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.

 

NCAA Women's College Cup

Semifinals on Dec. 1 (sold out); championship match Dec. 4
Four teams, one ultimate prize! The best collegiate women'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 one of the year's biggest sports events held in the Raleigh area. Tickets for Monday's championship match can be found here

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by GRSA (@raleighncsports)

 

Burning Coal Theatre presents Moonlight

Through Dec. 17
In this 1993 play by Harold Pinter, Moonlight follows a riotous older man reflecting on his life, marriage, children, friends and past mistakes. 

 

Wendell Wonderland/Lake Myra Christmas Lights

Wendell Wonderland festival is Dec. 1; 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. 1.

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. Join in on the fun daily, from 5:30-10pm, through the end of the year at 10 S. Cypress St. in Wendell.

 

Lighting of Wake Forest

Dec. 1
A chance to visit beautiful downtown Wake Forest to experience the wonder and magic of the holiday season! Presented by Wake Forest Downtown, Inc., this year's ceremony will begin with musical performances by local groups followed by the lighting of a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree and Santa's exciting arrival upon a Wake Forest fire truck.

 

Raleigh Little Theatre presents Cinderella

Dec. 1-17
Cinderella returns to Raleigh Little Theatre (RLT) for its 39th year this holiday season! This musical comedy is a holiday sugarplum for the whole family, showcasing just the right mixture of comedy and romance that 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.

 

Miracle® at The Haymaker (plus other holiday pop-up bars)

Through Dec. 31
At The Haymaker, a gorgeous cocktail bar in downtown Raleigh inspired by legendary boxers and 1990s rappers, the holidays mean one thing: the return of Miracle®, an over-the-top, festive pop-up bar with holiday fun and limited-time cocktails to enjoy. Entry will be $5 at the door; ages 21 and up only. 

Similar festive fun can be found at: 

 

North Carolina Symphony performances

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! Special performances for the holiday season include Handel's Messiah (Dec. 1 and 2), Holiday Pops (Dec. 8 and 9) and A Candlelight Christmas (Dec. 22 and 23).

 

Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express

Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10 and 16
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!

 

A Gift to Cary (including Official Tree Lighting) (note weather updates)

Dec. 2
A holiday season kick-off event at the new Downtown Cary Park, featuring Santa, an ice skating rink, snowball fights, the official tree lighting ceremony and more surprises. 

Update: This event has been modified due to potential bad weather. Photos with Santa will still take place from 10am-3:30pm, as will the official tree lighting ceremony at 6pm.

More holiday events in Cary:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by caryncgov (@caryncgov)

 

Apex Rotary Christmas Parade

Dec. 2
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!

 

MAKRS Holiday Fest

Dec. 2
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!

 

Fuquay-Varina Christmas Parade

Dec. 3
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!

 

31st Annual Boylan Heights ArtWalk

Dec. 3
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.

 

Skate the Square at Fenton

Through Feb. 5
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 rink will be open every day—including Thanksgiving and Christmas—through Feb. 5.

More holiday events at Fenton:

 

THE RINK presented by UNC Health at Red Hat Amphitheater

Through Jan. 15
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 your purchase in advance ($6 for non-skaters, $15 includes skate rental).

 

North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival-Cary

Through Jan. 14
A super trip-worthy event for the whole family, the eighth annual North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival brings 50 larger-than-life lantern displays 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. 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. 

More than 200,000 visitors are expected to come from across the state to see these glowing works of art!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jiaqi Zhang (@garyzhangisme)

 

THE DESSERTERY

Through Dec. 23
This pop-up, holiday-themed dessert café inside downtown Raleigh's Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts features elaborate decor, all-you-can eat sweet treats (including hot cocoa) and live entertainment on select nights—the perfect stop before or after a show for the whole family!

 

Downtown Raleigh Illuminate Art Walk

Through Jan. 5
Downtown Raleigh comes to light with Illuminate, a self-guided, light-based art walk. This free, five-week activation takes place in downtown Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street district (with a couple of pieces at Glenwood South), transforming plazas and underutilized spaces with a large-scale interactive installation, light-based sculptures and projection art. 

