Summertime, sunshine and good times are here! Check out these 20 summer date ideas in the Raleigh area—concerts, coffee, wine, art museums and more!
 

Rooftop views and brews

Rooftop bars are great places to watch the sunset with your special someone. Among the Raleigh area's newest sky-high bars is The Willard Rooftop Lounge, located atop the new AC Hotel Raleigh Downtown in the vibrant Glenwood South entertainment district. Settle into an indoor dining booth or one of two outdoor terraces, both boasting spectacular views of downtown, and enjoy finely crafted cocktails and Spanish-inspired small plates that serve as perfect complements to the scenery and are sure to send taste buds soaring!

Bonus: How does a night of stargazing (Aug. 3) or a rooftop jazz brunch (Aug. 21) sound? 

Also recommended: 10th & Terrace; Raleigh Times Bar; Raleigh Beer Garden; Gallo Pelón Mezcaleria

 

Ice cream scoops and arcade hoops

A chocolate lovers paradise in downtown RaleighVideri Chocolate Factory, in the Warehouse District, makes hand-crafted, bean-to-bar-chocolate. You can take a self-guided tour of the factory to learn all about the process or just come to browse the bonbons, chocolate bars and other goodies. Order a frozen hot chocolate or a soft-serve ice cream in waffle cone and lounge on the covered back patio to beat the heat, then head across the street where Boxcar Bar + Arcade home to 70-plus classic and modern arcade cabinets, over a dozen pinball machines and 175-plus console games (not to mention the full liquor and rotating draft selection!).

 

Visit the Raleigh Rose Garden (and settle in for a show!)

Dedicated in 1951, the Raleigh Municipal Rose Garden is a landmark of the Raleigh Little Theatre campus. One of only three accredited rose gardens in the sate, the garden offers a year-round display of roses, trees and perennials. The grounds include 60 rose beds, typically in best bloom between May and fall's first frost in Oct. or Nov.

Time your visit right, and you can kill two birds with one stone. Raleigh Little Theatre—a mainstay in the City of Oaks for more than 80 years now—will take to the stage in the coming months and present these shows: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Aug. 11-20), Pride And Prejudice (Sept. 16-Oct. 2), The Surprising Story Of The Three Little Pigs (Oct. 22-Oct. 30) and Cinderella (Dec. 2-18)

Also recommended: WRAL Azalea Gardens; Juniper Level Botanic Gardens

 

A night at the Chef's Table

Second Empire Restaurant & Tavern—one of the most romantic restaurants in the City of Oaks—resides in the restored Dodd-Hinsdale House (circa 1879) on Hillsborough St. in downtown Raleigh. With its classical elegance, friendly staff, world-class wine and critically-acclaimed cuisine, Second Empire beckons guests to an unforgettable evening celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones. At the Chef's Table, executive chef Daniel Schurr and his staff will give you a first-hand look at the techniques used to create the evening's exclusive menu.

Also recommended: Mulino's Italian Kitchen & Bar; Angus Barn; Herons at the Umstead Hotel and Spa; Saint Jacques French Cuisine

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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For the outdoor and beer enthusiasts

One of N.C.’s most-visited state parks, William B. Umstead State Park remains a peaceful getaway thanks to its sheer size—more than 5,000 acres of forest, trails and lakes sit on the edge of Raleigh, Cary and Morrisville. With 13 miles of multi-use trails that follow a series of rolling hills (perfect for horseback riding, jogging and cycling) and 22 miles of dedicated hiking trails, this is a must-hit destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Follow that up with a visit to passionate mind Sumit Vohra's Lonerider Brewing Company to relax and sip on popular beer picks like the Shotgun Betty hefeweizen or Sweet Josie Brown. If you entered Umstead State Park via the Crabtree Creek entrance and parked at the Sycamore Parking location, you'll be just a couple minutes away from the brewery (see directions from that park entrance to Lonerider)!

