Last Updated on January 27, 2022
Last Updated on January 27, 2022
While closing out the year, there are so many things to do in North Carolina in December. It’s when winter really sets in but with all these warm, festive events happening throughout our state, I can take my mind off those dropping temperatures.
Our first section in this guide is dedicated to Christmas events and more holiday celebrations. After that, we continue with even more things to do in December, rounding out at more than 100 for the month.
There are even a few that members of our Facebook Group and email subscribers mentioned, so thanks for that, friends! And as we’ve done with previous monthly roundups, we’ve grouped each section of December events by starting date and alphabetized by city or town.
To make the more popular types of events more convenient to find, we grouped a few of them together. Here’s how we’ve organized this guide:
- Christmas Lights Festivals (Tanglewood Festival of Lights near Winston-Salem, Concord’s Speedway Christmas, and More!)
- Christmas Musicals and Productions
- Christmas Parades
- Christmas Tree Lightings
- Holiday Home Tours (Biltmore, Korners Folly, and More!)
- Holiday Train Rides (Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Tweetsie Christmas, and More!)
- Christmas Festivals (Christmas Markets and Holiday Markets)
- New Year’s Eve Events (Runs, Music, and More Celebrations)
- More Things to Do in North Carolina in December
So with all that out of the way, let’s finish the year strong with a look at the best events during December in North Carolina, with a few that stretch into January.
Read More: Unique Things to Do in North Carolina
Things to Do in North Carolina in December
Note: For those who represent a tourism bureau, destination marketing organization, or PR agency and want placement here, please visit this page for more info.
Note that many December events in NC may decide to cancel or alter times/dates, sometimes at the last minute. Please visit the links we’ve provided and if no link is available, contact local venues to confirm details.
Christmas Lights Festivals
Festival of Lights at Chetola Resort, Blowing Rock (November 26 to January 31)
Read More: Things to Do in Blowing Rock
Speedway Christmas, Concord (November 19 to January 16)
4 million lights twinkle around the 3.75-mile course that includes the oval and the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas!
You can drive through the track and enjoy the festive lights. Don’t forget to stop by the Christmas Village which includes fire pits for roasting s’mores, vendors selling souvenirs, and more fun!
Read More: Kid-friendly Events in North Carolina
Additional Lights Festivals and Events in North Carolina
Most of these lights festivals commemorate Christmas, with one exception, which as you’ll see, is one of the most unique things to do in North Carolina in December.
NC Chinese Lantern Festival, Cary
- The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival in Cary (November 19 to January 9)
Read More: Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary
- Winter Wonderlights at the Greensboro Science Center (November 6 to January 2)
- Mike’s Farm Hayride and Dinner Show at Mike’s Farm in Beulaville (November 18 to December 28)
- Winterlights at the NC Arboretum in Asheville (November 19 to January 1)
- Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights in Clemmons (Through January 1)
- Tryon Resort Winterfest in Mill Spring (Through January 2)
- Enchanted Airlie in Wilmington (November 26 to 27 and December 3 to 22)
- Winterlights in Manteo on the Outer Banks (Select Dates Through January 16)
- McAdenville Christmas Town USA (December 1 to 26)
- Holiday Lights in the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Fayetteville (December 2 to 23)
- Lights & Luminaries in Dillsboro (December 3 to 4 and 10 to 11)
- Christmas in the Park in Fayetteville (December 5 to 9, 12 to 16, and 19 to 21)
Read More: Christmas in Fayetteville
- Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla in Beaufort (December 4)
- Keelboat Christmas Flotilla & Lights Parade in Mooresville (December 4)
- Winterfest Flotilla in Southport (December 11)
Christmas Musicals and Productions, Various
During December in North Carolina, there are plenty of Christmas musicals and productions to keep you busy. Here are a few traditional favorites, followed by others that you can only find in one place.
The Nutcracker (Starting December 3)
We can think of a few places for you to go and get your Nutcracker fix.
- Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte (December 3 to 23)
- Thalian Hall in Wilmington (December 3 and 4)
- Bardo Arts Center in Cullowhee (December 10 and 11)
- Stevens Center in Winston-Salem (December 10 to 19)
- Raleigh Memorial Auditorium (December 17 to 24)
- High Point Theatre (December 17 to 19)
- The Hip Hop Nutcracker at DPAC in Durham (December 26) and Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte (December 27)
A Christmas Carol (Starting December 10)
Versions of “A Christmas Carol” can be found throughout North Carolina in December. One interesting alternative is in Davidson, where the Community Players perform Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some).
