15+ ways to Soak up Labor Day Weekend in and Around Raleigh

Savor the last official weekend of summer with culture, a trip to the beach, some locally made ice cream or a sampling of BBQ.
by WALTER Staff

It may be September, but it’s not time for pumpkin-spiced anything yet! The long Labor Day weekend is great for basking in warm, golden rays and squeezing every last drop out of the summer. With street festivals, markets and walking tours celebrating everything from barbecue to big cats, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the last official weekend of summer in and around the Triangle.

Art-n-Soul Market

Shop at a Local Art Market

Whether you want to freshen up your home with new decor for the fall or pick up back-to-school teacher gifts, there’s no better place to shop than an artisan art market. The outdoor Market at NCMA (Sept. 3) and Art-n-Soul Market pop-ups in Durham (Sept. 3) and Cary (Sept. 4) are perfect places to savor a warm weekend and pick up something pretty while supporting local makers.

Pay Tribute to a Legend at the Earl Scruggs Music Festival

Head to Mill Spring in western North Carolina, where the inaugural Earl Scruggs Music Festival will be held at Tryon International Equestrian Center. The festival celebrates the life and legacy of Cleveland County bluegrass musician Earl Scruggs, who popularized the three-finger banjo picking style. Hear from a packed lineup including Grammy award-winning banjoist Béla Fleck, jam band Leftover Salmon, Grammy-decorated multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons and bluegrass group Chatham County Line.
Sept. 2 – 4 | from $55; 25 International Boulevard, Mill Spring; earlscruggsmusicfest.com

Honeysuckle Tea House and Tap Room

Camp Out and Drink Up at Honeysuckle Tea House

Set on a sprawling farm in Chapel Hill, Honeysuckle Tea House and Tap Room serves up farm-based artisan beverages from herbal brews to local honey mead. This Labor Day weekend, camp out on Honeysuckle Farm to see firsthand just how fresh the ingredient harvest is. Tour the property, roast s’mores by the fire and enjoy the hammock garden or recycled-material gazebo before bed. Your tent amongst the berries and herbs is a short walk from a nightcap at the Tap Room and a morning cup of tea from the Tea House.
Sept. 2- 4 | $50 per tent; 8871 Pickards Meadow Rd, Chapel Hill, NC; thehoneysuckleteahouse.com

Pinehurst Barbeque Festival

Head to Pinehurst for its BBQ Festival

Celebrate “All Things Barbeque” at the second annual Pinehurst Barbeque Festival. With a splash of Eastern North Carolina vinegar or Western North Carolina tomato-based sauce, the three-day event offers a unique sampling of barbeque meats and sides. Presented by Pinehurst Resort, US Foods and The Pilot (WALTER’s parent company), each night offers something different — Wings & Zings: A Night Of Chicken and Stand-Up Comedy, “Q” School Grilling Classes and even a concert where tribute band Chicago: Rewired takes the stage.
Sept. 2 – 4 | from $15; various locations, Pinehurst; pinehurstbarbecuefestival.com

Cool Off Out West

In the Blue Ridge Mountains, where the humidity’s lower and the temperature milder, the landscape is rife with gorgeous waters to cool off in. Mountain lakes, waterfalls and rivers can be great places to catch some mist during a sweltering Labor Day weekend in the Triangle. So why not pack up the family and head west? The swimming holes in and around Brevard are well-loved destinations, but Western North Carolina is home to many more hidden gem spots off the beaten path — find a small town to explore if you’re up for an adventure, or kick back in a swanky vacation rental, like a treehouse or Hobbit Knoll, for some R&R after a day of hiking and splashing around. Whatever drift you’re catching, start by checking out these natural water features in Western NC for some vacation inspiration.

Use the Force, Luke!

Even in September, North Carolina is so hot that you’ll need an escape to the great, air-conditioned indoors. If that’s not cool enough, try escaping to a galaxy far, far away. As part of its Retro Film Series, the Carolina Theatre is screening the entire Star Wars Original Trilogy over Labor Day weekend. With three separate showings of the entire trilogy, you can watch the series over the course of three days. Or, if the Force is truly with you, marathon all three films in one sitting.
Sept. 2 – 4| $10 per film; 309 West Morgan St, Durham; carolinatheatre.org

Try a New-To-You Refreshment

It feels like North Carolina summers just keep getting hotter, but there’s nothing better than a cool drink on a steamy day! From a non-alcoholic thirst-quencher to icy, refined cocktails, we’ve compiled a list of refreshing drinks to enjoy before summer comes to a close. For even more options consider this list of downtown Raleigh bars with shaded outdoor seating!

