Hello, July! Time for late sunsets, hot days, fireflies — and, of course, fireworks!
by Addie Ladner
How are we already halfway through the summer? If you’re someone who’s cursing the mosquitoes and humidity, this month in offers plenty of options for air-conditioned activities — like film showings, museum scavenger hunts and intimate concerts with Broadway stars. If you’re a warm-weather enthusiast, relishing these long hot days with outdoor concerts and evening nature walks. Regardless of your feelings about this time of year, don’t forget to show your USA spirit with some Independence Day festivities. Read on for our picks of dozens of things to to in Raleigh this July.
Sign Your Kids up for the Museum’s Super Summer Passport
When the days are simply too hot to be outside, explore our city’s museums with your little ones. The Super Summer Passport program is a joint partnership between the North Carolina Museums of Art, History and Natural Sciences. Pick up a passport — a pocket-sized activity book — at any of the institutions, then participate in scavenger hunts, i-Spys and other challenges to earn stamps. Once you’ve explored all three museums, you get a special North Carolina Traveler patch. “This is a fun, free activity that will give all families the opportunity to explore our statewide museums together,” says Marcie Gordon, director of community engagement and marketing for the history museum.
Free; North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 W. Jones Street; naturalsciences.org. NC Museum of History, 5 E. Edenton Street; ncmuseumofhistory.org. NC Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Road; ncartmuseum.org
Go on a A Scavenger Hunt
July Fourth is the perfect time to spend time outside, soaking in the sun on the water– but not everyone can make it to the beach to celebrate. Instead, consider this nautical themed scavenger hunt located in downtown Raleigh. Channel your inner pirate and search for the hidden treasure all over the Warehouse District with your friends and family in an evening of beach themed fun, complete with prizes for the winners from local businesses in the Triangle. Live closer to Durham than Raleigh? Check out Search in the City’s Durham Bulls themed scavenger hunt just outside of the stadium for a themed afternoon June 30 & July 9 | Various times; From $32.18; searchinthecity.co
Head to Durham for EnoFest
EnoFest is an annual celebration of its namesake, the Eno River, a Triangle geological treasure that winds for 40 miles through Durham and Orange counties. Held at West Point on the Eno, a Durham City Park, the two-day festival will feature more than 60 performers on two stages, including Tift Merritt, the Gospel Jubilators and the African American Dance Ensemble. Art lovers can look forward to a juried craft show of regional makers. Foodies can look forward to a curated lineup of North Carolina food trucks, plus local craft beers, wines, seltzers and cider at the festival’s beer garden.
July 1 & 4 | 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.;From $35; 5101 N. Roxboro Street, Durham; enofest.org
Experience the Art of the Brick
Are you ever too old to enjoy tinkering with LEGOs? See the classic building toys transformed at the traveling exhibit Art of the Brick. Acclaimed artist Nathan Sawaya, known for creating work from found objects, has created more than 90 colorful sculptures and two-dimensional works, all out of LEGOs. From a 20-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus rex to interpretations of masterpieces from Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, the exhibit is sure to captivate the entire family’s imagination.
All month | Various Times; From $22; Pleasant Valley Promenade, 6204-121 Glenwood Avenue; feverup.com
Immerse Yourself in Spiders at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Few insects are feared as much as those in the spider family, even though very few are actually dangerous to humans. This resilient and often misunderstood class of arthropods has survived for more than 300 million years, and there are more than 48,000 known species of them. Intrigued? Learn more at the exhibit Spiders: Fear to Fascination at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Acquaint yourself with more than 250 real and preserved specimens of the arachnids, learn fun facts (did you know that spiders can both swim and jump?), test your spider vision, build webs and even compete in a mating dance-off using augmented-reality technology.
