Things to Do This Memorial Day Weekend in Raleigh, N.C.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017, 7am by Kristen Baughman
The Raleigh area is a perfect place for visitors and locals for Memorial Day weekend. From a hot air balloon festival to baseball games, the destination is packing in the fun over the long weekend ahead.
WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest
Bring the family for a truly-unique event this Memorial Day weekend, Fri.-Mon. The WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest in the town of Fuquay-Varina (just a short drive from Raleigh) is an admission-free event that invites the public to enjoy dozens of hot air balloons as they fill the sky in celebration and remembrance. Events include a balloon flow, tethered hot air balloon rides benefiting charities, field games, a Merchant, Arts and Craft Village and more than 40 food vendors. Check out this guide (includes a schedule of events!) from WRAL Out and About for more details!
Show your patriotism
On Sun. evening starting at 7:30pm, the town of Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheatre will host the Triangle Wind Ensemble for American Celebration: The Best of Broadway, featuring its "big band," vocal soloists and a salute to our veterans.
Join Veterans Freedom Park, also in Cary, on Mon. for a Memorial Day Observance, including a patriotic ceremony and celebration honoring veterans of all wars and conflicts, 2:30-3:30pm.
Ready to enjoy some fun in the sun? Take advantage of the warmer weather this Memorial Day weekend by enjoying activities such as kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and canoeing—check out our detailed guide to getting on the water at 11 different lakes and rivers (plus a blackwater swamp)!
Another way to take in the great outdoors is to hit the area's scenic trails. Take a visual tour of some local favorites, here. With more than 170 miles of hiking and greenway trails, exploration always awaits.
Add some live music and delicious food to your outdoor excursion! Bond Park Boathouse in Cary is hosting musician Jared Place, Fully Loaded Fritters food truck and after-hours boat rentals on Fri., 5-8pm, for Bands, Bites and Boats at Bond Park. Half-price boat rentals will be available to those with a valid military I.D.
Memorial Day weekend baseball
Catch a Carolina Mudcats baseball game at Five County Stadium in Zebulon. The Mudcats play against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans each evening Fri.-Sun., then at 2pm on Mon. Catch Friday Night Fireworks at the Fri. game, and on Mon., the team is set to sport patriotic-themed jerseys. Hungry? The hot dogs are delicious and, of course, perfect for a baseball game!
Cool down over the weekend with a sweet treat from one of these local ice cream makers. What will it be, Fresh Local Ice Cream's Carolina Crunch or Howling Cow's Wolf Tracks in a waffle cone? Oh, the decisions!
For a great way to kick off your Memorial Day weekend, head to the Midtown Beach Music Series this Thurs. evening, 6-9pm, to sing along with the Tams and shag dance the night away. Or bring a blanket, enjoy a frosty beverage and listen to the tunes from Muscadine Bloodline during the Live in the District Music Series in Morrisville, 6:30-9pm.
Another great way to kick off the weekend is with Franz Ferdinand at Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, 8pm!
Over the weekend, check out a variety of concerts, including the North Carolina Museum of Art's Art in the Evening with Peter Lamb and the Wolves (Fri., 5:30pm), Maxwell at Red Hat Amphitheater in downtown Raleigh (Fri., 7:30pm) and North Carolina Symphony Summerfest 2017: New World Symphony at Koka Booth (Sat., 7:30pm).
A Raleigh event staple celebrating popular Japanese visual culture, Animazement takes over the Raleigh Convention Center all weekend. The convention attracts thousands of attendees and features a huge range of events, such as videos, cultural demos, fan and guest panels, J-pop/rock concerts, martial arts demos, craft classes, artists, vendors and more.
Catch a movie
Pack a blanket and bring your special someone to enjoy a movie under the stars. Kick your weekend off a little early Thurs. at the Garner Performing Arts Center to enjoy a free screening of Hidden Figures, 8-10pm, with concessions, food trucks and craft beer available.
Into throwbacks or classic movies? The Cary Theater will be screening Mel Brooks' 1974 comic western Blazing Saddles on Fri. at 7pm along with Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho at 9pm; or head to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to explore the science of Jurassic Park, 5:30-9pm, at their May installment of Final Fridays.
Another great movie to catch on Fri. evening is Mrs. Doubtfire, brought to you by the PNC Downtown Raleigh Movie Series, 5-11pm. Take in the stars as well as downtown Raleigh's growing skyline as you lounge in City Plaza (Pack chairs and get there early to have first pick on a spot!).
Classic Raleigh things to do
Take in Raleigh must-sees like the North Carolina State Capitol, the North Carolina Museum of History (don't miss the current exhibit, North Carolina and World War I!), Pullen Park and more. We've rounded up a list of 30 can't-miss things to do, here!
Winner of four Tony Awards® and one of the biggest hits on Broadway, Matilda The Musical is heading to the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts through Sun. Based on the popular novel by Roald Dahl, Matilda is an incredible musical for all ages.
Ghost, The Musical debuts this Fri. night at the North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre, and Raleigh Little Theatre will be performing Downrange: Voices from the Homefront Fri., 8pm, and Sat., 3pm.
Relaxing by the pool or chilling and grilling are all completely acceptable activities for Memorial Day weekend. However, if you're looking for something a little more exhilarating, the Raleigh area has it. Take on these adrenaline-pumping experiences. And yes, bragging is encouraged afterwards! Jump on a go-kart at Rush Hour Karting and hit speeds of nearly 40 mph, climb the highest indoor rock wall in a five-state radius at Triangle Rock Club and more.
Dining and drinks
Take advantage of the longer weekend to explore the area's critically-acclaimed culinary scene. Check these five breweries and five restaurants to try, chow down at one of the area's eight newest restaurants, have a drink at a rooftop, hidden or underground bar, dig into global eats or dine in some of Raleigh's restaurant institutions. (Or, brunch, anyone? See 10 of the best brunch spots, here.)
Also, nearly 30 local breweries have popped up in the destination! Take advantage of the long weekend and visit a few breweries to get your Raleigh Beer Trail Passport stamped (remember to have a designated driver by your side)! The more stamps you get, the more rewards you get.
Start the weekend with uncontrollable laughter with comedian Greg Morton, Thurs. (8pm) and Fri. (7:30pm and 10pm), at Goodnight's Comedy Club. Morton has shared the stage with comedy legends Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Sinbad, Bill Maher and more—you know you're in for a treat.
The four-day Southern States Horse Show runs Wed.-Sat. at the Hunt Horse Complex at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. Consider yourself a horse lover? Watch as Saddlebreds, Hackneys and Friesians complete, and even meet a horse up close and personal.
Take the whole family to the North Carolina Railroad Museum & New Hope Valley Railway on Sat. for the Brew ‘n' Choo Bonsal Beach Party. One-hour diesel-powered train excursions will be offered (3pm, 4:15pm, 5:30pm and 7pm) along with festivities in the railyard starting at 3pm, including food, dessert, craft beer, local wine and live music. Stick around to listen to beach music as you enjoy a beach cookout menu including hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, coleslaw and baked beans.
Header photo: John Buie