What to Do In and Around Raleigh in April 2023

Spring is in full swing with nature-inspired dinners, musical festivals, Earth Day celebrations and performing arts shows
by Addie Ladner

Happy April! It’s always an invigorating month here in Raleigh with temperatures slowly rising, gardens bursting with color and outdoor concerts and festivals filling up the calendar. This month William B. Umstead State Park and Dorothea Dix Park have some stellar celebrations planned around Earth Day, J. Cole’s Dreamville returns and the newly named Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts will host both NC Theatre’s The Color Purple and North Carolina Symphony’s Carnival of the Animals. Read on for our full list of pics this month. We hope you take advantage of at least a few of them!

Head to Dreamville

Dorothea Dix Park will transform into Dreamville again this year, marking the third installment of the celebrated music and cultural festival from producer, rapper and North Carolina native J. Cole. This year’s headliners include Usher, Drake and Cole himself. The lineup includes more than 20 acts from artists like Caribbean-influenced rapper Sean Paul; Nigerian singer, rapper and songwriter Victony; and City Girls, a hip-hop duo from Florida. Last year, Dreamville drew more than 80,000 attendees and generated more than $6 million in revenue for Raleigh and Wake County. Proceeds from the festival will also benefit local youth through Cole’s organization, Dreamville Foundation, as well as the Dix Park Conservancy.
April 1 & 2; From $250; 2105 Umstead Drive; dreamvillefest.com

Shop at the Gardener’s of Wake County’s Azalea Plant Sale

Stop by the NC State Fairgrounds’ Flower and Garden area for the Gardeners of Wake County’s annual Azalea Sale. There, you’ll find hundreds of varieties of the popular flowering bushes, including hard-to-find ones. The proceeds support scholarship grants for North Carolina State University horticulture students. “Our club was founded to spread good gardening practices as well as enhance the beauty of Wake County,” says club president Tom Packer, noting that they’ve been able to raise between $10,000 to $20,000 in past years. “We are especially proud of the financial support we are able to offer NC State students in the Horticultural Sciences program.” One variety in particular — the Wolfpack Red, a traditional azalea developed by a horticulturist at NC State — is particularly popular. Get there early — they often sell out! “We will exhibit about 120 varieties of azaleas, the most in the Triangle, including about 80 varieties of single-blooming classic evergreens, 24 Encore multiblooming varieties, six varieties of Perfecto Mundo multiblooming varieties and 14 varieties of deciduous azaleas, all NC-grown and in a variety of colors and bloom designs,” says Charlie Leverett, who chairs the sale.
April 1 – 8 | 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Free admission & parking; Gate 6 off Youth Center Drive, NC State Fairgrounds, 4285 Trinity Road; gardenersofwakecounty.weebly.com

Take the kids to the NC Symphony’s Carnival of the Animals

Paperhand Puppet Intervention will join the North Carolina Symphony to perform French composer Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals. Conductor Michelle Di Russo is looking forward to this year’s installment of the tradition. “It’s a beautiful piece and the puppets bring to life the different animals represented in the music,” says Di Russo. “Between the visual elements, narrative and music itself, it’s a great opportunity for children to really engage with the symphony. It will be a lot of fun!” The performance is sponsored by WakeMed Children’s Hospital, and guests are encouraged to bring their favorite plush animal for checkups at the Teddy Bear Clinic beforehand.
April 1 | 4 p.m.; From $29; 2 E. South Street; ncsymphony.org

Cheer on the Firebirds for Family and Friends Night

Cheer on the Raleigh Firebirds basketball team in their sixth game of the season against the Charlotte Purple Jackets. Community groups including local YMCA branches, parishes and youth clubs like Boys & Girls Club and Girl Scouts will be honored for their contributions to the Raleigh public on this Family and Friends Day.
April 2 | 3 p.m.; From $18; Word of God Christian Academy, 3000 Rock Quarry Road, raleighfirebirds.net

