By Karlie Justus Marlowe

If the Oak City has an official bucket list, it’s surely filled with more than a few acorns. Here, we gather a list of 10 annual events that are unique to Raleigh and its obsessions with barbeque, sports, music and history.

1. First Night Raleigh
Since December 31st, 1991, Raleigh has celebrated New Year’s Eve with a festival and fireworks that culminate with the annual acorn drop, its take on New York City’s ball-dropping Times Square tradition. Under the umbrella of First Night Raleigh, downtown arts organization Artsplosure organizes a mix of music, parades, Ferris wheel rides, food and more in the spirit of a new theme each year, creating a fresh take on ringing in the New Year.

2. Krispy Kreme Challenge
2,400 calories, 12 doughnuts and five miles aren’t your normal race statistics. Each year, hundreds of brave, sugar-loving souls start the race at NC State’s Memorial Belltower, making their way to Krispy Kreme’s downtown Peace Street location. From there, they down a dozen donuts and head back to campus, all to raise money for UNC Children’s Hospital. It started in 2004 as a dare among NC State undergraduates, and has since landed on Sports Illustrated’s list of “102 More Things You Gotta Do Before You Graduate.” Start training for the February 6th event now, both in doughnut intake and long-distance running.

3. ACC Basketball Game
It’s not March in North Carolina without a little basketball. Troll Craigslist for tough tickets to watch the Wolfpack take on Tobacco Road rivals Wake Forest, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke, or watch your favorite teams at classic sports bars like Player’s Retreat or Sammy’s Tap and Grill. The best ticket in Raleigh? Don’t miss NC State’s annual Heritage Games, which revive the classic Reynolds Coliseum for a night of men’s basketball in “The Old Barn”. Reynolds hosted college basketball greats like Everett Case, David Thompson and Valvano, and was the home of the school’s two national basketball championship teams.

4. NC Cuegrass Festival
Held each year in mid-April, the NC Cuegrass Festival brings an afternoon dose of old-school North Carolina barbeque to the ever-changing Warehouse District of downtown Raleigh. Western barbeque sauce lovers, be warned: Raleigh staple The Pit uses its pig cookers to serve Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue paired with a selection of locally made beers, all to the tunes of local bluegrass bands.

5. Hopscotch
Rock, hip-hop, metal, folk, electronic, experimental, and more – the three-day Hopscotch Music Festival has it covered. The festival quickly became a staple on the national music festival scene, hosting more than 120 bands in more than a dozen venues each year in downtown Raleigh and marking the city as a hip musical destination while reserving nearly half of the performance slots for in-state bands and artists. In addition to the music, don’t miss its sister design, art and poster festivals during the mid-September run.

6. Tailgate at Carter-Finley Stadium
Since opening in 1966, Carter-Finley Stadium has been the home to NFL quarterbacks Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon, but Wolfpack fans take their tailgating almost as seriously as their football. Season tickets for a portion of the 57,583 available seats sell out every year, but no ticket is needed to enjoy the pre-game festivities that line Trinity Road. In addition to flip cup and grilling, check out the Walk of Champions, which welcomes the team before kickoff, and the family-friendly Fan Zone, located in front of the PNC Arena. The season kicks off right before Labor Day weekend and runs through November.

7. World of Bluegrass
When the International Bluegrass Music Association first moved its annual celebration of roots music from Nashville to Raleigh in 2013, many wondered if the city’s then-fledgling downtown could support it. Three years later the annual World of Bluegrass festival has become a fall staple, combining celebratory mega-concerts at Red Hat Amphitheater and an awards show at Memorial Hall with intimate Bluegrass Rambler showcases and plenty of family fun and youth events. This year’s September 27th through October 1st run includes more than 200 shows at venues like Lincoln Theater, The Pour House, Kings, The Architect Bar, Vintage Church, and the Raleigh Convention Center.

8. North Carolina State Fair
Where else can you find a fried Snickers® bar, state champion bull, record-breaking pumpkin, and high-flying swings in one place? North Carolina’s annual nod to agriculture takes over the State Fairgrounds each year, spilling across Dorton Arena, the Hunt Horse Complex and Sam G. Rand Grandstand. Last year, attendance topped 1 million people, who piled in for perennial favorites like pig races and the Keith King BMX Stunt Show and new attractions like Krispy Kreme ice cream and deep-fried Pop-Tarts®. This year, the fun runs October 13th-23rd.

9. Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour
Held by The Society for Historic Preservation of Historic Oakwood, this annual holiday walking tour of Raleigh’s only intact nineteenth century neighborhood and National Register of Historic Places historic district goes inside more than a dozen Historic Oakwood homes dating from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. Homes are staffed with docents knowledgeable on the rich history of each property, which are decorated in the holiday spirit. Take the mid-December tour after dusk, when the twinkling lights and candles really transport you back to Victorian Christmases of the past.

10. Carolina Ballet’s Nutcracker
The Carolina Ballet’s version of the holiday classic became even more magical with a recent new illusion, which adds a new element to the beloved story of Clara and her Nutcracker prince. The professional company annually adds mores than 150 local young dancers to their cast for their Nutcracker performances; the performances begin in Durham and Chapel Hill, then close out December at Memorial Hall in downtown Raleigh, including two days of post-Christmas performances.

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