20+ Things to Do in July In and Around Raleigh

This month, spend long summer days at outdoor festivals and feasts — or beat the heat with air-conditioned shows.
By Addie Ladner, Kara Adams and Emma Ginsberg

Hello, July! Summer is in full swing, and with it come all the festivals that fill our leisurely weekends — and outdoor events to enjoy the balmy nights. This month, the Triangle is bursting with events (and fireworks) perfect to enjoy in good company. Love live music? There’s plenty to gather your friends and dance, whether in a mosh pit, at a concert hall or on a patio. Share a classic Southern meal at a community feast — or dishing up some homespun recipes with local ingredients at home. Or admire art of all stripes, from extravagant LEGO creations to elaborate cosplay to artisan handicrafts. So what are you waiting for? Grab your friends and go!

Head to the Coast for the Ocean City Jazz Fest

Check out Gerald Veasley, George Freeman, Jr. and Eric Darius when they perform at the 12th annual Ocean City Jazz Festival in North Topsail Beach, with drinks and snacks available from on-site food trucks. On July 1, the festival will celebrate its induction to the North Carolina Civil Rights Trail, which commemorates sites around the state vital to the civil rights movement. This area, known as Ocean City, was at one point the only coastal locale in the state where Black Americans could purchase property. July 1 – 3 | From $75; 2649 Island Drive, North Topsail Beach; oceancityjazzfest.com 

Eno Fest

Eno Fest

The 43rd Annual Festival for the Eno, which benefits the Eno River Association’s conservation efforts, features upbeat music on four stages including performances by Molly Sarlé, Blackhaus and H.C. McEntire, as well as a juried craft show with over 75 artists from the Southeast. In addition, there will be activities for kids and concessions from local businesses such as Sweetwater Beer Garden, Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe, Oak City Fish and Chips, Sarah’s Empanadas and Smitty’s Homemade Ice Cream. July 2  & 4 | 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; From $25; 5101 N. Roxboro Road, Durham; enofest.org

Highlands | photograph by Colleen Kerrigan

4th of July in Highlands

A town of a little more than 1,000 residents in the Nantahala National Forest, Highlands will hold a four-day celebration that kicks off on Friday with live music by bluegrass band Silly Ridge Trio in the town square and ends with a fireworks show at Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park on Monday. In between, kids can enjoy activities like sack racing, building soda-bottle rockets and getting cooled off by a fire truck hose, along with a hot dog lunch (donations suggested).

July 1 – 4 | Free admission; see website for locations, Highlands; highlandschamber.org

Artisan Mini Market

Shop from a handful of local artisans and vendors on the patio of State of Beer Bottle + Sandwich Shop on Hillsborough Street for its First Friday event series, presented by Pop-Up Raleigh. Grab a draft beer and order apps like hummus and charcuterie to share with friends at this dog-friendly venue while perusing goods and handmade items from local small businesses. Past vendors have included accessories shop Sissy & Jacks and home items from The Woven Willow.

July 1 | 5 – 8 p.m.; Free; 401 Hillsborough Street; downtownraleigh.org 

City of Raleigh fireworks

July 4th Celebration

Pack a picnic and bring the entire family to the Big Field at Dorothea Dix Park to see the City of Raleigh’s Independence Day fireworks show light up the night sky with colorful displays. Get there early to save a spot —  and jam out to live music from a DJ or test your luck in field games such as cornhole and giant Connect Four — before the show begins.

July 4 | 6 p.m.; Free; 1030 Richardson Drive; dixpark.org 

Family Performance Series

From July 9 to August 13, Wake County Public Libraries is offering far more than books at their branches through their Family Performance Series. Playing on the theme of Oceans of Possibilities, the summer lineup includes puppetry by Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins, beats by “Drum Prophet” Eugene Taylor, tunes spun by DJ Ed Luva, high-flying acrobatics by Amanda the Aerialist and a bilingual performance from Alina Celeste, all taking place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m.

Starting July 9 | Free; various locations; wakegov.com/libraries 

BrickUniverse LEGO Fan Festival

BrickUniverse LEGO Fan Festival

The Raleigh Convention Center is transforming into a sea of mini bricks for “the Ultimate LEGO Fan Experience.” This year, the two-day event will feature a “Star Wars Zone” where kids of all ages can build spaceships, as well as the Big Brick pile, which will hold tons of LEGO Duplos for younger visitors. Meet professional LEGO artists and peruse their creations including mosaics, life-sized sculptures and scaled-down recreations of iconic works of art. Try your hand at a masterpiece of your own at the Building Zone, where thousands of bricks are available to experiment with.

