100 Free Things to Do in the Triangle

Keep our curated list handy all year for fun, interesting, and FREE things to do in the Triangle! This list encompasses Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and more, and we’ve even included short and totally worth it day trips for when you have a little more time on your hands.

[Feature image provided by Higgins Spooner]

Arts and Culture

North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh ncartmuseum.org 

The NCMA offers a two-for-one art experience – housing multiple galleries within the building and a beautiful outdoor museum park. Inside, you’ll find year-long collections as well as special exhibits, a gift shop, a cafe, and a coffee bar. Outside, there are large sculptures and interactive installations scattered amongst the trails, the rolling landscapes, and the gardens. It’s also a perfect spot for a picnic or bike ride. 

Brianna Woods

North Carolina Museum of History
5 East Edenton Street, Raleigh ncmuseumofhistory.org

Conveniently located in downtown Raleigh, the NC Museum of History boasts impressive permanent exhibits such as The Story of North Carolina, the largest exhibit ever produced by the museum, in addition to fun and informative traveling exhibits. As part of their History at Home initiative, you can enjoy many exhibits digitally without leaving your house. 

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W Jones Street, Raleigh naturalsciences.org

This museum’s mission statement is to ‘illuminate the natural world and inspire its conservation’. Filled with fascinating exhibitions and a multitude of living creatures on display, the NC Museum of Natural Sciences stimulates curiosity. It is located steps from the Museum of History, so visiting both in one day would be a great way (and free!) to entertain and educate kids and adults alike.

Museum of Durham History
500 W Main Street, Durham museumofdurhamhistory.org

Established in 2013 in a revitalized downtown bus station, the Museum of Durham History capitalizes on its central location and a 360-degree view of the city. Learn about the residents of what is now Durham dating back to the 1600s, Durham’s Black Wall Street, and the origins of Durham streets, landmarks, and school names. 

The Arts Center
300-G E Main Street, Carborro artscenterlive.org

A non-profit art education organization, “The ArtsCenter” in Carrboro provides free access to their art galleries as well as the opportunity to pay for classes, workshops, and performances. The center serves over 100,000 members of the community every year in its mission to educate and inspire artistic creativity in people of all ages.

Wake Forest Historical Museum
414 N Main Street, Wake Forest wakeforestmuseum.org

Housed in a 19th-century mansion in downtown Wake Forest, the museum offers a peek into the history of Wake Forest, the Mill Village, and Wake Forest College’s Medical School, Law School, and renowned sports teams. Peruse the Greek Revival house furnished with one-of-a-kind pieces and stroll through the peaceful gardens to round out your visit.

New Hope Valley Railway (NC Railway Museum)
3900 Bonsal Road, New Hill triangletrain.com

Just half an hour from downtown Raleigh, train enthusiasts love the NC Railway Museum’s dedication to rail history preservation and operations. The museum is entirely outdoors with a garden and ticketed train rides. 

JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh jcra.ncsu.edu

The JC Raulston Arboretum is a nationally acclaimed garden with one of the largest and most diverse collections of landscape plants adapted for landscape use in the Southeast. View multiple themed gardens that are revised, rebuilt, and replanted periodically.

Coker Arboretum
100 Old Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill cokerarboretum.edu

This beautiful botanical garden offers serene walking paths across five acres of the UNC campus. Escape into gorgeous foliage and open lawns; walk alongside the Abundance of Springs or sit beneath the towering Overcup Oak. Much of the arboretum is shady (depending on the time of year, of course) and the paths are wheelchair accessible.

Cary Heritage Museum
119 Ambassador Loop, Cary friendsofpagewalker.org

Located in the historic Page-Walker Hotel, the Cary Heritage Museum sports a timeline exhibit charting the inception and development of Cary. In 2014, the Cary Heritage Museum received the Evelina D. Miller Museum Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians. Included in the restored hotel are art galleries and historic architecture and furnishings. 

Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum
1126 S Saunders Street, Raleigh visitraleigh.com

The only drag racing museum in the world is in Raleigh! Housed on the second floor of the Harley-Davidson dealership, the museum is open during store hours and features the lives of famous drag racers in the United States.

