Happiness is a Holiday Season with Nature, Music, and Old-Fashioned Celebrations

Celebrate the holidays at historic sites, state parks and museums this year.
Raleigh

There’s a holiday happening to suit every taste at venues of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Fireworks over Tryon Palace, a “Christmas Flotilla” at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort, “Christmas by Candlelight” at a state historic site and “Holiday Pops” or other performances with the North Carolina Symphony at home or on tour, are a few of the unique holiday experiences awaiting families at modest or no cost. State parks offer wonderful ways to experience nature during the holidays, and the “First Day Hike” to start the New Year off right. Delightful diversions await one and all. See all listings here.

East

Nov. 20- Jan. 1. N.C. Aquarium-Ft. FisherCape Fear Festival of TreesThe Lower Cape Fear Hospice hosts this beloved tradition amidst the inspiring backdrop of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Thanks to the generosity of the presenting sponsor First Citizens Bank, visitors will delight in dozens of dazzling, decorated trees in a unique aquatic setting. Free with admission.

Nov. 20-Jan. 4. N.C. Aquarium-Roanoke Island. Help our furry friends -- anyone donating a seven pound or more bag of pet food will receive free admission that day. Anyone donating pet food, a toy or cleaning item will be entered to win a painting created by one of our river otters! Kitty litter, paper towels and peroxide among other needed items.

Ongoing through Jan. 7. Museum of the Cape Fear, Fayetteville. Poe House Tour. Enhance your holidays with a tour of the seasonally decorated 1897 Poe House. Admire the big parlor tree, long hallways and tall windows decorated with greenery. Tours given Tuesday through Saturday, hours vary. Free.

Nov. 24-26. Tryon Palace, New BernFestive Holiday Weekend Kickoff. Enjoy holiday tours, decorations and movies. Take themed tours through the grounds of the palace and historic houses, each decorated for a different time period in traditions from the 18th to 20th centuries. Tours continue through Jan. 3. Times vary. Toys for Tots drop off through Dec.11. Fee.

Nov. 25. N.C. Maritime Museum, SouthportVictorian Holiday. Unconventional decorations are the hallmark of the museum’s Victorian Holiday. This tradition continues with seaside-scapes, starfish painting and spiders for good luck. Enjoy stories of the Christmas spider and Father Time. Appropriate for all ages. Registration required. 1-3 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 1. Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth CityGingerbread House Workshop. Learn the history of gingerbread and take part in the annual gingerbread house workshop led by the Lovin’ Oven. Kids welcomed from ages one to 100. 4-5 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 1. Tryon Palace, New Bern. Chamber Music by CandlelightUNC-Wilmington’s Early Music Consort will perform in the palace council chamber by candlelight. Reception follows with light desserts, coffee and wine in the Commission House. 7 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 2. Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth CityAn Appalachian Mountain Christmas! Spend the day with an Appalachian Mountain Christmas during WWI, hear the story and visit with characters from “A Perfect Christmas Tree,” view the film “The Polar Express,” and enjoy refreshments and activities. Also, School Days for the weeks of Nov. 27, Dec. 4 and Dec. 11; School Days preregistration required. Free.

Dec. 2. Roanoke Island Festival Park, Manteo208th Army Band Christmas Concert. Approximately 40 warrior musicians based in Concord will promote esprit de corps and the magic of the holidays in a performance of jazz, rock, concert music and patriotic selections in the film theater. 6 p.m. Free.

Dec. 2. Historic BathColonial Christmas to Victorian Christmas. Learn the difference between a Colonial Christmas and a Victorian Christmas during an evening walking tour through the Palmer Marsh House and the Bonner House with costumed interpreters. 4-6 p.m.  Fee.

Dec. 2. N.C. Maritime Museum, BeaufortCrystal Coast Christmas FlotillaBoats, yachts, oars, kayaks and commercial vessels decorated for the season can be seen at 5:30 p.m. on the Morehead City waterfront and at 6:15 p.m. on the Beaufort waterfront. All decorated boats are judged and prizes for excellence and creativity are awarded at the Awards Party after the Flotilla in the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center. 6 p.m. Fee to participate, enter by Dec. 2. Free to observe.

Dec. 2. Bentonville Battlefield, Four Oaks. A Civil War ChristmasEnjoy cookies and cider while listening to period music and greetings from costumed interpreters. Military interpreters will discuss how the common soldier spent time on furlough with family and friends. 10 a.m-4 p.m. Free.