North Carolina Apple Festival

Visit the Big Apple, NC-Style

Ring in the sweet new harvest season with a roadtrip to Hendersonville for the North Carolina Apple Festival. This four-day street fair celebrates the importance of apples to our state with a carnival, apple recipe contests, apple breakfasts and a sprawling farmer’s market, polishing it all off with the King Apple Parade on Monday. If you’re traveling from the Triangle and don’t want to miss a second of this jam-packed party, book one of these quirky Western NC AirBnBs to make it a getaway.
Sept. 2 – 5 | free; 1 Historic Courthouse Square, Hendersonville; ncapplefestival.org

Rock Out at a Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show

Take a stroll through the Treasures of the Earth Show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, and see a trove of estate, classic, handcrafted and fashion jewelry made from a variety of metals, as well as a vast array of crystals, minerals and fossils. Jewelers and wire wrappers will be on site who can design, remount or repair jewelry. Get that family heirloom restored to tip-top shape, or pick up a stunning piece sure to make a new family heirloom.
Sept. 2- 5 | from $8; 1025 Blue Ridge Rd; treasuresoftheearth.com

African American Cultural Festival

Check out the African American Cultural Festival

Honor African American culture on Labor Day weekend through art, music, dance, food and community at the 13th Annual African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County. Visit the Art Gallery Walk on Fayetteville Street, where local and nationally known artists will display original works on canvas, handcrafted jewelry, sculpture and ceramics. Make sure to grab a bite from the several food vendors guaranteed to satisfy your fried, fruity, frozen or veggie needs.
Sept. 3 – 4 | free; downtown Raleigh; aacfestival.org

Savor the End of Summer (and Some BBQ!)

Treat the whole family to a Labor Day weekend of luxury and good food in Virginia, where Primland Resort is firing up the grill and welcoming Pitmaster Elizabeth Karmel to a three-day barbeque celebration packed with chef-led workshops and special culinary events. Guests at the Blue Ridge Mountain retreat can enjoy Southern BBQ, along with featured dishes like butterbean hummus and Chimichurri Chicken Wings, then hit the resort grounds to soak up the last days of summer with fly-fishing, clay shooting, horseback riding, games and golf.
Sept. 3 – 5 | see website; 2000 Busted Rock Rd, Meadows of Dan, VA; aubergeresorts.com

Mural by Luke Buchanan | image credit: VisitRaleigh.com

Marvel at Downtown Murals

If you’ve been to downtown Raleigh, you’ve no-doubt noticed the abundance of beautiful public art adorning walls, sidewalks and even utility boxes. Thanks to the Raleigh Murals Project and a myriad of other organizations promoting public art, our city is uniquely colorful. If you’ve got visitors in town to impress, or if you just want to gain a deeper appreciation for the art and artists that make Raleigh special, take a Labor Day murals and public art walking tour. Lace up your walking shoes and bring your camera to take on a special tour route made just for the holiday.
Sept. 5 | pay-what-you-can; 127 W. Hargett St.; search “Raleigh murals” on eventbrite.com

Hang Out with our Four-legged Friends

Saving Grace is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping homeless animals in our community find loving forever homes. Drop into the Labor of Love Open House to tour the Saving Grace farm, have a snack and meet some furry friends. If you can, check Saving Grace’s website for a list of most-needed supplies and bring along a donation for the Open House supply drive — some of the most important animal care tools are common household goods you might already have waiting in your kitchen or closet.
Sept. 5 | free; 13400 Old Creedmoor Rd, Wake Forest; savinggracenc.org

Find Your New Favorite Ice Cream Flavor

Fall is right around the corner, but we at WALTER magazine believe that every season is ice cream season — And on the first day of September, perennial Triangle favorites Two Roosters and Andia’s will both release new lineups of rotating monthly flavors. With so many flavors to try and so few days in a month, you’d better start tasting early on Labor Day weekend. Once you’ve made it through the lineups at Two Roosters and Andia’s, there are plenty more icy treats to be had around the Triangle.

Celebrate Labor Day with Tigers

Who doesn’t want to watch tigers destroy holiday-themed enrichment toys? On this guided tour through Carolina Tiger Rescue’s wildlife sanctuary, you’ll learn how enrichment enhances the lives of majestic big cats, then indulge in some edible holiday enrichment of your own. Tours fill up faster than a tiger can run (up to 60 mph in short bursts!), so make sure to book your slot in advance.
Sept. 5 | from $25; 1940 Hanks Chapel Rd, Pittsboro; carolinatigerrescue.org

Close Out Summer with an Over-the-Top Vacation Rental

School’s about to start — have you hit the beach yet? If not, it’s time to pack up the car and head to the nearest shore to soak up the sun. Lucky for us, North Carolina offers tons of ways to experience the beach, from the quiet preserves of Bald Head Island to the bustling boardwalk at Carolina Beach. Whatever your vacation style — and whether you’re bringing along a partner or a whole minivan-full of family — bookmark one of these memorable rentals for an amazing trip to the Carolina coast.

Don’t Forget the Music!

From James Brown’s R&B classic “Night Train” to the sing-along folk of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel,” Raleigh has been known to come up in song lyrics. These tunes by North Carolina musicians shout-out various spots around the greater Triangle. Consider this summertime mix that offers a sonic tour of the state to have playing in the background no matter what you have planned this Labor Day weekend.