58 Things To Do In North Carolina For The Holidays

The most comprehensive family friendly list of North Carolina holiday events ever assembled.

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The holidays are here, and we’ve had lots of people in North Carolina request that we assemble a list of things you can do for the holidays in North Carolina. These events are fun, unique and always kids friendly.
There’s nothing like the holidays in the Tar Heel State.

1. Take the family to cut their own Christmas tree.

Most of the ‘best’ Christmas tree farms are in eastern North Carolina. Here’s a complete list of the places where you can get pick out your own tree and take it home. There are a few other smaller places throughout the piedmont and close to the coast, so you might have to do a quick Google to find those.

2. Head over to Charlotte for Speedway Christmas.

Charlotte Motor Speedway is home to the annual Speedway Motor Christmas, typically the last week of November. This is a must see once in your life. You actually get to drive on the infield of the track, where millions of lights are displayed in a 3 mile long Christmas village – almost like you’re in a world of your own.
Santa is there, and you can pet animals and watch holiday movies too. It’s usually about $25-$30 per carload.

3. Go and watch the Nutcracker Ballet.

Every December, the Carolina Ballet puts on an amazing show in the triangle area. The show moves around, and is sometimes in Durham or in Raleigh. Either way, it’s an amazing show. Visit Carolina Ballet here to see when this year’s show is. Tickets can be pricey, and they go fast.

4. Experience Chetola’s Festival of Lights.

Blowing Rock North Carolina is just a short drive south of Boone in the far eastern part of the state. Chetola is a resort that puts on an amazing holiday experience.
You can check out their annual Festival Of Lights display from Thanksgiving Weekend through New Years. They also have an annual holiday parade and tree lighting ceremony, too.

5. Head to the coast for a Christmas Parade on the water.

For more than three decades, people have been flocking to Wrightsville Beach to watch their annual Holiday Floatilla. Santa makes an appearance on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and on Saturday night, you can watch an amazing Christmas Light boat parade.
Both are free. In 2015, it’s on November 28 at dark.
And there’s FIREWORKS afterwords.
New Bern also has a similar event. Theirs is usually early December (in 2015 it’s on December 5.) This is also free.

6. Go and watch Santa rappel down a mountain face.

Chimney Rock State Park is a short drive south of Asheville. On certain days out of the week, Santa Claus rappels down the side of a mountain. It’s something the kids would love, and afterwords, you can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and enjoy some other holiday festivities like cocoa, cookies and music.
It’s free with park admission, which is a little pricey ($15 per adult, $7 per kid over 5). You could always hide a couple of kids under some blankets in the car until you’re through the gates, we suppose 🙂

7. Head to the Outer Banks for a Christmas experience.

If you’re up for a trek, you can head to Manteo, on the always awesome Roanoke Island, to experience the holidays. They put on a good show that includes Elizabethan Gardens WinterLights, a garden-type Christmas walk, and other events. Click here to see the schedule, as they change it every year.
Santa does make an appearance on certain nights. It’s usually only Wednesday through Saturday late November through Christmas. Tickets are around $17 each.

8. Head to Durham for a Tower Lighting at American Tobacco Campus.

At the beginning of each December, you can head over to downtown Durham (near the baseball field) and watch them light up the famous tobacco tower. There’s also singing, music, a train ride, and you can take selfies with Santa himself. All of this is free.
Plus, you can skate outdoors, as they turn an area here into an outdoor ice rink. You can also get a Christmas Tree and see other cool sights and sounds. It’s totally family friendly and safe.
The complete schedule of their events is here, as it changes year to year. In 2015, it’s on Friday, December 5.

9. Christmas at The Biltmore is something you need to do at least once.

If you haven’t been to the Biltmore, you need to see it once. Throughout November and December, they turn the place into a totally Christmas experience. Basically, you walk around the place and check out the sights and sounds. It’s like being in a really fancy home decorated for Christmas – because that’s what it is 🙂
It can be really expensive though – $70 apiece (kids are half off). Here’s more information about it.

10. Take the kids to McAdenville’s Christmas Town USA.

If you live in the greater Charlotte area, this is a great idea for a night of fun. Their Christmas Town USA draws quite a crowd. You drive around throughout their town, which is decorated like a giant Christmas Village.
Tons of people go (it’s free), but we recommend you go on Monday through Thursday since it gets really busy on weekends, and they turn the lights off, even if people are in line to drive through. The lights stay on until 11 pm on Friday and Saturday and turn off at 9:30 pm other nights.
It lasts all of December.

11. Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights near Winston Salem is an option.

