A new year means new opportunities, and we've got a great feeling about good news on the horizon in the Raleigh area. For 2024, there are special events on the calendar, new places to explore, big restaurant openings lined up and plenty more to look forward to in Raleigh, N.C.!

 

Jaguar Bolera delivers eating, drinking and dinking

This 50,000-square-foot playground—an "eatertainment" concept prepared to offer big food and fun—will open at the live-work-play Raleigh Iron Works just north of downtown Raleigh this year.

Expected to offer doses of Mexican and Southern cuisines (plus a pour-your-own-cocktail wall), Jaguar Bolera will set out to blend elevated dining with karaoke, duckpin bowling, darts, foosball and more. 

An anticipated opening date for the venue is currently set for April, though pickleball fanatics may have to wait until later in the year for their dinks and drinks dreams to come true (a combination of indoor and outdoor courts will take a few additional months of construction before they're ready for action). 

Nearby: Located just a few doors down, Triangle Rock Club is working on its own latest and greatest project. With facilities already located in North Raleigh and Morrisville, a new 40,000-square-foot gym with more than 100 climbing lanes may open late this year as well. And because why not, a new 6,000-square-foot facility from beloved brewery Bond Brothers Beer Company, operating under the name NOCO, is set to open up next door as well. Cheers!

 

Dueling Dinosaurs take center stage

Dueling Dinosaurs, an exhibit 67 million years in the making and one of the most important paleontological discoveries of our lifetime, is like nothing scientists had ever seen before. Buried and fossilized side by side during the Late Cretaceous period and discovered in 2006 in Montana, the Dueling Dinosaurs are among the most complete skeletons ever discovered of a Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex—including what is thought to be the only 100% complete skeleton of a T. rex known anywhere in the world.

These historic fossils have taken up residency at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, where a new lab is being built to allow the public to watch as scientists work to uncover long-buried secrets within. The permanent display is scheduled to be opened to the public in April of this year.

The museum—annually one of the Tar Heel State's most visited tourist attractions—will also host a special exhibition, Amazing Pollinators, from June to September (more details on that coming soon!).

 

Downtown Cary Park anchors a booming visitor destination 

big new attraction is now open in Cary, N.C.

Downtown Cary Park—a seven-acre, state-of-the-art playspace for all ages—opened in the heart of downtown Cary in late 2023. 

From places for views (the elevated Skywalk) to places for brews (beer at The Bark Bar, coffee at Market 317)—plus a playground, performing arts pavilion, fire pits, a sports lawn, dog park and so much more—the park will act as the anchor of a fast-growing, easily walkable downtown area that has become a popular destination for visitors in recent years. 

The $68 million park is expected to host nearly 500 programs and events each year—think fitness classes, movie nights, concerts, public art walks, story times and more—and already is the new home of the Cary Downtown Farmers Market (held year-round on Saturday mornings).

Related: Two more notable parks—North Carolina Freedom Park in downtown Raleigh and Pleasant Park in Apex—also opened in 2023.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by visitRaleigh (@visitraleigh)

 

A tasting tour of the best new restaurants

From hidden gems to bold establishments, Raleigh's culinary stage welcomed a variety of new faces, flavors and dining experiences in 2023. If you're up for a weekend of taste testing the best of the best, here's where to start: 

  • Madre, an upscale, Mediterranean small-plates restaurant that's our current date night and late-night favorite;
  • SAAP, a Laotian eatery from chef Lon Bounsagna (formerly of the critically acclaimed Brewery Bhavana in downtown Raleigh);
  • East End Bistrot, a modern-day French fine dining experience that pairs memorable food with whimsical decor;
  • Las Ramblas, a Spanish tapas bar named for the famed boulevard in Barcelona from James Beard-nominated restaurateur Giorgio Bakatsias;
  • and Ajja, a Meditteranean-meets-Middle East offering from chef Cheetie Kumar that was just nominated for the James Beard Foundation's Best New Restaurant honor.

A whole bunch of exciting new openings are on their way in 2024, but Tamasha, a modern Indian restaurant in Raleigh's North Hills district, promises to bring serious creative flavors (and gorgeous interior aesthetics) to the table upon opening Feb. 9 (reservations are already available!). 

 

So. Much. Music.

Three of the state's biggest annual music events are held in downtown Raleigh:

Rapper J. Cole's Dreamville Festival—a two-day, multi-stage music festival and one-of-a-kind celebration of local culture, food and art—returns for a fourth time in early April (more than 100,000 fans from 23 countries attended the event at Dorothea Dix Park in 2023). 

The 14th annual Hopscotch Music Festival—time and time again named as one of America's can't-miss independent music events—will be back and ready to jam in the center of the City of Oaks in early September. Last year a total of 120 performers played across 10 downtown Raleigh venues, with headlining acts that included Pavement, Japanese Breakfast, Margo Price, Denzel Curry and a whole lot more.

And IBMA Bluegrass Live! powered by PNC, a two-day festival in late September that sets up five stages of free music along Fayetteville St., plus puts the genre's biggest stars on stage at Red Hat Amphitheater

Just a few of the many additional dates we've also marked our calendars for:

 

Pablo Picasso at the North Carolina Museum of Art

The newest must-see attraction at the North Carolina Museum of Art? "Femme assise, fond rouge et jaune" (“Seated Woman, Red and Yellow Background”), a 1952 enamel painting by art icon Pablo Picasso.

Posthumously donated to the museum by art-collector couple Julian and Josie Robertson (along with four other modern works from Europe), the painting is the first Picasso to permanently reside at the Raleigh museum. Visitors can find it on display in the free-admission West Building. 

Some upcoming ticketed events at the museum to possibly plan around:

 

An abundance of free festivals and events

Time and time again named one of America's most affordable travel destinations, one of the best ways to plan a trip to Raleigh is by building an itinerary around one of the area's major free-admission festivals or events (use this list for starters, or check our list of more than 100 of the biggest events of the year right here). 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Artsplosure (@artsplosure)

 

Carolina Hurricanes prepare for a playoff surge

One of the consensus pre-season favorites for the Stanley Cup, the Carolina Hurricanes are sitting in a prime position near the top of the Eastern Conference standings at the NHL All-Star break. 

Very likely headed for their sixth consecutive playoff appearance, the Canes have a lineup loaded with talent and the experience to match. Sold-out crowds get loud at Raleigh's PNC Arena come this time of year, and the Canes have plenty of home games left leading up to the championship hunt. 

Let's. Go. Canes!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Carolina Hurricanes (@canes)

 

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 on the same block off Broad St.), not to mention the 23,000-square-foot brewery a bit down the street. 

There are some gigantic plans in the works, though. Already under construction and eyeing a summer grand opening, Aviator has another five-acre site—just steps from the other restaurants—that aims to offer up another 60bbl brewhouse, a distillery, a restaurant (or two), multiple new bars, an indoor/outdoor concert venue and more. If all goes according to plan, we'll see you in Aviator Land in July!

 

Header photo of Ajja by Baxter Miller

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