Here are more locations in the state where you can watch the more traditional version of the story:
Read More: Christmas in Durham
Holidays Pops (December 9 to 11)
You’ll have a few chances to catch a Holiday Pops concert in North Carolina. Here are dates and locations for this year’s events:
Read More: The Best Restaurants in Raleigh
Additional Christmas Musicals and Productions in North Carolina
- Mike’s Farm Ho! Ho! Christmas Show at Mike’s Farm in Beulaville (November 26 to December 23 and 26)
- Playhouse Christmas in Flat Rock (Select Dates November 26 to December 19)
- Lauren Daigle, The Behold Christmas Tour at DPAC in Durham (December 1 to 2)
- Oh Holy Night in Elizabeth City (December 11)
- Raleigh Ringers at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh (December 12 and 13)
- A Magical Cirque Christmas at the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts in Greensboro (December 17)
- Carolina Christmas Show at the Municipal Event Center in Marion
- Long Like the King Elvis Tribute Holiday Edition in Roanoke Rapids (December 18)
Read More: Great I-95 Exits in North Carolina
A few Christmas parades in North Carolina take place in November, including Raleigh on November 20. Most parades, though, will take place in December.
- Mount Holly (December 1)
- Cramerton (December 2)*
- Wadesboro (December 2)
- Knightdale (December 3)*
- Angier (December 4)
- Clayton (December 4)*
- Cleveland (December 4)
- Four Oaks (December 4)
- Goldsboro (December 4)
- Highlands (December 4)
- Kenly (December 4)
- Maggie Valley (December 4)
- Maysville (December 4)
- Mint Hill (December 4)*
- Murphy (December 4)*
- New Bern (December 4)
- Pilot Mountain (December 4)*
- South Mills (December 4)
- Valdese (December 4)
- Wilson (December 4)
- Youngsville (December 4)
- Fuquay-Varina (December 5)
- Indian Trail (December 5)
- Kernersville (December 5)
- Rolesville (December 5)
- Morganton (December 7)
- Tryon (December 8)
- Cary (December 11)
- Cherryville (December 11)
- Kannapolis (December 11)
- Robbinsville (December 11)
- Statesville (December 12)
- Tarboro (December 12)
- Waxhaw (December 12)
- Durham (December 18)
- Norlina (December 18)
*Denotes Christmas Parade held in conjunction with or before a Christmas Tree Lighting.
Christmas Tree Lightings
Like Christmas parades, some tree lightings in North Carolina take place in November. More than a few take place in conjunction with Christmas parades, typically held afterward.
Here are a few of them:
- Angier (December 2)
- Cramerton (December 2)*
- Four Oaks (December 3)
- Harrisburg (December 3)
- Knightdale (December 3)*
- Lumberton (December 3)^
- Pinehurst (December 3)
- Wilmington (December 3)
- Clayton (December 4)*
- Mint Hill (December 4)*
- Murphy (December 4)*
- Pilot Mountain (December 4)*
- Valdese (December 10)
*Denotes Christmas Tree Lighting held in conjunction with or after a Christmas Parade.
^Denotes Christmas Tree Lighting held in conjunction with a Christmas Festival.
Christmas Tree Farms
Throughout Western North Carolina, you can choose and cut your own Christmas tree. Starting in mid-November, you can find the perfect Christmas Tree to put up for the holidays.
Read More: Christmas Tree Farms in North Carolina
Holiday Home Tours
A tour of one of North Carolina’s amazing historic homes and properties is a must during December.
Christmas at Biltmore, Asheville (November 5 to January 9)
Christmas at Biltmore is the state’s largest-scale holiday home tour in North Carolina. Dozens of Christmas trees are decorated with thousands of ornaments, with luminaries joining lit candles and fireplaces.
All of this together keeps your memory glowing long beyond your visit to America’s largest home in Asheville. Just like Christmas at Biltmore, some holiday home tours started in November and run through January.
Of course, the peak visit time happens during this month.
Read More: Things We Love About Biltmore Estate
More Holiday Home Tours
Like Christmas parades and Christmas tree lightings, Holiday home tours also take place in November. Here are some to watch out for during December in North Carolina.
- Holidays at Reynolda, Winston-Salem (November 16 to December 31)
- Christmas at Korner’s Folly in Kernersville (November 26 to December 31)
- Linbrook Heritage Estate in Trinity (December 4, 11, 17, and 18)
- Holiday Homes Tour at the Turnage Theater in Washington (December 3 and 4)
- Holiday Home Tours at Tryon Palace in New Bern (December 3)
- Candlelight at Tryon Palace in New Bern (December 11 and 18)
- Christmas Candelight Tour at the Beaufort Historic Site in Beaufort (December 11)
Read More: Winter Getaways in North Carolina
Holiday Train Rides
Tweetsie Christmas, Blowing Rock (Select Evenings through December 30)
Dates: December 3 to 4, 10 to 11, 17 to 23, and 26 to 30
Of course, they’ll be there to say “Hello” to Santa and his Gingerbread House, and enjoy more fun, too!