Tanglewood Park Festival Of Lights is basically a more intimate version of McAdenville’s Christmas Town, but it’s near Winstom-Salem, and you have to pay $15 per car. It lasts all of December.
With this event, you can actually get out of the car and walk around a bit and soak in the scene. Santa and Mrs. Claus are there, and you can buy things from the gift shop.
Monday through Thursday are far better options so avoid large crowds.

12. Folks near Raleigh can head to Lights On the Neuse.

If you want a more intimate experience, and you’re in eastern North Carolina, you can take the family on a Christmas themed hay ride in Clayton. It’s $10 for adults and $7 for kids, and it’s open on weekends except for the entire week of Christmas – you can go any day.
You can also meet Santa. It seems to be a much more religious themed experience, judging by the website information, that you can check out here.

13. Raleigh area moms can take the kids to Meadow Lights

Meadow Lights is something of a yearly tradition in Benson, NC (a 30 minute drive south of Raleigh). Here, you get to meet Santa, ride a train, and buy some cookies, delicious Christmas-themed candy, and other treats.
It’s more of a religious themed event where you walk around and check out lit displays. Most of it is free, but you pay for smaller things like the train ride and treats.

14. Drive around an awesome Christmas display in Wendell, NC (near Raleigh)

The town of Wendell gathers together and puts on a very impressive free show that spans a few blocks through town called the Lake Myra Christmas Lights Show. If you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth it since it’s free. But probably not worth driving more than an hour for.
Santa makes an appearance often. It’s every night of the week through December. Times vary, but it typically shuts off at 10 pm except for Friday and Saturdays (11 pm).

15. Christmas By The Sea Is a Treat in Carolina Beach.

If you’re near the coast, this is a must see because you can make a whole night of it. Carolina Beach turns its boardwalk into a Christmas themed display, with lights, music, crafts, Santa Claus and different events throughout the month.
It starts with an annual lighting ceremony the Friday after Thanksgiving. Every night is different, so you can check here to see what you want to do. And it’s free!!

16. Greensboro’s Festival Of Lights is kid friendly, a whole night long, and free.

Each year, you can head downtown to meet Santa, watch the tree get lit up and listen to music. In 2015, it’s on December 4. And it’s free, so you can even bring the neighbor’s kids 🙂 Click here to read more about it.

17. Wilmington’s Holiday Train Expo.

Here, you can watch model trains drive around a holiday themed display, meet Santa and enjoy a few other activities. Probably not going to kill too much time if you’re trying to wear the kids down and it’s $5. But if you’re in the Wilmington area, this is an idea.
That, or Wilmington’s Enchanted Airlie ($27 per carload), where you can walk around an enchanted Christmas themed garden and enjoy cookies and hot chocolate with Santa.

18. Or, just find another holiday display in your area.

No matter what part of the state you’re in, there’s always something to do to get the kids out of the house. Most of these displays are free. Typically, you drive around and look at lights, and some of these have other added bonuses like Santa Claus, music and smallish events.
You can click on any of these links below to get the full info on each one:
Near Charlotte: Trail Of Lights in Valdese.
North Central Carolina: High Country Lights in Ennice (near Mt. Airy).
Far Eastern Mountain Area: Dillsboro Lights and Luminaries
Charlotte area: Holidays At The Garden in Belmont (a little pricey).

19. Or, here’s a list of Christmas Parades By County in North Carolina.

Look up each city’s parade, as they change each year.
Pittsboro Christmas Parade
Rotary Christmas Parade in Fayetteville
Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Center
Franklin County Christmas Parade in Louisburg (all day event)
Creedmoor Christmas Parade
Dunn Christmas Parade
Benson Christmas Parade
Clayton Christmas Parade
Coats Christmas Parade
Four Oaks Christmas Parade
The Kenly Christmas Parade
Micro Christmas Parade
Pine Level Christmas Parade
Princeton Christmas Parade
Smithfield Christmas Parade
Sanford Christmas Parade
Southern Pines Christmas Parade
Rocky Mount Christmas Parade
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Holiday Parade
Hillsborough Holiday Parade
Roxboro Jaycees Christmas Parade
Apex Rotary Christmas Parade
Cary Christmas Parade.
Fuquay-Varina Christmas Parade
Garner Christmas Parade
Holly Springs Christmas Parade
Knightdale Christmas Parade
Morrisville Winterfest Parade
Raleigh Christmas Parade
Rolesville Chamber Christmas Parade
Wake Forest Christmas Parade
Zebulon Christmas Parade

About Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson earned his masters in Business Administration from the Drucker School At Claremont Graduate University. He has written for 39 publications across the country and ran the media relations department at Movoto, a real estate portal based in San Francisco. He has been featured in over 500 publications as an expert in real estate and as an authority on real estate trends. .

Nick's the creator of the HomeSnacks YouTube channel that now has over 260,000 subscribers and is an excellent source to learn about different parts of the country.