Have family visiting and looking for things to do over the Thanksgiving weekend? We’ve got you covered! From jaw-dropping light displays to your favorite holiday-themed performances, we’ve compiled a list of 20+ ideas on how to stay busy and active around 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 more! Look to our guide to the best shopping in downtown Raleigh.

Videri Chocolate Factory


Dazzling light displays

After Thanksgiving, it’s only rational to be in the holiday spirit. Every year for 33 years the Piper family in Wake Forest has turned their yard into a dazzling, seven-acre drive-through light display complete with visits from Santa, train rides and a candy store offering old-fashioned candy, hot chocolate, scarves and locally made holiday crafts. Piper Lights will open for the season on Fri., Nov. 29.

Lake Myra’s annual computerized Christmas light show opens on Wed., Nov. 27, at 6pm. This free, interactive light show is a drive-in-style show that features more than 400,000 lights synced to holiday music, beautifully lighting up downtown Wendell during the holiday season. The show is open seven days a week until Dec. 31, weather permitting.

The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival, Nov. 22, 2019-Jan. 12, 2020, is a fan favorite in the Raleigh area. Every year, more than 20 magnificent traditional Chinese lanterns are put on display at Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheatre. 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 phoenix 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.


Performing arts

Bring on nostalgia with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical (11/29-12/24) live at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. This holiday tradition brings to life all your favorite characters from the original television series, including Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster and, of course, Rudolph. It’s a heartwarming performance that the whole family will enjoy!

The circus meets the symphony in a astounding performance with the Cirque de la Symphonie and the North Carolina Symphony at the Duke Energy Center (11/27-30) for Cirque de Noel. Aerialists soar above the symphony while performing contortions, juggling acts and more sensational moves to the score of your favorite holiday tunes. It’s sure to impress family or friends you have in town.

It’s the tale of Snow White you’ve never heard before. A Snow White Christmas takes the stage at the Duke Energy Center (11/30-12/8), and features Snow White and her seven dwarves as they try to save Christmas from her evil aunt. The Wicked Queen will be played by Grammy Award-winning actress Michelle Williams; the cast also includes stars Michael Campion of Netflix’s "Fuller House," Garrett Clayton of "Hairspray Live!" and Neil Patrick Harris.


Can’t-miss museum exhibits

The North Carolina Museum of Art's exhibition Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection quickly gained popularity for Kahlo’s intensely personal self portraits and Rivera’s immense murals of the 20th century and beyond. The exhibition is also ticketed with Scott Avett: INVISIBLE, which showcases his never-before-seen oil paintings, prints and paintings related to his musical career and family. Both galleries will be open through Jan. 19, 2020.

CAM Raleigh's ¡Viva Viclas! is a unique exhibit that celebrates the art and culture of the lowrider motorcycle. “Vicla” is a slang term for a style of lowrider motorcycle that gained popularity with Mexican-Americans. The exhibit, which runs through Feb. 9, 2020, features 10 custom lowrider Harley-Davidsons and 12 Vicla-inspired works of art.

Both children and adults can appreciate the North Carolina Museum of History’s big exhibit Toy Boom!, which features toys from the 1950s and 1960s. Toy artifacts include Rock ’Em, Sock ’Em Robots, dolls, action figures, an Easy Bake Oven and more. Visitors are encouraged to interact with activities like Twister, Etch A Sketch and a Hot Wheels racing station. The exhibit will be open through Jan. 3, 2020.

Learn the fascinating story of Dix Hill (Dorothea Dix Park) at City of Raleigh Museum's (COR Museum’s) From Plantation to Park: The Story of Dix Hill exhibit. The exhibit, a joint venture with the Dix Park Conservancy, explores the long history and future of Raleigh’s newest park.


Carolina Hurricanes hockey action

Catch an exciting NHL Carolina Hurricanes game at PNC Arena on Fri., Nov. 29, when the Canes face off against the Nashville Predators at 7:30pm, a perfect activity for your sports-loving relatives. Details here.

Carolina Hurricanes 2017 02-205.jpg


Live music

  • Jonathan Markow at Empress Room (11/27)
  • Mac McLaughlin Group at C. Grace (11/27)
  • Maverick Rose at Tin Roof Raleigh (11/29)
  • Petty Thieves at KINGS (11/29)
  • Urban Soil at The Pour House Music Hall & Record Shop (11/29)
  • Idlewild South's Holiday Jam at Lincoln Theatre (11/30)
  • Half Past Six at Irregardless Cafe (11/30)
  • Unknown Hinson with Motorbilly at The Pour House Music Hall & Record Shop (11/30)


More weekend picks

Visit the new record shop on the second level of The Pour House Music Hall & Record Shop. Browse both new and used vinyl records while enjoying a full bar stocked with plenty of local beers.

After enjoying a delicious meal from one of Transfer Co. Food Hall’s diverse food vendors, stick around for a special Holiday Pop-Up (11/30), featuring more than 50 local artists and makers, live jazz, a photo booth and other holiday festivities.

Enjoy a special Evening with David Sedaris (12/1), one of America’s most beloved humor writers, at the Duke Energy Center. Sedaris will share his signature witty stories and observations, followed by an audience Q and A and book signing.

Laugh until you cry at Goodnights Comedy Club with shows by Ali Siddiq (11/29-12/1) and Steve Brown (11/29-12/1).

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 local coffee shops.

Your beer-loving guests will love the task of tackling the Raleigh Beer Trail!

See a full list of events over the weekend here.

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Header photo: Relaxing views at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary