40 Hand-Picked Experiences for Your Summer Bucket List in Raleigh, N.C.
Friday, June 02, 2017, 7am by visitRaleigh
Roll call! Who's ready for outdoor movies, baseball games, stand-up paddleboarding and brewery hopping? We've got huge plans this summer in Raleigh, N.C.! To jump-start and keep you busy during these longest days of the year, we've put together this list of 40 items for your summer bucket list, perfect
for planning a trip to Raleigh with friends and family. Need more inspiration? Follow us on Instagram or give us a shout on Twitter—we're here to help!
1. Visit the North Carolina Museum of Art's new, expanded African art gallery (set to open in late June 2017). Showcasing African creativity spanning 16 centuries, the new gallery will be three times as large as the the current one and will include a masquerade area, a contemporary art section and a wall highlighting N.C. collections.
2. Attend the first-ever (and free!) Y'all at Dix Park concert series—live music, cold beverages, food trucks, field games and more at the park with one of Raleigh's best skyline views.
3. Rent a canoe, kayak, sailboat or stand-up paddleboard and get out on the water! One of our favorite ways to combine relaxing views with a bit of exercise, you'll find all sorts of adventures to suit your needs. For families, head to Fred G. Bond Metro Park for a day of picnicking and rowing. For a bit more action, unload your canoe or kayak at any of the launch points along the Neuse River Canoe Trail and head downstream! For more, check out our guide to kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing and more in Raleigh, N.C.
4. Duck inside on a sunny weekend afternoon for a Cheerwine float from Chuck's (chef Ashley Christensen's much-loved burger joint in downtown Raleigh). Better yet, order a milkshake and ask for it spiked! Check out the dark chocolate cake milkshake with bourbon from Chuck's and more boozy desserts in Raleigh, N.C., here.
5. Save the date for the 41st Annual Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival (8/26-27), a two-day celebration of arts, music and food in downtown Cary.
6. Swing by Sola Coffee Cafe for a latte, their signature hot mini donuts and a selfie with this gorgeous new #ibelieveinraleigh mural out back.
7. Visit the Raleigh area's very first brewery (now there are nearly 30!)—Carolina Brewing Company opened in 1995 in Holly Springs. Free brewery tours, lasting about 45 minutes, take place on Saturdays at 1pm and 4pm. The taproom is open Wed.-Sun. Cheers!
8. Visit a trio of downtown Raleigh attractions in one day—the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, North Carolina Museum of History and the North Carolina State Capitol are all within just a few steps of each other.
9. Plan ahead for The 'Works (7/4)! Raleigh's biggest Independence Day celebration goes all day long, with live music, beer and wine tents, street performers, eating contests, art vendors and more on hand to keep the whole family happy. It's all capped by a spectacular fireworks show after the sun goes down (approximately 9:30pm).
10. Come hungry and seek out the perfectly-crispy, salty-but-sweet chicken and waffles from Beasley's Chicken + Honey, Mandolin and Dame's Chicken and Waffles, or spring for the vegan "chicken" and waffle option at Fiction Kitchen (a serious local favorite, even for meat-eaters). You'll also find chicken and waffle sandwiches at Parkside and Cameron Bar & Grill.
11. Take the kids to Marbles Kids Museum, a hands-on, minds-on learning destination designed for children 10 and under to learn through play and discovery (and one of the most visited attractions in the entire state!), headed up by passionate mind Sally Edwards.
12. Cool off by going for a swim at Falls Lake State Recreation Area, a 12,000-acre reservoir north of Raleigh with a collection of seven access areas scattered around the shoreline. You'll find sandy beach areas with swimming allowed at the Beaverdam and Sandling Beach access areas. Note: There is a $6-$7 fee per car to enter the park during the summer.
13. Hone your racing skills at speeds of nearly 40 mph at the state-of-the-art indoor go-kart track at Rush Hour Karting in Garner! Kids, ages eight years old and up, can get in on the action, too,
and reservations can be made for groups of five or more in advance.
14. Snow White as a tattooed boxer? Absolutely! Get to CAM Raleigh for a must-see exhibition: No Damsel, by Los Angeles artist Dorian Lynde, features a series of murals with reimagined Disney princesses (on display through 8/6).
15. Go underground at Watts & Ward, Raleigh's newest craft cocktail bar from Ireland native and Hibernian Hospitality owner Niall Hanley. The space is 6,000-square-feet of 1920s America speakeasy spirit, with room after room of leather seating, vintage artwork, dim lighting and bookshelves full of history. For more must-hit summer drinking spots, read our guide on Raleigh, N.C.'s rooftop, hidden and underground bars.
17. What could be better than a full day of beer sipping, bourbon tasting and barbecue eating? That's what you get at the aptly-named Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival (7/28-29) at Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheatre. A ticket gets you a souvenir tasting glass and unlimited beer and bourbon samples. Sign us up!
