Old-Fashioned Holiday Events for Families

From the mountains to the coast and everywhere in between, there is plenty to learn about the South’s rich culture. Experience the holidays as they were celebrated in the past at several seasonal events throughout North Carolina and Virginia. Many are annual traditions that have attracted statewide visitors for years. This season, share in the old-fashioned holiday joy with your family and create new traditions of your own.

Click on the links in the list below to jump to the section with more information about each event and location.

  • Experience a festive light display of twinkling oaks at Enchanted Airlie Nov. 25-Dec. 21 at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington.

  • Beginning Nov. 25 and through the New Year, the Battleship North Carolina will be lit up from bow to stern to the top of its masts as a part of the City of Wilmington’s annual downtown Christmas tree lighting.

  • Enjoy North Carolina’s largest estate decorated with dozens of trees, hundreds of poinsettias and thousands of ornaments at Christmas at Biltmore, Nov. 4-Jan. 1.

  • Blandwood Mansion and its grounds will be fully decorated from Nov. 18-Dec. 31 in Greensboro. Celebrate an antebellum Christmas with the Moreheads and learn the origins of beloved Christmas traditions.

  • Share a meaningful event with family and friends at the Candle Tea in Old Salem, hosted by the Women’s Fellowship of Home Moravian Church in Winston Salem Dec. 1-3 and Dec. 8-10.

  • Colonial Williamsburg’s Christmas Decorations Walking Tour Nov. 27-Dec. 31 introduces you to the old streets and buildings decked out in holiday splendor. The Twelve Days and Night Before Christmas and a community Christmas tree lighting will take place Dec. 23-25.

  • On Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. share in community caroling at the Chowan County Courthouse at Caroling in the Courthouse and other festive events in Historic Edenton.

  • Walk through a plantation from the 1700s decorated for the holidays and tour original slave quarters from the 1850s at the annual Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters at Historic Stagville in Durham Dec. 3 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

  • The 18th-century Joel Lane Museum House in Raleigh will be decorated with traditional greenery at its annual Colonial Christmas Open House on Dec. 3.

  • Take a guided Candlelight Tour through Old Salem’s Historic District in Winston-Salem on Dec. 2, 3, 9, 16, 17, 22 or 23 to experience traditions of a 19th-century Salem Christmas, including music and refreshments.

  • Spend the evening with your family in New Bern at Tryon Palace’s Christmas Candlelight, a program that includes a tour through the palace, festive performances and a candle illumination over the lawn on Dec. 10 and 17.

Airlie Gardens: Enchanted Airlie
Experience a festive light display of twinkling oaks at Enchanted Airlie Nov. 25-Dec. 21 at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington. For over a century, Airlie Gardens’ formal gardens, wildlife, trails and sculptures have lured visitors. During the holiday season, bring your entire family to the garden and see for yourself the attraction’s amazing displays. Enjoy holiday flowers, festive lights and live music, or have a family photo taken in the 2,400-square-foot floral conservatory. There will even be an actual running LEGO train set built by Airlie LEGOcampers, an exhibit that attracted more than 28,000 people last year. Tickets for this event must be pre-purchased and are $5/adult, $4/child (ages 4-12) with a $5 parking pass or $22 for an all-in-one carload. For more information on Airlie Gardens, 300 Airlie Road, Wilmington, visit www.airliegardens.org or call 910-798-7700.

Aycock Birthplace: Christmas Candlelight Tours
Charles B. Aycock was elected governor of North Carolina in 1900, and today his home in Fremont serves as one of the state’s many historic sites. Aycock Birthplace is a 19th-century farmstead with a house, kitchen and other buildings, furnished with pieces from the 1800s. On Dec. 6 and 8, celebrate the holidays of our state’s rich historical past at Christmas Candlelight Tours, 6:30-9 p.m. both evenings. Enjoy the festive evenings featuring primitive Baptist singers and Victorian Carolers, and tour the grounds while learning about 19th century Christmas traditions. Children of all ages are also invited to participate in a shadow play in the one-room schoolhouse on both nights. Admission is free. Call 919-242-5581 or visit ww2.esn.net/aycock for more information. Located at 264 Governor Aycock Road, Fremont, N.C.

Battleship North Carolina: Holiday Lighting of the Ship
Beginning Nov. 25 and through the New Year, the Battleship North Carolina will be lit up from bow to stern to the top of its masts as a part of the City of Wilmington’s annual downtown Christmas tree lighting. The Holiday Lighting of the Ship will take place nightly from dusk until 11 p.m. The best view is from downtown Wilmington on the waterfront. You can also tour the ship during the day from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. $12/adults and $6/child (ages 6-11). For more information, call 910-251-5797 or visit www.battleshipnc.com.