V&E Simonetti Historic Tuba Museum
1825 Chapel Hill Road, Durham simonettitubacollection.com

Music and history lovers rejoice! More than 300 instruments comprise the Vincent and Ethel Simonetti Historic Tuba Collection, “represent[ing] a cross-section of the history and development of the various members of the tuba family, from its inception circa 1830 to the present.” 

The Carolina Basketball Museum
450 Skipper Bowles Drive, Chapel Hill goheels.com

The Carolina Basketball Museum contains hundreds of artifacts, videos, and photographs documenting the legacy of UNC basketball over the years. This is a must-visit for Tarheel fans!

Artspace
201 E Davie Street, Raleigh artspacenc.org

Artspace is a non-profit visual arts center in the heart of downtown Raleigh. Filled with exhibits by both national and local artists, Artspace is dedicated to art education, creativity, and community outreach. Check out their helpful social narrative if you’re visiting for the first time.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens
420 Anderson Street, Durham gardens.duke.edu

These 55 acres of botanical gardens have more than 5 miles of walking paths, a butterfly garden, and a picture-perfect arched red footbridge over tranquil water. With so much to see, the Gardens warrant multiple visits at different times of the year to experience everything it has to offer.

Clarence Burke

Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) Raleigh
409 W Martin Street, Raleigh camraleigh.org

A ‘non-collectin’ contemporary art museum, CAM provides exhibits curated by living artists. In addition to these exhibits, the educational programs available and monthly CAM Conversations solidify the museum’s dedication to a dynamic, community-led approach. 

The Museums of Fuquay-Varina
131 S Fuquay Avenue, Fuquay-Varina fuquay-varina.org

Not one, not two…but SIX museums all in one area! It’s recommended visitors start at the Centennial Museum to be guided by a docent. The Centennial Museum houses creative, intriguing displays detailing the early days of the town. From there, explore the First Fuquay Post Office, the ‘Squire’ Ballentine Schoolhouse, the Tobacco Barn, the Johnson Playhouse, and the Norfolk Southern Caboose #375. 

Ackland Art Museum
101 S Columbia Street, Chapel Hill ackland.org

The permanent collection alone at Ackland Art Museum has over 19,000 works of art spanning local and global artists throughout history. With 10-12 changing exhibits yearly, there’s always new art amongst old familiar favorites. As the museum puts it, “A walk through the Ackland can be an introduction to ancient Greek vases, Eugène Delacroix, and Andy Warhol — all in the same day.”

African American Cultural Center
119 Sunnybrook Road, Raleigh aaccmuseum.org

As a donation-based museum that highlights the accomplishments of North Carolina African Americans, sports a unique collection of artifacts across several buildings connected by a lovely walking trail. Take note: the museum is open by appointment only, so if you’d like to learn more about the contributions of African Americans in North Carolina, plan ahead via their website.

21C Museum Hotel
111 N Corcoran Street, Durham 21cmuseumhotels.com

Whoever came up with the idea of an art museum housed inside a hotel is a genius. With galleries spanning multiple floors of the hotel, visitors can explore the converted bank and office building while taking in the rotating exhibits. See how many iconic fuschia penguins you can count!

City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh cityofraleighmuseum.org

Despite being the state capital for over 200 years, it wasn’t until the founding of the City of Raleigh Museum in 1993 that there was one centralized museum documenting and housing artifacts of the city. COR features rotating exhibits and hosts monthly events. Admission is free with a recommended $5 donation.

Historic Stagville
5828 Old Oxford Highway, Durham historicsites.nc.gov

Historic Stagville is a state historic site dedicated to teaching about the lives and work of enslaved people on what used to be a 30,000-acre plantation. Original quarters of enslaved people are preserved here along with a massive barn and a house where the slaveholders lived. Visiting is free, and for $2 you can go on a guided tour for a more full interpretation of the culture and history of Stagville. 

Mordecai Historic Park
1 Mimosa Street, Raleigh raleighnc.gov

The Mordecai House is the oldest house in Raleigh in its original location, surrounded by 3 acres of preserved buildings documenting the history of the Mordecai family (circa 1785). Guided tours are $10, but walking the grounds and enjoying some serenity in the middle of the capital city is free.