Join WALTER for At the Table with Susan Gravely

Join WALTER for an evening of food and storytelling to celebrate the book Italy on a Plate: Travels, Memories, Menus by Susan Gravely, the founder of VIETRI homeware. She’ll be in conversation with her best friend, Frances Mayes, another local Italophile and author. In addition to wine pairings and heavy hors d’oeuvres from Alimentari at Left Bank, enjoy a handmade pasta demonstration, Q&A with Gravely and Mayes, and book signing.
April 5 | 6 – 9 p.m.; From $65; Transfer Co. Food Hall, 500 E. Davie Street, waltermagazine.com/savethedate 

See Theatre Raleigh’s Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys is a Tony Award-winning show inspired by the true story of the 1960s rock band The Four Seasons — catch it at Theatre Raleigh this month. It follows a group of friends in New Jersey who evolve into a hugely popular band and the challenges that ensue. The cast includes Broadway actor and singer Rob Marnell, who grew up in Raleigh, playing Four Seasons’ keyboardist Bob Gaudio. Marnell graduated from Elon University and has dubbed this show a “homecoming performance dedicated to all of the North Carolina teachers who inspired and ignited my passion for the arts.”
April 5-16 | Various times; From $35; 6638 Old Wake Forest Road; theatreraleigh.com 

Hear 7 Stories of Comeback at Kings

If you’re a fan of intimate storytelling series like The Moth, consider this live, local opportunity to immerse yourself in another world. Born in 2015, 7 Stories was the brainchild of three friends, Eric Mack, Brad Habeeb and Justin Scranton, who found themselves swapping stories at all hours of the night. Realizing the power of a good story, the trio made their ritual a monthly Sunday community event. “It was amazing to watch as 7 Stories became this outing for so many people,” says Scranton. “Over its five-year run, we tackled themes ranging from mental illness to the time before cell phones.” After a four-year hiatus, 7 Stories returns to its original home, Kings, on April 7 with seven Raleigh residents sharing their own tales of strength and rebirth along the theme of “Comeback.” “From bringing a beloved restaurant back to life to recovering from a tragic injury, each story will be compelling and different,” says Scranton. Cash entrance only; doors open at 6:30 and around 100 people will be allowed in.
April 7; $12 at the door; 14 W. Martin Street; 7-stories.com

Eat your way through Sakura Festival at O-Ku

In Japanese, Sakura means “cherry blossom,” which originated from the word “saku,” or “to bloom.” Inspired by these fleeting flowers, the Japanese tradition of the Sakura Festival is a time to gather with food, music and companionship. Warehouse District restaurant O-Ku will mark the tradition with special menu items, many with a pink hue. “We have hamachi flown in daily from Japan that we’ll serve with a blood-orange vinaigrette, along with other specialties like sweet shrimp, Japanese sea bream and beet-cured salmon,” says O-Ku chef Cuong Le. There will also be cocktails featuring flowers, including the First Bloom, a tangy concoction made with gin, Luxardo cherries, lemon, orange blossom water and Mancino Sakura Vermouth.
April 8 | 5 – 10 p.m.; $50 per person for prix-fixe menu (April 6 only); reservations recommended; 411 W. Hargett Street; o-kusushi.com

Join other flowers lovers for an Herbarium Class at Raleigh City Farm

Raleigh City Farm will host a workshop where you can learn how to make your own herbarium and turn fresh botanicals picked from the farm into art that lasts forever. The farm’s artist-in-residence, Julia Einstein, will lead the class along with a walk through the garden to identify what’s in season this month. All supplies included.
April 8 | 10 – 11 a.m.; $10; 800 N. Blount Street; raleighcityfarm.org

Enjoy Poetry & Jazz at an Immersive Performance

Enjoy the harmony of spoken word and jazz music performed together. North Carolina poet Lenard Moore will join a jazz ensemble led by Dr. William L. Ford from the University of Mt. Olive for this free performance at the Oberlin Public Library. Pre-registration recommended.
April 11 | 6:30pm; Free; 1930 Clark Ave; wake.gov

Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Hear Daniel Bernard Roumain and Raleigh Civic Symphony for NC State Live

