Archives for posts with tag: outdoor activities

20140814_183457Nickel Creek’s first tour in seven years could not have passed through a better venue. On the road in support of “A Dotted Line,” their first studio album since 2005, the band spent an Aug. evening at Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre. This show was extra special as singer-songwriter Josh Ritter joined the bill for the second of only three nights together.

For this blogger, few events better signify the warm North Carolinian spring and summer like an evening at Koka Booth Amphitheatre. Sitting on 14 acres with a capacity of 7,000 people, the amphitheatre is encircled with hardwoods and pine trees. To the south, bordering the grounds, the shimmering Symphony Lake beckons visitors to picnic beneath the pines before and during events.

20140814_184718CobbleStone Courtyard, where the main entrance spills out, serves beer, wine, sandwiches, pizza, ice cream and other snacks.

20140814_183614Crescent Area houses Crescent Café, where guests can purchase beer, wine, mixed drinks and hot sandwiches. The amphitheatre sells table seats in Crescent Area featuring wait staff service.

20140814_18342120140814_183520A new wrinkle for me was the addition of three food trucks, and each show is sponsored by two local breweries. I lucked into Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing and Fortnight Brewing Company.

20140814_18460520140814_183917Koka Booth Amphitheatre gives patrons plenty of reason to keep coming back. Pickin’ in the Pines Bluegrass Series kicks off this year on Sept. 3 and continues every Wed. through Oct. 1. Between May and Aug., Koka Booth Amphitheatre hosts the outdoor movie series, WakeMed Movies By Moonlight. Beginning in late May, the North Carolina Symphony Summerfest runs for eight weeks. Raizin’ A Ruckus Country Music Series brings stellar country tunes every Wed. in July. Meanwhile, the venue books a star-studded lineup to play throughout the warm season. Past acts include Crosby-Stills-Nash, Alan Jackson, Duran Duran, The Avett Brothers, Ben Folds, The Lumineers and My Morning Jacket.

But on Aug. 14, Nickel Creek and Josh Ritter held the eyes and ears of my fellow Music Maniacs. At 7:30pm, Josh Ritter walked on stage. I’ve been seeing Josh Ritter live for 10 years, and this show marked the first time I’d seen him without a full band. He was joined on stage by Josh Kaufman, who added some dazzling guitar work for about half of Ritter’s set.

DSC_0073Ritter and Kaufman opened with the wistful “Monster Ballads,” setting the tone for his set: peaceful, honest and mellow. Lacking a big band, Ritter avoided the raucous songs in his catalogue, such as “To the Dogs or Whoever” and “Mind’s Eye,” to focus instead on the acoustic ballads which originally brought him notoriety. He strummed old favorites (including “Kathleen,” “The Temptation of Adam” and “Me & Jiggs”) and mixed in a few new unreleased songs, including my new favorite, “Cry Softly.” His songs tell stories of the Midwest, his literary style a unique blend of poetry and prose.

DSC_0061Ritter’s 2013 album “The Beast In Its Tracks,” a stripped down solo acoustic record, seemed destined to get lots of love from this type of set. Not surprisingly, Ritter closed his set with three songs off his newest release: “New Lover,” “Hopeful” and “Joy To You Baby,” a song about acceptance and moving forward. Ritter’s Midwestern croon had the crowd at ease and primed for the headliner.

Nickel Creek blended bluegrass with rock, pop and ragtime, creating a new genre dubbed “newgrass.” Members Chris Thile (mandolin), Sean Watkins (guitar) and Sara Watkins (violin) are all in their 30’s now (upright bass player Mark Schatz joins them on tour), but that same youthful energy that made them crowd favorites when they formed 25 years ago remains the hallmark of their music.

DSC_0091Nickel Creek began their set with their new album’s opening track “Rest Of My Life.” Ostensibly about waking up with a hangover following a wild party the night before, this song sounded to me like a metaphor for their career. Their first successful run as a band netted them, among many other awards, a 2003 GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Perhaps a hangover set in after so many years together, and now the band is waking up to a new life post-hiatus. “I’m coming to. I’m turning myself into something a little less promising, a little more useful,” Thile sang.

But that didn’t mean the band would forget the songs that made them famous. Only six of their twenty songs from their set list were off the new album. Old fans were treated to “The Lighthouse’s Tale,” “This Side,” “Smoothie Song,” “When You Come Back Down” and “Ode To A Butterfly.” New fans caught “Destination” and “21st Of May,” singles released ahead of “A Dotted Line,” as well as the humorous instrumental “The Elephant In The Corn.” After explaining that they’d been kicking around a cover song for a couple of weeks, Nickel Creek launched into Fleetwood Mac’s “The Ledge,” delighting the eclectic crowd.

