An Insider’s Guide to Navigating the Raleigh Arts Scene

image of shimmer wall in downtown Raleigh

So you’re looking at colleges in the Raleigh area. With many great colleges, a dynamic technology hub, and beautiful scenery, Raleigh truly is a great place to be a student. Whether you’re interested in sports, arts, music, movies, or entertainment, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for: Oak City has a thriving arts scene, with a little something for everyone. Here’s a roundup of some of my favorite things to see and do.

Art festivals and exhibits

Every month, Downtown Raleigh hosts the First Friday Art Walks, showcasing the local creative community, with art, music, food, and retailers. They draw crowds so big that the city closes off most downtown streets to allow pedestrians to walk freely. SPARKcon and Artsplosure are two other annual arts festivals in the city. And while you’re walking around Raleigh, keep an eye out for colorful walls: you may find one of the many murals and public artworks that are scattered around the city.

Let’s also not forget about the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), located in downtown Raleigh, and the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA). With more than a dozen galleries and a 164-acre park, the NCMA also offers frequent new exhibits. Both museums offer great opportunities for you to take that perfect Instagram shot, too!

Fun nights under the stars

During the nice summer months, how about catching one of your favorite movies under the stars? You can watch many outdoor movies, whether you’re into classics or new blockbusters. Raleigh Little Theatre, Koka Booth Amphitheater, NCMA, Garner Performing Arts Center, or Wake Forest’s Lux Park are all great options for you. The incredible list of movies range from Frozen, Coco, and The Lion King, to Star Wars, Black Panther, and Wonder Woman, or to Mean Girls and The Greatest Showman. Some are even free to attend!

Raleigh is also home to several performing arts centers, including the North Carolina Symphony, Theater, and Opera, as well as the Carolina Ballet. With so many talented artists, the possibilities are endless – from Shakespeare performances to geeky symphonies around the themes of Star Wars or Legend Of Zelda, Broadway productions, and Russian Ballets.


If you’re passionate about films, Raleigh has a lot more to offer, too! A new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema recently opened in the area. A combination of movie theater, video rental, and restaurant, any screening at the Alamo Drafthouse is a one-of-a-kind experience. Come early to go through their collection, order a good meal to enjoy during the movie, or sit down and share some snacks with your friends in the stylish lobby. Raleigh is also the home of Marbles IMAX, North Carolina’s only 3D-capable giant screen.

So, no matter whether you’re into festivals, movies, or exhibits, Raleigh’s arts scene can deliver. Read our other posts on Raleigh & RTP to learn what the area offers college students.

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