What to Do in September In and Around Raleigh

This start of fall month in Raleigh kicks off the performing arts season – and hosts some of our favorite homegrown festivals
by Addie Ladner

Hello September! What an exciting month in Raleigh as we enter into fall along with the opening of fall performing arts season the start of fall music. Don’t miss two big music events Hopscotch and Bluegrass Live nor some of the smaller shows at stellar venues like the Lincoln Theatre. There’s also plenty of opportunities to give back to the community, a wonderful way to enter this new season.

Kick off Performing Arts Season

September marks the beginning of the fall performing arts season, with our local music, dance and theater organizations putting their best work forward. From Sept. 14 – 30, the Carolina Ballet will present Firebird, a Russian folk tale with breathtaking choreography and visuals. “Firebird reflects the generous spirit of the creative work we do here” says artistic director Zalman Raffael. “This production will delight seasoned ballet-goers and new audiences alike. We’re also sharing a world premiere by Gianna Risen, an esteemed choreographer who will be contributing to the program, a great way to kick off this year’s season.” (from $27; 2 E. South Street; carolinaballet.com). From Sept. 16 – 24, Raleigh Little Theatre will debut Last Stop on Market Street, a musical adapted from the award-winning children’s book by Matt de la Peña. The plot follows a curious young boy and his grandmother on a Sunday afternoon bus ride (from $18; 301 Pogue Street; raleighlittletheatre.org). The North Carolina Symphony kicks off its season, themed “A New Era,” under the new musical direction of the esteemed Carlos Miguel Prieto with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in Meymandi Concert Hall. “Haydn’s concerto is a beautiful, powerful experience; a piece that we all know very well, so a great way to open the season,” says Prieto of selecting it as the opener. “And Pacho Flores is one of the best musicians I’ve ever worked with. Anything I can tell you about Pacho will fall way, way short. He’s a sensational trumpet player.” (from $26; 2 E. South Street; ncsymphony.org).

Head to Art Within Reach

For Crystal Clark, every fingertip holds the potential to be a canvas for self-expression. Clark has become popular for her hip, intricate nail designs at her salon Nail Yeah!, and this month, she’s hosting an open studio and art exhibition to showcase the breadth of design possibilities from herself and other nail artists in the community. The evening will include light bites, good tunes and creativity. “I created this as a fun way for nail art lovers to get together and to bring awareness of local talent.” says Clark. “The name was inspired by the fact that manicurists are artists themselves creating on tiny canvases.”

Free; Sept. 1 & 2 | Various times; 432 Hill Street; nailyeah.com

Make a Weekend of Hopscotch

Raleigh will be rocking for three-plus days at the Hopscotch Music Festival. This homegrown celebration will have main stages at City Plaza and Moore Square, plus shows at various downtown venues. The headliners include national names like Pavement, Denzel Curry and Japanese Breakfast, but the festival showcases up-and-coming acts, too, like British country singer Lola Kirke and New York-based Afrofunk group Kaleta & Super Yamba Band. Plus, plenty of North Carolina performers will be on stage, including Lesthegenius, Larry & Joe and Skylar Gudasz. Alongside the stages, dozens of bars and restaurants will host day parties showcasing local talent.
Sept. 7 – 9 | Various times; From $149; see website for locations; hopscotchmusicfest.com

Fall for Orchids at the Arboretum

Various times Experience a gorgeous display of color at the seventh annual Fall for Orchids Show, put on by the Triangle Orchid Society. This free event is open to the public and last year attracted more than 1,500 quests, who delighted in the delicate flower’s myriad shades and forms. Around 250 of the tropical blooms will be on display from growers in Virginia, South Carolina and all around North Carolina. Shop for a few to take home along with gardening supplies before talking to the pros about best practices.
Sept. 8 – 10 | Free; 4415 Beryl Road; jcra.ncsu.edu

