Christmas Events in Raleigh To Get Among the Spirit- 2020 Version!

Tis the season ya’ll, but as you know the Christmas events in Raleigh this year will be a little different, just like most places around the world. 

Christmas tree in front of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Raleigh
Family photo with the Christmas tree in front of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Raleigh

But we can still find fun ways to get among the Raleigh Christmas spirit and festive season. After all, it’s the most magical time of the year that brings family and friends together, so let’s keep believing in the magic – whilst staying safe!

Down below is a list of Christmas activities in Raleigh for us locals, or if you plan to visit Raleigh during this holiday season and are searching for Christmas events near me, check these out too!

From light shows, to getting your photo taken with Santa, to holiday-themed cocktails and illuminated art walks there’s still plenty of fun things to do in Raleigh at Christmas for everyone!

Nights of Lights Drive-Thru Light Show

Bring some cheer into your Christmas in Raleigh 2020 by experiencing the first ever Nights of Lights Drive-Thru Light Show.

The magical backdrop for this dazzling light show will be Dorothea Dix Park with its magnificent oak trees, rolling hills and open fields.

Along the 1.3-mile route you will see illuminated trees, festive light displays, and local art installations.

We just bought tickets for this event and can’t wait as we have experienced something similar a few years ago in Huntsville, Alabama and it was awesome – hurry, tickets are selling fast!

  • Dates: Nightly from Wednesday, Dec. 16, through Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020.
  • Tickets: Must be purchased in advance online or through the E-Tix call center: 800-514-3849

Illuminate Art Walk in Downtown Raleigh

Illuminate Art Walk, Raleigh
One of the 18 installations

From December 11 to January 8 in Downtown Raleigh, you can discover the wonder of light-based art as local artists have been commissioned to create installations to brighten up the winter nights. 

You’ll see sidewalk markers at each installation. Watch our video here. And then Go here for a map of the locations and artists’ names.

Historic Oakwood Self-Guided Holiday Tour

houses with christmas decorations

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 a dozen private homes dressed for the holidays. 

It’s typically one of the popular holiday activities but due to Covid this year it will look different, and the Candlelight Tour is self- guided via an app from December 12-27th. Read our full review of the tour here.

Festival of Lights at Hill Ridge Farms

Beginning on Thanksgiving night, Hill Ridge Farms brings you their brand new drive-thru Festival of Lights you can experience over a mile-long trail throughout the farm from the comfort of your vehicle. 

The entire trail is guided by light lines as you turn off your headlights while still keeping your parking lights on to ensure safe travel throughout the lights.


  • Open Nightly 5:30pm-10pm
  • November 26th – December 27th


  • $20 per vehicle. Pay upon arrival. Cash preferred. They do accept credit/debit but it slows down the entry process significantly.
  • No buses, RVs, or vehicles with trailers allowed. Max vehicle height clearance is10ft 6in.

Address: 703 Tarboro Road, Youngsville, NC

A Very Tipsy Christmas at The Haymaker Bar

One of our favorite Raleigh bars in downtown, The Haymaker, has lit up a large tent in the courtyard that has been transformed into a holiday cocktail wonderland and serving a signature collection of holiday-themed cocktails in a festive setting.

This is an outdoor seated event, and a ticketed event for guests 21+. Each $40 guest admission includes one signature cocktail and a reserved seat (additional drinks may be purchased separately). Masks and temperature checks will be required at arrival.


  • November 27, 2020, through January 16, 2021. 

Timeslots available:

  • Monday through Friday – 4 until 6 p.m., 6:30 until 8:30 p.m., and 9 p.m. until 11 p.m
  • Saturday and Sunday – 1:30 until 3:30 p.m., 4 until 6 p.m., 6:30 until 8:30 p.m., and 9 p.m. until 11 p.m.


Lights on the Neuse

Bring your family to Boyette Family Farm in Clayton for Lights on the Neuse featuring 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.


  • November – December


  • $10 per person. Includes hayride and photo with Santa (bring your own camera).
  • Must be purchased in advance online here.


Secret Santa Cinema at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Alamo Drafthouse is a combination movie theater, video rental and restaurant and this Christmas in Raleigh they have Secret Santa Cinema showings (with safety in mind).

Each guest receives a free Santa or elf hat full of holiday treats and other surprises. 

Upcoming shows include classics like: The Polar Express, Die Hard, Gremlins, A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. 

Fieldstream Farm Festival of Lights

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

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. 


  • Nightly from November 21st – December 31st



Lake Myra Christmas Lights

Head out and see the Lake Myra Christmas Lights, a show that features lights that “dance to music”. Park your car and walk to the viewing area in front of the display and watch the show. 

Shows run 25-minutes with a 5-minute intermission between shows with lights and special effects dancing in perfect harmony with the music.

If you want to stay in your vehicle, tune into 103.3 FM to hear the music.

Dates & Times:                                    

  • November 25th – December 31st, 2020    
  • 5:30pm – 10pm Sunday through Thursday
  • 5:30pm – 11pmFriday and Saturday


  • Free


Downtown Cary – lights, music, lanterns

A fountain with led lights
Cary Park fountain

When it gets dark in downtown Cary, it comes to life with Christmas lights, and illuminated fountain, and even illuminated tigers and elephants are on the loose!

