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Christmas in Durham (10+ Local Events and More Holiday Fun)

Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on March 16, 2024.

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Christmas in Durham is a special time to be in North Carolina, not just because of all the holiday celebrations. Speaking of those local events, we’ll also share a few 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 will enjoy this time of year in Bull City.

Read More: Christmas in North Carolina (the Best Holiday Events)

Christmas in Durham, NC

Tower and Tree Lighting

a small child running towards the Christmas light tower

Christmas in Durham usually kicks off with the 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 will be extra special.

Read More: December in North Carolina

Holiday Parade (December)

In December, 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 the many Christmas things to do in Durham throughout the holiday season.

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!

Read More: The Best Children’s Museums in North Carolina

Holiday Shows at DPAC and Carolina Theatre

The sign for Durham Performing Arts Center

Of course, we can’t leave out the great Christmas and holiday-themed shows and Durham Christmas events happening at DPAC and Carolina Theatre.

For four nights (and one afternoon) in the middle of December, multiple holiday shows take over the stage. Past shows include A Christmas Carol and The Hip Hop Nutcracker.

Durham’s Carolina Theatre will host a variety of shows throughout December. We saw Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors open for the Avett Brothers, and I still listen to “Family” at least once a week.

There are even drag shows at the Carolina Theater. All ages are welcome, but the presenters warn that “this is The Naughty Tour!”

Read More: Bands and Musicians from North Carolina

College Basketball

Duke University Basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham NC

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.

Non-Christmas Things to Do in Durham

Shop Small in Durham

Letters Bookshop in Durham NC
Letters Bookshop

Some of our favorite places to shop locally 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.

Read More: The Best Independent Bookstores in North Carolina

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 activities in Durham NC:

Durham Farmers’ Market

And speaking of supporting locals, you should visit the vendors at either (or both) the Durham Farmers’ Market (501 Foster St) or South Durham Farmers’ Market (5410 NC Highway 55).

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.

Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)

Bonus Way to Eat Local

Awesome Ethnic Restaurants in Durham NC Zwellis Image
Incredible chicken from Zweli’s

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.

Drink Local

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

Cocoa Cinnamon Durham NC Lakewood Location Image

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!

Breweries

A glass of beer from the beer lab

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

a hot toddy at Kingfisher Bar
Kingfisher.

Holiday-themed cocktails are also a treat, and we have to start with Alley Twenty-Six for their Hot Toddies and their Alley Cocktail (always my go-to). I’m looking forward to seeing what’s happening during the holidays, updates to their menu, and 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 will 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

Give Back

With so much hustling and rushing around to care for 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

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 when 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 forward to a wonderful new year!

More Things to Do (Beyond Christmas in Durham)

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