Christmas in Durham: Local Events and More Holiday Fun

Last Updated on June 9, 2021

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Christmas in Durham is a special time 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 here.

We’ll start with Christmas and holiday events in Durham 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.

A few of these events feature in our guides to December and winter in North Carolina. Give them a look if you’re planning to travel around the state.

Christmas in Durham NC

Tower and Tree Lighting (December 6)

American Tobacco Campus Holidays Christmas Lights Durham NC Image

American Tobacco Campus continues its tradition of lighting up the Lucky Strike Tower on December 6. 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.

Holiday Parade (December 14)

On December 14, the rain-or-shine (and FREE) 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.

Fun Fest (December 14)

After the Holiday Parade from 1 pm to 4 pm, stick around downtown for Fun Fest on Blackwell St between Morehead Ave and West Lakewood Ave. Sleds will be provided for kids and adults in the Peppermint Plunge area and Santa Claus.

Shop Durham Holiday Market (December 14)

During Fun Fest, the second Shop Durham Holiday Market will be going strong, too! You can peruse items from local shops and makers, enjoy live music, and play with puppies.

You had me at “local” but if adorable furry friends are also on the table, then I’m definitely in for this!

Christmas and Holiday Season-long Events in Durham

Now, it’s time to shine a spotlight on ways to enjoy yourself in Durham throughout the holiday season.

Shop Small in Durham

Some of our favorite places to shop local in Durham really kick it up during the holiday season. Morgan Imports or Parker and Otis immediately come to mind and if you step inside either, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Also, 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.

And since we want to highlight as many hard-working owners as possible, here are 10-plus more local businesses that you should support during the holidays and Christmas in Durham:

Farmers Market

And speaking of supporting local, 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 are running on winter hours in December and here’s when you can visit:

  • Durham Farmers’ Market: Saturdays from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • SODU Farmers’ Market: Saturdays at 9:00 am to 12:00 pm

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, I’m a fan of the folks at Jeddah’s Tea, and also their great beverages. You can find their tea in their downtown location or stop by East Durham Bake Shop, which is a fine place to grab a pastry along with your hot beverage.

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’m so impressed with their work and look forward to sampling the new stuff after a pint of Coffee is for Closers.

I also love grabbing a pint at these wonderful beer-producing spots in Durham, especially during the Christmas holiday season:

North Carolina Breweries Ponysaurus Durham Image
Durham’s Ponysaurus is a great place for post-family beers!

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.

Give Back

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.

College Basketball

This is image is from Duke University Basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham NC

Duke has a few Men’s games at Cameron Indoor to close out the year (December 3, 28, & 31). They’ll be extra hungry to make a few statements after their first non-conference L-word at home since 2000. Sorry, was that too soon?

The Duke Women’s Basketball team has only one home game (Dec 8) and will spend the month traveling as far west as Nebraska, with one away contest against the nationally-ranked University of South Carolina Gamecocks.

NCCU’s Men’s Basketball Team spends a lot of the holiday season away from McDougald-McLendon Arena, with two home games (December 11 & 30). The Women also have a few home games (December 6, 17, & 21) between trips out west and along the east coast.

Ride the Santa Train at MLS

We’ve mentioned the Museum of Life and Science as one of our favorites in the whole state. Its Santa Train is a huge deal and tickets can go quickly. During the event (December 4-8, 11-15, & 18-22), there’s face painting, complimentary hot chocolate, take-home crafts, and much more.

By the time you read this, there may not be any more spots left. But that’s okay because there’s always next year!

Holiday Shows at DPAC and Carolina Theatre

DPAC Durham NC Image

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

A Magical Cirque Christmas kicks off the festivities (December 1) at DPAC with artists and performers from all over the world. For two nights in the middle of December (14-15), The Nutcracker will take over DPAC for a few days. And finally, the musical version of A Christmas Carol (December 18-22) comes to town.

Two versions of The Nutcracker come to Durham’s Carolina Theatre, with the Triangle Youth Ballet’s 25 Anniversary performance (December 14) just before the Moscow Ballet arrives (December 18-19).

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 2020!

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