63+ Christmas Events in Raleigh for the Holiday Season (2023)

Tis the season y’all. The Christmas events in Raleigh for 2023 are back in full swing this holiday season.

However, the festive season is not just about Christmas, there are other fun holiday events like Jewish Hannukah, African American Kwanzaa, the Chinese Lantern Festival, American Indian celebrations, Thanksgiving, and of course, New Years’ Eve!

Santa and Mrs Clause on a float during a Christmas parade in downtown Raleigh.
Raleigh Christmas parade

It’s the most magical time of the year that brings family and friends together and helps us celebrate our unique differences.

This is not just a post that’s focused on the biggest Holiday events in Raleigh, but also other fun things you can do like attend an ugly sweater party, indulge in seasonal treats, and have your photo with Santa.

Join our email community below so you don’t miss an update and to get access to our free printable Holiday bucket list. It will help you keep on track for planning an awesome festive season in Raleigh:

FREE Christmas/ Holiday Bucket List
How to celebrate the Holiday Season in RALEIGH!

If you plan to visit Raleigh during this holiday season and are searching for Christmas events near me, then be sure to check out all of the events listed down below!

Table Of Contents
  1. See the Lighting of the Tree, Downtown Raleigh
  2. Attend the Raleigh Christmas Parade
  3. Other Christmas Parades in Wake County
  4. Experience the Historic Oakwood Candelight Tour
  5. Play at Wool E. Bull’s Winter Wonderland!
  6. See the Holt Road Christmas Lights, Apex
  7. Go Ice skating at THE RINK at Red Hat
  8. Take the Kids to Holiday Express at Pullen Park
  9. Honor Hanukkah (Chanukah)
  10. Be wowed at North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival
  11. Join the 27th Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration
  12. Skate the Square Fenton
  13. Ride the Holiday Carriage Rides at Fenton
  14. Participate in the Illuminate Art Walk
  15. SEe THeATER IN THE PARK's Christmas Carol
  16. Give Back & Support Local Raleigh Community 
  17. Indulge in Holiday treats at The Dessertery
  18. Witness the Lake Myra Lights Christmas Show
  19. Attend an Ugly Sweater Party!
  20. Visit a Farm near Raleigh for Holiday Experiences
  21. Get your photo with santa
  22. Ride The Great Raleigh Trolley holiday Tours
  23. Buy a tree at the Christmas Tree Farms
  24. Shop Local For Holiday Gifts
  25. See a North Carolina Symphony Performance
  26. Enjoy Christmas Carols
  27. Attend THE JUSTICE THEATER PROJECT's Black Nativity in Concert
  28. See the unique version of the Carolina Ballet's The Nutcracker
  29. Rock out with the Trans-Siberian Ochestra
  30. Ride Santa's Reindeer Roundup Express
  31. Have a Raleigh Christmas Bar Experience
  32. Enjoy a Unique Christmas Experience in North Carolina
  33. See a Christmas Show at DPAC
  34. Ring in the New Year at First Night Raleigh
  35. RAleigh accommodation

See the Lighting of the Tree, Downtown Raleigh

Family of four in front of a Christmas tree in Raleigh, North Carolina
Christmas tree in front of the Performing Arts in Downtown Raleigh.
  • Where: Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts
  • When: Nov 17, 2023, 5:30-8pm
  • Cost: Free
  • Website

A great way to kick-off the Raleigh Christmas season is the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony in downtown Raleigh at the Martin Marietta Center for the Performaing Arts.

The tree will be surrounded by the Triangle Pop-Up holiday market and a stage with live performances. You can do some Christmas shopping, have photos with Santa, and dance to a few Christmas tunes. Portions of this event will be televised live on ABC-11!

Other Christmas Tree Lighting events in Wake County

Christmas tree in front of a state capitol building in Raleigh, NC.
State Capitol Building Christmas Tree

Check your local municipality for their annual tree lighting celebration as well as dates will vary.

