Arts & Culture

August 28, 2014

Your end-of-summer bucket list

Labor Day weekend is traditionally summer's last hurrah, but thereare plenty of warm days left to check off most of these fun activities.

1. The Capital Area Greenway System gets longer every year. By foot or by bike, it’s well worth a look – or a return visit, if it’s been a while. raleighnc.gov/parks

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2. Or head west and bike, walk or run the American Tobacco Trail. triangletrails.org/american-tobacco-trail

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3. Go to the lake any lake.

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4. Not much else says “summer in the south” like a good ole tomato sandwich. For such a simple recipe – tomato, white bread, mayonnaise, salt and black pepper – these are incredibly satisfying. Eat as many as you can while local tomatoes are in season. If a plain tomato sandwich doesn’t get your motor running, Merritt’s Store and Grill in Chapel Hill makes an incredible double- or triple-decker BLT.

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5. Go to a farmer’s market and try something different. Did you know it’s persimmon season? Ever tried a Blacktwig apple?

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6. Catch a lightning bug in a jar.

Then let it go.

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7. Been to a park lately? Raleigh’s Pullen Park is essential (the carousel and the train are deservedly popular) but there are lots of great parks in your county. Visit one you’ve never been to.

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8. Find a restaurant with a lovely patio and have dinner – or just a beer – outside. Extra points if the beer is from a North Carolina brewery.

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9. Host just one more pool or lawn party. The beauty here is that these can be family-oriented and wholesome or quite not, depending on who you are and who you invite. Just be respectful of your neighbors.

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10. Try out bluegrass. The first weekend in October, the IBMA Wide Open Bluegrass Festival closes out the warm months with a weekend of fiddles, mandolins and banjos throughout downtown Raleigh. ibma.org/world-of-bluegrass

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11. Get ye to the Orange County Speedway! There are races and events through the end of October. ocstrack.net

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12. Grill out! Grilled corn is summertime magic – particularly if it’s grilled in the husk – and it goes great with basically anything. If you’re feeling adventurous, invent your own barbecue sauce recipe for chicken.

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13. First Friday makes downtown Raleigh electric with activity. If you’ve not seen what this is all about – music, food, art and more – go to one before chilly temperatures hit. godowntownraleigh.com

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14. Take a stroll down Franklin Street. Chapel Hill is small enough to walk the whole of downtown, even at a casual pace, in a reasonable amount of time. Or cross the street and stroll through the beautiful UNC campus.

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15. Make homemade lemonade – or limeade, if you want to jazz things up a bit.

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16. People-watch at Weaver Street Market in Carrboro. There’s always some sort of unscripted, unintentional theater taking place on the lawn there. weaverstreetmarket.coop

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17. Plant a fall garden. It’s a good time to put onions, turnips, lettuce, radishes and kale in the ground. ces.ncsu.edu/hil/hil-8001.html

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18. Drive over to Maple View Farm in Hillsborough for ice cream on the porch of the Country Store. mapleviewfarm.com

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19. Or if you haven’t made ice cream at home yet this summer, you have to do that.

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20. The North Carolina Botanical Gardens are neat year-round. Soon it’ll be time for the foliage to change to brilliant reds and yellows, though there’s always something in bloom. ncbg.unc.edu

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21. Do you own a trampoline? Invite some friends over. Does your friend own a trampoline? Get invited over.

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22. Going to the movies is always fun in the summer, and the Escapism Film Festival – returning to Durham’s Carolina Theatre September 19-22 – offers a neat twist. This year’s featured movies include “The Princess Bride,” “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and “This is Spinal Tap.” Fun! carolinatheatre.org

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23. Read a bad novel – one of those campy, trashy, action-packed, guilty pleasure page-turners of a book. There’ll be plenty of time to read heady stuff over the cold months.

