Inflatable Snow Globes

50 Great Things to Do in North Carolina in December 2023

Looking for Things to Do in North Carolina in December?

As the last traces of autumn fade away, North Carolina transitions to winter, which offers many enchanting experiences. December arrives with a flurry of holiday festivities, outdoor adventures, and heartwarming traditions, making it a prime time to explore the diverse regions of this charming state. 

From the majestic peaks of the mountains, the bustling cityscapes of the Piedmont, or the serene shores of the coast, North Carolina has something special in store for everyone this holiday season.

Whether you’re a local seeking new seasonal traditions or a visitor eager to immerse yourself in the state’s unique culture, this guide will be your companion to the most memorable experiences North Carolina offers during the winter month of December.

Things to Do in North Carolina in December

Let’s dive into all the fun things to do in North Carolina in December, starting with the Mountain region, then Piedmont, followed by the Coastal region.

Mountain Region

✅ Ride The Polar Express | Nov 9 – Dec 31

Address: 45 Mitchell St, Bryson City, NC 28713

We all know and love the story of the Polar Express and the mystical train to the North Pole. Well, The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad brings the story to life so you and the family can experience your own Polar Express train ride during the holiday season. 

The train ride is over an hour long and is complete with a major motion picture soundtrack, hot chocolate, Christmas stories, holiday treats, and your very own Polar Express punch ticket. This world-famous train ride is truly a magical holiday moment. Make sure to book your tickets in advance; they sell out fast.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

✅ Christmas at Biltmore | Nov 3, 2023 – Jan 7, 2024  

Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803

America’s Largest Home celebrates every year with a different theme and color scheme for Christmas at the Biltmore, which makes each holiday season unique! They have miles of lights in their 250 rooms as they decorate throughout the 8,000-acre estate. They have a huge 35 ft tree in the banquet hall, which takes 40 people to bring into the home.  The banquet hall is 70 ft high, which is seven stories high.   

Biltmore Estate Christmas Dining Area

You have two options to view the Biltmore home; the first option is the daytime ticket, where you can see how the house is beautifully decorated with Christmas trees, garlands, and thousands of lights.  

Biltmore Estate Christmas Library

In the evening, the second option is a special Candlelight Christmas, where you will find glowing fireplaces, live music, and flickering candlelight.  As you approach the Biltmore home, you will be greeted by a 55 ft spruce tree glimmering in the front lawn surrounded by even more illuminated evergreens.  Book your tickets in advance because they sell out fast.

Biltmore Estate Christmas Outside with lights

Read More: Visiting the Biltmore House during Christmas

✅ National Gingerbread House Competition | Nov 27, 2023 – Jan 2, 2024

Address: Omni Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804

A beloved holiday tradition takes center stage each year at The Omni Grove Park Inn: the National Gingerbread House Competition, now celebrating its 31st year. Contestants nationwide gather to vie for over $40,000 in prizes. The competition spans various categories, including adult, teen, youth, and child divisions.

National Gingerbread House Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn

Gingerbread housebuilders follow a set of rules, with at least 75% of the structure made from gingerbread. This results in an astonishing array of designs in different shapes, sizes, and themes that captivate the imagination.

Please note that those not staying at the resort can enjoy the display after 4:00 p.m. on Sundays or any time from Monday to Thursday (excluding holidays and specific dates); access for Fridays and Saturdays is reserved for registered guests and individuals with confirmed dining reservations. 

National Gingerbread House Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn

✅ Festival of Lights at Chetola Resort | through Jan 28, 2024

Address: 185 Chetola Lake Drive, Blowing Rock, NC 28605

Get ready for a dazzling treat this winter season at Chetola Resort! They’re putting on a show of sparkling lights that you won’t want to miss. It’s called the “Festival of Lights,” and guess what? 

It’s totally free for everyone! So, whether you’re driving around or taking a leisurely stroll, you’re in for thousands of twinkling lights that’ll make your holiday season shine bright.

As you explore Chetola Lake, you’ll come across scenes that’ll make you go, “Wow!” Imagine glittering ice skaters, Rudolph reeling in a huge fish, and even carolers singing their hearts out. It’s like stepping into a holiday storybook.

Dates haven’t been announced yet for 2023-2024, but last year, it started at the end of November and went all the way through Blowing Rock WinterFest. Best of all, it’s free and open to everyone, so bring your family and friends for a winter wonderland adventure you won’t forget!

