things to do in Raleigh with kids, Color Me Mine Cary paint ceramics. By Leigh Hines

There’s a new spot in Cary’s Waverly Place that will allow you to put your own dazzle on your holiday gifts this year. Color Me Mine in Cary is a walk-in, paint-it-yourself ceramics studio for painters of all ages.

My children and I stopped in one afternoon and they both wanted to paint.

The setup is easy. You choose from an assortment of ceramics in categories marked on the wall. My daughter chose a rainbow bank from the kid’s section, whereas my son chose a reindeer plate from the seasonal section.

Kids and adults can paint ceramics at Color Me Mine in CaryYou choose about six colors, depending on what you are painting, and then you can get as creative as you want with your design.

From rainbows to ornaments, Color Me Mine offers a lot to paintFor younger children, you may want to start with smaller items because each piece really needs about three coats of paint.

Once you have finished your ceramic, you turn it in, and Color Me Mine will glaze it, fire it and call you when it’s ready. This process usually takes less than a week.

Color Me Mine is fun for kids in Greater Raleigh, Art and Painting You pick it up and you have a gift for yourself that shows your creativity or a gift for a loved one with a lot of handmade love in it.

Kids can be creative at Color Me Mine Color Me Mine has a monthly calendar filled with many activities, including Music Night, Kid’s Night Out, Ladies Night and couple date nights. If you are an inexperienced artist, Color Me Mine has stencils and rubber stamps and a design computer with thousands of designs that you can transfer on to your pieces and paint by numbers! Staff will always be there to help you.

Fun for all ages at Color Me Mine in Waverly PlaceThere is a painting fee, plus the cost of the ceramic. Special nights usually give a discount on the painting fee, which is usually $6 for kids and $10 for 13 and older.

My kids loved it so much that they are ready to do it again, and I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind painting something as well.

Follow Leigh Hines on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or visit her blog here: HinesSightBlog

The Nutcracker in Raleigh NCBy Leigh Hines; Photography by Chris Walt

There’s no doubt that Carolina Ballet’s annual production of The Nutcracker is a Raleigh holiday classic. The stunning ballet, which we highlighted earlier this month, will be performed at the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, Dec. 19-28, for its 13th year. Click for tickets.

With the curtain about to open in Raleigh, we compiled 10 amazing facts about the production:

1. The Nutcracker was the first ballet Carolina Ballet creative director Robert Weiss ever saw (when he was five years old), which led him to pursue a career in ballet. He performed every male role in New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker (except the role of Drosselmeyer) as a student and then as dancer in the company

2. It took more than 12 yards of net or tulle to make a single tutu skirt for the production–the net is specially manufactured for tutus and comes from England.

3. There are 333 stage lights in this production.

4. The Nutcracker, the Rat King, 10 mouse heads and Calico Cat’s head were built by Robert Alsop in England who also built many of the Star Wars costumes.

5. The Mother Ginger costume weighs about 100 pounds and takes a pulley to get dancer Davy Nethercutt into it.

6. There are 126 individual roles in the show.

7. There are more than 100 yards of various fabrics and more than 200 yards of horsehair braid in the petticoats for the Lead Mother and Party Guests roles.

8. The fastest costume change in the show is for Clara, who has just 30 seconds to change out of her party dress and into her nightgown before the battle scene.

9. There are 51 buttons on each soldier costume (hand sewn on the costumes). There are 20 soldiers in the show, so there are 1,020 buttons on these costumes total.

10. There are 126 dancers in each performance, which means 252 ballet shoes are used each performance.

The Nutcracker in Raleigh NCFollow Leigh Hines on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or visit her blog here: HinesSightBlog

Raleigh Little Theatre's Cinderella in Raleigh NCBy Ryan Smith; Photos by David Watts

For the past 31 years Raleigh Little Theatre has presented Cinderella to the delight of audiences of all ages. My daughter turned eight this year, and although she’s mostly aged out of her obsession with princesses, I thought dinner in Cameron Village and seeing Cinderella would be a great holiday tradition to start for the two of us.

