13 Fun Things to Do in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill Over Winter Break

Make the most of the winter break with these special events, shows and places with your family
Photo courtesy of North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival

Schools are out, family is in town… now what?! We have 13 ideas for seasonal fun over winter break to keep the troops entertained.

1.  Holiday Performances



Enjoy a live family-friendly performance such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical” through Dec. 24 in Raleigh and Carolina Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” through Dec. 30 in Durham. Browse our roundup of December shows for details on a range of holiday shows for all ages. 

2. Ice Skating

Photo courtesy of AboutLife/Shutterstock.com


The Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area has several ice skating rinks, most of which offer figure skating lessons, hockey leagues and plenty of time for folks to just skate around freestyle for fun. Although there are no outdoor ice skating options this season, check out:

3. Santa Visits

Photo courtesy of Lauren Bell Isaacs


Take your little ones to visit Santa at local malls through Dec. 24. Browse our roundup to find out the jolly old elf’s schedule. 

4. Volunteer at Triangle Nonprofits



Give back by volunteering with your kids. Local nonprofits, such as the Food Bank, are always looking for volunteers. Browse our roundup of local nonprofits to find lots of places where your family can help. Call ahead to ensure the volunteer opportunities listed are still available before you head out.

5. Seasonal Nature Programs

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Escape to a local park with your family to learn about nature and make seasonal crafts. Search our daily calendar for programs for children, including Art in the Park: Super Snowflakes Dec. 27-30, an event during which families can celebrate the beauty of the winter season by making paper snowflakes at Historic Yates Mill County Park. At Natural Creations on Dec. 29, learn to identify winter trees and take photos of your favorites for an amateur photography contest at Blue Jay Point County Park. Both events are free.

6. The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience



When a doubting young boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe. Catch The Polar Express at the Marbles IMAX Theatre through Dec. 24.

7. Museum Exhibits

Image courtesy of North carolina Museum of Natural Sciences/Department of Natural and Cultural Resources


Catch fascinating museum exhibits, like "Beyond Curie: A Celebration of Women in Science," at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences through Dec. 31. This exhibit features 40 women scientists, mathematicians and engineers who have made incredible advances in their fields, but never earned the recognition they deserve. "The Beyond: Georgia O'Keeffe + Contemporary Art" at the North Carolina Museum of Art brings together a significant group of O’Keeffe’s works as the centerpiece of an exploration of her continued force as a touchstone for contemporary art. Be sure to call ahead to find out when museums are open. Browse our roundup of museum exhibits to find one that will suit your family.


8. Must-See Holiday Light Shows Across North Carolina



'Tis the season for dazzling light displays. These annual sparkling and twinkling displays are a great way to celebrate festive fun with the family. Here are our top picks of holiday light shows across the state to help bring out your family’s holiday spirit. Locally, Booth Amphitheatre is transformed into a dazzling walk-through display with larger-than-life lanterns at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Cary until Jan. 13, 2019. Enjoy holiday treats and beverages from venue stands.

9. See Snowflakes in Raleigh



Want to see snowflakes in downtown Raleigh — regardless of the weather forecast? Seventy volunteers from Glenwood South and Activate Good hung nearly 1,300 crocheted snowflakes on the trees along Glenwood Avenue between Peace and Hillsborough streets. With more than 15 businesses along the street already displaying oversized crocheted flakes in their windows and on their front porches, the neighborhood is sure to match the winter weather.

10. Track Santa



Show your kids how they can track Santa on Dec. 24 and enjoy online holiday games well ahead of Christmas Eve. Learn more about the NORAD Tracks Santa website.

11. Celebrate Kwanzaa

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Kwanzaa is a celebration for all people, focusing on family, friends and the fruits of the earth. It's celebrated from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, with each of the seven days focusing on one of seven core values, or Nguzo Saba. A candle is lit on each day, and on the last day, gifts are exchanged. In the Triangle, three free Kwanzaa celebrations are happening featuring performances, arts and crafts, drumming, candle lighting and more.

12. Family-Friendly New Year's Eve Celebrations



Here in the Triangle, your family can ring in 2019 at one of several family-friendly options — from an acorn drop in downtown Raleigh to a scientific celebration of the night sky in Chapel Hill. Check out First Night Raleigh's hands-on global workshops at the daytime Children’s Celebration, a Noon Year's Eve at Marbles Kids Museum or science activities, planetarium shows, Science LIVE! performances and more at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s Night Lights

13. State Parks' First Day Hikes



Start the New Year on the right foot with a North Carolina New Year’s tradition of family adventure, exercise and reconnection by taking a First Day Hike on Jan. 1. This popular tradition began at Eno River State Park more than 40 years ago, an annual event that now draws more than 800 visitors! Ranging from short “leg-stretchers” to several-mile rambles, most of the hikes feature educational programs led by rangers along the way. Check out our list of local State Parks First Day Hike options in the Triangle. Please note that some events require pre-registration and have a limited number of spots. 


Categories: Day Trips, Festivals, Free Deals, Giving Back, Outdoors, Seasonal Fun, Things To Do