Read More: Great Things to Do in Blowing Rock
The Polar Express Train Ride in the Smokies, Bryson City (November 12 to January 1)
This 75-minute train ride reenacts the classic story and there’s talk that Santa himself makes an appearance!
Read More: The Road to Nowhere in Bryson City
The Polar Express Train Ride, Spencer (Select Dates Through December 23
Dates: December 3 to 5, 9 to 12, and 14 to 23
You can also take a trip to the North Pole in Spencer at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. During their three-day Polar Express Train event, hot chocolate, cookies, and Santa will be around to greet kids and families who are lucky enough to snag a ticket.
Read More: The Wilmington Railroad Museum
Christmas Festivals (Christmas Markets and Holiday Markets)
Christmas festivals stand out as one of the best things to do in North Carolina in December. Here are some that we’ve found for you to enjoy:
- Christmas with the Kringles at Millstone Creek Orchards in Ramseur (Saturdays and Sundays from November 26 to December 19)
- Christmas Market at TIEC in Mill Spring (December 1 to 5)
- Christmas In Davidson, Davidson (December 2 to 4)
- Holiday Market at Hartwell in Raleigh (December 2)
- A Small Town Christmas in Banner Elk (December 3 to 5)
- Christmas Market Weekends at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte (December 3 to 5, 10 to 12, and 17 to 19)
- Festival of Trees at the Hotel Concord in Concord (December 3 to 5)
- Four Oaks Christmas in Four Oaks (December 3 to 4)
- Winterfest Artisan Market in Jacksonville (December 3 to 5)
- Christmas Festival and Tree Lighting in Lumberton (December 3)
- Carolina Beach Holiday Market in Carolina Beach (December 4)
- Christmas Night Market in Cedar Point (December 4)
- Christmas Craft Fair at Pace Family Farms in Clayton (December 4)
- Scandinavian Christmas Fair at the NC State Fairgrounds in Raleigh (December 4)
- Christmas Craft Show at the Statesville Civic Center in Statesville (December 4)
- Christmas Craft Show at WoodMill Winery in Vale (December 4)
- Harbor District Christmas Market in Washington (December 4)
- Outdoor Holiday Gift Market at Legacy Architectural Salvage in Wilmington (December 4)
- Holiday Patchwork Market at the Durham Armory in Durham (December 5)
- Triangle Pop-Up Holiday Market at Glass Jug RTP in Durham (December 5)
- Friday Night Christmas at High Branch Brewing in Concord (December 10)
- German Christmas Market at Dirtbag Ales in Hope Mills (December 10)
- St. Nicholas European Christmas Market at the Holshouser Building in Raleigh (December 10 to 11)
- Uncommon Holiday Market at the Mission Health/AB Tech Conference Center in Asheville (December 10 to 11)
Read More: Amazing Restaurants in Asheville
- Christmas at Belmont Market in Belmont (December 11)
- Holiday Market in Calabash (December 11)
- Mount Holly and the Makers Pop Up Market at the Mount Holly Farmers Market, Mount Holly (December 11)
- Mistletoe Market in Pilot Mountain (December 11)
- Merry & Bright, A North Pole Market at Mordecai Historical Park in Raleigh (December 11)
- Great Topsail Flotilla & Christmas Market in Surf City (December 11)
- Winter Wonderland Market at the Smoky Mountain Event Center in Waynesville (December 11)
- Winston Junction December Market in Winston-Salem (December 11)
- Durham Craft Market Holiday Show at Central Park in Durham (December 12)
- Holiday Market at Foothills Brewing Tasting Room in Winston-Salem (December 12)
- Winter Wonderland Craft Fair in Lawndale (December 14)
- Christmas Market at North Raleigh Community Market in Raleigh (December 18)
More Holiday Celebrations
Celebration of Gita Jayanti, Statewide (December 14)
Hindus throughout the world honor the Bhagavad Gita during this celebration, and temples and centers in our state will be doing so, too.
If you know about any in particular that we should mention, please let us know about it here.
Kwanzaa Celebration, Statewide (December 26 to January 1)
The seven days of Kwanzaa begin on December 26 and a variety of events throughout the state will celebrate and inform those interested in learning more.
Celebrations can be found throughout the Triangle, in Charlotte, and also in Fayetteville.
If you know of more Kwanzaa festivities, please let us know here.
New Year’s Eve Events in North Carolina (Runs, Music, and More Celebrations)
Ringing in the new year is the last and certainly not least of our favorite things to do in North Carolina in December. Most of these last to midnight and beyond, with a couple of exceptions for those with kids.