Bennett Place: Christmas in Carolina
Bennet Place in Durham is the historic site of the American Civil War’s largest troop surrender. Celebrate the holidays as they were in the Tarheel State during the 1860s at Christmas in Carolina, Dec. 10-11. Don’t miss a special visit from Santa Claus or delicious cider and ginger snaps. On Saturday, the traditional hogs head roasting will take place on the farm. The event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. Admission is free. For more information at the Bennett Place, which is located at 4409 Bennett Memorial Rd., Durham, call 919-383-4345 or visit www.nchistoricsites.org/bennett.

The Biltmore Estate: Christmas at Biltmore
Enjoy North Carolina’s largest estate decorated with dozens of trees, hundreds of poinsettias and thousands of ornaments at Christmas at Biltmore, Nov. 4-Jan. 1. At the front of the house, a 35-foot awe-inspiring Christmas tree decorates the banquet hall and is just one of Biltmore’s annual wonders during the holiday season. The conservatory offers a vibrant display of seasonal blooms, the grand organ plays holiday songs, and on weekends, Santa drops by to meet with kids of all ages. Between the tours, shops and other attractions there are plenty of activities to keep your family entertained all day. Biltmore is located at 1 Lodge St., Asheville. Daytime tickets are $59/adult and $29.50/child (ages 10-16). For more information call 800-411-3812 or visit http://christmas.biltmore.com.

Blandwood Mansion: Antebellum Christmas
Blandwood, the home of former North Carolina Governor John Motley Morehead, is now a treasured historic site in the heart of Greensboro. From Nov. 18-Dec. 31, the house and grounds will be fully decorated. Celebrate an antebellum Christmas with the Moreheads, and learn the origins of beloved Christmas traditions. Holiday tours at Blandwood, 447 W. Washington St., Greensboro, are $8/adult and $5/child (under age 12). Tours run Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday from 2-5 p.m. For more information call 336-272-5003 or visit www.blandwood.org.

Old Salem: Candle Tea
Share a meaningful event with family and friends at the Candle Tea in Old Salem, hosted by the Women’s Fellowship of Home Moravian Church in Winston Salem Dec. 1-3 and Dec. 8-10. This event is commonly referred to as the opening event of the Christmas season in historic Old Salem. Hostesses dressed in early Moravian attire will greet your family and then guide you through a special assortment of festivities. Sing carols, enjoy Moravian sweets, and even see how beeswax candles are made. Candle Tea will be at the Single Brothers’ House on Salem Square, 600 S. Main St., Winston Salem. Tickets are $4/adult, $1/child (12 and under). Reservations are not available. Call 336-749-9463 or visit www.candletea.org for more information.

Colonial Williamsburg: Christmas Decorations Walking Tour
Whether you have been to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia before, the Christmas Decorations Walking Tour Nov. 27-Dec. 31 will introduce you to the old streets and buildings decked out in holiday splendor. Learn about behind-the-scenes materials, construction and traditions that accompany the holiday decorations. Tickets are $10 in addition to an admission ticket, or $15 without. Free for children under 6.

On Dec. 4 enjoy performances from various a cappella groups from the College of William & Mary at the Grand Illumination Celebration. The musical selections will include unique arrangements of traditional and modern holiday music that are sure to have your children singing along. There will also be food and a fireworks display to end the evening. Tickets are $10. A cappella groups will begin performing at noon, dinner is at 4:15 p.m. and fireworks follow.

Kids of all ages will enjoy the activities scheduled for Christmas weekend, Dec. 23-25. At Crystal Carols, holiday favorites will be performed on a glass armonica, an instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin. Christmas stories come to life at The Twelve Days and Night Before Christmas, a holiday family program. Lastly, gather for hot cider and holiday treats before the Community Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. For more information on all holiday events, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit HYPERLINK “http://www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/visit” www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/visit.

Duke Homestead: Christmas at Candlelight
See how the Duke family celebrated the holidays in the late 19th century at Christmas at Candlelight at Duke Homestead Dec. 2 and 9 from 7-9 p.m. at 2828 Duke Homestead Road, Durham. This event includes a tour of the Duke’s home, factories and farm, where Washington Duke first grew and processed tobacco. View old-fashioned decorations and enjoy caroling, hot apple cider and other goodies. Admission is free. For more information, call 919-477-5498 or visit www.nchistoricsites.org/duke.

Historic Edenton: Caroling in the Courthouse and More
Take a trip out east to Edenton, North Carolina’s second oldest town and first colonial capital. All year, the home of James Iredell, a member of the first U.S. Supreme Court, is a part of the Historic Edenton Tour. Explore this site, among others, at many holiday events in Edenton this season.

On Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. share in community caroling at the Chowan County Courthouse at Caroling in the Courthouse. Refreshments will be served. Also that weekend, view 18th-century styled holiday decorations at the Iredell House Groaning Board, from 1-5 p.m. on Dec. 9 and 10. Enjoy music from an old-fashioned harpsichord, similar to a piano, or feast off a table with so many desserts you can almost hear the boards “groan.” Continue the festivities at the Edenton Bell Battery Confederate Unit program on Dec. 10 from 1-5 p.m. View a living history performance of the artillery unit that served in the Civil War, with cannon firing on the courthouse green. All events are free.

On Dec. 12, learn how to use natural materials to create your own decorations at the Period Christmas Decorations Workshop. Take everything you make with you and bring the holiday spirit back home. There is a $12 supply fee, and reservations are required for sessions at 9 a.m.-12 p.m. or 1-4 p.m. For more information or to make reservations, call 252-482-2637 or visit www.nchistoricsites.org/iredell. All events take place at Historic Edenton, 108 N. Broad St., Edenton.

Historic Stagville: Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters
Walk through a plantation from the 1700s decorated for the holidays and tour original slave quarters from the 1850s at the annual Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters at Historic Stagville Dec. 3 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Historic Stagville, located at 5828 Old Oxford Hwy, Durham, is the site of one the largest plantations of the pre-Civil War South. During this event, guests can experience holiday traditions from the historic plantar family and slaves. Vendors and artisans will offer a variety of festivities from crafts and games to food and music. You can support local artists by purchasing holidays gifts for anyone on your list. For more information, call 919-620-0120 or visit www.stagville.org.

Horne Creek Farm: Christmas by Lamplight
Horne Creek Living Historical Farm offers visitors the chance to experience 1900 farm life in North Carolina. Learn about the rural past at Christmas by Lamplight on Dec. 6 and 8 at the farm, which is located at 308 Horne Creek Farm Road, Pinnacle, N.C. Enjoy music and food of the early 20th century while sharing this warm holiday event with your family. The program is $10/adult, $6/child (ages 6-12) and is not recommended for children under 6. Reservations must be made for 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m., or 8 p.m. on either evening. For tickets, call 336-325-2298 or visit www.nchistoricsites.org/horne.

Joel Lane Museum House: Colonial Christmas Open House
The Joel Lane Museum House in Raleigh is a restored 18th century manor house that allows visitors today to experience the sacrifices made by their ancestors in the past. In the holiday spirit, the buildings on site will be decorated with traditional greenery at the annual Colonial Christmas Open House on Dec. 3. Explore how early Americans celebrated Christmas, watch actors perform scenes of 18th-century life, and enjoy colonial games, crafts and other seasonal activities. The open house will take place from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at 728 W. Hargett St., Raleigh. Admission is free. For more information call 919-833-3431 or visit www.joellane.org.

Old Salem: Candlelight Tour and Salem Christmas
Celebrate the holidays at Old Salem, Winston Salem’s living history museum, and experience the season in a time when the focus was entirely on faith and family. Spend the whole evening out and take a guided Candlelight Tour through Old Salem’s Historic District on Dec. 2, 3, 9, 16, 17, 22 or 23. The tour will introduce your family to the traditions of a 19th century Salem Christmas and includes an evening of music and refreshments. Be ready to walk and stand for long periods of time, and bundle up in warm clothing and comfortable shoes. Call 800-441-5305 to reserve your spot. Tickets are $20/adult and $15/child.

For the entire cultural experience, join Old Salem’s staff on Dec. 10 for Salem Christmas, an annual tradition. Historic buildings will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and a gathering in the town square will follow at 5:15 p.m. with singing carols and lighting the Christmas pyramid. Daytime activities include wagon rides, puppet shows, rifle firing demonstrations and more. Everything is included with an all-in-one ticket, which costs $21/adults, $10/child. Call 336-721-7350 to order your tickets. For general information, call 336-721-7300 or visit www.oldsalem.org.

Tryon Palace: Christmas Candlelight
Tryon Palace, a historic site in New Bern, is celebrating the holidays with a wide calendar of events. Spend the evening with your family at Christmas Candlelight, a program that includes a tour through the palace, festive performances and a candle illumination over the lawn on Dec. 10 and 17. Tickets are $20/adult, $10/student (grades 1-12).

The Palace is also hosting various shows appropriate for children of all ages throughout December including A Christmas Carol, Christmas-In-A-Shoebox, and Tryon’s Tales for Tots: Twelve Days of Christmas. Find dates, times and admission prices online at www.tryonpalace.org/calendar.

Christmas decorations remain in place through the first week in January. Spend the day touring seven major buildings, three galleries and 16 acres of gardens. The tour begins at 529 S. Front St., New Bern. For general information, call 252-639-3500 or visit www.tryonpalace.org. Tryon Palace is closed Dec. 24-26.