What to Do in December 2023 In and Around Raleigh

End the year on a high note with festive performing art shows, artisan markets and homegrown music in the Triangle.
by Addie Ladner

The end of the year in Raleigh brings all sorts of magic, from annual holiday performances to sporting events and live music opportunities. Whether your family’s December traditions include Carolina Ballet’s The Nutcracker, Raleigh Little Theatre’s Cinderella, Historic Oakwood’s Candlelight Tour or Healing Transitions’ day-long run, even a holiday skeptic would have a hard time not feeling touched by the heartwarming spirit that takes over town. Read on for a list of special events, holiday activities and new-to-you traditions to check out this month.

Watch Elite Soccer at the Women’s College Cup

The best women’s college soccer teams will converge at Cary’s WakeMed soccer park this year for two rounds of games to determine the national champions. This will be the 11th year that North Carolina has hosted the Women’s College Cup. Soccer fans can look forward to four different local food trucks and top-notch athletes taking the field. Let’s hope that this year’s matches are as thrilling as last year, when the University of California, Los Angeles beat the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by one point in overtime.
Dec. 1 & 4 | Various times; $35; 101 Soccer Park Drive, Cary; ncaa.com

Shop Holiday Markets!

It’s shopping season! Holiday markets are a great opportunity to shop for products from local makers, and each has its own vibe. Click here for five fun ones to explore, all different from each other.

Laugh out Loud at Raleigh Little Theatre’s Cinderella

Based on the fairy tale by Charles Perraul, kids of all ages will love this comedic, musical retelling of Cinderella. Enjoy memorable characters including Cinderella’s outrageously spoiled stepfamily and the Fairy Godmother’s hapless helpers. Experience the show that has captivated families for almost 40 years.
Dec. 1 – 17 | Various times; From $28; 301 Pogue Street; raleighlittletheatre.org

See Theatre in the Park’s A Christmas Carol

Theatre In The Park’s beloved adaptation of A Christmas Carol celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, but there’s another significant milestone: Director and actor Ira David Wood III will give his final performance as Ebenezer Scrooge after playing the role for as long as the show has been running. “Fifty years have flown by in the wink of an eye. It has been an honor and privilege to have been part of a production that has become such a holiday tradition. How deeply humbling to think that so many people have made us part of their celebration of the holiday season,” says Wood. The play has become known nationwide for weaving modern humor around current events into the musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic. While it’s enjoyed critically acclaimed tours to England and France, locals can enjoy it right in their hometown with performances at both the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts and the Durham Performing Arts Center.
Dec. 8 – 17 | various times; From $35; 2 E. South Street, Raleigh or 123 Vivian Street, Durham; theatreinthepark.org 

Hear Southern Culture on the Skids in Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill-based Southern Culture on the Skids will bring its retro rock jams back to the Triangle at iconic venue Cat’s Cradle. As it’s been for the past three decades, you’ll find Rick Miller on guitar and vocals, Mary Huff on bass and vocals and Dave Hartman on drums. The band will mostly perform tracks from its latest record, At Home with Southern Culture on The Skids, which was recorded in Miller’s living room and produced at the height of COVID-19. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Dec. 9 | 8 p.m.; $18; 300 E. Main Street, Carrboro; catscradle.com

See Justice Theatre Project’s Black Nativity

Experience the story of the birth of Jesus told through West African and contemporary choreography and music at the North Carolina Museum of Art’s amphitheater. Each year the production includes new elements but holds true to the Langston Hughes original, rooted in gospel music. This year, Justice Theater Project artistic director Jerry Sipp says to look out for some familiar faces and hymns but also a few new songs and cast members, plus an all-new set backdrop. “Our friend Gerald Rubin, a Triangle area African-American artist, will be helping to augment the look of our set with his unique painting vision,” Sipp says.
Dec. 9 & 10 | Various times; $5; 2110 Blue Ridge Road; justicetheaterproject.org

Walk the Oakwood Candlelight Tour

Step inside 10 different centuries-old homes in Craftsman and Victorian styles during the Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour in the City of Oaks’ oldest neighborhood. Each year, a few Oakwood residents open up their homes for the public to learn about history and architecture and share how the homes are being used in the present day. The tour includes cookies and hot apple cider at check-in and performances by the Oakwood Waits, a group of carolers in period costume.
Dec. 9 – 10 | 1 – 7 p.m.From $45; N. Bloodworth Street & Oakwood Avenue; historicoakwood.org

Experience the North Carolina Master Chorale’s Joy of the Season Concert

Hear a wide range of carols including “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and, as a favorite finale, “Joy to the World,” at the North Carolina Master Chorale’s Joy of the Season concert. With more than 170 voices between the symphonic choir, chamber choir and youth choir, along with a live orchestra, this evening will be sure to get you into a spirited mood.
Dec. 12 | 7:30 p.m.; From $32; 2 E. South Street; ncmasterchorale.org

