With the help of our team, we’ve curated a list of our all-time favorite summer spots in Raleigh Triangle!
Summertime in North Carolina is perfect weather…if you live at the beach or in the mountains.
But what about those of us that live in that weird in-between land?
We call it the Raleigh Triangle, and it gets hot and humid without the perks of mountains or sea.
So how do we enjoy the summertime?
Our staff shared their all-time 15 favorite spots in the Triangle, and we’re going to share them with you today!
Let’s start in Bull City Durham.
Summer Spots in Durham, NC
Duke Gardens is a beautiful, 55-acre outdoor botanical garden in West-Central Durham by Duke Hospital. We’ve visited Duke Gardens every season, and there is always something blooming.
Whether it’s the tulip and flower-filled terrace, the giant coy pond, the Asian gardens, or the children’s discovery garden, it’s honestly one of the most beautiful botanical gardens you’ll ever visit.
The gardens are free, but parking on Duke Campus is $2/hour. Pro tip: You can also park a few blocks away in a neighborhood and walk to the gardens.
It’s a great spot to bring visiting family and also has beautiful picnic areas. If you’re planning a family photoshoot, you’ll find some amazing photo spots in the gardens. In fact, 9 times out of 10 when you go to the gardens, you’ll see a bride and groom taking photos.
While this is outdoors, the gardens have plenty of shade and so many things to look at that you’ll forget it’s even hot out (probably).
Head to their website for a map of the gardens.
Pets allowed before 9am and after 5pm
The River Eno Quarry Trail is located Northwest of downtown Durham. While there are beautiful trails all throughout the river Eno, this is a favorite spot for locals in the summertime.
The short .3-mile trail off the Cabelands Trail leads you to a four-acre quarry perfect for swimming. Locals call it the Eno swimming hole. Please note that swimming is technically not allowed, but most people do it anyway. Most travel blogs say that as long as you swim safely, the park rangers will leave you alone (Caution: quarries can be dangerous if you don’t use caution).
To reach the quarry, you start with the Cabelands Trail and veer off part way down onto the Quarry Trail. The total distance to get to the quarry is about 2 miles. Many people bring hammocks to relax by the water or floating tubes for swimming.
(Or sunrise to sunset)
For Garden’s Sake is a fun garden center in South Durham off Highway 751. This is a great spot for adults and kids alike.
There are goats, chickens, and ducks to enjoy along with a swing set for kids. In the summertime on weekends, For Garden’s Sake opens “The Potting Shed” where they sell Sunset Slushies and alcohol.
You’ll find shaded seating, picnic areas, outdoor plants, and a huge indoor plant space with all the house plants and planters you can imagine. In the fall and winter, they have a pumpkin patch and Christmas tree lot.
For Garden’s Sake also hosts several events and concerts throughout the year.
Mon-Sat: 9am – 5pm*
Sun: 10am – 5pm
*For Friday’s Sake extended hours until 8PM, every 3rd Friday
Gulghupf is a German indoor-outdoor cafe and Biergarten located right between Chapel Hill and Durham. They have plenty of outdoor seating with picnic benches and umbrellas along with an indoor cafe.
While best known for its bakery, they have several menus including a brunch menu, a brotzeit menu (3-4pm), and a dinner menu – along with accompanying drink menus.
From their website: “Established in 1998, this innovative Bakery, Cafe and Biergarten serves contemporary cuisine with a nod to its southern German roots, emphasizing local and seasonal ingredients. We are not your traditional Hofbräuhaus and you do not need to dig out your Lederhosen…we celebrate the progressive, modern aspects of our heritage.”
If you’re looking for their baked goods, you can also visit their bakeshop in Chapel Hill off East Franklin Street.
Located right next to Biergarten, Foster’s Market is by far our favorite Southern brunch spot in Durham. They have endless outdoor seating (covered and uncovered) as well as plenty of indoor seating for those especially hot days.
Walk in, and you’ll stare at the menu for a full twenty minutes trying to decide how many amazing desserts you can pair with your meal without feeling embarrassed.
