Things to Do This Memorial Day Weekend in Raleigh, N.C.
Friday, May 11, 2018, 6pm 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.
Freedom Balloon Fest
Bring the family for a truly-unique event this Memorial Day weekend, Fri.-Mon. The 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: live music on the RE/MAX stage; a craft beer and wine garden; tethered hot air balloon rides benefiting charities; the Merchant, Arts and Crafts Vendor Village; the Disc-Connected K-9 Frisbee Dogs; and plenty of food options. Check out these FAQs, including where to find free parking, as well as this schedule of events for more details!
Show your patriotism
On Sun. evening starting at 7pm, the Town of Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheatre will host Triangle Wind Ensemble's American Celebration: Salute to the Cinema, featuring a musical salute to veterans, plus music by James Horner (The Perfect Storm), Bill Conti (Rocky), John Williams (E.T., Star Wars) and some favorites from Disney films. Gates open at 6pm, and picnics are encouraged! Food and beverages will also be available for purchase on-site.
Join Veterans Freedom Park, also in Cary, on Mon. for a Memorial Day Remembrance to honor those who have served our country. The ceremony is 2:30-3:30pm and will feature speakers from the Town of Cary and local armed forces community support groups.
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, pictured below)!
Another way to take in the great outdoors is to hit the area's scenic trails. With more than 180 miles of hiking and greenway trails, exploration always awaits in the City of Oaks. Check out seven of our favorite trails to seek out a little sun and fun. Some of our favorites include the Art to Heart Trail, Lake Johnson Park and the Neuse River Greenway Trail (which you can get even more details on in our new guide)!
Add some exhilaration to your Memorial Day weekend at Bond Park Adventure Day on May 26! By purchasing a $39 one-day pass, you'll have access to the Bond Park Challenge Course featuring a high-ropes course and a zip-line, as well as unlimited boat rentals for the day. All equipment is provided during your day of fun and adventure! Visiting family over the long weekend? This is a perfect group outing!
Memorial Day weekend baseball
Catch a Carolina Mudcats baseball game at Five County Stadium in Zebulon. The Mudcats play against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans from Fri.-Mon. Catch Friday Night Fireworks at the Fri. game and again after the Sun. game to celebrate Memorial Day. On Mon., the team is set to sport patriotic-themed jerseys with the net proceeds from the game benefiting Hire Heroes USA. Hungry? The hot dogs are delicious and, of course, perfect for a baseball game!
From May 25-31, Ting Stadium at Ting Park is hosting the National Club Baseball Association (NCBA) Division I World Series. Eight regional winners will travel to Holly Springs to compete for the NCBA Division I Championship and participate in other events, such as a fan fest, home run derby and more.
The NCAA Division II Baseball Championships return to Cary, May 26-June 2, at the USA Baseball National Training Complex, which offers free parking and a full concession stand. This event brings together eight regional winners to compete for the national title.
Cool down over the weekend with a sweet treat from one of these local ice cream makers. What will it be, Andia's Homemade Ice Cream's Baklava Sundae, 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 in North Hills, Thurs. evening, May 24, 6-9pm to sing along with Jim Quick and Coastline and shag dance the night away. Or bring a blanket and settle in for some foot-tapping, finger-snapping good times on Sun., May 27, with Melissa Reaves during the Six Sundays in Spring music series in Wake Forest, 5-7pm.
Another great way to kick off the weekend a little early is with Ledisi at The Ritz on Thurs., 8pm! This 12-time Grammy Award-nominated vocal powerhouse has wowed fans ever since she came onto the scene.
Over the weekend, check out a variety of concerts, including smooth tunes from Brian McKnight at Red Hat Amphitheater in downtown Raleigh (Fri., 7:30pm), the Outlaw Music Festival featuring Willie Nelson, Sturgill Simpson, Alison Krauss and more at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek (Fri., 5:30pm), Kendrick Lamar, SZA, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, SiR and Lance Skiiiwalker at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek (Sat., 7:30pm) and Sugarland at PNC Arena (Sat., 7pm).
