December Events 2023: What’s Happening in Raleigh This Month?

Ring the Bells. The Holiday Season is here! It’s a massive month for things to do in Raleigh in December. I have to tell you; this is the most stressed I’ve been putting together these monthly events post for you.

woman and man in ugly sweaters
Caz & Craig at an ugly sweater party!

I nearly walked away because I was so overwhelmed with the number of events happening in Raleigh and how I could include all of them without overwhelming y’all too!

Make sure you are part of our email community, as each Tuesday I share a list of events for the coming week. I often include events that aren’t in this post. Every Friday, we also release an Instagram | Tik Tok video sharing our top 5 picks for the weekend.

We’ve split the December events into categories: Ongoing events and then split into weeks. You can use the table of contents to help you navigate or just keep scrolling and read it all. And here is another in-depth list of things to do in Raleigh for the Holidays.

Table Of Contents
  1. FEatured december event: Jim LAuderdale at NC Museum of History
  2. Our 12 Days of Christmas Celebration
  3. Ongoing Events in Raleigh for December
  4. December Carolina Hurricanes Games
  5.  Week 1: Dec 1 – 4, 2023
  6. Week 2: Dec 5 – 10, 2023
  7. Week 3: Dec 11 – 19, 2023
  8. Week 4: Dec 18 – 24, 2023
  9. Week 5: Dec 25 – 31, 2023
  10. RAleigh accommodation

FEatured december event: Jim LAuderdale at NC Museum of History

jim lauderdale band
  • When: Saturday, December 9, 6:30 p.m. doors open, 7 p.m.
  • Where: North Carolina Museum of History in Downtown Raleigh.
  • Cost: MOHA/museum members $12 / general admission $15.
  • Tickets

Two-time GRAMMY awarding artist, Jim Lauderdale, along with his band, the Game Changers will perform a mixture of uplifting songs and songs of heartbreak and despair because, as Jim says, “that’s part of life as well,”

We can only know joy because of sadness! That’s one reason I love music so much, it helps put us in touch with ALL the emotions! Whatever the genre, I’m having a great time seeing live music.

This intimate concert is part of The North Carolina Museum of History latest music series, Tar Heel Troubadours. Nine concerts will be held to celebrate Americana, roots, bluegrass, and traditional music performed by artists from or living and working in North Carolina.

Sound at this venue is said to be exceptional and each of the 300 seats get a fantastic view. We cannot wait to experience it. See you there!

Our 12 Days of Christmas Celebration

For the first 12 days in December, we’ll be getting into the festive spirit and celebrating y’all with some amazing giveaways and behind the scenes of our holiday traditions. We’re getting ready for our 2023 12 Days of Christmas. We’re excited about our line up. Join our email newsletter so you don’t miss it!

Pop your name in the form below and you’ll also receive our free printable Holiday Bucket List for Raleigh:

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

Ongoing Events in Raleigh for December

There are a lot of events ongoing for the entire month of December. Fit them in your calendar where you can and maybe plan a few other events around it.


snake lantern
  • Where: Koka Booth Amphitheatre
  • When: Nov 17, 2023-Jan 14, 2024
    • Mon.-Sun., 6-10pm; performances: 7pm, 8pm and 9pm, nightly
  • Cost: Start at $11
  • Website: 

The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival has hundreds of larger-than-life lanterns and creatures on display creating an incredible, colorful adventure for you to walk through during the holiday season. Read our guide to the NC Chinese Lantern Festival and see our reel of the 2023 lights here.


  • Where: 10 S Cypress St, Wendell
  • When: Nov 22 – Dec 31, 5:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
  • Cost: Free but donation encouraged
  •  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.

There is a walkway around the lights and through their tallest tree! SANTA Saturday nights from November 25th-December 23rd 7-9pm!!

Check page for updates as it will close with inclement weather.


woman standing inside illuminated christmas ball sculpture
Illuminate at Martin Marietta Center
  • Where: Downtown Raleigh
  • When: December 1st, 2023, until January 5, 2024. 
  • Cost: Free
  • Website

A favorite 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 or hot chocolate, or thanks to Sip and Stroll maybe something a little stronger and enjoy the art displays on the streets and in storefront windows.


  • Where: Duke Energy 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 and Santa visits (on select nights)!