✅ Boone’s Festive First Friday Celebration & Solar Tree Lighting | Dec 1st

Address: Downtown Boone, King Street, Boone, NC 28607

On December 1, join the town in the celebration and Solar Tree Lighting. Downtown galleries and shops will be open. Every first Friday of the month, the downtown area is open for the Art Crawl; this one will just be extra festive! 

Meet Mrs. Claus, write your letters to Santa, and enjoy milk and cookies.  Also available will be horse-drawn carriage rides or a snowball fight with marshmallows!  How fun!  

You can find food trucks at the Jones House from Betty’s Biscuits, The Cardinal, and Just Wing It.  They will be doing a Menorah lighting with the Temple of High Country, caroling on the porch, and free hot chocolate and cookies on the lawn.  Here are more things to do in Boone, NC, during the winter.

Admission is free.

Grandfather mountain in the distance during sunset

✅ Tweetsie Christmas

Address: Tweetsie Railroad, 300 Tweetsie Railroad Ln, Blowing Rock, NC 28605

At Tweetsie Christmas, you’ll find activities for everyone to enjoy!  Take the 20-minute nighttime train ride on a three-mile route lined with over 1 million Christmas lights.  Along the journey, you will sit in an open-air car pulled by a steam locomotive. 

The train leaves every 30 minutes, starting at 5:30 p.m.  Make sure you dress warm! Also, the seats are first come, first serve, so you cannot reserve a certain spot on the train in advance, only your assigned train ride times.  

They also have the opportunity to meet with Santa, watch a live Christmas show, kid-friendly amusement rides, and roast s’mores over the open fire.  

Dates for 2023:
November 24-26
December 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 20- 23, 27-30

✅ Old Mountain Christmas Parade | Dec 2

Address: Main Street, Highlands, NC 28741

From 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., the parade welcomes over 60 participants. They’ll be spreading joy by handing out candy and goodies. Get ready to see various furry friends, from dogs to llamas and even camels.

Look out for the Highlands School’s Homecoming Court, Smoky the Bear, classic cars, local politicians, and bagpipes among the lineup. And, of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there, much to everyone’s delight. 

Also, expect the vibrant sounds of local school bands, with the Pride of the Mountains Marching band from Western Carolina University concluding the parade so be sure to stay till the very end!

✅ Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries | Dec 1, 2, 8, 9

Address: 42 Front Street, Dillsboro, NC 28725

Witness the enchantment as the entire town undergoes a stunning metamorphosis into a place of holiday cheer, aglow with lights, candles, joy, and melodies! Follow the warm glow of 2,500 luminaries that light your path to shops and studios, where friendly shopkeepers offer delightful holiday treats like hot cider and cocoa.

Relish in the sounds of live music filling the air while kids enjoy an encounter with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Mark your calendar for the first two Fridays and Saturdays of December to be part of this remarkable event.

Notably, the Southeast Tourism Society recognized this event as one of the “Top 20 Events” for December 2020. The festivities are scheduled from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., promising an unforgettable experience of holiday magic.

✅ Balsam Range Art of Music Festival | Dec 1-2

Address: Lake Junaluska Conference & Retreat Center, 20 Chapel Drive, Lake Junaluska, NC 28745

Make sure not to overlook the 2023 Balsam Range Art of Music Festival! This exciting event includes concerts held in the historic Stuart Auditorium, along with a variety of workshops led by the internationally acclaimed bluegrass band Balsam Range and other top artists from around the nation. 

Stay tuned for more information about the festival lineup and details on how to secure your concert tickets.


✅ Appalachian Ski Mountain’s New Year’s Eve Extravaganza | Dec 31

Address: Appalachian Ski Mountain, 940 Ski Mountain Road, Blowing Rock, NC 28605

Get ready for an evening of excitement with torchlight skiing and a spectacular fireworks show! Glide under the moonlight while ice skating and indulge in some family-friendly fun!  The late-night ice skating runs from 10 p.m. to midnight; the slopes are open until 11:30 p.m.

Don’t miss out on December 31, 2023, from 9:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. It’s a night of festivities you won’t want to miss! Here is a list of NC Ski Resorts to check out.

Countdown to midnight clock

✅ Marion New Year’s Eve – Gold Nugget Drop | Dec 31

Address: 50 South Main Street, Marion, NC 28752

Expect bustling streets as crowds gather to witness the grand spectacle of the colossal gold nugget descending into a pot of gold at the stroke of midnight.

