Thanksgiving means a long weekend, lots of food, and a house full of guests. After the turkey is eaten and the football games are watched, what’s next on your weekend to-do list? Skip the Black Friday shopping, and participate in a local N.C. community activity instead. Here’s your guide of events, tree lightings, skating rinks, parades and more to entertain family and friends over the Thanksgiving weekend in North Carolina.


1. Float through the weekend with Wrightsville’s Holiday Flotilla. The North Carolina Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach, Nov. 23 – 24, is a different kind of parade – all boats, decorated to the nines with lights and elaborate Christmas décor. The weekend is full of events including a tree lighting ceremony and visit from Santa on Friday, Festival in the Park on Saturday, and the main event floating boat parade on Saturday night, complete with fireworks. Wrightsville was one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Florence, and the area relies on tourism and support from the rest of the state. As an added bonus to the fun, when you visit the Holiday Flotilla, you’re supporting your coastal neighbors in their recovery.

2. Catch the Polar Express in Bryson City. During this read-along ride, the classic children’s book comes to life as you and your family take a magical ride to the North Pole (conveniently located close enough to Bryson City Depot that the trip is only around an hour and 15 minutes). Visit Santa, drink hot chocolate, and listen to Christmas carolers. Nov. 9 – Dec. 31. Visit the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for ticket prices and reservations.

3. Everyone loves a parade. From Blowing Rock to Emerald Isle, there are multiple Thanksgiving Day and Christmas themed parades across North Carolina for some pre-turkey family fun. Charlotte offers the Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade Nov. 22, while Blowing Rock, Emerald Isle, Mount Airy, Sparta, and Ocean Isle host parades on Nov. 24. Catch the Forest City Christmas Parade or the combined Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting in Lincolnton on Nov. 25. Click city names for details and times.

4. Burn off the calories at a Turkey Trot in the Triangle Area. Ready to run? Durham hosts the New Balance Thanksgiving Day 8K and 5K to start your turkey day off with some serious exercise, with a 1 Mile Fun Run and 100 Yard Kids Dash for families. Raleigh hosts both the Ridgewood Turkey Trot, an 8K and 100-yard Kids' Dash benefiting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Trophy Trot 10K, which includes a 400-meter run for kids and ends with a beer for the adults at Trophy Brewing Company. Click trot title names for details, registration fees, and start times.

5. Light up the night at a Christmas Tree Lighting. On Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas trees will light up across the state in private homes and public spaces. Enjoy the town-wide Christmas in the Park and Light of the Town in Blowing Rock, visit Santa on the Green and Christmas Tree Lighting in Cashiers, experience the Island of Lights: Lighting at the Lake in Carolina Beach, have a Hometown Christmas Tree Lighting in West Jefferson, or join the Holiday Down Lighting Celebration in Hendersonville.

6. Experience historic holiday happenings in Winston-Salem. Old Salem is known for preserving the rich background of Moravian culture brought to N.C. by early settlers. Learn how the holidays were celebrated in the 18th century at the living Old Salem Museums & Gardens. Salem Saturdays at Christmas start Nov. 17, with open doors to the multiple buildings on Main Street where historical interpreters demonstrate traditional baking, pottery making, and more. There are also candlelight tours, holiday music, and sweet baked goods (like Moravian sugar cookies) to sample.

7. Take time to volunteer to feed the hungry. Not everyone has the resources to prepare a hot meal on Thanksgiving Day – or the day after, nor the day after that. Multiple charities and organizations that work to provide food for North Carolinians need extra hands during the holiday season. Whether it’s making sandwiches for the Urban Ministry’s Soup Kitchen in Charlotte, or packing boxes of food for school children with Nourish NC in Wilmington, local groups are making a difference – and need your help. Visit Volunteering for Thanksgiving Across North Carolina for opportunities to volunteer this weekend and beyond this holiday season.

8. Take a page from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with A Dickens Holiday in Fayetteville. A Dickens Holiday gives the city a Victorian Christmas twist, with horse-drawn carriage rides, performances by strolling actors and carolers, costume contests, homemade crafts, holiday vendors, and treats. The town lights up when the sun goes down with a candlelight procession through town, ending in a spectacular fireworks show. Friday, Nov. 23, 1 – 9 p.m.

9. Get cozy with Chetola’s Festival of Lights in Blowing Rock. Bundle up and pile in the car for a drive around Chetola Lake and see thousands of holiday lights glow against the Blue Ridge Mountains. Opening Nov. 23, Chetola’s Festival of Lights offers glittering ice skaters, a Nativity scene, a colorful train, an appearance by Rudolph, and more. The Chetola Resort offers horse-drawn carriage rides around the lake for a fee, and offers free cookie decorating and a visit by Santa inside.

10. Twirl on the ice at an outdoor ice skating rink in Charlotte or Greensboro. Holiday on Ice, located at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza in Charlotte, hosts a 7,000-square-foot outdoor skating rink with skyline views Nov. 16 – Jan. 6. Piedmont Winterfest in downtown Greensboro boasts an outdoor rink and ice slide Nov. 16 – Jan. 27. Visit sites for times, ticket prices, and details.

We at the NC Coalition for Fiscal Health aim to inform North Carolinians not only of what’s going on around the state, but also to inform you of the latest issues that impact your healthcare. Have the sky-high costs of healthcare in our state impacted you and/or your family’s lives? Do you want to do something about it? Join the Coalition now to receive updates about new legislation and policies that will affect YOUR healthcare. Sign up now!

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