20 Ways to Enjoy the Longest, Hottest Days of a Raleigh Summer

The 5p.m. – 9p.m. time frame known as the golden hour can be the best part of a summer day with sunsets, live music, plays, and picnics.
by Kara Adams and Addie Ladner

The long, scorching days of summer can at times seem unbearable — but at least they lead into starry, steamy nights. From hitting an evening film screening at NCMA or Dix Park to star gazing to cheering on the Durham Bulls or Carolina Courage, here are 20 things to add to your summer bucket list. 

Photo credit: Smith Hardy

Catch an Outdoor Movie 

If you haven’t taken advantage of the many balmy evening film showings happening outside, now is the time. From Disney classics like Toy Story 4 to horror-flicks such as Scream, there’s sure to be something for you to watch at one of these outdoor amphitheatres showing movies in the moonlight. Bring blankets, picnics, and lawn chairs early to watch the sunset and films premiering at dusk all over the Triangle, with screenings taking place at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Koka Booth Amphitheatre, Dorothea Dix Park, and more outdoorsy venues.

Photo credit: Dix Park

Pack an Evening Picnic to Enjoy in the Flowers at Dix or NCMA

As sunflower season begins, cheery yellow fields are popping up all around Raleigh. The most impressive displays can be found at Dorothea Dix Park and the North Carolina Museum of Art. The NCMA’s field is a colorful mix of sunflowers, cosmos, and zinnias, and Dorothea Dix’s five-acre garden features a backdrop of the Raleigh skyline perfect for a sunset picnic — and of course, a golden-hour sunflower selfie. 

Host a Happy Hour

From light and bubbly prosecco to refreshing watermelon basil mezcal, longer evenings mean more time to linger outside with friends. Consider one of these boozy recipes for a happy hour by the pool or on a patio with friends, then crank up this soundtrack or create the perfect playlist of your own to set the mood for an unforgettably enjoyable cocktail party. 

photo credit: Bob Karp

Cheer on the Durham Bulls

Take America’s favorite pastime to the next level with dazzling Friday night fireworks, pregame live music on Thursday nights, kids run the bases, and more family-friendly promotions happening during the Durham Bulls baseball games all summer long at the DBAP. Stay cool as you cheer on the Durham Bulls during these last long days of summer with a scoop of Italian ice from Rita’s in the stadium.

See Some Live Music Outside

Jam out to live music in scenic open-air venues all over the Triangle, including Koka Booth, Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, the Lincoln Theatre’s outdoors venue, and Transfer Co Food Hall’s Jam sessions. Also check out Pinecone’s list of upcoming concerts or ones at Dix Park’s Acorn Live Music Series

Book an Evening Meal at an Exotic Restaurant

Yearning for a change of scenery? You don’t have to go far: a drive out to Vin Rouge in Durham can offer a taste of France, or you can find the beaches of Mexico at The Cortez with its tiki cocktails and sophisticated yet colorful atmosphere. Check out this list of local restaurants certain to cure your wanderlust.

Fire up the Grill with Friends

Make the most out of your summer evenings with a backyard barbecue, and impress your friends by adding something new to your grilling repertoire like s’mores with a twist, a zesty grilled salad or buttery whole fish with one of these recipes. Take advantage of the bounty of heirloom tomatoes, basil varieties, deep red bell peppers, and more fresh seasonal veggies at local farmers markets for some delicious sides, and grab the pick of the day from Locals Seafood while you’re there. 

Spend a Night at Fearrington For a Wine Tasting in the Garden

Treat yourself to a romantic stay at Fearrington Village and a wine tasting in their open-air garden terrace surrounded by grounds full of fragrant hydrangeas, cone flowers, and jasmine. Sample a few new wines during their weekly free wine tastings at The Belted Goat, or sign-up for a specialized class to learn more about a specific region’s offerings. 