Get ready to be part of this vibrant celebration, which encompasses a thrilling scavenger hunt, live music, activities suitable for the whole family, a variety of delectable food, and so much more – all happening on Main Street. The festivities will be in full swing from 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. 

Piedmont Region

✅ Light the Knights Festival & Charlotte Christmas Village |
November 24, 2023 – January 1, 2024 

Address: Truist Field, 324 S Mint St, Charlotte, NC 28202

The Light the Knights Festival is a fun, family event that takes place at Truist Field, home of the Charlotte Knights minor league baseball team, running from mid-November through January 1.

Truist Field Ice Skating

The whole stadium gets transformed into an entire Christmas town with tons of lights and activities like ice skating and snow tubing, available for all ages. 

Truist Field Tubing

✅ Christmas Town USA | December 1 – 26 

Address: McAdenville, NC

McAdenville is a small town just 25 minutes from Charlotte. This town is famous for completely transforming into a Christmas village during the holiday season.

Lighted Decorated House in Christmas Town USA

Throughout the town, you’ll find it decorated with millions of twinkling lights; each night is a stunning Christmas light show with holiday decorations and music. 

The Tree Lighting Ceremony takes place on December 1 to mark the start of the beloved Christmas tradition, and December 14 is the Yule Log Parade, a tradition that began in 1949.  

Lighted Decorated House in Christmas Town USA

✅ Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas

Address: 5555 Concord Pkwy S, Concord, NC 28027

Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas is an enchanting drive-thru Christmas light display at Charlotte Motor Speedway. You will drive 3.75 miles, including on the track itself, and see over four million twinkling Christmas lights and decorations, accompanied by festive tunes. 

Afterward, sit around fire pits and enjoy hot cocoa and smores. There is also a chance to meet Santa inside, see holiday movies, and have food. 

Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas Lights

✅ Winterfest at Carowinds | Nov 17 – Jan 1, 2024

Address: 14523 Carowinds Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28273

Winterfest at Carowinds is arguably one of the most exciting holiday events in the Charlotte area, and possibly in all of North Carolina! Winterfest is a fully immersive holiday spectacular that will take you on a journey into a Christmas village.

Carowinds Winterfest

There are millions of twinkling lights, Christmas decorations/displays, ice skating, live entertainment, holiday food and drink, gift shops, rides, and the exciting nightly Christmas parade. 

Winterfest is open on select nights.

Ice Skating Charlotte North Carolina at Carowinds

✅ US National Whitewater Center Ice Skating | Mid Nov – Mid Feb 2024

Address: 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28214

During the holiday season, the Whitewater Center turns into a magical place. The upper pond used for rafting gets transformed into a fantastic, large ice skating rink that is open to everyone of all ages and all experience levels. The pond includes two ice trails and two free skate zones, all adorned with thousands of twinkling lights.

US National Whitewater Center Ice Skating

✅ Chinese Lantern Festival | Nov 17 – Jan 14, 2024 

Address: Cary, NC

Get ready to be amazed because the most breathtaking holiday tradition in the region is making a grand return! Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre is about to light up with the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival for its 8th year in a row.

Imagine this: talented Chinese artisans are already hard at work creating over 40 brand-new displays. These aren’t just any displays; they’re massive, made up of hundreds of parts, and lit up by thousands of LED lights. These lanterns are like nothing you’ve ever seen before—each one is a masterpiece of artistry and skill. And guess what? They’re all waiting to wow you at every corner.

But that’s not all! Every night, get ready to be entertained by cultural arts performances on the main stage. It’s a chance to experience the beauty and wonder of Chinese culture up close.

✅ Winter Wonderlights at Greensboro Science Center | Nov 22 – Dec 31 

Address: Greensboro Science Center, 4301 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro, NC 27455

Picture this: sparkling stars above, penguins dancing around, and a magical Forest of Light waiting to be explored. It’s all happening at Winter Wonderlights, right at the Greensboro Science Center, and you’re invited to experience the wonder.

Imagine walking through 22 acres filled with incredible light displays that’ll make your eyes light up. As you explore, you might even spot Santa himself!

The magic happens from 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM, creating a beautiful evening atmosphere perfect for a holiday adventure. Please note they’re closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, so plan your visit accordingly.