Place your order at the counter, get your receipt, and peruse their fun grocery merchandise before heading to the checkout counter.
Pick the seats of your choice, and your food will be right out.
You honestly can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but we love their Southwestern grits, breakfast sandwiches, and pimento mac’n’cheese.
Locopops is a quaint local popsicle & ice cream shop located in Northwest Durham. Behind the shop, you’ll find plenty of shaded picnic benches. If you’re lucky, you can snag the screened in-porch seating with full shade. The popsicles are locally made and some of the best popsicles you’ll taste with flavors like Mexican Chocolate, Mojito, and Cookies & Cream.
Bonus: They have Pup Pops for your furry friends and Baby Pops for your little ones.
While enjoying your popsicle or trying to pick a flavor, you can shop at Sundries, their local specialty grocery store.
Tues – Sun: 1pm-9pm
Summer Spots in Chapel Hill, NC
Maple View Farm is a popular outdoor ice cream stand situated between Chapel Hill and Hillsborough. They have an extensive menu with changing seasonal flavors. All ice cream is made locally with locally-sourced dairy.
We recommend ordering their seasonal fruit-flavored ice cream. Sometimes it’s peach. Sometimes it’s berry. All the time it’s amazing.
After getting your ice cream (or sunday, or float), there’s a large field where you can picnic with your family. The field overlooks a corn field and a local dairy farm with pasture-raised cows.
The best time to go is 30-60 minutes before sunset so you have time to get your ice cream and watch the sunset over the farm.
Beware: Maple View Farm can get very crowded on the weekends, so give yourself plenty of time for a visit.
If you enjoy looking at well-tended edible gardens, delicious mead, and live music, then you’ll love The Honeysuckle Tea House & Tap Room.
From the website, “The Honeysuckle Tea House creates farm-based artisan beverages that vary from our Signature Herbal Tea Blends to our hand-crafted mead, an ancient honey-wine.”
With indoor and outdoor seating, gardens, and a fun playset, there’s plenty to do while enjoying your mead or tea. During the summertime, they often host local musicians for live music.
Along with their teas, coffees, mead, wine, & beer (if that isn’t enough for you), they also have delicious pastries, snacks, and charcuterie samplers.
Summer Spots in Apex, NC
Jordan Lake is a 14,000-acre reservoir that runs parallel to Highway 751 along the span between Durham and Apex.
The State Park has 9 official access points, over 1,000 campsites, and 14 miles of hiking trails. Along with beaches, trails, fishing docks, and boat-launching ramps, you’ll also find a lot of people renting or bringing their own kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards to explore the lake.
Official access points cost $7/motor vehicle per day during the summer season. If you plan to visit often, you can get an annual pass for $90 that also grants access to Falls Lake and Kerr Lake Recreation Areas.
Note: while some shorelines can be a bit murky and muddy, the water is cool and beautiful once you get out a short distance.
Pro Tip: There are some unofficial access points where you can park along the road and access the water for free for swimming, fishing, kayaking, or paddleboarding (including one off HWY 751 near the Marathon gas station).
If you don’t own a kayak or paddle board, you can rent them at Crosswinds Boating Center.
This isn’t a single spot but a downtown full of local restaurants and shops. For those of you living in a city like Raleigh or Durham who want to visit a small town (without the long drive), Downtown Apex is the perfect place.
Some of our favorite spots include Common Grounds Coffeehouse & Desserts, Anna’s Pizzeria, The Peak on Salem, and the Cocoon Gallery.
Summer Spots in Raleigh, NC
We’ve got to include a lake or river for every town, right? Falls Lake is a 12,000-acre reservoir located east of Durham and North of Raleigh. We find this lake to be fresher and clearer than Jordan Lake, but it is further from most towns and has fewer access points.
The one drawback to Falls Lake is that HWY 85 and Creedmoor road go right over the reservoir, making some parts of the lake noisy. While Jordan lake has some roads going over the lake, they are much smaller.
Falls Lake has 300 campsites at four access points. The Lake also has five swimming beaches and several boating ramp areas. For hiking, the park has a total of 14.3 miles of trails including some mountain biking options.
