Triangle Holiday Events: Parades, Tree-Lighting Ceremonies, Carriage & Sleigh Rides, Santa Visits
Updated Dec. 31, 2014
Celebrate the warmth and charm of the holiday season with your family at these events being held across the Triangle. Mark your calendar now for these parades, holiday light shows, carriage rides, Santa visits and more, 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.
Carriage rides, caroling and a tree-lighting ceremony highlight the annual Christmas on Salem Street event in downtown Apex Dec. 5, 5-9 p.m. The Salem Street firehouse serves a pancake breakfast for families Dec. 6, 7-10 a.m. Families can have their pictures taken at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. in front of the Christmas trees at the Halle Cultural Arts Center. The town’s Christmas parade is at 5 p.m. apexdowntown.com, apexrotary.org.
Celebrate Chanukah in downtown Apex Dec. 21-23 with a wonderland activity center. Enjoy donut decorating, art projects, a dreidel bounce house and more. See the website for hours. A grand menorah lighting takes place Dec. 21 at 5 p.m. The Halle Cultural Center, 237 N. Salem St., Apex. 919-651-9710. chabadofcary.org/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/1360800/jewish/Chanukah.htm.
Benson’s Christmas on Main event is Dec. 5. Live entertainment begins at 6 p.m. at Benton Square and the town lights its tree at 6:40 p.m. Benson’s holiday parade begins at 6:45 p.m. and Santa visits after the parade. benson-chamber.com; 919-894-3825.
Downtown Cary’s Ole Time Winter Festival Dec. 6, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., features live entertainment, arts and crafts, food and a visit from Santa. Families can experience old-fashioned holiday fun and horse-drawn carriage rides at the Page-Walker Arts and History Center, a historic 1868 hotel in the heart of Cary; 4-6 p.m. 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.
The Cary Jaycees host the 2014 Cary Christmas Parade Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. See the website for the parade route. caryjaycees.org/cary-jaycees-christmas-parade; 919-672-1820.
Saint Francis United Methodist Church in Cary presents an outdoor live nativity Dec. 16 and 17, 6-8 p.m. Indoor nativity displays, food, crafts and music highlight the event. saintfrancisumc.org/blog/Live-Nativity-Cary.
Cary’s 20th 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. townofcary.org; 919-460-4963.
Waverly Place in Cary hosts a winter wonderland and tree lighting celebration Nov. 21, 6-8:30 p.m. Visit with Santa and his elves and enjoy face painting and ornament making. The tree-lighting event takes place at 7 p.m. on the promenade stage. waverlycary.com.
Children can have their pictures taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Memorial Garden at University Baptist Church in downtown Chapel Hill when the town hosts its tree-lighting ceremony Nov. 30 at 6 p.m.
Themed floats, marching bands and Santa highlight the Chapel Hill-Carrboro holiday parade Dec. 13, which begins at 10 a.m. on E. Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill and ends at noon on Main Street in Carrboro. downtownchapelhill.com and chapelhillholidayparade.com.
The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill offers the Twelve Days of Christmas event series Dec. 1-24, which includes a gingerbread village display, opportunities to eat breakfast with Santa on select days, cookie decorating events and more. carolinainn.com.
Families in Chapel Hill can ring in 2015 at Night Lights Dec. 31, 3-6 p.m., at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Enjoy activities, interactive games, refreshments and a kids’ countdown under the stars in the fulldome theater to ring in the new year. The event is $5/person. This event is now sold out.
Main Street in Clayton is transformed into a holiday wonderland with live music, a tree-lighting ceremony and live nativity Dec. 4, 6-8:30 p.m. The town’s annual Christmas parade on Main Street is Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. downtownclayton.org; 919-553-6352.
Northgate Mall in Durham welcomes Santa to its tree-lighting event Nov. 21, 6-9 p.m., outdoors on the plaza. Enjoy face painting, coloring tables, electric train rides and more for nominal fees. Other holiday happenings take place at the mall in December. Visit northgatemall.com for a complete schedule.
Durham ushers in the holiday season with a Fun Fest Dec. 6, 1-5 p.m., at Rock Quarry Park featuring live entertainment, face painting, arts and crafts, sledding and a visit with Santa. Durham’s Kwanzaa celebration is Dec. 30, 6-8 p.m., at the Holton Career and Resource Center. durhamnc.gov; 919-560-4355.