Greensboro Science Center

✅ Christmas Festival at McLaurin Farms | Nov 24 – Dec 31 

Address: 5601 N Church St, Greensboro, NC 27455

There is no better place to get into the holiday spirit than at McLaurin Farms. Christmas events at the farm include hayrides through the lights, opportunities to meet and take pictures with Santa, make ornaments, drink hot cocoa, eat holiday treats, see the farm animals, and lots more. 

✅ 51st Annual Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour | Dec 10 & 11

Address: The Tucker House, 418 North Person Street, Raleigh, NC 27601

Step into history this holiday season with the Annual Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour®. In the heart of Downtown Raleigh, the Historic Oakwood neighborhood invites you to explore ten properties that open their doors to visitors.

This neighborhood emanates a charming small-town vibe within the bustling city. Comprising homes mostly dating back to the mid-1800s through the early 1900s, Historic Oakwood showcases Victorian, Queen Anne, and Craftsman architectural styles.

The community’s dedication to preserving these architectural gems is evident in the meticulous care lavished upon the homes’ exteriors – a mere glimpse of the intricate detailing awaiting inside.

Embrace the chance to step inside some of these historical residences each December during the Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour®. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the stories and craftsmanship that define this remarkable neighborhood. Plan 3 to 4 hours for the tour.  Tickets are limited.

✅ Holiday at the Gardens | Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Address: 6500 S New Hope Rd, Belmont, NC 28012

Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens is a place you don’t want to miss this holiday season. From the end of November through December, the gardens transform into a magical winter wonderland. 

There are beautiful lights, holiday decor, fire pits, smores, hot cocoa, and music. You will also find food trucks available at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens during this time.

Check out our full article here on the Holiday at the Gardens at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden Holiday Lights

✅ Holiday Express At Pullen Park | Nov 29 – Dec 15

Address: Pullen Park, 520 Ashe Ave., Raleigh, NC 27606

As the holiday season approaches, Pullen Park undergoes a magical makeover. Thousands of lights adorn the park, turning it into a captivating holiday haven. Among the festivities, you can indulge in s’mores, savor hot chocolate, and even snap photos with Santa. 

The park’s miniature train offers a delightful ride through the adorned surroundings, while the lively carousel adds to the merriment. Pullen Park truly becomes a winter wonderland, with holiday cheer spreading throughout.

Mark your calendars for the ticket on-sale date, which falls on Wednesday, October 4. It’s an event you won’t want to miss out on!

Holiday Lights at Pullen Park

✅ Kersey Valley Christmas | Dec 1 – 3

Address: 1615 Kersey Valley Rd, Archdale, NC 27263

Kersey Valley has become a magical winter destination featuring tons of activities and over 1 million LED lights. Experience enchanting scenes like the Snow Blizzard with 5-ft snowflakes cascading from 45 feet high. Make sure to check out unique sets found only at Kersey Valley. 

There are plenty of photo opportunities across the farm. Meet Santa, mingle with the Grinch and explore Santa’s Workshop for gifts. Sneak around back to the Reindeer Stalls to catch the elves at work.

Indulge in seasonal treats like Moonshine Fudge, hot apple cider donuts made to order, fresh caramel kettle corn, hot Bavarian nuts, s’mores, and more. Plus, warm up with coffee, hot apple cider, apple cider slushies, and their famous Ghirardelli Signature Hot Chocolate (mug included).

Hop on the Kersey Valley Express Train Ride through a Wild West Christmas, or take a John Deere-pulled Christmas Wagon Ride. Enjoy thrilling activities like the 200-ft Dual Super Mega Ride-n-Slide, jumping pillows, zip lines, pedal karts, and more. Be entertained by singing reindeer Mr. and Mrs. Mac Jingles and cozy up at Roasty Toasty Village’s fire pits for s’mores.

Friday: 6 pm – 10 pm
Saturday: 5 pm – 10 pm
Sunday: 6 pm – 9:30 pm

50 Great Things to Do in North Carolina in December 2023

✅ Illuminate Art Walk Raleigh | Dec 1 – Jan 4, 2024

Address: Downtown Raleigh

Experience the Illuminate Art Walk, where sections of the Fayetteville Street and Glenwood South districts come alive with captivating, interactive, and light-infused art installations that are both distinctive and suitable for families. This year’s theme for 2023 is “North Carolina Icons!,” promising an exploration of the state’s emblematic symbols through artistic illumination.

