Home Around Town Chapel Hill’s Ultimate Holiday Checklist

Chapel Hill’s Ultimate Holiday Checklist

Celebrate the season with markets, parties, decorations, food, drinks and more.

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Stroll through downtown Chapel Hill and admire the decorate windows.

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

Head to Southern Season for one of many holiday cooking classes from a kids-only class making Christmas cupcakes to a kids and parents class making bûche de Noël. Throughout December

Browse the pop-up Dewey’s Bakery holiday shop at SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals and buy some baked goods for the family with proceeds going toward the House. Through Dec. 23

Choose handmade gifts from among 65 artisans and crafters during St. Thomas More Catholic School’s 15th annual Christmas Holiday Shoppe Craft Show. Stick around for a raffle, holiday music, a bake sale and the reindeer cafe. Dec. 1

Dream of sugar plums at the Carolina Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” at Memorial Hall. Dec. 1 and 2

Continue a holiday tradition with a month of festive decor and events including an afternoon with the Sugar Plum Fairy and a visit with Santa during The Carolina Inn’s 21st annual Twelve Days of Christmas. Dec. 1-Jan. 2


Making a List, Checking It Twice 

A closer look at how The Carolina Inn decks the halls:

  • Decorating the outside of the Inn began in mid-November. 
  • The interior décor goes up one week later. This includes greenery, lights, poinsettias and the lobby Christmas tree. 
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas decorations went up right after Thanksgiving along with additional Christmas trees, wreaths and seasonal décor in Crossroads Chapel Hill. 
  • It takes a solid four to five days and more than 10 people on site to get the Inn completely decorated for the season.

Though it’s called the Twelve Days of Christmas, the celebrations of the holidays at The Carolina Inn actually lasts about a month, featuring special menus at Crossroads Chapel Hill, a tap dancing performance, brunch and breakfast with Santa, holiday afternoon tea and so much more. There’s even a special Romantic Resolution package for New Year’s Eve that includes a well-appointed guest room, late checkout, valet parking, chocolate covered strawberries, Champagne and a welcome amenity.


Shop for holiday gifts and support more than 40 local artists at The ArtsCenter for its 12th annual Elf Market. Hop by the bar for a drink and let the kids make art projects. Dec. 1

Bring the kids to story time in the tree lot at 140 West Plaza to hear stories brought to you by Chapel Hill Public Library’s Circulator. Dec. 1, 8, 15

Make plans to visit Ayr Mount for a guided house tour when the Federal-era house is decorated for the holiday season – the house is never more beautiful than when it is adorned with freshly cut flowers, naturals, berries, holly, fruits and evergreens. Dec. 1-2, 5-9, 12-15

Stop by St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Hillsborough for FeST featuring baked goods, handmade crafts, soup and bread, wreaths and more. Dec. 1

Kick off the season in downtown Hillsborough making family memories, doing some holiday shopping and celebrating the season. Start off by getting pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Visitors Center in the Alexander Dickson House. Then watch the Running of the Elves, a new 1-mile downhill race down Churton Street, right before the Light Up The Night Hillsborough Holiday Parade. Post-parade, join in for the Community Sing and Tree Lighting. Dec. 2

Take a magical tour through 17 acres on a hayride to Santa at 1870 Farm and stop to visit their festive animals, holiday scenes and more. They’ll have blankets and complimentary hot apple cider to keep you warm! Dec. 2, 8-9, 15-16, 23-24

Take the family to The Root Cellar (Dec. 2, 9, 16), Orange County Public Library (Dec. 14) or The Carolina Inn (Dec. 21-22) to decorate your own gingerbread house with fellow cookie builders. 

