20+ Things to do in May in and around Raleigh

This month take advantage of strawberries at their sweetest, film and food festivals, and plenty of performing arts.
by Addie Ladner and Kara Adams

It’s Strawberry Season!

The beloved berries are at their peak this month, and the Triangle abounds with “U-Pick” fields where you can fill a bucket with these hand-picked jewels fresh off the stem. Check out DJ’s Berry Patch (1223 Salem Church Road, Apex), which offers an open-air stand full of homemade products to take home, too, including strawberry preserves and strawberry vinaigrette. Porter Farms and Nursery (3504 NC Highway 42) is great for those with little ones, with its giant sandbox, play area, and rich ice cream. Or keep an eye out for the homemade strawberry pound cake at Phillips Farms (6701 Good Hope Church Road, Cary) and cut your own spring flowers at Page Farms (6100 Mt Herman Road).
All month | Click here for comprehensive a list of farm stands and U-Pick spots around the Triangle.

National Bike Month

Gear up for National Bike Month with Oaks & Spokes, a nonprofit dedicated to making Raleigh more bike-friendly. In addition to their ongoing rides, such as the Wednesday night Crank Arm Cruiser and Team on Draft Ride on Tuesdays, they host a Community Kickstand bicycle repair day on the second Saturday of every month, where volunteers help repair bicycles and teach skills and maintenance to those in need of a safe form of transportation. If you’re in commuting distance, try Bike-to-Work Day on May 20, or if you aren’t one for organized activities, browse bikeraleigh.org for bike-friendly maps to try out a new route on your own.
All month | Events are free, registration required; locations vary; oaksandspokes.com

FRESH at Artspace

Through May and June, Artspace will be hosting an exhibition and events series highlighting the work of North Carolina artists. With a theme of “FRESH,” this new twist on its biennial fundraiser will include artist panels, virtual and in-person exhibitions, live music, and programming for families. In May, art submitted through an open call will be on display, and Jonell Logan, VP and creative director of the McColl Center in Charlotte, will select pieces for a juried exhibition in June. All work will be available for purchase, with proceeds benefiting both the artist and Artspace. “It’s about demystifying the curation process and renewing our vision of making the art world more inclusive,” says Artspace president and CEO Carly P. Jones, who took the helm of the nonprofit last summer. “We’ll be celebrating North Carolina artists of all backgrounds making art accessible in new ways.” In addition to the more than 200 works on display, Artspace will host FRESH Perspectives panel discussions with art enthusiast Mavis Gragg and The Art of the State’s Liza Roberts, as well as the FRESH Sounds concert series featuring Charly Lowry, NiiTO, and others.
All Month | Free admission; 201 E. Davie Street; artspacenc.org

Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival

Unplug, groove out, and let your child roam free in their favorite fairy/ princess/unicorn getup for a few days at the Shakori Hills Community Arts Center, a secluded, environmentally conscious campsite in Pittsboro. At its 18th annual music festival in collaboration with GrassRoots Festival Organization, you can hear artists including Donna the Buffalo, Cabinet, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, and Fireside Collective while surrounded by the beauty of nature. This family-friendly festival runs for four days and features local food and craft vendors, interactive workshops, and designated youth areas with activities like giant bubble making, face painting, yoga, and clogging.
May 5 – 8 | From $32; 1439 Henderson Tanyard Road, Pittsboro; shakorihillsgrassroots.org

Shirley Caesar & The Caesar Singers

See Grammy Award-winning gospel legend and Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church Pastor Shirley Caesar host an evening of fellowship and worship alongside the Caesar Singers at Meymandi Concert Hall. The North Carolina native, known as the “Queen of Gospel,” has shared the stage with musical greats including Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Patti LaBelle, and Kirk Franklin, and she’s TikTok famous for a line in her hit song “Hold My Mule” (search the #UNameItChallenge). Hear this iconic song in person, along with favorites from this Gospel Hall of Fame and North Carolina Music Hall of Fame member.
May 5 | 7:30 p.m.; from $15; 2 E. South Street; pinecone.org

Helene Foundation Gala

Celebrate Mother’s Day weekend at the 13th Annual Helene Foundation Gala, which honors mothers battling cancer in central North Carolina. Since its establishment in 2009, the Helene Foundation has assisted nearly 300 local families in memory of the passionate nurse and devoted mother Helene Davidian, who lost her life to cancer. Join the organization for a therapeutic night of laughing, crying, and dancing to live music from the Sleeping Booty Band at the Raleigh Marriott City Center. A plated dinner will be served along with complimentary beer and wine, followed by a live auction, all to raise money and awareness for the foundation.
May 6 | 6:30 p.m.; $175; 500 Fayetteville Street; helenefoundation.org

Give Black Raleigh Her Flowers Now

Through May and June, Anchorlight Gallery & Studio will be hosting Give Black Raleigh Her Flowers Now, a photography exhibit curated by Black Oak Society founder Courtney Napier. Napier’s premiere exhibition includes portraiture from area artists Derrick Beasley, Samantha Everette, Anthony Fitzpatrick, Phillip Loken, and Cornell Watson. “This will be an emotional tribute to the Black women who built our capital city,” says Napier. “Each of these distinguished photographers will create high-art portraits celebrating the regal nature of Raleigh’s great, unsung Black matriarchs. It’s an opportunity to give these women the flowers they deserve.”
Starting May 7 | Free (TBD); 1407 S. Bloodworth Street; instagram.com/_anchorlight_

Longleaf Film Festival

In its eighth year, Longleaf Film Festival returns to in-person screenings at The North Carolina Museum of History. Featuring free popcorn, three screens, and a wide variety of films — from animation to documentaries to music videos and spoken-word productions — Longleaf aims to highlight the creativity and diversity of Raleigh with multiple awards and prizes. The weekend starts with a musical documentary, Little Satchmo, which is about Sharon Preston-Folta, the secret daughter of jazz great Louis Armstrong, and ends with a narrated short film, Feeling Through, which follows an unexpected friendship between a teen and a man who can’t see or hear in New York City.
May 12-13 | Free; 5 E. Edenton Street; longleaffilmfestival.com

Spring Repertoire

Pre-professional ballet company Raleigh Dance Theatre presents a collection of dramatic dance compositions by nationally recognized choreographers for its season finale at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts’ Fletcher Theater. The company’s training and artistry will be showcased through a number of performances like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with music by Paul Dukas, Twisted Tango set to an Astor Piazzolla piece and directed by artistic director Megan Marvel, Graduation Ball with music by Johann Strauss, and Danse Allegresse featuring music from Franz Schubert’s 5th Symphony.
May 14 | 6 p.m.; $19.15; 2 E. South Street; raleighdance.org

Renée Fleming

Celebrate the 90th anniversary of the very first performance from the North Carolina Symphony with this tribute concert to longtime conductor and music director laureate Grant Llewellyn, who’s retiring this year. Renowned, Grammy-winning soprano Renée Fleming will pay tribute to Llewellyn’s 16 seasons with the symphony.
May 14 | 8 p.m.; from $137; 2 E. South Street; ncsymphony.org

Skywatching at Dix Park

Bring a blanket and chairs so you can relax under the stars at Dix Park. Staff and volunteers from the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society (CHAOS), and Raleigh Astronomy Club (RAC) are hosting a night of skywatching. Look through telescopes to spot a variety of objects in the sky including Jupiter and Saturn. To set the stargazing mood, the Triangle Sax Ensemble will be playing some dreamy tunes.
May 15 | 9:30 p.m.; free; 1010 Blair Drive; dorotheadixpark.org

Dancing with the Carolina Stars

Cheer on your favorite Triangle A-listers, including Sen. Mike Woodard and Wool E. Bull, as they pair with professional dancers for choreographed performances in a City of Oaks version of the hit television series. Featured dancers include Nicole Oxendine, founder of Empower Dance Studio in Durham, and ShaLeigh Comerford, artistic director of ShaLeigh Dance Works. Participate in auctions benefiting the theater, sip on a specialty drink, snack on the all-natural Carolina Theatre popcorn or catered concessions by Chef Paris, and don’t miss out on the audience vote to name the winner of the competition.
May 16 | 7 p.m.; $100; 309 West Morgan Street, Durham; carolinatheatre.org


The Carolina Ballet’s season finale at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium will showcase a classical ballet tradition, Giselle, accompanied by a live orchestra. More than 16 ballerinas take on the role of wilis, ethereal maiden spirits who come to life at night to perform intricate, dangerous dances with supernatural elegance. This performance will include all-new costumes and sets.
May 19-22 | Various times; from $27; 2 E. South Street; carolinaballet.com

Got to Be NC Fest

Pig races on the Hogway Speedway, antique tractor pulls, the Food Lion Local Goodness Marketplace, and the Annual Masonic Carolina Pig Jig BBQ Cook-off — what could be more North Carolina than that? The NC State Agriculture Department hosts all these and more over the course of a three-day festival at the state fairgrounds celebrating local and statewide agricultural traditions, food, and drink. Try your luck at games of chance, or steel your stomach for a whirl on one of the 30 rides at the themed carnival.
May 20-22 | Free; 4285 Trinity Road; gottobencfestival.com