Parks

Zebulon Community Park
401 S Arendell Avenue, Zebulon townofzebulon.org

The Zebulon Community Park is the largest park in Zebulon consisting of 47.5 acres full of two athletic fields, a walking trail, two outdoor basketball courts, a disc golf course, two playgrounds, and a picnic shelter.

William B. Umstead Park
Crabtree Creek access: 8801 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh
Reedy Creek access: 2100 N Harrison Avenue, Cary ncparks.gov

This enormous park covers nearly 6,000 acres and touches Raleigh, Cary, and Durham. It offers hiking, horseback riding, biking, and walking trails, boat rentals, camping, and picnic areas. Fishing is welcome at all the lakes and connecting tributaries.

Homestead Park
100 Aquatic Drive, Chapel Hill townofchapelhill.gov

Homestead Park is a recreational complex featuring a dog park, batting cages, two lit athletic fields, and an indoor swimming pool. There’s also a skate park, picnic shelters, hiking trails, and a basketball court. 

Harold D. Ritter Park
301 Lochmere Drive West, Cary townofcary.org

Perfect for families, Ritter Park has a sky wheel climber, a rock climbing wall, a basketball court, and sports fields. There’s plenty to keep a family or group of friends happy, with connecting hiking trails through Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve.

Hunter Street Park
1250 Ambergate Station, Apex apexnc.org

This 12-acre park offers athletics fields, a dog park, picnic areas, a playground, and a skate plaza. Also included are batting cages, walking trails, and a turf multipurpose field. 

Jordan Lake
Multiple access points – check the website for details: ncparks.gov

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area is a collective of nine access areas scattered around the shoreline of this undeveloped, 14,000-acre reservoir. There are more than 1,000 campsites and 14 miles of hiking trails. 

The Healing Labyrinth
3055 New Hope Church Road, Chapel Hill triangleland.org

Tucked within the Brumley Forest Nature Preserve, the Healing Labyrinth intends to center and calm those that walk it. It’s not a maze or a puzzle, but instead a meditative space for reflection and restoration.

Lower Haw River Natural Area/Bynum Beach
160 Bynum Church Road, Pittsboro triangleland.org

Downstream of Jordan Lake, the Lower Haw River natural area is over 1,000 acres with hiking trails and canoe access. The 3.6-mile stretch from the Bynum Beach put-in down to US 64 earns an A rating for scenery from Paul Ferguson in his “Paddling Eastern North Carolina” guidebook, and consists of Class I and II rapids.

Dorothea Dix Park
1030 Richardson Drive, Raleigh dorotheadixpark.org

“A park for everyone, built by everyone”. 308 acres right in downtown Raleigh, Dorothea Dix park sports wide fields perfect for picnics or playing frisbee; a dog park; sprawling sunflower fields; and a shaded hillside with a gorgeous view of the Raleigh skyline.

City of Raleigh

Lake Benson Park
921 Buffaloe Road, Garner garnernc.gov

A 64-acre park with 1.8 miles of walking trails, two playgrounds, a dog park, and large picnic shelters. While boats, canoes, or any other personal watercraft are not allowed to be launched into the lake, fishing is permitted. 

Lake Johnson Park
4601 Avent Ferry Road, Raleigh raleighnc.gov

Lake Johnson has paved greenway and natural surface trails, fishing, public programs, seasonal boat rentals, indoor & outdoor facility rentals, and a swimming pool. Fishing is allowed off the long bridge that bisects the lake. Many people don’t know about the less-crowded, more wild walking trails on the west side of the lake – across Avent Ferry from the Lake Johnson Waterfront Center.

Main Street Community Garden
439 E Main Street, Clayton Facebook

Right in the heart of downtown Clayton sits a community-run and community-feeding garden. Stroll through the garden for gorgeous plants, statues, and art. At Christmas, the garden turns into a winter Candyland. 

Eno River State Park
Multiple access points – check the website for details: ncparks.gov

The park offers nearly 30 miles of trails along a swift, shallow stream that’s popular with anglers, photographers, and sightseers. Backcountry camping at individual sites and group campsites is available but all equipment must be carried in. Canoeing and kayaking are permitted but sometimes difficult due to shallow water.

Pullen Park
520 Ashe Avenue, Raleigh raleighnc.gov

Founded in 1887, Pullen Park is the first public park in North Carolina. It includes walking trails, playgrounds, athletic fields, and an arts center. Did I mention it has a carousel?! While the park is free, carousel rides are currently $1.50/ticket.