Interact with Santa Claus and baby goats, ride the Farm Express Train or hayride and enjoy various kids activities with Spring Haven Farm on weekends during their Winterfest. Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23

Visit 52 local artists from painters to jewelers to potters across 36 studios in Chatham County at the 26th annual Chatham Artists’ Guild Studio Tour. Dec. 1-2, 8-9

Enjoy refreshments as you jam out to electric tunes from the Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus group for their 24th annual winter concert “There’s No Business, Like Snow Business!” at Binkley Baptist Church. Dec. 1-2

Warm up your Saturday mornings with a series of classic holiday movies at The Lumina Theater – don’t miss “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Love, Actually,” “Scrooged” and “Micracle on 34th Street.” Dec. 1, 8, 15, 22

Embrace the holiday atmosphere and shop from The Carolina Inn Holiday Market filled with chocolates, jewelry and ornaments – complete with food and sweets to get into the spirit of the season. Dec. 2, 9, 16

Catch The Barefoot Movement at The ArtsCenter for acoustic renditions of everything from Chuck Berry’s “Run Run Rudolph” to Perry Como’s “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas.” Dec. 2

Kick off the holiday season at second annual Holiday Bazaar at the 140 West Plaza. Shop handmade crafts and creations from 20+ talented local makers, and eat from local food trucks while listening to Selector B Steady’s vinyl jams. Dec. 2

Bring the whole family to Hayrides with Santa at Maple View Farm for scenic views of the farm strung with lights and afterward enjoy milk and cookies with Santa. Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 14-16

Watch the Southern Village holiday tree light up with a hot beverage and listen to the Mary Scroggs Elementary School chorus and the Grey Culbreth Middle School chorus perform festive songs. There will also be a chance to dance and take photos with Santa. Dec. 3 

Light up the night with symphonic arrangements of classic holiday tunes like “White Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by the North Carolina Symphony at Memorial Hall. Dec. 6

Be enchanted by the magic tale of Old St. Nick during Vietri founder and creative director Susan Gravely’s storytime at McIntyre’s Books. Dec. 7 


Jolly Old Nick

Over the years, Vietri artist Alessandro Taddei has painted a lot of different scenes featuring Old St. Nick on the Italian dinnerware – cuddling with a pup on a dog bowl, cooking up a storm on a oval platter and in his sleigh on a platter. Now fans of this festive line can learn all about the jolly man in “The Magic of Old St. Nick – The Adventure Begins,” a new book written by Vietri founder and creative director Susan Gravely and illustrated by Alessandro. “We had so much fun creating the persona of this fellow,” says Susan. “We talked about him being a real outdoorsman.” The book, out just in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Old St. Nick dinnerware, dives into the backstory of Old St. Nick where readers learn that he is actually a babbo, a term for ‘father’ in Italy, especially in Tuscany. As Old St. Nick passes the reins to his son, Nick, he shares all the lessons he wants to impart. “Now it’s important for you to always do good deeds and be the best you can be. Help others in need,” Susan says, quoting her protagonist. “Spread your love around the world.” Wrapping up with a glossary of Italian words, the book has a beautiful message about kindness and love that would pair perfectly with milk and cookies. 

Find the book locally at SOUTH and McIntyre’s Books or at vietri.com.


Don’t miss the chance to indulge in sweet treats like ice cream for breakfast with Santa and his friends at Maple View Farm, and don’t forget to wear your pajamas! Dec. 15

Experience the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Holiday Parade filled with music, floats and performances starting at the old post office on East Franklin Street and making its way to the Carrboro Town Hall. Dec. 8

Get away from the hustle and bustle of the season and enjoy the peaceful holiday splendor of the North Carolina Botanical Garden for their Winter in the Garden Holiday Festival, with luminarias, native plant greenery, music, food trucks and good cheer. Dec. 8

Grab the kids and head to Orange County Public Library to watch Puppet Show, Inc. present a retelling of the classic book, “The Wish Tree,” then create a craft to take home after. Dec. 8

Head to the Horace Williams House for Preservation Chapel Hill’s exhibit and holiday sale featuring handcrafted wooden collectibles with work from the Chapel Hill Woodturners. Through Dec. 22

Venture to the past at Burwell School where North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green and poet Darnell Arnoult bring conversation, poetry and drama between Elizabeth Keckley and Mary Lincoln, two women whose alliance developed against the backdrop of the Civil War. Dec. 8

