Holiday Events: Santa Visits, Tree-Lightings, Sleigh Rides, Parades
The holiday season is a wonderful time to celebrate the blessings of family and friends. Many Triangle towns offer fun ways to spend the season together by hosting festive parades, tree-lighting ceremonies and opportunities to meet a particular jolly old elf. Mark your calendar now for these upcoming events, listed alphabetically by town. Be sure to check with the event's sponsors before heading out, since plans can change based on weather or other unexpected conditions.
Downtown Apex ushers in the holiday season with its annual Christmas on Salem Street event Dec. 6. The evening features a tree-lighting ceremony and sleigh rides. Visit apexdowntown.com for times. The Salem Street firehouse serves a pancake breakfast for families Dec. 7, 7-10 a.m. Children can have their pictures taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Halle Cultural Arts Center. The town's annual Christmas parade is at 5 p.m. apexrotary.org.
Benson's Christmas on Main is Dec. 6. The event begins at 6 p.m. with a tree-lighting ceremony, followed by live entertainment, hot cider and cookies, strolling carolers and a parade at 6:45 p.m. benson-chamber.com; 919-894-3825.
Downtown Cary's Ole Time Winter Festival Dec. 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., features arts and crafts, food, live entertainment and a visit from Kris Kringle. Families can experience old-fashioned holiday fun at the Page-Walker Arts and History Center, a historic 1868 hotel in the heart of Cary, from 4-6 p.m. The afternoon features horse-drawn carriage rides, craft activities for kids, Victorian carolers and century-old holiday traditions. The town's tree-lighting ceremony takes place at 6 p.m. at the Town Hall Campus. See live performances and the unveiling of a community tree decorated with handcrafted ornaments. townofcary.org; 919-469-4061.
Cary's Park West Village hosts a free light show in front of Park West 14 Cinemas nightly Dec. 6-15 from 6-8 p.m. Storytime with Santa is Dec. 6, 7, 14 and 15 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. and Dec. 8 from 6:30-8 p.m. parkwestvillage.net.
The Cary Jaycees host the 2013 Cary Christmas Parade Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. The parade route starts at E. Chatham and Ward streets and ends at the intersection of S. Academy St. and Kildaire Farm Rd. caryjaycees.org/cary-jaycees-christmas-parade. 919-672-1820.
Celebrate Hanukkah and Jewish culture at Cary's Jewish Cultural Festival with traditional foods, crafts, hands-on activities and more Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary. townofcary.org; 919-469-4061.
Cary's 19th Annual Kwanzaa celebration, sponsored by the Town of Cary and The Ujima Group, is Dec. 30 at 5 p.m. at the Cary Arts Center. Ponder the Nguzu Saba - seven powerful principals derived from African heritage. 919-460-4963.
Themed floats, marching bands and Santa highlight the Chapel Hill-Carrboro holiday parade Dec. 14, which begins at 10 a.m. on East Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill and ends at Carrboro Town Commons at noon. chapelhilljaycees.org.
Snow sledding, pictures with Santa, cookie decorating and seasonal crafts are all part of the fun at Briar Chapel's Winter Wonderland event in Chapel Hill Dec. 14, 2-4 p.m. briarchapelnc.com.
The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill offers the Twelve Days of Christmas event series through Jan. 2 that includes a gingerbread village display, opportunities to enjoy breakfast or brunch with Santa on select days in December, horse drawn carriage rides, storytime with Santa and more. carolinainn.com.
Main Street in Clayton becomes a holiday wonderland featuring live music, a tree-lighting ceremony and a live nativity Dec. 5 from 6-8:30 p.m. More than 100 units will participate in Clayton's annual Christmas parade on Main Street Dec. 14 at 3 p.m. downtownclayton.org; 919-553-6352.
Durham hosts its Fourth Annual Holiday Fun Fest Dec. 7, 1-5 p.m. Due to the forecast for rain the fest has been moved to the Durham Armory at 212 Foster Street. Learn more here. Sledding, pony rides, bounce houses, arts and crafts, live music and a visit with Santa round out the fun. Durham's Kwanzaa celebration, featuring dance performances, kids activities and a vendor marketplace, is Dec. 30, 6-8 p.m., at the Holton Career and Resource Center. durhamnc.gov.
Families in Fuquay-Varina can enjoy free sleigh rides in the downtown district and a tree-lighting ceremony Dec. 5 from 6-8 p.m. Bring a canned food item, which serves as a ticket for the sleigh ride, to benefit the Fuquay-Varina Emergency Food Pantry. The town's annual Christmas parade is Dec. 8 at 3 p.m. on Main Street. fuquay-varinadowntown.com.
The mayor leads the countdown for a tree-lighting ceremony at Garner's Light Up Main event Dec. 6, 6-8 p.m. The event also showcases children's arts and crafts in Santa's workshop, local entertainment and food. Garner's Christmas parade on Main Street takes place Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. garnerparks.org; 919-773-4442.
