37 Picks For Summer
By Carla Turchetti, Karlie Justus Marlowe, Corbie Hill, Rachel Vachon, Paul Savery, Adam Sobsey
A half dozen of our writers came up with lists of things to do and see in the Capital City this summer. Keep our curated list handy when you are feeling adventuresome and want a field trip for yourself, or take along the whole posse for a midweek or weekend safari. How many stops can you squeeze in in one day?
1. Go Ape Zip Line & Treetop Adventure
If you’re looking to cut loose this summer and do something adventurous, Go Ape has just what you’re looking for. With a treetop zip line course, you’re bound to gain a whole new perspective of the world. Both junior and adult courses are offered, so the whole family can have a good time. For two to three hours of fun at Blue Jay Point County Park, prices range from $38-$58.
2. Sola’s Pop-up Markets
If you’re all about local and handmade goods, then visit Sola Coffee’s Pop-up Markets this summer. Grab a cup of coffee and check out a variety of handmade goods from local vendors that include artists, designers and crafters. The pop-up markets take place from 10am-2pm every second and fourth Saturday of the month.
3. First Friday
First Friday is a great way to kick off the weekend. During the first Friday of each month, art galleries and museums in the downtown area keep their doors open longer to welcome art-lovers of all kinds. From 6-9pm, visitors can pick up a map and tour the different locations and enjoy special offers by participating restaurants and retailers.
4. North Hills British Classic Car Show
Want to check out some cool cars and give back to the community this summer? Look no further than the North Hills British Classic Car Show! Over 125 vintage cars will be shown at this year’s 20th anniversary show. The event donates a portion of the proceeds to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC. The free show will be at North Hills on May 14th from 8:30am to 3pm.
5. Walking Greenway Trails
If your family likes to run, walk, bike ride or be out in nature, then visiting Raleigh’s greenway trails this summer is a must. With 117 different trails throughout the area, the fun can literally go on for hours. While there are many wonderful trails, the Capital Area Greenway is one of the largest in the nation.
6. Carolina Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Closing out its 2015-16 season, the Carolina Ballet will be performing Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Come out to the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium May 12th-15th, and enjoy the magic and beauty brought to the stage by each magnificent ballet dancer.
7. JC Raulston Arboretum
The JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University consists of over 10 contiguous acres of beautiful gardens. On special days, the arboretum hosts activities for the entire family. These Family Fun Events give families the time to connect, play, and relax together in an outdoor setting. Programs range from the Summer Solstice Family Fun Night on June 21st to the Summer Picnic in the Garden on June 25th with cake, ice cream, outdoor games, and fun. The Arboretum is located near the NC State Fairgrounds
Daniel Benjamin, formerly of Herons, is the mastermind behind the patisserie ‘lucettegrace’ (a pairing of his young daughters’ middle names) in downtown Raleigh. The elegant and exquisite pastries taste like a European escape – indulge yourself this summer by eating in or taking away classics like chocolate eclairs made with dark chocolate cremeux, classic fondant and dark chocolate Chantilly, or try some iconic Parisian macarons.
9. Architectural Gem
One of the most distinctive buildings in downtown Raleigh is The First Baptist Church on Salisbury, across from the original state Capitol building. Designed by colorful English architect William Percival in Gothic Revival style and built in1859, the stuccoed brick building is trimmed in sandstone, and features a central entrance tower/ spire 160 feet above the ground – the tallest spike in the city’s skyline at the time. (The lower level of the building was used as a Confederate hospital during the War Between the States.)
10. Stroll Through Historic Oakwood
Take a walk through this Instagram-ready 19th century neighborhood and historic district for a mix of Victorian turrets, and even one groovy (and now infamous) modern design. Refuel at neighboring The Station at Person Street for custom cocktails named after Historic Oakwood and also one of the burgers in Raleigh.
11. H is for Hawk
Watch for red hawks soaring above the old State Capitol grounds in downtown Raleigh. Across the street, a pair has nested at the base of the steeple of the First Baptist Church for years, with full access to the six acres and its abundant supply of grey squirrels. The red-tailed hawk is the most common hawk in North America, adapting well to urban living. For information on these red-tailed hawks and other raptors, check out the Raleigh Raptors blog.
12. Set Sail for Adventure
The handsome North Carolina Museum of History invites children to “have a blast in the past” at summer camps. ‘Pirates, Ships, and Lighthouses’ is one of the summer half-day camps available for grades K-2. Learn about fierce pirates like Blackbeard and Anne Bonney, wear pirate’s clothing, and taste sea rations. Grades 6-8 may enroll in ‘The Blue and the Gray’ camp, exploring the Civil War and uncoveringstories of the state’s outlaws and heroes.
