Editors’ Picks: What To Do in Durham This Weekend

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Head to CCB Plaza for the downtown tree lighting celebration, enjoy Wool-E’s Winter Wonderland at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, experience an 1870s Christmas on a candlelight tour through the Duke Homestead and so much more!

Durham Tree Lighting
The year’s downtown tree lighting includes a holiday market plus music from the Choral Society of Durham, Fruits of Our Labor and Duck. Batalá Durham provides the drumroll to the tree lighting, current Mayor Elaine O’Neal lights the tree, and the jolly old man in a red suit will also make an appearance! Photo by John Michael Simpson.

Compiled by Lena Miano

‘Our first and last love’ – Through Jan. 7, 2024 – Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University showcases photographer, collage and multimedia artist Lyle Ashton Harris’ work, which uses found and personal objects to facilitate an intimate conversation about othering, Blackness and queerness. This exhibition features “Shadow Works” – photography displayed with shells, pottery fragments and cuttings of the artist’s own hair, Ghanaian textiles and other materials – along with some of his earlier pieces and references to engage with broad social and political dialogues as well as personal struggles and self-illuminations. 

‘Persistence: On Our Terms’ – Through Jan. 13 – Take your time viewing Ella West Gallery‘s newest exhibit, which features the work of Maya Freelon and Sachi Rome. This collection experiments with contemporary abstract art of all colors and mediums and explores the terrain of the margins, interrogating how identity and representation can be expressed outside of the boundaries and expectations of dominant culture.

Leadership Forum and Holiday Reception – Thursday, 5-7:30pm – Join the Durham Chamber of Commerce at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club for a networking reception and program featuring remarks from elected officials and the presentation of the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award. Networking begins at 5 p.m., followed by the program at 5:45 p.m. and reception at 6:15 p.m.

Wool-E’s Winter Wonderland – Thursday, 5-10pm; Friday 5-10pm; Saturday, 3-10pm; Sunday 3-8pm – Durham Bulls Athletic Park transforms into a festive wonderland with large-scale light installations, visits with Santa (or his favorite elf, Wool E. Claus) and an Arctic Chill Tavern beer garden. Enjoy sledding on six Frosty Fun Hill slopes, reserve an infield igloo and ride the Bulls Express train around the outfield. Indulge in seasonal snacks and drinks and then shop for unique gifts at Winterland Market. The ballpark’s stands dazzle with a spectacular 13,000-light, 4-mile display of colors and music.

Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony – Thursday, 6-7pm – Head to the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, sip on a warm beverage, feast your eyes on festive decorations, enjoy live entertainment and watch the tree lighting – all in the hotel’s lobby. 

Semans Lecture: Lyle Ashton Harris – Thursday, 6-8pm – Explore the self-portraiture of Lyle Ashton Harris at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and hear from the artist as he speaks with organizers of his exhibition including Lauren Haynes of Queens Museum and Caitlin Julia Rubin from Rose Art Museum. Harris’ work features an array of self-illuminations while also speaking to broader societal ideas and themes of his portfolio. The discussion will be followed by a reception. 

‘Clark Stern & Chuck Cotton’ – Thursday, 7pm – Boogie your way to The Blue Note Grill and enjoy a repertoire of gospel, traditional and  original songs from this pianist and drummer duo. 

‘Concerning Violence’ – Thursday, 7pm – The John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute presents a screening of this documentary which narrates colonization in Africa in the 1960s and ‘70s. Head over to the Rubenstein Arts Center Film Theater to see this cinematic story featuring singer and activist Lauryn Hill and Columbia University professor Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. 

Meshroom – Thursday, 7-9pm – Unwind, observe or participate in movement on the open dance floor alongside fellow attendees at The Fruit. Live music and occasional performances set the tone for an environment that forms an intellectual and intentional community. 

‘Wynonna Judd’ – Thursday, 7:30pm – The Durham Performing Arts Center presents this legendary country singer as she performs across the country for her “Back to Wy” tour. The concert lineup includes songs from “Wynonna,” “Tell Me Why” and classics from The Judds – a duo the vocalist formed alongside her mother. In the early 1990s, “Wynonna” became the highest-selling debut by a female artist and hit the No. 1 spot with three different songs from the album. 

