12+ Best Christmas Light Displays in Raleigh, NC and Nearby

The holiday season is a magical time of year when cities and towns come alive with the warm glow of twinkling lights, and Raleigh, North Carolina, and its neighboring cities are no exception. The light shows are some of my favorite annual events in the state and I make a point to visit them every year.

From festive neighborhoods to garden wonderlands, the Triangle area offers a variety of Christmas light displays. So, bundle up, grab some hot cocoa, and get ready to journey through the best places to see Christmas lights in Raleigh and nearby cities.

One huge note for 2023 – WRAL ended its Nights of Lights drive through at Dorothea Dix Park in 2022. It was one of the best shows around and will be missed.

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The Best Holiday and Christmas Light Displays in Raleigh and Nearby Cities

Check websites and Facebook pages for times and to purchase tickets. Most sites with admission fees strongly recommend purchasing in advance. Many locations use Facebook for urgent updates including weather affecting the shows.

Close up of a purple, red and orange holiday light.

Pullen Park Holiday Express – Raleigh, NC

For 17 nights, Pullen Park transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season, with thousands of lights adorning the trees and the beloved Holiday Express train offering rides through the park. Tickets go on sale the first week of October and sell out fast.

This is a big hit with small kids, but adults and older children may opt for a different event.

  • When: 17 nights from the end of November to mid-December
  • Cost: There is an admission fee for the train ride
  • Why Visit: This historic park, adorned with colorful lights and holiday decorations, is a family favorite. The Holiday Express train ride is a beloved tradition for many locals.

Piper Lights – Wake Forest, NC

Piper Lights is a family-run drive-through light display featuring more than 7 acres of dazzling lights, including themed areas like the North Pole and Santa’s Workshop. They do a fantastic job of keeping light goers updated via their Facebook page. Check to see when Santa is around, and if inclement weather has affected the site.

  • When: Open from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day
  • Cost: Free, though donations are appreciated
  • Why Visit: Piper Lights has become a beloved holiday tradition for many. It’s a labor of love for the Piper family, who spend months setting up this enchanting display for the community to enjoy.

Meadow Lights – Benson, NC

Meadow Lights is a sprawling Christmas light park that includes a train ride, a candy store, and a giant lighted Christmas tree. They advertise as the largest and oldest Christmas attraction in Eastern North Carolina.

  • When: Open from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve
  • Cost: Free to see the lights from the parking lot. There are fees for some attractions including the train which takes you closer to the lights
  • Why Visit: Families visit Meadow Lights for its old-fashioned charm and impressive light displays. The train ride is a highlight, taking visitors on a magical journey through the lights. Top off your night with food from the concession stand or a ride on the carousel.
A group of panda bears made of LED lights playing in a bamboo field.

North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival – Cary, NC

This annual Chinese Lantern Festival at Koka Booth Amphitheatre showcases stunning, handcrafted lanterns by Chinese artisans that illuminate the night sky, depicting various cultural and holiday-themed designs.

This has become a holiday tradition for my family. We love wandering through the displays and getting some spiked hot chocolate after before enjoying the performances.

  • When: Open from mid-November through early January
  • Cost: Admission fees apply
  • Why Visit: The Chinese Lantern Festival offers a unique cultural experience, with intricate lantern displays that capture the spirit of the season. Hang around for the hourly performances that are sure to stun and awe.

Lights on the Neuse – Clayton, NC

Lights on the Neuse offers a scenic tractor-pulled hayride through a beautifully decorated Christmas wonderland along the Neuse River. Run by Boyette Family Farms INC, they also have concessions and a cookie decoration station.

  • When: Open from late November through late December (select dates)
  • Cost: Admission fees apply
  • Why Visit: This charming hayride takes visitors on a journey through a wooded setting filled with sparkling lights, animated displays, and a visit with Santa and his elves. Finish up your evening at the cookie decorating station.

Wendell Wonderland – Wendell, NC

Wendell Wonderland is a one-day event that kicks off the holiday season with 400,000 lights timed to holiday music. It’s a local gem featuring festive decorations, a tree lighting ceremony, food, holiday market, and a visit from Santa Claus.

  • When: December 3
  • Cost: Free admission
  • Why Visit: Wendell Wonderland is a beloved community event that captures the essence of a small town holiday, making it a great spot for families looking to create lasting memories.

Lake Myra Christmas Lights – Wendell, NC

This is one of the largest light displays in North Carolina. Think what almost 250,000 lights dancing looks like. Now add synchronization with music and special effects.

  • When: Late November through end of December
  • Cost: Free admission
  • Why Visit: Unlike most other light shows, this isn’t a drive through. You park your car and watch the 25 minute show. It’s perfect for photos and video. Stay in your car, bring a chair, or stand, it’s up to you.
A snowman made of LED lights with a red and black scarf.

Park West Village Winter Wonderland – Morrisville, NC

Morrisville’s Park West Village transforms into a magical holiday destination with dazzling lights, a towering Christmas tree, and festive decorations throughout the shopping and dining complex.

  • When: November 17-18
  • Cost: Free admission
  • Why Visit: Park West Village Winter Wonderland is a weekend event with train rides, storytime with Santa, face painting, food trucks, and more. It’s a great way to get outside and have fun.

Wool E. Bull’s Winter Wonderland – Durham, NC

Stroll through majestic displays on the Durham Athletic Park’s Concourse, or maybe tell Santa what you really want for the holidays. You can also enjoy the unique experience of reserving an igloo in the infield for a private experience. Seasonal snack items are available at the Arctic Chill Tavern or enjoy a drink at the Jingle Bell Bistro. Kids will love the Bulls Express train that goes around the outfield.

