It’s hot out there y’all, but we do love a Raleigh summer and embracing all the cool things to do in Raleigh at this time of year, and down below we are sharing a list of activities and events to help cool you down and enjoy the beautiful weather!
Yes, the long hot and humid days of summer in Raleigh can be draining, but we encourage you to escape from your air conditioning and live the vibrant Raleigh lifestyle that’s on offer whether it’s enjoying one of the beautiful lakes, a summer concert, sipping on a cold beer at a brewery, or taking your kids to one of the excellent museums or parks!
Check out our list below, we have up until September 22 till the official end of summer, then please share in the comments at the bottom, what is your favorite Raleigh summer activity or moment?
Paddleboard at Lake Johnson
You probably know by now that Lake Johnson is our favorite place in Raleigh (we lived on the edge of the lake for four years) and walk the 3-mile loop trail often. And during the summer months we love to take our stand up paddle board out on the water. It’s a great place for a paddle and to enjoy some calming and gentle exercise.
If you don’t have your own paddle board or kayak, you can rent them through the waterfront center. Other great places for a paddle in Wake County include Lake Raleigh, Bond Lake, Jordan Lake, Robertson Millpond Preserve, Lake Crabtree and Falls Lake.
Hike in Umstead State Park
I love that 15-minutes from downtown Raleigh we have this awesome state park in our backyard which offers great hiking trails and more than 5,000 acres of forest. Go early to beat the summer heat and humidity, especially if you walk one of the longer trails. Some of our favorite trails include:
Click play to see the various trails in Umstead State Park
Ice Cream at Two Roosters
It’s HOT out there kids and we know ya’ll love your ice cream any time of year, but in summer it’s ok to indulge in a few more scoops! Two Roosters was founded by an NC State University alum and their popular handcrafted ice cream features unusual creations with seasonal and permanent flavors – often inspired by local events and restaurants. Read more: 7 top places for ice cream in Raleigh
Swim at Jordan Lake
One thing we dislike about living in Raleigh is the lack of swimming options in summer. Unless you live in a neighborhood that has a community pool, or pay a membership for a pool, you are limited. Yes we have some great lakes, but you can’t swim in most of them. Jordan Lake, an outdoor recreation paradise and 14,000-acre reservoir, is an exception. We like the Ebenezer Beach section for a swim and a picnic.
Bike the Art to Heart Trail
We have endless bike trails in Raleigh with 104 miles of Greenway trails and 28 individual routes, but one of our family favorites is the 6-mile Art to Heart Trail, a point-to-point trail that begins at the Museum of Art (NCMA) and ends in the heart of Downtown Raleigh. You can incorporate pit stops along the way for coffee, beers, and ice cream, or head straight to downtown!
Other great bike trails in Raleigh, from lengthy to short, include:
- Tobacco Road Trail
- Neuse River Trail
- Umstead State Park trails
- Lake Johnson Loop
- Lake Lynn loop trail
- Shelley lake loop trail
Hop to a Local Brewery
With 20+ breweries in Raleigh we have no shortage of options to grab an ice cold beer on a hot summer’s day! The craft beer scene is thriving here with beer styles to suit all tastes. If you’re looking for a new brewery to try, summer is the perfect time. Read more: 20 local Raleigh breweries for a great pint
Picnic at Dorothea Dix Park
Set on a whopping 300+ acres, Dorothea Dix Park is the largest park in Raleigh with impressive views of the downtown Raleigh skyline and a lovely space with wide-open fields, rolling meadows, and tree-lined streets. Go early morning or late evening to avoid the peak heat of the day. Read more: 17 wonderful parks in Raleigh
Sunset at Lake Crabtree
Being on the East Coast and inland from the ocean doesn’t provide for many spectacular sunset options, but we do have lots of lakes and one of the best places to watch a sunset in Raleigh is at Lake Crabtree near the observation tower. Pack some snacks and a few cold drinks and enjoy. Other good spots include Lake Raleigh and Falls Lake.
Play at Marbles Kids Museum
Got young kids and looking for a play space indoors out of the heat and humidity? You can’t beat Marbles as one of the best things to do with kids in Raleigh up to the age of 12. There’s two levels of kid-focused museum activities with dozens of hands-on exhibits and the state’s only 3D-capable IMAX theater.