The Bipeds present Shadowbox Session #17 – Thursday, 8-10pm – Dancers and musicians from The Bipeds Dance-Theatre Company unite to share their pre-written, spontaneous and in-progress works with the audience. This show’s lineup includes Jody Cassell, Mauri Connors and others. 

December Japanese Tea Gathering: Shiwasu – Friday, 10:45am-12:15pm; Saturday, 10:45am-12:15pm and 1-2:30pm – Join Chizuko Sueyoshi and members of the Japanese Tea Practitioners of Durham for a bowl of whisked green tea and Japanese confection in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens teahouse. 

Brummer Luncheon: Lyle Ashton Harris – Friday, noon-1pm – After Harris’ Semans Lecture, Brummer Society members have the opportunity to sit down to a private luncheon with the artist at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. This event is only open to members, so be sure to upgrade your membership and register beforehand. 

Cocktail Launch Party – Friday, noon-10pm – The Glass Jug Beer Lab in downtown Durham drops four new draft cocktails featuring state spirits, house-made Harper’s Real Ginger Beer and a variety of juices. Cocktail sample flights will be offered at this event only, but grab some cans of Harper’s to-go and mix up your own drinks at home! 

Booker Spicely Historical Marker Unveiling and Dedication – Friday, 3-6pm – Members of the Spicely family, the Booker Spicely Committee, the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics open a new state highway marker to honor and bring awareness to the experiences of Booker T. Spicely, an African-American soldier who was shot for objecting to segregated seating on a bus and refused service for gunshot wounds because of his race, later being pronounced dead at Duke University Hospital. The unveiling includes a program of speakers, musical performances and a reception following the program at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.

Santa Paws – Friday, 5-8:30pm – Dress your pups in their ugliest holiday sweater and bring them out to the Durham Armory for photos with Santa and Mrs. Clause. Shop local vendors at the canine-friendly pop-up market to get some gifts for your furry friends, compete in the canine ugly sweater contest and bring goods for the dog food and toy drives.

Christmas by Candlelight – Friday, 5:30-9pm – Experience an 1870s Christmas on this candlelight tour through the Duke Homestead State Historic Site. Learn the history behind the Duke family home as costumed interpreters bring it to life while engaging in storytelling and delighting in cookies, cider, singing, live music and more.

Holidays in the Park – Friday, 5:55-9:15pm; Saturday, 5:55-9:15pm; Sunday, 5:15-8:55pm – Enjoy a memorable stroll with your loved ones through outdoor and indoor spaces at the Museum of Life and Science. Follow shimmering pathways and glowing trees from the gardens to the Dinosaur Trail and revel in the tropical temperatures inside the Magic Wings Butterfly House. Plus, take a train ride on the Ellerbe Creek Railway, passing colorful light displays along the way.

‘The Big Lebowski’ and ‘Road House’ – Friday, 7pm – Don’t miss this two-film special at the Carolina Theatre as part of the Retro Film Series. “The Big Lebowski” follows Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, his bowling buddies and their journey in a mistaken identity case. “Road House” is centered around Dalton, a Ph.D-educated bouncer, as he navigates a rowdy bar and a budding romance. 

‘SLASH/BACK’ – Friday, 7pm – Rubenstein Arts Center hosts the debut feature of this film by Iqaluit-raised director Nyla Innuksuk, which follows a group of girls in Pangnirtung, Nunavut as they battle a supernatural apocalypse. Using horror movie strategies, household weapons and friendship, the girl gang fight to save their home. 

Hasan Minjah – Friday, 7pm and 10pm – Don’t miss this two-time Peabody Award-winning comedian, who has three shows on Netflix, as he satirizes politics, parents, therapy and more during his show, “Off With His Head,” at the Durham Performing Arts Center

Handel’s Messiah – Friday, 7:30-9:30pm – Celebrating the 90th anniversary of Duke University Chapel Choir’s first performance of selections from Handel’s “Messiah,” this show depicts the birth, death and resurrection of Christ, presented on period instruments with Baroque-era tuning at the Duke Chapel

Darren Criss: A Very Darren Crissmas – Friday, 8pm – Debuting his first full-length project and pulling from Christmas classics, novelty songs and ballads, the “Glee” star and Emmy Award-winning performer brings his talents to the stage at the Carolina Theatre’s Fletcher Hall

Duke Jazz Ensemble with Conrad Herwig – Friday, 8pm – The student ensemble welcomes this Grammy-nominated, New York-based jazz artist to the Baldwin Auditorium stage. His Latin tracks, performances with Afro-Caribbean musicians and overall trombone talent has propelled him into a world of teaching music. 