  • North Hills Christmas Lighting Event on November 18 will feature a Christmas band, kids’ crafts and activities, food trucks, a vendor village and live music (TOP TIPIf you go early and shop in North Hills from noon to 4 p.m. and spend $150, you’ll receive a free $25 North Hills Gift Card (one per person, while supplies last).
  • Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Cary is on Dec 2nd festive night features actors, singers, and musicians from the community. Head to the Page-Walker Arts & History Center before it to enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas atmosphere at the old hotel this winter! There will be cookies, carolers, an activity for kids, holiday stories, our traditional carriage rides and maybe a visit from a special guest from the North Pole. 2-5pm (free).
  • Light the Square in Fenton (Cary) is on Nov 18, 5-8pm From live music to ice skating to horse-drawn carriage rides and a special appearance by Anna and Elsa from Frozen.
  • Lighting of Wake Forest is on Friday, Dec. 1 and will have Santa arrive in a fire truck.
  • Wendell Wonderland on Dec 1 will have a visit from Santa Claus, trolley rides through town, live music, hot chocolate, food trucks, a craft market and more.
  • Raleigh State Capitol on Dec 7th with luminaries and holiday music performed by the Raleigh Concert Band.

Attend the Raleigh Christmas Parade

A Christmas parade in a city street with a giant floating bear dressed in red and green.
Downtown Raleigh Christmas Parade.
  • Where: Hillsborough to Fayetteville St Downtown
  • When: Nov 18, 9:30am
  • Cost: Free
  • WebsiteGRMA.org

The Raleigh Christmas Parade will be a little different this year, given the tragedy of 2022’s parade. You’ll still see incredible marching bands, twirlers, elaborately costumed Mexican dancers, cowboys and cowgirls riding through, the streets of Raleigh, just no motorized vehicles are allowed. I am sure Mr. and Mrs. Claus will still make an appearance.

It is the largest Christmas Parade between Washington DC and Atlanta and has been a much-loved community event since it began in 1939.

The parade covers 1.4 miles beginning at Hillsborough Street at the intersection of St. Mary’s Street and ending at the bottom of Fayetteville St. 

People on a float waving during a Christmas parade.
Arrive early for the best viewing points.

If you live in one of the smaller Wake County communities, check to see what your municipality is offering by way of Christmas parades. We know Cary and Apex both have a fun filled Christmas parade event. 

If you don’t want to deal with the cold and crowds (60,000+), you can watch from home starting at 9:30 AM by tuning in to channel 11, or online at ABC11.com

Video: Raleigh Christmas Parade 2021

Other Christmas Parades in Wake County

If you can’t make the Raleigh Christmas Parade, there are plenty of smaller ones in Wake County.

Experience the Historic Oakwood Candelight Tour

  • Where: Historic Oakwood
  • When: Dec 9 & 10, 2023; 1am – 7pm
  • Cost: $30 until Nov 28 and then $35
  • Tickets

Historic Oakwood is one of the best neighborhoods in Raleigh that dates all the way back to the 1800’s that rose after the Civil War and home to magnificent oak trees, Grand Victorians and modest bungalows.

Each holiday season the neighborhood has hosted the Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour, a ticketed affair inviting guests and visitors into ten private homes dressed for the holidays. 

Homes are staffed with docents to enlighten you on the rich history of each property. Tour the properties at your own pace in any order. We recommend allowing at least three hours for this tour, especially if you go for the later evening hours. Read our full review of the tour here.

Play at Wool E. Bull’s Winter Wonderland!

Durham Bulls baseball stadium
  • Where: Durham Bulls Athletic Park
  • When: Wednesday, November 22 and continues most nights through December 31
  • Cost: $11+
  • Tickets

A new Christmas Event in the Triangle for 2023 is the Wool E’s Winter Wonderland, hosted by WRAL and the Durham Bulls. The ballpark will be covered with 13,000 lights along 4 miles.

There’ll also be a holiday light show at the stadium, tubing down the Frosty Funk Hill, and a Bulls Express Train around the stadium. Plus meet Santa and Wool E Claus, shop at the Winterland market, enjoy food and drink from the Jingle Bell Bistro and Arctic Chil Tavern or reserve an igloo in the infield.

See the Holt Road Christmas Lights, Apex

Known to be one of the best Christmas light displays in North Carolina is located on Holt Road, Apex. The Holt Road Christmas Lights is one family’s tradition of decorating their private home in an elaborate fashion as a way of bringing Christmas joy to the local community.

You can drive through to see the light display, which is on select nights throughout the season. Check the Facebook page for those details. There is a $20 fee per car. Get your tickets online to minimize delays!

Not only is this a way of giving to local community, MG and his family use this to expand his global reach for his humanitarian efforts in helping those displaced by the conflict in Ukraine.

We have visited this already for the 2023 Christmas Light season and it was spectacular!

