If you’re looking for a Christmas vacation destination, Raleigh is the place to be.
It’s a college town that is currently undergoing a Renaissance making for plenty of cultural and performing arts activities. It has terrific food and a great laid-back atmosphere. It offers several interesting landmarks including the Greek Revival Style North Carolina State Capitol building with a statue of George Washington dressed as a Roman General in its rotunda.
There’s tons to do in Raleigh and it gets even more exciting around holiday time. Here are some things you can see and do.
North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival
The Chinese Lantern Festival happens at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, a town just fifteen minutes outside of Raleigh. Now an annual event, it involves more than 20 larger than life lanterns. Displays featuring thousands of LED lights illuminate the sky.
The celebration includes a one-hour walking tour. Be sure to have your camera out when you walk by Symphony Lake which will light up with an incredible phoenix. The festival showcases Chinese culture with martials arts performances, traditional dances, acrobatics, drum circles and more.
You may want to spend some time walking around Raleigh to check out the houses decorated in their holiday best. The Piper Family in Wake Forest is known for providing a terrific seven-acre display year after year. It runs through various yards and even jumps across a pond. In fact, the display is so terrific, it made them the winners of ABC’s the Great Christmas Light Fight in 2016. Be sure you don’t miss out.
The Holiday Market at Brewery Bhavana
Brewery Bhavana is a local Raleigh brewery that introduced the city’s first ever holiday market in 2019. Every season they transform their facility into a space that features goods from 20 locally owned shops and musical performances. Come by for some great holiday shopping and a chance to taste their new craft beer releases.
Theatre in the Park
Theatre in the Park is a Raleigh event that takes place in the city’s scenic Pullen Park. It is known for its outstanding performances and more than 30,000 people have been known to attend their programming in a year.
Around Christmastime, you can expect the park to feature a holiday themed performance. A Christmas Carol was the play for 2019. Check the internet to find out what will be showing when you’re in town.
Holiday Open House at the North Carolina Executive Mansion
The North Carolina Executive Mansion was designed by well known architect Samuel Sloan and is one of the state’s architectural masterpieces. It currently serves as a museum for 18th و 19th century art and furniture. It is also an event venue for political and social happenings.
At Christmastime, the house is decorated for the season and open to the public. The first-floor features North Carolina trees and mixed evergreen arrangements. There are also live performances by local music groups. The Open House is the only time when people can visit without scheduling a formal tour.
State Capital Tree Lighting Ceremony
The Tree Lighting Ceremony at the State Capital officially kicks off Raleigh’s holiday season. It takes place on the front lawn which is illuminated with luminaries and filled with choral groups singing seasonal carols. After the ceremony takes place, guests are welcome to tour the building which is decorated in its holiday finest.
Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour
Historic Oakwood is a Raleigh neighborhood spanning about 30 blocks. It is known for its 20th century and Victorian style homes. The Candlelight Tour takes place in December. Guests can visit to see the elaborately decorated homes and gardens and step inside to check out the interiors. Homeowners will be on hand to tell visitors about the history of the neighborhood and what makes Christmas so special.
Boylan Heights Art Walk
Boylan Heights is a Raleigh neighborhood that hosts an Art Walk every season. Stroll through to shop the unique pieces of glasswork, jewelry, woodwork, clay, ceramics, photography and paintings. The pieces are sold directly on resident’s porches and lawns and over 100 artisans and craftspeople participate.
Sleigh Rides and Cider at Historic Oak View County Park
Historic Oak View County Park is an antebellum homestead that features an 1855 Greek Revival house, a separate kitchen, a gin mill, a carriage house, a pecan grove and an herb garden. Their Sleigh Rides and Cider event offers horse drawn carriage rides, hot cider, live music, crafts, holiday activities and meet and greets with Santa Claus.
You can also book a holiday tour of the park. The tour is free and exclusive to members.
See a Live Performance
Raleigh is full of performing arts venues that are likely to be showing holiday performances during the Christmas season. Here are a few you will want to look up when you’re in town.
· Duke Energy Center
· Raleigh Little Theatre
· PNC Arena
Spend New Year’s at WRAL First Night Raleigh
The biggest Raleigh New Year’s celebration takes place in the city’s center. People gather for live entertainment, music and vendors. When the clock strikes midnight, a giant copper acorn falls from the sky. (Apparently, there acorn has no cultural significance, it’s just how they celebrate).
New Year’s Eve Gala at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
If you prefer a more sophisticated New Year’s experience, consider spending it at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The facility hosts a gala each year that features four floors of food, drinks, live music and deejays. It is a black-tie affair open to guests 21+ only.
Raleigh is a great place to visit during the holiday season. With so much to see and do, you are guaranteed to have a terrific time when you roll through. Which of these activities will be making your season bright?