Read our experience at the Dessertery – with video

Ice Skating at Red Hat & Fenton

Ice skating rink at a mall.
Ice skating at Fenton

Enjoy the thrill of ice skating in a winter wonderland created in the heart of downtown Raleigh! THE RINK presented by UNC Health features a natural ice-skating rink with stunning views of the Raleigh skyline from Nov 18 – Jan 15 for $15 including rental.

We find the Square at Fenton a more magical skating experience and you have Santa photos in an Igloo! November 5, 2023 @ 8:00 am – February 5, 2024, and skating is $17 including rental.

Miracle at the haymaker, Nov 24 – Dec 31, 2022

man and woman posing at Christmas bar
  • Where: The Haymaker Bary, Fayetteville St
  • Time: 5pm-1am
  • Cost: Whatever you’re drinking
  • Website

Be prepared for possible long lines for this popular Christmas event in downtown Raleigh. Every year, the Haymaker cocktail bar transforms into an eclectic, kitschy world – kinda like where Grandma and your Ugly Sweaters meet at the North Pole.

It’s quirky and fun. You’ll get professionally developed cocktails served in a variety of vessels like Santa boots and T-Rex’s. I tell ya, they’re mighty strong too!

December Carolina Hurricanes Games

 Week 1: Dec 1 – 4, 2023

NCAA Women’s Soccer College Cup Finals, Dec 1 & 4, 2023

Soccer fans watching a game of soccer
WakeMed Soccer Park

We’re so lucky to have the NCAA women’s Soccer National Championship game in the Cary!

Two single-elimination semifinal games will be held on Friday, December 1, 2023. The two teams winning in the semifinals will advance and compete in the single-elimination national championship game, which will take place on Monday, December 4, 2023.

First Friday, Dec 1, 2023

  • Where: Various locations and times in Downtown Raleigh
  • Website:

First Friday is a great opportunity to support local art and businesses. Check out the rotating art on display in the downtown galleries and here are some other fun events happening.

Read our complete guide to First Friday with more tips and information.

Cinderella 2023, Dec 1- 17, 2023

  • Where: Raleigh Little Theater
  • Time:
    • Thursday & Friday at 7:30pm
    • Saturday & Sunday at 2:00pm & 6:00pm
  • Cost: $29+
  • Tickets

Another legendary Holiday event in Raleigh is the musical comedy, Cinderella. Expect singing, dancing and gorgeous costumes. Come experience the show that has enchanted Raleigh families for almost 40 years!

A Gift to Cary Celebration, Dec 2, 2023

  • Where: Downtown Cary Park
  • Time: 10am – 10pm
  • Cost: Free
  • Website

It’s so exciting to have this wonderful community event space in the new Downtown Cary Park (See this Reel here as to how amazing it is).

The “A Gift to Cary Celebration” will be a full day of programming and events that will invoke all the wonder of the winter season and will live performances, Cary’s official tree lighting ceremony, unique photo opportunities, a skating rink, Santa’s workshop, which will offer a wide range of creative activities, and many more surprises.

Cary’s Annual Tree Lighting will be at 6 p.m.

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)

Christmas Tree Lighting Festivals, Dec 1 & 2, 2023

Handel’s Messiah, Dec 1 & 2, 2023

  • Where: Duke Energy Center
  • Time: 8pm
  • Cost: $30+
  • Tickets

The North Carolina Symphony and the North Carolina Master Chorale perform Handel’s masterpiece featuring the resounding “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Christmas Parades, Dec 2 & 3, 2023

Joel Lane Christmas Open House, Dec 2, 2023

  • Where: Joel Lane Museum House (160 S St. Mary’s Street)
  • Time: 11:00am-4:00pm
  • Cost: Free
  • Website

An annual opportunity to walk through the historic Joel Lane house – the oldest house in Raleigh – and talk to costumed re-enactors and volunteers. There will be kids’ crafts like tin punching, candle dipping, and doll making,

Handmade Hanukkah Market, Dec 3, 2023

  • Where: Temple Beth Or
  • Time: 11am – 3pm
  • Cost: Free
  • Website

Jewish artisans will be selling their work including jewelry, baked goods, pottery, textiles, woodwork and more.

DPAC Christmas Shows, Dec 2- 5, 2023

  • 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!