Denty Westlake Featuring Kobie Watkins – Friday, 8pm – Tap your feet to the unique yet classical jazz selections from duo Paul Westlake and Rob Denty as they celebrate their newest album, “Denty Westlake.” Drummer Kobie Watkins joins the blues group for their performance at Sharp 9 Gallery

Hush Hush – Friday, 9-10pm – Enjoy a night of revelation and truth at Mettlesome with this special comedy show. Place your anonymous confessions into a bucket and the improv stars on stage read them aloud, turning shame into memories. 

Holiday Greenery: Build Your Own Wreath – Saturday, 9-11am – Make your own holiday garland at Sarah P. Duke GardensDoris Duke Center with Plant Collections Manager Elisabeth Hall and horticulturist Michelle Rawlins. The two experts illustrate best practices for transforming greenery, stems, berries and more into a holiday wreath to enjoy at home. Don’t forget to bring hand pruners and any decorations you want to include. 

A Wing and a Prayer: Author Talk and Book Signing – Saturday, 11am-12:30pm – Head to Sarah P. Duke Gardens to learn about the conservation of North America’s bird populations, which have seen a steady decline in the last half-century. Veteran journalists Anders Gyllenhaal and Beverly Gyllenhaal share highlights from their book, detailing ways to get involved. The duo has traveled all over to observe scientific, political and technological efforts to save birds.

Larry & Joe – Saturday, 11am – This duo brings their fusion of Venezuelan and Appalachian folk music to the Carolina Theatre through a multi-instrument show featuring the harp, banjo, cuatro, fiddle, maracas, guitar, upright bass and singing. Their interactive program engages the audience through bilingual stories and humor. 

Brunch and Photos with Santa – Saturday, 11am-2pm – Santa makes a stop at Durham Food Hall for photos, reindeer games, face painting and more. Enjoy brunch or lunch from vendors throughout the hall before or after meeting St. Nick. 

Art-N-Soul Holiday Market – Saturday, noon to 4pm – Shop for unique gifts, enjoy craft cocktails, listen to live music by Steve Holcomb and grab some grub from Cousins Maine Lobster or Ty’s All Natural at Mystic Farm and Distillery’s “Handmade for the Holidays” market. Don’t forget to take a photo with Santa Claus to commemorate the day. 

The Motown Sound of Christmas – Saturday, 2 and 7pm – Durham Arts Council and Pure Life Theatre join forces this holiday season for a performance that showcases singers and dancers throughout the Triangle plus an array of music selections at PSI Theatre

Navigating Grief During the Holidays – Saturday, 3-5pm – Stop by the Durham County Library for the 2nd annual event to learn about grief during the holiday season from award-winning author Karla J. Noland, grief educator and advocate Rebecca Feinglos and clinician Conseula Chapman, moderated by author Antoinetta Mosley. Each speaker will offer stories, tools, resources and more to navigate loss with resilience. 

Holiday Extravaganza – Saturday, 4-7pm – Spend an evening at The Glass Jug Beer Lab at RTP, get a picture with Santa and enjoy Gator on the Grill’s offerings. From face painting, balloon animals, tree ornament decorating, holiday beverages and sweet treats, the whole family is sure to have a blast. 

Duke Chinese Music Ensemble – Saturday, 5pm – The orchestral group, directed by Jennifer Chang, brings a collection of Chinese musical stylings as well as mixtures of Eastern and Western instruments to the Baldwin Auditorium stage, including the guzheng, paiban, erhu, ruan, piano, violin and more. 

Downtown Durham Tree Lighting – Saturday, 5-9pm – The tree lighting is a celebration of the holidays and also the city of Durham. This year’s program at the CCB Plaza includes a holiday market, music from the Choral Society of Durham, Fruits of Our Labor and Duck. Batalá Durham provides the drumroll to the tree lighting, current Mayor Elaine O’Neal lights the tree, and the jolly old man in a red suit will also make an appearance! 

Durham Symphony’s Holiday Pops Concert – Saturday, 7pm – The symphony fills the Durham Armory with holiday tunes, featuring classical works and music honoring Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and the upcoming New Year, preceded by a surprise visit from Santa and followed by a dessert buffet during intermission. Also take part in the silent auction and bid on a variety of unique items while enjoying the concert!