See the Sunset at Falls Lake or Jordan Lake

Cool off after a hot summer’s day at one of Raleigh’s refreshing lakes or watering holes, perfect for watching the sunset or taking a dip. Try taking a short trek to Barton’s Creek Beach for some peace and quiet at the serene Falls Lake, or have a picnic on the sandy beaches of Jordan Lake’s Parkers Creek Recreation Area as you watch the sun set over the water. 

Photo Credit: Felicia Perry Trujillo of Food Seen

Relax at a Patio or Rooftop Restaurant

Have a dreamy date night at one of Raleigh’s unique restaurants with stunning patios and breathtaking rooftop views. Watch the sunset over the city skyline from Wye Hill, or on the rooftops over Taverna Agora and Jolie Restaurant while trying some delicious new dishes. For a change of pace, head to Mulino for a starry poolside dinner, or choose a new spot from this list of outdoor dining options. 

Photo credit:  Andy Mead/ISI Photos

Watch a North Carolina Courage Game

Head out to Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary to support the Carolina Courage and their star-studded roster for competitive matchups in the National Women’s Soccer League. There’s more than five home games left this summer! Get to the stadium early for a pre-game tailgate with your favorite snacks and drinks, and be the first in to grab your seats when gates open one hour prior to kick-off for the defending NWSL champions. Ticket prices start at just $12.

Photo credit: Bob Karp

Stretch Out at an Evening Yoga Class

If you’re more a night owl than a morning person, check out this list for a few evening yoga classes taking place all around Raleigh this summer. Watch the sunset from your warrior pose at Williams Field at Dorothea Dix Park, or head over to Raleigh City Farm for golden hour sun salutations. 

Photo credit: Tim Lytveninko

Go for a Dip in a City Pool 

Get in as many pool days as you can before sending the kids back to school, and make a night out of it by packing a dinner to eat poolside. Our city pools are inexpensive, accessible, and many have little kiddie areas and lap swim lanes. Hit your trusty neighborhood pool, or try one of these new ones and let the fun begin! 

Take a Snooze at the Grove at Dix Park

If you’re feeling sleepy after a long day in the summer sun, head to Dorothea Dix Park’s Grove, complete with rolling hills, old growth oaks, and pine trees strung with hammocks. The new Hammock Grove is the perfect spot to cool off in the shade or recharge before you hit something else on the list.  

Star Gaze 

Stay up late one night to search for constellations from popular nearby campgrounds like the Eno River State Park and Jordan Lake, or learn about the stars from your own backyard using this guide. Check out the Perseids, visible now, or at their peak on August 12 when Morehead Planetarium resumes their skywatching excursions for a guided viewing of the spectacular meteor shower at Little River Regional Park. 

Photo credit: Bryan Regan

Catch a Race at Wake County Speedway

Head out to Raleigh’s own NASCAR-sanctioned racetrack for a thrilling display of speed for only $15. Grab some state-fair inspired eats when the grandstands open at 6 p.m, and prepare for the pre-race ceremonies that begin at 8:15 pm and introduce the famous green flag and the roar of the engines.  

Plan a Last Minute Trip to the Mountains

Escape the heat by heading west to the beautiful mountains of North Carolinas and relax at one of these charming Airbnbs. Explore one of these quaint mountainous towns like Brevard with its roaring waterfalls, or Little Switzerland for a European getaway without the hassle. 

Photo credit: Bob Karp

Plan a Last Minute Trip to the Coast

Reserve one of these coastal Airbnbs for one last summer getaway and venture over to one of these lesser-known but charming beach towns to escape the crowds. Try a renovated Surf Bus in Ocracoke, or a historic Beaufort home complete with a charming patio to make this beach trip memorable. 

Catch a Play in Pullen Park

Come out to Pullen Park for Theatre in the Park’s highly anticipated return to live performances with Switzerland, a thriller by Joanna Murray-Smith. The play follows a crime author as her murder stories suddenly become reality when a mysterious foreign visitor arrives at her home and disturbs her otherwise peaceful life. Grab tickets to the 7:30 p.m. showings for the perfect weather to watch this suspenseful show. Tickets start at $19.