Last Updated on September 7, 2023
Last Updated on September 7, 2023
Christmas in Durham is a special time to be in North Carolina and not just because of all the holiday celebrations happening. Speaking of those local events, we’re going to share a few of them with you in this guide.
Read More: The Best Things to Do in Durham
Our guide to Christmas in Durham starts with events that fall on specific dates and weekends before moving on to fun that you can enjoy throughout the season.
With a nice mix of festive fun, we think you’re going to enjoy this time of year in Bull City.
Christmas in Durham NC
Tower and Tree Lighting
Christmas in Durham usually kicks off with American Tobacco Campus lighting up the Lucky Strike Tower in Early December or late November. Afterward, a procession will lead attendees to CCB Plaza for Downtown Durham’s official tree lighting.
Don’t worry if you can’t make the actual lighting ceremonies. Why? Because walking around these two places during the holidays is going to be extra special.
Read More: December in North Carolina
Holiday Parade (December 18)
On December 18, the rain-or-shine fun kicks off with Durham’s Holiday Parade and Fun Fest, filled with floats, bands, and mascots from all over the area.
The route starts at the Health Department on Main and Dillard and ends around Duke University’s East Campus at Main and Buchanan. If you want a seat during the event, you’re welcome to bring your own chairs and blankets.
Read More: Free Things to Do in Durham
Christmas in Durham (Holiday Season-long Events)
Now, it’s time to shine a spotlight on ways to enjoy your Christmas in Durham throughout the holiday season.
Read More: Winter in North Carolina
Shop Small in Durham
Some of our favorite places to shop local in Durham really kick it up during the holiday season.
I’m a sucker for books and if you know Durham, you’ll know where I’m going—The Regulator Bookshop. We’ve bought from them since before our little one came around. Letter’s Bookshop just moved to a nice space on Main St and is along my walking route during the week.
And since we want to highlight as many hard-working owners as possible, here are more than 10 local businesses and organizations that you should support during the holidays and Christmas in Durham:
- Beer Durham
- Carolina Theatre
- Cecy’s Gallery and Studios
- Claymakers Studio
- Honeygirl Meadery
- Hunky Dory
- Jeddah’s Tea
- TROSA Christmas Tree Lot
- Vert & Vogue
- The Wine Feed
- Zen Succulent
Durham Farmers’ Market
We’ve spent many Saturdays buying fruits, vegetables, pastries, and other awesomeness from local farmers and look forward to continuing that tradition during the holidays.
Note: Both remain open in December with winter hours and here’s when you can visit:
- Durham Farmers’ Market: Saturdays from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. Holiday Market on Thursday December 23 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
- SODU Farmers’ Market: Saturdays from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.
Bonus Way to Eat Local
Of course, don’t forget Durham’s awesome restaurant scene, whether you’re seeking something casual or fancy. I’m always happy to sample our city’s collection of international places, especially for some spice during a cold spell.
Note: Many of these fine establishments offer gift cards, so please keep an eye out while you’re enjoying their tasty beverages and food.
Durham’s drinkeries (that should be a word) are perfect for any weekend, and you don’t have to use the holidays as an excuse to visit them. Of course, if you need a nudge, here are a few of our favorite spots to grab a drink at any point of the day.
Coffee and Tea
Depending on where you live or where you specifically drive to visit, a cup from Joe Van Gogh (Nitro Cold Brew and I’m a Broad-Streeter), Bean Traders (Drip), the warm and familial Nolia (Drip), or Cocoa Cinnamon (Cappuccino at the Churros location, I mean Lakewood) always hits the spot.
On the tea side, we’re fans of the folks at Jeddah’s Tea, and also their great beverages.
We mentioned these places and more in our guide to coffee shops in Durham, too!
Fullsteam is one of many active breweries in Durham. They seem to be releasing a few new things each week. I always look forward to sampling the new stuff but during Christmas in Durham, a pint (or can) of the iced coffee porter Coffee is for Closers best fits the season.
I also love grabbing a pint at these wonderful beer-producing spots in Durham, especially during the Christmas holiday season:
Read More: Tasty Breweries in North Carolina
More Adult Beverage Makers
Holiday-themed cocktails are also a treat and we have to start with Alley Twenty Six for their Hot Toddies, but also their Alley Cocktail (always my go-to). I’m looking forward to seeing what’s going on during the holidays, updates to their menu, new releases.
Here are some other places that we like for grabbing a drink in Durham:
Bonus Place to Drink: The Wine Feed
I know that we mentioned The Wine Feed with other places to shop, but the bar there is nice and their selection is even better. Christina is going to kill me for mentioning this, but she sometimes likes getting some work done over a glass at their bar.
Read More: The Best North Carolina Wineries and Vineyards
With so much hustling and rushing around to take care of our families and friends, it’s easy to forget that many don’t have a similar support network. If you have time and the ability, why not spend some of it giving back to those in need.
A couple of examples include donating time at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina’s Durham Branch or helping out at TROSA’s thrift store. A family friend of ours mentioned the NC Diaper Bank as one of their favorite ways to help others.
If you’ve ever helped those in need in Durham and have a place to recommend, we’d love to know about it.
Read More: Food Banks in North Carolina
If you know someone who knows someone, you can catch at least a few Duke Men’s basketball games at Cameron Indoor Stadium to close out the year. The conference season hasn’t begun yet, which might mean you can catch a blowout of Western Wyoming Tech or a marquee matchup with a fellow Blue Blood.
The Duke Women’s Basketball team has a few home games in November and December.
NCCU’s Men’s Basketball Team has a few home games and if you can go to a game, please do. The NCCU Band is the best in town!
The NCCU Women spend most of November and December away before playing one game at home on December 20.
Ride the Santa Train at MLS
We’ve mentioned the Museum of Life and Science as one of our favorites in the whole state. MLS is also one of the best places to enjoy Christmas in Durham.
Their holiday lineup includes “Holidays in the Park,” a celebration of the season from Wednesday to Sunday each week in December.
The after-hours “Holiday Spirits” is a 21-and-over event with a synthetic skating rink, spiked hot chocolate, and an Ellerbe Train ride through the woods!
Holiday Shows at DPAC and Carolina Theatre
Lauren Daigle’s two nights of performances (December 1 and 2) kick off Christmas in Durham at DPAC. For four nights (and one afternoon) in the middle of December (15 to 19), A Christmas Carol will take over the stage. On the day after Christmas, The Hip Hop Nutcracker comes to town, with special guest MC Kurtis Blow.
Durham’s Carolina Theatre will host a variety of shows throughout December. On December 21, Drew and Ellie Holcomb’s Neighborly Christmas is a special collaboration between the husband and wife duo. We saw Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors open for the Avett Brothers and I still listen to “Family” at least once a week.
On December 23, Murray & Peter Present: A Drag Queen Christmas comes to the stage. All ages are welcome but the presenters warn that “this is The Naughty Tour!”
Read More: Bands and Musicians from North Carolina
Ready for Christmas in Durham?
As you can see, we’re excited to spend the holiday season and Christmas in Durham. It’s a truly energetic time where we can all take a minute and realize that this city is special in so many ways.
If you live in Durham or spend time here during the holidays, we’d love to hear from you. Which of these events sticks out to you as a must-do? Also, is there anything else you’re looking forward to this year?
Regardless, we hope you have an awesome holiday season and are looking ahead to a wonderful 2022!