✅ Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights | Nov 17 – Jan 1, 2024

Address: Main Entrance of Tanglewood Park, 4061 Clemmons Rd, Clemmons, NC 27012

Every holiday season, Tanglewood Park undergoes a breathtaking transformation, becoming a radiant Winter Wonderland illuminated by over a million twinkling lights.

As attendees wander through this enchanting scene, they’re treated to dazzling visuals and the sounds of the season. Interactive musical displays featuring original compositions by students from the UNC School of the Arts accompany the journey. 

Embark on a captivating drive along the winding countryside route, adorned with more than 80 captivating displays, making the Festival of Lights an unforgettable holiday tradition.

✅ Asheboro Christmas Parade | Dec 1

Address: Downtown Asheboro

The Asheboro Christmas Parade is a lively event set to burst with music, wonderfully adorned floats, and countless individuals rejoicing in the festive season. Downtown streets will be brimming with the magic of Christmas, and numerous shops and restaurants will remain open, adding to the atmosphere. Get there early and bring your entire family to revel in the festivities!

The parade will kick off at the intersection of Church and Sunset Avenue. From there, it will journey east on Sunset to Fayetteville Street, then head south on Fayetteville Street before concluding at Kivett Street. The parade takes place from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Christmas Parade

✅ The Liberty Showcase Theater Events | Dec 2

Address: 101 S Fayetteville St., Liberty, NC 27298

Initially founded in 1949 as The Curtis Movie Theater, this charming historical space has become a premier destination for top-notch entertainment. The performances typically run from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The Liberty Showcase proudly presents The Embers Christmas Show. Renowned as a musical marvel, The Embers have been instrumental in shaping the genre known as ‘Beach Music’ in regions like the Carolinas, Virginias, and the Gulf Coast. You can purchase tickets here.

✅ Nutcracker with the Charlotte Ballet | December 3 – 23

Address: Belk Theater, 130 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202

The Nutcracker is a beloved Christmas tradition that families worldwide get together to enjoy. The Charlotte Ballet puts on a magnificent Nutcracker performance that they practice for months on end. The show will be performed daily from December 3-23. 

Nutcracker Ballet

✅ Archdale Christmas Parade | Dec 3

Address: Main St, Archdale, NC 27263

There’s no better way to embrace the Christmas spirit than with a parade featuring floats from local businesses, high school marching bands, classic cars, dance groups, and Santa himself! The parade runs from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

✅ Christmas with the Embers in Randleman | Dec 4

Address: 102 Swaim St. Randleman Elementary School Auditorium, Randleman, NC 27317

Experience the renowned Embers Band with Craig Woolard in their festive Christmas show. They’ll perform cherished holiday classics and welcome special guests like Frosty, Rudolph, and companions. 

The stage becomes a holiday wonderland, creating the perfect atmosphere for joyful celebrations, and there might even be a touch of snow. The show runs from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

✅ Christmas Downtown Asheboro | Dec 8

Address: Sunset Ave, Asheboro, NC 27205

From 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., downtown transforms into a vintage Christmas wonderland. Enjoy carolers, live entertainment, and a live nativity scene at First Baptist Church. 

Meet classic characters like the Grinch, Frosty, Rudolph, Santa & Mrs. Claus. Take wagon rides, savor hot drinks and cookies, roast marshmallows, and snap photos. Take advantage of the NC spruce sapling giveaway, too.

Santa holding Hot Cocoa

✅ A Classic Christmas in Mooresville | Dec 8 

Address: Downtown Mooresville, NC

Prepare to dive into a beautiful family affair at the annual “A Classic Christmas in Mooresville” downtown event. This festive extravaganza is your ticket to creating lifelong memories with your loved ones. 

Explore the offerings of local artisans, indulge in the flavors of holiday cuisine, put the finishing touches on your last-minute shopping, and be captivated by holiday-themed performances showcasing the talents of our local community. 

From charming Victorian carolers to a holiday marketplace that beckons you to shop and even the chance to capture special moments with Santa, they even had inflatable snow globes last year. 

Inflatable Snow Globes

✅ Carolina Holiday Light Spectacular | Dec 7 – Dec 28

Address: 11611 N Community House Rd, Charlotte, NC 28277

Get ready for a holiday adventure that will light up your family’s world! Carolina’s Holiday Lights Spectacular is here to create magical memories that will last a lifetime. 

This enchanting journey is filled with millions of twinkling lights, amazing oversized snowglobes, gigantic holiday displays, and the beloved Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with their trusty Elves. And guess what? Countless candy canes and all the festive cheer you can imagine are waiting for you, too!