Christmas music fills the air, the iconic fountain glows red and green and a shiny red ‘Letters to Santa’ mailbox quietly waits to hear children’s secret holiday wishes.

light up animal statues
Normally only seen at the Chinese Lantern Festival

Downtown Cary is easily walk-able (there’s only two main streets) and it has become a hub for holiday outings. With the cancellation of the popular NC Chinese Lantern Festival, people are loving seeing the ‘surprise’ lanterns hidden at locations up and down Academy Street.

Drive Through Christmas Village at The Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Kenly

Enjoy the Drive Through Christmas Village at the Museum’s historic buildings and grounds and see it decked out like a life-size Christmas village from the comfort and safety of your own vehicle.

Visitors will be able to drive through the festive scenes and learn about some of the town’s historical Christmas traditions.

Dates & Times:

  • December 4th, 5th, 11th & 12th
  • 5-8pm each evening



Christmas on the Farm at Denton Farmpark

Come out and enjoy Christmas on the Farm, a Country Christmas celebration from the comfort of your vehicle as you drive through a Christmas light extravaganza.

See live nativity scenes, stop by their Craft Barn to browse hand-crafted treasures, or pick up a snack and enjoy food and refreshments from their on-site food truck.

Dates & Times:

  • November: 27, 28, 29
  • December: 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27



Happy Holly Days Tree Trail @ Ting Stadium

In Holly Springs you can stroll around Ting Stadium at the Happy Holly Days Tree Trail and enjoy up to 50 trees festively decorated by local organizations and families. 

Open during the day or come after dark to enjoy the trees twinkling with lights. 

The concession stand will be open during designated hours serving hot chocolate, hot apple cider, seasonal coffee offerings, and ballpark favorite foods. And music and dance performances will be scheduled at the stadium.

Theatre In The Park presents A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Virtual)

A musical comedy adaptation of the Dickens classic has been performed annually since 1974 and cited as “one of the most successful shows in North Carolina theatre history,” 

Due to current events this year it will be Streamed On Demand the entire month of December (the recording of 2019’s performance at DPAC).

Go here for more info about streaming and tickets.

Lights of North Hills

North Hills Shopping Mall
North Hills Shopping Mall

North Hills in Raleigh’s Midtown is a popular place to shop, dine, play and live and this year they are hosting their first ever Lights of North Hills!

Each night for one week in The Commons they’ll be displaying a holiday light show that runs every 30 minutes. The first show begins at 6pm with the final show starting at 9:30pm

Dates & Times:

  • Friday, December 4 – Friday, December 11
  • 6pm-10pm 

Santa Experience at Crabtree Valley Mall

Looking for a place to get your kids photo with Santa this year? Head to Crabtree Valley Mall and visit Santa sitting in his sleigh.

This year’s setup allows for social distancing with your kids positioned six feet in front of Santa for all photos. Face coverings are required by all guests, all staff, and Santa himself! 

And kids can drop their wish lists to Santa in the Macy’s big red-letter box in Promo Court near Santa’s sleigh! 

Book a time to go here.

Santa Express 2020 Style – The Great Raleigh Trolley

Another of the local Christmas events, the Santa Express trolley ride returns for a limited engagement this year. 

Kids and parents hop aboard the Great Raleigh Trolley for their chance to enjoy a ride through Downtown Raleigh with Santa and pose for pictures. 

Each tour is about an hour, and due to COVID-19 requirements tickets are limited to only 25 guests per time slot, and are expected to sell out quickly. Masks required.

Expect surprises, holiday music, lights, and more. Each tour is about an hour.

Go here for schedule and tickets. 

Holiday Bazaar at Moore Square

This 2-day Holiday Bazaar shopping event will take place at Moore Square with over 40 handmade artisans over the weekend to purchase from.

Join in the holiday fun and spend your money supporting small local businesses this holiday season! 

Live music and a coffee truck will be there too!

Dates & Times

  • Saturday December 12th: 10am-5pm
  • Sunday December 13th: 12pm-5pm


Christmas Tree Farms

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 close to Raleigh. 

Boyce Farms

Back Archers Christmas Tree Farm

First Night Raleigh

On New Year’s Eve we usually take our kids to Downtown Raleigh for First Night Raleigh and to watch the early show for kids, but as you know this is not a normal year!

So this year First Night Raleigh is a one-of-a-kind, special edition in collaboration with the first annual WRAL Nights of Lights Drive-Thru Light Show at Dorothea Dix Park. 

On December 30 and 31, you can enjoy a series of creative and large-scale light installations by local artists, plus experience the Raleigh Acorn like you’ve never seen it before, nestled among the oak trees and enhanced by large-scale light installation.

I hope you found a few activities on this reduced list of Christmas events in Raleigh NC for 2020? If more events come to light between now and the new year I’ll add them in.

Please share in the comments any holiday activities near Raleigh you know about that are not already mentioned here! 

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