Dec. 3. Somerset Place, Creswell. 28th Annual Christmas Program. Celebrate Christmas at an antebellum plantation and be inspired by fresh greenery and natural arrangements that adorn the buildings. Tour the buildings and grounds with traditional Christmas music in the air and visit St. Nicholas. Sample tasty black-eyed peas, homemade desserts and hearth cooked cornbread with spiced tea. 1 p.m. Free.

Dec. 3. Museum of the Cape Fear, Fayetteville. Holiday Jubilee. Performances by the Coventry Carolers on the front porch of the Poe House, which will be beautifully decorated in Victorian style and open for tours. The Carolina Chordsmen also will perform. Smell goodies cooking on the 1902 stove and take photos with Santa! 1-5 p.m. Free.

Dec. 5 and 7. Aycock Birthplace, FremontChristmas Candlelight Tours. Smell the fragrances of food cooked on the open hearth, and experience the magic of a shadow play surrounded by traditional decorations. Make a Christmas craft Dec. 5. Enjoy the sounds of the Harmony Boys for a bluegrass Christmas Dec. 7. 6:30-9 p.m. Fee; ages four and under free.

Dec. 5-12. Historic EdentonPublic Schools Art Show: What the Holidays Mean to Me. Historic Edenton in partnership with Edenton-Chowan Public School art teachers present a holiday art show, Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec 9. Holiday Treats reception 6-8 p.m.in the Visitor Center. Free.

Dec. 6. N.C. Symphony, TarboroA Classic Holiday Pops. Enjoy a spectacular celebration with joyful holiday classics—plus our popular sing-a-long! Edgecombe Community College. 7:30 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 7. N.C. Symphony, Jacksonville. A Classic Holiday Pops. Enjoy a spectacular celebration with joyful holiday classics—plus our popular sing-a-long! Jacksonville High School. 7:30 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 8. N.C. Symphony, Louisburg. A Classic Holiday Pops. Enjoy a spectacular celebration with joyful holiday classics—plus our popular sing-a-long! Louisburg College. 7:30 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 8. N.C. Maritime Museum, Southport. Costumed Holiday History Tour. Enjoy special costumed tours of the exhibit gallery led by a Victorian lady, Civil War soldier or gentleman pirate. Learn about Colonial and Victorian holiday traditions and the 1878 shipwreck that almost stole Christmas. Registration required. 3-5 p.m. Free.

Dec. 8. Historic Edenton. Caroling in the Courthouse with the Albemarle Sounds. Come enjoy your favorite Christmas songs in the historic 1767 Chowan County Courthouse. 6-7 p.m. Free.

Dec. 8-9, 16-17. Historic EdentonSanta in the Kitchen. Visit Santa in the historic James Iredell House kitchen where he will take wishes and pose for pictures that you take. 4-7 p.m. Free.

Dec. 8-9. Historic EdentonIredell House Christmas Groaning Board. So many cookies will be present that the table will “groan!” The Edenton Tea Party Daughters of the American Revolution and James Iredell Association join Historic Edenton in hosting this event. 1-5 p.m. Santa visits 4-7 p.m. Free.

Dec. 9. N.C. Maritime Museum, Southport. Holiday at the Museum. Visitors will marvel at the Winter Wonderland train display. Local choral groups, performances by individual musicians and visitors singing along will provide continuous holiday music. Cookie decorating, cartoons and letters to Santa are part of the fun. Hot soups, chili, cookies, hot chocolate and door prizes too. Noon to 5 p.m. Free.

Dec. 9. N.C. Aquarium-Roanoke Island. Great White Fishmas. Children can participate in reindeer games, make crafts with aquarium elves, visit Mrs. Claus’s kitchen and visit with Santa. Aquarium musicians will do “fishy” takes on classic Christmas carols. Fun for all ages. 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. Included with regular admission.

Dec. 9. Historic Bath. Christmas Open HouseA day of fun with music at various times in the Palmer Marsh and Bonner Houses. Activities include reading of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” cooking and apple press demonstrations in the Bonner House. Visitors can enjoy apple cider and gingerbread. Free.

Dec. 9. N.C. Aquarium-Pine Knoll Shores. Santa by the Sea. Enjoy special treats and games in a seasonally decorated aquarium! Make holiday cards and an ornament, have a photo with Santa as part of admission for ages 12 and under. A new treat will be magic shows throughout the day. Fee.

Dec. 9. Fort Fisher, Kure BeachVictorian Christmas Open House. Enjoy the delightful sounds of Masonboro Parlor and John Golden and learn 19th century dance steps as well. A guest presenter will examine “Santa Claus: the Man, the Myth, and the Legend.” Also shop in the museum store while enjoying light refreshments. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free.

