2017 Holiday Events: Santa Visits, Christmas Tree Lightings, Sleigh Rides, Parades, Festivals
Tickets for many events are on sale now
Be dazzled by Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker,” which takes place Dec. 13-14 in Durham.
Photo courtesy of Moscow Ballet
Usher in the holiday season at these upcoming events in the Triangle, listed alphabetically by town. Mark your calendar for festive parades, tree-lighting ceremonies, gingerbread house displays and opportunities to meet Santa. Tickets for many events are on sale now. Plans can change based on inclement weather or other unexpected conditions, so be sure to check with the event’s sponsors before heading out. Events are free unless otherwise noted.
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Christmas on Salem Street in downtown Apex Dec. 1, 5-9 p.m., features sleigh rides, caroling and a tree-lighting ceremony. The following day, families can enjoy a pancake breakfast at the Salem Street firehouse and take pictures with Santa at the Halle Cultural Arts Center in the afternoon before the town’s Christmas parade, which begins at 5 p.m. apexdowntown.com/downtown-apex-events.
The Halle Cultural Arts Center presents two holiday productions in December. See Infinity Ballet perform “Nutcracker Dances” Dec. 1-3, and two musicals in one with “A Fairy Tale Christmas Carol” and “The Great Big Holiday Bake Off: A Confectionary Christmas Musical” Dec. 8-10. Visit etix.com for show times and to purchase tickets.
Waverly Place in Cary hosts a tree-lighting ceremony Nov. 17, 6-8:30 p.m., featuring the sounds of Cary Youth Voices and a visit from Santa. The tree will be lit at approximately 6:55 p.m. On Nov. 18, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., enjoy a holiday open house with horse and carriage rides, a performance by The Magic Pipers and appearances by Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph. waverlycary.com.
See 20 light displays illuminated by thousands of LED lights at the Chinese Lantern Festival at Booth Amphitheatre in Cary Nov. 24-Jan. 14. The hours are 6-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. The festival also features cultural performances and artisans. Purchase tickets, $15 for adults and $10 for ages 3-17, online at boothamphitheatre.com/nc-chinese-lantern-festival-cary.
Light up the holidays at the chinese lantern festival Nov. 24-jan.14. photo courtesy of booth amphitheatre
Cary Players present “A Christmas Story” Dec. 1-4 at the Cary Arts Center. See the website for show times and to purchase tickets, $20 for adults and $18 for kids. etix.com.
Cary’s annual Heart of the Holidays festivities take place Dec. 2. Learn about Victorian holiday traditions and enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides at the Page-Walker Arts and History Center, a historic 1868 hotel, 4-6 p.m. The town’s tree-lighting ceremony takes place at 6 p.m. at the Town Hall Campus and features live performances and the unveiling of a community tree decorated with handcrafted ornaments. See featured entries in the town’s 7th Annual Gingerbread House Competition in downtown Cary and also at the Cary Arts Center through December. townofcary.org.
The 2017 Cary Christmas Parade, sponsored by the Cary Jaycees, is Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. See the website for the parade route. caryjaycees.org/cary-jaycees-christmas-parade.
Cary Ballet Company presents “The Nutcracker Suite” Dec. 15-17 at the Cary Arts Center. Purchase tickets, $21-$25, at etix.com/ticket/v/8087/cary-arts-center.
Cary’s Menorah Lighting is Dec. 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the Cary Arts Center. The town’s Kwanzaa Celebration is Dec. 29, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. townofcary.org.
Holiday carolers highlight Chapel Hill’s Downtown Tree Lighting Ceremony Nov. 26, 6-7 p.m., at Memorial Garden of University Baptist Church on Columbia Street. Children can have their pictures taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus. downtownchapelhill.com/celebrations.
Opportunities to dine with Santa on select days, gingerbread house-making, a gingerbread house display, horse-drawn carriage rides and more highlight the annual Twelve Days of Christmas event series at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill Dec. 1-Jan. 2. 12daysevents.com.
