We're all thrilled to have turned the page to a new year, and we've got a great feeling about good news on the horizon in the Raleigh area. For 2022, there are special events on the calendar, new places to explore, big restaurant openings lined up and plenty more to look forward to. We're so happy to share some of this good news with you!

Freedom Park opens in downtown Raleigh

North Carolina Freedom Park—a long-planned park aiming to honor the African American struggle for freedom and liberty for all—broke ground in late 2020 just a few blocks from the North Carolina State Capitol (corner of N. Wilmington and E. Lane Sts.), with plans to start full construction this year. The park will include phrases and quotes from famous Black North Carolinians engraved throughout the space, and a large sculpture in the middle of the park will shine a light into the night sky—the Beacon of Freedom—to reflect the fire for freedom. Designed by the internationally known late architect Phil Freelon, the park is being built by Holt Brothers Constructions—founded by former NFL players Torry and Terrence Holt—and expects to open to the public late in 2022. 


Nature Research Center turns 10; Dueling Dinosaurs coming soon

Opened to much fanfare a decade ago as a new wing of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the Nature Research Center immediately became an unmistakable architectural icon of the City of Oaks thanks to the 70-foot-tall SECU Daily Planet—a scaled-down replica of Earth on the outside and a three-story theater within. April 20, 2022, will mark the 10th anniversary of the 24-hour grand opening celebration that was held in downtown Raleigh (and that's as good a reason as any to revisit the museum this year!). 

While you're there, you'll certainly hear about something big coming soon: Dueling Dinosaurs, an exhibit 67 million years in the making, will feature what's thought to be the only 100% complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex in the world (plus a Triceratops skeleton, among the most complete ever found as well). An entire new lab—opening in 2023—is being built for this exhibit, and visitors will be able to get up close and personal with the fossils and meet some of the scientific team as they uncover long-buried secrets. The TODAY Show recently took a look at how those dinos were uncovered in a recent video piece you can see here


The return of Dreamville, Out! Raleigh Pride and more favorite events

While 2021 saw many of Raleigh's favorite major events and festivals return, there were some that were delayed another year. But we're thrilled to be saving the date for the Krispy Kreme Challenge (Feb. 5), J. Cole's Dreamville Festival (April 2-3), the Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo (May 1, June 12 and Aug. 7), Out! Raleigh Pride (June 25) and many others. 

Click here to see a list of 100 of the biggest events of 2022 in Raleigh, N.C.!


Fenton opens in Cary

Fenton—a mixed-use, $850-million development located in Cary (off Cary Towne Blvd., across from the future headquarters of Epic Games)—is set to open a first phase in spring of this year. In total, the live-work-play district has plans for 440,000 square feet of retail space, a high-end hotel, 800 multi-family housing units, a movie theater, boutique fitness club, grocery store and high-profile restaurants that include Crawford Brothers Steakhouse (from award-winning chef Scott Crawford), M Sushi (a second location for the critically acclaimed Durham sushi spot), Superica (chef Ford Fry's boutique Tex-Mex chain), Honeysuckle Gelato (a raved-about, Atlanta-based gelato shop that will make Cary its fourth home) and more. 

For retail, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Paragon Theaters, Athleta, Arhaus Furniture, Vestique and others have been announced as tenants already.


A post shared by Fenton (@fentonnc)


More big new restaurants

Want to know about more good food coming in 2022? We're eyeing these spots with future date nights and family outings in mind:

  • A'Verde Cocina and Tequila Library, serving creative food and cocktails rooted in traditional Mexican flavors from chef Katsuji Tanabe;
  • Longleaf Swine, a long-awaited brick-and-mortar barbecue venture from food truck veterans Adam Cunningham and Marc Russell;
  • Fine Folk, a pandemic-born, pop-up burger shop that earned a cult following is now ready for prime time with it's own full-service restaurant;
  • The BBQ Lab, a much-hyped 'cue joint from Benson, N.C., branching out with its first franchise location in Raleigh's North Hills neighborhood;
  • Las Ramblas, a Spanish tapas bar named for the famed boulevard in Barcelona from prolific, James Beard-nominated restaurateur Giorgio Bakatsias; 
  • Bright Spot Donuts, a donut and coffee shop from the same team behind Benchwarmers Bagels (named one of America's best new restaurants in 2019 by Bon Appétit);
  • Midwood Smokehouse, a popular Charlotte-based barbecue restaurant (with a bit of Tex-Mex influence) arrives in Raleigh's Smokey Hollow district this year, bringing their signature brisket along for the ride;
  • and Craften Food Hall, a 4,500-square-foot food hall concept in Knightdale that's expected to have four separate kitchens, a bar plus a coffee shop.