I admit I expected this adaptation of the beloved fairy tale to be pretty straightforward. I had, after all, seen the Disney version a hundred times! I expected a princess who meets a prince, they fall in love, she runs away at midnight losing her glass slipper, he finds her and they live happily ever after–but I was pleasantly surprised when Raleigh Little Theatre injected humor, pop culture references, over-the-top characters, audience interaction and great music to the classic tale.

To start we find out that Cinderella’s real name is Ella, but because her evil stepmother and conniving stepsisters banish her to spending most of her time in the kitchen with the cinders and ashes, they call her Cinderella. The play starts in the days leading up to Christmas, culminates with the royal ball on Christmas Eve and ends with the entire cast singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” as snow falls on the stage. The audience delights as elements of the show change yearly to include pop culture references like this year’s mention of Princesses Anna and Elsa who just need to “Let it Go” and little girls squeal with delight as the Prince comes into the audience looking for his true love and trying the glass slipper on their feet.

Cinderella in Raleigh NC
The story of Cinderella is timeless, but it is the cast of characters who give Raleigh Little Theatre’s show the wow factor. From the stepmother who has the highest hairdo of anything I’ve ever seen to her two daughters, who are played by men, to the groovy King Darling the Third and the all-important Fairy Godmother, or “FG,” as she’s called throughout the play, kids of all ages will be smiling ear-to-ear the entire 90-minute performance.

As an added bonus, the cast is in the lobby to take photos and sign programs for little princes and princesses.

The performance runs through this Sat., Dec. 20, so you still have a chance to experience it for yourself! Get tickets here.

WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary NCThis weekend Greater Raleigh once again takes center stage of the collegiate and amateur soccer world when the NCAA Men’s College Cup returns to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. Four teamsUniversity of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), Providence College and the University of Virginia (UVA)will square off to decide the 2014 NCAA Champion. Two national semifinal games will be played Fri. evening with the championship game on Sun. Here’s everything you need to know:

1. Matchups and game times:

Fri., Dec. 12 | 5pm: UMBC vs. UVA (TV: ESPNU)

Fri., Dec. 12 | 7:30pm: UCLA vs. Providence (TV: ESPNU)

Sun., Dec. 14 | Noon: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner (TV: ESPNU)

See the full tournament bracket at NCAA.com/collegecup.

2. Tickets:

Tickets can be purchased for the semifinal games ($30 for both games), the championship game ($20) or as an all-session pass ($43) HERE. Tickets are general admission and include parking fees. Print your tickets at home or have them waiting for you at will-call. Plan ahead and arrive early. Ticketing is being run by Campbell University, the official host institution of the 2014 Men’s College Cup.

3. Powerhouses:

UCLA and Virginia both sit inside the top five for all NCAA DI programs for most NCAA Tournament and College Cup appearances. UCLA, a four-time National Champion, is participating in their 32nd straight NCAA Tournament (42 appearances overall), along with making their 14th College Cup. Six-time National Champion Virginia has reached their 12th College Cup (and second straight) in their 36th NCAA Tournament. UCLA is the tournament’s number two seed; Virginia is the number 16 seed.

WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary NC4. Cinderellas:

This UMBC squad has reached a place no team at their university has gone beforethe Final Four. The unseeded Retrievers, who have won four games in a row in four different stadiums, are yet to allow a goal in 400 minutes of play in the NCAA Tournament. UMBC is no stranger to competition, however, as this is their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last five seasons.

Providence, this year’s Big East Champion (the program’s first), had never reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament before this season. Now the unseeded Friars find themselves just one win away from playing for the national title. The team’s 15 wins this season is the most in program history.

5. Visitor Info:

The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau set up a website for visitors at visitRaleigh.com/CollegeCup. On this page you’ll find:

  • Calendar of events across the area for this weekend
  • Accommodation info
  • Restaurants in the area
  • Area maps
  • and more

Visitors can also view the online version of the Official Visitors Guide to Raleigh, Cary and Wake County. While you’re in the area, stop by the Visitor Information Center in downtown Raleigh to find out more about the area and receive personalized recommendations for your stay.

Have questions while on the go? Tweet @visitRaleigh with any of your needs!