See the map of all the art here.

 

Disney On Ice presents Magic In The Stars

Dec. 6-10
Join Disney On Ice at Raleigh's PNC Arena for a magical journey with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Daisy through timeless tales and today’s favorites. This all-new production brings the brightest Disney stars to life through cutting-edge figure skating, high-flying acrobatics, unexpected stunts, thrilling special effects, eye-catching costumes and stunning set designs.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Disney On Ice (@disneyonice)

 

State Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony

Dec. 7
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. While the inside of the Capitol is currently closed due to construction, after the lighting of the tree guests are invited to visit the North Carolina Executive Mansion to see the residence decked out for the holidays.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by visitRaleigh (@visitraleigh)

 

Theatre In The Park presents A Christmas Carol

Dec. 8-10
Celebrating 50 years of magic in 2023, 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, is among the Raleigh area's top holiday traditions and most anticipated performing arts event of the year. 

It was announced earlier in 2023 that this will be Ira David Wood III's final year performing as Scrooge. Don't miss your opportunity to see this iconic production, but note that there are very limited tickets still available!

 

North Carolina Theatre presents Elf: The Musical

Dec. 9-17
This hilarious musical follows the hit 2003 movie that’s now a holiday classic (after all, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear). When Santa breaks the news to him that he is, in fact, a human, Buddy—played by Max Chernin—sets out from the North Pole determined to win over his new family and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.

 

Happy Holly Days Christmas Parade

Dec. 9
Floats, bands, dancers, decorated vehicles, horses, marching groups and other entertainment are ready to take to the streets in Holly Springs!

 

52nd Annual Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour (update: completely sold out)

Dec. 9 and 10
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. 9 and 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 gospel concert had an admission fee of just $5 for adults, taking place at the outdoor amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Anne Evangelista (@anne_esq)

 

Downtown Raleigh Menorah Lighting

Dec. 11
The eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins on Dec. 7 this year, and the city of Raleigh’s annual menorah lighting happens Dec. 11, 6pm, at the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts, with Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin presiding. Enjoy plenty of warm drinks, fresh latkes and traditional doughnuts!

 

North Carolina Master Chorale presents Joy of the Season

Dec. 12
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, percussion, piano and all the holiday spirit you can handle!

 

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 2023, 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. 13. Here's what else is on tap for the month: 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by PNC Arena (@pncarena)

 

Theatre Raleigh presents The 1940s Radio Hour

Dec. 13-24
In this musical by Walton Jones, a chaotic New York City radio station records its final holiday broadcast for American soldiers serving overseas in World War II. The station plans to put the best of 1940s hits on display, if the cast of performers can get their act together!

 

Carolina Ballet presents The Nutcracker

Dec. 14-24
Grace, grandeur and mysterious illusions. Carolina Ballet's holiday classic is a can't-miss tradition for locals, visitors, families and friends. Artistic director Zalman Raffael unveiled an updated version of the production in 2022, featuring new choreography, sets, costumes and more that will dazzle audiences again in 17 performances at the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts this year.

 

Raleigh Ringers Holiday Concerts

Dec. 16 and 17
There’s no better way to ring in the holidays than by joining The Raleigh Ringers for their annual holiday concerts, featuring the group’s unique interpretations of sacred, secular and popular music, including a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll.

 

Carolina Hurricanes games

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

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Carolina Hurricanes (@canes)

 

Connecting explorers with guides: People-First Tourism

A new way to travel—discover a curated collection of tours, hands-on workshops and experiences led by local experts in the Raleigh area (the December calendar is filled with new events!). 

 

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

Dec. 31
Hosted by Rocky Top Catering, this black tie optional, all-inclusive gala features four floors of delicious food, open bars, craft cocktails and rockin' DJs 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 2024 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.

 

New Year's Eve with The Avett Brothers

Dec. 31
The Avett Brothers, one of the state's most celebrated homegrown bands, brings their annual New Year's Eve show back to Raleigh's PNC Arena with special guest Marcus King. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by PNC Arena (@pncarena)

 

WRAL First Night Raleigh

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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