Here are the events that you need to plan for:
- The Avett Brothers at Greensboro Coliseum Complex in Greensboro
- Chowder Cook-Off at the American Legion Fish Fry Post 129 in Carolina Beach
- Downtown Countdown at the Big Rock Fountain in Morehead City
- Elon Phoenix vs. Hofstra Pride at Schar Center in Elon (NCAA Men)
- Greensboro Swarm vs. Windy City Bulls at the Greensboro Coliseum Fieldhouse in Greensboro (NBA G League)
- The JackTown Rambers at Burntshirt Vineyards in Chimney Rock
Read More: How to Reach THE Chimney Rock
- Jeff Dye at the Comedy Zone in Charlotte (December 30 to January 2)
- Last Mile 5K at Lake Crabtree County Park in Morrisville
- Macon Mayhem at Fayetteville Marksmen at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville (SPHL)
- New Years Eve Apple Rise at the Hendersonville Farmers Market in Hendersonville
- New Years Eve at Revolution Brewhouse in Kings Mountain
- NYE Celebration at Union Station in Raleigh
- New Year’s Eve Extravaganza at Appalachian Ski Mountain in Blowing Rock
- New Year’s Eve Trail Race at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte
- New Year’s Noon at the Children’s Museum of Wilmington
Read More: Children’s Museums in North Carolina
- New Year’s Run Virtual 5K/10K/13.1 in Raleigh (December 31 to January 8)
- Night Circus at Festival Park in Fayetteville
- Pigeons Playing Ping Pong with Keller Williams at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville
- Running of the Lights at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons
- UNC Wilmington Seahawks vs. Drexel Dragons in Wilmington (NCAA Men)
- Rebel’s Fox at Tavern on the Green in Raleigh
Read More: The Best Breweries in Asheville
More Things to Do in North Carolina in December
If you thought these were the only things to do in North Carolina in December, think again. Here are 20-plus more events in our state to close out the year.
Core Sound Christmas & Waterfowl Weekend, Harkers Island (December 3 to 5)
Held every first weekend in December, this Harker’s Island event celebrates local waterfowl art, seafood, educational exhibits, music, and more.
The Core Sound Christmas & Waterfowl Weekend also encourages young people to attend and on Sunday, children under the age of 17 get in for free!
ACC Football Championship, Charlotte (December 4)
Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium will again host the ACC Football Championship Game, with a playoff spot on the line as well. I’m in no way biased, but I do have two eyes. That’s why I think Clemson will win against whoever shows up against them.
Chatham Studio Tour, Pittsboro (December 4 to 5 and 11 to 12)
Chatham County’s artists are opening up their studios during a series of tours hosted by the Chatham Artists Guild. 54 local artists will be appearing at 41 studios, so you’ve got your work cut out for you if you want to see them all.
Holiday Ornament Sale, Star (December 4 to 18)
Montgomery County’s finest glass and ceramics makers are at it again, with a Holiday Ornament Sale at STARworks Gallery. 2,500 ornaments will be waiting for you and all who hope to purchase more than a few.
Duck Yuletide Celebration, Duck (December 7)
If you’re enjoying off-season on the Outer Banks, head up to Duck for their Yuletide Celebration. The fun includes an “Elf Passport,” treats provided by local businesses, music, caroling, and much more.
Read More: The Best Things to Do in the Outer Banks
NCHSAA Football State Championships, Various (December 10 to 11)
On December 10 and 11, eight high school football state champions will be determined through final matchups held at stadiums in various cities.
With North Carolina’s reputation for producing pro talent, this is a great chance to see some future greats right before they make the jump to their respective college teams.
Outer Banks Jingle Jog Christmas Run, Southern Shores (December 18)
Choose between a 10k loop, an Out-and-Back 5k, Jingle Jog 1 mile, or Little Elf 1/4-mile during your morning Outer Banks Jingle Jog Christmas Run.
Read More: The Best Outer Banks Restaurants
Duke’s Mayo Bowl, Charlotte (December 30)
The Duke’s May Bowl returns to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, as the SEC and ACC do battle on December 30. Events surrounding this college football game include the Fan Central Party the night before and the concert the day of the big game!
Read More: The Best Restaurants in Charlotte
Ready for these Fun Things to Do in North Carolina in December?
December in North Carolina is a wonderful and busy time for everyone. We look forward to enjoying these Christmas and holiday events while searching for more to share with you.
Before looking ahead to our future adventures, we’d love to know what’s on your mind. Which of these things to do in North Carolina in December will you be attending?
Also, what events do you think we should add to this list?