Week 2: Dec 5 – 10, 2023

State Capitol Tree Lighting & Holiday Open House. Dec 8 – 10, 2022

Christmas tree in front of the capitol building in Raleigh, NC
State Capitol Building tree
  • Where: State Capitol Building
  • Time: 5:30pm with official start at 6:15pm
  • Cost: Free

The festivities will begin on Capitol Square on Dec 8th at 5:30pm with luminaries and holiday music performed by the Raleigh Concert Band. The governor and dignitaries will make their way to the South grounds at 6:15 p.m. to officially begin the ceremony.

The lit tree will be visible the length of Fayetteville Street. The Junior Woman’s Club will give away cookies and cider – and even Santa is scheduled to make an appearance!

After the ceremony, you can go inside the Capitol to experience its holiday decorations and enjoy a performance by Colla Voce – an ensemble advanced choir from Holly Springs High School.

From Thursday, Dec. 8th – Saturday, December 10th (from 10 a.m. -3 p.m. on Thursday & Friday, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Saturday) the Capitol will have holiday music in the rotunda! We have toured the Capitol before and it’s worth seeing!

30th Annual Jingle Ball Gala, Dec 7, 2023

jingle ball gala logo
  • Where: NC Museum of Natural Sciences
  • Time: 7-10:30 p.m.
  • Cost: $135
  • Tickets

Jingle Ball is one of Raleigh’s largest social events of the season. Look forward to a night of unlimited beer, wine, and cocktails, live music, dueling pianos, DJs, raffles, and food to raise money to buy children Christmas presents.

Holiday Pops, Dec 8 & 9, 2023

Holiday Pops: A festive concert full of holiday favorites and traditional carols you know and love. Dec 8 & 9, 2023

Christmas Parades, Dec 9, 2023

  • Happy Holly Days Christmas Parade is on Dec 9 in Downtown Holly Springs with floats, bands, dancers, decorated vehicles, marching groups.
  • Cary Jaycees Christmas Parade Dec 9 in Downtown Cary. The parade is a joyful celebration which includes bands, mascots, local businesses, community groups, and churches.

Holiday Open House at Mordecai Historic Park, Dec 10 & 11

A person sitting on a bench in front of a house
Mordecai Historic House
  • Where: Mordecai Historic Park
  • When:
    • Saturday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
      Sunday, Dec. 11, 1 – 4 p.m.
  • Cost: Free

Celebrate the holidays at the Holiday Open House and see how the home would have been decorated for the holidays in years past. Enjoy crafts, live music, and more throughout the park!

On Saturday the Merry and Bright: A North Pole Market will be one where you can do some holiday shopping and meet some holiday characters! See our review of the Mordecai guided tour.

Attend THE JUSTICE THEATER PROJECT’s Black Nativity in Concert, Dec 10, 2022

  • Where: North Carolian 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.

Annual Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour®, Dec 9 & 10, 2023

christmas decorations in front of a house
  • Where: Historic Oakwood
  • When: 1am – 7pm
  • Cost: $30 until Nov 9 and then $35
  • Tickets

A wonderful thing to do in December in Raleigh is the Historic Oakwood annual Candlelight Tour. It was created in 1972 in an effort to save the neighborhood from being torn down for new development.

This year 10 Victorian, Queen Anne, and Craftsman architectural style properties open their doors to visitors to see their stunning interior designs and elaborate Christmas decorations, as well as learning more about the history behind each house.

You need at least 4-hours to visit every home. Start (or end) with a drink at Pelagic Beer and Wine on North Person St, one of the coolest neighborhood watering holes in Raleigh, or enjoy a fancy meal at Crawford and Sons after. Here are more things to do on N Person St.

READ MORE: Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour and you can see our IG Reel for 2021’s event here.

Theatre In The Park Presents A Christmas Carol, Dec 8- 17. 2023

actors on stage performing a christmas carol
  • Where & When: 
    • Martin Marietta Center for The Performing Arts; December 8-10, 2023
    • DPAC: Dec 13- 17
  • Cost: $35+
  • Tickets

Another of the hugely popular Christmas events in Raleigh is the comedy adaptation of the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.

The show has been performed annually since 1974 and was named one of the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast.” Cited as “one of the most successful shows in North Carolina theatre history,” 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!

Week 3: Dec 11 – 19, 2023

Happy Hannukah to all those celebrating this week.

Hannukah Menorah Lighting, Dec 12 & 13, 2023

  • 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.

