Holiday Activities in Raleigh, NC
This annual event happens every New Year's Eve rain or shine as an alcohol-free, family event on the streets of downtown Raleigh. In this "City of Oaks," the highlight is when the giant acorn drops at the countdown to midnight. complete with fireworks. First Night Raleigh has continued to thrive as an arts festival devoted to the Four Pillars of First Night: Celebration, Community, The New Year and The Arts. First Night Raleigh has evolved its 21-year history using the city as a stage, presenting artists and performers in plazas, churches, museums, theatres, bank lobbies and street corners throughout nearly 20 blocks downtown. The celebration features 100+ performing artists and arts in 35 inside venues and on outdoor stages.
Founded in 1990, The Raleigh Ringers is still going strong having gained international acclaim with four CDs and a holiday concert DVD titled One Winter Evening at Meymandi, where they perform yearly. Their holiday DVD concert was turned into two one-hour specials that have been broadcast on more than 250 Public Television stations in 45 states. The group has performed in 36 states, in several cities in France, live on the nationally syndicated Bob and Tom Show radio show, and on the Hour of Power at the Crystal Cathedral. The Raleigh Ringers sponsors two annual handbell festivals in Raleigh, one geared for children and one for adults. They perform unique interpretations of sacred, secular and popular music, including famous rock ‘n’ roll tunes arranged just for handbells.
Raleigh residents and visitors alike know the holiday season has truly arrived when WRAL lights its transmission tower outside its TV studios in an annual tradition that dates back more than half a century. The station's tower is transformed into a 300-foot Christmas tree wrapped in more than 2,800 multi-colored lights. Three five-foot stars adorn the top of the tower, which glows nightly through New Year’s Day as a gift to the community. The station’s 30-year weatherman has been known to play the tuba on air when the tower’s first lit. Back when the tradition began in 1960, the tower lighting was accompanied by on-air reading of A Christmas Carol.
An ornament from each of North Carolina's 100 counties is placed on the live, outdoor Christmas tree on the grounds of the downtown Capitol Building, where several open houses are held during the holidays. Year-round, self-guided tours are available of this historic building. The North Carolina State Capitol has remained virtually unchanged in appearance since its completion in 1840. Designed by Ithiel Town and Alexander Davis of New York, it is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival civic architecture standing in America today. It contains its original 1840 legislative furniture, constructed by a local cabinetmaker, and is preserved by the State of North Carolina as a historic shrine. Many political and social events have taken place in these chambers, among them the Secession Convention of 1861; the Constitutional Conventions of 1865, 1868, and 1875; and the impeachment of Governor William W. Holden in 1871. Admission is free.
Raleigh's premiere holiday event is the two-month-long Winterfest extravaganza featuring an outdoor skating rink with natural ice in downtown's City Plaza. Bundle up for choirs, bands, local entertainers, Santa Claus, sledding ramps, ice carving demonstrations, carriage and carousel rides and more. Local TV station ABC11 has a live weather camera stationed on the ice rink with live time-lapse every five-minutes, so would-be celebrants can peek in on the action. Admission including skate rental is $8 for both adults and children.