Last Updated on February 7, 2023
Last Updated on February 7, 2023
As the end of the year approaches, there are so many things to do in North Carolina in December. It’s when winter begins to set in, but we don’t mind the dropping temperatures with all these warm, festive events that happen throughout our state.
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
- Christmas Tree Farms
- 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.
Throughout this guide, you’ll find events that have carried over from November and some that continue into January.
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.
Read More: Christmas in North Carolina (the Best Holiday Events)
Christmas Lights Festivals
Speedway Christmas in Concord
2022/2023 Event Dates: November 18, 2022-January 8, 2023
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
Festival of Lights at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock
2022 Event Dates: November 25-January 29
Chetola Resort’s annual Festival of Lights is free and open to the public. You can drive or walk around Chetola Lake, where glittering ice skaters, carolers, and more illuminations await.
Read More: Things to Do in Blowing Rock
Additional Lights Festivals and Events in North Carolina
Most of these lights festivals celebrate 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 in Cary
2022/2023 Event Dates: November 12, 2022-January 8, 2023
The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival is the one event that does not directly celebrate Christmas, but it is a beloved annual tradition for the Cary community and beyond.
Read More: Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary
Here are some more lights festivals happening this December in North Carolina.
- Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights in Clemmons (November 11-January 1)
- Mike’s Farm Hayride and Dinner Show at Mike’s Farm in Beulaville (November 17-December 23)
- Tryon Resort Winterfest in Mill Spring (November 17-January 1)
- Winter Wonderlights at the Greensboro Science Center (November 17-January 1)
- Winterlights at the NC Arboretum in Asheville (November 18-December 31)
- Enchanted Airlie in Wilmington (November 25-26 and December 2-22)
- Winterlights in Manteo on the Outer Banks (Select Dates from November 25-December 30)
- Christmas Town USA in McAdenville (December 1-26)
- Holiday Lights at the Cape Fear Botanical Garden in Fayetteville (December 2-22)
- Lights & Luminaries in Dillsboro (December 2-3 and 9-10)
- Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla in Beaufort (December 3)
- Christmas in the Park in Fayetteville (Dates TBA)
- Keelboat Christmas Flotilla & Lights Parade in Mooresville (Date TBA)
- Winterfest Flotilla in Southport (Date TBA)
Read More: Christmas in Fayetteville
Christmas Musicals and Productions
During December in North Carolina, there are plenty of Christmas musicals and productions to keep you occupied. 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 quite a few places for you to go and get your Nutcracker fix.
- Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte (December 9-23)
- Thalian Hall in Wilmington (December 2-3)
- Bardo Arts Center in Cullowhee (December 9-10)
- Stevens Center in Winston-Salem (December 9-18)
- Raleigh Memorial Auditorium (December 16-24)
- High Point Theatre (December 16-18)
- The Hip Hop Nutcracker at DPAC in Durham (December 23) and Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte (December 26-27)
Read More: 50+ Awesome Things to Do in Wilmington
2022 Event Dates: December 9-11
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:
- Statewide Holiday Pops in Wilmington (December 11)
- Holiday Pops in Raleigh (December 9-10)
Read More: The Best Restaurants in Raleigh
A Christmas Carol
2022 Event Start Date: 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:
- Sanford (December 1-18)
- High Point (December 9-11)
- Durham (December 14-18)
Read More: Christmas in Durham
Additional Christmas Musicals and Productions in North Carolina
- Mike’s Farm Ho! Ho! Christmas Show at Mike’s Farm in Beulaville (Every Wednesday-Saturday from November 25-December 23)
- Playhouse Christmas in Flat Rock (November 25-27 and December 7-22)
- Elf the Musical at DPAC in Durham (November 29-December 4)
- Raleigh Ringers at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh (December 17-18)
- A Magical Cirque Christmas in Wilmington (December 15) and DPAC (December 19)
- Carolina Christmas Show at the Municipal Event Center in Marion (December 16-18)
Read More: Great I-95 Exits in North Carolina
A few Christmas parades in North Carolina take place in November, including Raleigh on November 19. Most parades, though, will take place in December.
Each one is a wonderful showcase of each city and town that we just can’t pick. Which of these parades should we attend and why?
- Angier (December 3)
- Cleveland (December 3)
- Four Oaks (December 3)
- Goldsboro (December 3)
- Highlands (December 3)
- Kenly (December 3)
- Mint Hill (December 3)*
- New Bern (December 3)
Read More: 13 Delicious New Bern Restaurants for the Ultimate Foodie
- Pilot Mountain (December 3)*
- South Mills (December 3)
- Valdese (December 3)
- Wilson (December 3)
- Indian Trail (December 4)
- Kernersville (December 4)
- Rolesville (December 4)
- Morganton (December 6)
- Tryon (December 7)
- Cary (December 10)
Read More: The Mayton in Cary (+ 7 Things We Love About Staying Here!)
