This Year’s 50 Must-Go Events

In April 2023, Do, Feature Stories by Raleigh MagazineLeave a Comment

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You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy tickets—or just show up when it’s free. And you’re gonna wanna show up and show out for a host of these hot events. Here, our curated list of the top 50 must-go Raleigh events of the next 365 days—from now through March 2024. We chatted up top city organizers to vet THE hottest tickets in town—like, say, the return of Live After 5 (!) this month. So grab your planners or phones and lock in your faves. Do it for the mems.

“Ain’t nuttin’ but a G thang, baby.” Dance in the streets—literally—to fete 50 years of hip-hop on Fayetteville Street with this daylong street party, complete with a Family Village, live beats to honor local hip-hop pioneers, plus performances from big names like Terminator X and Petey Pablo. And—wait for it—don your best kicks and peep yourself on the Jumbotron as Raleigh rolls out the red carpet for the Sneaker Ball. Pro tip: Until May 1, lend lore to City of Raleigh Museum’s campaign to collect iconic hip-hop photos connected to Raleigh + NC. “La-di-da-di, we like to party…” Aug. 12,

Brewgaloo (Garrett Poulos)

Feast on This
Feelin’ upsetti? Then eat some spaghetti, sip some Italian wine and slurp a few scoops of gelato as you stroll the DTR streets and celebrate Italian heritage/culture via the Festa Italiana Fifth Annual Cultural Celebration. It’s got a pisa our hearts! … Meanwhile, hops heads can brew up some spirited fun on Fayetteville Street via Brewgaloo (April 21–22)—aka the country’s second-largest beer fest feat. 110+ brews, plus bands, vendors, food trucks and more—while those hankering to satiate their sweet tooth can head to City Plaza for NC Sugar Rush (May 28). Here we crumb!;;

Live After 5
The greatest comeback since Rihanna: Raleigh’s taking it retro by bringing back the decades-old all-the-rage free live ’80s & ’90s concert block party—which promises cross-appeal from Gen Z to Boomers (aw, the music unites us). And lemme upgrade ya! Trade those cooler cans for social district sips (fingers crossed), nosh on local food truck fare, and shop vintage clothing—and be sure to sip on the Wye Hill signature branded hard seltzer! See you at City Plaza every third Wednesday through July. Alexa, please play “Let’s Get the Party Started.” Starts April 19,

Boylan Heights Art Walk
Hype up with some Jay Z “Picasso Baby” or channel your inner Andy Warhol and while away the day going all “Viva la Vida” via Boylan Heights’ famed perennial art walk showcasing a hundred-plus local artists and craftspeople’s wares across myriad mediums on a gaggle of gorgeous neighborhood porches, yards and sidewalks.Winter tbd,

Dueling Dinosaurs 
Rawr! Surely you won’t dino-snore during this highly anticipated years-in-the-making blast into the past—67 million years back, to be exact—highlighting the mysteries, history and research of two iconic dynamic dinos: the Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex. Can you dig it? Opening Dec. 2 (tentative),

Hopscotch (Michael Robson)

Jam Out
We don’t sleep on live tunes. What with J. Cole’s annual Dreamville Festival (April 1–2) drawing music lovers the world over—especially thanks to this year’s star headliners Drake and Usher (“Usher, Usher, Usher…”). NTM Hopscotch’s perennial fall return to DTR (Sept. 7–9) with a slew of both recognized and up-and-coming artists—plus all the local vendors and parties for which its known, natch. And, not to pull your strings, the largest urban bluegrass festival in the world with IBMA World of Bluegrass (Sept. 26–30).;;

Moonshine and Motorsports
Drinking and driving merge (not at the same time)—and it’s a thing. The Moonshine and Motorsports Trail revs up on statewide speedways—and this NCMH detour into the speedhungry hoochers behind the multibillion-dollar industry is a dose of pop-history in the fast lane you’re gonna wanna make a pit stop for. Opening tbd, 

Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Festival
Whether you’re feeling cheesy, wine-y or just plain sweet, you’re gonna wanna belly up for Lafayette Village’s annual smorgasbord of all things wine, cheese and chocolate. Sample your way through vendors while enjoying live music and shopping—plus some sweet knowledge from the experts. Sounds gouda! April 29,

