21 Things to do in December in Raleigh and Beyond

Cue the lights: this season offers new versions of holiday classics, plus fun ways to create our own traditions. Here’s what to do at home and around the Triangle this month.
by Isabella Sherk

Photography credit: Bryan Regan

1. See an outdoor movie

Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre is open for business all December, showing new and old films alike. You tune into the movie from your car’s FM radio, the perfect socially-distanced outing. They are also hosting Christmas at the Drive-In this December. Enjoy a meet and greet with Santa and holiday-themed games at the drive-in too. See website for more details.

2. Attend a Christmas craft fair

Pace Family Farms is hosting its Christmas Craft Fair on Saturday, Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. At the fair, there will be vendors selling handmade crafts—perfect for Christmas shopping! There will also be five food trucks to enjoy at the event. See website for more details. 

3. Watch The Nutcracker (from home)

WRAL-TV, PNC and Carolina Ballet have teamed up to bring the magic of The Nutcracker to your home in a live broadcast performance. This year, the Sugar Plum Fairy will be played by principal dancer Margaret Severin-Hansen, one of the founding members of the ballet troupe. “She is the last of our founding dancers that still takes the stage,” says Carolina Ballet communications director Sara E. Reichle. “We also have quite a few new young dancers who will be performing Nutcracker with us for the first time.” 7 p.m.; free; televised on WRAL-TV Channel 5; See website for details.

4. Check out these Christmas light extravaganzas

The Nights of Lights at Dix Park is a collaboration with WRAL and Artsplosure. The first annual light show features the work of local artists. “This event features celebratory work by creative members of our community. The nature of this artwork is that it illuminates darkness, and we are hoping it will be a bright spot in people’s holiday as well,” says Artsplosure program director Cameron Laws. December 16 – 31 (closed December 25), 5:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.; from $15 per car; 75 Hunt Drive.

Beginning Nov. 25, the annual Lake Myra Christmas Lights will be showcased in Wendell. Bring the family and begin the Christmas season with a beautiful light show. See Facebook page for updates; lasts until Dec 31.

The Field Stream Farm Festival of Lights is a beautiful holiday light show on a farm that dates back to the late 1800s. Drive through the mile-long trail to see about a million lights and other festive decorations. You can purchase tickets ahead of time or at the farm. See website for details; $20 per car; 8008 Old Stage Road.

5. See Historic Oakwood dressed up for the holidays

The Walking Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour is completely outside this year. Check out this 19th-century neighborhood’s exteriors decked out for Christmas. “We’re spreading the tour over 16 days—and the whole neighborhood—so everyone can safely enjoy the splendor,” says Matthew Brown of the Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood. December 12 – 27; free; see website for locations. 

6. Find all your favorite childhood toys

Toy Boom! is an exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History featuring toys from older generations. “We created this exhibit to showcase how toys reflected the issues and events of those times, including the space race, Vietnam War and gender roles. So it’s not only a fun trip down memory lane but a chance to think critically how objects mirror culture,” says Katie Edwards, curator of popular culture at the museum. See website for hours; free; 5 E. Edenton Street. 

7. Enjoy an Italian holiday dinner in City Market

Vic’s Italian Wine Dinner is perfect for the holiday season. The restaurant offers a five-course, chef-prepared wine dinner on the first Wednesday of every month. “It’s very festive, Italian-style,” says Michael Longo, the restaurant’s general manager. 7 p.m.; $60 per person; 331 Blake Street. 

8. Shop for gifts at the Moore Square Bazaar

Find something special for a loved one —while supporting more than 40 regional artisans at the same time—at Raleigh Night Market’s open-air Moore Square Bazaar. A sample of vendors includes Dew Drop Chocolates, Mama’s Salsa, Kettu Woodworks and Wind Blown Jewelry. Listen to live entertainment while you shop safely: tables will be placed six feet apart with hand sanitizer nearby, and both shoppers and vendors are required to wear masks. Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m, Sunday 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.; 226 E. Martin Street, search “Holiday Bazaar at Moore Square” on Facebook for details. 

9. Listen to holiday classics from NC Master Chorale

Join our state’s Master Chorale from your cozy couch or a crackling fire and experience their annual Joy of the Season concert virtually this year with classics like Joy to the World and Silent Night as well as intricate arrangements of old English and Baroque fare, and jazzy choral takes on modern pop. 7:30 p.m; $15 per ticket.

10. See a city-favorite local art, virtually

The annual Boylan Heights Art Walk is virtual this year. Browse through local art in the comfort of your home. You can even visit the featured artists’ website if you’re interested in their work. On Dec. 6, the traditional Art Walk date, there will be special events and activities

11. Head to NCMA for an exhibit spanning across countries and centuries

Visit the North Carolina Museum of Art to see the exhibit Reflections on Light: Works from the NCMA Collection. The exhibit features works from many countries and periods and focuses on how these cultures and artists worked with light. See website for more details.

12. Visit the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Visit a new exhibit entitled Beyond Curie, featuring women scientists who have been previously overlooked. The exhibit showcases 40 of these women, and you won’t want to miss it. See website for COVID-19 policies. Tuesday—Sunday, 10 a.m.—4p.m; free. 

13. Bake cookies inspired by Yellow Dog

Take a cue from Yellow Dog Bread Co. matriarch Tanya Andrews and whip up several batches of gingerbread cookie dough, sugar cookie dough or chocolate peppermint. Store them in the freezer and pull them out as needed all season long. Get the recipes here, from our December issue.

14. Visit a new-to-you neighborhood

Discover a new takeout restaurant you’ve yet to try, explore a new park or admire the architecture in a new-to-you neighborhood from this story where we encourage you to discover a part of the city you’ve yet to explore.

15. Have your picture taken with Santa

Crabtree Valley Mall is hosting a safe Santa experience this holiday season. From now until Dec. 24, Santa Claus will be at Crabtree for socially distanced visits. Crabtree is asking all guests to wear masks to keep everyone safe. See website to make an appointment.

16. Mix a new holiday drink at home

Stay in for the night and mix your own holiday-themed drink (Nutty Professor or Mulled Cider anyone?) from our December issue. 

17. …Or sip on something special around town

Try Videri’s single-origin hot chocolate, 42 & Lawrences eggnog latte for an extra festive beverage or other festive drinks offered around town featured in this story.

18. Take the kids to see Santa’s elves, virtually

Bring Marbles Kids Museums’ Night with Elves to your home this holiday season. Beginning Dec. 4, Marbles is offering the Night of Elves experience virtually. Each ticket comes with a Party Pack that includes activities and snacks. See website to purchase a ticket.

19. Tour an artists’ studio

The Chatham Artists Guild is holding its 28th Annual Studio Tour during the first two weekends of December. The tours allow people into the artists’ studio to meet the artists, learn about what they create and purchase their art. Some artists are even doing virtual tours, so you can experience this event from home. See website for more details.

20. Watch The Black Nativity

Premiering on December 11, The Justice Theater Project is offering an all-new take on Langston Hughes’ groundbreaking musical Black Nativity, written and directed by N.C. Central theater department chair Dr. Asabi (Stephanie Howard). Learn more about how the script, music and dance in the 2020 production are being adapted for video here. See website for details; from $15 for an individual link; virtual

21. See a (virtual) Christmas Carol

Stream a recorded version of Ira David Wood III’s A Christmas Carol anytime this month to enjoy his joke-filled, musical take on the classic story of Scrooge’s redemption. Learn more about what goes on with the cast behind the scenes of the production in WALTER’s December issue. Starting December 1; from $37.54 for individual link.