Rock out with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Dec 13, 2023

  • Where: PNC Arena
  • When: 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.

the Carolina Ballet’s The Nutcracker, Dec 14 -24, 2023

  • Where: Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts
  • When: Various
  • Cost: $27+
  • Tickets

Another holiday tradition for 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.

Marbles Gingerbuild Houses & Hops, Dec 15, 2023

  • Where: Marbles Museum
  • Time: 7-9pm
  • Cost: $25 (event is being sold by tables of 2-6 people each.)
  • Website

Marbles is clever enough to understand adults love creating gingerbread houses too – but sans kids! This 21+ event is for a festive outing with friends or lovers. You can decorate your own edible gingerbread house with a few drinks (for purchase)

Raleigh Ringers Concert, Dec 16 & 17, 2023

  • Where: Meymandi Concert Hall
  • Time: 4pm
  • Cost: $13+
  • Tickets

This annual Holiday concert features the group’s unique interpretations of sacred, secular, and popular music, including a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll.

Marbles Gingerbread Jamboree, Dec 16 & 17, 2023

  • Where: Marbles Museum
  • Time: 9:30AM, 12:30PM AND 3:30PM
  • Cost: $20
  • Website

No More Gingerbread House Mess. You can make it of course; you just don’t have to clean it up. Leave that to Marbles with their special event allowing you to create sweet Gingerbread house masterpieces at their kid’s museum. So, grab your friends with kids and head down together.

Week 4: Dec 18 – 24, 2023

Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet, Dec 20, 2023

  • Where: DPAC, Durham
  • Time: 4pm & 8pm
  • Cost: $35+
  • Tickets

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. 

The Motown Sound of Christmas, Dec 21 – 23, 2023

  • Where: Cary Arts Center
  • Time: 7:30 pm (+3:30pm on Sat)
  • Cost: $28 – $32.5
  • Tickets

Enjoy a unique holiday experience full of soul and joy, wrapped up with a message of love with a Motown music celebration. We saw a Motown Christmas Show on our vacation in Myrtle Beach last year and it was fun!

Week 5: Dec 25 – 31, 2023

Happy Kaanza and Merry Christmas for all those who celebrate! And if you don’t may you have a lovely day whatever you choose to do!

We’ll be having a quiet day together at home. We usually choose a movie from our GEN X upbringing to show the girls. We haven’t decided for this year. Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

A very quiet week in Raleigh as we all prepare to ring in the New Year! I hope you’ve had time to reflect on the year that was 2023 and know what you want to work on and manifest for 2024.

My favorite blessing for you, which comes from the Māori people of the now country, New Zealand:

May all the rays of sunshine forever dance along your pathways.

Kwanzaa Celebration, Dec 29, 2023

  • Where: Cary Arts Center
  • Time: Noon – 5pm
  • Cost: Free
  • Website

Kwanzaa is a communal, cultural celebration that honors African American people and their heritage. The Kwanzaa Celebration is produced by the Town of Cary in partnership with the Ujima Group Inc. There’ll be kids’ activities, singing and dancing.

First Night Raleigh, Dec 31, 2022

First Night Raleigh (New Years Eve)
Image by

First Night Raleigh, in downtown Raleigh, is North Carolina’s largest New Year’s Eve celebration!

Festivities begin with the early afternoon City Plaza outdoor musical performances and the Children’s Celebration at 2pm. We usually leave after the 9pm fireworks as it gets too cold for us to wait until midnight.

The night is capped off with music on the outdoor Main Stage, the famous Raleigh Acorn Drop, and spectacular fireworks show.

See other things to do for New Years in Raleigh

The Avett Brothers, Dec 31, 2023

  • Where: PNC Arena
  • Time: 8pm
  • Cost: $64.50+
  • Tickets

It wouldn’t be a Raleigh New Year’s without the Avett Brothers playing at the PNC Arena. Fans of one of the state’s most celebrated homegrown bands will be stoked to hear their annual New Year’s Eve party is back! This will be their 20th annual New Year’s Eve celebration and the third time they’ve rang in the new year at PNC Arena.

This year they have special guest singer-songwriter Marcus King playing.

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 December 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:

If you found this blog post helpful, please share it with your friends!

Comment: Let us know in the comments below what are you doing this December in Raleigh. Were there any fun celebrations or events we missed?

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