If you can’t get to the Holt Road Christmas Lights in Apex, I am sure you can drive (or walk) around your own area to see the Christmas displays in your neighborhood. This is something we’ve always done as a family, even back in Australia.

NOTE: Apex is currently putting together a Holiday Tour of Lights, which will be a map that lists homes in Apex that have Christmas light displays. If you know of any other areas in Raleigh or Wake County who do this, please leave a comment with details for those reading this post.

Go Ice skating at THE RINK at Red Hat

man holding beer with view of the  Raleigh Ice skating Rink
Cheers to skating.

Where: Red Hat Amphitheater
When:  Nov 18 – Jan 15; Various
Cost: $15 includes skate rental | $6 for non-skaters

The Winter Wonderland returns to downtown Raleigh with The Rink for the third year in a row. The rink is quite small, so time your session to beat the crowds.

It’s a lovely ambiance with the Christmas music and chill out areas surrounding the rink with comfy chairs, fire pits, games and beverages. There are themed nights, special events, and igloos for rent!

Take the Kids to Holiday Express at Pullen Park

Young girl riding a carousel at a park
Pullen Park carousel

NOTE: this event is sold out for 2023. Get in early (Oct 2024) for next year’s Christmas event.

  • Where: Pullen Park
  • When: Nov 29 – Dec 15 from 5 – 9:30 p.m
  • Cost: $15 (kids under 12 months free)
  • Tickets

Of all the Raleigh Christmas events, this one will sell out faster than a Taylor Swift concert.

This Raleigh Christmas attraction is definitely for the kids. There is the train ride with Holiday lights, an appearance from Santa, a Blizzard Boogie dance party, arts and crafts, and carnival games and inflatables. This is where you find the magic Raleigh. Here is our guide to Pullen Park.

Honor Hanukkah (Chanukah)

Hannukah is one of the most popular Jewish holidays of the year. It’s an eight-day festival, known as the Holiday of Lights that “reaffirms the ideals of Judaism and commemorates in particular the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem by the lighting of candles on each day of the festival” Britannica.

Candles are lit in a special nine branched candelabra called a Menorah, and presents are exchanged, games played, songs sung, and traditional Hanukkah fried foods such as potato pancakes (known as latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) are eaten.

The importance of the holiday tradition is a reminder that the world is better when we practice inclusion and compassion for all. This year, in 2023, it falls between December 7 – 15

  • Dec 13, @ 5:30pm The Town of Cary will light their NEW menorah and will have special treats, fun for kids and holiday music.
  • December 12 @ 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm Fenton in Cary will be celebrating Chanukah with a menorah lighting on the 6th night of Chanukah. Guests can also enjoy ice skating and celebratory Chanukah music.
  • Handmade Hanukkah Market is December 3 at the Temple Beth Or (11a.m. – 3 p.m.) Jewish artisans will be selling their work including jewelry, baked goods, pottery, textiles, woodwork and more.

Be wowed at North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival

chinese lantern festival cary nc 1
Incredible lantern display!
  • Where: Koka Booth Amphitheatre
  • When: Nov 17, 2023-Jan 24,2024
    • Mon.-Sun., 6-10pm; performances: 7pm, 8pm and 9pm, nightly
  • Cost: Start at $11
  • Website: BoothAmpitheartre.com

The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival has exploded in popularity over recent years. So plan well and buy your tickets in advance. The festival has hundreds of themed larger-than-life lanterns on display creating an incredible, colorful adventure for you to walk through during the holiday season. 

More than 15,000 LED lights make up 40 distinct displays, including a 200-foot-long, 21-foot-tall mythical dragon that sits on Symphony Lake. Hopefully this is the year we finally attend! Learn more about this Chinese Festival in Cary.

Join the 27th Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration

Time to honor our Indigenous Peoples. This annual event has been held in honor of American Indian Heritage Month in North Carolina for over 25 years.

The festival includes multiple demonstrations, presentations, and performances highlight the traditional and contemporary artistic, scientific, historic, and cultural contributions of American Indians in North Carolina for over 14,000 years. 

Skate the Square Fenton

  • Where: Fenton, Cary
  • When: November 5, 2023 @ 8:00 am – February 5, 2024 @ 5:00 pm
  • Cost: $17 includes rental.
  • Website Check for deals and special events

We loved Skate the Square at Fenton last year. It had a truly magical Christmas feel about it, similar to how Christmas in New York feels. Our tip is to go early to beat the crowds, and right at dusk so you can enjoy a day and night skate. Make it extra magical, by reserving your photos with Santa in his igloo!

