From the very popular 12 Days of Christmas to poinsettia and ice cream farms to holiday markets and cozy inns - Orange County, NC is in a festive mood with events taking place now and throughout the month of December - perfect for your holiday celebrations.
With your health and safety as a top priority, Orange County’s holiday traditions have adapted for 2020. Celebrations, attractions, restaurants and shops are open and have taken important precautions as part of the Orange County Stay Safe Pledge to give you peace of mind as you experience the joy of the holiday season on Tobacco Road. As part of that shared commitment to health and safety, please follow North Carolina state guidelines: Wear a mask inside public places and outdoors when social distancing isn't possible.
Events to Remember
The Hometown Holidays Festival begins in downtown Hillsborough with Shop Small Saturday on November 28th. Hometown holiday fun includes a Virtual Open Hearth Cooking show, Virtual Holiday Tree Lighting, and the Virtual Holiday Parade. Plan a weekend around the Holiday Wreath Stroll and Lantern Walk. Tour the Burwell School for a 19th Century Christmas Holiday. Kids of all ages can write a letter to Santa and drop it off at the Visitors Center located downtown on East King Street. Plenty of Holiday backdrop photo ops around town!
During the holidays Morehead Planetarium is open from 1p-7p on Fridays, 10a-6p on Saturdays and 1p-5p on Sundays through 12/20. Although the Planetarium does not have a Holiday-themed show, they do have The Longest Night, which is a winter-based fable done in collaboration with Paperhand Puppet Intervention. 250 E. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, UNC Campus
The Carolina Inn brings back their 12 Days of Christmas celebration, now in its 23rd year. Favorite events such as Brunch with Santa, Gingerbread House Building, Cookie Decorating, Holiday Afternoon Tea and Teddy Bear Tea as well as Christmas Brunch are on the calendar. Book soon as these events sell out fast.
Ken Moore, Botanist, NCBG Assistant Director, Emeritus will introduce you to many of the beautiful and distinctive hollies and other evergreens, share “Bill Hunt stories” who was the founder of the North Carolina Botanical Garden Foundation and describe the two period landscape styles of the past two hundred years that distinguish McCorkle Place, north of South Building and Polk Place to the south. Participants must wear a mask for the entirety of the walk. Meeting spot provided upon registration. $12 ($11 members).
December 10-December 18: Hanukkah. The Levin Jewish Community Center (Jewish for Good) is not hosting its annual Hanukkah Festival this year, but is offering several ways to help celebrate Hanukkah. https://www.jewishforgood.org/calendar
Curl up with the whole family for an intimate evening of storytelling with PlayMakers Repertory Company legend Ray Dooley in Dickens’ classic tale of redemption, charity, and love. PlayMakers Passholders can stream this production unlimited times, on-demand between 12:00am December 14 through 11:59pm December 27. Single ticket buyers have 48 hours from the time of purchase to access and stream this production as much as they’d like or until 11:59pm December 27, whichever comes first. Due to the length and style of the show, recommended 8 and older.
The Holiday Circle show is a Carrboro tradition that brings together the finest of North Carolina's folk and bluegrass musicians for a seasonal celebration. This year's event will be livestreamed from The ArtsCenter's Wynn Theatre.
This 5th annual celebration of the longest night of the year will be a self-guided tour this year. Hillsborough residents are invited to create and hang lanterns from their front porches, trees or other visible outdoor spaces for walkers and drivers to enjoy during the weekend of December 19-21, in celebration of the winter solstice on December 21. Enjoy the light show from sidewalks and neighborhood streets to keep a safe distance from porches and property. Lantern kits will be available through Hillsborough Art's Council.
Winterfest celebrates the holidays with beloved baby goats, Peppa the Pig, Annie the Donkey and all the farm animals at Spring Haven. Your perfect tree awaits you in the Christmas Tree Forest where you'll also find the Polar Express Tractor Train decked out in lights and sleigh bells. Be sure to head over to the Snowflake barn for some sweet treats, the South Pole to create a special ornament with elves, and the Wonderland Barn where Orval and Wilbur are waiting for a head scratch. These events sell out fast as well!