Usher in the holiday season with Christmas cookies, a visit with St. Nick and living historians who demonstrate cooking and gift wrapping during the Civil War at Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham Dec. 6, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. nchistoricsites.org/bennett; 919-383-4345.
Duke Homestead in Durham hosts a Christmas by Candlelight event Dec. 5 and 12, 7-9 p.m. where families can enjoy caroling, tours of the homestead and hot cider. Tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for ages 10 and younger at the visitor center. Meet Santa, make traditional crafts and gather for storytelling at the homestead’s Victorian Family Christmas Dec. 14, 1-4 p.m. Tickets are $2 for ages 7 and older at the visitor center. dukehomestead.org; 919-477-5498.
Historic Stagville in Durham hosts its annual Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters event Dec. 6, noon-4 p.m. Enjoy tours of the plantation, crafts and a storytime for kids. stagville.org/events; 919-620-0120.
The Parkwood community in Durham welcomes families to its holiday parade on Seaton Road Dec. 6, 2-5 p.m. The rain date is Dec. 13. parkwoodnc.org; 919-544-2161.
Families in Fuquay-Varina can enjoy free sleigh rides in the downtown district and a tree-lighting ceremony Dec. 4, 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. 7 at 3 p.m. on Main Street. fuquay-varinadowntown.com and fuquay-varina.org.
A tree-lighting ceremony hosted by Mayor Ronnie Williams kicks off Garner’s Light Up Main event, Dec. 5, 6-8 p.m. Local entertainment, food and arts and crafts round out the fun. Garner’s Christmas parade on Main Street takes place Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. This year’s parade theme is “Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and parade-goers can celebrate the joy of giving in conjunction with the town’s Toys for Tots Toy Drive. garnernc.gov/holiday; 919-661-4602.
Hillsborough turns on the holiday charm with a parade Dec. 6 at 5 p.m. that begins on Corbin Street and ends at E. Margaret Lane. The town lights its tree and hosts activities for all ages that evening at 8 p.m. on the old courthouse lawn at Churton and King streets. hillsboroughchamber.com; 919-732-8156.
Holly Springs’ annual Main Street Christmas takes place Dec. 12, 6-8 p.m. The event includes hayrides, caroling and live entertainment. 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. 13. hollyspringsnc.us; 919-557-3930.
Kids can visit with Mrs. Claus and take a ride on a train when Knightdale ushers in the holidays at Knightdale Station Park Amphitheater on First Avenue Dec. 5, 6-8 p.m. Santa visits at the end of the evening. Knightdale’s Christmas parade takes place Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. knightdalenc.gov; 919-217-2236.
Carriage rides, strolling carolers, a tree-lighting ceremony, marshmallow roasts, kids activities and St. Nicholas highlight downtown Mebane‘s Hometown Holiday Celebration Nov. 22, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. The town’s Christmas parade is Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. downtownmebane.com.
Morrisville hosts a Winterfest parade on Town Hall Drive Dec. 6 at 11 a.m., followed by a holiday craft fair at Cedar Fork Community Center, noon-2 p.m. Local vendors, food trucks and a visit with Santa round out the fun. townofmorrisville.org; 919-463-7102.
Magical Winter Lights at Park West Village in Morrisville Dec. 12-21 features nightly shows with real falling snow every 15 minutes from 6-8 p.m. On weekends, enjoy free train rides, carolers, and storytime with Santa Dec. 12-14 and Dec. 19-21. See website for hours. parkwestvillage.net.
Bundle up to ride with Santa in open cars along 8 miles of scenic railway in New Hill. New Hope Valley Railway’s Santa Trains run Dec. 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Advance ticket purchase is recommended. See website for prices. triangletrain.com; 919-362-5416.
Pittsboro‘s Christmas parade is Dec. 7 at 3 p.m. pittsboronc.gov; 919-542-4621.
The 68th Annual WRAL Raleigh Christmas Parade is Nov. 22 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. grma.org.
Enjoy live music and carriage rides, search for naughty elves, and have your picture taken with Santa at Lafayette Village’s Tree-Lighting Ceremony in Raleigh Nov. 15, 4-8 p.m. 8450 Honeycutt Rd., Raleigh. lafayettevillageraleigh.com.