Ride the Holiday Carriage Rides at Fenton

  • Where: Fenton, Cary
  • When: November 24, 2023 – Dec 31, 2023 @ 4 pm – 9:00 pm
  • Cost: $55 per carriage
  • Website

Adding to the magical winter wonderland vibe of Fenton this year will be festive carriage rides down Main St at Fenton this holiday season! Carriage can hold 4 people and two lap riders under 4.

Participate in the Illuminate Art Walk

woman standing inside illuminated christmas ball sculpture
Downtown Raleigh
  • Where: Downtown Raleigh
  • When: Dec 1st, 2023 – Jan 5, 2023
  • Cost: Free
  • Website

Born out of the pandemic and now a regular Holiday event in Raleigh is the highly enjoyable Illuminate Art Walk. Parts of the Fayetteville Street and Glenwood South districts transform with large-scale, interactive and light-based art pieces that are unique and family friendly.

Grab yourself a coffee, hot chocolate, or now, thanks to Sip and Stroll, something a little stronger and enjoy the art displays on the streets and in storefront windows.

SEe THeATER IN THE PARK’s Christmas Carol

A Christmas carol play in a theater.
A Christmas Carol play
  • Where & When:  
    • Martin Marietta Center for The Performing Arts; December 8-10, 2023
    • DPAC: Dec 13- 17
  • Cost: $35+
  • Tickets

Get ready to book the hottest ticket in Raleigh for Christmas. This musical comedy adaptation of Charles Dicken’s Christmas classic has been running since 1974 and was named one of ‘the top 20 Events in the Southeast.’

We attended last year and found it quite hilarious. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. It’s definitely one of the best things to do for Christmas in Raleigh!

Give Back & Support Local Raleigh Community 

floor filled with wrapped christmas presents
Wrapping presents with the Nog Club

The Holiday Season doesn’t have to be ALL about self-indulgent activities and increasing our material possessions. It’s a great time to give back to Raleigh and support local causes working to make our community better. 

Research your local area (and ask your friends) to find Holiday volunteer opportunities. Nextdoor is a great place to ask! Last year, the girls and I helped to sort and pack Christmas presents for those in need with the Nog Run Club through the Wake County Holiday Cheer Program. 

Giving Tuesday is Nov 28, 2023, global generosity movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity. It’s a great reminder to choose one thing (or more) to do to raise up a community. Some local nonprofits we love:

Indulge in Holiday treats at The Dessertery

  • Where: Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts
  • When: Nov 17- Dec 23, 2023; various times
  • Cost: $15 (ages 2-6) $28 (Ages 7+)
  • Website:

This new Holiday experience in Raleigh is a family friendly holiday themed dessert café. which features elaborate holiday décor, all you can eat sweets and hot cocoa, plus live entertainment (on select nights). Read about our experience last year.

Witness the Lake Myra Lights Christmas Show

  • Where: 10 S Cypress St, Wendell
  • When: TBD
  • Cost: Free but donation encouraged
  • There website has not been updated this year and information is scarce. Here is a Facebook update.

This is one of the largest Christmas light displays on the East Coast with more than 400,000 dancing lights synched up with holiday music. It’s a drive-in style interactive light show that typically lasts between 30 – 45 minutes.

A walking path leads to some of the biggest displays and through their tallest tree. Santa will be here on Saturdays 7-9pm through Christmas Eve. Don’t miss these other Christmas light displays in Raleigh.

Attend an Ugly Sweater Party!

caz and craig wearing ugly sweaters at a party
At Raleigh Founded’s Ugly Sweater Party

We love Ugly Sweater parties! Craig and I won the ugly sweater prize at the Raleigh Founded Christmas party – Holiday Bucket List check. I was so happy to find a llama sweater as one of our favorite family travel memories for 2021 was walking alpacas in Shenandoah Valley Virginia.

You’re sure to find a bar or community social event during the Holiday season who is having one. If not, create your own with a group of friends, either at someone’s house, or by bar crawling down Glenwood Avenue.

Visit a Farm near Raleigh for Holiday Experiences

Tunnel of Lights at Fieldstream Farm
Tunnel of Lights at Fieldstream Farm

Just like when Fall in Raleigh is a great time to visit nearby farms for pumpkin patches and Halloween events, they are also great for Christmas experiences.