DSC_0111Their two-song encore concluded at 10:30pm with the closing track from “A Dotted Line:” “Where Is Love Now.” “Where is love now?” they harmonized. “Out here in the dark?”

Clearly it was, and the crowd let them know it. Welcome back to N.C., Nickel Creek. In your absence, I never found somebody more like you.

To my fellow Music Maniacs: Miss the Nickel Creek and Josh Ritter show? Check out Koka Booth Amphitheatre’s concert lineup here and experience the stellar venue for yourself.

When dogs check into The Umstead Hotel and Spa with their owners in Cary, North Carolina, canine guests, big and small, certainly have something to wag their tails about. The hotel recently unleashed its passion for its four-legged guests with a new amenity: DogWoods

Umstead Dogwood DogThe Umstead Hotel and Spa created an enclosed playground for canines on the verdant grounds of its Five-Star property this summer. Named DogWoods, in a nod to the Dogwood trees indigenous to the area and to N.C.’s state flower, the Dogwood Blossom, the new playground offers plenty of space for running, jumping and fetching. Each pup gets some treats and a complimentary tennis ball in addition to the already-established indoor amenities: a plush bed, water bowl and additional doggie treats.

Umstead Dog AreaIt’s not uncommon for the hotel to have several doggie guests a week. Darah Whyte, marketing manager, said they wanted to enhance the hotel’s pet services. “We wanted to create a safe area where dogs could be unleashed and have some fun. They can be a dog. They can jump, bark and play.”

Umstead Dog Woods  AreaThe new DogWoods area is for hotel guests only, and is the only area on-property where dogs can be unleashed. Pets are not allowed in the restaurants.

The pet fee is $200.

Umstead Hotel and SpaThe hotel is a recipient of both the AAA Five Diamond award and Forbes Five Star rating. It has 150 guestrooms and suites, world-class cuisine, a luxury spa and a tranquil, outdoor pool, all in a serene, wooded setting.

Your dog will be begging to travel with you to Greater Raleigh so they can be pampered at The Umstead Hotel and Spa.

I suppose Raleigh could be better…

Sure, it’s a Foodie’s dream, housing the likes of Ashley Christensen, named by the James Beard Foundation as 2014 Best Chef: Southeast. I know there’s a burgeoning art scene, boosted by the presence of North Carolina Museum of Art. And yes, Greater Raleigh lists nearly two dozen breweries. The city supports innumerable collegiate and professional sports teams. I don’t need to be reminded that Raleigh has more music than any destination in North Carolina. Its citizens are open-minded, well-educated and community-centric.

But if forced to make a choice between staying static and being dynamic, well, I’ll take a second helping of awesome, please.

Enter Shop Local Raleigh, an organization designed to support locally-owned, independent businesses. You may know them as the creators of Brewgaloo, one of the largest beer festivals in the Southeast. On their latest venture, they’ve focused on the continued revitalization of the Glenwood South district in downtown Raleigh by hosting Glenwood Live.

DSC_0011Glenwood Live is a free, seven week concert series that began Thurs., Aug. 7, at the intersection of Glenwood Ave. and W. Lane St. Each Thurs. evening through Sept. 18, a local band will play an outdoor concert from 5:30-8:30pm. The event’s location changes each week, cycling through the Glenwood Ave. intersections of W. Lane St., Tucker St. and North St.

DSC_0014Glenwood Live encourages families (and pets) to chill and relax in the warm summer evenings. The series is sponsored by Oskar Blues Brewery, DeMo’s Pizza and Clear Channel Media & Entertainment, so of course there’s plenty of beer, wine, food and even margaritas. Beginning on Aug. 14, Right Time Kids joins the fun to offer face painting, balloon animals and other child-oriented activities so that everyone stays entertained.

DSC_0007
DSC_0034On the inaugural day of the series, acoustic duo Chapel Hill Serenaders took the stage, playing traditional music from the Southeastern U.S. The band, composed of singer and multi-instrumentalist Cary Moskovitz and fellow multi-instrumentalist Ed Witkin, focused on music dating mainly from 1923-1935. Moskovitz recently finished recording a tribute to Papa Charlie Jackson, who was the first blues musician to make records when he signed with Paramount Records in the early 1920s, and the setlist reflected this infatuation. Their selections included old standards in blues, ragtime, jazz and Hokum.