Head to Stewart Theater for the grand finale of NC State Live’s 50th anniversary season: the performance of Home, Migrations, and Our Imaginary Daughter, an all-new piece of work by violinist and composer Daniel Bernard Roumain. The piece was commissioned by NC State Live and features a libretto by Haitian-American poet Kaitlyn Boyer. Along with other songs from Black composers across three centuries, the piece will be performed by the Raleigh Civic Symphony and DBR, along with special guests: spoken-word artist Bernadette Allen, violinist Felicia Adizue, cellist Tristen Johnson, cellist Shana Tucker and United Strings of Color. Associate director Liza Green says that this performance feels like a full-circle moment. “This is Daniel’s seventh appearance with us, and he’s always eager to engage creatively with other artists,” says Green. “We’re honored to end this special year with an inspired concert.”
April 15 | 8 p.m.; Free; 2610 Cates Avenue; live.arts.ncsu.edu

Head downtown for ‘​Cuegrass Festival

Head downtown for barbecue joint The Pit’s 13th annual ‘Cuegrass Festival, a celebration of North Carolina barbecue and bluegrass music. Hear from eight regional acts including roots band Old Habits and jazz group Duck on the main stage at the north end of Fayetteville Street, as well as soul musician Eliza Meyer and acoustic group the Brewer Brothers on the Beer and Banjos stage on W. Hargett Street. Kids and dogs welcome. The festival is free to attend but proceeds from beer and food purchases will be donated to SAFEchild’s Champion Our Children campaign, the Junior League of Raleigh’s BackPack Buddies and Occoneechee Council.
April 15 | 12 – 6 p.m.; Free admission; Fayetteville Street; cuegrass.com

Courtesy Oakwood Garden Club

Enjoy a Springtime Tea in Oakwood

Christmas time isn’t the only time the antique estates of the historic Oakwood neighborhood in downtown shine. This time of year many of the home’s gardens are bursting with azaleas, snapdragons, peonies and hydrangeas and the early sights and smells of summer. Tour these landscapes both big and small while enjoying tea and refreshments from local establishments like Tin Roof Teas, Yellow Dog Bakery and Posh Nosh Catering. This year’s tour also includes a 1-Hour fascinator/boutonniere making experience, supplies included along with specialty mocktail. After strolling the gardens, stop by the nearby Pocket Gallery for a free micro-workshop that celebrates spring and renewal with Julia Einstein, the Artist in Residence at Raleigh City Farm.
April 15 & 16 | 10 a.m. – 2 p.m; From $25; Historic Oakwood 418 North Person Street; historicoakwood.org

Experience Verdi’s Requiem

An evening of high drama: listening to Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem Mass, sung by the North Carolina Master Chorale and accompanied by four soloists and the North Carolina Symphony. From quiet, murmuring prayers to super-charged brass and drums, it’s a spiritual experience.
April 18 | 7:30 p.m.; $28; Meymandi Concert Hall, 2 E. South Street; ncmasterchorale.org

Courtesy NC Theatre

See NC Theatre’s The Color Purple

See the musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s historic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple, which tells the famous harrowing story of Celie, a Black woman in the rural South who faces sickening abuse and racism. But with fortitude and love, she endures. Gospel, jazz and blues music support this story about the power of women sticking together in the face of adversity. See it unfold on stage at the newly renamed Martin Marietta Center for Performing Arts.
April 22 – 30 | 2 & 7:30 p.m.; From $23.67; 2 E. South Street; nctheatre.com

Walk for Umstead

Lace up your sneakers for the 2023 Walk/Run/Bike for Umstead, which includes a 4-mile walk or run, bike tour, silent auction, kids’ activities, music and food trucks. Cheer on your runner with breakfast from food trucks Buzzy Bakes and Vida Dulce. Along the trails, the Saint Francis Brass Quintet and Woodland Pipers will be supporting the walkers and runners with their sounds. Throughout the event, bid on silent-auction items from local artists, restaurants and shops. Funds raised from the day will go toward the William B. Umstead State Park, which offers more than 5,000 acres of waterways and trails.
April 22 | 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.; From $20 for kids, $30 for adults; 6000 Reedy Creek Road; umsteadcoalition.org

Learn About Indigenous Artists at the NCMA

Celebrate the talent of North Carolina Indigenous artists at the North Carolina Museum of Art this month. Throughout the day, take part in a variety of art activities and demonstrations including basket making, nature journaling and metal working. Lumbee youth dancers from the Pembroke Boys & Girls Club will give a traditional dance performance. In addition, Nancy Strickland Fields, the director of the Museum of the Southeast American Indian in Pembroke, will moderate a panel discussion on the history and craft of Indigenous art. The day will close with a concert by North Carolina Indigenous musicians.