Tuesdays – Sundays | 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Free for members, $14 for non-members; 11 W. Jones Street; naturalsciences.org
See Fireworks at Dix Park for Independence Day
Get ready to see the Raleigh skyline illuminated with a special Fourth of July fireworks show! Presented by the City of Raleigh and ABC11, the 30-minute display will start at 9:30, but there’s plenty of fun to be had beforehand. Arrive at Dorothea Dix Park’s Big Field by 5 p.m. to enjoy food trucks, music by DJ Luxe Posh and kids’ activities like crafts with the Artsplosure team, inflatable slides and a foam party pit.
July 4 | 5 – 10 p.m.; Free admission; 1030 Richardson Drive; dixpark.org
Stop by Raleigh City Farm’s Pay-What-You-Can Farm Stand
Did you know you can source fresh basil, zucchini and tomatoes near downtown? Raleigh City Farm is an urban community garden that offers its bounty from April through November at a weekly farm stand at their Blount Street plot. Pay what you can afford or throw in a little extra to help someone who needs to put food on the table. Get there early for the widest variety of produce; anything left over will be donated to one of its partner organizations through their Farmshare program.
Wednesdays | 4 – 7 p.m.; Free to visit; 800 N. Blount Street; raleighcityfarm.org
See the Film The Adventures of Prince Achmed at The Gregg
This summer, NC State University’s Gregg Museum of Art & Design is hosting a film series inspired by artifacts from the museum’s permanent collection. This month, catch a German movie from the 1920s called The Adventures of Prince Achmed. Based on a Middle Eastern folk tale about a young royal’s escapades, it’s believed to be the first animated film in the world. The visuals of the film are similar in style to the museum’s collection of Indonesian Wayang shadow puppets.
July 6 | 6 p.m.; Free; 1903 Hillsborough Street; gregg.arts.ncsu.edu
Hear From Rachel Bay Jones at Theatre Raleigh
Get up close and personal with famous performers through a new series at Theatre Raleigh. It’s based on Lauren Kennedy Brady’s experiences living in New York City. “You could go to a club like Birdland or 54 Below to see your favorite Broadway star in a more intimate setting,” says Brady, who is Theatre Raleigh’s producing artistic director. “It is so special to see performers of that caliber revealing themselves by sharing stories and songs.” July’s guest is Rachel Bay Jones, a Tony-, Grammy- and Emmy-award winning actress and singer known for Dear Evan Hansen, Pippin and Hair on Broadway, as well as numerous theater and television roles. Get there early to take advantage of the theater company’s full bar complete with wine, beer, cocktails, candy and popcorn.
July 7 | 8 p.m.; From $35; 6638 Old Wake Forest Road; theatreraleigh.com
Keep Up the Gardening Momentum
“July is here and the days stretch as long as saltwater taffy. At last, the plants we’ve tended all spring are lush and loaded with bright flowers and ripening fruits. It’s a startling alchemy that never grows old for gardeners — watching tiny seeds erupt into towering plants, realizing their humble destinies to grace our dinner plates,” writes Hannah Ross in our July gardening column where she shares a number of helpful tips on the matter.
Take a Twilight Walk at Wilkerson Nature Preserve
Trek through the Wilkerson Nature Preserve after hours to take in a star-filled summer sky, along with nocturnal critters like bats and owls. A park naturalist will guide you through this easy evening hike through some of the park’s 157 wild acres along Falls Lake. Kids 5 and older are welcome, pre-registration is required and don’t forget a small flashlight or headlamp.
July 8 | 8 – 9:30 p.m; .Free; 5229 Awls Haven Drive; raleighnc.gov
Take in Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a favorite for its comedic plot filled with fairies and love stories. For a fresh take on the classic, theater company Sweet Tea Shakespeare put a dark spin on the play, taking the audience through a mysterious forest where mischievous and malevolent fairies reign supreme. With live music and an engaging atmosphere, you won’t want to miss this twisted and eerie version of Shakespeare’s classic comedy.