 

For the artsy sweethearts

More than a dozen galleries at the North Carolina Museum of Art are sure to spark deep conversation with your date. Start by exploring 164-acre Anne and Jim Goodnight Museum Park, featuring monumental public art installations and plenty of picture-perfect picnic spots. Then cool off inside and enjoy works from all over the world before heading to the museum’s cafe for a coffee or dessert. The museum also features outdoor concerts and movies during the summer, plus makes for a great idea for a rainy summer afternoon date!

Also recommended: CAM Raleigh

 

Grab a beer, throw an axe, have a blast

Wait, what? Inside Morgan Street Food Hall in downtown Raleigh (where you should absolutely chow down on goodies at the much-beloved Buena Papa Fry Bar), Epic Axe has brought the bullseye to the masses, providing two throwing lanes for social outings, private parties and ice-breaking dates. You can book your timeslot in advance for as little as $20 per person for 30 minutes. Pro tip: Keep a wide stance and follow through!

 

Escape the heat, then out for drinks

While summer weather can be beautiful, sometimes you just need to escape all of the heat. Escape rooms like The Tower Escapes—housed in a historic granite and brick water tower in downtown Raleigh that dates back to 1887—ensure that you’ll only sweat while figuring out how to make it out in time! Pair your escape with post-game visit to The Merchant, a speakeasy-style bar that just opened up down the street, for a celebratory drink to keep things cool well into the night. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Earn your ice cream with this trail and creamery combo

At the 174-acre Historic Yates Mill County Park, more than 250 years of history waits to be explored. Yates Mill, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, was restored to working order through a grassroots community effort in 2005 and today stands as the area's last operating water-powered gristmill. The park also features approximately three miles of hiking trails, winding through hardwood forests and using footbridges and boardwalks to cross wetland areas.

So tackle a hike and then head just a couple hundred yards up the road to Howling Cow Creamery, a North Carolina State University-owned farm that produces some of the area's best ice cream right on site.

Also recommended: Andia's Homemade Ice Cream; Two Roosters Ice Cream, Geluna Gelato

 

Book the ultimate weekend of luxury at The Mayton

Opened in 2016 in downtown Cary, The Mayton is an independently owned, 44-room, Georgian-style boutique inn that caters to A-plus stays and getaways (and acts as the perfect home base for exploring downtown Cary). Feast on Southern comfort food at the hotel’s elegant restaurant, Peck & Plume, step next door to meet and mingle in the backyard at Cotton House Craft Brewers or stroll a handful of blocks to Bond Brothers Beer Company for the finest sours and ales around. Reserve a dinner table at Pizzeria Faulisi, a lively spot for gourmet, wood-fired pizzas, and don't forget to fuel your day with a stop at La Farm Bakery, known as one of the Southeast's top bakeries.

Also recommended: The Umstead Hotel and Spa; Heights House Hotel; Hotel 83; Longleaf Hotel

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Bourbon and a baseball game

Enjoy a warm summer evening date with a trip to Zebulon, because summer wouldn't be complete without a Carolina Mudcats baseball game at Five County Stadium (the Mudcats are a single-A affiliate of MLB's Milwaukee Brewers, with games scheduled through mid-Sept.).

Hot dogs and classic stadium food make for the perfect casual date fare, and Friday night fireworks add some flair! Pro tip: Make time for a stop at the nearby Olde Raleigh Distillery, a beautiful venue and the makers of one of the newest (and best) bourbons in the Tar Heel State. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The early birds date

For the early birds, grab coffee at the Jubala Coffee located at Lafayette Village in North Raleigh. Jubala is a made-to-order coffee shop with coffees from all over the world. Enjoy an espresso while nibbling on one of their famous sweet biscuits, or go for lunch and order a hot-pressed sandwich like the double bruschetta.

Walk around Lafayette Village with your coffee and imagine you’re taking a romantic trip to Paris—the area is architecturally designed and built to depict a European village, not unlike one in France or Italy, and even features a mini Eiffel Tower! For a sweet ending to your date, pick up a box of chocolates at The Chocolate Boutique, which showcases an extravaganza of dark, milk and white chocolates—the perfect pick-me-up for later in the afternoon!

 

Wine and Design? Yes, please!

A creative date-night activity, Wine and Design—founded in Raleigh and seen on ABC's "Shark Tank"—has adapted in recent months to offer both social distance-friendly in-person events and at-home virtual art classes so you can create your own masterpiece (and enjoy your own wine). A full schedule of public events dots the upcoming calendar, and private events can be requested as well, so you can choose between heading to the flagship downtown Raleigh studio for a class, or planning a special evening for your significant other (or group of friends!).

Also recommended: Vita Vite; Unwined on White; Vinos Finos y Picadas

 

Music and mac 'n' cheese

Love some live music? Take your date to a show at Red Hat Amphitheater in downtown Raleigh, where a variety of artists are set to return to the stage this summer (hallelujah!). If you're looking for a great place to grab drinks and dinner before the concert, line up outside the critically-acclaimed Poole’s Diner several minutes before they open the doors (the macaroni au gratin is perhaps America's most famous mac and cheese dish!).

Upcoming concert schedule:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Golf balls and snoballs

Bring some competition into your date night by testing your putting skills at the whimsically designed ParTee Shack mini golf courses. Enjoy three 18-hole courses that include zip-lines, pinball machines and more, plus golf and other sports simulators! Then pop down the street to Pelican’s Snoballs to try a few of their 100-plus flavors of New Orleans-style shaved ice (the ultimate summer treat!). If you haven’t had enough golfing fun, 401 Par Golf is located right beside Pelicans and offers a full driving range, mini-golf and a fun-sized, par-3 golf course. 

Also recommended: Drive Shack; Dogwood Country Club


Shop for local goods and treats

Perfect for a casual weekend morning, Raleigh's State Farmers Market—considered one of the nation’s best and most modern markets—positively dazzles with independent specialty shops, restaurants and produce stands. You'll find fresh-cut flowers (bonus points!) plus plenty of seasonal goods to enjoy on-site, savor at home or pack a picnic with (Raleigh's gorgeous Dorothea Dix Park is about a 90-second drive away, hint hint).

Also recommended: Cary Downtown Farmers Market; Moore Square Market

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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For the book lovers

Show off your intellect by putting the phones away and browsing books on display at independent book shops in the Raleigh area. At the legendary Quail Ridge Books—founded in 1984—two floors of pure joy await in the North Hills neighborhood; and in beautiful downtown Wake Forest, Page 158 Books owners Sue and Dave Lucey will pull out all the stops to make you feel right at home.

Also recommended: So & So Books; Nice Price Books; Reader's Corner

 

The ultimate disc golf date

Did you know that one of the best disc golf courses in the world is located in Cary, N.C.?  That’s right Diavolo Disc Golf Course at New Hope Park was ranked #7 on the World’s Best Disc Golf Courses by UDisc. This picturesque course is completely free to play and has 3 sets of pads from beginner to expert, making it enjoyable no matter your skill level. New Hope straddles the American Tobacco Trail so be sure to bring your bikes or running shoes to round out an active, afternoon date.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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An afternoon at the garden

Take your date to the JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University, where you can enjoy a nationally-acclaimed garden and experience a diverse range of plants specifically cultivated for landscapes. From there, head to Neomonde Mediterranean for lunch, located just a one-minute drive away. At Neomonde you can enjoy an authentic mix of traditional and contemporary Mediterranean food—the hummus and pita is perfect for splitting as an appetizer.

 

Dinner and a movie in downtown Raleigh

Dinner and a movie is always a good idea, especially if it’s a hot summer night. And in downtown Raleigh, you can take the movie to the next level with the Marbles IMAX, boasting N.C.’s only 3D-capable giant screen. From inspiring educational documentary films to Hollywood’s biggest feature films, the theater makes you feel as if you're in the movie.

Planning dinner beforehand? Some great dining is just steps away from the theater like MOFU Shoppe, Caffé Luna, Sitti and Bida Manda in the Moore Square district. Be sure to stroll hand-in-hand through the cobblestone streets of City Market before you leave!

Also recommended: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema; The Cary Theater; Rialto Theatre

 

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Header photo: Brian Strickland

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