What to do in Raleigh when you’ve had enough bluegrass

While we would like to think bluegrass people are all about bluegrass music 24 hours a day, it’s simply not true. Sometimes you have to take time away from the music to do other things – you know, like eat and sleep. Other times, you just need a respite from the incessant ring of an out-of-tune banjo. You might just feel the need to see the light of day every now and then. So, in the event that you or your family want a quick break away from the World of Bluegrass festival this week in Raleigh, NC, here are a few places we suggest you check out.

We’ve done our best to provide a variety of things for bluegrass artists and fans to check out while attending the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass event; however, keep in mind this isn’t an exhaustive list of things to do and see.

Where to Eat:

The food choices at the World of Bluegrass can be somewhat limited. There are several restaurants within walking distance of the convention center, and a plethora of vendors at the weekend StreetFest, but for those who need a little more sustenance, try one (or two, or three, or more) of these places.

Chuck’s (Gourmet Burgers)
 237 Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
This place probably isn’t like your hometown burger joint. If you’re looking for a dang good burger, consider walking the short distance from the convention center to Chuck’s. It’s a hip little restaurant with a modern feel. Their fried pickles are a favorite of Bluegrass Today editor John Lawless.

Beasley’s Chicken and Waffles (Deluxe Fried Chicken) 
237 Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
Fried chicken isn’t just a staple of the American South; it’s a staple of the bluegrass community at large. If you’d like to get a hot meal quickly, go check out Beasley’s. As the name suggests, they’ve got some good fried chicken and waffles. 

Insomnia Cookies (Sweet Tooth Heaven)
 2302 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607
If you’re looking for that perfect midnight snack, what’s better than a cookie? The perfect item is just a quick phone call away.  Whether you’d like a chocolate chip, sugar, oatmeal raisin, or snickerdoodle treat, I strongly suggest giving Insomnia Cookies a try. Yes, they deliver. Yes, they’re open until 3:00 a.m.

The Pit Authentic Barbeque (Service Plus) 328 W. Davie Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
You can almost guess where a person is from by asking what kind of barbeque they like, and although a Memphis style or Kansas City style barbeque aficionado might not love the tangy vinegary sauce served at The Pit, I’m sure they’ll enjoy their experience at this restaurant. The meat is cooked well and the wait staff is attentive and personable. Just be careful not to fill up on the biscuits and hush puppies. 

Char Grill (Fast Food Cooked to Order)
 618 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27603
I wouldn’t necessarily want to walk the several blocks from the convention center to the closest location, but if you’re looking for a cheap meal that isn’t quite fast food, but made to order when you order, you might want to give this place a try. As their name suggests, burgers and hot dogs are cooked over an open flame. Make sure to check out the brownies and milkshakes too, they’re worth the extra few dollars.

For the Nature Lover:

If the dim lights, thick smoke, and convention center ballrooms start to get to you, head to the great outdoors. Though Raleigh is a fairly large city, there are plenty of parks to give you some fresh air and sunlight.

Historic Yates Mill County Park 4620 Lake Wheeler Road Raleigh, NC 27603
A wildlife refuge and historical area featuring hiking trails, a large pond, and an 18th century gristmill open for guided tours on the weekends. Open from 8:00 AM to sunset, it’s known for gorgeous scenery and peaceful walks.

Pullen Park 408 Ashe Avenue Raleigh, NC 27606
A high-quality public park with attractions for the whole family, this park is located just west of downtown near NC State. It’s great for children, with train rides, a carousel, paddle boats, and several playgrounds for kids of different ages.

JC Raulston Arboretum 4415 Beryl Rd Raleigh, NC 27606
This 10-acre arboretum and botanical garden provides plenty of room to stroll around and enjoy the sunshine. Special features include a rose garden with over 200 varieties of roses, a Japanese garden, a white garden which only includes plants and flowers with a white or gray hue, and a paradise garden which is curated to appeal to the senses. Best part? It’s free!

For the Culture Fan:

If you prefer the peaceful surroundings of a museum, if you’re an art buff, or if you’re the type that takes vacations to historical sites, these places might be right up your alley.

North Carolina Museum of Art 2110 Blue Ridge Rd Raleigh, NC 27607
With a collection that spans over 5,000 years, it’s one of the South’s premier art museums. There are over 40 galleries that include works from major artists such as Rodin, Monet, and Titian. In addition to paintings and sculptures from the last few centuries, the museum also includes historical pieces from ancient American and Egyptian cultures. Viewing the permanent collection is free to the public.

North Carolina Museum of History 5 E Edenton St Raleigh, NC 27601
An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, this museum is located downtown. Exhibits focus on the state of North Carolina, exploring the state’s agriculture, role in wars, and its path from pre-history to the present. The museum offers a special gallery and programming for children with hands-on exhibits and other activities. Other current exhibits feature fashion and the designs of Louis Tiffany. Visit as much as you want; yet again, it’s free!

North Carolina State Capitol One East Edenton Street Raleigh, NC
You don’t have to be a fan of politics to enjoy a good historic building. The North Carolina State Capitol was completed in 1840 and is one of the best-preserved examples of Greek Revival architecture open to the public. You can tour the rotunda, which includes numerous statues of famous North Carolinians, the legislative chambers, and the state library room. Keep your wallets in your pockets – the capitol doesn’t charge for self-guided tours.


Raleigh is also home to plenty of great shopping, bars, historic neighborhoods, and other museums and cultural locations. Hockey fans might also want to check out the Carolina Hurricanes home game against the Washington Capitals on Friday night at the PNC Arena.

For more details and a more in-depth listing of things to do in Raleigh, check out www.visitraleigh.com, the city’s official tourism website.

Share this:

About the Author

John Curtis Goad

John Goad is a graduate of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program, with a Masters degree in both History and Appalachian Studies from ETSU.