DSC_0017Moskovitz stayed true to style by playing a 1930 Paramount banjo, a 1930 S.S. Stewart guitar made by Gibson and a 1950 Martin tenor guitar. He also employed a harmonica and kazoo. Witkin, who grew up playing the piano, brought the most interesting instrument of the two: a banjo he built himself while in high school in 1979.

DSC_0026Let me reiterate–this event is FREE. Bring the family. Walk the dog. Explore the streets of Glenwood South. Need to eat? There are plenty of options, notably Plates, Sushi Blues, Sushi O and MoJoe’s Burger Joint. Want a beer? Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing sits around the corner and a new bottle shop, Stag’s Head, just opened at 106 Glenwood Ave. Inspired by the music and looking to get back into playing guitar? Harry’s Guitar Shop will get you going.

Embrace the growing scene on South Glenwood Ave. by checking out Glenwood Live. Visit the official website for the schedule and further information.

It’s the first Friday of the month! That means downtown Raleigh will be popping off and erupting with opportunity for artistic exposure. Head out for a foodie fix, grab drinks, and then wander the streets alongside other art-heads craving a healthy after-hours dose of creativity. Most downtown galleries will stay open extra late tonight, and many will be hosting a reception or other event in honor of a new exhibition opening.

Steer course towards one of my favorite downtown areas, the warehouse district and pop into The Visual Art Exchange on Martin Street. The hip, non-profit gallery and artist association hosts a new exhibition each month in its main gallery. Last month’s show Bits + Bytes cycles out tonight, making way for August’s Monochrome, which features work containing or using only one color. Don’t forget to explore The Cube, featuring experimental and installation art. Tonight artists Kiki Farish and Lauren Kennedy, whose work is featured in The Cube, will participate in an Artists Talk beginning at 6:30.

Also check out Flanders Gallery right down the street at the intersection of Martin and S. West Streets. Flanders’ previous exhibition Make Ends Meet resulted in the entire outer gallery being covered in a multi-colored, camouflage shell of crocheted yarn. The show shut down last week, making way for a new exhibition opening this evening. Terrains of Absencewill feature prints and photographs by Mark Iwinski. Stop by the gallery between 9:30pm and 11:45pm to peruse the works and hear the sweet tunes of musical group Muhsinah, which will perform a gallery concert hosted by The Art of Cool Project.

For a full list of venues and events check out the First Friday website. See you DT tonight!

Written by Creative Genius Katie.

Calling all runners and walkers!  You won’t want to miss out on this one-of-a-kind chance to get involved in Raleigh’s National Hockey League All-Star 5K, presented by visitRaleigh and hosted by your very own Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL.

On Saturday, Jan. 29th, participants of all abilities are invited to loop around the RBC Center as part of the NHL’s 2011 All-Star Weekend. Whether you’re a runner or a walker, competitive or casual, a kid or an adult, this 5K is a great way to have a nice, healthy morning while benefiting the Carolina Hurricanes Kids N’ Community Foundation.

Sound like fun to you?  Then register for the NHL All-Star 5K, find your warmest running gear and head out to the RBC Center at 9 a.m. for a Saturday morning that will be just as fun as it will be refreshing.

When you reflect on your fun winter memories, there’s a chance that ice skating might cross your mind.  You may think about the iconic Rockefeller Center Ice Rink in New York City or the frozen pond you played on as a child, but the chances are that, in the years to come, you’ll associate the winter holidays with the AT&T Winterfest Ice Rink in downtown Raleigh.

Now in its second year, the Winterfest Ice Rink is becoming an annual tradition for area visitors and local families alike.  Winterfest is a two-month long celebration in City Plaza, featuring the natural ice rink.  Now bigger than ever before, Winterfest will host several figure skating performances throughout the season, as well as free public figure skating lessons.

Winterfest kicks off on Dec. 4th with a free event featuring performances by several headliners, acts from local choirs and bands, a visit by Santa Claus, a dazzling holiday tree, and carriage and carousel rides.  With two full months packed full of activities, this opening extravaganza will be a glimpse into all of the fun to come during the winter months.  Tickets for the ice skating rink can be purchased here.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find a single area that has all the ingredients for a great RV vacation? Good news! Greater Raleigh has everything a lively family requires for an unforgettable vacation. Great camping, unlimited outdoor recreation and lots of interesting local history; this scenic North Carolina city has it all.

Celebrating the Outdoors in the Raleigh Area

As we mentioned, Greater Raleigh has great RV camping venues waiting to play host to your family. William B. Umstead State Park, for example, is a wonderland of hardwood forests and pristine fishing waters. Plan to spend time in a canoe or on one of the picturesque hiking trails during your stay.

