Sun's Out, Fun's Out

Hello, May! A busy spring continues in Raleigh, N.C., this month. Longer days and lots of sunshine mean it's time to get outdoors and explore. Temperatures have hit a sweet spot, patios are open, picnics are in full swing, big events are on the calendar, and there's never been a better time to visit the City of Oaks.

So what's new in Raleigh? Nightlife spots, music venues, breweries (a distillery, too!), sweet treats, a professional women's soccer team that's totally crushing it and way, way more. 

Let's start with two very awesome (and very different) spots to grab a drink with friends. Level7, a new rooftop bar at the just-opened AC Hotel Raleigh North Hills, provides European-inspired cocktails and small plates, great neighborhood views plus plenty of comfortable seating on the massive outdoor deck. In downtown Raleigh, you'll find a different experience—Watts & Ward, Irishman entrepreneur Niall Hanley's latest venture, is a 6,000-square-foot hideout underneath the streets. This dimly-lit speakeasy offers room after room of leather seating, vintage artwork, rustic tables and bookshelves full of history. Need a list of other interesting nightlife spots? Check our guide to Raleigh's rooftop, hidden and underground bars here.

The North Carolina Museum of Art's recently-expanded and constantly-evolving Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park has a pair of fun new pieces to check out—Jaime Hayon's SCULPT. C, an interactive play structure, and Jaume Plensa's Awilda & Irma, two larger-than-life head sculptures. Read all about them here, then plan your trip to explore the 164-acre park this month. 



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What's the scoop in downtown Cary? FRESH. Local Ice Cream has just opened up. The homemade, "cow-to-cone" ice cream shop is true to its name—the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients for the most delicious treats possible. Grab a scoop (or two), then walk just a few minutes over to Bond Brothers Beer Company to enjoy a local brew on the back patio. 


Also in Cary, the North Carolina Courage, a professional women's soccer team in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), recently made their debut and are off to a hot start. They'll play home games against Chicago Red Stars (5/21) and Sky Blue FC (5/24) this month. 

For a full rundown on all things new, read our latest piece on 32 New Things to Do in Raleigh, N.C.

Outdoor Concert Season

Music fans, rejoice! Outdoor concert season is officially here, kick-started in a big way by Band Together featuring Ben Folds (5/6) at the base of the city's skyline at Red Hat Amphitheater. The downtown music venue, with capacity for 6,000 fans, will also host Bastille (5/12), The xx (5/14) and Maxwell (5/26) this month. The beautiful Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Theater in the Museum Park (North Carolina Museum of Art) isn't wasting any time, either—thousands of fans with blankets and coolers on hand will fill the venue to see Mipso with River Whyless (5/6). The area's largest outdoor venue, Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, gets their season underway with Chris Stapleton (5/12), Future (5/13), Kings of Leon (5/17) and Brad Paisley (5/20). 

Music fans will also want to catch 21 Savage (5/3), Spoon (5/7), BJ Barham (5/9), The Chainsmokers (5/24) and way more! Head to for a full calendar of music in May. 

WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest

Ready for Memorial Day weekend? The WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest (5/26-29) takes over Fleming Loop Park, offering a truly-unique, family-oriented and free weekend of events, highlighted by 35 hot air balloons filling the skies of the town of Fuquay-Varina each day and evening. Local musicians hit the stage, field games are offered for children and dozens of food vendors will be on hand serving N.C. State Fair-inspired eats. The event is free to attend! A beer, wine and cider garden (with a big tent providing plenty of shade) is planned for this year as well.



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Artsplosure - The Raleigh Arts Festival



One of Raleigh's biggest arts events has big plans in downtown Raleigh for the 38th annual event. Artsplosure - The Raleigh Arts Festival (5/19-21) brings together more than 170 artists and craftspeople for a three-day festival in downtown Raleigh. Artists will have their work on display along Fayetteville St. and in Moore Square, along with performance stages for jazz, blues and roots-inspired musicians playing free shows. Fourteen performances are on the schedule for the main stage in City Plaza, highlighted by Rise Rashid, a local rapper, actor and high school basketball coach, plus Tank + The Bangas, a soul/funk/jazz group that recently won NPR's Tiny Desk Concert competition. Kidsplosure (Sat. and Sun. only) will feature music, activities, storytellers and a visit from Michelle's Magical Poodles (count us in!). 

More May Picks

Last chances! Ansel Adams: Masterworks is on display at the North Carolina Museum of Art through Sun., May 7. The collection of 48 photographs from the legendary photographer is ticketed in conjunction with another must-see exhibit: Glory of Venice: Renaissance Paintings 1470-1520.

How about an outdoor movie? May the fourth be with you (hint hint!) at Movie By Moonlight at Dorothea Dix Park (5/4), where you'll want to bring a blanket or chairs (alcohol also allowed) out to see the latest film from a certain classic sci-fi series. 

Apex PeakFest (5/6) brings all-day live music, arts and crafts, food, and tons of family-friendly entertainment to downtown Apex on the first Sat. of the month. 

Downtown Raleigh's Halifax Mall is gearing up to host the Capital Cricket Classic (5/6), showcasing the sport of cricket with eight teams participating in seven knockout matches in a full day of fun with food and other festivities. 

North Carolina Football Club will take on San Francisco Deltas (5/6) and Jacksonville Armada FC (5/13) in a pair of North American Soccer League (NASL) matchups at WakeMed Soccer Park. 

Out! Raleigh (5/6), a celebration of the LGBT community and its allies, will be an inclusive, family-friendly event in downtown Raleigh. More than 50,000 people are expected to take in the live music, local vendors and artists, a beer garden and the KidsZone. 

The Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo (5/7) returns with food trucks as far as you can see in downtown Raleigh. Nearly a half-mile of unique eats will span 11 city blocks in downtown Raleigh, serving everything from ice cream sundaes to buttery lobster rolls.  



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Friday Night on White, featuring the band Smile (5/12), is a free outdoor concert series in downtown Wake Forest just outside of White Street Brewing Company. 


North Carolina Theatre will present Matilda The Musical (5/23-28), based on the novel by Roald Dahl and one of Broadway's biggest hits.  

Animazement (5/26-28), celebrating popular Japanese visual culture, takes over the Raleigh Convention Center on Memorial Day weekend with cultural demos, guest panels, concerts and more.

Koka Booth Amphitheater's American Celebration (5/28) will have the Triangle Wind Ensemble perform America's music as a salute to veterans. 

A major new exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, RACE: Are We So Different? (through 10/22), looks at race through the lens of science, history and personal experiences with interactive exhibits, historical artifacts and more.