Step into a winter wonderland that’s packed with fun. There’s a gift shop for all your holiday shopping needs, delicious treats from food trucks, and even those picture-perfect “Instagrammable” moments that you won’t want to miss.

The lights come alive from 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM and are available on most nights above, with a few exceptions.  Details Here

✅ Christmas in Davidson | Nov 30, Dec 1 – 2

Address: Downtown Davidson NC

Since 1988, Christmas in Davidson has been a yearly tradition, launching the holiday season with three magical nights of family fun. As Davidson’s largest event, it’s a surefire way to spark your festive spirit. With over 30,000 attendees each year, it’s the perfect opportunity to create lasting holiday memories. 

Hop on the trolley, stroll along picturesque Main Street, and get an early start on your holiday shopping at unique specialty shops. Explore the Giving Tree Village on the Village Green, catch entertaining acts on the Library and South Main Square Stages, and be captivated by the Live Nativity from Davidson United Methodist Church. 

Visit Santa, enjoy Story Time with Mrs. Claus, and explore local businesses offering everything from art projects to live music. Savor tasty treats from vendors and Davidson’s restaurants, and don’t miss the live entertainment and fine art at South Main Square. The event takes place between 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

✅ Polar Express at North Carolina Transportation Museum |
Dec 1 – 3, 7 – 10, 12 – 23

Address: 1 Samuel Spencer Drive, Spencer, NC 

Get ready for a one-of-a-kind adventure that’ll have you believing in the magic of Christmas! Step aboard to the enchanting sounds of the motion picture soundtrack and set off on a North Pole voyage. And guess what? Hot chocolate and cookies are on the menu, making this journey even sweeter.

As you ride, get ready for a special treat—a reading of Chris Van Allsburg’s timeless tale, The Polar Express. It’s like stepping into the story itself.

But wait, there’s more! When you arrive at the North Pole, you’ll witness Santa himself giving the very first gift of Christmas. And here’s the best part: all you believers out there will get your very own sleigh bell before stepping off the train at Candy Cane Lane.

This experience isn’t just about the train ride; it’s about creating memories that’ll last a lifetime. Feel the joy of caroling and holiday entertainment that’s sure to become a cherished family tradition. And hey, kids of all ages, we’ve got a secret—wear your pajamas for the ride and add a touch of Christmas magic to the adventure!

Transportation Museum

✅ Disney on Ice | Magic in the Stars | Dec 6-10

Address: PNC Area, 1400 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh, NC 27607

Step into the magical worlds of Frozen & Encanto this December, and let yourself be carried away by the enchanting tunes as you dance and twirl. Join Elsa and Mirabel in a jubilant festivity that highlights the unique and wonderful qualities that reside within each of us.

✅ Cocoa & Carols | Dec 9

Address: Dogwood Park, 121 Lester Davis Rd, Matthews, NC 28104

The Village of Wesley Chapel is hosting Cocoa & Carols from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees can enjoy a Christmas train, live musical performances by local ensembles, professional face painting, an assortment of food trucks, complimentary s’mores alongside a warm bonfire, steamy beverages, photo opportunities with Santa, and more.

✅ 5th Annual Lake Norman Christmas Lighted Boat Parade | Dec 16

Address: Lake Norman 

Get ready to witness the magic on the water at the Lake Norman Christmas Lighted Boat Parade! Mark your calendars for Saturday, December 16, 2023, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Here’s the scoop: the parade kicks off at Blythe Landing, then cruises over to Ramsey Creek Park, and finally makes a splash at the Duke Energy Explorium. Oh, and guess what? Each of these awesome parks will stay open until half an hour after the parade has sailed through.

But the fun doesn’t stop there! At the Duke Energy Explorium, you’re in for a treat. There’ll be food trucks to satisfy your cravings, and even Santa himself will be making an appearance!

Here’s your chance to spread the holiday cheer. Remember to bring along unwrapped toys to donate to Little Smiles. It’s all about making the season brighter for everyone.

Lighted Boat Parade

✅ Petty’s Garage Christmas Cruise-In | Dec 9

Address: 311 Branson Mill Rd, Randleman, NC 27317

If you’re a fan of racing or simply love cars, this Christmas Cruise-in is a fantastic chance to not only explore the Petty Museum but also catch a glimpse of Petty’s Garage. 