Knightdale Environmental Park
1385 N Smithfield Road, Knightdale knightdalenc.gov

Knightdale Environmental Education Park is located behind Knightdale Town Hall on Steeple Square Ct. The park offers a 1/3 mile walking trail, picnic shelters, four environmental sculptures, and two observation overlooks. 

Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road, Raleigh wakegov.com

The centerpiece of the 174-acre park is Historic Yates Mill, which is the last operable water-powered gristmill in Wake County (more than 70 water mills once existed in the area). The park also has a few gardens, hiking trails, and an education and research center. 

Renee Evans

Downtown Park
319 S Academy Street, Cary townofcary.org

While the park isn’t slated to be finished until 2023, the beautiful fountain and garden are currently accessible. Once finished, the park will offer a performance pavilion, a ‘bark bar’ and dog park, a town square, and a children’s play area, among other amenities. 

Raleigh Rose Garden
301 Pogue Street, Raleigh raleighlittletheatre.org

Located behind the Raleigh Little Theater, the Raleigh Rose Garden has 1,200 roses of 60 different varieties blooming from late May until autumn. Seasonal flowers include bulbs, annuals, trees, and shrubs. An amphitheater for concerts and theatrical productions is also located in the garden. 

American Tobacco Trail
Multiple access points – check the website: traillink.com

Running along the abandoned railroad originally built in the 1970s, this trail has new life. With over 22 uninterrupted miles of trails, the American Tobacco Trail spans through Chatham County to end in Wake County. Such mileage means plenty of wildlife viewing whether on bike or on foot. 

WRAL-TV Azalea Gardens
2619 Western Boulevard, Raleigh wral-gardens.com

Tucked behind the WRAL studio close to North Carolina State University is a gorgeous azalea garden established with the intention of ‘paying a tribute to beauty for beauty’s sake’. Spring and fall are the best times to see the thousands of azaleas in their full glory, but the gardens are a delightful place for a stroll or a picnic all year.

Piney Wood Dog Park
400 E Woodcroft Parkway, Durham dprplaymore.org 

While dogs are allowed at many of the parks or other outdoor attractions already included in this list, I thought it’d be nice to show a little consideration to our furry friends. This dog park has both a small and a large dog park to keep pooch’s safe and happy. There’s plenty of space to play fetch under many shady trees.

Morrisville Community Park
1520 Morrisville Parkway, Morrisville townofmorrisville.org

Filled with large athletic fields, jogging trails along the Hatcher Creek Greenway, a concession stand and playground, the Morrisville Community Park is a great space to visit with the whole family. Planning a family reunion or other large gathering? The picnic shelter can hold 65 people and has two grills. 

Marla Dorrel Park
111 Thurston Drive, Cary townofcary.org

This park is all about the kids! Unique elements include a dragon climbing structure named Katal, progressive design elements and landscaping, and a play area where kids of all physical and mental abilities can enjoy fully-integrated play in a multi-sensory environment that challenges both muscles and minds.

Community

The Executive Mansion
200 N Blount Street, Raleigh ncdr.gov

While you’ll need at least five people to schedule a free tour, the city of Raleigh offers tours of the gardens* of the Governor’s mansion on Wednesdays and Thursdays weekly. Prefer to check out the mansion from home? There’s a virtual tour here

*Indoor tours are currently suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic.

NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

Durham Farmers Market
501 Foster Street, Durham durhamfarmersmarket.com

The Durham Farmers Market boasts over 65 local vendors on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the majority of the year. The market shifts to Saturdays only beginning in November, with added Thanksgiving Market hours and Holiday Market hours (check website for details).

City Market Raleigh
306 Parham Street, Raleigh citymarketraleigh.com

Historic City Market was once the economic center of Raleigh and today houses multiple shops and restaurants in its brick and cobblestone structures. In December, don’t miss A City Market Christmas, an indoor and outdoor holiday event with live music, local vendors, and hot chocolate.

RDU Observation Park
W International Drive, Morrisville rdu.com

Watch planes take off and land and listen to pilot-tower communications via audio speakers on the elevated platform. There are educational placards, a picnic area, a play area, and restrooms available. 