13. Dorothea Dix Park
Last year the City of Raleigh acquired 308 acres of the Dorothea Dix Campus near downtown with a plan to develop a new destination park. You don’t have to wait. You can access the green space now for walking your dog, playing Frisbee or simply having a picnic under one of the magnificent old oak trees.
14. Side Street Restaurant
Take a leisurely stroll as you explore the side streets of Oakwood historic district near downtown Raleigh. The 19th century neighborhood includes hundreds of homes in a variety of architectural styles. Reward yourself with lunch at the Side Street Restaurant hidden away on the quiet corner of Bloodworth and Lane, a block from the Governor’s Mansion. The restaurant is a real time capsule specializing in Southern food and old Southern charm, and is renowned for its chicken salad.
225 N. Bloodworth Street, 919.828.4927
15. Kirby Derby
Since 2002, this “neighborhood fiesta of chaos” has included a pinecar race, parade, soap box derby and after-party perfect for kids and adults alike. This year’s fairy tale theme should inspire a magical mix of princesses, dragons and knights for the June 25th festivities on Kirby Street near Pullen Park.
16. Shop Downtown’s Growing Retail Scene
Grab hip homegoods at Port of Raleigh and Ramble Supply Co., shop local makers at Gather and Deco Raleigh, and treat yourself to threads at Edge of Urge and Dogwood Collection. Shop late-night during the monthly First Friday event, where retailers often extend their hours and host special events and collaborations. godowntownraleigh.com
17. Twilight Paddle
Save yourself the drive out to the coast and try out Paddle Creek’s three-mile twilight kayak or standup paddleboarding route. The kayak rental company takes care of the rentals, route, and pickup and dropoff, starting the trip at 6pm at Falls Dam and ending at its private takeout at the Capital Boulevard bridge. Prices start at $55, with discounted add-ons for children and folks with their own boats. paddlecreeknc.com
18. Triangle Food Tour
Have family in town for the summer? Give them an overview of downtown Raleigh’s dining scene in one fell swoop via the Triangle Food Tour. Every Saturday at 2pm, small groups sample food from a selection of six downtown restaurants, using the R-line buses to explore all five downtown districts. $45 covers the tour and tastings.
19. Slide the City
Slide the City, the ultimate urban slip and slide, returns to Glenwood South in downtown Raleigh on June 11th with a 1,000-foot vinyl slide big enough to cover three football fields. This party is BYOIT: Bring your own inflatable tube. (A mouth guard, however, is included in the $15-and-up ticket price.)
20. PRAIRIE RIDGE ECOSTATION
Tucked just outside the busy Wade Avenue/Beltline interchange is a surprisingly placid 45 acres. The Prairie Ridge Ecostation, a satellite of the Museum of Natural Sciences, features forest, recreated Piedmont prairie, and a play area that blurs into the landscape. Seek out this place to get away from it all without actually leaving.
21. PULLEN PARK PADDLEBOATS
Whether on a first date or out with the spouse and kids, the paddleboats of Pullen Park are a hot weather go-to. The nearby buzz of Western Boulevard miraculously fades as curious geese, ducks, fish and turtles approach your little boat – an excellent deal at six tickets (which are a dollar apiece) per half-hour rental.
22. TUNE IN TO WSHA
Finding a consistent radio station can be tricky – luckily the jazz and blues programming on WSHA, Shaw University’s station, is one of the city’s best secrets. Plus, Stan the BBQ Blues Man has been known to share barbecue recipes on-air. So turn the dial to 88.9 or stream it online.
24. READ A BOOK BY A RALEIGH AUTHOR
From Wilton Barnhardt’s wry Southern wit and lit to John Kessel’s sci-fi and Kelly Starling Lyons’ remarkable, diverse children’s books, Raleigh has all the authors you need to make it through summer. If you feel so inspired by these locals, perhaps you could try your own hand as a writer.
25. FRESH LOCAL ICE CREAM
Nothing tastes sweeter in the summertime than ice cream, especially Fresh Local Ice Cream in Raleigh. Revolving flavors range from Carolina Crunch to Peanut Butter Cup to Georgia Peach, and it’s all made in-store from ice cream mix that comes from Jackson Farm in Dunn. “All our ice cream is made fresh every week and served that week,” says Jason Hillman with Fresh. P.S. Look for their ice cream truck, too!
26. LATE NIGHT EATS AT MECCA
Downtown transforms after dark. Particularly on the weekends, it takes on a carnival atmosphere well into the wee hours of the morning. Mecca, that humble Martin Street diner, offers satisfying, straightforward fare along with a full bar, and functions as both home base or a stopover during a night on the town.
27. Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve Park
The Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve Park is 157 acres of unspoiled beauty alongside Falls Lake, and is the first nature preserve in Raleigh. Dr. Wilkerson left her land to the city with specific instructions about its use for wildlife and nature education. Walk the trails, visit the hands-on displays for children, and take advantage of the loaner binoculars and kites.
28. Three Bears Acres
Three Bears Acres is dedicated to the notion that children need fewer scheduled activities and more time to just run and play outside and be a kid! This outdoor, recreational farm is 50 acres of play space that includes tree houses, paddle boats, a giant jumping pillow, mud kitchen, graffiti wall and more. Three Bears Acres is a 15-minute drive from the Six Forks Road exit of I-540.
29. Quail Ridge Books
Summer is the perfect time to kick back with a good book – and Quail Ridge Books, in its new location at North Hills, is overflowing with great reads. “Whether you’re on the beach or cooped up inside during a summer storm, the number one thing you’ll need this summer is a book,” says store owner Lisa Poole.
30. Tour D’Coop
Spend an afternoon wandering through Raleigh’s backyards in search of tucked-away chicken coops at the 12th annual Tour D’Coop on Saturday, June 4th. This self-guided tour of urban henhouses benefits Urban Ministries and its anti-poverty initiatives. Buy a ticket to this parade of combs in advance online, or the day of the event at Whole Foods Markets or the Seaboard Ace Hardware.
31. Beach Music Series
Get your dancing feet ready for the ninth season of the Midtown Beach Music Series in the Commons at North Hills. The lineup is packed with classic beach music bands like The Catalinas, The Embers and Band of Oz. Shagging is optional but encouraged! There is a concert every Thursday night from April 21st through August 11th.
32. Rose Garden
Stop and smell the roses or enjoy a concert, play or outdoor movie this summer at the Raleigh Rose Garden at the Raleigh Little Theater. The garden features 56 varieties of roses that begin blooming in late May. “The Rose Garden also offers the perfect spot for picnics, reading, plein air painting, getting inspiration for your own garden, or simply enjoying the beauty of one of Raleigh’s most beautiful historical gardens,” says Shelly Crisp, RLT Board Member.
33. TROLLEY PUB
Don’t bar-hop – bar-bike. You bring the beer, about a dozen friends, and energy to pedal on a balmy night, and Trolley Pub will supply the ride of your life: a self- and suds-powered tour of the town, with or without pub stops and dinner spots. It’s a great way to burn beer calories while in the very act of consuming them! raleigh.trolleypub.com
34. FARMERS MARKETS
It’s the best shopping there is. Farmers markets put supermarkets (and malls) to shame. Not only is there food of all kinds – far more than just veggies – you can also buy flowers and crafts, and pass an hour or two browsing (and eating). The Midtown market is a delight, but make time too for the mecca-like State Farmers Market during the bounteous summer.
midtownraleighfarmersmarket.com or statefarmersmarket.org
35. OUTDOOR CONCERTS AT THE NC MUSEUM OF ART
Great sound in the great outdoors makes the NC Museum of Art’s Summer Concert Series a must, from the indie-folk juggernaut Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (May 27th) to Irish-American fiddler Eileen Ivers (July 30th) to (almost) local heroes Iron and Wine (August 13th). And for the kids: Saxapahaw-based Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s legendary fantasia closes the series September 9th-11th.
36. FOOD TRUCK RODEOS
The best way to dine outdoors in summertime isn’t on a restaurant patio, it’s at the Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo, a half-mile gauntlet spread out over 11 downtown blocks. Walk and eat, eat and walk. Plenty of seating, inexhaustible food – a wandering feast where both you and your food are mobile.
37. SYLVAN HEIGHTS BIRD PARK
About an hour and a half east of Raleigh in Scotland Neck is Sylvan Heights Bird Park, an amazing aviary and breeding center boasting the world’s largest collection of waterfowl (about 2,000 birds are on display). It’s a glorious show of color and grace, rare and endangered species, and great photo ops.
and here’s a bonus...
DOWNTOWN RALEIGH MOVIE SERIES
Outdoor movies recall the golden age of drive-ins, and this year’s Downtown Raleigh Movie Series is a shout-out to the past: “Flashback Friday,” as it’s dubbed, will show an Eighties movie classic every Friday from May 27th-July 1st at City Plaza. Starting at 6pm, food trucks and a preshow DJ spinning Eighties tunes will put you in the mood; BYO Rubik’s Cube.