Fourth of July Celebrations in Central North Carolina

Things to Do in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill This Independence Day

An aerial view of downtown Raleigh as fireworks light up the sky on July 4, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Lance King/Getty Images

Food, fun, and fireworks are iconic Fourth of July traditions, but North Carolina cities really go above and beyond these typical Independence Day celebrations.

If you're traveling through central North Carolina, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the nation's birthday, including on the weekend before and after the holiday. From the cool capital of Raleigh to the college town of Chapel Hill, you'll find music festivals, street fairs, and baseball games in honor of July Fourth this year.

Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Cary are all within a 30-mile radius of each other, making it an easy road trip for locals and out-of-town visitors. So head over to this bustling area of North Carolina to check out these Independence Day events.

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    As North Carolina's capital and the second biggest city in the state, Raleigh is a destination that has a lot going for it. The City of Oaks is famed for its tree-lined streets and Southern charm, but head out to the eastern area of the city for a huge celebration on Independence Day in 2018.

    The event is free and open to the public, with parking available at the PNC Arena, Carter-Finley Stadium, and the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. The arena will open its gates at 6 p.m. and the fireworks are set to launch around 9:30 p.m. on July 4 (July 5 in the event of rain).

    Other events in Raleigh on the Fourth include the Keep RLGH Independent 4-Mile at Dorothea Dix Park, a concert by the Barenaked Ladies at ​Red Hat Amphitheater, the 4th of July Celebration at the State Capitol grounds, and the 4th of July Day Party in Downtown.

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    Chapel Hill is home to one of America's most beautiful campuses at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The college's many leafy quads spill out onto Franklin Street, the main artery of the city, which is dotted with quirky coffee shops, fashion boutiques, and inventive eateries. All of these perks make Chapel Hill the perfect home base for your Fourth of July stay.

    You can start the holiday off in Carrboro, a small town just five minutes west of Chapel Hill, where you can watch the bike parade before heading to Kenan Memorial Stadium on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus for the evening fireworks.

    The event at Kenan Memorial Stadium was rated by Travel + Leisure magazine as one of the "Top 10 Places to See Fireworks" in 2016, and the tradition returns on July 4, 2018. Gates will open at 6 p.m. and the fireworks are expected to begin at 9:30 p.m. sharp. Although technically free to attend, a $1 suggested donation helps keep the program alive year after year.

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    Durham's Sports and Music Events

    The city of Durham has two options for visitors to enjoy over the Independence Day holiday: sports and music.

    Sports fans can enjoy a day watching the Durham Bulls play their annual Fourth of July baseball game, followed by a dynamic firework show. The game will be played at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, adjacent to the Durham Performing Arts Center in the heart of downtown Durham. In 2018, the game and show will take place a night early on Tuesday, July 3. 

    Meanwhile, culture vultures shouldn't miss Festival for the Eno—a music and arts event held in West Point on the Eno, a 388-acre city park just 15 minutes north of the baseball stadium. This four-day extravaganza features a craft fair, beer garden, and music lineup of more than 70 bands across four stages. Tickets start at an affordable $18 each.

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    Ten miles west of the capital, Cary is a central town in The Triangle, a historic region bordered by Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. The cute hamlet holds an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration on Independence Eve. Then, on July Fourth, there will be fireworks and a free performance by the North Carolina Symphony at Koka Booth Amphitheatre.

    The holiday celebrations kick off on Tuesday, July 3, 2018, at 6:30 pm at the Cary Arts Center. This year's Independence Eve Celebration will commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War One (November 11, 1918) with a selection of songs written during the war.

    Independence Day kicks off with the Olde Time Celebration at Bond Park (near the Fred G. Metro Bond Park's Boathouse) at 8 a.m. for the annual fishing tournament. The annual parade will start at 10:30 a.m. immediately followed by family contests including donut eating, watermelon eating, lakeside Olympics, seed spitting, and sidewalk decorating.

    From 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., you can head over to the July 4th Celebration at Koka Booth Amphitheatre, which offers kids' activities, a Ferris wheel, a Berry-Go-Round, scavenger hunt, more contests, the Cary Town Band, and the North Carolina Symphony followed by a firework display over the Symphony Lake.