6. Fan Festival:

The Fan Festival will keep fans entertained before games on Fri. and Sun., located behind sections 109 and 110. The festival will open at 3pm on Fri. and 10am on Sun. The festival will include interactive games, face painters, concessions, merchandise and more. Tickets are required to access the fan festival.

7. A History of College Cups:

This year will mark the 10th College Cup (4th Men’s) to be hosted by the Town of Cary and WakeMed Soccer Park since 2003. Either a Men’s or Women’s College Cup was held in Cary from 2003 to 2010, and again in 2013. Next December, the women will return to Cary to crown another national champion.

College Cup in Cary NC8. Stay Connected

Want to keep up with the NCAA College Cup while in town (or watching from home)? Follow along on Twitter and Instagram (and post your tweets and photos) using the hashtag #CollegeCup, and make sure to follow the teams on Twitter: @UCLAMSoccer, @UVAMenSoccer, @PVDMensSoccer and @UMBCMensSoccer

As always, follow and tweet to @visitRaleigh for information on the Greater Raleigh and Cary areas.

Wake County Libraries Annual Book Sale in Raleigh NCBy Kristy Stevenson

Calling all bibliophiles!

Want to get a really good deal on an amazing selection of reading material? The Book Sale and Festival of Reading hosted by Wake County Public Libraries, an annual event featuring more than 350,000 books for sale, is coming Dec. 11-14 to the Jim Graham Building at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.

Wake County Libraries Annual Book Sale in Raleigh NCHours of operation and prices:

  • Thurs., 5-9pm
    Hardbound books: $4 each
    Paperback books, children’s books and CDs: $2 each
  • Fri., 9am-9pm
    Hardbound books: $4 each
    Paperback books, children’s books and CDs: $2 each
  • Sat., 9am-9pm
    Hardbound books: $2 each
    Paperback books, children’s books and CDs: $1 each
  • Sun., 9am-7pm
    Boxes of books: $5
    Bags of books: $2

Wake County Libraries Annual Book Sale in Raleigh NCSat. is the best day to go with your kids.

Sat. will feature family-friendly activities with entertainment and crafts to make the day festive and exciting for children–including a holiday magic show, “Rock Star Magic!” with Chris & Neal, family band Baron von Rumblebuss and Barefoot Juggling.

Cash, checks and credit cards are accepted for payment. It’s recommended that you bring your own bags, wagons or strollers. Boxes will be provided while they last: the customer packs.

Wake County Libraries Annual Book Sale in Raleigh NCStock up for yourself and also stuff stockings.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for all book lovers,” said Raleigh’s Don Vaughan. He and his wife attend ever year; they collect books in a variety of genres and always go home with a huge stack in great condition. “A few years ago, I added big-time to my Edgar Rice Burroughs collection,” Vaughan said. “And you can’t beat the prices.”

“One year, I did almost all of my Christmas shopping there,” said Katie A. Gailes of Holly Springs.

All funds generated from the sale return to Wake County’s General Fund, which in turn funds services offered in Wake County agencies, schools and public libraries.

Click here for more information.

Follow Kristy Stevenson, the writer of this article, here.

Videri chocolate confections in downtown Raleigh NCBy Leigh Hines

Raleigh’s sweet chocolate secret is out.

Raleigh residents, like me, have known that downtown Raleigh’s Videri Chocolate Factory makes some of the best chocolate in the nation. The factory carefully curates its cocoa beans throughout Central and South America using fair-trade practices. It sources only the best organic cocoa beans, cocoa butter and organic sugar.

There is nothing artificial about Videri chocolate.

You can eat each bar, rich in antioxidants, and know you’re eating chocolate with whole, organic and fair-trade ingredients.

Videri Chocolate Factory in Downtown Raleigh, NCIt’s been a sweet year for Videri.

In 2014, Videri earned the coveted Good Food Award for its first single-origin chocolate bar 90% Dark Chocolate Ecuador Camino Verde. GQ magazine included the same bar among “The 50 Best Things To Eat Right Now: Chocolate to Die For” its Nov. issue.