Carolina Inn sparkles with its Twelve Days of Christmas event Dec. 1-Jan. 2. photo courtesy of emily kristine photography
Carolina Ballet presents “The Nutcracker” Dec. 2-3 at Memorial Hall in Chapel Hill. See website for show times and to purchase tickets at carolinaperformingarts.org.
Themed floats, marching bands and Santa welcome families to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Holiday Parade Dec. 9, which begins at 10 a.m. at Morehead Planetarium on E. Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill and ends at noon on Main Street in Carrboro. townofchapelhill.org.
Symphonic arrangements and beloved holiday melodies highlight North Carolina Symphony’s Classic Holiday Pops concert Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Hall in Chapel Hill. Purchase tickets, $43-$73, at ncsymphony.org.
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents “A Christmas Carol” at Kenan Theatre on the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill campus Dec. 13-17. See the website for show times and to purchase tickets, which start at $15. playmakersrep.org.
Enjoy family-friendly activities, performances and a kids’ countdown under the stars to ring in the new year at Morehead Planetarium’s Night Lights: A Family New Year’s Eve Celebration Dec. 31, 4-6 p.m. Purchase tickets online at moreheadplanetarium.org.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents two holiday shows in November. “Hip Hop Nutcracker,” Nov. 24 at 2 and 7 p.m., is a contemporary re-imagination of Tchaikovsky’s timeless music. The Brian Setzer Orchestra performs rockabilly song arrangements in its 14th Annual “Christmas Rocks! Tour” Nov. 26 at 7:30 p.m. Purchase tickets online. dpacnc.com.
Duke Chorale’s Christmas Concert, which features traditional carols for the entire audience to sing and stories and special treats for children, is Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. at Duke Chapel. Admission is one nonperishable food item for needy families in Durham. music.duke.edu.
The American Tobacco Tower Lighting in Durham takes place Dec. 1, 6-8 p.m., featuring performances by local dance groups and choirs. At the conclusion of the event, estimated at 7 p.m. when the tower lights, the holiday fun continues over at Diamond View Park as the Home for the Holidays playhouses come to life and the bidding begins. Santa Selfies available near the Trosa Tree Lot. americantobaccocampus.com.
Celebrate an 1870s Christmas as Duke Homestead in Durham hosts its annual Christmas by Candlelight event Dec. 1 and 8, 6:45-9:15 p.m., featuring costumed interpreters leading visitors on candlelit tours of the decorated homestead. Tickets are $5 per person and free for ages 1 and younger. Purchase tickets online. dukehomestead.org.
experience the holidays as they were celebrated in the 1870's at duke homestead. photo courtesy of bryan wiggins
Enjoy Christmas at Historic Stagville in Durham Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free. Learn about the Christmas traditions of enslaved and free people in North Carolina. After dark, see some of the slaves’ quarters and sharecroppers’ homes lit by lanterns as guides share stories of the holidays during these times. Lantern tours, begin at 5 p.m., and are $5 per person and free for ages 1 and younger. Advance ticket purchase is recommended by calling 919-620-0120. stagville.org.
The City of Durham hosts its annual holiday parade with all the trimmings Dec. 2 at 11 a.m. in downtown Durham. A Holiday Fun Fest takes place later that afternoon, 1-4 p.m., at the American Tobacco Campus featuring live entertainment, bounce houses, snow sledding, train rides and a visit with Santa. The city’s Kwanzaa Celebration is Dec. 30, 3-5 p.m., at the Holton Career and Resource Center. durhamnc.gov.
Singer and songwriter Robert Earl Keen presents “Merry Christmas from the Fam-O-Lee” show at Carolina Theatre Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. Purchase tickets, $34-$39, at carolinatheatre.org.
The vocal quartet 98° performs songs from its new Christmas album, “Let It Snow,” Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Durham Performing Arts Center. The following evening, Dec. 6, Grammy-award winner Fantasia delivers a soulful holiday show titled, “Christmas After Midnight” in the same venue at 7:30 p.m. Purchase tickets at ticketmaster.com.