  • Fieldstream Farm Festival of Lights: With approximately 1 million lights on display, this drive-thru Christmas light show at Fieldstream Farm has one of the longest LED lit tunnels in the world with over 200,000 lights, plus a 40-foot-tall Santa. 
  • Lights on the Neuse features a one-mile long (20-minute) old-time tractor-pulled hayride through a Lights Extravaganza with Christmas music, a visit with Santa, a Sugar Barn and cookie decorating station, and Santa’s Sweet Shoppe with hot chocolate, coffee, kettle corn and S’mores kits for purchase to cook at the picnic area. Opening Nov 24, 2023
  • Country Christmas Train at Denton Farm Park takes you on a mile journey to see Christmas lights and scenes. There’s a gingerbread house, petting zoo, horse drawn carriage rides and more! Country Christmas Train Dates- Nov. 24-26; Dec. 1 – 3; 7 – 10; Dec. 14 – 17, 20-23, 26 & 27, 2023~ 
  • Hillridge Farms’ Festival of Lights has over a million lights and holiday themed displays and characters as you travel through the farm from the comfort of your own vehicle. Open Thanksgiving Night Nov 23rd-Nov 26th, 5:30-9:00; Open Nightly Dec 1st-Dec 30th 5:30-9:00

Get your photo with santa

Mom and daughter with Santa.
With Santa at Fenton in Cary

Looking for a place to get your kids photo with Santa in Raleigh this year? Visit a mall or shopping village somewhere in Raleigh, and you’re bound to find a Santa.

It is advised to book in a time for your visit with Santa – I’ve seen some of those lines before and they are not enticing. Here are a few popular places to have your photo taken with Santa in Raleigh

Ride The Great Raleigh Trolley holiday Tours

  • Where: Tap Yard, Mordecai
  • When: December 1st through December 30th
  • Cost: It’s as mysterious as Santa himself. No information given.
  • Website: (tickets on sale Nov 1 for newsletter subscribers/ Nov 6 general public)

Another hugely popular thing to do in Raleigh for Christmas is to enjoy a themed ride on the historical Great Raleigh Trolley.
This year there are five Holiday tour options to satisfy your Christmas cheer.

  • The Santa Express is perfect for the younger kids with Santa visiting each child on the ride. (This one typically sells out in 24 hours)
  • Oaks & Jokes Holiday Cruise is a spirited party tour for adults!
  • Ghost lovers will enjoy hearing the tales of Raleigh’s ghosts of Christmas past on the Christmas Spritis Ghost tour
  • The Must-See Raleigh Holiday tour visits the most popular holiday sights throughout Downtown.
  • There are also a private family holiday trolley rides available.

Buy a tree at the Christmas Tree Farms

girl sitting at christmas tree
At home.

In Australia it was very rare for us (or any Australians) to have a real Christmas tree and it wasn’t until we moved to Raleigh that we had our first real tree. So if you’re researching where to get a new fresh Christmas tree this year, consider these local farms mentioned below close to Raleigh. 

Boyce Farms

Boyce Farms is a family owned and operated Christmas Tree Farm located in Raleigh, NC since 1982. They are committed to providing a family-oriented, hands-on experience for families from all walks of life when the holiday season rolls around.

You can choose and cut your own tree, choosing from either White Pines, Leyland Cypress, Blue Ice and Carolina Sapphire Christmas trees. They also have pre-cut Fraser Firs that are freshly cut from the North Carolina mountains.

Back Archers Christmas Tree Farm

A family owned, choose-and-cut tree farm (since 1978) committed to providing a warm and festive atmosphere for families selecting their annual Christmas Tree.

They have a selection of 250 -300 choose-and-cut trees including Carolina Sapphires, Leyland Cypress, and Green Giant Arborvitaes. 5′ to 10′ tall as well as 4′-8′ tall Virginia Pine and Cedar trees. Call ahead for availability for Fraser Fir trees over 10′ tall.

Shop Local For Holiday Gifts

woman browsing store displays in the flourish market raleigh
The Flourish Market

I know how easy Amazon can make your holiday shopping, especially for busy parents. Do your best to support local this Holiday season. They help our local economy thrive AND creates a unique, vibrant personality.

Did you know that 90% of downtown Raleigh stores are locally and independently owned? Let’s help keep that!

There’ll be Holiday markets popping up throughout the season, and many of the stores will have their own sales. Here is a post to help you find some local stores in Downtown Raleigh that we love.

