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Safe and Fun Ways to Enjoy the Hol-la-la-la-lidays in Durham

Estimated Read Time:
3 minutes

When the "most wonderful time of the year" falls in the middle of a global pandemic, you need a list of safe and fun things to do.

Posted By Discover Durham Staff

We are still spreading holiday cheer, despite this crazy year! Kids from one to 92 can savor the holiday season and experience days packed with fun activities, virtual events, and lots and lots of lights.

1. May your day be merry and bright as you go see all the lights.

See American Tobacco Campus in all its glowing glory when the historic district and Lucky Strike Tower are draped in lights. Wear a mask, bring a blanket, and plan to stroll beneath the string lights to take in the sights.

Ready for lights, shimmering pathways, and train rides? Head over to the Museum of Life & Science for Holidays in the Park, a magical celebration of the holiday season designed specifically with safe physical distancing between groups. Tickets are available for select days in December.

Grab some hot cocoa, jump in your car, and go on the contactless and self-guided South Durham Holiday Lights driving tour using Built Story, a new app offering a map and driving directions of the most festive holiday lights - front yards around Durham. (Normally it's $10 per self-guided tour, but new users get their first tour free until Christmas Day.)

Join Mangum Family Christmas Lights for a free drive-in synchronized light show. Get cozy in your car, tune in to 90.3 FM on your radio to hear the Christmas music, and sing-a-long as you watch over 100,000 dancing lights.

Gather all the snacks and head over to Christmas Plugged at Rose of Sharon Baptist Church. Enjoy the synchronized light show happening every night from now until January from your car.

2. Over the Eno and through Duke Forest to get outdoors we go.


Nature is calling. Please answer the call and explore the great hiking, walking, and running trails in Durham. Half of the 22.6-mile American Tobacco Trail runs through Durham along an abandoned railroad bed originally built for the American Tobacco Company in the 1970s.

Explore all of downtown Durham by foot, whether you have a spare hour or an entire afternoon. In Northern Durham, Eno River State Park and Little River Regional Park & Natural Area feature hiking and biking trails along winding rivers and hills.

Hungry after your wildlife adventure? Have yourself a merry little takeout! Order takeout directly from one of our local restaurants or gather around the socially distanced firepits and heaters at one of these local restaurants with heated outdoor dining.

3. Journey to the sites of Christmas past.

Jingle all the way over to the Duke Homestead Christmas Open House. The house is beautifully decorated for Christmas with living history demonstrations every Saturday during the day in December (weather permitting). Staff is in period dress demonstrating everyday tasks and holiday traditions. (Masks are required for entry.)

4. Rockin' around the house to virtual concerts & events

Grab a family bag of popcorn from The Mad Popper, a local gourmet popcorn shop, and get ready for an evening of virtual events.

Experience yuletide carols sung by a choir with a recorded performance of Handel’s Messiah at Duke Chapel. Drink hot cocoa and visit with Santa during Durham Parks and Recreation's free Virtual Hot Cocoa with Santa event. Check out the virtual shows at the DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center). Savor an evening of virtual films at The Carolina Theatre, or enjoy the virtual art exhibitions online at The Nasher Museum of Art right before ringing in the new year!

5. Celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa Virtually

The annual KwanzaaFest in-person celebration is canceled, but we can still celebrate virtually! Tune in for a virtual celebration with videos of past KwanzaaFest celebrations and interviews of artists.

Be sure to search 'Hannukah,' or 'Kwanzaa' on our website's event calendar to see what other events might be happening to celebrate the holidays.

6. If the weather outside is frightful, enjoy Durham accommodations. They're delightful!

While it’s unlikely there will be a lot of snow in Durham this holiday season, it’s still fun to cozy up at some of Durham’s lodging properties and leave the cold outside.

Enjoy museum displays at 21c Museum Hotel, warm up with beverages and sweet treats at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, or splash around at an indoor pool at one of several hotels near The Streets at Southpoint after holiday shopping. (The Streets at Southpoint is offering curbside pickup.)

Celebrate the holiday season on The Patio at Unscripted! Get your tickets online for The Pajama Jam Brunch, Gingerbread Cookies & Cocktails, Christmas Karoake, and more!

Make a reservation at The Durham Hotel for a special New Year’s Day brunch on the heated roof featuring Bloody Mary’s, grass-fed steak, and farm eggs.

7. Cookies and Crafts and Games, oh my.

Did someone say cookies? Gather your little helpers for some baking and decorating at home! Save yourself the mess and pick up premade gingerbread cookies and icing kits from Monuts. Make extra cookies to give to neighbors and other people who could use a tasty gift.

How about handmade holiday cards or ornaments for friends and family? Freeman's Creative and The Scrap Exchange have arts and craft supplies, so you can pick up some supplies and get to craftin' the night away.

Clear off the dining table for a classic board game after dinner. Try playing a virtual game to connect with those you can't see in person. If you need some new board game ideas, Atomic Empire has an online store with curbside pickup!

The holidays definitely look different this year, but we still hope you are able to spend time with loved ones safely and enjoy all the amazing things Durham has to offer. Happy Holidays!

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Discover Durham Staff



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