These gatherings are perfect for car enthusiasts and are free for everyone to attend. Anyone is welcome to join in on the fun. What’s more, there will be various onsite vendors offering a range of goods. Plus, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to snap a free photo with Santa – a wonderful keepsake from the event.

Everyone is invited; however, pets won’t be able to join at this time. The event takes place between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

✅ Gingerbread Lane at Ballantyne Hotel | December 11 – 24 

Address: 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy, Charlotte, NC 28277

The Ballantyne Hotel is a five-star luxury hotel with a full spa, gorgeous rooms, and lots of events. This winter, join Ballantyne Hotel for a trip down Gingerbread Lane. 

Gingerbread Lane is a magical holiday display of gingerbread creations created by both novice and professional bakers. Attendees can vote on their favorite display and enjoy gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate. 

Gingerbread Lane will be open daily, December 11-24, 2023, from 11 am to 7 pm. 


✅ The North Carolina Christmas Festival | Dec 16

Address: Cabarrus Event Center, 4751 State Hwy 49, Concord, NC 28025

The North Carolina Christmas Festival is a large free event at the Cabarrus Event Center. The event includes free pictures with Santa, a free toy giveaway for all children, free gift wrapping, Christmas-themed games and crafts, lots of holiday food, treats, drinks, and more. Ugly Christmas sweaters are highly encouraged!

Coastal Region

✅ Island of Lights Festival | Nov 24 – Dec 31

Address: Carolina Beach Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Carolina Beach gets all decked out for the holiday season with an island-wide festival called Island of Lights. This month-long celebration is filled with yuletide-themed events to enjoy.

The festivities begin with Lighting at the Lake, where you can stroll along a one-mile trail of stunning light displays around Carolina Beach Lake Park. And guess who makes a special appearance? Santa himself!

But that’s not all – the traditional parade of lights gets a coastal twist in the Christmas Flotilla. Imagine boats adorned with holiday decorations cruising the waterways and competing for prizes. The charm of holiday lights takes on a unique coastal flair as Pleasure Island sparkles with special decorations.

And don’t forget to ring in the New Year in style at the New Year’s Eve Celebration on the beach. This family-friendly event features a DJ and dancing, and you can grab refreshments and party favors if you’d like. 

For those interested, there’s also the 2023 New Year’s Eve fireworks at Kure Beach, which can also be enjoyed from Carolina Beach as well.

✅ Enchanted Airlie | Dec 1 – 21

Address: Airlie Gardens, 300 Airlie Road, Wilmington, NC 28403

Take a leisurely walk through the enchanting Airlie Gardens, where you can bask in the glow of millions of festive lights, accompanied by the beauty of holiday flowers and lively musical entertainment. 

This cherished event in Wilmington offers a delightful experience for the entire family, capturing hearts season after season. Be sure to secure your online tickets ahead of time, as they’re a must for entry. Keep an eye on their Website and Social Media for the latest updates and information. Tickets will be available starting in November and sell out fast.

Airlie Gardens

✅ Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla | Dec 2

Address: North Carolina Maritime Museum 315 Front Street, Beaufort, NC 28516

On December 2nd, from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM, an enchanting spectacle awaits all as the annual Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla takes to the waters. Hosted by the Friends of the Maritime Museum, this event promises a delightful evening filled with festive merriment.

The waterfronts of both Morehead City and Beaufort will come alive with vessels adorned in their holiday finest—yachts, oars, kayaks, and commercial boats—all aglow and bedecked for the season.

Mark your calendars for an evening where shimmering waters play host to a parade unlike any other. The Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla is more than an event—it’s a tradition, a spectacle, and a celebration that brings the community together in a heartwarming display of holiday spirit. 

Christmas Flotilla

✅ The Crystal Coast Record Show | Dec 2

Address: 1008 Arendell Street, Morehead City, NC 28557

Explore an immense collection of music treasures, including LPs, CDs, cassettes, DVDs, and memorabilia, among other things! The event promises an array of music vendors hailing from different parts of North Carolina. The show is open between 10 am and 4 pm.  

Vinyl Records

✅ WinterLights at The Elizabethan Gardens |
Dec 1-3, 5-10, 12-17, 19-23, 26-30

Address: 1411 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC 27954

Get ready to make your holidays unforgettable with WinterLights at The Elizabethan Gardens. This annual tradition is a must-see on your holiday agenda. Imagine walking along paths illuminated by enchanting lights, leading you through a ten-acre wonderland that captures the holiday spirit.