Relax with Afternoon Tea at Heights House

Enjoy a European-style afternoon tea inside the Boylan Heights mansion-turned-hotel Heights House. From oolong to herbals, you’ll find a wide range of teas, plus sweet treats from pastry shop lucettegrace and classic house-made tea sandwiches (cucumber and cream cheese, jam and chevre). There’s champagne, too! Heights House will offer two seatings, with just eight guests at a time, so book early to enjoy a classy relaxed summer afternoon. If you don’t make it in September, Heights House is planning on making this a monthly event.
Sept. 14 – 16 | Various times; $60; 308 S. Boylan Avenue; heightshousenc.com

See North Carolina’s First Lady in ONA

Written by award-winning North Carolina playwright Keith Burridge, ONA is a play that explores the life of Ona Judge, an enslaved woman who was compelled to work as a maid for the wife of our nation’s first president, George Washington. Directed by Amelia Lumpkin and produced by OdysseyStage, it’s a powerful exploration of the dark side of American history, and the untold stories thing. The play will star Monica Hoh as Ona, and feature First Lady Kristin Cooper as Martha Washington.
Sept. 14-17 | Various times; from $22; Burning Coal Theatre, 224 Polk Street; odysseystage.org

Take The Kids to BugFest

Get cozy with your favorite invertebrates at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ annual BugFest. The free event-themed around spiders this year – is the biggest insect-themed festival in the country. Inside the museum, guests can interact with local entomoloqists and see rare preserved specimens from their collections. Outside, there are dozens of bug-themed activities, including the Dung Beetle Race (where kids compete to roll a large ball made to look like poo), eight-limbed martial arts and arthropod olympics. And, of course, there’s the Café Insecta, where kids (and adults!) can sample bug-filled dishes prepared by local chefs. Some possibilities on this vear’s menu: Krunchy Cricket Mac & Cheese, Bugnana Pudding and Icee Insects. Are you hungry yet?

Sept. 16 | 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Free; 11 W. Jones Street; naturalsciences.org

See Where our Spirits Reside

Big-name creatives from our region are collaborating with Paperhand Puppet Intervention for its annual summer show. North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green and Grammy-nominated musicians Nnenna Freelon and Pierce Freelon will be a part of Where Our Spirits Reside, a show about loss, love and growth. The show will be at the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Joseph M. Bryan, Jr., Theater in the Museum Park for three nights. Get there early – preshow entertainment starts about an hour before-
Sept. 22 – 24 7 p.m.; From $10; 2110 Blue Ridge Road; paperhand.org

Enjoy a Morning of Coffee and Culture

Get to know the people and organizations that fuel our vibrant arts scene and make Wake County a great place to live at this event hosted by the United Arts Council of Wake Countv at Marbles Kids Museum. Hear from Jeremy Tucker – the director of arts education for Wake County Public School System – and enjoy networking and locally made breakfast goods from Yellow Dog Bread Company, Lucettegrace and Esteamed Coffee. Speakers will get your creativity flowing before heading out to your regular workday inspired and well-fed “This is a wonderful networking event highlighting the upcoming cultural arts season and the sponsors, government officials and individuals who champion our incredible arts scene across Wake County” says Jennifer McEwen, president and CEO of United Arts Council.
Sept. 19 | 8 – 9:30 a.m. $25; 201 E. Hargett Street; unitedarts.org

Support Diaper Train at Bottoms Up

Did you know that diapers are classified as “luxury items” and not covered by federal programs like SNAP or WIC? This means that one in two families in Wake County have to choose between purchasing food or paying bills and buying diapers for their little ones. “Access to diapers reduces mental and financial stress on caregivers, resulting in fewer cases of domestic violence, and reduces child health issues by preventing infections, rashes and other illnesses, says Katie Landi, executive director of Diaper Train. Help raise money to get more diapers and sanitary items to people in need at its annual event, Bottoms Up, while enjoying live music and catering and libations from HL Catering, R&D Brewing and Wine Water.
Sept. 15 | 6:30 p.m.; $75; 616 Tucker Street; diapertrain.org