Carolina Ballet presents “The Nutcracker” Dec. 9-10 at the Durham Performing Arts Center. See the website for show times and to purchase tickets at carolinaballet.com.
Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” takes place Dec. 13-14 at 7 p.m. at Carolina Theatre in Durham and features world-class Russian dancers, nesting dolls and giant puppets. Purchase tickets online at ticketmaster.com.
Christmas in the Piedmont During the Civil War at Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham celebrates the season Dec. 16, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., with living historians who demonstrate cooking and gift-wrapping in the 19th century. Santa visits with families during the event. Candlelit tours of the site take place from 6-9 p.m. Tickets are required for the tours and are $3 for adults and $2 for ages 5-16. 919-383-4345. bennettplacehistoricsite.com.
Santa's Magical Arrival is Nov. 10, 5-8 p.m., at Triangle Town Center. The festive event includes performances by local school groups, a magic show, s'mores station, sledding and more. A Holiday Light Show Spectacular, featuring a 30-foot Christmas tree and special lighting choreographed to holiday music, runs nightly through Dec. 24. triangletowncenter.com.
Classic cars, holiday-themed floats, marching bands and large helium balloons highlight the ABC 11 Raleigh Christmas Parade Nov. 18, 9:30 a.m., in downtown Raleigh. The parade begins at the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets. grma.org/christmas-parade.
DON'T MISS THE SPECTACULAR wral christmas parade. PHOTO COURTESY OF nieto photography
Lafayette Village in Raleigh ushers in the holiday season with its Lighting of the Tree, Nov. 18, 3-6 p.m., 8450 Honeycutt Rd., Raleigh. lafayettevillageraleigh.com.
North Hills in Raleigh welcomes families to its Tree-Lighting Celebration Nov. 18, 3:30-7:30 p.m., featuring visits with Santa, snow sledding, trackless train rides, kids' crafts and activities, a bounce house and a vendor village. visitnorthhills.com.
North Carolina Symphony Presents “The Polar Express” Nov. 22, 3 p.m., in Meymandi Concert Hall. Listen for the sounds of silver bells and climb aboard in your pajamas for a first-class journey on “The Polar Express.” Come early to meet Santa, and enjoy kid-friendly activities and a traditional singalong. Purchase tickets for $14-$29 at ticketmaster.com.
North Carolina Symphony presents “Home Alone” Nov. 24, 7:30 p.m.; and Nov. 25, 3 p.m. in Meymandi Concert Hall. See the comedy classic on a big screen as the symphony plays the delightful score by John Williams live. Purchase tickets for $14-$29. at ticketmaster.com.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical” lands at Fletcher Theater for performances Nov. 24-Dec. 24. Purchase tickets, $15 and up, at ticketmaster.com.
Theatre in the Park presents “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Dec. 1-10. See the website for show times and to purchase tickets. Theatre in the Park’s production of “A Christmas Carol” is Dec. 6-10 at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium and Dec. 14-17 at the Durham Performing Arts Center. See the website for show times and purchase tickets at ticketmaster.com.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents its holiday sugarplum, “Cinderella,” Dec. 1-17. See the website for show times and to purchase tickets. raleighlittletheatre.org.
raleigh little theatre's "cinderella" charms audiences of all ages dec. 1-17. PHOTO COURTESY OF carrie santiago
Make holiday memories by riding NC By Train’s Santa Train round trip from Raleigh to Charlotte Dec. 2. The train ride features a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, carolers and refreshments. Call 800-298-7246 or see the website for departure times and fares. ncdot.gov.
The Sleigh Rides and Cider event at Historic Oak View County Park is Dec. 2, 5-7:30 p.m., and offers families horse-drawn carriage rides, hot apple cider, live music, holiday activities and more. Santa also makes an appearance. wakegov.com/parks/oakview.
