From fireworks and baseball to interactive history lessons, consider these ideas for a stellar Independence Day weekend in North Carolina.
by Emma Ginsberg
Independence Day weekend is the perfect time to get out of the house and into your community. Whether you enjoy nature, history or the classics like fireworks, baseball and hot dogs, the Triangle area and beyond is bursting with 4th of July festivities for an all-American summer weekend. consider one of these
Order an Atlantic Beach Pie from Crook’s Corner
Summer is reunion season, and this reunion is just as important as your family reunion: Crook’s Corner is bringing back its iconic Atlantic Beach Pie for Independence Day weekend. You’ve got until June 30 at 6 p.m. to order your two-serving pie online, for pick-up at the restaurant on July 1 or 2. Famously featured on NPR and declared a genius recipe by Food52, Chef Bill Smith’s creamy lemon pie sits in a saltine cracker crust and is garnished with a meringue and flaky sea salt: the perfect balance of sweet, salty and citrusy. Atlantic Beach Pie has been missing from our plates (but not from our hearts) since Covid closed Crook’s Corner in June 2021, but its return to the Triangle is sure to be as triumphant as the restaurant’s much-anticipated reopening.
Order June 27 – June 30 for pickup July 1 – 2 | $10; 610 West Franklin St., Chapel Hill; crookscorner.com/
See Postcards from the Past at the Museum of History
Independence Day weekend is prime vacation season, and North Carolina has been a prime tourist destination for decades. If you’ve got travel on your mind, pay a visit to the North Carolina Museum of History’s new photography exhibit, “Are We There Yet?” to learn about North Carolina’s 20th-century tourism boom and the “Variety Vacationland” marketing campaign that sparked it. Curated by Katie Edwards, the exhibit highlights depictions of our state’s past both through the eyes of eager vacationers, and through the eyes of Carolinians excluded from exploration in the Jim Crow South.
Now open | free; 5 East Edenton Street; ncmuseumofhistory.org
Head to the Mountains for an Old-School Fourth
Looking for a change of scenery? Escape to Highlands, a town of a little more than 1,000 residents in the Nantahala National Forest. The town’s four-day celebration kicks off on Friday with live music by Silly Ridge Trio, a Highlands-based bluegrass band, in the town square and ends with a fireworks show at Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park on Monday. In between, kids can enjoy old-fashioned activities like sack-racing, building soda-bottle rockets and getting cooled off by a fire truck hose, along with a complimentary hot dog lunch (donations suggested).
July 1 – 4 | See website; free admission but donations suggested; highlandschamber.org
…Or Hit the Beach at 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
Explore a Beach Town
If you’re looking to skip town for the holiday weekend, why not skip down to a beach town? The many coastal towns of Eastern North Carolina are full of historical intrigue, fresh food and waterfront fun. Whether you spend the weekend channeling your inner-Blackbeard to navigate Springer’s Point Nature Preserve in Ocracoke, relaxing at the historic Roanoke Island Inn in Manteo or surfing at public-access beaches in Wrightsville, there’s something for everyone on a North Carolina coastal getaway.
Celebrate the Eno River
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. – 6 p.m; from $25; 5101 N. Roxboro Road, Durham; enofest.org
Host a Cookout
Is it even summer if someone’s not barbecuing? This weekend, fire up the grill and gather your loved ones for a 4th of July cookout. If you’re feeling fancy, dish up some Carolina-centric summer recipes from newly-minted James Beard award-winner Ricky Moore, and you won’t need sparklers to dazzle your guests (but light ‘em anyways, because they sure are cute!)
Did you know every 4th of July is North Carolina’s annual Free Fishing Day? Carolinians and out-of-state visitors of all ages can fish for free in public waters without having to purchase a license. Grab a pole, cast a line and relax on the banks of one of our state’s many beautiful rivers and lakes. Check out the North Carolina Wildlife Commission’s Fishing Access Map to find a fishing site near you (or try one of these Triangle-area fishing hole hikes), and don’t fear if you don’t own fishing gear; filter the map for Tackle Loan Program locations to find out where you can rent everything you need. All other state regulations, such as size limitations and bait restrictions, still apply on Free Fishing Day.
July 4 | free; North Carolina public waters; ncwildlife.org
Hear a Frederick Douglass Community Reading at Historic Stagville
Gather with fellow Carolinians to reflect on history and the meaning of freedom at Historic Stagville, a State Historic Site dedicated to interpreting the lives, families and culture of the people enslaved on the Bennehan and Cameron Plantations. To commemorate Independence Day, a paticipatory community reading of Fredreick Douglass’ address, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July,” will be held at Horton Grove. All attendees will receive a transcript of the speech, which volunteers will read aloud together in front of the plantations’ slave dwellings.
July 4 | 10 a.m.; free; 5828 Old Oxford Highway, Durham; details here
Pick Up a Picnic from Sam Jones BBQ
Every summer, Instagram feeds everywhere fill up with beautiful picnic spreads; ever wondered how people assemble such picture-perfect meals while balancing blanket location-scouting and keeping the family in line? Sam Jones BBQ makes easy this Independence Day weekend, offering a sumptuous Pick-up Picnic full of ribs, chicken, slaw, mac and all of the quintessential barbecue fixings. Order your picnic set online, then pick it up hot and ready to eat at Sam Jones to give your holiday feast some sunny, Southern style.
July 4 | Pick-up from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.; $119.99 (feeds 6-8); 502 W Lenoir St; samjonesbbq.com
Grab a Drink at Oak City Brewing
Oak City Brewing will offer up cold beer, live music and a host of Triangle favorite food trucks on their lawn in Knightdale for Independence Day. Bring a blanket or lawn chair, and kick back with a pint to watch the town of Knightdale’s fireworks display from the Brewery.
July 4 | 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.; free; 616 N First Avenue, Knightdale; oakcitybrewingcompany.com
Cool Off with a Hike and a Swim
Midsummer brings the temperature up high, but it also brings out green foliage and active wildlife worth braving the heat to see. Blaze a trail, then take a cool dip on one of these Triangle-area hikes featuring creeks, lakes and swimming holes.
Watch Fireworks in the Park
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 — plus jam out to live music from a DJ and 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
Catch a Baseball Game
Don your red, white and Durham Bulls blue, and spend America’s birthday partaking in its favorite national pastime. Head to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park to cheer for the home team as they play against the Memphis Redbirds, then stick around after the final inning to celebrate with the Park’s biggest fireworks display of the year.
July 4 | 6:35 p.m.; from $17; 409 Blackwell St, Durham; milb.com/durham
Hear the North Carolina Symphony’s Stars & Stripes
Get out of the heat and relax to your favorite American tunes with the North Carolina Symphony. At this indoor concert in Wilmington, the NC Symphony will salute to Independence Day with an evening of high-spirited, patriotic songs.
July 4 | 7:30 p.m.; from $20; 703 N 3rd St., Wilmington; ncsymphony.org
Head to Brier Creek for a Block Party and Fireworks Show
The Star Spangled Block Party at Brier Creek Commons is one of North Raleigh’s biggest Independence Day celebrations. Join DJ Mark McNally at the Brier Creek clocktower for music, face painting, a 360 photo booth and a lineup of giveaways at 8 p.m., then find a spot on Brier Creek Commons to view the fireworks display at 9 p.m.. Brier Creek’s fireworks will be specially choreographed to a soundtrack broadcasted live on Kix 102.9, so don’t forget to tune your radio!
July 4 | 8 p.m.; free; 8131 Brier Creek Parkway; shopbriercreekcommons.com