See a full list of concerts over at themostnc.com!
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 picnic and bring your special someone or the whole family to enjoy a movie under the stars. Kick your weekend off on Fri. with a summer favorite, the Movies by Moonlight series at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, featuring the Disney movie Coco. The gates open at 7pm, and the movie will start at dusk (approximately 8:30pm).
Into history? The Cary Theater will be screening special movies this Memorial Day weekend like Platoon on Thurs. at 9:30pm along with No Time for Sergeants on Sat. at 7pm. Or check out Raleigh’s brand-new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a combination movie theater, video rental store and restaurant that boasts 11 theaters playing movies and films from 35mm all the way to 4K laser projection. Read all about this movie lover's dream here! Catch a showing of Solo: A Star Wars Story over the weekend and hang out at the Alamo’s Video Vortex restaurant and bar for beers and board games.
Another great weekend adventure for movie-loving families starts on Fri. evening with a free showing of Coco at Lake Benson Park in Garner at 8:30pm. Bring your own picnic dinner or purchase light concessions on-site, and if you’re interested in spending the night during this special Friday Family Flick and Camping event, you can pitch a tent! (Pre-registration required for camping).
Classic Raleigh things to do
Take in Raleigh must-sees like the North Carolina State Capitol, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, 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!
Pay a visit to the incredible You Are Here: Light, Color, and Sound Experiences exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art, which features 20 immersive art installations created by 15 artists from around the world.
Stay cool and visit CAM Raleigh in downtown Raleigh. Anne Lindberg’s new solo exhibition, the long sun, is free with museum admission and brings light, materiality and rhythm to ruminations on the sun.
Through May 27, enjoy Theatre Raleigh’s performance of Daddy Long Legs, the heartwarming Cinderella story about a witty and winsome young woman and her mysterious benefactor.
Dry Powder, a gripping, new dark comedy, takes the stage at Sonorous Road Theatre during Memorial Day weekend. Catch one of the performances through May 27 and watch the actors delve into the world of those who have the power to manipulate the American economy.
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 the adrenaline-pumping activities on this list of Top 10 Sports and Outdoors Experiences. And yes, bragging is encouraged afterwards! Jump on a go-kart at Rush Hour Karting in Garner 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 out these brewery restaurants or 10 breweries and 10 restaurants to try, chow down at one of the area's six newest restaurants, have a drink at a rooftop, hidden or underground bar or dine at one of Raleigh’s legendary restaurants like an old-school soda shop or hot dog joint that’s over 100 years old. (Or, brunch, anyone? See 20 of the best brunch spots, here.)
Also, 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 at the Oak City Comedy Festival, Raleigh’s first comedy festival! This five-day comedy celebration runs May 22-26 and features some of the hottest up-and-coming stand up comics and improv/sketch comedy groups.
On Fri. at 8pm, plan to visit The Cary Theater for Comedy Night with Mike Armstrong featuring Rolan Whitt. Rolan is an ex-cop and has performed regularly in Las Vegas, opening for talents like Kevin Burke and Nicky “The Buzzard” Shane.
You can also get in a few more laughs with one of the most popular and highly-recognized stand-up comedians on the road today. D.L. Hughley will be performing live at Goodnight’s Comedy Club, Fri.-Sat., 7:15pm and 10:15pm, and Sun., 7pm.
The four-day Southern States Regional Championship Morgan 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!
Into soccer? On Fri. at 7pm, take the whole family to Military Appreciation Night at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. Watch the North Carolina Football Club take on the Atlanta United 2 during this United Soccer League match.
Get a sugar buzz this Memorial Day weekend! Raleigh's first all-dessert food truck rodeo, NC Sugar Rush, is taking place on Sun. from 1-5pm at the 200 block of E. Martin St. at City Market in downtown Raleigh. With more than 20 local dessert vendors, this event is packed with all things sweet like Italian ice, cheesecake, doughnuts, cupcakes and more.
Header photo: John Buie