The Downtown Raleigh Tree Lighting Celebration is Dec. 2, 4-8 p.m., at City Plaza. This year’s celebration features a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, live entertainment, a 40-foot slide, amusements and activities, holiday refreshments, and Gingerbread House and Holiday Hound Costume contests. The fun culminates in City Plaza with the Mayor’s lighting of the 35-foot Norway spruce tree. facebook.com/events/124812554869827.
Governor Roy Cooper and First Lady Kristin Cooper host the State Capitol Tree Lighting Dec. 6, 5-7:30 p.m., which includes live music and activities the whole family will enjoy. facebook.com/NCStateCapitol.
Mordecai Historic Park’s Holiday Open House in Raleigh welcomes families Dec. 9, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Dec. 10, 1-4 p.m. Tour the home as it would have been decorated for Christmas during colonial days through the World War II era. Admission is free. Take one of the lantern tours, which run 5-8:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, through the house and grounds to watch vignettes of the Mordecai family, soldiers and enslaved people during the Civil War. Purchase tickets, $5 per person, at reclink.raleighnc.gov (click on “advanced search” and search for “Mordecai”).
Raleigh Ringers’ Holiday Concerts Dec. 9-10 at Meymandi Concert Hall showcase unique interpretations of sacred, secular and popular music arranged just for handbells. See the website for show times and to purchase tickets. ticketmaster.com.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s holiday spectacle, “Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” is Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at PNC Arena. ticketmaster.com.
Carolina Ballet presents “The Nutcracker” Dec. 15-24 at Raleigh Memorial auditorium. See the website for show times and purchase tickets at carolinaballet.com.
The renowned Raleigh Boychoir presents “Carols of Christmas” Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. at Edenton Street United Methodist Church. Purchase tickets, $8-$18, at raleighboychoir.org.
First Night Raleigh takes place Dec. 31, 2 p.m.-midnight, in downtown Raleigh. Enjoy a variety of family-friendly activities prior to the Acorn Drop at midnight. A First Night button, $10, is required for entry. firstnightraleigh.com.
ring in the new year at First night raleigh. PHOTO COURTESY Of artsplosure/first night raleigh
Benson’s Christmas on Main event is Dec. 1, 6-9 p.m., and showcases live entertainment, a tree-lighting ceremony at 6:45 p.m. and a visit with Santa after the parade, which begins at 7 p.m. benson-chamber.com.
Visit Lights on the Neuse in Clayton, a 1-mile, tractor-pulled Christmas hayride through a magical extravaganza of holiday lights on select nights in November and December. The event also offers a sweet shop and visit with Santa. See the website for hours and to purchase tickets. lightsontheneuse.com.
Hubb's Farm in Clinton presents “The Hubb’s Express and Santa Too!” Dec. 1-2, 5-10 p.m., featuring a ride on the Hubb’s Express Train, time with Santa, a showing of “The Polar Express” and more. Purchase tickets online for $20 (free for ages 1 and younger), or call 910-564-6709. Tickets will not be sold at the gate. hubbsfarmnc.com.
Main Street in Clayton is transformed into a Christmas Village Nov. 30, 5:30-8 p.m., with live music, a visit with Santa, train rides and a live Nativity. The town’s tree-lighting ceremony begins at 7:45 p.m. at Town Square. Enjoy a holiday parade on Main Street Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. downtownclayton.org.
Families in Fuquay-Varina can enjoy choir performances and holiday activities downtown with a tree-lighting ceremony on Nov. 30, 6-8 p.m. The annual Fuquay-Varina Christmas Parade is Dec. 3 at 3 p.m. on Main Street. fuquay-varinadowntown.com.
Garner’s Light Up Main event, Dec. 1, 6-8 p.m., showcases a tree-lighting ceremony and a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus. Face painting, a local talent showcase and kids’ crafts round out the fun. The Garner Christmas Parade on Main Street is Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. and features dance troupes, marching bands, Santa and decorated floats. garnernc.gov.
Hillsborough’s Light Up the Night Holiday Parade is Dec. 2, 4:45-6:30 p.m., and features a parade that begins on Corbin Street and ends at E. Margaret Lane. A tree lighting will take place at the old courthouse lawn at 6:30 p.m. hillsboroughchamber.com.