- Kannapolis (December 10)
- Knightdale (December 10)
- Robbinsville (December 10)
- Waxhaw (December 11)
- Mount Holly (December 16)
- Durham (December 17)
- Norlina (December 17)
- Clayton (December TBA)
- Cramerton (December TBA)
- Fuquay-Varina (December TBA)
- Maggie Valley (December TBA)
- Maysville (December TBA)
- Murphy (December TBA)*
- Statesville (December TBA)
- Tarboro (December TBA)
- Wadesboro (December TBA)
- Youngsville (December TBA)
*Denotes Christmas Parade held in conjunction with or before a Christmas Tree Lighting.
Read More: 17 Amazing Eno River State Park Trails (+ Bonus Hikes)
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 1)
- Cramerton (December 1)
- Four Oaks (December 2)
- Harrisburg (December 2)
- Knightdale (December 2)
- Lumberton (December 2)^
Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)
- Mint Hill (December 3)*
- Pilot Mountain (December 3)*
- Valdese (December 9)
- Clayton (December TBA)*
- Murphy (December TBA)*
- Pinehurst (December TBA)
*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.
Frosty’s in Ashe County is one popular option, and they open on November 18. Ashe is the largest Christmas tree-producing county in the US and provided the 2021 White House Christmas tree!
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 in Asheville
2022/2023 Event Dates: November 4 to January 8
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 14-December 31)
- Christmas at Korner’s Folly in Kernersville (November 25-January 7)
- Linbrook Heritage Estate in Trinity (Select Dates in December)
- Holiday Home Tours at Tryon Palace in New Bern (December 2)
- Music by Candlelight at Tryon Palace in New Bern (December 2)
- Christmas Candlelight Tour at the Beaufort Historic Site in Beaufort (December 10)
Read More: Winter Getaways in North Carolina
Holiday Train Rides
Tweetsie Christmas, Blowing Rock (Select Evenings through December 30)
2022 Event Dates: December 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 20-23, and 26-30
Tweetsie Christmas continues the fun for visitors to the High Country. Families flock for the nighttime train surrounded by beautiful lights.
Of course, come say hello to Santa, visit his Gingerbread House, and enjoy Tweetsie Railroad‘s winter wonderland.
Read More: Great Things to Do in Blowing Rock
The Polar Express Train Ride in the Smokies in Bryson City
2022 Event Dates: November 10-December 31
The Polar Express Train Ride brings the holiday magic along the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, taking off from Bryson City!
This 75-minute train ride reenacts the classic winter story, and there’s a rumor that Santa himself makes an appearance!
Read More: The Road to Nowhere in Bryson City
The Polar Express Train Ride in Spencer
2022 Event Dates: December 2-4, 8-11, and 13-23
You can also take a trip to the North Pole in Spencer at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Take a ride on their Polar Express Train, where you’ll be greeted with hot chocolate, cookies, and Santa himself!
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 In Davidson, Davidson (December 1-3)
- Four Oaks Christmas in Four Oaks (December 2-3)
- A Small Town Christmas in Banner Elk (December 2-4)
Read More: 13 Amazing Restaurants in Banner Elk and Nearby (+ Where to Drink!)
- Festival of Trees at the Hotel Concord in Concord (December 2-4)
- Winterfest Artisan Market in Jacksonville (December 2-4)
- The Holiday Flea in Wilmington (December 2-4)
- Christmas Village in Belmont (December 3)
- Christmas Craft Fair at Pace Family Farms in Clayton (December 3)
- Carolina Christmas Fest in Lumberton (December 3)
- Scandinavian Christmas Fair at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh (December 3)
- Triangle Pop-Up Holiday Market at NC Museum of Art in Raleigh (December 3)
- Great Topsail Flotilla & Christmas Market in Surf City (December 3)
- Christmas Craft Show at WoodMill Winery in Vale (December 3)
- Outdoor Holiday Gift Market at Legacy Architectural Salvage in Wilmington (December 3)
- Harbor District Christmas Market in Washington (December 3-4)
- Holiday Market at Foothills Brewing Tasting Room in Winston-Salem (December 4 and 11)
- The Durham Hotel‘s Annual-ish Holiday Market (December 7)
- Holiday Market in Cary (December 9)
- Merry & Bright, A North Pole Market at Mordecai Historical Park in Raleigh (December 10)
- Winter Wonderland Market at the Smoky Mountain Event Center in Waynesville (December 10)
- Uncommon Holiday Market at the Mission Health/AB Tech Conference Center in Asheville (December 10-11)
Read More: Amazing Restaurants in Asheville
- Holiday Patchwork Market at the Durham Armory in Durham (December 10-11)
- Winston Junction December Market in Winston-Salem (December 10 and 17)
- Durham Craft Market Holiday Show at Central Park in Durham (December 11)
- Christmas Market at TIEC in Mill Spring (December TBA)
- Christmas Market Weekends at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte (Weekends in December TBA)
- St. Nicholas European Christmas Market at the Holshouser Building in Raleigh (December TBA)
Read More: 25 of the Most Amazing Winter Hikes in North Carolina
More Holiday Celebrations
Celebration of Gita Jayanti, Statewide (December 3)
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.