Iced Coffee at a Local Coffee Shop
I drink hot coffee year round even when it’s in the 90s (I drink cold beer in the winter so what’s the difference, right?). But for those that love an ICED coffee, this is the time of year to indulge. I am a fan of the Vietnamese Iced Coffee at Idle Hour Coffee Roasters. Share in the comments your favorite spot? Read more: 7 coffee shops in Raleigh the locals love
Kayak (or paddle board) at Robertson Millpond Preserve
What a beautiful place this is. The serene, forest-like setting at Robertson Millpond Preserve is a unique place to kayak, canoe or paddle board. This hidden gem near the town of Wendell is the area’s only bald cypress habitat and is recognized as a wetland treasure. Watch our video.
Visit a Free Museum
One of the best excuses to stay indoors in Raleigh are the excellent and FREE museums. In fact, Raleigh is well known for its quality and quantity of museums and has often been referred to as the “Smithsonian of the South”. Probably the best museum in Raleigh is the Museum of Natural Sciences. Others include the Museum of History, the Art Museum, and the CAM (Contemporary Art Museum).
Sip a Classic Cocktail
If you’d rather not drink beer or an iced coffee, then the other adult beverage of choice has to be a classic cocktail. Raleigh’s cocktail bar scene continues to get better, and popular choices include Killjoy, Bittersweet, Watts & Ward, Dram & Draught, William & Company, C.Grace, Whiskey Kitchen, and The Ark Royal Tiki Bar.
Dine Outside on a Patio
If you can tolerate the still warmish summer evening temperatures at dinner time, there are some great Raleigh restaurants that have outdoor dining options. Some of our favorites include Taverna Agora Greek Kitchen, Rosewater Kitchen in North Hills, Gringo A Go Go, Sam Jones BBQ, and Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing. Read more: Places to eat outside in Raleigh
Cheer on the Durham Bulls
One of our favorite things to do in the triangle area is go to a Durham Bulls minor-league baseball game in Durham, just 30-minutes from downtown Raleigh. They play at the fantastic Durham Bulls Athletic Park in downtown Durham. And if you go to a Friday night game, stay for the awesome fireworks show. Read more: How to enjoy a night at the Durham Bulls
Rooftop Drinks at the Willard
Drinks at the The Willard rooftop bar & lounge at the top of AC Hotel on Glenwood Ave are one of our favorite views in Raleigh. It pops on a sunny afternoon. Other rooftop bars include 10th & Terrace at the top of the Residence Inn Downtown Raleigh, and Level7 at the top of the AC Hotel in North Hills.
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Pedal Boats at Pullen Park
Pullen Park has been entertaining families for over 200 hundred years, and if you haven’t taken your kids to Pullen Park yet why not choose a summer’s day (maybe one not in the high 90s.) There are several attractions, but now would be a good time to take one of the pedal boats out on their lake. Read more: Guide to Pullen Park
Sunset drinks at 10th and Terrace Rooftop Bar
One of the highlights of our staycation in Raleigh at the Residence Inn Downtown was having sunset drinks at their fantastic rooftop lounge and bar, 10th and Terrace. This is now one of our favorite places for a drink in Raleigh period, especially to take in the sunset with sweeping views!
See more of our favorite rooftop bars in Raleigh
See a Concert at Walnut Creek
Ever since moving to Raleigh in 2004, we’ve made an effort to see a live concert at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek. It’s a great concert venue and every summer season Raleigh attracts some great acts. We have Jack Johnson penciled in for August 21st. Who’s coming? Other great outdoor concert venues include Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary, and Red Hat Amphitheater in downtown Raleigh.
Watch a NC Courage Soccer Game
Women’s soccer is a big deal in North Carolina, and the NC Courage is a professional women’s soccer team based in Cary and play their home games at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park and their season runs until the end of September.
Read more: A Guide to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary
Bounce around at Defy
Our daughter has a monthly membership to Defy Trampoline Park and loves going there with her friends throughout the year, but again if you’re looking for some reprieve from the heat outside this is a fun place for kids who like to bounce. You don’t have to be a member and can just visit as a guest,
Go Bowling at Kings
We always have fun bowling as a family and if you’re looking for some social gaming fun, Kings is an upscale bowling lounge in the North Hills District and our favorite place to go bowling in Raleigh. This is a popular venue so I recommend you reserve a lane in advance (18 lanes in total) and it is more kid-friendly during the day time!
Watch an Outdoor Film at NCMA
The North Carolina Museum of Art shows outdoor films through the summer months under the stars at the Joseph M. Bryan, Jr., Theater in the Museum Park. And you can even pre-order picnic baskets for their outdoor films. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it.