Garner Veterans Memorial
921 Buffaloe Road, Garner garnernc.gov

Established in 2006, the memorial was designed to honor all veterans, especially those who died during conflict and war. Visitors to the memorial have an opportunity to read the brief but informative history of our war-torn past. Where our nation experienced decades of peace are reflection benches that offer a place to sit and contemplate our past, present, and future.

True Crime and Curious Tales Walking Tours
Meets at 109 E Jones Street, Raleigh eventbrite.com

Available one Saturday a month, this pay-what-you-can walking tour explores the gorier side of Raleigh’s history. This tour will take you on a journey back in time to Raleigh’s most interesting true crime stories and other quirky tales. Registration is required on Eventbrite in advance.

Raleigh Drum Circle
Various locations, check website for details raleighdrumcircle.org

No experience is necessary to drop in and play! The Raleigh Drum Circle provides a family-friendly opportunity to explore percussive music and dance, cultural awareness, and diversity. Each event varies, but often hooping and flow arts, as well as other musical instruments, are in attendance. 

Raleigh Drum Circle

Get a picture with Major the Bull
211 W Parish Street, Durham

Major is a 2,000 pound, 10 foot-tall bronze sculpture of a bull standing in the middle of downtown Durham since 2004. The bull has been the symbol of Durham since the late-1800s, and it’s said that Major brings luck and good fortune to those that rub his horns. 

Historic Oakwood
Walking tour of downtown Raleigh – map available here

Historic Oakwood is North Carolina’s largest and best-preserved 19th-century neighborhood filled with gorgeous homes and gardens, well-paved sidewalks, and opportunities to stop for a snack or meal at a variety of restaurants. You can tour via car, bike, or on foot. Don’t miss tickets for the Oakwood Candlelight Tour every December – check visitraleigh.com for details.

Chapel Hill Tour
The walking tour begins at 250 E Franklin Street, Chapel Hill

Beginning in front of the sundial at the Morehead Planetarium, the free 1.5-hour walking tour explores the history and legacy of the University of North Carolina, the oldest public university in America.

Coffee Tasting at Counter Culture
812 Mallard Avenue, Durham counterculturecoffee.com

Every Friday at 10am, you can get a glimpse into how a coffee roastery operates by joining the staff of Counter Culture for a coffee tasting. Expert staff guides participants through choosing coffee and a complementing brewing method, as well as details about where and how the beans are grown and harvested.

Duke Chapel
401 Chapel Drive, Durham chapel.duke.edu

Take in soaring Gothic architecture and vivid stained glass windows with a visit to Duke Chapel in Durham. The Chapel is open daily to the public from 10 am to 8 pm, with a docent-led tour offered regularly every Sunday after the 11:00 a.m. worship service, which ends at approximately 12:15 p.m. Tours last approximately forty-five minutes; they are free and open to the public.

State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture Street, Raleigh ncagr.gov

Open 7 days a week all year, the State Farmers Market connects the community with farm-fresh produce, meats, and cheeses as well as local art and other vendors. Plants are available starting in March and Christmas trees can be purchased during the holiday season.

Peruse Brightleaf Square
905 W Main Street, Durham historicbrightleaf.com

A distinctly Durham mix of dining and shopping is located in the historic tobacco warehouse district of downtown Durham. Stroll the cobblestone streets and feel as though you’ve been transported back in time. 

Eliza’s Garden at Haywood Hall
211 New Bern Place, Raleigh haywoodhallevents.org

This 19th-century historic home in downtown Raleigh is usually reserved for weddings and other events, but the garden is open when the space is not being rented out. Brick-lined pathways line the bloom-filled flower beds, including hydrangeas, daffodils, azaleas, and more. 

Triangle Pop-Up Market
Varying locations – check trianglepopup.com for details

The Triangle Pop-Up seeks to connect the community with local artists, creators, and vendors in fun, creative ways. The Market is typically held at a food hall, brewery, coffee shop, or park with dozens of small businesses and makers to support.

Go Thrifting at Father and Son Antiques
302 S West Street, Raleigh fatherandsonraleigh.com

There’s no shortage of mid-century modern furniture, funky art, vintage clothes, and one-of-a-kind knick-knacks to check out at Father and Son! Check their Instagram for some of the cool things owners Brian and Kiyomi Ownbey offer.