Hillsborough hosts a tree-lighting ceremony Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. on the old courthouse lawn at Churton and King streets. The evening features carols, stories and kids activities. The town gets festive with a Christmas parade Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. that begins on Corbin Street and ends at East Margaret Lane. hillsboroughchamber.com; 919-732-8156.
Holly Springs' annual Main Street Christmas takes place Dec. 13, 6-8 p.m. The event includes hayrides, live entertainment, caroling and refreshments. Mrs. Claus reads stories and Santa visits with children at Town Hall until 7:30 p.m. The night concludes with the town's tree-lighting ceremony at 8 p.m. at the Cultural Center. Holly Springs' Happy Holly Days Parade on Main Street begins at 11 a.m. Dec. 14. hollyspringsnc.us; 919-557-3930.
Knightdale turns on the holiday charm with a tree-lighting ceremony on First Avenue Dec. 6, 6-7:30 p.m. Kids can walk through a caboose on the avenue to greet Mrs. Claus, view Santa's workshop and write him a letter. Knightdale's Christmas parade takes place Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. knightdalenc.gov; 919-217-2236.
Carriage rides, strolling carolers, a tree-lighting ceremony, marshmallow roasts, kids activities and Kris Kringle highlight downtown Mebane's two-day Annual Hometown Holiday Celebration Nov. 15, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and Nov. 16, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The town's nighttime Christmas parade is Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. downtownmebane.com.
Morrisville greets the arrival of the holiday season with a tree-lighting ceremony Dec. 6, 6:30-8 p.m., at town hall. Hot chocolate, cookies and a performance by a children's choir highlight the event. The next morning, the town hosts a Winterfest parade on Town Hall Drive at 11 a.m., followed by a holiday craft fair at Cedar Fork Community Center from noon-3 p.m. Local vendors, food trucks and a visit with Santa round out the fun at the fair. townofmorrisville.org; 919-463-7102.
The New Hope Valley Railway in New Hill invites families to ride a train with Santa along 8 miles of scenic tracks. Bundle up to ride in open cars decorated with holiday trimmings. Santa Trains run Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 11 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:45 p.m. and 4 p.m. Advance ticket purchase is recommended. See website for prices. triangletrain.com; 919-362-5416.
The annual Christmas parade in Pittsboro is Dec. 8 at 3 p.m. pittsboronc.gov; 919-542-4621.
The 68th Annual WRAL Raleigh Christmas Parade is Nov. 23 at 9:40 a.m. in downtown Raleigh. The parade begins at the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary's streets and features holiday-themed floats, marching bands, classic cars and large helium balloons. The rain date is Nov. 24. grma.org.
The Ipreo Raleigh Winterfest kick-off is Dec. 7, 3-10 p.m. in downtown Raleigh. The event features ice skating, sledding, a Ferris wheel, kids activities, Santa's Village and a tree-lighting ceremony. Raleigh Winterfest runs Nov. 22-Feb. 1. raleighwinterfest.com; 919-821-6984.
The N.C. State Capitol Christmas Tree-Lighting and Holiday Festival takes place in Raleigh Dec. 12 from 5-7:30 p.m. The Governor and First Lady will light the tree during the traditional ceremony on the south plaza. After the ceremony, visitors are invited inside the Capitol for an open house to observe the holiday decorations. The Junior Woman's Club of Raleigh will host a holiday festival featuring music and children's activities on Union Square, in the museums, and on Bicentennial Plaza. nchistoricsites.org/capitol; 919-733-4994.
Selma's Christmas Parade is Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. selma-nc.com.
Smithfield welcomes families to meet Santa, decorate cookies and sing carols Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. at the corner of Third and Market streets, and the town celebrates the season's arrival with a Christmas parade on Market Street Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. smithfield-nc.com.
Pictures with Santa, performances by local choirs, horse and carriage rides and the lighting of the town's Christmas tree comprise The Lighting of Wake Forest Dec. 6, 6-8 p.m., at Town Hall on South Brooks Street. The Downtown Merchants Association hosts a Holiday Open House that includes school and dance group performances, carriage rides and activities for all ages Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. The town's holiday parade takes place Dec. 14 at 1 p.m. in downtown Wake Forest. wakeforestnc.gov/christmas-in-wake-forest.aspx; 919-435-9415.
Wendell ushers in the holiday season with a Lighting of the Square event Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. on West Third Street. Holiday entertainment, food, vendors and a visit from St. Nicholas round out the fun. townofwendell.com/discover/events; 919-365-6318.
Zebulon's Christmas Parade is Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. zebulonchamber.org; 919-269-6320.
For more family fun in and around the Triangle, visit our Visit our Things to Do and Seasonal pages .
Janice Lewine is the associate editor at Carolina Parent.