See Return to Parrish Street: A Dream Realized

In August, Linda Shropshire opened Ella West Gallery, a contemporary art space with a mission to represent diverse artists. Shropshire, a member of the Board of Trustees for the NCMA, felt that its location on Parrish Street was of paramount importance. “Ella West Gallery is in the historic Clements building on Durham’s Black Wall Street, which once housed the printing presses of 1920s-era Black newspaper The Durham Reformer, she says. “As we showcase a new class of artists poised to shape the future of art history, I am thrilled this space will once again be a destination for raising marginalized voices.” The gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Return to Parrish Street: A Dream Realized, is a group show featuring new work from locals including photographer Kennedi Carter, painter Clarence Heyward and collage artist Ransome. The show is dedicated to the memory of the late Ernie Barnes, a Durham-born artist and professional football player known for painting The Sugar Shack (1976), which made headlines in 2022 when it sold at auction at Christie’s for $15.2M, a personal record for him. All month Various times
Free admission; 104 W. Parrish Street, Durham; ellawestgallery.com

Run the Sola Hot Mini 5K

Help raise money to put an end to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) at the annual Sola Hot Mini 5K. Now in its 10th year, the annual fundraising race honors Jeanne Luther, who cofounded Sola Coffee Cafe with her husband John. Jeanne passed away from the incurable disease in 2022, just three and a half years after being diagnosed. Their efforts to date have raised around half a million dollars for research. The route kicks off and ends at Sola, weaving through neighborhoods in between.
Sept. 16 | 8:30 a.m. From $40; 7705 Lead Mine Road; solahotmini5k.com

Support Chairity

Various times More than 6,000 Wake County children are currently sleeping on floors or sharing crowded beds with others but through its annual fundraiser, Charity, The Green Chair Project hopes to help 2,000 of those children. Chairity is a three-day event where guests can shop from curated vignettes by area decorators, bid on one-of- a-kind furnishings through a silent auction and participate in design work shops, with all proceeds going toward their year-round work. Purchase your ticket here.
Sept. 20 – 23 | From $35; 1853 Capital Boulevard; greenchair.org

See Raleigh’s Humble Landmarks

Various times Textile artist Caitlin Cary will unveil a new body of work, Raleigh’s Humble Landmarks, at the Boylan Heights grocer and cafe Rebus Works. Created from reclaimed swatches of upholstery fabrics and stitches, Cary’s meticulous needle prints are textured depictions of the buildings and streetscapes that make Raleigh unique. The work makes a statement about Raleigh’s fast-track development. “This series includes a few still-extant landmarks, along with many that have fallen to ‘progress, or whose facades have been updated or downgraded” says Cary. “Fabric works to make our beloved buildings become even more sentimental because it offers softness, protection and comfort, and needlework is a time-honored way to hand down history. I just love being a cipher for that.” Join Cary and the rest of the community for an opening reception on Sept. 22 from 6 – 8 p.m. or enjoy the show on your own time through October.
Sept. 22 – Oct. 21 | Free; 301-2 Kinsey Street; caitlincary.com

See Mipso at The Lincoln

Chapel Hill-born string band Mipso will hit the stage at Lincoln Theatre this month to celebrate its latest album, Book of Fools. It’s a relaxed, lyrical group of songs that includes an homage to our home state. If you’re a superfan, you can purchase premium tickets and enjoy an acoustic performance, Q&A with the band (where you can request which songs you want to hear) and
early entry inside.
Sept. 24 | 7 p.m.; From $30; 126 E. Cabarrus Street; lincolntheatre.com

Experience Bluegrass LIVE!

The strummers, pickers and crooners are back! Our own City of Oaks hosts the largest urban bluegrass festival in the world, which celebrates the end of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual convention. And around the convention, there’s music galore at the IBMA Bluegrass Live! festival. A $25 day pass will get you entrance to Bluegrass Ramble, with smaller shows at six different venues around downtown (Sept. 26 – 28). Purchase single- or two-day passes to hear headliners like Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, The Del McCoury Band and The Kruger Brothers, who will play at Red Hat Amphitheater and the Martin Marietta Center for Performing Arts on Friday and Saturday. Or go to the street festival for free: there, you’ll find five blocks and six stages of music along Fayetteville Street, with food, drink and an arts market to explore.
Sept. 29 – 30 | Various times; Free or reserved seats from $25; downtown Raleigh; worldofbluegrass.org

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