Have family visiting and looking for things to do over the Thanksgiving weekend? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! From dazzling light displays to major hockey games, we’ve compiled a list of 20+ ideas on how to stay busy and active after Turkey Day in the Raleigh area.

Holiday shopping sprees

Hungry to get your holiday shopping started (and finished!)? Use this list of Raleigh-made eats and drinks—chocolate, beer, barbecue sauce and more—to start your search for stocking stuffers and tasty treats, plus use this guide to holiday shopping (jewelry shops, legendary bookstores, hand-made fashion accessories and more) to kick things into high gear.

Looking for even more gift ideas? Raleigh, N.C.'s passionate entrepreneurs and thriving maker scene provide plenty of options.

Videri Chocolate Factory


Dazzling light displays

Lake Myra’s 20th year of computerized Christmas lights opens on Wed., Nov. 21, at 6pm. This interactive light show is a drive-in-style show that features more than 400,000 total lights synced to holiday music, lighting up downtown Wendell during the holiday season. A bonus is the free admission!

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 light display that connects yards and jumps across a pond received national recognition in 2016 when it won on ABC television network's Great Christmas Light Fight. Opening Nov. 23, the display is open 5:30-9pm, Sun.-Thurs., and 5:30-10:30pm, Fri. and Sat.

Returning for a fourth straight year, the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival-Cary (11/23/18-1/13/19) puts more than 20 jaw-dropping traditional Chinese lanterns on display at Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheatre. With larger-than-life lanterns (including a 200-foot-long, 21-foot-tall dragon that sits on Symphony Lake!) and cultural performances, this event is definitely a can’t-miss.


Performing arts

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 of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical (11/23-12/23) at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

The Carolina Ballet is performing The Planets, an out-of-this world journey that will leave you breathless. The ballet is set to Gustav Holst’s monumental orchestral suite and is the perfect way to entertain your family. With only five performances (11/21-25), you don’t want to miss out!

The North Carolina Symphony is putting on a special concert, The Merry Elf (11/21), where a playful elf has been sent by Santa to confirm the naughty and nice list. Bring the kids to this family-friendly concert that includes music, festive face-painting and a reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. The Symphony will also perform their annual Holiday Pops Spectacular (11/23-24), a fun-filled, heart-warming event featuring seasonal favorites plus a sing-a-long, falling snow and a chorus line of dancing Santas.

Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts


Can’t-miss museum exhibits

Georgia O’Keefe is one of America’s most influential artists, known for her larger-than-life flowers, desert landscapes and more. The Beyond: Georgia O’Keefe and Contemporary Art exhibit brings together more than 35 of O’Keefe’s works at the North Carolina Museum of Art as well as works by contemporary artists who evoke and expand on O’Keeffe’s artistic language. Open through Jan. 20, 2019.

Explore the work of athlete-turned-artist Ernie Barnes—a Durham, N.C., native, in a new exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History titled “The North Carolina Roots of Artist Ernie Barnes.” Barnes is known for his unique style of elongation, energy and movement. The exhibit showcases many unpublished original paintings as well as artifacts from his life. Open through March 3, 2019.

The City of Raleigh Museum (COR Museum) has also unveiled a new permanent exhibit, From Plantation to Park: The Story of Dix Hill, that showcases the history of Dorothea Dix Park. The exhibit explores the long history and future of Raleigh’s newest park through four perspectives.


On-court, on-ice action

Over Thanksgiving week, the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes, battling for playoff position in the Eastern Conference, will face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs (11/21) and the Florida Panthers (11/23) in two important home games at PNC Arena.

In the same arena later that weekend, North Carolina State University men's basketball takes on Mercer on Nov. 24, looking to close the book on an early stretch of home games with an undefeated record.

Carolina Hurricanes 2017 02-205.jpg


Live music


More weekend picks

Preemptively burn off some calories (or work up an appetite) by joining in on the Trophy Turkey Trot 10k, presented by Runologie, at Dorothea Dix Park on Thanksgiving morning.

See comedian Arnez J at Goodnights Comedy Club (11/23-25), the legendary downtown Raleigh comedy club that’s been in business for more than 30 years.

Take advantage of perfect fall weather and get some fresh air by planning a day to hike, bike or run on one of the area's more than 180 miles of greenways and trails.

During a busy holiday, it’s always nice to sit, take a deep breath and relax. Do so by sipping on your beverage of choice at one of Raleigh’s cozy coffee shops. If you’re looking to embrace the holiday spirit, try one of these five places to get delicious hot chocolate.

A perfect weekend idea for friends (old and new!), the Raleigh Beer Trail lets you check in at the area's nearly 30 breweries to earn prizes—get all the details here!

Looking for even more ideas in Raleigh? Check out our fall bucket list (with more than 30 hand-picked experiences for you to tackle!).