Explore Raleigh on a Trolly Pub
Have you done a trolley pub tour of Raleigh? Grab a group of friends and you can have a blast cycling around the city stopping at different bars of your choosing and you can drink as you pedal and listen to your favorite playlist. See Trolley Pub Raleigh for all the deets. Who’s in?
Fourth of July Celebrations
Of course the annual 4th of July celebrations take place near the beginning of summer, a day when Americans like to come together, eat hot dogs, have a few drinks, and play some corn hole. And you can find fireworks in all areas of Raleigh. Read more: What to do in Raleigh on July 4th
Another way your kids can cool off in summer is at one of the splash pads around Wake County with giant water buckets and plenty of sprinklers. John Chavis Memorial Park Splash Pad in downtown Raleigh is fairly new, others include Moore Square Splash Pad, Fuquay-Varina Splash Pad, Taylor Street Park Sprayground (Wake Forest), and Jack Smith Park Sprayground (Cary).
Sunflowers at Dorothea Dix Park
When the sun dial turns up the summer heat, the sunflower fields in Raleigh are standing to attention and one of the best sunflower fields are at Dorothea Dix Park, and peak bloom is usually in mid-July. Read more – where you can see the sunflowers in Raleigh
Zip Line at Go Ape
If you or your kids love outdoor adventure courses and zipping through the trees on a zip line, Go Ape Raleigh is located near Falls Lake where you can take on various tree top obstacle courses and ziplines, depending upon your age and your comfort level for adventure (and heights). Learn about our experience here.
Indoor Rock Climb at Triangle Rock Club
Our kids attended a summer indoor rock climbing camp at Triangle Rock Club a few years ago and loved it. They also have camps throughout the year, or you can go for one off visits. If you’re a first timer they have great instructors to show you the ropes!,
Sunrise at Boylan Bridge
Boylan Bridge offers one of the best viewpoints of the downtown Raleigh skyline and I like to watch the sun rise from behind the skyline to start a beautiful day in Raleigh. From here you can easily walk to The Morning Times for a coffee and breakfast (opens at 7am).
Raleigh Night Market
If you like to support local vendors, at the Raleigh Night Market in Moore Square you can purchase locally-made goods and enjoy a night filled with music and entertainment with Triangle area artisans, food, and drinks.
Hopscotch Music Festival
Earning notoriety as one of the country’s top music festivals is the Hopscotch Music festival, known for its eclectic music representation covering almost every genre —rock, hip-hop, metal, folk, electronic, experimental, and more. Held at various venues in Downtown Raleigh in September.
Volunteer at Wine and Weeds at Raleigh City Farm
Looking for cool volunteer opportunities? We have participated in Wine + Weeds, a weekly weeding party at Raleigh City Farm. Sip wine whilst you help tend to this great community garden. And, you’re right near North Person Street, possibly our favorite street in Raleigh for bars and restaurants!
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival
Two days of Beer, Bourbon, Barbecue, Boots, Bacon, Biscuits, Bluegrass and Smoked Beasts should satisfy anyone’s taste buds at the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Fest in August. Your admission buys you a souvenir sampling glass so you can enjoy an ALL-YOU-CARE-TO-TASTE sampling of beer and bourbon.
You can’t go through a Raleigh summer without taking at least one day trip to the beach, or better yet make it a weekend getaway. Each of the beaches on the NC coast offer a unique experience no matter your style and budget. Here are 12 great beaches near Raleigh.
Go Camping at Kerr Lake State Recreation Area
One of our favorite camping, boating and swimming spots in NC is at Kerr Lake, just a 70-minute drive north of Raleigh. This recreation area consists of 3,376 acres of woodlands along the shores of the 50,000-acre man-made lake. There are hundreds of wooded tent and trailer campsites, many of them on the water’s edge. Read more: Our camping trip to Kerr Lake
Ride Roller Coasters at Carowinds
Our kids are big theme park kids, and luckily for us we don’t have to go all the way to Florida for thrills. Carowinds in Charlotte is the Carolina’s premier amusement park offering 14 roller coasters, a waterpark, and live entertainment. Read more: Ultimate guide to Carowinds
Get Wet n’ Go Wild in Greensboro
For more summer fun on water slides and wave pools, head 75-minutes west to Greensboro and have a thrilling day at the Wet ‘n Wild Water park, the perfect place to cool off in summer. Read our guide to Wet ‘n Wild here.
Now it’s your turn, what is your favorite activity or event during the Raleigh summer months?