December 5, 2014

Durham Museum’s Holiday Activities

Any other time of year, The Durham Museum is “the train museum” to my kids. But starting the day after Thanksgiving each year, it’s a magical place to them all the way up to New Year’s Eve.

Never thought of visiting “the train museum” during the holidays? Here’s what you’re missing out on:

Day after Thanksgiving

Every year, the museum holds a popular tree lighting ceremony with lots of kid-friendly activities planned throughout the museum before the big countdown.

I attended this year's tree lighting with my family and my sister's family. Once the tree was lit, white confetti fell from above.

I attended this year’s tree lighting with my family and my sister’s family. Once the tree was lit, white confetti fell from above.

The tree? A gigantic real tree with huge ornaments. Kids love getting up close to check it out.

Also, Santa and Mrs. Claus are at this tree lighting event, with the tree serving as a cool backdrop to your photos. Expect a long wait, but kids usually get a present after talking with the big guy. And, in my opinion, this Santa looks like the real deal.


Santa at The Durham

Hard to believe this was Farley and Mooch at the Durham just one year ago.

Hard to believe this was Farley and Mooch at the Durham just one year ago.

If you missed him on Black Friday, he’s at the museum through Dec. 23 on:

Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1 to 3 p.m.

Sundays, 1 to 3 p.m.

Tuesdays, 5 to 8 p.m.


Ethnic Holiday Trees Exhibit

Tucked in the basement of museum is this annual exhibit of mini trees showcasing how cultures from around the world celebrate the Christmas season. It’s on display through Jan. 4, 2015.

This photo was taken of the tree display in 2013, since this year my kids breezed past the room.

This photo was taken of one tree in the Ethnic Holiday Tree exhibit in 2013, since this year my kids breezed past the room.

This is one of those exhibits that adults like way more than kids. We were lucky to get a cursory glance from my son, and my 3-year-old didn’t even pause to notice the room.


Ethnic Holiday Festival

Held Friday, Dec. 5, from 5 to 9 p.m., this event features more than 20 local cultural organizations proudly displaying their crafts and traditional dress, while musicians and dancers perform throughout the evening. It’s also a good spot to buy hard-to-find ethnic foods and gifts you know your grandma will love.


Holiday Concert Series

You can hear holiday music performed live by local entertainers, school musicians and choirs each weekend leading up to Christmas. Performances are by different groups at different times on Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21. Want the schedule? Head here.


Family Nights with Santa

The museum stays open late on Tuesdays, so they’ve planned fun nights of holiday crafts, live music and of course, the man of the hour, Santa and his reindeer (including a baby reindeer – SQUEE!). The remainder of these special nights are Tuesdays, Dec. 9 and 16, from 5 to 8 p.m.


Winter Camps

Camps are held Dec. 22-23 and December 29-30, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each day of camp will feature a unique theme with hands-on activities, tours, games and crafts.


Noon Year’s Eve

Celebrate the 2015 early with an afternoon party on Dec. 31 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There’s live music, special crafts and activities, culminating in a celebratory bubble wrap stomp and balloon drop at noon.


If you go

Durham events

The Durham Museum

Where: 801 S. 10th St.

Hours: Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m., Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and closed Mondays and major holidays.

Cost: Adults, $9; seniors (62+), $7; children (ages 3 – 12), $6; and FREE for children 2 years and under and members.


Tip: Throughout the holiday season, you can drop off non-perishable food items at The Durham for the Food Bank for the Heartland in support of ConAgra Foods’ Shine the Light on Hunger campaign.



  1. I love this place! I wish we had a chance to go there more. It’s so pretty. One of my old co-workers works there, and I had a student working there. I love their tree, and the Santa they pick out.

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