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24. Spend some time at a hip new downtown restaurant. Durham has gained quite the reputation as a foodie town, so you may as well see what the fuss is about. triangle.com/drg

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25. Make some art. The Scrap Exchange in Durham and the Cary Creative Reuse Center are great places to repurpose junk – we mean discarded treasures – into artistic masterpieces. scrapexchange.org, carycreativecenter.org

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26. Spend a day volunteering – maybe at a local animal shelter or food pantry. You’ll feel great afterward, and if you have kids, it’ll teach them the importance of giving back to their community. It may even be something you’ll keep up year-round.

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27. Ever been hang gliding on Jockey’s Ridge? Consider it a tribute to the Wright Brothers. ncparks.gov

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28. Take your kids to the Museum of Life and Science’s dinosaur trail – because kids and dinosaurs go together like, um, kids and dinosaurs. lifeandscience.org

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29. Find some stars , spread a blanket and look up.

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30. There are still a few more chances left to see the Durham Bulls or Carolina Mudcats play at home this season! durhambulls.com, carolinamudcats.com

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31. Go to the beach. In fact, why aren’t you headed that way right now?

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32. Or go to the mountains. Hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail or go to the top of Mount Pisgah. The Art Loeb Trail, running 30 miles through Transylvania County and Haywood County, and Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in Robbinsville are two other worthy destinations.

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33. Call in sick to work. Why? See above.

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34. Catch up on some TV shows before the new seasons start. You can’t be go, go, go all the time, right?

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35. There’s still a handful of shipwrecks visible on the North Carolina coast: one, a pair of Civil War ironclads, is visible in Lockwood Folly Inlet, between Oak Island and Holden Beach, at low tide. There are others, too. nando.com/jz

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36. The Nantahala Gorge features entry-level whitewater rafting as well as vertigo-inducing zip lines along the Nanty. nantahala-river.net

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37. Catch an outdoor concert. These crop up regularly all around the Triangle or in peripheral towns and can feature anything from jazz, folk, and bluegrass to soul, reggae and rock-and-roll.

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38. See firsthand how a farm works. On September 20-21, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association holds its Eastern Triangle Farm Tour. Sign up and gain insight on raising animals, growing fruits and vegetables, keeping bees and more. carolinafarmstewards.org/etft

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39. Go off the grid. Leave your phone at home for a few hours – longer, if you can – even if it only means running your usual errands without Twitter, Facebook and email in your pocket. It’s freeing.

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40. The Triangle has some top-notch small to mid-size music clubs, and you should check them out. Take a look at the calendars for Local 506, Pinhook, Slim’s or Kings. You might find your next favorite band.

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41. Go tubing on the Eno River before the water gets too cold.

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42. The NC Zoo isn’t too far west of the Triangle. If you go during the week, the crowds aren’t bad. Over the weekends, though, the people-watching can be just as gratifying. nczoo.org

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43. Cross the border and do something campy. Stop making fun of South of the Border, Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg, Tenn. – go see what the fuss is about. Then you can go back to making fun if you want.

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44. Do some belated spring cleaning . There’s no sense in getting stuck inside a cluttered or messy house all winter.

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45. Learn something new. Get started on a hobby you’ve been meaning to get into – knitting? woodworking? stamp collecting? – and do it now so it’ll keep you busy through fall and winter.

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46. Try cable wake-boarding at the Hexagon Wake Park in Benson. If you’ve taken I-40 to the beach, you’ve seen it from the highway. Why not stop and play? hexagoncablepark.com

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47. Get some North Carolina barbecue! In the Triangle alone, there are too many worthy options to even list here. If you feel like traveling, Skylight Inn BBQ in Ayden is widely considered one of North Carolina’s best barbecue joints – and it is a tasty place.

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48. All the fun summer stuff – clothes, toys, sandals, patio and pool gear – goes on seasonal markdown soon. So stock up! It’ll be summer again, we promise.

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49. Particularly as the weather cools, bonfires seem increasingly appealing – especially when you add s’mores to the equation. Definitely make sure you have the proper permits if this is your plan, though. Tips for cooking over fire: nando.com/k1.

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50. Take a walk on your lunch break, because soon you won’t be able to.

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