Every two weeks, we send out a newsletter that includes the best of the best upcoming events. If you sign up for our E-magazine, you'll get those, plus all the best new content (our favorite hiking and biking trails, for example, or 10 ways to plan a perfect weekend getaway in the Raleigh area).


Hello, May! A busy spring continues in the Raleigh area 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, the calendar is packed with major events and there's never been a better time to visit the City of Oaks (so save these dates and make those plans!)

 

North Carolina Symphony presents Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

May 4-6
May the Fourth be with you, indeed! This special event puts one of the most popular films of all time on the big screen, paired in tandem with the North Carolina Symphony performing John Williams’ legendary score live in concert.

 

Holly Springs International Food Festival

May 5
Back for a second year in 2023, visitors are invited to taste, learn, unite (and get their passports stamped!) at the Holly Springs International Food Festival, celebrating a variety of food, beverages and entertainment representing more than a dozen countries. Bring blankets and chairs for lawn seating outside the Holly Springs Cultural Center to enjoy live entertainment—polka, jazz, Bollywood dancing and more! This event is free to attend.

 

En Plein Air Fuquay-Varina

May 5-6
En Plein Air is an exciting, free outdoor event in Fuquay-Varina that acts as a way to support local artists and bring public art to the town's streets. On Friday and Saturday afternoons of this special event, a skills contest will challenge each artist to create an original oil or acrylic masterpiece of a Fuquay-Varina landscape—all available for the public to watch come to life. 

 

HerbFest

May 5-7
Those who love to cook will love HerbFest! Stroll through downtown Wake Forest's charming White St. and shop organic, non-GMO herbs and vegetables, plus heirloom tomatoes and peppers and beautiful perennials native to the area.

 

Raleigh Little Theatre presents My Wonderful Birthday Suit

May 5-21
Directed by Amelia Lumpkin, this story—a powerful conversation-starter proves that you’re never too young (or too old) to be kind—teaches young audiences that each of us is “gift wrapped” in our own unique way, but it’s what’s on the inside that truly makes us special.

 

Open Garden Days at Juniper Level Botanic Garden

May 5-7
One of America's most spectacular gardens is open to the public just eight weekends per year! Located 12 miles south of downtown Raleigh, Juniper Level Botanic Garden is a 28-acre campus showcasing more than 27,000 different kinds of native perennials, exotic plants, rare delights and unusual specimens of trees and shrubs not found many (or any) other places on earth.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Thomas Pope (@th0maspope)

 

42nd Annual Apex PeakFest

May 6
Salem St. in historic downtown Apex comes alive with more than 20,000 visitors during PeakFest. For more than 40 years now, the arts and crafts festival has brought families together for a day of fun, food and fellowship. The town of Apex's largest annual event, PeakFest has all-day live music, all the arts and crafts you can imagine, entertainment for kids and food vendors that bring their best State Fair-style goodies.

 

Meet in the Street Festival

May 6
A day filled with food, fun and entertainment in historic downtown Wake Forest for more than 40 years running, Meet in the Street pulls together all-day live music plus an additional stage of entertainment with dancers, martial arts, magicians and more. 

 

Fest in the West

May 6
Celebrate Cary's rural past at this day filled with food trucks, local breweries, pie-eating contests, kids activities, live music and more. Empty plates, full bellies and a satisfied crowd is a sure thing, plus festival-goers will head home with souvenir beer cups!

 

Satyre Fest

May 6
Inspired by the famed Fyre festival, Satyre Fest is a satirical experience for the audience to enjoy the oddity and comedy of a festival gone sour—all the fun of a normal local music festival, with the added twist of comical festival faux paus!