Craig Robinson
“BTB (bring that booty)” for a good time as everyone’s favorite The Office warehouse guy—NTM his roles in This Is the End and Hot Tub Time Machine—brings the funny to Raleigh. Sept. 15–17,

Moonlight in the Garden
“And at last we see the light…” Only once in a blue moon are you able to meander through a magical lighted garden, roast a marshmallow or two, enjoy live jams, and sip on some warm cider on a cool November night at the JC Raulston Arboretum. How de-light-ful. Nov. 8–19,

Holt Brothers Flag Football (Bray Photos)

Holt Brothers Flag Football 
Get a kick outta competition for a good cause? Who doesn’t. Hit the field for some Saturday game play for fun(draiser) feat. tailgating, touchdowns, tournaments and more to help local families fight cancer. Talk about teamwork! April 15,

Dead queens, an executioner, a court of vipers and a jealous king? Yes, please. Get schooled on our fair city’s namesake Sir Walter Raleigh via this poignant biography by Raleigh’s claim to fame Ira David Wood III himself. What will Raleigh’s fate be?! June 8–18,

The Soccer Tournament
Channel your inner Ted Lasso and believe your fave team can shoot for the stars during this 32-team World Cup-style tourney consisting of group play and single elimination knockout rounds at WakeMed Soccer Park—with a winner-takes-all $1 million prize to boot. Can you kick it? June 1–4,

We all just want to be loved—even Frankenstein’s “repulsive” monster. Behold Carolina Ballet Artistic Director Zalman Raffael’s hauntingly theatrical and seductively beautiful interpretation of Mary Shelley’s classic tale, also feat. a “New Haunted Tale” choreographed by Robert Weiss.
Oct. 12–29 (tentative),

Out! Raleigh Pride
We’re here, we’re queer—and we’re ready to get loud and proud and paint Raleigh rainbow-colored for the 11th installment of Out! Raleigh Pride, the inclusive fam-friendly fest that promotes acceptance and diversity via a fun-filled day on Fayetteville Street with a slew of live entertainment, artists, vendors, activities, a KidsZone—and bites and brews, natch—all to benefit the LGBT Center of Raleigh. We love love! June 24,

David Spade
“It’s funny because it’s funny”—catch him inside DPAC for a can’t-miss laugh as the legendary comedian and actor (SNL, Grown Ups, Tommy Boy, Joe Dirt…) brings his Catch Me Inside tour to town. Life’s a garden—dig it! April 20,

NC State Fair (Justin Kase Conder)

Local Festivities
Oh, for the love of NC! It doesn’t get more Carolina than the Got to Be NC Festival (May 19–21)—three down-home days digging all things NC via family entertainment, agricultural shows, live music, local food and bev vendors, and more. … And we’re fairly certain you’re gonna wanna mark your cal for fried food, farm animals, games and rides galore at this year’s NC State Fair (Oct. 12–22). Pro tip: Wait at least 30 min after indulging in the likes of turkey legs, fried cookie dough and other fair fare to spike your adrenaline.;

Kevin Nealon
“I’m Kevin Nealon, and that’s news to me.” Before there was Michael Che and Colin Jost (and a cadre of other culturally iconic comics), Kevin Nealon helmed the SNL news desk delivering the wickedly funny Weekend Update from 1991–94—and now you can see him live in Raleigh. Oct. 5–7,

NCSU Home Opener
Show up and show out for the season home opener at Carter-Finley as State pummels the Fighting Irish and sends them packing as the Whining Irish. Ayeee! #WITH Sept. 9,

Krispy Kreme Challenge
“… And my stunning digestive pyrotechnics.” Take a lesson from 10 Things I Hate About You’s Cat and, well, do-nut show off your guts. Do pound 12 doughnuts, 2,400 calories and 5 miles in 1 hour as trailglazers unite annually in the name of charity for the North Carolina Children’s Hospital. February tbd,

Play On!