Mortimer’s Shadow?
White Deer Park, 2400 Aversboro Road, Garner

On Groundhog Day in February each year, the town of Garner hosts visitors wondering if Mortimer the Groundhog will see his shadow, signaling six more weeks of winter. The park includes playgrounds, trails, and an arboretum as well – so go see what Mortimer has to say and then explore.

Satellite Park
404 Gattis Street, Durham 

Duke University and Mural Durham teamed up to turn abandoned satellite dishes into works of art. They chose Sarahlaine Calva, Gina Elizabeth Franco, George Mitchell & HappyMess, Rachel Goodwin, Bethany Bash, Cornelio Campos, Julienne Alexander, and J. Massullo to paint murals on the eight satellite dishes and the result is a truly cool and unique public art park.

Discover Durham

The Raleigh Market
4285 Trinity Road, Raleigh theraleighmarket.com

Open every weekend through the year, there’s no better treasure hunting than at the Raleigh Market. Explore antiques, collectibles, and oddities, find unique gifts, and grab lunch from a food truck.

Festivals

North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival
Koka Booth Amphitheatre: 8003 Regency Parkway, Cary boothamphitheatre.com

Hosted yearly from mid-November through mid-January, the stupendous Chinese Lantern Festival is a much-beloved festival in Cary. A self-guided walking tour filled with more than 2,500 lanterns and 36 distinct displays, it’s a glittering, dazzling show honoring Chinese culture.

IBMA World of Bluegrass
Throughout Downtown Raleigh, September 27-October 1, 2022 worldofbluegrass.org

Nearly a week’s worth of free and paid activities are packed throughout Downtown Raleigh for the World of Bluegrass festival. Listen to bluegrass, folk, and Americana musical performances, learn bluegrass history, and shop amongst dozens of vendors spaced through the city.

Dan Schram

Wake Forest Veg Fest
E. Carroll Joyner Park: 701 Harris Road, Wake Forest vegevents.com

This 100% vegan event scheduled for Sunday, April 3rd, 2022 will feature cooking demos, speakers, local vendors, entertainment, and animal rescues. It promises to be a great opportunity to learn more about local vegan vendors and cruelty-free consumption.

Artsplosure
Downtown Raleigh May 21-22, 2022 artsplosure.org

Raleigh’s original and longest-running art festival, Artsplosure is a yearly two-day event featuring artists, public exhibits, vendors, and musical performances. Juried artistic works include ceramics, glass, fiber, jewelry, metal, painting, photography, wood, and more. Bring the kids to enjoy free arts and crafts at Kidsplosure. 

Artsplosure

Farmer’s Fall Festival
Downtown Cary, 2022 date TBD caryfarmersmarket.com

The event celebrates the harvest season when our farmers are bringing in their fall bounty during the first crisp days of fall. There will be live music on the main stage, a kids performance area, fun games and interactive exhibits, local food and craft beer, arts and crafts, and a mid-day pie-eating contest. 

African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County
Downtown Raleigh, 2022 dates TBD aacfestival.org

A two-day festival celebrating African-American heritage annually with live performances, art exhibits, and food vendors. The festival has become Raleigh’s premiere destination for teaching, sharing, and celebrating the distinctive folk and cultural traditions of African Americans here in North Carolina and from around the world.

Cary Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival
Downtown Cary, August 27 & 28, 2022 townofcary.org

The two-day event will feature artists including Jerry Miller Award winners, live music, children’s activities, and a variety of food and drink vendors.

Brunch Moore Market
Moore Square, Raleigh brunchmooremarket.com

The brunch market takes place on the 2nd Sunday from May – October. Enjoy food trucks, a picnic on the lawn, beer, beverages, and live music from 11 AM – 3 PM.  Plus, shop from local farmers at the Moore Square Market.

PeakFest 2022
Downtown Apex, May 7, 2022, apexpeakfest.com

PeakFest is the largest public event in Apex and it is about more than fun.  Live music all day, artists of every kind (jewelry, pottery, watercolor, and acrylic), entertainment for the kids, food that you would find at the fair, and so much more! 

