20+ Things to Do in January in Raleigh and beyond

Start your year with a brisk winter hike, a visit to a new art gallery in Cameron Village, local theater and more.
by Addie Ladner and Isabella Sherk

Happy 2021! Whether your New Year’s resolutions are to be more mindful about your health, take in a little culture or explore North Carolina further, January has options for you. (And if you haven’t made your resolutions yet, we have suggestion for that, too.) From theater to hikes to pop-up fitness classes and galleries, here are things to do in January in Raleigh and the Triangle.

Downtown Raleigh on New Year’s Eve 2019, photo credit: Bryan Regan

Write Your Resolutions 

Katherine Snow Smith worked with her father, longtime The News & Observer columnist A.C. Snow, to pull together some wisdom to guide us in the new year. Reflect on the past and look toward the future with these writings.

Get in a New Year’s Day Workout

Get a good 60-minute workout with Camp Gladiator trainers Jasmine and Sarah. People of all fitness levels and ages are welcome and the class is limited to 48 people. Bring a fitness mat, set of dumbbells and a bottle of water. Look for Red Camp Gladiator Flags!

Jan. 1, 10:00 a.m – 12:00 p.m; free; Mills Park Middle School 425 Mills Park Drive, Cary; search Camp Gladiator on eventbrite.

Catch the Last Week of Illuminate Art Walk 

Take a self-guided nighttime tour this final week of Downtown Raleigh Alliance and VAE Raleigh’s Illuminate Art Walk. Download an interactive map to see pieces from more than a dozen local artists who have transformed public spaces and storefronts with light-based creations. Along the walk: Brian Brush’s SONARC — 1,000 plexiglass tubes lit with LEDs that change patterns and colors when you sing into a microphone — and Brandon Cordrey’s Monotony, a reflection of living through a pandemic. 

Jan 1-8-See website for locations; free; downtownraleigh.org/illuminate

Detox with a Smoothie

After all the Christmas sweets, ham and wine, head to Juiced Juice Bar in Southeast Raleigh to fill up on old-world remedies, teas and fruit-forward smoothies to a healthy start to 2021 while supporting a local business in our community.

3301 Rock Quarry Road; various prices; more details here.

Pop into a Barre Class

Bundle up and enjoy a pop-up barre class outside at the start of the month, hosted by Barre Raleigh. Enjoy complimentary coffee afterward and don’t forget to social distance. Bring your mat, a water bottle, warm socks and a friend to learn some classic barre techniques while stretching and strengthening your muscles. 

January 2; 9:45 a.m.; $5; 9660 Falls of Neuse Road; more details here

Take a Winter Hike

Start 2021 on the right foot with the annual guided Winter Hike Series, a tradition that’s been around since the 1970s. Each Sunday, the hikes will depart from a new location (on the docket: a 4-mile walk through Cox Mountain and a 3.5-mile spin through the Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area). Groups are limited to 10 and masks are required. If you can’t swing Sundays, head out on your own: The park’s BINGENO game lets you check off boxes for each trail you explore and win prizes, too! 

2 p.m.; see website for locations; free (donations encouraged); enoriver.org

Visit Charlotte Russell’s New Gallery

Charlotte Russell Contemporary will hold a pop-up in Cameron Village for its inaugural exhibit, On The Horizon, through the end of the month. The work, by artists Grace Clark and Alexandra Chiou, touches on themes of nature and its relationship to humans, from Clark’s small-scale images of horizons to Chiou’s sculptural torn paper florals. Up to six guests will be allowed at once, the gallery says, to “get up close and contemplate” the work.

Jan. 8 Sunday – Friday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; free; 419B Daniels St.; charlotterussellcontemporary.com

Stamp Your North Carolina State Parks Passport

Fun for the entire family, the North Carolina State Parks Passport Program allows you to keep up with all the state parks you’ve explored, guide you on fun facts and trails at each park and earn stamps and prizes while you’re doing it! Make it a goal to hit as many as you can in 2021: pick up a passport from any state park in North Carolina, don’t forget to get your stamp at each one you explore and then have it signed by a ranger after 10 visits. Then send a picture in and receive your prize. 

Ongoing, offered at all state parks; passports are free; www.ncparks.gov/passport-program 

Attend Town of Cary’s Virtual Dream Fest

Town of Cary’s Dream Fest is honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy in two ways: through storytelling and with a family service project. Listen virtually to Emmy-winning performance artist Willa Brigham share stories of King and watch a performance by another celebrated storyteller, Janice Greene, about the story of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. You can also participate in their Front Porch Food Drive through gifts of food or by hosting a donation site. Registered volunteers will receive a Food Donation Station kit via email that includes complete instructions on how to host a drive. 

Jan 15-18-See website for performance and film details; free; virtual; Townofcary.org

Stream Classical Favorites

On Saturday, January 18, the NC Symphony will present Musician’s Choice, a streaming musical event featuring player favorites including Mozart’s Oboe Quartet and “hidden gems for strings, woodwinds, and percussion from Kodály, Bologne, and more.”