2022/2023 Event Dates: December 26-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 Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte (December 31)
- Chowder Cook-Off at the American Legion Fish Fry Post 129 in Carolina Beach
- Downtown Countdown at the Big Rock Fountain in Morehead City
- The JackTown Ramblers at Burntshirt Vineyards in Chimney Rock
Read More: How to Reach THE Chimney Rock
- Donnell Rawlings at the Comedy Zone in Charlotte (December 15-18)
- Last Mile 5K at Lake Crabtree County Park in Morrisville
- New Years’ Eve at Revolution Brewhouse in Kings Mountain
- NYE Celebration at Union Station in Raleigh
- New Years’ Eve Extravaganza at Appalachian Ski Mountain in Blowing Rock
- New Years’ Eve Trail Race at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte
- New Years’ Noon at the Children’s Museum of Wilmington
Read More: Children’s Museums in North Carolina
- New Years’ Run Virtual 5K/10K/13.1 in Raleigh (December 31-January 8)
- Night Circus at Festival Park in Fayetteville
- Running of the Lights at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons
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 on Harkers Island (December 2-4)
- Holiday Ornament Sale in Star (December 2-22, Closed Sundays)
- ACC Football Championship in Charlotte (December 3)
- Tribal Museums Day in Cherokee
- Duck Yuletide Celebration (December 3)
- Chatham Studio Tour in Pittsboro (December 3-4 and 10-11)
- NCHSAA Football State Championships (December 9-10)
- Outer Banks Jingle Jog Christmas Run in Southern Shores (December 10)
- Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte (December 30)
Core Sound Christmas & Waterfowl Weekend on Harkers Island
2022 Event Dates: December 2 to 4
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!
Holiday Ornament Sale in Star
2022 Event Dates: December 2-22 (Closed Sundays)
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.
ACC Football Championship in Charlotte
2022 Event Date: December 3
Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium will again host the ACC Football Championship Game, with a playoff spot on the line as well. We’ll see who makes it to the end, and who will claim the championship title!
Tribal Museums Day in Cherokee
2022 Event Date: December 3
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee will join tribal museums and cultural centers throughout Indian Country for the very first Tribal Museums Day, an event organized by the Association on American Indian Affairs.
Free admission to the Museum will be offered to visitors during regular hours of 9:00 am-5:00 pm. Don’t forget to support Native artists this holiday season (and beyond) in the Museum Store when you visit.
Read More: How to Enjoy Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort (15 Tips)
Duck Yuletide Celebration
2022 Event Date: December 3
If you’re enjoying the 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
Chatham Studio Tour in Pittsboro
2022 Event Dates: December 3-4 and 10-11
Chatham County’s artists are opening up their studios for the 30th annual studio tour, hosted by the Chatham Artists Guild. 55 local artists will be appearing at 39 studios, so you’ve got your work cut out for you if you want to see them all.
NCHSAA Football State Championships
2022 Event Dates: December 9-10
December closes out the high school football season with final matchups held at stadiums in various cities throughout the state. Teams will play for the chance to win one of the eight football state champions.
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 in Southern Shores
2022 Event Date: December 10
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 in Charlotte
2022 Event Date: December 30
Duke’s Mayo 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?
3 thoughts on “100+ Things to Do in North Carolina in December (Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and More Events!)”
Would have been nice to mention a Hanukkah event as well! There are over 20,000 Jewish people in Charlotte and approximately 10,000 in Raleigh as well as other towns and cities!
Hi! We’ve tried to be inclusive for all holidays but haven’t had much luck finding Hanukkah events in North Carolina. If you know of some that we might have missed please do let us know and we will happily include it in this article.
There may not have been any hanukkah events due to covid but next year, contact Chabad locations throughout NC – they usually have public events. Also JCC’s (Jewish Community Centers) have public events.