Stroll through Hillsborough on a self-guided tour around the town’s historic treasures during the 32nd annual Candlelight Tour: Books by Candlelight. The evening will feature pop-up readings from authors who celebrate the charm of the small town, festive decor, music, a gingerbread house exhibit at the Burwell School and a complimentary miniature train circling the downtown historic district. Dec. 9 

Head over to University Place for a free holiday concert featuring The Village Band who has been playing music for more than four decades in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Dec. 9

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis returns to Memorial Hall to spread holiday cheer at their Big Band Holidays concert. Dec. 11

Test out your pipes and join in on the fun with PopUp Broadway Chorus at The ArtsCenter. This month, sing along with a community chorus to songs from “The Sound of Music.” Dec. 13

Light up the season with Carrboro’s annual tree lighting, Carr Mill By Candlelight. This year, instead of stringing lights on the oak tree in front of Townsend Bertram & Company, the community is invited to join together to bring light and love to the tree with a candle lighting ceremony. There will also be performances by Second Shift A Cappella and Katharine Whalen Jazz Squad and complimentary hot chocolate and cider. Don’t forget to put your name in for the raffle prizes provided by stores in Carr Mill Mall. Dec. 13

See “The Nutcracker” on ice at Orange County Sportsplex. Dec. 14-15

Stroll through downtown Chapel Hill and admire the decorated windows. 

Enjoy an extra holiday 2nd Friday ArtWalk with caroling and warm beverages at the 140 West Plaza, plus luminaries lighting your way. Dec. 14

Donald Davis Storytelling is back this holiday season to share his stories at The Fearrington Barn. In lieu of admission, donations of canned goods to CORA and gently used children’s books to Book Harvest will be accepted. Dec. 15-16

Celebrate the best of American folk and bluegrass at the third annual Holiday Circle Show put on by The ArtsCenter. Dec. 15

Commemorate the season of light with secular and sacred selections from Voices, the Chapel Hill chorus, in a variety of classical, gospel and popular styles complete with an audience sing-along at UNC Hill Hall’s Moeser Auditorium. Dec. 15-16

Turn up the holiday magic with your little ones with a fun-filled session of confectionary creativity at Kidzu Children’s Museum. Participants will receive an undecorated gingerbread house with icing and tasty toppings. Create memories together as you create a masterpiece fit for the season – hot chocolate bar included! Dec. 15

Join Southern Season for a morning full of holiday cheer at Weathervane for a delicious breakfast buffet. Don’t forget your camera because Santa will be making his rounds and every child will receive a holiday treat! Dec. 19

Photography by Caitlin Margaret Kelly

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

Experience a train ride around The Carolina Inn on the Holiday Express. Enjoy reading “The Polar Express” with Santa’s elves while decorating cookies, making ornaments and savoring a snack. Dec. 23

Dance the night away at The ArtsCenter’s New Year’s Eve celebration featuring Ellis Dyson and the Shambles, a folksy swing-ragtime band, who will be joined by Katharine Whalen. Dec. 31

Make a New Year’s resolution to eat local in 2019 and start by having dinner downtown. Dec. 31


New Year, New Chef 

2019 is going to be a big one for chef Justin Burdett. He takes over the kitchen at Crook’s Corner as only the third-ever chef in the restaurant’s 36-year-old history in January. But this month, he looks forward to serving up classic Crook’s seasonal dishes, like Bill Smith’s corned ham and holiday duck featuring a seared duck breast and a confit leg, served with cranberries, mashed rutabagas and sautéed cabbage and leeks. 

When he’s not learning the ropes from Bill, Justin might be found making classic dishes at home like turkey and stuffing or getting to know his new surroundings. “I’m still exploring Chapel Hill, and the Crook’s staff is making a list of all the cool, local places to hit for holiday shopping,” Justin says. “There’s still so much I haven’t seen yet.” Meanwhile, he’s planning a spectacular New Year’s Eve dinner at Crook’s. The menu will draw from the repertoire of Bill Neal, Bill Smith and Justin in homage to what has come before and to offer a glimpse into what he has in store for Crook’s in the coming years.  

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