In Raleigh, it’s a tradition that holiday events begin the weekend before Thanksgiving.
From the Raleigh Christmas Parade to local tree lightings and other festive events around town, the holidays arrive earlier.
To help you plan your Raleigh holiday kickoff, we’re sharing some of the best events starting this weekend:
Downtown Raleigh Tree Lighting
⏰ When: 5:30-8 p.m. Friday
📍 Where: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South Street.
🎄 Activities: Live performances from local groups, Triangle Pop-Up holiday market, Santa Claus meet and greet and community partners including Designed for Joy, Marbles Kids Museum Corner Store and Wake County Test Library.
Oak City Cares will collect new hand warmers, lip balm, gloves and socks for neighbors in need.
🎄 Food and drink vendors include The Brew Box, Chick-N-Que Food Truck, Cousins Maine Lobster, Empire Eats, Short Walk Wines, Will & Pops Food Truck and Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing.
🎄 Pro tip: Arrive by 6:15 p.m. to see the actual tree lighting by Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin.
🎄 Info: [DRA]
Raleigh Christmas Parade
⏰ When: Begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday
📍 Where: Begins at the intersection of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets, continuing to Downtown Raleigh, including a large section of Fayetteville Street. Or, watch on ABC11.
🎄 What it includes: For more than 75 years, the Raleigh Christmas Parade has been held the Saturday before Thanksgiving, starting the early holiday tradition. [ABC11]
Beginning in 1939 and only pausing for World War II, the full parade experience is back after going virtual for parade watchers last year.
🎄 Pro tip: Set up early! Some arrive between 7-8 a.m.
Get treats from these local businesses, some of which are opening early:
⏰ When: Opens Saturday, continues until Jan. 1, 2022.
🗓️ Nov. 20-Dec. 19: 5-9 p.m. Thursdays, 5-10 p.m. Fridays, 12-10 p.m. Saturdays, 12-7 p.m. Sundays. Closed Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 25) and Dec. 4.*
🗓️ Dec. 20-Jan. 1: 3-9 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays, 12-9 p.m. Thursdays, 12-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12-7 p.m. Sundays. Holiday hours on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) are 12-7 p.m., New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) and New Year’s Day (Jan. 1) are 12-10 p.m. Closed Christmas Day (Dec. 25).*
*Editor’s note: These dates and corresponding hours have been updated to reflect the correct info.
📍 Where: Red Hat Amphitheater in Downtown Raleigh, 500 S. McDowell Street.
✨ What it includes: A natural ice rink in Downtown Raleigh at Red Hat Amphitheater. A skating ticket includes skate rental.
The Rink, presented by UNC Health, will also have special events and activations, such as a Shop Local Raleigh vendor village Nov. 27 and a First Friday collaboration on Dec. 3.
✨ Tickets: $11 for skaters, $6 for non-skaters admission. Available now online in advance, beginning 30 minutes before doors open each day at Red Hat Amphitheater, by phone or at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts box office. [info]
Nights of Lights
⏰ When: Opens Saturday, continues through Dec. 24. Closed Nov. 22-25, Nov. 29 and Dec. 6.
📍 Where: Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh, with general admission vehicles entering at the Hunt Drive entrance to Dix Park off of Western Boulevard. VIP fast lane ticket holders enter at Umstead Drive. [map]
✨ What it includes: The WRAL Nights of Lights event is a 1.3-mile route of light displays and local art installations.
A sold-out 5K on foot is Saturday and bike nights (still available) are Sunday and Dec. 13.
✨ Tickets: Available online, $20/regular vehicle, $30/commercial vehicle, $40/VIP fast lane tickets.
NC Chinese Lantern Festival
⏰ When: Opens Friday, runs through Jan. 9, 2022.
📍 Where: Koka Booth Amphitheatre, 8003 Regency Parkway in Cary.
✨ What it includes: This year includes 36 new displays from more than 2,500 lanterns, created by local Chinese artisans. This year also includes the floating dragon on Symphony Lake, which is 200 feet long and 21 feet high. Admission also includes nightly Chinese acrobatic performances.
✨ Pro tip: For those looking for a less crowded experience, Twilight Tickets are available this year on Thursdays-Sundays, beginning at 4:30 p.m.
✨ Tickets: Available online and ticket prices vary $15-$25. [more info]
North Hills Annual Tree Lighting
⏰ When: 4-7 p.m. Saturday
📍 Where: On Main Street at North Hills in Raleigh.
🎄 What it includes: A craft tent for kids, a Makrs Society Market, performances, hot chocolate and concession-style snacks from food trucks. Santa will light the tree at 6:15 p.m.
🎄 Pro tip: Arrive early for the Shop and Stroll, 12-4 p.m. Saturday, and frequently locally-owned businesses, too.
🎄 Info: [visitnorthhills.com]
Lafayette Village Tree Lighting
⏰ When: 3-6 p.m. Saturday
📍 Where: Lafayette Village, 8450 Honeycutt Road in North Raleigh.
🎄 What it includes: Lafayette Village includes many locally-owned businesses to shop, plus there will be live music, horse and carriage rides.
🎄 Pro tip: The tree lighting will be at 6 p.m. in the Courtyard.
🎄 Info: [lafayettevillageraleigh.com]