Similar to Jordan Lake, parking at the entrances is $7/vehicle during the summer. But you can also buy the $90 annual pass if you plan to visit the local state parks often (Falls Lake, Jordan Lake, & Kerr Lake). There are also some campsites with trails you can access for free if you park a few blocks from the campsite.
Also called the Cameron Village, The Village District is a downtown neighborhood of shops and restaurants located on the outskirts of downtown Raleigh along Clark Avenue.
Think of it like an outdoor mall with local specialty shops, chain and local restaurants, and high-end retailers.
If you enjoy shopping and exploring both familiar and new shops, this is a great spot to spend a summer day.
Even if it’s hot and humid outside, you’ll always have quick access to A/C in the stores. 🙂
Situated in downtown Raleigh off W Morgan Street, Morgan Street Food Hall is a modern-day food court with a twist.
From the website, “Morgan Street Food Hall is a new lifestyle dining concept; not to be confused with a food court. It features local eateries and restaurants as well as local food retailers. Morgan Street Food Hall introduces the concept of cross meal ordering, where different meals are enjoyed in a shared seating area.”
If you have a family of picky eaters or a large get-together with friends, this is a great spot where everyone can order what they like and try out different cuisines.
The food hall has everything from pizza, burgers, and southern food to curries, Mediterranean dishes, crepes, and seafood. It’s a great way to check out several local food vendors, all in one spot.
Raleigh is all about the food, and Wilson’s Eatery is no exception.
Wilson’s eatery is a local taphouse and kitchen outside downtown Raleigh off of E Whitaker Mill Road. The restaurant serves Southern-style American food including sandwiches, flatbreads, salad, and charcuterie.
It’s a warehouse space with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. They have an outdoor deck and a spacious Beer Garden they share with their sister company, Lynnwood Brewing Concern.
Reviews endlessly praise the food, beer, seating, and service – so basically everything about the place. It’s a no-brainer choice for our list.
How many of you want to find locally made goods but can never find them online? Enter the Raleigh Night Markets.
Once a month, several towns throughout the Triangle host evening markets, typically from 5pm-9pm. The markets include locally-made goods, music, entertainment, food, & drinks.
Throughout the year, there is also a specialty Paper & Stars Children’s Market with children’s vendors, entertainment, activities, & themed crafts nestled adjacent to the Raleigh Night Markets. The Children’s Market is usually at Mordecai Park or Fletcher Park in Raleigh.
Below you’ll find the different market locations and dates.
Raleigh Night Market
3rd Thursday of the month – 5pm-9pm
Moore Square at 226 E. Martin St, Raleigh, NC.
Cary Night Market
3rd Friday of the month – 5pm-9pm
The old library site at 310 S Academy St Cary, NC.
Apex Night Market
2nd Thursday of the month – 6pm-9pm
Behind the Tobacco Mule Exchange in downtown Apex at 220 N Salem St, Apex, NC.
Garner Night Market
4th Friday of the month – 5pm-9pm
Downtown Garner at 120 E Main St, Garner, NC.
Smoky Hollow Night Market
2nd Wednesday of the month – 5pm-9pm
Smoky Hollow district at 421 N Harrington Street, Raleigh, NC.
Durham Night Market
Last Thursday of the month – 5-9pm
American Tobacco Campus at 318 Blackwell St, Durham, NC.
Last but not least, this is one of our favorite summer activities. Pretty much every town in the Triangle has its own (or several) local farmers’ markets.
Most of the local farmers’ markets in the area have live music, lunch options, local artisans, and amazing local produce.
For families, it’s a great way to get your kids excited about different fruits and vegetables. And for everyone, it’s a fun way to stock your fridge with unique groceries.
Bonus: Most farmers’ markets have great pottery selections. If you haven’t visited a farmer’s market yet this summer, make the trip!
And that’s a wrap! We hope you enjoy these summer spots as much as we do. As a small, local business, we love to invest in the community and support local businesses. With this handy guide, you can do the same!