Your 2023 Raleigh Summer Bucket List

From paddling to stargazing to taking an impromptu beach trip, here are 15 things to do before the season comes to an end
by Eliza Martin and Nelie Tahssili

How is it August already?! If you’re like us, it feels like summer is just speeding by, and we haven’t taken full advantage of our favorite season. Summer is the time to break the rules a little bit — to eat ice cream before dinner, to take an impromptu personal day for a hike in the woods, or to stay up late on a work night to watch a movie outside. And there’s still time! We put together our list of summer must-dos… now all we’ve got to do is get moving. 

Eat Ice Cream, Any Time of Day

What better way to beat the heat than with a few scoops of freshly churned ice cream made with local ingredients and fresh produce? Two Roosters (multiple locations), a Raleigh institution, bases its creative menu around local ingredients and the seasons (this season, we’re fans of the Bourbon Peach Cookie). Goodberry’s (multiple locations) serves freshly made custards daily across the Triangle. Be sure to check out their calendar of daily flavors on their website to decide what day to plan your trip. For an Italian-style cool sweet treat, try downtown’s Amorino (137 E. Davie Street), serving up classic gelato flavors and macarons, or for a trendy treat, try the new Jeni’s Ice Cream in the Village District (2014 Cameron Street). For a pasture-to-palate rural summer experience, drive out of NC State’s Howling Cow Dairy Center (100 Dairy Lane) to try their original flavors made with milk from their own cows.

Photo credit: Joe Pellegrino

Go For a Shady Hike Along the Water

In case you haven’t heard, 2023 is officially The Year of the Trail, and by now you should have built up a tolerance to the heat and humidity. So get back out there! Raleigh is surrounded by beautiful trails and picturesque areas that offer an escape from busy city life. Head out early to enjoy the cooler mornings, or check out hikes that lead to a stream or lake where you can take a dip if it gets too steamy. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water to drink and your hiking shoes!

Bike Through the City

Get the whole family moving with Oak City Cycling’s Third Thursday Cruiser Ride. Advertised as “the slowest ride in town,” the Oak City Cycling team chooses the route day-of, and is meant to be an easy, all-inclusive excuse to hit the road. For a more of a workout (with a reward!), consider one of their Scoot’s Scoop’s Sunday morning rides. Each is an out-and-back to a different ice cream shop, for a total ride of between 30 and 80 miles. Of course, you can always explore more than 100 miles of Greenway on your own. Download the Greenspace app for an interactive map with up-to-date information about closures or weather, or check out this PDF of the Greenway Trail map (you can also pick one up at parks around down) to plan your ride.

Celebrate Local Food & Culture at a Festival

Nothing says “summer in the South” quite like a big plate of North Carolina barbeque with a cold beer to wash it down. The first Friday and Saturday of August, head over to Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre for beverage tastings, live music and BBQ from all over the South during the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival. Each guest will receive a souvenir glass that they can use for the unlimited tastings from breweries and distilleries all over the Southeast, including Raleigh’s own Lonerider Brewing Company. For a quirky celebration of creativity, check out the Kirby Derby on August 19. This annual event at Dorothea Dix Park showcases wacky cars and crazy getups between a parade and derby-style races. Come in costume — this year’s theme is Holidazed & Confused! For an afternoon with a more artistic focus, head over to downtown Cary the last weekend of August for the Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival to check out work from nearly 300 artists, as well as interactive activities, food vendors and a beer garden.


End the Work Day With a Happy Hour 

Convince your colleagues to loosen up their ties with an after-work beverage. Check out this list of bars on Glenwood South that appeal to guests of all ages (who knows, the retro vibes at Clockwork or The Ark Royal might inspire your boss to share some tales from the 1970s). If it’s blindingly hot outside, head to a bar that has frozen drinks at the ready. But if it’s anything shy of 90 degrees out, take advantage of one of these downtown bars with shady outdoor seating to gently warm up your chilly air conditioned skin. 

Host Friends for a Porch Drink

Summer is the perfect time for a casual, no-pressure gathering on your porch, patio or balcony. Plan to make a fun beverage with one of these summer cocktail recipes and create an appetizer spread with meats, cheeses and other delicious goods from one of these local purveyors. On the speakers: a summer-inspired playlist with songs from all North Carolina artists.

photo credit: Joshua Steadman

Take a Day Trip to the Beach

Craving a trip to the coast? Pack up the car, throw on a road-trip playlist and head down to one of North Carolina’s beautiful beaches. Wrightsville Beach is a quick 2 hour drive from Raleigh — and a hotspot for finding shark teeth. Or, check out some of North Carolina’s coastal hidden gems if you’re looking to explore a new town. Want to stay longer? Check out these AirBnBs on the coast that caught our eyes. 

photo credit: Bob Karp

Serve Up a Feast of NC Summer Produce

Yes, the State Farmers Market is open all year — but now’s when you get peak tomatoes, corn, peaches and more. For inspiration for your next visit, consider this one perfect summer pasta recipe, these ideas for grilling vegetables as mains or sides, and this list of recipes made for late summer for inspiration. 

Catch an Outdoor Concert

Summer brings all the bands to Raleigh! See what big names are up next at the Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek (3801 Rock Quarry Rd), the Red Hat Ampitheater downtown or the NCMA (2110 Blue Ridge Road). For local bands, head over to the John Chavis Memorial Park (505 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd) for its First Friday concert series featuring different music genres.

Watch an Outdoor Movie

On August 4th The Princess and the Frog will be on view at Moore Square (201 S. Blount Street) as a part of its First Friday movie series. On Saturday the 5th, head to Dorothea Dix Park (1030 Richardson Drive) to see Shrek as part of its Summer Movies on the Lawn series. The upcoming movie is Shrek, shown on August 5, and food trucks and activities will precede the event. For a classic drive-in experience check out the schedules for the Triangle Cinemas and Drive-In and Raleigh Road Outdoor Theater, which have all sorts of movies showing every weekend. 

Paddle on a Lake

Fitness on the water? Yes, please. Rent a paddle board or a kayak through WakeRack, with pick up and drop off lockers near Falls Lake and Jordan Lake where you can grab your kayak or paddleboard, along with everything else you need for a trip out on the water. 

Sweat it Out at an Outdoor Yoga Class

It’s hot enough to get your hot yoga out of the studio! Dorothea Dix Park (2105 Umstead Dr) hosts Monday night Yoga in the Park on its Flowers Field. The yoga is free to attend, but registration is required. Or, use the North Hills farmers market as an excuse to do an easy breezy class by Midtown Yoga held on the green (4321 Lassiter at North Hills Avenue). The class is free but registration is suggested. Bring your own mat and water, then shop for nourishing seasonal produce afterwards. 

Cool Off in the Mountains

Even though Western NC has its fair share of warm temperatures, a hike to higher elevation or a dip in a crisp swimming hole isn’t too far out of reach. Here’s a list of NC’s most beautiful spots to see waterfalls, and take a spin through this list of beautiful Airbnbs to consider for a night or two.


The Perseids meteor shower takes place every August, but the lights of the city can sometimes make it a bit hard to see the stars. Dix Park (2105 Umstead Dr) is hosting a stargazing event with volunteers from the Morehead Planetarium and the Raleigh Astronomy Club on August 12, which is the meteor shower’s peak night. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, take a hike outside of the city that will allow you to see the summer sky. 

Go Fishin’

Pack a pole and a PB&J and take a short hike to a fishing spot. Be sure to get your fishing license before heading out, and pack a hat to shade your eyes for a water-side nap.

This article was originally published on August 3, 2023 on