Cary – once a bedroom community of neighboring, Raleigh – has grown into the seventh-largest city in North Carolina and is becoming a destination in its own right.
Cultural arts festivals such as Spring Daze (April 30; details below) and Lazy Daze (Aug. 27-28) draw big crowds. Music fills the air at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre (www.boothamphitheatre.com), which attracts national and international headliners and where the N.C. Symphony makes its summer home.
Take in an independent film or an entire film series at The Cary Theater (www.thecarytheater.com). Enjoy the patio and a meal at the Academy Street Bistro (www.academystreetbistro.com) or a good old-fashioned hot dog at Ashworth Drugs (www.ashworthdrugs.com).
Need a couple of excellent reasons to get you started?
The Mayton Inn, a locally-owned four-diamond hotel (www.maytoninn.com), looks historic but is brand new and brightens an already appealing downtown. It sits across from Cary’s library and soon there will be a park next door. The 45-room boutique hotel offers a high-tech, environmentally sustainable atmosphere with a vintage-looking art deco decor. Relax at The Highball Bar; enjoy a Southern-inspired meal at Verandah, where the chef works magic with cornmeal fried oysters with smoked corn and hominy succotash, or smoked, pan-seared pork belly with fennel, sweet onion and local goat cheese. At breakfast, don’t pass over the caramelized apple pancakes with whipped butter and toasted pecans. Check into Tonic Remedies for one or more of the hotel’s spa services.
Don’t think of leaving Cary without a visit to La Farm Bakery (www.lafarmbakery.com). Famed baker Lionel Vatinet has a passion for bread and, after just one introduction, so will you. Come into the French-style cafe and enjoy pastries, quiche, pizza, sandwiches, tarts and artisan breads galore. Take a special loaf home. Vatinet loves to share his knowledge through on-site bread-making classes. Sign up before heading to Cary.
Area info: www.visitraleigh.com (type “Cary” into search window).
April 9: Beer & Bacon Festival, Koka Booth Amphitheatre. This all-you-care-to-taste extravaganza comes complete with the best craft beers… and, of course ,bacon. Enjoy a souvenir glass and 75-plus international beers and wines. Two tons of gourmet bacons will be griddled onsite (until 3pm). The main stage will host live music all day. All of this plus fun foodie exhibits and more. $29-$59. Details: www.beerandbacon.com.
April 22-23: Brewgaloo, Fayetteville Street, Raleigh. Presented by Shop Local Raleigh, Brewgaloo is a large N.C. craft beer festival that includes live music and food trucks. Beer is sampled by the pour or by the pint. Details: www.everfest.com/e/brewgaloo-raleigh-nc.
April 23: Great Grapes Wine & Food Festival, Koka Booth Amphitheatre. Great Grapes! has grown to be a premiere-but- casual N.C. wine event that features 20 wineries, great live music, fun festival eats, arts and crafts and gourmet items and free kids area. $20-$49. Details: www.uncorkthefun.com.
April 30: 23rd Annual Spring Daze Arts & Crafts Festival, in 310-acre Fred G. Bond Metro Park, features more than 180 N.C. artists, entertainment on four stages, festival food and Cary’s Earth Day celebration. Details on this or the late-summer Lazy Days festival: www.townofcary.org (type “Daze” into search window).