Groundbreaking of Dix Park Gipson Play Plaza

In July 2015, the City of Raleigh acquired 308 acres of the Dorothea Dix Campus on the edge of downtown Raleigh from the State of North Carolina. There are big plans in the works for this public space, and it's been called "the nation's most exciting park project" by neighborhood-focused website Curbed. A master plan for the park was approved in 2019, and phase 1 of the implementation is underway. 

This year, the Gipson Play Plaza—named for generous Raleighite donors Tom and Pat Gipson and focused on providing a space to play for visitors of all ages—will break ground as one of the main entrances to the park, acting as a central gateway connection to the rest of downtown Raleigh. The 18-acre area will receive new landscaping, fountains, gardens, a waterfall, an amphitheater, picnic grounds, civic plaza and a playground that includes climbing towers, a sand bowl, swings and much more. Construction is expected to take two years.

The Gipson Play Plaza will take over the space previously used as a dog park. A new, larger dog park with water stations and a separate space for small dogs will open in a different area of the current park in spring of this year. 


A post shared by Dorothea Dix Park (@dixpark)


Rush Hour Karting doubles up with new Morrisville facility

Adam Saad's Rush Hour Karting—located just 15 minutes from the heart of downtown Raleigh—has been an adrenaline junkie favorite since opening in Garner in 2005. Visitors hop behind the wheel of European-designed, gas-powered karts and zoom around hairpin curves and down high-speed straights, hitting speeds of up to 40 mph with eyes set squarely on the winner's circle. Truly a hit with both kids and adults (and billed as "serious adult fun" by the Rush Hour crew themselves)—plus perfect for birthday parties, corporate outings and more—Rush Hour Karting is ready to expand their footprint. 

A second facility in Morrisville—just a minute or two from RDU International Airport and Research Triangle Park—is in the works, expected to be highlighted by a two-story racing track with electric karts this time around (just as fast, with more torque and no emissions) and a 300-person conference room for good measure. The facility is aiming to open in 2022. 


Expansion of the Aviator Brewing empire

Soaring from a humble airplane hanger to a massive beer conglomerate in Fuquay-Varina, brew boss Mark Doble knows the ins and outs of some pretty fly beer—he founded Aviator Brewing Company in 2008, and today the empire includes the TaphouseSmokeHouse and Pizzeria & BeerShop (all located across the street from one another), not to mention the 23,000-square-foot brewery just down the street. 

There are more big plans in the works, though. Slated for construction to begin in spring 2022, Aviator has another five-acre site—just steps from the other spots—in the works that aims to open up another four-vessel, 60bbl brewhouse, two restaurants, five bars, an indoor/outdoor concert venue, distillery and more (wow!). The new brewery and concert venue are up first and expected to open by the end of the year, with the other projects to follow.


Carolina Hurricanes playoff run

The NHL's Carolina Hurricanes are sitting pretty near the top of the league standings at the time of publishing (nearly at the halfway point of the season). The Canes are considered serious Stanley Cup Championship contenders (and they're coming off back-to-back-to-back postseason appearances), and come playoff time, sold-out crowds get loud at Raleigh's PNC Arena. The playoffs start in May, and the Canes have plenty of home games leading up to championship hunt. Lets. Go. Canes!


A post shared by Carolina Hurricanes (@canes)


A big year for performing arts

COVID-19 undeniably took a toll on the performing arts world, but theaters in Raleigh have opened their doors, raised the curtains and taken to the stage once again (with some safety protocols in place). A sample of the coming months: Carolina Ballet will perform the classics of Romeo and Juliet and Snow White; North Carolina Symphony will delight audiences with music including The Best of BroadwayMusic of Motown and other arrangements from Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and more; Burning Coal Theatre will tell the fascinating story of The Life of Galileo; and North Carolina Theatre will finish off their 2021-2022 season with Ring of FireOn Your Feet! and Sister Act. Take your pick (and support the arts!). 


Affordable family fun

Raleigh has long been known as a budget-friendly family getaway destination for those in the Tar Heel State and beyond, including a recent Southern Living piece that named the City of Oaks one of the seven best affordable Southern destinations for family travel in 2022. They highlight beautiful William B. Umstead State Park, the newly opened Heights House Hotel and the free-admission CAM Raleigh (a contemporary art museum in downtown Raleigh's booming Warehouse District). 

More family itinerary ideas? The North Carolina Museum of Art, North Carolina Museum History and the previously mentioned North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences all play a big role in Raleigh's "Smithsonian of the South" moniker, Pullen Park is among the oldest amusement parks in America, the newly renovated John Chavis Memorial Park has the perfect splash pad for summertime fun and The Tower Escapes—housed in a spooky brick water tower that was once Raleigh's tallest building more than a century ago—provides cryptic puzzles and challenges that guests are tasked with solving in order to escape the game in less than one hour (count us in!).


A post shared by CAM Raleigh (@cam_raleigh)


Header image: Rendering of Freedom Park rendering via Perkins&Will

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