North Carolina’s capital is becoming known as a leading destination for live music and more. This winter, Raleigh ( has quite a bit to offer on the entertainment, cultural, shopping and dining fronts.

The weekend before Thanksgiving is a great time to honor the cultures of those who lived in America before settlers crossed the sea. The 18th annual American Indian Heritage Celebration (Nov. 23 at the N.C. Museum of History) features workshops, crafts and activities about North Carolina’s indiginous people. Watch traditional and contemporary artists, dancers and other performers free of charge.

The same weekend, downtown Raleigh gets a jump on the holiday season with the WRAL Raleigh Christmas Parade. It’s billed as the largest Christmas Parade between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, and features more than 100 entries – floats, marching bands, entertainers and Santa Claus.

Through the season, there’s Winterfest downtown, featuring an outdoor skating rink in City Plaza (Dec. 1-Jan. 26; Admission ($8) includes skate rentals, and there’s two-for-one admission on Tuesdays.

The Man in Red will also be in town for the Pullen Park Holiday Express (Dec. 6-8, 13-15): The park will be festooned with holiday lights and displays; you’ll find local entertainment and crafts and get a chance to board a lighted train ride and antique carousels.

At the N.C. Fairgrounds, the Christmas Carousel Holiday Festival (Nov. 29-Dec. 1) offers a well-rounded holiday experience for the entire family: You can shop for holiday gifts, crafts and food.

The dining scene in Raleigh is hot, and Raleigh’s beloved Ashley Christensen ( just opened Joule Coffee. Her new restaurant, Death and Taxes, opens in early 2014. A Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour is always a great way to experience restaurants (, and the city’s craft brewery scene is now up to more than a dozen breweries. Over in Chapel Hill, the original Southern Season (; they now have a new location in Charleston) is a great place for tasty holidays shopping.

The North Carolina Museum of Art ( introduces its’ first design exhibition with “Porsche by Design: Seducing Speed,” exploring the history and development of the Porsche lineage from the 1930s to the present day. The exhibit runs Oct. 12-Jan. 20.

The Umstead Hotel and Spa ( in Cary recently unveiled a top-to-bottom renovation of The Umstead Spa, including heightened facilities for couples, making it a perfect holiday getaway. Chef Scott Crawford’s decadent cuisine at Herons restaurant even includes tasty “spa menu” choices. With a wide variety of packages, The Umstead is a great base when visiting the Raleigh area for holiday shopping, culture or family get-togethers.

Experience speed and action on the ice with the Carolina Hurricanes NHL Hockey team (, which plays at PNC Arena all winter long. For the hockey fans on your list, consider the team’s special ticket packages or premium seating options for gifts or stocking stuffers.

Of course, Raleigh is also the home of many other events this winter and over the holidays, including shows at the North Carolina Theatre (“ELF: The Musical” is Nov. 12-17) and Carolina Ballet performances, including “The Nutcracker, Dec. 7-29 (

Up for a touch of tradition? Consider the 42nd Annual Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour (Dec. 7-8; (, or Christmas tours at the Joel Lane Museum House ( – where Raleigh’s oldest home celebrates the holidays in Colonial splendor.