Durham Ballet Theatre Winter Showcase – Saturday, 7pm and Sunday, 3pm – The ballet theater presents its winter showcase at the Durham School for Ballet and the Performing Arts, offering a program full of aerial performances, dance numbers and new choreography by local artists. 

The Hip Hop Nutcracker – Saturday, 7:30pm – A dynamic cast of 12 all-star dancers, a DJ, violinist and one of many iconic hip-hop founders Kurtis Blow come together to bring a reimagined version of this classic story to the Durham Performing Arts Center. Follow along with Maria-Clara and the Nutcracker Prince as they battle a gang of mice, fused with the spirited graffiti and visuals of modern New York City.

Cowboy Bebop LIVE – Saturday, 7:30pm – Immerse yourself in the soundtrack of this anime through a multimedia experience, storytelling and jazz from the Bebop Bounty Big Band at the Carolina Theatre’s Fletcher Hall. The 14-piece jazz ensemble features musicians from renowned groups like Orlando Jazz Orchestra, Disney’s Main Street Philharmonic and others. 

Kobie Watkins Grouptet – Saturday, 8pm – Percussionist Kobie Watkins brings the beat into Sharp 9 Gallery for his headline show. Other performers include trumpeter Ryan Nielsen, saxophonist Jackson Cini, trombonist Wes Parker, pianist Ryan Hanseler and bassist William Ledbetter. 

Midtown Dickens/Shirlette Ammons – Saturday, 8pm – As part of The Pinhook’s 15th anniversary, the venue is hosting events all weekend. The final show of the celebration features Midtown Dickens’ bluegrass sounds alongside musician and poet Shirlette Ammons for the band’s reunion, followed by an old school dance party. 

Will Butler and Sister Squares – Saturday, 8pm – This rock and pop band takes the stage at Motorco Music Hall for the group’s final fall tour destination, sharing the first mashup between Will Butler and the Sister Squares. Vocalist Lizzie Lieberson from Teen joins the show.

The Pink Triangle Goes 2000’s – Saturday, 9:30pm-2am – Dance the night away for The Pink Triangle’s final 2023 party with the best hits of the 2000s at The Fruit. Drag performances will feature Jobani León and Antho Alexa Maravella FuckNer

Drag Brunch – Sunday, 10am-noon – Indulge in a brunch buffet and enjoy performances by drag queens Ebony Summers, Michelle Warren, Vivian Vaughn, Kirby Kolby and Purina Chow at Clouds Brewing. All proceeds will go to Crape Myrtle Festival, a nonprofit raising funds for those living with HIV and any broader LGBTQ+ community needs. 

The Fruit Flea – Sunday, 11am-5pm – Support Durham’s creative community at The Fruit as you shop art, clothing, vintage goods and more at the monthly flea market.

Patchwork Holiday Market – Sunday, noon-4pm – More than 70 local makers and vintage vendors come together at the Durham Armory to create a unique shopping experience with a diverse selection of high-quality and original goods.

Renaissance Brunch and Day Party – Sunday, 2pm – Motorco Music Hall hosts this celebration of Beyoncé’s album with live performances, prizes and giveaways, Beyoncé bingo and a Renaissance-inspired costume contest. 

Chamber Music Program Concerts – Sunday, 3-5pm and 6-8pm – This two-part concert features music from the 18th through the 21st centuries, performed by students in the Duke Music Department‘s Chamber Music Program. Each concert in the Baldwin Auditorium will feature different musicians and songs, and both are available through livestream. 

N.C. Jazz Ensemble Holiday Concert – Sunday, 4-6pm – Immerse yourself in festive vibes and big band sounds as the sensational ensemble, led by dynamic vocalist Denise Barnes, takes center stage at the Hayti Heritage Center. This talented band of educators and artists will play to the theme of “Holiday Rhythms Marching On.” 

Jachin Kedar/Dreams N Oaks/MB Loaded/Dai A’mary/Deandre Thorpe – Sunday, 4pm – The Pinhook puts together a lineup of rappers, singers, songwriters and performers from all over for a night of R&B and lyrical poetry. 

The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Show – Sunday, 8pm – To round out your weekend, laugh along with “The Queens of Christmas” as they take you through an array of old and new classic songs and comedy at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

For even more community events and happenings, visit our online calendar.

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