8 p.m.; $21.46; streaming, ncsymphony.org

Watch Mike Wiley’s Breach of Peace

For two nights only, join in on this real-time live interactive performance virtually. This production will be as close as you can get to attending a live in-person show without actually leaving your home and expect to interact with Mike Wiley himself so leave your camera on! Breach of Peace is based on true accounts of surviving participants of the Freedom Rides and others involved in the early struggle for Black rights and equality. This solo-play, written and performed by Mike Wiley, is a tribute to the young men and women of various races, religions and backgrounds who rose to fight for just and equal treatment for all.

January 22-23; 8 p.m.; $25; virtual; raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/breach-of-peace/ 

See the Chinese Lanterns 

Since the traditional NC Chinese Lanterns Festival was canceled this year, the organizers brought the magic of the famous festival to downtown Cary with several larger-than-life sized tigers, elephants and more on display along Academy Street.

Various locations; free;  view the map and details here

Watch Raleigh Little Theatre’s In Hindsight, 2020

7-Stories and Raleigh Little Theatre are joining together to present In Hindsight, 2020, two evenings of live community storytelling that touch on last year’s unprecedented events and, says the theater, explore the scars of 2020 and hope for the future. Storytellers will perform live on stage at Raleigh Little Theatre, with their performance streamed on RLT’s social media channels. 

January 29-30— 8 p.m.; free; virtual; raleighlittletheatre.org/

Check Out the New River Bend Park

The city of Raleigh officially opened its newest park, River Bend Park, spanning across more than 20 acres in Northeast Raleigh. Complete with play structures for the kids, access to the Neuse River and loads of trails, it’s a perfect place to continue your family’s outdoor play.

5610 Wallace Martin Way; open from dawn to dusk every day;raleighnc.gov/news/2020-12-18-river-bend-park-open  

Experience Burning Coal Theatre Company’s Forever 

Presented by Dael Orlandersmith, Forever focuses on themes of loss, family and economic and societal impediments faced by the African American communities in the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st century. The shows will be performed live on stage each night but available only to view through live streaming.  

January 28th and 30th ; 7p.m.; burningcoal.org 

16th Annual African American Cultural Celebration–NC Museum of History. Jan. 28, 2017.

Tune in to the African American Cultural Celebration

Kick off Black History Month with the North Carolina Museum of History’s 20th Annual African American Cultural Celebration. This weekend-long virtual event will have something for guests of all ages, including performances by 105 Voices of History National HBCU Choir and The Allen Boys; speakers Keith Knight and Tameka Fryer Brown; and readings from All the Songs We Sing: Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective. The event will be free, but some segments will require registration ahead of time. Additional themed segments will focus on enterprise, heritage and wellness in both historical and current times. 

January 30 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; free; virtual; ncmuseumofhistory.org/aacc-2021

Rev up Your Kitchen with a Trip to a New Food Shop

In our January/February issue, we pinged expert foodies like Ricky Moore of Saltbox Seafood Joint, Cheetie Kumar of Garland and more to see where they go locally for inspiration and to stock their pantry. Get the specifics here

Listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Usher in the new year with a classical favorite: the N.C. Symphony will be streaming Vivaldi’s Four Seasons along with J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 for your date night listening pleasure.

8 p.m.; $21.46; ncsymphony.org

Read a Surprise Story

As part of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Arts Everywhere initiative, the UNC Department of English and Comparative Literature has placed eight no-touch, “futuristic” short-story dispensers in around the campus, the town of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Hover your finger over a glowing green button at one of the dispensers, and receive a free short story by North Carolina writers, printed onto receipt-sized paper. The stories themselves are primarily short fiction, and the dispensers move fairly often but have been seen at spots like Chapel Hill Public Library and Epilogue Books.

Various locations; free; artseverywhere.unc.edu

Contemplate Simone Leigh’s Corrugated

An impressive and timely acquisition of the North Carolina Art Museum, Corrugated, a sculpture that interprets a Black female figure, sits in the right bay near the visitor’s desk in the North Carolina Museum of Art’s West Building. The artist, Simone Leigh, received the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize along with a solo show at the Guggenheim and has made history as the first Black woman chosen to represent the U.S. at the Venice Biennale in 2022. The acquisition, a gift of Thomas S. Kenan, III, arrived in Raleigh in August, just before the museum’s reopening.

Ongoing; free admission;Wednesday through Sunday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., required free timed tickets to encourage social distancing 2110 Blue Ridge Road; ncartmuseum.org 

Make a Batch of Flavor 

There’s no time like the start of a new year to reassess your cooking habits. Look no further than A Chef’s Life star Vivian Howard’s new book, This Will Make it Taste Good to elevate your weeknight dinner game by creating your own multi-use “Flavor Heros” like like Can-Do Kraut and Red Weapons. Read our interview with the North Carolina food pioneer here to learn what she eats at home, or if you missed it, watch our exclusive video with her here

Check Out Raj Patel’s Serene Images 

Winding streams, soaring birds, autumn light-these are moments in nature frozen in time you can see on display as part of local photographer Raj Patel’s Exploring Tranquility series on display at The Umstead Hotel and Spa’s Art Gallery in the Gift Shop.
100 Woodland Pond Drive; free to view but art is for purchase; www.theumstead.com/art