 

Carolina Mudcats take to the diamond

At Five County Stadium in Zebulon—where the Carolina Mudcats have been a staple for more than 30 years—the 2023 Minor League Baseball season is officially underway (be on the lookout for Taco Tuesdays, Thirsty Thursdays, Friday Night Fireworks and more promotions all season long!). This month the Mudcats home schedule breaks down like this: 

 

Exhibition: Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design

Through Aug. 6
Creating pieces for films including "Black Panther," "Malcolm X," "Selma" and "Do the Right Thing," Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter has defined generations through her work in film and TV. In this critically acclaimed exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of Art, more than 60 of Carter’s original garments are on display. Note that this is a ticketed exhibition, open Wednesday through Sunday; other galleries at the museum are free to visit.

 

Lizzo, Stevie Nicks, The Veldt (and so much more music!)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by PNC Arena (@pncarena)

 

Friday Night on White

May 12
A favorite summertime event in charming downtown Wake Forest, Friday Night on White invites visitors to bring blankets, lawn chairs and their best dance moves out to White St. (the main avenue where White Street Brewing CompanyShorty's Famous Hot DogsBodega and other favorites await). Beloved funk group Sleeping Booty Band will take to the main stage from 6-9pm, and food trucks and a beer tent will keep event goers plenty happy.

 

Longleaf Film Festival

May 12-13
A free-to-attend film festival that highlights the best short- and feature-length documentary and narrative films, the Longleaf Film Festival is held annually at the North Carolina Museum of History in downtown Raleigh, where 1,000 attendees enjoy nearly 70 films, panels and free popcorn (you can't beat that!).

 

Moore Square Market

Weekly on Sundays, beginning May 14
Located in the heart of downtown Raleigh, Moore Square Market highlights local vendors and their farm-fresh food and artisanal goods on a weekly basis. Open weekly on Sunday from May through October, special programming, live music, kids' activities and more are on hand to offer something for the entire family.

 

Carolina Ballet presents Sleeping Beauty

May 18-21
Closing out their 25th anniversary season in spectacular fashion, Carolina Ballet with perform a longtime favorite—where good triumphs over evil—in this production of Sleeping Beauty.

 

Got to Be NC Festival

May 19-21
Putting the best of N.C. food and beverage on display, the Got to Be NC Festival offers tons of eating opportunities, live music, a huge collection of antique tractors, a carnival for children and more activities (plus free parking and admission) at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Got to Be NC (@gottobenc)

 

Artsplosure - The Raleigh Arts Festival

May 20-21
One of the Southeast's premier arts festivals, Artsplosure - The Raleigh Arts Festival attracts more than 80,000 people to downtown Raleigh during the third weekend of May each year. Celebrating fine visual art and live music since 1980, the festival puts more than 180 artists' work, using countless mediums, on display for all to see and enjoy during the free festival.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Artsplosure (@artsplosure)

 

NCAA Division I Women's Lacrosse Championship

May 26 and 28
The Town of Cary and WakeMed Soccer Park will host the NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship for the first time ever.

 

Animazement

May 26-28
Get in on the action at Animazement, a three-day Japanese animation and culture celebration over Memorial Day weekend that draws 15,000 attendees to the Raleigh Convention Center. Cosplay is a huge draw: guests are encouraged to dress up as their favorite characters simply for fun, or to participate in contests showcasing their talents!

 

NC Sugar Rush

May 28
One of the sweetest events of the year, NC Sugar Rush is an all-dessert food truck rodeo held in downtown Raleigh's City Plaza. More than 20 vendors—offering a range of goodies from cotton candy to cupcakes to cherry pies—will be on hand, along with face painters, balloon artists and more to keep the kids entertained.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jay Jones (@ncsugarrush)

 

North Carolina Heritage Awards

May 31
Featuring performances, displays, documentary film and a vendor marketplace, this special night at the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts (note: previously named the Duke Energy Center) will honor six distinguished folk artists from across the state in a celebration of local music and arts. More than 130 artists—including Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Etta Baker—have been honored since the Heritage Awards were established in 1989.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by PineCone (@pineconenc)

 

Connecting explorers with guides: People-First Tourism

A new way to travel—discover a curated collection of tours, hands-on workshops and experiences led by local experts in the Raleigh area (the May calendar is filled with new events!).

 

 

More May events

 

Header photo by Garrett Poulos

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