The Ultimate Holiday Checklist

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Photo by Lynda Wileman

Celebrate the season with festive meals, markets, parades, art walks and more

Compiled by Hannah Lee and Lindsay Rusczak


Stroll downtown Chapel Hill and admire the decorated windows.

View the creations of amateur artists competing in the 2019 Hillsborough Gingerbread House Competition, which will be on display at Coldwell Banker in downtown Hillsborough. Nov. 29 – Dec. 15

Show your support for the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts at its annual “The Art of Giving” by shopping for holiday gifts among paintings, sculptures, photography, jewelry and more. Throughout December

Take holiday cooking classes at Southern Season, including a kids-and-parents class decorating gingerbread houses. Throughout December

Shop handmade crafts and creations from more than 30 talented local makers at the third annual Holiday Bazaar at Carrboro Town Commons. There will also be eats from local food trucks and vinyl holiday jams from DJ Ras J. Dec. 1

Kick off the holiday season in downtown Hillsborough by getting pictures taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Hillsborough Visitors Center in the Alexander Dickson House. Then watch the Running of the Elves, the second annual 1-mile race starting on Mitchell Street and finishing on Churton Street, right before the Light Up the Night Hillsborough Holiday Parade. After the parade, take part in the community sing and tree lighting. Dec. 1

Head to The Pit on UNC’s campus for a menorah lighting, which will also feature doughnuts, latkes and music. Dec. 2

Watch your favorite holiday films on the big screen during Silverspot Cinema’s Flashback Cinema series. Screenings include “Home Alone” (Dec. 1), “White Christmas” (Dec. 8), “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (Dec. 15) and “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Dec. 22).

Take the family to The Carolina Inn (Dec. 20, 21, 23), Orange County Public Library (Dec. 13) or The Root Cellar Cafe & Catering (Dec. 8, 15, 22) to decorate your own gingerbread house with fellow cookie architects.

Enjoy refreshments as you listen to electric tunes from the Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus for their 25th annual winter concert, “Seasons of Love,” at Binkley Baptist Church. Dec. 7

Celebrate the holiday season in your pajamas with a special storytime visit from Daniel Tiger, the PBS kids television character, in the Fearrington Barn. Dec. 7

Shop for handmade crafts and gifts at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Hillsborough during its annual FeST, which also includes baked goods, wreaths and more. Dec. 7

Elf Market

Pick out holiday gifts and support local artists from around the Triangle at The ArtsCenter at its 13th annual Elf Market. Hop by the bar for a drink, and let the kids make art projects while you shop for presents for the entire family. Dec. 7

Choose handmade gifts created by 65 artisans and crafters from around the state during St. Thomas More Catholic School’s 16th annual Christmas Holiday Shoppe. Stick around for a raffle, holiday music, a bake sale and the Reindeer Cafe. Dec. 7

Get away from the hustle and bustle of the season, and enjoy the peaceful holiday splendor of the North Carolina Botanical Garden for its Winter in the Garden Holiday Festival, with luminarias, kids’ crafts, music, food and photos with a festive Rameses. Dec. 7

Join Preservation Chapel Hill for an afternoon tour of notable, historic homes around the Cameron-McCauley Historic District. Dec.7

See visions of sugarplums dance across the stage during the Carolina Ballet’s 15th season performing “The Nutcracker” at Memorial Hall. Dec. 7-8

Visit 48 local artists, from painters to jewelers to potters, across 35 studios, some of which are located in Chapel Hill, during the 27th annual Chatham Artists Guild Studio Tour. Dec. 7-8, 14-15

The Carolina Inn Holiday Market

Embrace the holiday spirit and shop from The Carolina Inn’s Holiday Market featuring candles, jewelry and ornaments, complete with food and sweets for sale. Dec. 8, 15, 22

Support the Orange County Rape Crisis Center during the nonprofit’s 32nd Annual Holiday Auction held at The Carolina Inn. The night will include a silent auction and dinner featuring bestselling novelist, essayist and local attorney Katie Rose Guest Pryal. Dec. 8

Stroll through Hillsborough on a self-guided tour of the town’s historic treasures during Hillsborough Candlelight Tour: Books by Candlelight. The evening will feature pop-up readings from authors and celebrate the charm of the small town with festive decor, music, pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus and a miniature train circling downtown offering complimentary rides. Dec. 8

With a free hot chocolate in hand, watch Santa light the Southern Village tree as Mary Scroggs Elementary School Chorus and the Grey Culbreth Middle School Chorus sing holiday tunes. Dec. 9

Head over to Carolina Meadows for a free holiday concert featuring The Village Band, the community band that has been performing for more than four decades in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Dec. 9

Back by popular demand, “The Winter’s Tale,” Shakespeare’s timeless tragicomedy of obsession and redemption starring Judi Dench, returns to Silverspot Cinema. Dec. 10

Enjoy symphonic arrangements from “The Polar Express” and “The Nutcracker” – plus a singalong celebration – by the North Carolina Symphony at Memorial Hall. Dec. 10

Bring the kids to Orange County Public Library to watch Puppet Show Inc. present a retelling of the fairy tale “The Elves and the Shoemaker” and then create a craft to take home. Dec. 12

Donate a toy or two to the Hillsborough Police Department, which is collecting new toys for children, from infants to young teens to be distributed during the department’s annual visit with Santa. Dec. 12

2018 Chapel Hill-Carrboro Holiday Parade

Join together for music, local food and drink, and shopping at Carr Mill Mall during Carrboro’s annual tree lighting, Carr Mill by Candlelight. Dec. 13

Commemorate the season with secular and sacred selections from the Chapel Hill chorus Voices, who perform a variety of classical, gospel and popular styles complete with an audience singalong at East Chapel Hill High School. Dec. 13-14

Experience the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Holiday Parade – music, floats and performances start at the old Post Office on East Franklin Street and make their way to Carrboro Town Hall. Stick around to see Santa on his sleigh at the end of the parade. Dec. 14

Snack on sweet treats and sip on tea as the Triangle Youth Ballet dancers twirl around your table at The Carolina Inn’s Christmas Tea with the Sugar Plum Fairy. Dec. 15

Test out your pipes with PopUp Chorus at The ArtsCenter. This month, sing along with the community chorus to holiday classics, including Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Dec. 19

Celebrate the best of American folk and bluegrass at the annual Holiday Circle Show put on by The ArtsCenter. Dec. 20

Create festive and unique art pieces with Wine + Design Chapel Hill at Kidzu Children’s Museum. Dec. 20

See “The Nutcracker” on ice at Orange County Sportsplex. Dec. 20-21

Get in the spirit as Yolanda Rabun performs her rendition of seasonal classics during “Songs of Holiday Cheer,” at PlayMakers Repertory Company. Dec. 20-21

Riverwalk Solstice Celebration Lantern walk

Celebrate the winter solstice along the Riverwalk during the Solstice Celebration Lantern walk. Individuals are asked to bring a handmade lantern that lights up to guide them along as they march with the rest of the community. Dec. 21

Ring in 2020 in Kidzu style during the museum’s untraditional take on a ball drop! Guests can construct their own ball drop game and snowball launcher, make wintery snacks and dance the day away in the disco “Ball Room.” At noon, there will be a New Year’s countdown and “Bubble Ball Drop” at the treehouse. Dec. 31

Make a New Year’s resolution to eat local in 2020; start by making reservations for a New Year’s Eve dinner downtown. Dec. 31

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