Dec. 9. Historic Halifax. Christmas in Halifax. The whole town celebrates with a lively Christmas parade at 2 p.m., a visit with Santa at the Historic Halifax Visitor center afterwards, a homemade lunch of Brunswick stew, ham biscuits, sandwiches and desserts at the Methodist Church, which is a church fundraiser. Tour seasonally decorated historic buildings. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Event free.

Dec. 9. CSS Neuse, Kinston. Christmas Open House and Foster’s Raid Exhibit Opening. Exhibit on the raid of Union Gen. John Foster from occupied New Bern into the interior with presentation by Randy Sauls, Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield Commission, at 11 a.m. Kinston Christmas parade at 10 a.m. and afterwards enjoy hot cider and cookies at CSS Neuse. Exhibit opening fee; refreshments free.

Dec. 9 and 16. Tryon Palace, New Bern.  Seasons of Giving: A Candlelight Christmas Celebration. A famed North Carolina tradition returns in 2017 with beautiful new decorations and heartwarming vignettes illuminated by the glow of candlelight. 4:30-9:30 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 10. Brunswick Town, Winnabow. An 18th Century Christmas. Join us to see how American colonists celebrated Christmas. Costumed interpreters will provide guided tours of St. Philips Anglican Church on the hour. Enjoy Colonial refreshments in the Visitor Center, traditional games, or try your hand at Moravian paper stars and other crafts. The highlight of the evening will be an authentic period candlelit service in the ruins of St. Philips Anglican Church. The service will be 5-5:30 p.m. Free.

Dec. 13. N.C. Symphony, New Bern. A Classic Holiday Pops. Enjoy a spectacular celebration with joyful holiday classics—plus our popular sing-a-long! Come early to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus! Riverfront Convention Center. 7 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 16-17. Historic Edenton. Grinch in the Courthouse.  Rumor has it that the Grinch will be in the historic 1767 Chowan County Courthouse. Families and children are welcome to meet the Grinch 4-7 p.m. Free.

Dec. 16-17. N.C. Aquarium-Ft. FisherSanta by the SeaA magical holiday experience with Santa and his aquatic friends. Meet a live penguin, play games and take photos with Santa – who also will dive with sharks, eels and some favorite turtle friends. Free with admission.

Dec. 20. N.C. Symphony, Wilmington. A Classic Holiday Pops. Enjoy a spectacular celebration with joyful holiday classics—plus our popular sing-a-long! Come early to meet Santa! Cape Fear Community College 7:30 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 22. Goose Creek State Park, Washington. Tree Cookie Ornaments, Arts and Crafts. Learn to make old-fashioned holiday decorations. Free. 2 p.m.

Dec. 31. Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach. New Year’s Eve Cannon Blast. Send the old year out with a bang at Fort Macon! 6 p.m. Free. 

Piedmont

Nov. 22. N.C. Symphony, Raleigh. The Polar Express.  Climb aboard in your jammies for a first-class Polar Express journey! See paintings from the prize-winning book on a giant screen as a narrator and chorus join the symphony. Meymandi Concert Hall. 3 p.m. Fee.

Nov. 24-25. N.C. Symphony, Raleigh. Home Alone.  Catch this comedy classic on the big screen as the symphony plays the delightful John Williams score in this hilarious and heart-warming adventure for all ages. Come early to meet Santa! Meymandi Concert Hall. Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 25 at 3 p.m. Fee.

Nov.-Dec. Weekends. N.C. Zoo, Asheboro. The Polar Express in 4D Theater. Enjoy the classic tale in 4D and full sound. Times vary. Fee.

Dec. 1-2. N.C. Symphony, Raleigh. Baroque Masters.  With the North Carolina Master Chorale. Friday noon performance includes the Brandenburg "Concerto No.1" and selections from Vivaldi’s "Gloria" and Bach’s "Christmas Oratorio". Evening concerts of Vivaldi’s "Concerto for Two Horns" and more. Meymandi Concert Hall. Friday noon and 8 p.m.; Saturday 8 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 1 and 8. Duke Homestead, DurhamChristmas by Candlelight. Enjoy a candlelight evening tour with costumed interpreters and live music, caroling and barn dance, Victorian era decorations and refreshments. Tours run from 6:45 to 9:15 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 1-3, 8-10, 14-20. N.C. Transportation Museum, Spencer. Polar ExpressEnjoy a virtual trip to the North Pole set to a movie soundtrack on the Polar Express. Hot chocolate and cookies aboard the train, and singing, dancing and reading “The Polar Express,” what could be better? Afterwards visit Candy Cane Lane for a picture with Santa. Times and prices vary.