There’ll be a pop-up Makers Market from Nov 17 until Christmas at North Hills opposite Kendra. Our favorite store, Designed for Joy will be there! See our North Hills gift guide.

See a North Carolina Symphony Performance

Duke Energy center lit up with christmas lights
Martin Marietta Center

The most magical time of the year to see a performance from the North Carolina Symphony would be during the Holidays. The Martin Marietta Center for Performing Arts in downtown will host three Holiday performances.

  • North Carolina Symphony: Holidays at Hogwarts, Nov 22, 24 & 25, 2023 All aboard the Hogwarts Express! Join your North Carolina Symphony for selections from your favorite Harry Potter films.
  • Handel’s Messiah, Dec 1 & 2:  The North Carolina Symphony and the North Carolina Master Chorale perform Handel’s masterpiece featuring the resounding “Hallelujah Chorus.”
  • Holiday Pops: A festive concert full of holiday favorites and traditional carols you know and love. Dec 8 & 9, 2023

Which holiday concert are you choosing? Maybe see all three!

Enjoy Christmas Carols

family holding candles at christmas carols new orleans
Carols by Candlelight in New Orleans

Apart from my family -and maybe the summer temps- the thing I miss most about Christmas in Australia, is our nighttime Carols tradition.

It happens in two big outdoor venues in Sydney and Melbourne. Celebrities and musicians sing the most beloved Christmas carols on stage to an audience of thousands sitting with lighted candles. Those who can’t make it watch with their families on TV.

We’ve only ever seen something similar in New Orleans with their Carols by Candlelight, which we LOVED. But, there are some carols experiences in Raleigh you can enjoy:

  • North Carolina Master Chorale presents Joy of the Season on Dec 12 in Meymandi Concert Hall (Martin Marietta Center) Nearly 200 voices, guest choirs, a brass ensemble, Meymandi’s pipe organ and the Master Chorale’s newly established Youth Choir sing popular Christmas Carols
  • Raleigh Ringers Concert will perform in Meymandi Concert Hall on Dec 16 & 17, 2023. The show features the group’s unique interpretations of sacred, secular, and popular music, including a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll.
  • Girl Named Tom – One More Christmas Tour Dec 13 Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts
  • The Embers, featuring Craig Woolard, Christmas Show on Dec 23! Get tickets at TheRialto.com Since 1958, The Embers have been entertaining audiences in North Carolina and beyond. 

Attend THE JUSTICE THEATER PROJECT’s Black Nativity in Concert

  • Where: North Carolina Museum of Art outdoor theater
  • When: Dec 9, 2023; 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; Dec 10 at 2:30pm
  • Cost: $5
  • Registration is required. Click here.

Bring a lawn chair and blanket for this 45-minute outdoor production featuring nine featuring nine soloists, West African and contemporary dance, a live band, vibrant costumes, and a beautifully poignant narrative.

See the unique version of the Carolina Ballet’s The Nutcracker

  • Where: Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts
  • When: Dec 14-24, 2023
  • Cost: $27+
  • Tickets

Another holiday tradition and one of the popular Christmas events in Raleigh is the Carolina Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker. It’s the only production in the country that uses illusions created by renowned magician Rick Thomas, The Nutcracker will make characters levitate, disappear and reappear before your eyes.

After 20 years and over 400 performances, this year the creative team will bring a fresh new take with the revamp of more than 140 costumes.

Rock out with the Trans-Siberian Ochestra

  • Where: PNC Arena
  • When: Dec 13, 7pm
  • Cost: $50+
  • Tickets

Trans-Siberian Orchestra and their Ghosts of Christmas Eve show is a staple of the Christmas Season. Every year this progressive rock orchestra brings the holiday spirit all across North America.

Ride Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express

  • Where: North Carolina Railway Museum & New Hope Valley Railway, Apex
  • When:  Saturdays and Sundays, Dec 2-16; Various times
  • Cost: $16+
  • Website:

Kids will be able to find Santa’s missing reindeer along the tracks as they ride on the historic train for four miles out-and-back for 50 minutes through the North Carolina countryside. Santa will be at the New Hope Valley Railway to greet all of our guests.

This is another hugely popular Christmas attraction for families in Raleigh so don’t delay in booking your tickets.