Eno River Farm enjoyed a soft opening in spring, but the official winter open house is Saturday, November 28, from 9 a.m.to 5 p.m. with another chance to visit on December 5. Guests will be invited to walk through the green houses and see the berry fields and poinsettias. “All of the strawberries are planted, and we hope visitors find it an educational experience to see the sub-straight, hydroponic farming methods. Even though the temperatures are cooler we will be serving our ice cream. After all, there are a lot of places to get plants, vegetables and several places to find local ice cream in the area, but no place to find all three but at Eno River Farm,” says Keegan Czesak.
Santa Claus will be visiting Maple View Farm Ice Cream. Santa will have some friends with him on the porch where visitors can wave as they go through the drive-thru. Please bring your letters to Santa and his friends from the North Pole working the drive-thru service will place them in his special holiday mailbox.
Enjoy the holidays at the Honeysuckle Tea House with S'mores and a bonfire. S’mores kits including the skewer and the fire will be provided. Go roast a mallow and enjoy some mulled mead or local cider at the Honeysuckle Farm & Gardens!
In addition to a wealth of local, independent shops, you'll find a series of holiday markets designed to help you pick out special gifts for everyone on your list. Check-out our Shopping Blog here: https://www.visitchapelhill.org/blog/post/heres-your-buy-local-gift-guide-for-kids/ . And review this list for a reminder of what local shops are open
Arts on Market will be a live virtual event. Shop for hand-crafted art and gifts made by regional artists, artisans, bakers, and makers. You can also speak with artists during live booth hours. Southern Village, Chapel Hill.
Vendors gather to sell handmade goods such as clothing, body products, food items, fine art, children’s toys, ceramic pieces, and jewelry. Elf Market is the place to shop local for your holiday gifts! This year’s event will be held at University Place at 201 S. Estes Drive, Chapel Hill.
Cozy Inns & Accommodations
For nearly two centuries, The Colonial Inn has stood as an iconic cornerstone of downtown Historic Hillsborough. The inn safeguards dear and irreplaceable memories of weddings and receptions, tranquil stay-overs, birthday, retirement and corporate parties, family-style brunches and historic field trips for travelers and locals alike. After years of waiting, the doors are finally open. Enjoy brunch, an overnight stay or a hot drink by the fireplace.
Upon entering the lobby, a beautifully lit tree (pictured at top) and strands of ornamental garland welcome guests in grandeur fashion. Themed decorations based on the 12 Days of Christmas lyrics can be found throughout the hotel and worth a visit to get in the holiday spirit. Open daily from 10 am - 8 pm. For the full experience of the Inn and Chapel Hill, make it a weekend stay.
Enjoy the holidays Italian style. Surprise your love with a romantic getaway for the holidays! Cozy rooms, amazing cuisine, and lavish Italian style is the recipe for a relaxing staycation.
Dine at Local Restaurants
Looking for a restaurant open on Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's? Check out full list here: https://www.visitchapelhill.org/restaurants/
Unique Gift Ideas
Imagine you and your loved ones having a whole theatre to yourselves. Gather your family for a cinema experience like no other. Relax in oversized leather seats while you enjoy freshly prepared dishes, signature cocktails, craft beers and premier wines. Stream a movie from your favorite app or watch one of our Silverspots new releases.
The Hillsborough Arts Council has partnered with local cider Botanist and Barrel to produce and a new hard cider for the holiday season. Titled “Hillsborough Arts CIDER,” the drink will become available at the Cedar Grove cider’s tasting room in early December. Lyndon Smith, co-founder and Director of Operations for Botanist and Barrel, described the new Hillsborough Arts Cider as an ode to Provençal Rose wine. With floral notes and “just a hint of nuttiness,” those having the cider should be able to enjoy a delicate cherry aroma. https://www.botanistandbarrel.com/