April: 5 Outside

Top 5 to check out...just outside Raleigh!

#1 The Mason Jar

Holly Springs

Mint juleps and pork sliders may not be the first combination that comes to mind, but both are specialties at this tavern that prides itself on southern hospitality with a modern twist. All beverages are served in (you guessed it!) mason jars. Don’t miss the corn fritters and s’mores in a jar at this family friendly spot. 

#2 Full Frame Festival

Durham

The prestigious international documentary festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The four-day event sponsored by Duke University offers attendees an opportunity to buy a pass for all events or to attend specific films—more than 100 will be screened. In the past, guest speakers have included documentarian Michael Moore and director Martin Scorcese, and special panels have discussed subjects such as diversity and gender bias.

Full Frame: A world-class documentary film festival just down the road

If you have never made the short drive to Durham to check out the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, give it a try this year.  Documentary filmmakers and film fans will descend on the Bull City to experience this truly world class but equally approachable festival. 

One of the unique things about Full Frame is that you’re guaranteed to see the documentary films that everyone will be talking about for the next year since many will be picked up for distribution just prior to or during the festival.

Full Frame has another great quality to it: it is a friendly, comfortable festival. If you’ve ever hesitated to go because you felt it might be a clique of big city filmmakers wheeling and dealing, think again.  You will be having coffee, standing in line, ordering popcorn, and eating meals alongside all kinds of folks, including plenty of locals who get to indulge in a documentary feeding frenzy over the course of the long weekend.  It’s fun to meet people from all over who have a passion for telling or watching stories about the world we all live in.

If you are going for the first time, you can either buy a pass or individual tickets.  The Opening Night screening is always a crowd pleaser and tickets for that event will sell out, so grab those as soon as you can.  On Sunday, there is an awards ceremony and the winning films are screened again throughout the course of the day, which is a great chance to see the cream of the crop.  If you want to attend the festival for just one day, Sunday is a good one since it tends to be less crowded, and you get to see the best of the best.

You really can’t go wrong at the festival, since the selection committee rigorously evaluates all of the many submissions.  Sometimes it’s fun to pick a film blindly, but you can always read the descriptions online to pick films about the subjects you care about.  It’s one of my favorite events of the year, and those of us who live here are fortunate to have it in our backyard. —Dr. Marsha Gordon, NC State University, Associate Professor of Film Studies.

#3 Aviator Brewing Company

Fuquay-Varina

What’s missing from so many of the area’s breweries? Food! Many rely on food trucks to meet demand but not at Aviator. Served alongside its award-winning brews, you’ll find a robust menu from its Smokehouse, including slow- smoked meats, burgers, sandwiches and even salads. They also offer kid-friendly dining options. The taproom housed in the historic train depot pours standards plus limited-edition beers, and several times a week live bands perform everything from blues to rock to 80s pop.

#4 Ackland Art Museum

Chapel Hill

If you haven’t visited this free museum, it’s time to go. This year, Carolina alumnus Sheldon Peck and his wife Leena donated 34 primarily 17th-century European masterworks (valued at $17 million), including seven works by Rembrandt van Rijn. But the new endowment is only a small part of the permanent collection comprised of more than 17,000 works and artifacts. Highlights include works by cubist artist Max Weber, 19th-century painters Eugène Delacroix and Fujiwara Nobuyoshi and Andy Warhol. Check ahead of time for special events and weekly programs such as Drawing in the Galleries (Apr. 8) or Music in the Galleries (Apr. 2).

#5 Oaklee Distilling

Wendell

Located in Wendell’s historic district, this local distillery crafts vodka made from sweet potatoes and corn. A traditional dry-style gin will debut in late May or early June. Raleigh native and distiller Lee Browne wanted to capture a down-home feeling at the venue, which is also open for special events: The century-old building has lots of character with a cozy upstairs area. Oaklee will start offering structured tours this spring so check the website for more details. Larger groups can schedule a tour at their convenience.