Pedestal #1 – Steve Taras, Watered Garden Florist, Raleigh, N.C., NCMA sponsor: Etix

Art in Bloom
Hey, bloomers! The NCMA gets its annual floral transformation during this highly anticipated exhibit in which local artists recreate works found in the People’s Collection into colorful bloom-filled masterpieces. You best be-leaf it’s one for the books. March 2024 (tentative), 

Turkey Ball
Without feather ado… you’re gonna wanna gobble up tix and gobble down this Italian Thanksgiving feast for the greater good via Mulino’s annual fundraiser, where your $45 ticket lets you have a ball (!) while sponsoring a local family’s Thanksgiving turkey. Gobble, gobble, good. Nov. 16,

“I’m your No. 1 fan. There’s nothing to worry about. You’re gonna be just fine. I’ll take good care of you.” Unhinged Annie Wilkes turns true life stranger than fiction when she “rescues” (er, holds hostage) her fave novelist from a near-fatal car crash in this gripping Raleigh Little Theatre rendition of the Stephen King spine-tingling psychological thriller classic that made Kathy Bates a household (horror) name. Oct. 20–Nov. 5,

Dan Soder
Don’t take Soder too seriously—because he’s not. The self-dubbed “mall clown” (don’t worry—he’s “cool with it”) of, most recently, Showtime’s Billions fame (as Mafee) brings his charismatic casual style of “personal comedy” underground to Goodnights for three can’t-miss nights of funny. Aug. 24–26,

Summer Salute
Hey, beaches! Ready to tropiclike it’s hot?! Putting the “fun” in fundraising, Raleigh’s best beach party is back courtesy of North State Bank’s 20th annual charity event. Coastal vibes are high @ North Ridge Country Club via The Embers live—plus dancing, food and waves of fun—with proceeds benefiting Transitions LifeCare. Let’s shellebrate! June 3,

Rock Your World
For those about to rock—we salute you! Rock out for ’Merica at this 12th annual fest to benefit the U.S. Veterans Corps of Raleigh and the Hope For Haiti Foundation feat. Garland Mason, Band of Brothers, Sidewinder, the American Bombshells and other entertainment. Plus, honor the troops via wine tastings, a silent auction, liquor and food tents, a paratrooper exhibition, and more. Sept. 10,

ELF the Musical
“Elves love to tell stories. I bet you didn’t know that about elves.” … No-Buddy is gonna wanna miss NC Theatre’s rendition of this feel-good Christmas classic about our fave orphaned elf’s journey to find his fam… and the true meaning of Christmas, of course. Time to embrace your inner elf! Dec. 9–17,

Canes Season Opener
Pucker up! Raleigh’s Bunch of Jerks take to the ice once again for another exciting season of goal-oriented competition. Stay tuned for the opposing team announcement this summer. … You know we’re all about that ice. October tbd,

“We’re the red and white from State!”… Party with the Pack at NC State’s annual daylong street fest/block party feat. live music, activities, entertainment, delish fare and hundreds of vendor booths. A packed day of fun for sure (!). Aug. 26 (tentative),

Over the Edge (Special Olympics North Carolina)

Over the Edge
Calling all adrenaline junkies! The sky’s the limit for those ready to rappel down a DTR skyscraper while supporting Special Olympics North Carolina. Alexa, play “On Top of the World.” Sept. 30,

City of Raleigh Museum 30th Anniversary Gala
“G-l-a-m-o-r-o-u-s… We flyin’ first class… poppin’ Champagne” at the City of Raleigh Museum for its “pearl” anniversary. Rub shoulders with Raleighites to fete all the pearls of wisdom COR has dropped on us over the last 30 years—and cheers to 30 more. Sept. 23,

Hops for Hope
Drink for the children? Twist our arms. Taste your way through 30+ special sips brewed up by local brewery and corporate team collabs to benefit Children’s Flight of Hope’s mission to provide families flights for specialized medical care. Pro tip: Be sure to sample Raleigh Mag’s curated brew in partnership with Crank Arm! Sept. 16,