Have a Raleigh Christmas Bar Experience

Grab your ugly sweater and head to one of the bars in Raleigh that sprinkle a little magic into their drinks and atmosphere. Just be sure to let us know which bar you visit, and what awesome Christmas cocktail you discovered. 

Here are a few of the popular Christmas bar experiences you can have in Raleigh:

  • The Haymaker in Raleigh has a Christmas Bucket List experience. Stop by They have floor-to-ceiling Christmas decorations and a Miracle menu with over 10 finely crafted cocktails. Details for 2023 not yet released.
  • St Nicks Pop Up Experience is a Raleigh Christmas fave. Located in a historic house across from Moore Sq, the pop-up features Christmas decor, drinks, music, and events.
  • Sports and Social at Fenton has a Tinsel Tavern Christmas Pop Up

We’ll keep updating this list as more are announced. It’s best to subscribe to our email in the form below, so that you don’t miss our regular weekly updates with events, updates, and fresh finds. You’ll get our free Christmas Bucket List when you do.

FREE Christmas/ Holiday Bucket List
How to celebrate the Holiday Season in RALEIGH!

Enjoy a Unique Christmas Experience in North Carolina

Santa on the polar express train with kids and adults in Bryson City, North Carolina.
The Polar Express in Bryson City

Since we’ve lived away from our extended family for years, we love to travel to experience special Christmas events. Craig and I once had Christmas together in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and our favorite family Christmas ever was experiencing Christmas in New York. 

It’s a wonderful way to create memories as a family, which lasts way longer than shiny, wrapped presents. BUT, you don’t have to travel across oceans and state lines to create these magical memories.

From the lighting of the Christmas Tree in McAdenville, aptly nicknamed Christmas Town, to riding the iconic Polar Express in Bryson City, there are so many things to do at Christmas in North Carolina.

We’ve written a post sharing 12 amazing North Carolina Christmas Experiences

TOP TIP: One of my favorite souvenirs to buy during Christmas travel is a Christmas tree ornament from wherever we are. Then each year, when we put up the tree with the girls, we can talk about that special memory we made in the years before! It’s one way to keep the memories alive.

See a Christmas Show at DPAC

glass building of DPAC
DPAC in Durham

We love seeing a show at the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham. In case you don’t know this is the Triangle’s version of Broadway – and yes, DPAC gets many visiting Broadway shows each year. We’ve seen Les Misérables and Frozen, and both were fantastic. Tickets do sell fast so be at the ready!

For Christmas this year, apart from the aforementioned A Christmas Carol, there will be two Christmas Shows (so far)

  • THE HIP HOP NUTCRACKER (Dec 2, 2023) takes audiences on a journey that celebrates love, community, and the magic of the holiday season.
  • The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, Dec 3, 2023, RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Comedy Queens of Christmas brings another year of fabulous spectacle, whip-smart comedy, brand new songs, and annual favorites. 
  • Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Dec 5 – Dec 9, 2023, Featuring the hit songs “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas,” The Grinch discovers there’s more to Christmas than he bargained for in this heart-warming holiday classic. Broadway’s No 1 Holiday show!
  • Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet, Dec 20, 2023, Experience the extraordinary international cast and Ukrainian Principal Artists performing at the peak of classical European Ballet. Be transported by the magic of jaw-dropping acrobatics, larger than life puppets and stunning hand-crafted sets and costumes. 
  • A Christmas Carol – Presented by Theatre in the Park, Dec 13 – 17, 2023 The 50th Anniversary of the Triangle’s Favorite Holiday Tradition

Ring in the New Year at First Night Raleigh

First Night Raleigh (New Years Eve)
Image by visitraleigh.com

Downtown Raleigh is the place to be for many on New Year’s Eve for First Night Raleigh. Those with younger children get the early fireworks show, and those with enough energy to party can stay until midnight for the big acorn drop.

First Night also has live music, fun rides, markets, food trucks and more!

I hope you found a few activities on this list of Christmas events in Raleigh NC for 2023. If more events come to light between now and the new year, I’ll add them in. Read our list of ideas of things to do on New Year’s Eve in Raleigh.

RAleigh accommodation

Hotel on the lakes edge surrounded by forest
Stateview Hotel

Traveling to Raleigh for a Christmas event and need accommodation? If you visit Raleigh from out of town for any Holiday events, here are our recommendations for accommodation in Downtown Raleigh:

You can also use the list view below to book directly:

If you are visiting from out of town and have a few extra days, here are some guides to help you plan out your days exploring Raleigh:

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