April 22 | 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Free; 2110 Blue Ridge Road; ncartmuseum.org

Earth Day at Dix Park

Celebrate Earth Day weekend at Dorothea Dix Park at a community event in Flowers Field. Learn about local conservation with organizations like Carolinas Wetland Association and Wake County Beekeepers Association, play nature games with the kids and dine on dishes from food trucks like hibachi from Soulbachi, sweets from Kupkake Fairy and Mediterranean food from Gussy’s Greek. At 6:30 p.m., the City of Raleigh will be presenting its Environmental Awards and at 8:15, spread your picnic blanket and lawn chairs out for a screening of WALL-E.
April 22 | 5 – 10 p.m.; Free admission; 1030 Richardson Drive; dixpark.org

Discover Ursula Parrott

You may not have heard of Ursula Parrott, but writer and filmmaker Marsha Gordon is out to change that. In the Golden Age, Parrott was known for her controversial writing about the challenges of being a woman, mother, wife and writer. “She was publicly open and frank about her life at a time when it was risky,” says Gordon. This month, Gordon will publish a biography of Parrott, Becoming the Ex-Wife, which offers an in-depth look at Parrott’s complicated and sometimes scandalous life. It coincides with the May republishing of Ex-Wife, Parrott’s 1929 best-seller, which was originally published anonymously. On April 26, join Gordon and fellow writer Tift Merritt at the Cary Theatre for a screening of The Divorcee, a 1930s film inspired by Parrott’s writing. Gordon and Merritt will lead a panel discussion following the film.
April 26 | 7 p.m.; From $4; 122 E. Chatham Street; thecarytheater.com

Listen to a Poetic Jazz Performance

Visit Oberlin Regional Library for their Poetic Jazz Performance, an immersive experience of poetry and jazz featuring internationally acclaimed poet and anthologist Lenard Moore and a Jazz ensemble led by Dr. William L. Ford from the University of Mount Olive College. This event is just one of many hosted by the Oberlin Regional Library Program in order to enrich and educate the community. Registration is requested for attendees to visit and experience the harmony of spoken word and jazz music combined.
April 11 | 6:30-7:30 p.m.; 1930 Clark Avenue, Raleigh; wake.gov

Take the family to Raulston Blooms!

JC Raulston Arboretum is a flower this month with its annual family-friendly festival. Head to the public garden for an array of nature-inspired activities, along with plant and book sales. Young bird watchers will particularly love checking out the entries in the 20th Annual Birdhouse Competition, along with earth-friendly crafts. Enjoy snacks from food trucks like Arepa Culture NC, Hollywood Taco Shop and Howling Cow. Adult gardeners can attend lectures by floral experts, including a talk from HortTube’s Jim Putnam about “Proven & Potential Power Plants” or a session on “Success with Houseplants” with Shawna Jopin of Dirtbag Gardens nursery in Chapel Hill.
April 30 | 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; From $5; 4415 Beryl Road; jcra.ncsu.edu 

Visit a Group Art Exhibition

Head to Raleigh’s The Artist Lounge, owned by local artist Georgia Tardy and her husband, and visit The Collage for an fascinating group art exhibition. The Collage’s exhibition of art will feature an array of artistic practices including mixology, tattoo artistry, nail art, furniture making, music and more. Enjoy various forms of art from talented artists including a spectacular pyro performance!
April 29 | 6-11 p.m.; $40; 1011 S. Person Street, Raleigh; instagram.com/theartistloungeraleigh

This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of WALTER magazine.