area in front and a walkway that runs through the display. Dogs are welcome (on a leash!). Admission is free, and donations are accepted. Join in on the fun daily, from 5:30-10pm, through the end of the year at 10 S. Cypress St. in Wendell.

 

Downtown Raleigh Illuminate Art Walk

Dec. 2-Jan. 14, 2023
Downtown Raleigh comes to light with Illuminate, a light-based, self-guided art walk. This six-week, totally-free activation takes place in downtown Raleigh’s Fayetteville St. and Glenwood South districts, transforming plazas and underutilized spaces with a large-scale interactive installation, light-based sculptures and projection art. 

A map of the artwork can be found here.

 

Heart of the Holidays in Town of Cary

Dec. 3
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.

Related: Cary Jaycees Christmas Parade, Dec. 10

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by caryncgov (@caryncgov)

 

Apex Rotary Christmas Parade

Dec. 3
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!

 

Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express

Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11 and 17
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). 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!

 

30th Annual Boylan Heights ArtWalk

Dec. 4
For 30 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.

 

Fuquay-Varina Christmas Parade

Dec. 4
A wonderful local tradition, the Fuquay-Varina Christmas Parade is thrilled to present marching bands, Santa Claus, decorated floats and more for attendees that line the streets!

 

THE RINK presented by UNC Health at Red Hat Amphitheater

Through Jan. 16, 2023
Enjoy the thrill of ice skating in a wintry village created in the heart of downtown Raleigh! THE RINK features a natural ice skating rink with stunning views of the downtown Raleigh skyline, cozy lounging stations with heat warmers and fire pits, a snack bar, games, photo opportunities and more!

This is a ticketed event, with recommendation that you purchase in advance ($6 for non-skaters, $11 includes skate rental).

 

Christmas Lights on Holt Rd.

Open on select days: Dec. 2-4; Dec. 9-11; Dec. 16-18; Dec. 20-26
For more than 10 years now, the Guerra family's spectacular light display at their home in Apex has drawn a chorus of 'oohs and aahs' from visitors. Bigger and more colorful every year, the free-admission, drive-in style show has grown so much that the Apex Police Department has stepped in to help direct traffic. The video below gives a peek at the holiday cheer you can expect to find!

Note: The display is not open every night, and some nights are reserved for families with special needs and other community members. The best way to keep track is following on Facebook. The display is generally open from 6:15-9:15pm and the dates above are tentatively scheduled to be open to the general public.

 

WRAL Nights of Lights at Dorothea Dix Park

Through Dec. 24
Illuminated trees, festive light displays and local art installations will delight visitors of all ages once again at the WRAL Nights of Lights drive-through event 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 peaking above the trees—making it a perfect location for this holiday event.

This is a ticketed experience, and purchases must be made in advance ($20 per vehicle with up to eight passengers).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Dorothea Dix Park (@dixpark)

 

Disney On Ice presents Frozen & Encanto

Dec. 7-11
This adventure on ice at PNC Arena transports fans into two of the most popular Disney films ever, with audiences invited to sing along to their favorite tunes while embracing world-class ice skating, aerial acrobatics and more.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by PNC Arena (@pncarena)

 

State Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony

Dec. 8
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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by visitRaleigh (@visitraleigh)

 

North Carolina Symphony presents Holiday Pops

Dec. 9-10
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 Scarlett Strallen 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!

Other Symphony events: Handel's Messiah, Dec. 2; ¡Feliz Navidad!, Dec. 14

 

Theatre In The Park presents A Christmas Carol

Dec. 9-11
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!

 

Happy Holly Days Christmas Parade

Dec. 10
Floats, bands, dancers, decorated vehicles, horses, marching groups and other entertainment are ready to take to the streets in Holly Springs!

 

The Justice Theater Projects presents Black Nativity in Concert

Dec. 10
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 gospel concert is free and open to the public, taking place at the outdoor amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art!

 

MAKRS Holiday Fest

Dec. 10
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!

 

51st Annual Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour

Dec. 10 and 11
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.

This is a ticketed event starting at $30 and availability may be limited.

 

The Power of Women in Country Music at North Carolina Museum of History

Through Feb. 26, 2023
It's time for women to take center stage! This major exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History, curated by the GRAMMY Museum® in Los Angeles, highlights the past, present and future of country music’s greatest female trailblazers—from Dolly Parton, Rosanne Cash, Shania Twain and Taylor Swift, to contemporary Tar Heel State artists that include Rhiannon Giddens, Rissi Palmer and Kasey Tyndall. 

Related events at the museum as part of this exhibition: Southern Songbirds: Tift Merritt, Dec. 10; Southern Songbirds: Alice Gerrard and Friends, Dec. 11.

 

The Wait Wait Stand-Up Tour (plus more laugh-out-loud shows)

How about a full night of brilliant comedy from some of Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me's funniest panelists? This live performance on Dec. 15 at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh is not subject to FCC regulations, and host Alonzo Bodden and crew are ready to tell all!

Here's who else is performing at two of the biggest comedy clubs in the Raleigh area in December:

At Goodnights Comedy Club

At Raleigh Improv

  • Brian Simpson, Dec. 1-3
  • KevOnStage, Dec. 9-11
  • Rob Schneider, Dec. 16-17
  • Jourdain FisherDec. 22-23
  • Dusty Slay, Dec. 29-31

 

North Carolina Master Chorale presents Joy of the Season

Dec. 13
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 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.