Main Street Christmas in Holly Springs is Dec. 8, 6-8 p.m. The annual event includes hayrides, crafts and live entertainment. Mrs. Claus reads stories at the Cultural Center and Santa visits with children at town hall until 7:15 p.m. The night concludes with the town’s tree-lighting ceremony at 8 p.m. at the Cultural Center. The Happy Holly Days Parade on Main Street in Holly Springs takes place Dec. 9 at 11 a.m. hollyspringsnc.us.
During Christmas on First Avenue in Knightdale, kids can visit with Mrs. Claus and Santa’s elves at Knightdale Station Park Amphitheater Dec. 1, 6-8 p.m. The event also features a tree-lighting ceremony and fun activities. Santa visits at the end of the evening. Knightdale’s Christmas parade takes place Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. knightdalenc.gov.
Four Oaks’ Christmas Festival on Main Street Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., includes a visit from Santa, children’s activities, vendors and the town’s annual Christmas Parade at 11 a.m. fouroakschamber.com.
St. Nicholas visits with kids at Mebane’s Hometown Holiday Celebration Nov. 18, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. The event also features carolers, a tree-lighting ceremony, marshmallow roasts, a snow slide and crafts. The Mebane Christmas Parade takes place Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. visitalamance.com.
Park West Village in Morrisville hosts a Winter Wonderland Nov. 17, 5-9 p.m., featuring train rides, story time with Santa, live music and magical winter lights. parkwestvillage.net.
Morrisville’s Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, featuring musical entertainment, cookies, crafts and a visit from Santa, is Dec. 1, 7-9 p.m. at Indian Creek Trailhead. townofmorrisville.org.
Hop aboard an open train car with all the trimmings when New Hope Valley Railway in New Hill hosts its annual Holiday Santa Trains. Santa Claus and his elf visit with each child and pose for photos. Trains run Dec. 2, 3, 9 and 10, departing at 9:30 a.m.,11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Visit the website for prices and to purchase tickets. triangletrain.com.
Ride the rails with new hope valley railway in december. photo courtesy of new hope valley railway
The Pittsboro Christmas Parade is Dec. 10 at 3 p.m. and features seasonal floats, tractors, vintage vehicles, Santa and more. pittsboronc.gov.
The Selma Christmas Parade is Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. and features Santa under the stars. selma-nc.com.
Smithfield's annual Christmas Tree Lighting is Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. at the corner of Third and Market streets. Enjoy hot chocolate, live entertainment and an appearance from Santa. The annual Smithfield Christmas Parade is Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. on Market Street. smithfield-nc.com.
The Lighting of Wake Forest on Dec. 1, 6-8:30 p.m., includes performances by local choirs, complimentary hot cocoa and cookies, a visit from Santa arriving on a Wake Forest fire truck, a children's craft activity, and the lighting of the town’s 30-foot Christmas tree at Town Hall on South Brooks Street. The Downtown Merchants Association hosts a Holiday Open House Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., when kids can enjoy free pictures with Santa and face painting at The Cotton Company Event Gallery on South White Street. The town’s holiday parade, featuring high school marching bands, more than 100 colorful floats and Santa, takes place Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. in downtown Wake Forest. wakeforestnc.gov.
Take a covered wagon hayride through the holiday lights, and enjoy bonfires, a jumping pillow, train rides and music at Hill Ridge Farms’ Festival of Lights in Youngsville Nov. 23-Dec. 31, 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Admission is $10 for ages 2 and older Sun., Mon., Tues and Thurs.; $12 for ages 2 and older Fri.-Sat.; and $8 on Wed. hillridgefarms.com.
Take the family for caroling and a tree lighting hosted by the mayor in downtown Zebulon Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. Zebulon Christmas Parade is Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. Kids can pose for photos with Santa Dec. 1, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Town Hall. zebulonchamber.org.
Updated Nov. 15, 2017
Janice Lewine is the associate editor at Carolina Parent.