Come Christmastime, there are some cities in the world where stepping onto Main Street feels like stepping into a Hallmark movie—New York, Woodstock, Berlin, to name a few.

Unfortunately, Raleigh has never ranked at the top of the list. As a mid-sized city, Raleigh’s too big to have small-town charm and too small to have some of the truly stunning Christmas displays and markets seen elsewhere. Plus, it’s hard to create a winter wonderland without snow. 

This year, however, there is a spot downtown that’s bringing a little holiday magic to the City of Oaks. The ice rink at the Red Hat Amphitheater is a picturesque Christmas scene you can enjoy firsthand.

Walking into the amphitheater surrounded by twinkling white lights is just the first step down a path to family fun or a romantic night out. Around the corner, a small ice rink awaits, where couples can stumble through circles near the railing or more experienced skaters can do spins on center ice. 

More lights and decorations surround the rink, including a 20-foot Christmas tree. Outdoor heating lamps and fire pits also create a cozy atmosphere for onlookers or skaters who need a breather. Best of all, there’s a bar just a few yards away offering beer, wine, and spiked hot chocolate. Who doesn’t love a warm drink in the cold, crisp air? 

It’s no Rockefeller Center, but the Red Hat ice rink comes with fewer crowds and more Southern comfort. 

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