International Festival of Raleigh (Fri-Sun)

I think nobody needs convincing that Raleigh is more mulitcultural than ever, but if you wondered just how many immigrant communities there are, come out to the International Festival at the Convention Center this weekend. From El Salvadorian dance to Lebanese food and Vietnamese cooking demos, you will find something from all the places you’ve always wanted to visit but never got to go.

http://www.internationalfestival.org

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PepperFest (Sun 3-7)

Do you like Peppers? You probably didn’t expect it, but there is a Festival just for you. In its sixth year, the Annual Amazing Abundance Pepper Festival takes place on Sunday in Chapel Hill. Sample all sort of pepper dishes, celebrate pepper king and queen, and even sample pepper micro brews!
Pepper Festival Website

Bluegrass and Barbecue

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Raleigh has snagged the Annual Bluegrass Convention and surrounding hootenannies from Nashville. If Bluegrass and Barbecue is not your world, it might be best to stay home for the weekend or go to the beach. (For better alternatives, see below.)

Assuming that you’re looking for some free entertainment with kids, here are the options: There are actually two kids’ areas, one next to the convention center facing the Marriott (Salisbury St.) and the other further up on Martin St. Near the main stage on City Plaza, there is a dedicated hula hoop space.

Want band recommendations? (see schedule for details):

Big Fat Gap (Fri 3p), Kruger Brothers (Fri 6:15p), Lou Reid and Carolina (8:15p) on Friday; then the Church Sisters (Sat 4pm), Vickie Vaughn Band (Sat 5:15) and Chatham County Line (9:30p) on Saturday.

And what about the barbecue?

The NC Whole Hog Barbecue State Championship is co-located with the festival. Pigs will go on the grill on Friday at 9pm, and will be ready on Saturday for lunch. Barbecue will be for sale after the judging is over.

bluegrass

Young Audience by Hindrik S, licenced under CC BY-NC-SA

BugFest

Another annual event that we’re looking forward to each fall is BugFest. It is organized by the Science Museum, and it clearly deserves being called a “Fest”. Live Bugs, Dead Bugs, Small Bugs, Big Bugs, Bug Movies, Bug Crafts, Bug Races, Bug Art: It is BugFest. To point out my personal favorites:

  • The Alberti Flea Circus: We’ve all heard of a Flea Circus, but have you actually seen one? Performing at BugFest throughout the day.
  • Cafe Insecta: They serve bugs. No kidding! Fried Grasshoppers, anyone?
  • Horseshoe Crabs: If you’ve been to an aquarium around here, you’ll know that they are among the most fascinating sea creatures.
  • Cyborg Insects: NC State’s iBionics Lab connects microcontrollers to cockroach brains, and makes them run left or right.
  • Stump the Experts: Bring any bug to the examination table and the experts will identify it. (We did that last year, and brought what turned out to be a Phidippus Audax we found earlier that day.)

Visit the BugFest website for detailed directions, or just head out to the museum and the Plaza and enjoy what you find.

Phidippus audax

Phidippus audax (yes, we singlehandedly caught one last year)

Eastern Triangle Farm Tour

First off, I was wondering why this is the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour. Is there a competing Western Triangle Farm Tour? Is it only in the Eastern part of the Triangle? Neither is the case, so it will have to stay a mystery. (Unless you know and tell me!) 27 farms, all over the Triangle and beyond, are opening their gates and barns to curious foodies, goat fans, and homesick farmer’s granddaughters.

You need to buy a ticket ($30 per car), and can visit as many farms as you can squeeze into four hours. (Or eight, if you go both days.) Farms are open from 1p-5p, so it pays to plan your route if you want to really see more than just 1-2 farms. Print the guidebook ahead of time.

One potentially good route would be to head out towards Bunn, where four farms are relatively close together. Don’t try to squeeze all four in, consider it three visits with one backup. Another option is to head South, where three farms are scattered around the Holly Springs / Fuquay-Varina area.

Here my personally picked tour: Leave Raleigh on Capital Blvd. and continue on to Hwy-401. Eventually you take 98-East and follow directions to Ray Family Farms, a meat farm with large black hogs, cows and free range chicken. If you’re vegan, you’ll like the next stop, Vollmer Farms, focusing on berries and vegetables. They also have a large unique playground (“The Back Forty”). Next stop could be Sun Raised Foods, a solar powered farm that raises lamb (sold at Whole Foods). Rare Earth Farms, if you still have time, focuses on Natural Grass-Fed Beef. Continue down Hwy. 39S and then on Hwy 64/264 back home. To conveniently load all addresses and directions in Google Maps, use this link.

Raleigh M.A.I.N Event

MAINIf you’ve lived in Raleigh for a few years, you know that we’re getting ready for the busiest month: Babysitters are booked months in advance, OpenTable.com crashes and pedestrian traffic jams block downtown sidewalks. We used to call it just ‘busy September’, but this year it has become “The M.A.I.N. event“, a cleverly chosen acronym for music, art, innovation and, um, noise. So we’ll focus on the first two, since innovation is focused on grown-up stuff like entrepreneurship, angel funding and venture capital, and the noise, well, we parents have that year-round.

Of the 18 events that make up M.A.I.N, here are the best for families and kids:

  • The African-American Culture Festival is this weekend on City Plaza, and features a family village, including a stage with kids’ acts.
  • Hopscotch, a week later, has little to no kids-programming, but draws many fringe activities that make it fun to be downtown for all ages.
  • On that same Sunday, the Fiesta del Pueblo will have ