When the leaves start falling, some amazing arts events pop up all over the Raleigh area. From the celebrated art of Ernie Barnes and Georgia O’Keefe, to world-class bluegrass, to spectacular Chinese dragons, the area comes alive in the fall with an exciting and colorful array of things to do. Here’s our list of 20+ events you’ll want to pencil in on your calendar.

The North Carolina Roots of Artist Ernie Barnes

Through March 3, 2019
Explore the work of athlete-turned-artist Ernie Barnes, a Durham, N.C., native best known for his widely-imitated, unique style of elongation, energy and movement that made him one of the premier figurative artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, in a new exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History. Barnes, affectionately nicknamed "Big Rembrandt" by his football teammates, is known in pop culture for his art on the television series Good Times. Most notable is Barnes' iconic dance scene, The Sugar Shack (seen below), that appeared on a Marvin Gaye album cover and in the closing credits of Good Times. The free-admission exhibit showcases many unpublished original paintings as well as artifacts from his life.


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Rural Avant-Garde: The Mountain Lake Experience

Through Dec. 30
Visit North Carolina State University's Gregg Museum of Art & Design to take in Rural Avant-Garde: The Mountain Lake Experience. Featuring art created through experimental methods like painting with fire, dancing in ink or exploiting decomposition, this unique and free exhibition is totally worth a trip to the university's campus.


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North Carolina Symphony concerts

What do Beethoven, Star Wars and Mozart have in common? The North Carolina Symphony is performing them all this fall! A few highlights are listed below, and you can see even more performances here.


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Carolina Ballet productions

Carolina Ballet opens its 2018-2019 season—its 21st season in Raleigh—with Firebird (Sept. 20-30), a Russian fairy tale with an evil sorcerer, a handsome prince and, of course, a beautiful princess. With eight different shows on the calendar through May, Carolina Ballet's theme this season, "Shaping Story," will captivate audiences with an array of shows, also including the haunting Dracula (Oct. 11-28) and the out-of-this world The Planets (Nov. 21-25) this fall.


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Groove in the Garden

Sept. 22
Back for year four at Raleigh Little Theatre's beautiful Stephenson Amphitheater, this annual music and arts festival shines the spotlight on some incredible local talent—the 2018 lineup features N.C. artists and bands including Lydia Loveless, Loamlands, Pie Face Girls, Kate Rhudy, ZenSoFly and more. Two stages of music, plus food trucks, beer, wine, local artists and vendors, a kids zone and more make this a can't-miss way to kick off the fall in Raleigh.


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La Fiesta del Pueblo

Sept. 23
La Fiesta del Pueblo is proud to be the area’s largest- and longest-running Latinx festival. This year, it’s celebrating its 25th anniversary in downtown Raleigh, and they’re going all out. Enjoy Latin American street food and immerse yourself in all this vibrant festival has to offer!


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PNC presents Wide Open Bluegrass

Sept. 28-29
Billed as "the largest urban bluegrass festival in the world," Wide Open Bluegrass is a two-day festival that includes five stages of free music, a dance tent, a barbecue championship, tons of art vendors and more in downtown Raleigh. The ticketed Main Stage at Red Hat Amphitheater will feature Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder with a guest appearance by Patty Loveless, a special collaboration between Alison Brown, Becky Buller, Sierra Hull, Missy Raines and Molly Tuttle (with guest appearances by Gillian Welch and Rhiannon Giddens), Leftover Salmon, The Earls of Leicester presented by Jerry Douglas, The Gibson Brothers and more.


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Cary Players present Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Sept. 28-Oct. 7
Award-winning director Nancy Rich offers a lighthearted and musical retelling of the biblical tale of Jacob’s son Joseph, who was sold as a slave into Egypt by his brothers and then rose to power in this classic musical. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blending of multiple musical and dance genres from country to reggae is as fresh and entertaining today as it was 50 years ago. See the Cary Players' production of this ever-popular musical at the Cary Arts Center.


It Is Done

Oct. 5-21
If you’re in the mood to get spooked, catch a showing of It Is Done, a haunting performance from passionate mind Ira David Wood III's Theatre In The Park about a small group of patrons riding out a howling storm in a desolate bar in the middle of nowhere. Note that this performance is for mature audiences only—so bring a blanket to cover your eyes but leave the little ones at home.


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Above the Rim: Courtside at CAM

Oct. 5, 2018-Feb. 3, 2019
As we all count down the minutes to basketball season, you can get your hoops fix by visiting Above the Rim: Courtside at CAM, an exploration of basketball through the lens of art. The exhibit at CAM Raleigh brings together works from a group of international artists and is curated by Phil America and Jacob Patterson.


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Taste of China: Chinese Food and Culture Festival

Oct. 6
This year, the Chinese-American Friendship Association of N.C. will present the inaugural Taste of China. Chow down on delicious Chinese food, admire (and splurge on) Chinese art and watch live martial arts demonstrations and traditional dances.


USAF Rhythm in Blue Jazz Ensemble

Oct. 9
Sit back, relax and listen to the this dynamic jazz ensemble perform at the Garner Performing Arts Center. Presented by the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America band, Rhythm in Blue inspires patriotism and tells the story of the Air Force. This one-time, fall concert is one you won’t want to miss!


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Burning Coal Theatre productions

Burning Coal Theatre, a professional theater company that mixes the area's best talent with tomorrow's stars from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere to produce gritty, explosive versions of classic and modern plays, has two shows on the fall schedule:


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The Beyond: Georgia O'Keeffe and Contemporary Art Exhibition

Oct. 13, 2018-Jan. 20, 2019
An exhibition of contemporary art at the North Carolina Museum of Art from renowned artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who revolutionized ways to see ordinary things, brings together a significant group of O’Keeffe’s works (featuring enormous flowers, luscious color and desert landscapes) as the centerpiece of an exploration of her continued force as a touchstone for contemporary art.


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Candida Höfer in Mexico Exhibition

Oct. 13, 2018-Jan. 20, 2019
Take a trip to Mexico via the Candida Höfer in Mexico exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Famous for her portraits of iconic buildings around the world, this particular exhibition features 25 portraits of buildings throughout Mexico. Bonus: This is ticketed with the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition!


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North Carolina Theatre: In The Heights 

Oct. 16-21
Coming to the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts this Oct., In The Heights tells the story of a community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood "on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with, and ones you leave behind." It’s also the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the musical Hamilton.


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33rd International Festival of Raleigh

Oct. 26-28
The Raleigh Convention Center will host the 33rd International Festival of Raleigh, where more than 50 ethnic groups will be represented! The festival includes everything from international food and stage performances to fashion shows and beer and coffee tastings.


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Carolina Artisan Craft Market

Nov. 2-4
Come out to the Carolina Artisan Craft Market at the Raleigh Convention Center for handcrafted jewelry, furniture, pottery, photography and more—a perfect opp for fun holiday shopping! Browse and chat with the artists to walk away with a best-fit piece for you or a friend. Also, enjoy live music and artist demonstrations. 


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So You Think You Can Dance

Nov. 4
This year's So You Think You Can Dance live tour features the top 10 contestants from season 15 of the hit TV show. Fans can witness the hottest show-stopping routines from Season 15 at the Duke Energy Center as well as original pieces choreographed specifically for the tour.


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North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival-Cary

Nov. 23, 2018-Jan. 13, 2019
Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheatre turns magical when the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival begins. Get ready to “ooh” and “ahh” over the larger-than-life lanterns and Chinese dragons. Insider tip: Wear good walking shoes—the kid-friendly, self-guided walking tour takes approximately 45 minutes. And also, have your camera ready!


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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical

Nov. 23-Dec. 24
If you’re the type to hit the play button on Christmas music in Sept., then get your pre-sale tickets for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical! This show, celebrating the most famous reindeer of them all, runs right up to Christmas Eve at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater.


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For even more upcoming arts events, check out the full calendar!