Participate in a Special Menorah Lighting in Downtown Cary

Area residents are invited to join a special Menorah lighting during Hanukkah outside the Cary Arts Center in partnership with the Beth Shalom congregation, Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary and Chabad of Cary. Bring the kids to enjoy live music, festive snacks and activities. “We’ll have a sing-along, crafts and dreidels. The treats usually include chocolate gelt and sometimes we have sufganiyot,” says Jennifer L. Hocken, program specialist with the Town of Cary.
Dec. 13 | 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Free; 101 Dry Avenue, Cary; carync.gov

See Theatre Raleigh’s The 1940s Radio Hour

This musical by Walton Jones depicts a live final broadcast of a fictional holiday musical variety show in the ballroom of the Hotel Astor in New York City. Set in the wintertime of the early 1940s, when the world was at war, this particular broadcast is for the troops overseas. A producer finds himself in way over his head dealing with a stumbling singer, a delivery boy who begs for a chance on air and a trumpet player who bails to go fly a fighter plane. Even still, the show drums up feelings of nostalgia, humor and warmth. Theatre Raleigh alumna Julia Murney, an actor, singer and director who has played the role of Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway, will return to direct the show. “My hope is that when the curtain falls, the audience feels like they have a warm cup of cider. This music will transport them into a mood filled with comfort and reprieve from the stresses of the holiday season,” she says.
Dec. 13 – 24 | Various times; From $30; 6638 Old Wake Forest Road; theatreraleigh.com

Learn to Make Festive Cocktails at Alley Twenty Six’s Virtual Sparkling Seasons Class

Want an idea for a cozy at-home date night this month? Tune in to an hourlong cocktail tutorial with Shannon Healy, owner of Durham’s Alley Twenty Six, a 2022 finalist for a James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Bar Program award. The virtual class, themed Sparkling Seasons, will show participants how to mix and pour festive cocktails in the style of classics like the Kir Royale, French 75 and Tom Collins.
Dec. 14 | 7 p.m.; $15; virtual; alleytwentysix.com

See Carolina Ballet’s The Nutcracker

Experience captivating choreography, masterful props and costumes and a live orchestra at the Carolina Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. “This production is inspired by holiday Americana, keeping the magic of the story alive and connecting us to the nostalgia of our youth. This year, we’re presenting costumes that are more beautiful than ever and reintroducing audience favorites like Mother Ginger,” says Carolina Ballet CEO Zalman Raffael. Catch this local interpretation of the historic fantasy at the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts.
Dec. 14 – 25 | Various times; From $25; 2 E. South Street; carolinaballet.com

Run or Walk Healing Transitions’ Oakwood24

Oakwood24 is a unique all-day race at the Historic Oakwood Cemetery, where supporters are invited to spend the entire day running or jogging at their own pace or participate in timed 6-hour, 12-hour and 24-hour challenges. Now in its sixth year, the Oakwood24 charity run has raised over $500,000 to help support recovery from drugs and alcohol through its host organization, Healing Transitions. It’s a race that invites community awareness but that’s also meaningful for people who have gone through Healing Transitions’ programs. “The fact that I am clean and sober today is the reason I was able to run 56 miles,” says Felix, a race participant who completed his course over 19 hours. “I would have never been able to do that. For me, Oakwood24 symbolizes the obstacles of learning how to live sober, pushing through and coming out on the other side — a victory.”
Dec. 22 – 23 | 9 a.m. – 9 a.m.; From $50 donation to run competitively; 701 Oakwood Avenue; healingtransitions.org 

See The Avett Brothers at PNC Arena

North Carolina band Avett Brothers is bringing its New Year’s Eve show to PNC Arena with special guest Marcus King, a Grammy-nominated country soul musician from Greenville, South Carolina. While the band has performed a New Year’s Eve concert for more than 20 years, this will be the first time since 2017 that the group has performed at PNC.
Dec. 31 | 8 p.m. From $64; 1400 Edwards Mill Road; pncarena.com

Ring in 2024 at The Willard’s New Year’s Eve Party

Ring in the new year with panoramic views of downtown Raleigh’s skyline and fireworks! The Willard Rooftop Lounge will host its third annual New Year’s Eve extravaganza with an American-themed buffet, live music by jazz band Peter Lamb and the Wolves and dancing. Party favors will be provided and there will be a midnight champagne toast.
Dec. 31 | 8 p.m. – 1 a.m.; $155; 9 Glenwood Avenue; thewillardraleigh.com  

This article originally appeared in the December 2023 issue of WALTER magazine.