Videri offers guests a true bean-to-bar experience. There is a fascinating self-guided tour that takes you through the chocolate making process. The trendy Warehouse District that Videri calls home is a thriving creative hot spot, and with a coffee bar inside Videri, you won’t want to leave.

Videri chocolate mocha in downtown Raleigh NCVideri’s confections make perfect holiday gifts.

This winter, Raspberry, Orange-Buttercream, Coffee and Pear-Mint. Lemon and Lavender vegan confections will be available through Valentine’s Day. Videri is also offering its first-ever 16-piece Valentine’s box in 2015, including French Martini and other seasonal flavors ($40). Six-piece boxes of any combination of truffles are available for $16.99 and individual confections are $2.50 each.

Videri Flagship Four in Raleigh NCVideri’s popular Peppermint Bars ($9.99) are a holiday season staple for the chocolate factory as well as its Flagship Four Gift Box–featuring 50% Dark Milk, 70% Classic Dark, Sea Salt and Pink Peppercorn Bars (four bars/$19.99)–and the S’mores Pack ($21.00).

My personal favorites are Sea Salt and the 70% Classic Dark. Who am I kidding? I’ll take one of everything, please.

Visitors are welcome at Videri Chocolate in downtown Raleigh NCVideri Chocolate Factory is located at 327 W. Davie St., Sweet 100.

Follow Leigh Hines on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or visit her blog here: HinesSightBlog

Ipreo Raleigh Winterfest Tree. ©Luster Studios.Every weekend Raleigh has an event lineup that keeps you wanting more. They never disappoint. Here are a few events you shouldn’t miss this weekend.

Ipreo Raleigh Winterfest Celebration

Downtown Raleigh’s winter celebration brings you the grand Official Mayor’s Tree Lighting along with outdoor skating. Even more festivities will line Fayetteville St., including live music, carnival rides, a sledding hill, a beer and wine tent and the brand-new Taste of Downtown feature and Gingerbread House Competition. Learn more.

Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of Cinderella

Cozy up inside during this musical comedy production of Cinderella. Just the right mixture of comedy and romance to add the sparkle of magic to your holiday season. A visually-stunning musical combining elegant costumes and scenery with song, dance, conniving step-relatives and resourceful fairy-folk. Learn more.

Scandinavian Christmas Fair

Area holiday celebrations are not limited to those of secular pop culture but include celebrations paying homage to cultures from across the globe. Take part in the rich traditions of the Nordic countries during the Scandinavian Christmas Fair at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds and indulge in homemade Scandinavian foods, Nordic folk dancing, a traditional Lucia Procession and more. Learn more.

Winter Wonderland

Most absolutely can’t go without binge-watching holiday movies in Dec. Get social when you watch holiday flicks this Sat. at North Hills for its free Winter Wonderland event. Showing both Doctor Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Elf while kids activities, shopping and more transpire. Learn more.

First Friday

We couldn’t go without mentioning First Night, a monthly downtown Raleigh favorite. Visitors can experience downtown’s cutting-edge cultural hot spots tonight as local art galleries, art studios, alternative art venues and museums as they stay open late, until 9pm. Learn more.

Click through to see more events happening this weekend. Trust usthere’s a lot going on!

By Derek Allman

It's a Wonderful Life Radio Play, Cary, N.C.The Greater Raleigh town of Cary is set to deliver packages of holiday goodness this season. Immerse yourself in holiday magic at these charming Cary events:

1. It’s a Wonderful Life Radio Play

Dec. 4-8 at the Cary Arts Center. Cary Players bring the beloved American holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, to the stage as a live radio broadcast. You’ll be transported back in time at this live theatre production staged as if it includes 1940s radio stars broadcasting from a studio. Add live sound effects created on-stage by a collection of hand-crafted wind machines, miniature doors and other old-fashioned “Foley-props” and more, mix in live music and animated voices, and you’ve got a rich and wonderful production. Based on Frank Capra’s holiday classic film and recreated for the stage by Philip Grecian. Click for show times and tickets.

2. Town of Cary Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Dec. 6 at Cary Town Hall. For outdoor family fun, take your blanket to the always-festive, official Town of Cary Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. The night features actors, singers and musicians, plus the unveiling of the tree with hand-crafted ornaments from more than 120 community groups. The Community Christmas Tree is a true representation of the diversity of Cary.

