So the kids are on winter break, and they’re getting so bored that they’re eyeing your Gillette and looking at the dog funny. Or you’ve got cranky Aunt Matilda and odd Cousin Bernice in from Altoona. Or maybe you’ve got a hot date that you’re nervous about impressing. Whatever’s stressing you out about the holidays, we’ve tracked down a wide variety of activities to get you out of the house and into the spirit. Some are for adults, some are for kids, and many are for everyone, but all of them beat an unplanned dog haircut.
First of all, don’t forget all the free holiday programming at your local public library! But if you’ve got some extra scratch, Cary’s Game Escapes and More has a Grinch-themed room. It’s the night before Christmas, and the Grinch has broken in and sabotaged the holiday. Can you and your family save the celebration before Santa arrives? ($25)
On December 13 at Cary’s Flour Power Kids Cooking Studios, buy a child dinner and their very own gingerbread house, plus all the ingredients needed to decorate it. At the end of the night, you can take it home for snacking or use it as a holiday centerpiece. Register for kids ages five to eight or for tween chefs. ($49)
But what about the grown-ups? Jack Tar & the Colonel’s Daughter in Durham has a mid-century-modern pop-up bar. The bar is decked out with a cheerful overabundance of vintage ornamentation, and they’re serving hot and cold cocktails developed just for the holidays, like brown buttered rum and “Santa’s Spring Break.” They’re also serving special Mad Men-era snacks: Trader Vic’s Crab Rangoon and Shanghai chicken wings, plus more. Take home a bag of their pastry chef’s Christmas cookies for $5. If the family tags along, you can still order from the bar menu out front in the diner. The holiday menu is available from 5:00-10:00 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5:00 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.
December 14 brings the third-annual Dashin’ Through The Bars in Raleigh. It comes with entry into five City of Oaks establishments, swag, an outfit contest, food and drink discounts, and more. ($24)
Bundle up and snuggle up on one of the Raleigh trolley’s holiday tours. Hop on board and enjoy choices such as a tour of Griswold-level decorated homes, Oak City holiday sights, and two different Santa trolleys.
For a do-it-yourselfer, tuck a thermos of hot cocoa into your sleigh and visit Wake Forest’s Piper Lights. A family tradition that started with a miniature manger scene, it now covers seven acres, where you can walk or drive, and have a visit with Santa at their candy store
The Carolina Inn on UNC’s campus celebrates the season with The Twelve Days of Christmas. Tour the decorated hotel, hang with Santa, or have one of three different afternoon tea parties.
Of course, you’ve got the Annual State Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 12, and on December 14, holiday parades are held in Cary, Chapel Hill, and Durham, which is also hosting a Bull City holiday fun fest with inflatable bounce houses, arts and crafts activities, visits with Santa, pony rides, and train rides.
The Durham Village Holiday Market has gotten so popular that this year, it has expanded to three days (December 15-18). Held at The Rickhouse on Foster Street, the market brings together independent food, beverage, and craft producers to offer samples and shopping. There will be a bar, and each day of the event will have a rotating lineup of food trucks.
The whole Triangle gets involved in Carolina Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. Shows will be held at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, DPAC, and UNC Memorial Hall. For the fourth year, area bars and eateries will create custom cocktails and desserts with a special Nutcracker theme.
In Raleigh, ridiculously tempting and delicious French patisserie lucettegrace serves the “gateau Clara” a multilayered extravaganza with elements like black currant yogurt cremeux, chestnut mousse, and almond shortbread. Downtown Durham newcomer Kingfisher tempts one and all with its Chocolate, Coffee, Tea cocktail, with cocoa nibs, coffee, bourbon, and served with a marshmallow. Trophy Brewing invented Clara’s Gift, a malty 5 percent ABV in a collectible Nutcracker can. And, Raleigh’s 10th and Terrace created a sugar plum fairy martini.