Old Crow Medicine Show

Head to the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Joseph M. Bryan, Jr. Theater in the Museum Park to hear Old Crow Medicine Show. The Americana band — widely known around here for the Raleigh mention in their hit “Wagon Wheel” — is on the first leg of their Paint This Town Tour in celebration of their eponymous new album. By combining Americana, folk, old-timey bluegrass, and rock and roll on songs like “Bombs Away” and “Honey Chile,” Old Crow Medicine Show continues their unique string band sound that makes them anything but “Hard to Love.”
May 20 | 8 p.m.; from $33; 2110 Blue Ridge Road; ncartmuseum.org

Artsplosure: The Raleigh Arts Festival

An art market full of juried fine artists will span both sides of Fayetteville Street with everything from ceramics to photography during this two-day celebration of the arts. Across both days, there will be free musical performances by Asheville-raised singer Indigo de Souza, Nashville-based band The Minks, and more. The immersive and enchanting installation Evanescent by Atelier Sisu will be shown in the U.S. for the first time right here in downtown Raleigh, with giant bubble-like forms made of dichroic film. This’ll be the first time Artsplosure has been back since 2019, continuing their commitment to provide accessible art to the Triangle at no cost for visitors.
May 21-22 | Free; Fayetteville Street, see map; raleighartsfestival.com

The Museum Lives in Me

On Saturday, May 21, join author Victoria Scott-Miller at the North Carolina Museum of Art to celebrate the release of her book The Museum Lives in Me. Illustrated by JP Jermaine Powell, the children’s book follows a group on a school trip as they discover connections to the art at the NCMA. “We hope children, and visitors of all ages, can connect to the collection on a deep, personal level through this book,” says Valerie Hillings, director of the NCMA. The family-friendly celebration will include author and illustrator talks, scavenger hunts, a book signing, and story time reading.
May 21 | 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.; free, pre-registration required; 2110 Blue Ridge Road; ncartmuseum.org

French Market and Seafood Festival

From the smell of beignets to the sounds of a saxophone to the taste of jambalaya, experience all the sights and sounds of the French Quarter right here in Raleigh at this New Orleans-inspired outdoor market and seafood festival. Admire the work of Triangle Pop-up’s local artists and vendors as you take a stroll through the charming shops of Lafayette Village. Cajun seafood classics will be served alongside beer to fuel your shopping spree.
May 21 | 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.; free admission; 8450 Honeycutt Road; lafayettevillageraleigh.com

Girls’ Night Out

Round up your friends for the inaugural Girls’ Night Out concert at Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre featuring headliner KT Tunstall accompanied by special guests Jeanne Jolly, Judith Hill, Rodes, and Haley Johnsen. Hear Tunstall’s iconic hit song “Suddenly I See” as well as exciting tracks from her newer rock albums, Wax and Kin. A portion of the proceeds will go toward the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, a local non-profit supporting women who have been diagnosed with cancer, named for the late Kay Yow, the beloved head coach of the North Carolina State women’s basketball team from 1975 to 2009.
May 21 | 5 p.m.; from $17; 8003 Regency Parkway, Cary; boothamphitheatre.com

Taste Tour of the Mediterranean: Egypt

Vidrio restaurant is transforming its menu for a monthly cultural dinner series centered around the bright flavors of the Mediterranean led by Saif Rahman, the 2021 North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association’s Chef of the Year. In May, the destination is Egypt, and the multi-course dining experience will start with a mezze that includes aish baladi, a whole wheat flatbread; Ful Mudames, a fava bean stew; and baba ghanouj, a Levantine appetizer made from eggplants. The main menu features Fattah, a flatbread loaded with rice and meat served at special events, stuffed peppers, and chicken in Molokhia green sauce. Finish the evening with a sweet helping of the national dessert of Egypt: a spiced bread pudding called Umm Ali.
May 26 | 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.; $85; 500 Glenwood Avenue, #100; vidrioraleigh.com

The Best of North Carolina

Gallery C and local art historian Charlene Newsom have compiled an exhibit featuring landmark art pieces by generations of artists and creatives with roots and ties to North Carolina, including Josef Albers, Mary Anne K. Jenkins, and Mabel Pugh. “Putting this collection together is a 24/7/365 endeavor! All year we are investigating, sourcing, and purchasing important 20th-century pieces for this one platform,” says Newsom. “Collectors get so excited, and I love sharing our state’s rich visual arts history with visitors.”
Now – May 30 | Free admission; 540 N. Blount Street; galleryc.net