3. The Night Before Christmas Carol

Dec. 12 at The Cary Theater. If live theater is your style, check out The Night Before Christmas Carol from renowned Dickens scholar and author Dr. Elliot Engel and watch history, humor and the holiday come to life. Go back in time and join Charles Dickens in his study on Fri., Oct. 13, 1843. In this acclaimed performance, actor David zum Brunnen portrays Charles Dickens and 17 familiar characters; giving personal, social, and historical context to the ghostly classic, A Christmas Carol.

4. Seasonal Movies at The Cary Theater

Occurring throughout Dec. On the holiday calendar are a handful of traditional seasonal movies at The Cary Theater. From the Natalie Wood classic Miracle on 34th Street to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Muppets Christmas Carol (Kids Movie Morning), Bill Murray’s Scrooged, Will Ferrell’s Elf and the children’s classic The Polar Express, directed by Robert Zemeckis, The Cary Theatre offers a heap of holiday movie big-screen showings.

And of course there are many more reasons to visit Cary in Dec. Click through to see a full list of events.

By Kristy Stevenson. Follow her here.

Faire, Raleigh, N.C.Barbecue–we’ve got that covered. Farm-to-table cuisine–it’s a culinary norm here. Notable chefs–yep, they call Raleigh home. New restaurants adding to the dynamic reasons the Raleigh area is one of the nation’s hottest culinary destinations–plenty of those too. And here’s a few new spots that must be tried (including a much-anticipated beer garden):

Faire

Opened Oct. 2014. A contemporary twist on traditional American seafood and steak, with locally and regionally-sourced meat, seafood and produce.

Tupelo Honey Café

Opening Dec. 1, 2014. A decidedly-spirited, independent and frequently-unscripted take on Southern comfort, farm-to-fork food.

Standard Foods

Opening Early 2015. Former The Umstead Hotel and Spa Chef Scott Crawford will soon open his much-anticipated restaurant-grocery hybrid featuring “Southern comfort food with a twist.”

Death & Taxes

Opening Early 2015. The newest addition to James Beard Award-winning Chef Ashley Christensen’s lauded restaurant empire will focus on wood-fire cooking.

Raleigh Beer Garden

Opening spring 2015. Making a run for the “operational beer tap” world-record holder, this new beer bar will offer 365 separate varieties daily.

By Ryan Smith

Coffee in Raleigh, N.C.There’s no better time than when the weather is cool to warm your hands and heart with a good cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Throughout the Raleigh area are numerous restaurants, cafés, coffee shops and artisanal chocolatiers that take pride in serving and creating unique and flavorful creations. This holiday season have an extra marshmallow or two and take a break from the holiday shopping madness.

Hot chocolate

There’s no HERSHEY’s chocolate syrup here! Two downtown artisanal chocolate shops use their award-winning bean-to-bar chocolates and, in addition to making small bites and bars, have turned them into drinkable chocolates.

Escazu Artisan Chocolates offers a hot chocolate bar featuring historically-accurate recipes from as early as 1644. Try the Xochiaya, a pre-Columbian brew with chili, jasmine flower and other spices, or the 1692 France, made with cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and chiles from India. If you aren’t feeling adventurous there’s always the Contemporary Hot Chocolate, made with their 74-percent-blended chocolate, milk and a small amount of sugar.

In downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District, Videri Chocolate Factory offers not only a sipping hot chocolate, but also a frozen hot chocolate, which is a year-round favorite. Take a few extra minutes while you’re there to tour the factory and see the chocolate-making process up close.

Coffee

If a good cup of joe is more your style, try Jubala Village Coffee in Lafayette Village where each drink is made to order using single-origin coffee from Counter Culture Coffee, a local coffee roaster.

Joule Coffee, which was recently named one of the “Top 20 Coffee Shops in America” by The Daily Meal is James Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christensen’s newest venture serving a myriad of choices on its expansive coffee menu.

See a full list of Greater Raleigh coffeehouses here, and for a list of local eatables, including chocolatiers, click here.

By Ryan Smith

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