July 13 – 23 | Various times; From $20 ($12 for students); 3313 Wade Avenue; sweetteashakespeare.com
Hit up a Shady Patio Happy Hour
Sometimes that Carolina sunshine is a little too sunshiney — but you still want to get outside for a drink with friends. These bars and restaurants have shaded outdoor seating to make grabbing a beer, cocktail or frosé more comfortable in the height of summer. From breezy rooftop bars to wide covered patios to pergolas wound with leafy vines, here’s our roundup of downtown Raleigh bars and restaurants that all offer comfortable, shaded outdoor seating.
Head to Juniper Level Garden’s Agave Festival
Juniper Level Botanic Garden will host their first North Carolina Agave Festival during Summer Open Garden, days where hundreds of agave plants, representing over 80 types, will be showcased throughout the garden and nurseries. “Combined with the eye-catching variety of colors and the symmetrical rosettes of the agaves, summer is an amazing time of year to see plants blooming in the garden,” says Tony Avent, Juniper Level Garden founder. “There’s color everywhere and incredible pollinator activity. That’s when all the insects and birds are gathering nectar they need to survive. If you want a lot of pollinator activity in your garden in the summertime, you need plants that have a burst of flowers – Crinum lily, white top sedge, ginger lily, variegated and hardy hibiscus, spider lily, heliopsis, hidden cone ginger, also a source of turmeric, Jack-in-the-pulpit, obedient plant, love lily, flowering spurge, pineapple lily, and many more.”
July 14 -23| Various times; 9241 Sauls Road; jlbg.org
Listen to Nick Daniels at The Corner
THAT Station and Lincoln Theatre have teamed up to offer Artist Notes, a music and storytelling series at The Corner, a greenspace on NC State’s Centennial campus. Each show will start with a conversation between station director Chris Edge and the artist, followed by a performance. July’s act is Nick Daniels, lead singer and guitarist of Burlington-based Big Something, a band that blends pop, funk and rock. Attendance and parking are free, but food and beer are available for purchase. Proceeds from the evening go towards The SIMS Foundation, which supports the mental and physical wellness of professional creatives.
July 13 | 6 – 8 p.m.; Free; 941 Main Campus Drive; thatstation.net
Feast at Mandolin’s Got to Be NC Dinner
Celebrate peak summer tomatoes, basil, peaches and more at Five Points bistro Mandolin’s Got to Be NC Dinner. While Mandolin sources local as much as possible year-round, chef de cuisine Dylan Shook has created this family-style, five-course meal exclusively featuring North Carolina ingredients. In addition, the meal will be paired with exclusively North Carolina-made wine and spirits for a truly auntentic taste of the state.
July 16 | 6 p.m.; From $145; 2519 Fairview Road; mandolinraleigh.com
Bring the Family to see Raleigh Little Theatre’s Puffs
Young wizards and witches will love this humorous parody of Harry Potter, told from the perspective of well-meaning students in the Puffs house (the other houses are the Braves, Snakes and Smarts). “It’s truly hilarious with a lot of heart! Potter fans will love all the inside jokes. But people not ‘in the know’ will enjoy it too,” says Megan Ferrell, marketing manager of Raleigh Little Theatre. The play is part of their Teens on Stage and Backstage program and will be directed by education programs specialist Alease Timbers.
July 21 – 30 | Various times; From $16; 301 Pogue Street; raleighlittletheatre.org
Bring the Kids to NC Theatre’s Mary Poppins
Take the kids to see this supercalifragilisticexpialidocious children’s tale about family, connection and joy. Based on the children’s books by P. L. Travers and the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews, NC Theatre is bringing Mary Poppins to the stage at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium with enchanting songs and a magnetic storyline set in England in the early 1900s.
July 25 – 30\ Various Times; From $25; 2 E. South Street; nctheatre.com
Dance Along to Country Star Walker Hayes at Red Hat
Get all fancy like in your favorite boots and cut-offs to see breakout country musician Walker Hayes. Special guests Ingrid Andress and BRELAND will join him at Red Hat Amphitheater for an evening in the heart of the city.
July 28 | 6:30 p.m.From $38; 500 S. McDowell Street; redhatamphitheater.com
A version of this article originally appeared in the July 2023 issue of WALTER magazine.