July 9 – 10 | From $15; S. Salisbury Street; brickuniverse.com 

The Great Divorce

Join C. S. Lewis and his unique characters on a bus ride through the afterlife in an allegorical play based on the 1945 novel of the same name. Follow along as cynical souls such as The Hard-Bitten Ghost and The Intelligent Man journey from hell to heaven, and make a decision in between that proves more difficult than expected.

July 9 – 10 | From $49; 2 E. South Street; dukeenergycenterraleigh.com

Banjo Hang with Hank Smith & Tray Wellington 

Grab your banjo and register for your spot at Harry’s Guitar Shop, where PineCone’s Communications Manager Tray Wellington is joined by Hank Smith of Hank, Pattie & the Current for a Banjo Hang workshop. Learn a new tune, jot down some professional tips and hear Smith and Wellington play together in this intimate, encouraging environment for banjo lovers of all skill levels.

July 11 | 7 – 8:30 p.m.; $15 suggested donation; 556 Pylon Drive; pinecone.org 

The Chicks

The Chicks & Patty Griffin

See The Chicks perform songs from their first album in over a decade on their Gaslighter Tour at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek. Sing along to all the hits The Chicks are known for, including “Wide Open Spaces” and “Cowboy Take Me Away,” as well as new songs. The country trio will be joined by singer-songwriter Patty Griffin, who will play songs from her new album, Tape, along with fan favorites like “Heavenly Day” and “Let Him Fly.”

July 12 | 7:30 p.m.; From $30; 3801 Rock Quarry Road; concerts.livenation.com

SouthEast Crab Feast

Come hungry to Lake Wheeler Park for fresh, all-you-can-eat blue crabs with a side of fish and chips. The traveling SouthEast Crab Feast celebrates the coastal tradition of cooking local seafood outdoors, in a family-friendly atmosphere that transforms Raleigh into the beach for a day. Proceeds go towards nonprofit organizations like St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

July 16 | From $15; 6404 Lake Wheeler Road; eventbrite.com 

The Poetry Fox

Book Harvest Summer Block Party

Load the kids into the car and head to Durham Bulls Athletic Park for a celebration of literature and family-friendly storytelling featuring special guests Pierce Freelon, The Poetry Fox, Man-Man the Mini
Horse and writer and equestrian Caitlin Gooch. Take home a free, culturally inclusive children’s book and enjoy free cupcakes and popcorn in celebration of Book Harvest’s 11th birthday.

July 16 | 1-4 p.m.; Free; 409 Blackwell Street, Durham; bookharvest.org

Moana at Dorothea Dix Park

Dress up as your favorite superhero or princess and head over to Dorothea Dix Park for a screening of Disney’s family musical Moana at the Big Field. Kids (or adults) can meet movie characters and win a prize for best costume. Bring your chairs, a picnic blanket and some movie munchies to enjoy during the show, or grab something from one of the food trucks on site.

July 16 | 7 p.m.; Free; 1030 Richardson Drive; dixpark.org

Barenaked Ladies

As part of their Last Summer on Earth North American tour, jam out to 1990s rock band Barenaked Ladies at downtown’s Red Hat Amphitheater, where they’ll be joined by alternative rock groups Gin Blossoms and Toad the Wet Sprocket. Expect classics like “If I Had $1,000,000,” which could come in handy if you want to opt in for the Gold Package ticket, which gets you into preshow soundcheck parties and a meet-and-greet.

July 16 | 7 p.m.; From $38; 500 South McDowell Street; redhatampitheatre.com

Frog Hollow Outdoors

Sunset Paddle

Hop in a kayak or canoe and enjoy a sweet Carolina sunset from Falls Lake in Durham County. Paddle out to a prime sunset-viewing location with guides from Frog Hollow Outdoors, then spend a relaxing evening floating among the sights and sounds of aquatic life after dark. Trips are open to paddlers of every skill level, ages 13 and up. Registration closes at noon on the Thursday prior to the trip.

July 16 & 22 | 7:30 p.m.; $38; Falls Lake, Durham; froghollowoutdoors.com

The Joy of Soul

Join DJ Thoro at the North Carolina Museum of Art for this month’s installment of NCMA Groove, a summer series celebrating music, joy and people. Jam out in the Museum Park to a wide-ranging set featuring classic soul, R&B, jazz, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latinx, neo soul, hip-hop, funk, house and calypso music.