  • When: Open from late November through the end of December
  • Cost: Admission fees apply. Some activities have additional fees
  • Why Visit: Between the sledding, train ride around the outfield, light displays, and reservable igloos, there’s plenty to do an see at Wool E. Bull’s Wonderland. You’ll definitely get a lot for your money. And being able to walk around the infield at one of the most famous ball parks in the US doesn’t hurt.

North Carolina Museum of Life and Science – Durham, NC

Holidays in the Park is North Carolina’s Museum of Life and Science holiday extravaganza. You can stroll through the inside and outside museum spaces, following lighted pathways through the Dinosaur Trail. There’s even a train ride.

I have to admit that even as an adult, I really enjoy the train ride and walking through the museum. They do a great job of making it kid and adult friendly.

  • When: Open through the month of December (select dates)
  • Cost: Admission fees apply
  • Why Visit: The museum is beautiful any day, but it’s particularly special lit up at night. The gardens and Dinosaur Trail somehow blend and make sense with the lights. And the train ride is a fun experience. Your kids will be talking about it for years to come.
Blurry trees lit up for the holidays with LED lights.

Illuminate Art Walk – Raleigh, NC

Wander through downtown Raleigh with your treasure map of light installations. Last year featured 16 works of art and they promise an even bigger show for 2023. Enjoy an evening of free art.

If you want to add dinner to your evening, make a reservation. This is a big event with a lot of people wandering around downtown and restaurants fill up fast. Also, try to get there early for easier parking. Last year we arrived around 6 pm and struggled to park.

  • When: They have not listed the official dates yet, but typically it goes from the end of November through mid January
  • Cost: Free
  • Why Visit: If you enjoy outdoor museums where you have to find the art, this is for you. Follow the crowds through the streets as you seek out giant light installations. Last year’s art included a large ornament you could stand inside, disco alley, and the sonic runway which converted audio signals into patterns of light.

Fieldstream Farm – Raleigh, NC

This drive-through light show has over one million lights across acres of farmland. They have what may be the largest tunnel of lights featuring over 200,000 lights. All of this right in Raleigh.

  • When: End of November through the month of December
  • Cost: Admission fees apply
  • Why Visit: It’s difficult to explain just how spectacular over one million lights can be. There are a lot of YouTube videos where you can see the length of the light tunnel and the amazing scenes. Fieldstream Farm opened their light show in 1996. That’s a lot of time to perfect the show.
Trees along a lake lit up with red and green lights.

Displays in Local Neighborhoods and Downtown Areas

Many individuals and neighborhoods are known for putting up incredible holiday displays. They’re usually free, but donations are welcome to help offset the electric bills. It’s good to be mindful that you’re in a neighborhood and always watch where you’re parking. You don’t want to trample the neighbors’ grass.

If you find yourself enjoying one of North Carolina’s small towns for their down home holiday decorations, take time to shop and possibly eat there too.

Mangum Family Christmas Lights
7510 Guess Road, Durham, NC
Tune to 90.3 FM to hear synchronized music

Christmas Plugged at Rose of Sharon Baptist Church
4109 Guess Road, Durham
Tune to 90.1 to hear synchronized music

Goldman Family Lights
6331 Deerview Drive, Raleigh
Tune to 90.9 to hear synchronized music

Taunton Family Lights
2216 Abbey Lane, Raleigh

Stonehenge Neighborhood
2500 Howard Road, Raleigh (Address for Swim Club)

The American Tobacco Campus
318 Blackwell Street, Durham

Downtown Cary, NC

McAdenville, NC (AKA Christmastown)

Meadow, NC

Downtown street in Charlotte, NC lit up with holiday lights.

Bonus Areas – Holiday Lights Outside Raleigh Area

Tanglewood Festival of Lights – Clemmons, NC

Tanglewood Park’s Festival of Lights, located just a short drive from Raleigh. The creative displays are timed with festive music including original compositions from UNC School of the Arts students. Over 80 displays weave through a picturesque countryside and around scenic lakes.

  • When: Open from mid-November through January 1
  • Cost: Admission fees apply. Check the website for prices and discount evenings
  • Why Visit: Families flock to Tanglewood for the pretty displays and village with gift shop, stables, and S’moresville. Activities include a charming horse-drawn carriage ride and the opportunity to drive through a mesmerizing tunnel of lights. It’s a perfect spot for creating cherished holiday memories.

Charlotte Motorway Speedway Christmas – Concord, NC

Say it with me, over 4 million LED lights. That’s FOUR million lights across 4 miles giving you plenty to see and lots of time to see it. The displays are synchronized to music on 101.3 FM. You have the option to stop and visit the Christmas Village which is highly recommended.

  • When: Open from mid-November through early January
  • Cost: Admission fees apply
  • Why Visit: This is one of the most spectacular light shows in North Carolina. It may be one of the most expensive too, but it’s worth the price. Over 800 individual displays, some hitting eight stories in height light up the motorway. You’ll have 4 miles to enjoy the lights with a pit stop for the Christmas Village in the middle.

Wrap-Up: Holiday Lights in Raleigh and Nearby Cities

These 19 Christmas light displays in Raleigh and nearby cities are sure to fill you with holiday spirit and create lasting memories. Whether you prefer a traditional park setting or a botanical garden’s tranquil ambiance, there’s something for everyone in the Triangle area. So, gather your loved ones and embark on a luminous adventure this holiday season!

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