First Night Raleigh
Throughout downtown Raleigh, December 31, 2022, firstnightraleigh.com

Ring in the new year in style with activities ranging through the city, like the funky Ferris Wheel and exhibits and performances in Moore Square and various museums. The night culminates with the WRAL Acorn Drop in Fayetteville Street Plaza. 

First Night Raleigh

Triangle Russian Festival
237 N. Salem Street, Apex February 12, 2022, thehalle.org

Held at the Halle Cultural Arts Center in Apex, the Triangle Russian Festival celebrates the culture of people of Russian and Georgian heritage with folk dancing and music, regional foods, and more. The Festival schedule and activities will be updated closer to the event.

Fourth of July Celebrations
Triangle-wide, various locations, July 4th, 2022

You can view Raleigh’s fireworks from the PNC Arena and the NC State Fairgrounds. In Apex, enjoy a patriotic parade down Salem Street. At the Durham Bulls Athletic park, watch a baseball game, listen to live music, and then view a spectacular fireworks show.

Stunning Christmas Lights
Council Gap Court, Cary

Starting in September each year, homeowner Rick Grandinetti puts together an incredible Christmas lights display that has over 200,000 lights and covers his entire property. Among the festive lights sits a sign encouraging visitors to donate to St. Jude’s Hospital. You won’t need his exact address – you can’t miss it! The lights come down the first week of January each year. 

Come Out and Play Sculpture Show
150 Wild Horse Run, Pittsboro comeoutandplay.com

Held on Saturdays through September every year since 2002, the sculpture show was started to mark the first anniversary of 9/11 and continues as a monument to kindness and creativity. Dozens of artists participate each year in addition to live music and free food. 

Garner Christmas Parade
Main Street, Downtown Garner garnerchristmasparade.com

Complete with floats, bands, and Santas, the Garner Christmas Parade is a citizen-led community holiday parade. This is a great event for the whole family. Check the website for 2022’s date.

Out! Raleigh Pride Festival – June 25, 2022
Downtown Raleigh outraleighpride.org

Vendors and performers line Fayetteville Street and occupy multiple spots through the capital during Out! Raleigh. This all-inclusive, family-friendly festival supports the LGBT Center of Raleigh and its mission to provide support and education in the community. Running from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, the event offers live entertainment, local vendors and artists, great food, a KidsZone, and a beer garden!

Out! Raleigh Pride

Spring Daze Arts and Crafts Festival – April 30, 2022
Bond Park, 801 High House Road, Cary townofcary.org

Featuring 170 North Carolina artists, four stages for live performances, and delicious food vendors, Spring Daze has it all! Take in the incredible arts and crafts community of North Carolina. 

Fitness

Latin and Swing Dance Party Tuesdays
A Step to Gold International Ballroom, 6278 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh
A Step to Gold Facebook page

Every Tuesday from 6:30 to 8:30, enjoy Latin and Swing music and dancing in the Promenade in the Pleasant Valley Shopping Center hosted by A Step to Gold. Bring a folding chair and your dancing shoes for this opportunity to learn new steps and meet new people.

Hike at Occoneechee Mountain
625 Virginia Cates Road, Hillsborough ncparks.gov

With several trails to explore, Occoneechee provides an excellent escape into nature with its three miles of trail exploring riverside forests, bluffs reaching to the highest point in the area and mountain laurel and rhododendron thickets.

Yoga at City of Raleigh Museum Saturdays at 9:30a
220 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh COR Facebook page

Bring your mat and some water for a stretchy good time. Taught by a different instructor from a local yoga studio each week, the COR Museum yoga is a great way to find your flow. Registration is required in advance as space is limited. 

Jones Park Disc Golf Course
405 School Days Lane, Holly Springs udisc.com

Currently 18 holes with plans for more in the future, the Jones Park Disc Golf Course is moderately hilly, moderately wooded. While it’s considered an advanced course (with tight lines and some water elements), it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon with friends of all experience levels. 

Morning Coffee Flow Yoga 9-10a every Thursday
Honeysuckle Tea House, 8871 Pickards Meadow Road, Chapel Hill Sign up here

Register ahead of time for this weekly free yoga among herb beds and berry fields. Join Lily for an all-level outdoor yoga class. Be ready to move, likely get a bit chilly, and bring some mindfulness into your week. 