Drug intervention at the family barbecue? Beats the motel. Get the popcorn ready as the O’Mallery sibs clumsily call out sister Barbara for her out-of-hand drug habit in not one, but two family orientations—one white, one Black—to expose and juxtapose racial and family politics in this raucous and rollicking comedic affair that skewers our warped view of American family. Prepare yourself for some heat—both on and off the grill (!).Oct. 18–29,

Artsplosure (Chris Richman)

Raleigh’s original and longest-running arts fest, this “artsplosion” transitions DTR into a two-day arts and culture mecca feat. a 175-countrywide-artist eclectic Art Market showcasing works across myriad mediums—plus live performances touting emerging national and regional acts, Kidsplosure, and unique installations you’ll def be drawn to. May 20–21,

Kevin James: The Irregardless Tour
“Safety never takes a holiday.” … Don’t miss this comedy king (of queens!) making his way to Raleigh for a night of funnies. “Grown-ups,” only. May 7,

Make Music Raleigh
“Please don’t stop the music…” Join the global movement (1K+ cities worldwide—born 41 years ago in France) and sing and play on the streets, sidewalks and parks across Raleigh for this free live festival of music. June 21,

Evening of Hope
Go glam to give a damn. Sparkle—and spark hope—at Foundation of Hope’s annual elegant Evening of Hope Gala at the Pavilion at Angus Barn feat. a dazzling & delish multicourse dinner by Iron Chef Walter Royal with wine pairings, plus fab live and silent auctions and celeb keynote speaker (previous stars include Marie Osmond, Brooke Shields, Ashley Judd, LeAnn Rimes…), all to raise dollars, awareness and hope for—and stamp out the stigma around—mental illness. Pro tip: Up the ante by igniting hope at, well, younger gala Igniting Hope feat. live band! Sept. 13 & 14,

Tried + True

Holiday events to keep your season spirited

Theatre in the Park’s A Christmas Carol 50th Anniversary
Don’t be such a Scrooge. Wish a fond farewell to Ira David Wood III via this iconic musical, comedic and timely interpretation of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas tale. December, @theatreinthepark

Chinese Lantern Festival
Feast your eyes on 40+ awe-inspiring Chinese lantern displays and captivating nightly cultural performances. Glow on! Mid-November–early January, @booth_amp

First Night Raleigh
Ring in the new year via DTR’s highly anticipated acorn drop, live music, fireworks and more. Here’s to 2024 (!). Dec. 31, @firstnightraleigh

DRA Tree Lighting
For a tree-mendously good time, grab the fam and head to DTR’s tree lighting, also feat. local food trucks, beer and wine, and vendors (we’ll be there!)—plus photo ops with Santa (!). Nov. 17, @downtownraleighalliance

State Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony 
You turn me on! Kick off the holiday season with decor, government dignitaries, sweet seasonal treats and perhaps an appearance from the jolly ’ol elf himself. December, @ncstatecapitol

Christmas Parade
“Oh, my God! Santa, here?! I know him! I know him!” Spot Santa—and the others—from the streets or the couch (on ABC11) in the largest Xmas parade between DC and Atlanta. Nov. 18, @raleighchristmasparade

WRAL Nights of Lights
For holiday magic served up caravan-style, grab your crew for a drive-thru light display that sleighs. Late November–late December, @wralnightsoflights

See DTR light up (literally) for the holiday season as you stroll the streets and experience large-scale interactive and light-based art pieces. #ItsLit. Opens Dec. 1, @downtownraleighalliance

Jingle Ball
Mix, mingle and chill with Kris Kringle at Capital City Clauses’ annual Jingle Ball at the Museum of Natural Sciences. Holly jolly, indeed! December, @capitalcityclauses.

Raleigh Little Theatre’s Cinderella, Holiday Musical
If the shoe fits… wear it to see the fairy tale magic of Cinderella dancing the night away. Just be sure to make it home before midnight! Dec. 1–17, @rlt1936

Carolina Ballet’s The Nutcracker
“Son of a nutcracker!” For an evening sure to be on pointe, nab tix to this classical Christmas performance. Let’s get crackin’. Dec. 12–24 (tentative), @carolinaballet

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