Cameron Village in Raleigh hosts its annual holiday open house Nov. 20, 5-8 p.m. Enjoy clowns, jugglers, a real snow sliding slope, live entertainment and a visit from Santa. 2108 Clark Ave., Raleigh. shopcameronvillage.com.
Christmas at North Hills in Raleigh Nov. 22, 4-8 p.m., features kids crafts, a vendor village, tree-lighting ceremony, live performances and a visit from St. Nick. Six Forks and Lassiter Mill roads, Raleigh. northhillsraleigh.com
Joel Lane Museum House in Raleigh welcomes families to its Colonial Christmas Open House Dec. 6, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Kids can play holiday games, make crafts and watch costumed re-enactors demonstrate scenes of 18th-century life. joellane.org; 919-833-3431.
Hop aboard the Raleigh Trolley to help Holly the Elf track down Santa in time for Christmas. Tours run Dec. 19, 5-8:45 p.m., and Dec. 20, 5-8 p.m. Tickets are $10/person. Call 919-857-4364 for tickets. (NOTE: This event is currently wait-listed.)
Pullen Park in Raleigh is transformed into a winter wonderland Dec. 4-7 and Dec. 11-14 from 4-9 p.m. Enjoy holiday lights and displays, a train ride, a carousel ride, crafts and a visit with Santa. Visit reclink.raleighnc.gov to purchase tickets, $8/person.
The N.C. Symphony entertains with carols, a sing-along and a visit from St. Nick Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 29 at 3 p.m. at Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh. Purchase tickets, $54-$85, at ncsymphony.org.
The Ipreo Raleigh Winterfest kick-off is Dec. 6, 3-10 p.m., on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. The event features a tree-lighting ceremony, Santa’s Village, Ferris wheel, carousel, sledding hill, ice skating and gingerbread house competition. Grammy-award winner Peter Rowan is this year’s musical headliner. The ice-skating rink at Raleigh Winterfest welcomes visitors on Nov. 22 and remains open until Feb. 1, 2015. raleighwinterfest.com.
Get on board the Santa Train and enjoy pictures with Santa, refreshments and Christmas carolers aboard North Carolina’s Amtrak, which travels from Raleigh to Greensboro on Dec. 6. The Santa Train departs at 11:45 a.m. and makes stops at Cary, Durham and Burlington. Return trips are offered. Purchase tickets online or by calling 1-800-BY-TRAIN. Adult one-way fares from Raleigh are as low as $16; kids ages 2-12 ride half price with a paid adult. ncbytrain.org/promo/2014/October/promo_2.html.
The North Carolina State Capitol Christmas Tree-Lighting and Holiday Festival takes place in Raleigh Dec. 11, 5-7:30 p.m. The Governor and First Lady will light the tree at 5:30 p.m. Afterward, families can enjoy holiday activities on Union Square and Bicentennial Plaza. nchistoricsites.org/capitol; 919-733-4994.
Selma’s Christmas Parade is Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. selma-nc.com.
Smithfield gets festive with a tree-lighting ceremony Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. at the corner of Third and Market streets. Santa will make an appearance and families can decorate cookies. The town celebrates the season’s arrival with a Christmas parade on Market Street Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. smithfield-nc.com.
The Lighting of Wake Forest Dec. 5, 6-8 p.m., includes horse and carriage rides, pictures with Santa, performances by local groups and the lighting of the town’s Christmas tree at Town Hall on South Brooks Street. School and dance group performances, carriage rides and fun activities for families highlight the Downtown Merchants Association’s Holiday Open House Dec. 6, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. The town’s holiday parade takes place Dec. 13, 1-3 p.m., in downtown Wake Forest. wakeforestnc.gov; 919-435-9415.
Hill Ridge Farms in Youngsville hosts a Festival of Lights Nov. 21-Dec. 27, 5-9 p.m. nightly. Take a covered wagon hayride through the holiday lights, bonfires, a giant slide and music. S’mores and hot chocolate will be available for purchase. Admission is $10 for ages 4 and older, free for ages 3 and younger. Train rides are $3/person. hillridgefarms.com; 919-556-1771.
Santa takes a break from toy making and poses with children for free photos at Zebulon’s Municipal Town Complex, Dec. 5, 5:30-7:30 p.m. The town’s Christmas parade is Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. townofzebulon.org and zebulonchamber.org.
For more family fun in and around the Triangle, visit our Things to Do and Family Fun.
Janice Lewine is the associate editor at Carolina Parent.