Honeysuckle Tea House

Bike or Horseback Ride through Raven Rock State Park
3009 Raven Rock Road, Lillington ncparks.gov

There are a variety of trails to hike, bike, or horseback ride through Raven Rock in Lillington. With over 4,600 acres, the park is a gorgeous respite from the bustle of the Triangle. Check out the bike trail map here.

Cheer On the Runners!
2022 City of Oaks Marathon, 400 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh capstoneraces.com

Registering to run the City of Oaks Marathon costs money, but it’s entirely free to watch as other people – some dressed in silly outfits! – run Raleigh’s hometown race. Get out there with your own encouraging or funny sign on Sunday, November 6, to motivate some marathoners!

Short and Worth-It Day Trips 

Hanging Rock State Park
1790 Hanging Rock Park Road, Danbury ncparks.gov

The park boasts a 73-site campground, picnic grounds, a stocked lake for swimming and canoe rentals, and more than 20 miles of hiking trails that climb onto spectacular views and weave alongside clear streams and waterfalls. There is also access on the Dan River for paddling, 8.4 miles of mountain biking trails, and rock climbing opportunities with permits.

Wilson Whirligig Park
301 Goldsboro Street S, Wilson wilsonwhirligigpark.org

A two-acre park featuring many Whirligig kinetic sculptures made by farm machinery repairman Vollis Simpson. The park shelter hosts the Wilson Farmers & Artisan Market, educational programs, and family fun activities. Benches, tables, and chairs invite picnicking, reading, or just enjoying art and nature. 

The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park Project

Singletary Lake State Park
6707 NC 53 East, Kelly ncparks.gov

Singletary Lake State Park is open to the public for hiking, fishing, paddling, and picnicking. Check out these trails, which offer an easy exploration of North Carolina’s bay lakes.

Dunrovin Country Store
5456 US Highway 1, Vass dunrovincountrystore.com

Don’t let the name (or distance!) fool you – this spot is more than a typical country store! It’s the largest and oldest country store in Moore County, selling all kinds of handcrafted goods. But the big thing that sets Dunrovin apart is their exotic animal rescue! You can see arctic foxes, coatimundi, a wallaby, and all kinds of other exotic animals for free. 

Dunrovin County Store

Stroll through Downtown Wilmington

Walk along the beautiful river, admire the battleship USS North Carolina, and take in the many sights and shops throughout this cute downtown. If you have more than a day, many beautiful beaches are just a short drive away.

Jones Lake State Park
4117 NC 242 North, Elizabethtown ncparks.gov

Jones Lake State Park has long been a community destination for lazy picnics under the shade of tall pines and swimming in the lake’s shallow, warm waters. The park surrounds two of the many mysterious bay lakes found in eastern North Carolina, though access to the remote Salters Lake is by permit only.

Greensboro History Museum
130 Summit Avenue, Greensboro greensborohistory.org

The museum celebrates Greensboro’s local culture and the city’s prominent place in American history. Next to the museum is the Mary Lynn Richardson Park, where visitors can learn about everyday life in the 18th and 19th centuries. Don’t forget to visit the blacksmith and woodworking shops. 

Bentonville Battlefield
5466 Harper House Road, Four Oaks historicsites.nc.gov

Civil War buffs will appreciate visiting this well-preserved battlefield from the waning days of the Civil War. The grounds include 5 miles of walking paths, monuments, trenches, and a Civil War field hospital. Admission is free and guided walking tours are $2. 

Greensboro Arboretum
401 Ashland Drive, Greensboro greensborobeautiful.org

A gorgeous 17-acre arboretum with 14 plant collections, special display gardens, and distinct structural features. The extensive variety of plants offers rich educational opportunities for children and adults, landscape designers, and homeowners.

Greensboro Beautiful

Cliffs of the Neuse State Park
240 Park Entrance Road, Seven Springs ncparks.gov

The site of Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, with impressive cliffs overlooking the Neuse River, has been a landmark for centuries. Five hiking trails explore the riverside habitats and their mature forests and lead to some quiet fishing spots along the waterway.

Let us know on Instagram and Facebook some of your favorite free things to do in the Triangle! And don’t forget you can submit your event to be featured on social media or at theraleighdurhamgirl.com.