Dec. 2. Historic Stagville, DurhamChristmas at Stagville. Enjoy period music, hands on Christmas crafts, and a special Jonkonnu interpretation. Make an ornament and help decorate the Bennehan house, and try decorating branches to dress the Hart house. Noon -4 p.m. Free.

Dec. 2. Historic Stagville, Durham. Christmas Lantern Tours. Experience a lantern-lit evening of Christmas traditions at Horton Grove and participate in a Jonkonnu interpretive performance with music and drums. Tours will show the African cultural connection, what Christmas was like for the enslaved and changes after the Civil War. Also enjoy refreshments and games. 5-7 p.m. Fee, tickets on sale now.

Dec. 2. Town Creek Indian Mound, Mt. GileadChristmas for the Birds. Make an edible "orni-ment” to help our feathered friends through the winter with suet and bird seed. Visitors also may make a clay ornament with a Pee Dee culture design for a $3 material fee. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free.

Dec. 2. N.C. Museum of Art, RaleighThe Christmas Story in Art, Words, and Music. Curator of European Art David Steel masterfully creates an afternoon for families of art history with poems, literature and soul-stirring music by the Church of the Nativity and other musical guests. 2:30 p.m. Free, ticket required.

Dec. 2. Alamance Battleground, BurlingtonGerman Christmas in the Carolinas. Experience the traditions, foodways and culture of German communities including sauerkraut, stollen, scherenschnitte (German paper cutting), 18th century music and learn about German settlers in North Carolina. Fee.

Dec. 2. Reed Gold Mine, Midland. A Golden Christmas. Enjoy holiday cheer and history too! View vintage, antique holiday decorations, enjoy crafts, a hayride, a Christmas market with vendors and demonstrations and candlelight tours of a gold mine. Free, hayride fee for ages three and over.

Dec. 3. Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve, Southern Pines. Wreath Making. Learn how to bring nature inside with natural materials at a wreath making class. 3 p.m. Free.

Dec. 6, 7, 8, 9. State Capitol, Raleigh. Tree Lighting and Holiday Open House. The governor's tree-lighting tradition continues! The Dec. 6 festivities begin at 5 p.m. with holiday music. Open house will begin at 6:30 for viewing decorations. Even Santa will appear! From Dec. 7–8 (from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.) there will be music in the rotunda, and Saturday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.; music with Santa, 1-3 p.m. Free.

Dec. 6, 7, 8, 9. Executive Mansion, Raleigh. Annual Holiday Open House. View extraordinary holiday decorations, enjoy seasonal music from local performing groups as you visit “the people’s house.” Dec. 6, 6-8 p.m., Dec. 7-9, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; no reservations needed. Free.

Dec. 9. House in the Horseshoe, SanfordColonial Christmas. The home of patriot Philip Alston will be decked in 18th century decorations as reenactors in period costumes give trade craft demonstrations and also demonstrate period weapons firings. Daytime, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Evening candlelight tours 5-7 p.m. Refreshments first-come, first served. Daytime free; evening, fee except for ages four and under.

Dec. 9. N.C. Symphony, Raleigh. Music for a Winter’s Eve. Gather your family for an evening of music that evokes the season – from Bach to Arvo Pärt—all in Raleigh’s glorious, awe-inspiring new cathedral. Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, 8:30 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 9. Charlotte Hawkins Brown, Sedalia. Christmas in Canary. Listen to your favorite Christmas songs from the 1940s, see period decorations in Canary Cottage and take pictures with Santa from 3-5 p.m. Enjoy a luminaire lit campus tour at 6 p.m. Event 2-8 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 10. N.C. Museum of Art, RaleighHoliday Concert featuring the Raleigh Flute Choir. Celebrate season with a flourish with the Raleigh Flute Choir at its 30th annual NCMA concert. Enjoy holiday favorites and original compositions. The chamber ensemble features nine professional flutists performing on a range of instruments from the piccolo to the 8-foot contrabass. 3 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 12. N.C. Symphony, Chapel HillA Classic Holiday Pops. Enjoy a spectacular celebration with joyful holiday classics—plus our popular sing-a-long! Memorial Hall. 7:30 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 15-16. N.C. Symphony, RaleighChristmas with the Callaway Sisters. Tony-nominated Broadway stars Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway share family favorites including “Joy to the World” “ White Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and more. Meymandi Concert Hall. Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 15-17. N.C. Museum of History, RaleighIn a Holiday Mood. Enjoy music and dance from the swingiest season with the sights and sounds of holidays past. Experience song and dance performances of seasonal favorites in the Glenn Miller style including the The Nutcracker Suite.” Dec. 15 and 16, 7 p.m.; Dec. 16 and 17, 2 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 15. N.C. Museum of Art, RaleighHoliday Family Fun Friday. Enjoy a winter wonderland filled with your favorite games and toys! Playful art making, free treats for the kids and a visit from Santa are just a few of the delights at this popular annual event. Ticket includes free admission to Inspiring Beauty exhibitFee; free to some membership levels.