Falls Lake State Recreation Area presents RV campers with more than twenty-thousand acres of hiking, wildlife viewing and mountain biking possibilities. Take your pick from three comfortable RV campgrounds and take the time to explore this fascinating recreation area.

Even More to Do in the Raleigh Area

RV camping families will enjoy Greater Raleigh’s wide variety of art, science and children’s museums. Roll down to Marbles Kids Museum for a day of fun and exploration. Spend the afternoon walking the trails and admiring the art in the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Museum Park. Older kids will especially love the exhibits and activities at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, one of the largest in the region. No matter what your family’s passion, there’s a museum in Greater Raleigh to learn from and enjoy on your RV vacation.

Once you’ve explored Raleigh’s museums, head for Moore Square District in downtown Raleigh for a fascinating collection of dining and shopping possibilities. And don’t even think about leaving Raleigh without sampling legendary North Carolina whole-hog barbecue at The Pit!

Are you already beginning to envision the things you’ll do on your Raleigh area RV vacation? This gracious Southern city is worthy of a lengthy stay! Camp in the beauty of North Carolina’s rolling hills and hit the streets of Raleigh for a captivating excursion into the people, art and science that have helped to shape the Tar Heel State.

About the Author
Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV Rentals. For other great RV camping vacation ideas see Monty’s Musings RV Camping Blog or the new Monty’s RV Vacation Photo/Picture Gallery.

Do you like a little adrenaline coursing through your veins?  Do you have the need for speed and love to witness and participate in high-speed racing?  If this sounds like you or someone you know, then it’s about time you learned about the Wake County Speedway in Raleigh.  Here, you can bring your family out to watch the intensely entertaining races, or you can find a car and a sponsor and register to race yourself

The Wake County Speedway was built in 1962 and has been the premier car racing location in Greater Raleigh ever since.  This historic .23 mile bullring has served up plenty of adrenaline pumping races for spectators and drivers alike.

There are drivers registered in a wide array of divisions, from four cylinder to future star mini cup to UCAR division.  Tickets in the grandstands are only $12 for adults and decrease in price by age group until you get down to the free children age 5 and younger.  This is a fantastic family sporting event that won’t break the bank.

The next big event at Wake County Speedway is the Walls Roofing UCARS 2nd Annual Spook-Tackler event on Nov. 6th, which will host UCARS racing, Mini Cups racing, kid bike races and the Thunderin’ Blues Band.  For more information about this event or the speedway, visit this website.

Sometimes it’s important to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and go on a secluded outdoor adventure that includes you, a few buddies or family members and a nice, sturdy fishing pole.  It may seem like such a place would be hard to come by near the state capital, but rest assured that Greater Raleigh has just as many tranquil fishing spots as it does bustling city wonders.

In Raleigh you’ll find plenty of good fishing on Shelley Lake and at the William B. Umstead State Park.  At Shelley Lake you’ll find 53 acres of water to fish on to your heart’s content and the Umstead State Park has not one, but three lakes, where popular catches include bass, bluegill and crappie.

At Bass Lake Park and Retreat Center in Holly Springs, you’ll find free bank fishing and boat rentals to help you in your hunt for bass.  You can also find guided bass fishing tours on the area’s best bass waters through Outdoor Expeditions USA.

For a comprehensive list of fishing spots in Greater Raleigh, visit this site.  There’s nothing like a little fishing and a great catch to add to any vacation.

Greater Raleigh has a wide array of activities and events that can satisfy any true adrenaline junkie’s cravings.  Whether you like to jump into the action yourself or cheer on your favorite team at an intense sporting event, this area can get your adrenaline pumping.  A perfect day for you might go a little something like this:

Any day is made a better day by some early morning activity to get you going.  Wake up with the sunrise and carpe diem through any type of outdoor exercise.  Go on a naturally scenic hike through Umstead State Park or bike on the trails of the N.C. Museum of Art to get your heart rate up and prepare yourself for a fun and exciting day.

After you’ve worked out, you can cool down with a less active but equally exciting activity, such as boating and sailing on Falls Lake, playing golf at the new Lonnie Poole Golf Course or fishing at any of the numerous lakes and rivers in the area.

Now that you’ve had ample outdoor fun, head over to Rush Hour Karting for some indoor go-kart racing with family and friends.  Here, you can warm up your competitive spirit before attending any number of sports games in the area, from collegiate games to Carolina Hurricanes hockey, Carolina RailHawks soccer, or Carolina Mudcats baseball.  Just see when they’re scheduled and take your pick!

A day like this is just an example of all the fun an adrenaline junkie can have in Greater Raleigh!

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