July 17 | 3 – 7:30 p.m.; Free; 2110 Blue Ridge Road; ncartmuseum.org

In Conversation: Edible North Carolina

Hear North Carolina-based culinary stars Shorlette Ammons, Victoria Bouloubasis, KC Hysmith and Ricky Moore discuss the new book Edible North Carolina: A Journey across a State of Flavor at Letters Bookshop in Durham. Part exploration of North Carolina’s food history and culture and part cookbook, it’s filled with essays, photography and recipes that celebrate the diverse food landscape of our state. Grab a copy to have it signed by the editor and contributing writers after the event. “There could not be a more important time to share the power and culinary vibrancy of North Carolina’s local food movement. Edible North Carolina’s essayists and the people whose voices they bring to the page — several 2022 James Beard Award finalists among them — inspire readers to be informed, healthy, joyful, and activist eaters who celebrate and sustain local and regional food economies for all,” says Marcie Cohen Harris, the food historian who edited the book.

July 21 | 6 – 7:30 p.m.; 116 W. Main Street, Durham; lettersbookshop.com 

Candlelight: A Tribute to Taylor Swift

All Saints Chapel on South East Street will transform into something out of your “Wildest Dreams” for a candlelit tribute to Taylor Swift. Hear her biggest hits alongside fan favorites like “All Too Well” and “Invisible String” performed by Lyricosa, a Raleigh-based string quartet. The chapel will be illuminated by hundreds of candles, an experience certain to  leave you feeling “Enchanted.”

July 21 | 6:30 & 9 p.m.; From $45; 110 S. East Street; feverup.com 

Iron & Wine (left) and Andrew Bird (right)

Andrew Bird and Iron & Wine

Grammy-nominated indie musicians Andrew Bird and Iron & Wine are headed to Cary on their Outside Problems Tour. This triple-header show includes a performance by songwriter and instrumentalist Meshell Ndegeocello. Enjoy the musings of Bird and spirit-lifting tracks like “Such Great Heights” from Iron & Wine’s albums at Cary’s open-air Koka Booth Amphitheatre in the pines. Make it dinner and a show with Koka Booth’s ready-for-pickup “Picnic in the Park” baskets, which include options from local restaurants including Great Harvest Bread Co., Raleigh Picnic Co. and Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken.

July 25 | 6 p.m.;$61; 8003 Regency Parkway, Cary; boothamphitheatre.com 

Whole Hog Holler

This summer marks the triumphant return of Whole Hog Holler, Sam Jones BBQ’s fan-favorite live music series on the fourth Sunday of the month. Grab a plate and a pint, then head to Sam Jones’ patio for an evening of good food, good company and good music from the Diamond Creek Bluegrass Band. Seriously, name a more iconic duo than bluegrass and barbecue. We’ll wait.

July 24 | 4 – 7 p.m.; free; 502 W Lenoir St; samjonesbbq.com

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

PlayMakers’ Summer Youth Conservatory presents the culmination of a six-week practicum for dedicated high school thespians at Paul Green Theatre. Follow the antics of six teenagers competing in a spelling competition in this Tony-award winning musical comedy based on the book by Rachel Sheinkin.

July 27 – 31 | 7:30 p.m.; From $20; 120 Country Club Road, Chapel Hill; playmakersrep.org

GalaxyCon Raleigh

GalaxyCon Raleigh

Blasting off from the Raleigh Convention Center in 3, 2, 1… An opportunity to suit up in your best cosplay and join fans from across the universe for a four-day celebration of comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and anime. At GalaxyCon, you can connect with people who love your favorite things while attending panels featuring artists, writers, voice actors and creators from (almost) every fandom in the galaxy.

July 28 – 31 | Child passes from $10, adult passes from $30; 500 S. Salisbury Street; galaxycon.com

Durham Bulls Athletic Park

Durham Bulls Camp Out Nights

Watch the Durham Bulls pitch a game, then pitch a tent on the baseball diamond! If you eat, sleep and breathe the Durham Bulls, you can do all three of those things at Camp Out Night, a unique opportunity to sleep over at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Fun for the whole family, the Camp Out Package includes a game ticket, a pregame parade, postgame s’mores, a firework show, a camp-out patch and breakfast the next morning. Tickets must be purchased July 26.

July 30 – 31 | 6:35 p.m.; From $30; 409 Blackwell Street, Durham; milb.com/durham

A version of this article originally appeared in the July 2022 issue of WALTER Magazine.