Dec. 16. Bennett Place, Durham. A Civil War Christmas. See how soldiers observed Christmas during the Civil War while awaiting packages from home. Observe families decorating and keeping the spirit in spite of shortages and loved ones far away. Weapons and cooking demonstrations during the day; Candlelight Tour and military truce and gift exchange in the evening. Refreshments. Daytime free, evening fee.

Dec. 17. Eno River State Park, Durham. Historic Holiday Sing-a-LongFill your lungs with fresh air and joyfully sing about the season! 2 p.m. Free.

Dec. 12. N.C. Symphony, Southern PinesA Classic Holiday Pops. Enjoy a spectacular celebration with joyful holiday classics—plus our popular sing-a-long! Pinecrest High School. 8 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 31. N.C. Symphony, RaleighNew Year’s Eve Celebration Concert. Guest Conductor Thomas Wilkins introduces a new program including the Gershwin songs “Embraceable You,” “Summertime", and “Someone to Watch Over Me” with award-winning soprano Aundi Marie Moore. Ring in the New Year with the unparalleled sound of a full symphony orchestra. Meymandi Concert Hall. 8 p.m. Fee.

West

Dec. 2. Horne Creek Historical Farm. PinnacleA Child’s Christmas on the Farm. Escape a commercialized holiday with the theme “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Enjoy a reading of this classic poem, followed by caroling and refreshments. The program is for ages six to 11 only; tickets are required. Program times are 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1- 3:30 p.m. Fee.

Dec. 7- 8. Horne Creek Historical Farm, Pinnacle. Christmas by Lamplight. Experience a warm, rural turn-of-the-century Christmas with a nice period meal and holiday music. The Hauser Farmhouse will be the scene of caroling, a craft activity and readings of Christmas literature by lamplight. Reservations required and nonrefundable. Seatings at 5:30- 6:30p.m. and 6:30 to 8 p.m. Not recommended for children under age 12. Fee.

Dec. 8-9. Zebulon Vance Birthplace, WeavervilleAn Appalachian Christmas Carol. Be transported into a retelling of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with Zebulon Vance right smack in the middle. Take an illuminating journey from the birthplace to the slave cabin. Tours start at 5 p.m. and run every 30 minutes until 9 p.m. Reservations required. Fee.

Dec. 9. Mountain Gateway Museum, Old FortOpen House. Visitors will see the museum and its two late 1800s log cabins bedecked in natural holiday splendor! Live music, free hot cider and coffee and other homemade treats will recreate the old-fashioned warmth of Christmas. Homemade baked goods and crafts will be sold. Held in conjunction with the Old Fort Christmas parade which starts at 3 p.m. 2-5 p.m.  Free.

Dec. 9. Fort Dobbs, Statesville. Winter on the Western Frontier.  Discover what life was like at the outpost garrison for the first winter in 1755. See examples of camp life, period cooking, musket and cannon firing demonstrations. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Free.

Dec. 16. Thomas Wolfe Memorial, AshevilleAngels Christmas Open House. Children's crafts and activities throughout the day and an inspiring exhibit of angel wreaths and figurines throughout the Old Kentucky Home. 10 a.m-5 p.m. Adults fee, children free.

Jan. 6. President Polk Birthplace, Pineville. 12th Night – the Vanishing Holiday. Executive Director Ron Vinson, Presbyterian Heritage Center, Montreat, will discuss the origin and prominence of Twelfth Night from medieval times, through Shakespeare’s play and into colonial America. Once the peak of parties, gift giving and weddings, the festivities have largely disappeared, but hints remain today. Hear medieval carols and get a taste of King Cake. 11 a.m. – noon. Free.

Statewide

Jan. 1, 2018. N.C. State Parks.  First Day Hike. Join a park ranger for a hike in a state park near you and start a New Year’s Day tradition. Times vary. See N.C. State Parks webpage for details. Free.

For additional information call (919) 807-7389 or visit here.

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