Amidst the sparkling brilliance, you’ll be treated to a symphony of delights. Holiday lights twinkle and cast a warm glow while meticulously crafted decor spreads festive cheer in every corner. Imagine the allure of an open-air fire crackling away, inviting you to bask in its warmth and soak in the magic of the moment.

Elizabethan Gardens Sign

✅ Polar Express Holiday Show | Dec 2 – 17

Address: 505 Nutt Street, Wilmington, NC 28401

Dive into the holiday spirit as you experience a heartwarming reading of the beloved classic Polar Express. Each child will receive a special gold train ticket punched by their conductor, adding to the enchantment. 

After the reading, share joyful moments with Santa, savor cookies, and sip on comforting hot cocoa. Hosted by the Wilmington Railroad Museum, this cherished family event is a festive celebration of the season. 

✅ Candlelight Christmas Celebration at Tryon Palace | Dec 9 & 16

Address: Tryon Palace 529 South Front Street, New Bern, NC 28560

The Candlelight holiday event offers a chance to experience tours of significant places like the Governor’s Palace, Stanly House, and Dixon House while also enjoying a variety of festive activities on the historical site grounds. The gates open at 4:30 p.m. on both evenings of the Candlelight event. 

Exploring the historic homes, engaging in different activities, watching lively performances like Jonkonnu and Fife and Drum shows, and being entertained by magic and circus acts in the Performance Tent are all worthwhile experiences. And as the night unfolds, a captivating display of fireworks will illuminate the skies above the Palace, adding a brilliant burst of colors.

For those looking to satisfy their appetites, there will be food trucks available outside the Palace gates. And if you’re of legal drinking age, the King’s Arms Tavern offers adult beverages. If you’re in the mood for drinks and delicious snacks within a festive holiday ambiance, Mistletoe Corner is the place to be.

✅ 120th Annual Celebration of The Wright Brothers First Flight | Dec 17

Address: 1000 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948

The First Flight Society and the National Park Service are carrying on the tradition of honoring the remarkable achievements of Wilbur and Orville Wright. They are celebrating the anniversary of the historic moment when these two pioneers successfully flew the first airplane that was heavier than air, and they were able to control its movements. 

The event will take place at a designated area with tents located south of the parking area at the Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center. 

And here’s some good news: you won’t need to pay the entrance fees to the park on that day. The festivities are set to kick off at 9 a.m. For a more detailed breakdown of the planned events and timings, you can refer to their official website. It’s an occasion filled with significance and fun! 

Wright Brothers Visitors Center Sign

✅ Christmas on North End | Dec 1 & 2

Address: Island Farm, 1140 US-64, Manteo, NC 27954

During the first Friday and Saturday of December, Island Farm’s costumed interpreters will transport you to the mid-1800s, showing you how Roanoke Island families celebrated Christmas back then. 

The homeplace will be beautifully adorned and illuminated by candlelight, creating a cozy atmosphere. The interpreters will showcase the traditional food, celebrations, and crafts of the mid-19th century holiday season.

Get ready to meet St. Nicholas himself, savor fresh cider and sugar cookies, gather around a warm bonfire, and even witness musket firing! 

You can also try your hand at candle making, crafting ornaments, and creating grapevine wreaths. The event is scheduled for December 1st and 2nd from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Admission is $10 for ages four and older, while children aged 0-3 can join in for free.

✅ Wings over Water Encore | Dec 8 – 10

Address: Pea Island Wildlife Refuge, Alligator River Wildlife Refuge, Swanquarter Wildlife Refuge, and Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge  

This weekend-long event celebrates the hundreds of migrant birds and waterfowl arriving to make homes for the winter. Those who love birds or those who simply wish to see the magic of hundreds of birds flying together will get to witness species like ducks, swans, geese, and more. More details here.

Birds on Beach in NC

Final Thoughts

As the holiday season approaches, these delightful events promise to add a touch of magic and warmth to your December. Whether you’re wandering through twinkling lights, stepping into historical celebrations, or embarking on enchanting journeys, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. 

So, mark your calendars, gather your loved ones, and make the most of these wonderful opportunities to create lasting memories. From all of us, have a joyful and heartwarming holiday season!

If you know of an event in December in North Carolina that is not listed here, please let us know. There is so much; we know we cannot list them all!

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