Annual Events

There is always something fun going on in Orange County. Plan your visit around these major events happening this festive season!


Thru December 9.  Sculpture in the Garden.  North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill. Annual display of nearly 50 one-of-a kind sculptures placed amid the native wildflowers and shrubs to delight garden visitors.  (919) 962-0522.

December 1-January 2.  Twelve Days of Christmas. The Carolina Inn will be festively adorned for the holidays with elaborate decorations based on the traditional song, The Twelve Days of Christmas.  There will be self-guided tours and a number of holiday activities, including festive meals, breakfast with Santa, cookie decorating, holiday teas, horse-drawn carriage rides and a display of wonderful gingerbread houses.  Some events free.  The Carolina Inn.   Please visit or call (919) 918-2715.

December 3.  13th Annual Christmas Holiday Shoppe Craft Show.  9 am – 4 pm.  Shoppers can enjoy one-stop shopping with 65 talented artisans and crafters from throughout the state. A wide variety of unique, handmade gifts and specialty items await you. Christmas music, a bake sale and a delicious hot lunch will put you in a festive mood.  St. Thomas More School.  (919) 929-1546.

December 3. The 10th Annual Elf Fair, a magical festival of holiday arts and crafts, will take place at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro 11am-5pm.  Featuring over 30 local artists offering jewelry, pottery, clothing, accessories, candles, toys, and lots of unique, affordable items for all ages.  The bar will be open for holiday beverages, and festive foods will be available during the event. A kids’ zone will feature hands-on art projects and classic holiday films.

December 3.  Hillsborough Holiday Parade, Tree Lighting & Light Up the Night at 4:45 pm.  The parade starts at Corbin Street and ends at East Margaret Lane. Afterwards enjoy the tree lighting after the parade & beginning of Hillsborough Light Up the Night. Come out to Downtown Hillsborough to celebrate the Holiday Season as we Light Up the Night! Details at  (919) 732-8156.

December 3. Free Outdoor Holiday Concert.  Holiday music performed by local musicians from the Gathering Church. They will perform new takes on traditional Christmas songs from the Gathering Church's album Christmas Nights. The concert will be in the Memorial Garden at University Baptist Church; 100 S. Columbia Street. 

December 3-4:  St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Hillsborough, will be holding “The Festival of the Society Tree” (FeST), a fundraising event to benefit Orange County outreach programs featuring fine handcrafts and creative arts, homemade foods and baked goods, beautifully hand crafted wreaths and ornaments, and other unique gifts. 210 St. Mary’s Road, Hillsborough. Sat 9am-3 pm and Sun Noon to 3 pm

December 3-4. The Nutcracker - Carolina Ballet on December 3 at 2 pm and at 8 pm; December 4 at 2 pm at Memorial Hall on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.  Tickets start at $49, Students $10.   Returning for the 10th time in as many seasons, Carolina Ballet presents The Nutcracker for a performance that has become a Chapel Hill holiday tradition.

December 4. 38th Annual Christmas Crafts Show; Big Barn Convention Center, Sponsored by Palmer’s Grove United Methodist Church, Hillsborough. Free. Holiday crafts for purchase.  9am – 5 pm. See Mr. & Mrs. Claus.  Bring a nonperishable food item for food drive for OCIM in memory of Donna Freeland.  Event contact number. (919) 732-8714. 

December 9. The Carrboro Town Tree Lighting at 6 pm with music on the steps of Town Hall at 301 W. Main Street (919) 942-8541

December 10. Chapel Hill-Carrboro Holiday Parade, Downtown E. Franklin Street in Chapel Hill to Main Street in Carrboro, 10 am.

December 10. All aboard for the 30th Annual Historic Hillsborough Tour, Downtown Hillsborough.  Features a miniature train ride through Historic Hillsborough's neighborhoods, stops along the way to enjoy decorated yards & porches, live entertainment, and a visit with Santa himself! Tour is 1 - 7 PM and will begin at the Town Hall Campus at 101 E Orange Street. Tickets $15.00 in advance and $20.00 day of. Registration beginning November 10th. Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce  (919) 732-8156.

December 16-17. Nutcracker on Ice.  Friday at 6 pm and Saturday at Noon.  Tickets for the Nutcracker are $10.00 for adults and $8.00 for children 12 and under and Adults 55 and older. Orange County SportsPlex, Hillsborough, NC (919) 644-0339,

December 16-17.  North Carolina High School Football Championships, Kenan Stadium, UNC Campus, Chapel Hill; North Carolina High School Athletic Association (919) 240-7401.   Classifications 1A and 1AA.  Friday Dec 9 game at 7:35 pm Saturday Dec 10 game at 12:05 pm.

December 18. Ice Skate with Santa & Slapshot with Santa. The young and the young at heart can celebrate the season with afternoon Skating with Santa and free candy canes.  Noon – 2:15 pm. Slapshot time is 2:45 pm – 4:45 pm.  Also Public ice skating sessions weekdays and weekends all throughout the holiday season! $5.50 kids 12 and under, $6:50 adults, $3:50 skate rental. Orange County SportsPlex, Hillsborough, NC (919) 644-0339,

December 18. Lantern Parade on Riverwalk. Hillsborough Arts Council,  5:30 pm – 6:30 pm.

December 18. Jim Watson Christmas Concert. The program includes his traditional songs of the season along with the popular audience carol sing-along.  Tickets will be $8 in advance and $10 at the door.  Check for tickets at the Arts Council office or online at  Whitted Building, 300 West Tryon Street, Hillsborough.

December 31. Night Lights: Family-Friendly New Year’s Eve.   Celebrate from 3 pm to 6 pm at Morehead Planetarium & Science Center. Family-friendly activities, performances, and a kids' countdown under the stars to ring in the new year! $5, per person. For more information and to register (this sold out FAST last year!), visit

Click here for a complete listing of 2016 Major Annual Events

(Header photo credit: Townsend Bertram & Co.)