18. Attend the eighth edition of Hopscotch Music Festival (9/7-10), "one of the best and most eclectic music festivals in America," according to SPIN. The 2017 festival will feature more than 150 acts over four days, including Solange, Run The Jewels, Future Islands and Angel Olsen, among others.
19. Explore by bike! In downtown Raleigh, swing by Oak City Cyling Project to grab a rental for the day or week and cruise around the Historic Oakwood neighborhood or head for a nearby greenway trail. In North Raleigh, stop by The Bike Guy, where you can rent a bicycle at the start of the Neuse River Greenway and ride for nearly 30 miles on dedicated, uninterrupted paved paths.
21. Who doesn't love a movie under the stars? Get your blankets, lawn chairs and picnic baskets ready because we've rounded up 54 chances to a take in a film at parks, amphitheaters and gardens across the Raleigh area this summer.
22. Let the kids splash themselves silly at the 6,000-square-foot splash pad at Fuquay-Varina's South Park (there is a $2 fee for non-residents for all-day admission to the splash pad; one parent gets free admission). Open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day, 11am-7pm.
23. Get schooled on more than 200 years of Raleigh history at the City of Raleigh Museum (COR Museum), with rotating exhibits that preserve the past and showcase historical artifacts (free admission, with donation suggested).
24. Load up on peanuts and Cracker Jack as you take in a ballgame at Zebulon's Five County Stadium. The Carolina Mudcats (single-A affiliate of MLB's Milwaukee Brewers) host Thirsty Thursdays ($2 draft beers and $1 sodas) plus put on post-game fireworks displays on Fridays. See the schedule here.
25. Get dinner and a movie (including beer and wine) at the Raleighwood Cinema Grill, a locally-owned-and-operated, all-in-one movie theater and full-service restaurant.
26. Grab a group of friends and head to Whiskey Kitchen. Arrive early to score a coveted table outdoors and keep the food and drinks coming all night long.
27. Spend an evening exploring charming downtown Wake Forest during one of their free Friday Night on White concert series events (6/9, 7/14, 8/11 and 9/8) outside of White Street Brewing Company (and keep your eyes peeled for Lumpy's Ice Cream, considered by many to be one of the tastiest treats around).
28. Catch a Hollywood blockbuster at Wells Fargo IMAX Theatre at Marbles, the state's only 3D-capable 70' x 50' giant screen.
29. Brunch! Travel and Leisure named Raleigh one of "America's Favorite Cities for Brunch," so allow the City of Oaks to prove it! Head to Iris (the North Carolina Museum of Art's contemporary cuisine restaurant), Brewery Bhavana, Poole's Diner or one of these other local favorites.
31. Experience the state's premier orchestra, the North Carolina Symphony, in a gorgeous setting surrounded by pine trees at Koka Booth Amphitheatre. Ten performances are scheduled for Summerfest 2017.
32. Treat yourself! Satisfy your sweet tooth with one of Mama Bird's Cookies + Cream's famous ice cream cookie sandwiches at the shop in downtown Holly Springs.
33. Grab your camera and head to 25 of the most Instagrammed spots in Raleigh, N.C.!
34. Spend a quiet afternoon exploring legendary bookstore Quail Ridge Books, local and independent since 1984.
35. Start your day with hot cakes the size of your head (plus more delicious Southern cooking and hospitality) at Big Ed's, originally founded in 1958 by Big Ed Watkins. (Two locations, one in downtown Raleigh's City Market and one in North Raleigh)
36. Giddy-up for another round of Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeos (6/11 and 8/6)! A half-mile of food trucks (lobster rolls, BBQ sandwiches, ice cream sundaes and way more) invade downtown Raleigh. Read our tips before you go.
37. Set up camp and spend the night outdoors at N.C.'s most visited state park, the 5,600-acre William B. Umstead State Park. The park has 28 non-electric, tent campsites available to be reserved online here (fees, starting at $15 per night, may apply).
38. Indulge in some late-night grub from two Raleigh originals. Snoopy's Hot Dogs & More (open until 3am Thurs.-Sat.) and Char-Grill (until 2am Fri. and Sat.), less than two hundred feet from each other just off Glenwood Ave. in downtown Raleigh, have been feeding hungry bar-goers for as long as we can remember (more than 50 years at this location in Char-Grill's case!).
39. Get your dancing shoes on and head to North Hills for the Midtown Beach Music Series (Thursdays, 6-9pm), a Raleigh summer tradition celebrating 10 years of groove in 2017.
40. Take in an outdoor concert with the Raleigh skyline towering behind you at Red Hat Amphitheater. Dirty Heads and Soja (6/14), Deftones and Rise Against (6/18), My Morning Jacket (7/9), Idina Menzel (7/19), Mary J. Blige (8/10), Goo Goo Dolls and Phillip Phillips (8/23) and more are on the schedule!