 

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (and more rocking live music)

Multi-platinum, progressive rock group Trans-Siberian Orchestra is bringing its highly anticipated winter tour back to Raleigh for 2022, celebrating more than 25 years of the bring-the-whole-family rock holiday tradition which has now been played to more than 17 million fans all across the nation. They'll play at PNC Arena on Dec. 14. Here's what else is on tap for the month: 

  • Runaway Gin, Dec. 1
  • Chatham Rabbits, Dec. 4
  • Scott Bradlee's A Postmodern Juukebox, Dec. 4
  • Freedom Hawk, Dec. 6
  • Consider the Source, Dec. 9
  • Plaid Tidings, Dec. 10
  • Yarn, Dec. 10
  • Southern Songbirds: Tift Merritt, Dec. 10
  • Southern Songbirds: Alice Gerrard and Friends, Dec. 11
  • The Front Bottoms, Dec. 11
  • Artspace Holiday Jukebox with Yolanda Raybun, Dec. 15
  • Toubab Krewe, Dec. 16
  • Neighbor, Dec. 17
  • Jim Brickman: A Very Merry Christmas, Dec. 20
  • Jump, Little Children, Dec. 22
  • Marcus King, Dec. 31
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by PNC Arena (@pncarena)

 

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: 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Carolina Hurricanes (@canes)

 

Call of Duty League: Major I Tournament

Dec. 15-18
The first event of the new Call of Duty competitive season is ready for four full days of action at the Raleigh Convention Center, where pros and Joes will battle for league points and $500,000 on the line. Tickets for spectators are on sale now.

 

Carolina Ballet presents The Nutcracker

Dec. 16-24
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 14 performances at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

 

Raleigh Ringers Holiday Concerts

Dec. 17 and 18
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.

 

Soccer Fan Fest and World Cup Final Viewing Party

Dec. 18
Join fellow fútbol fans at Raleigh's Moore Square for a live viewing party of the FIFA World Cup final match on a giant screen, paired with games and activities on the lawn, plus a beer garden, food trucks, DJ and more. This free event will run 9:30am-2pm. 

 

Hanukkah Menorah Lighting

Dec. 19
Taking place outside of the Cary Arts Center, there will be treats, fun for kids and holiday music to enjoy as the menorah is lit on the second night of Hanukkah.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by caryncgov (@caryncgov)

 

2022 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 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 caryncgov (@caryncgov)

 

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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Rob Laughter (@roblaughter)

 

New Year's Eve Gala at North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

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.

 

New Year's Eve at The Willard Rooftop

Dec. 31
Ring in 2023 with spectacular views of the Raleigh skyline and fireworks as the clock strikes midnight. This ticketed event will feature an American-inspired buffet, two full cash bars, live music and dance floor with Peter Lamb & the Wolves, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight.

 

Rainbow Gay-La New Year's Eve Celebration

Dec. 31
Drinks, DJs, door prizes and drag queens to ring in 2023? That's the plan for this first ever Triangle LGBT Group New Year's Eve Rainbow Gay-La, taking place at The StateView Hotel.

 

A Modern Vision: European Masterworks from the Phillips Collection at the North Carolina Museum of Art

Through Jan. 22, 2023
A special, ticketed exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of ArtA Modern Vision features more than 50 paintings by iconic artists from The Phillips Collection’s world-renowned holdings (Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and more). The Phillips Collection opened in Washington, D.C., in 1921 as America's first modern art museum, and A Modern Vision showcases extraordinary paintings by titans of impressionism, postimpressionism, expressionism and cubism, carefully collected by founder Duncan Phillips.

 

More December events in Raleigh, N.C.

  • The Dessertery, through Dec. 23
  • St. Nick's: Raleigh Jolly Pop-Up House, through Dec. 24
  • Brier Creek Annual Tree Lighting, Dec. 2
  • Cary Players present A Christmas StoryDec. 2-5
  • Fuquay-Varina Chorale Holiday Concert, Dec. 2 and 3
  • Garner Christmas Parade, Party and Tree Lighting, Dec. 3
  • Christmas Open House at the Joel Lane Museum House, Dec. 3
  • Scandinavian Christmas Fair, Dec. 3
  • Zebulon Christmas Parade, Dec. 3
  • Rolesville Christmas Parade, Dec. 4
  • Cookies and Crochet, Dec. 8
  • Marbles Evening with Elves, Dec. 9
  • Concert Singers of Cary presents Holiday Pops Concert, Dec. 10
  • Holiday Open House at Mordecai Historic Park, Dec. 10-11
  • Triangle Wind Ensemble: The Snowman and Other Holiday Favorites, Dec. 11
  • The Vintage Market Before Christmas, Dec. 11
  • One Christmas Night in MemphisDec. 16-17
  • Cary Ballet Company presents The NutcrackerDec. 16-18
  • Rediscovering Raleigh with Neesy Green, Dec. 17
  • Marbles Gingerbread Jamboree, Dec. 17 and 18
  • The Raleigh Flute Choir presents Images: A Celebration of Christmas, Chanukah and the Winter Season, Dec. 18
  • Pure Life Theatre presents A Motown ChristmasDec. 21, 22, 28 and 29
  • New Year’s Eve Charcuterie Workshop with Fig + Forage, Dec. 31

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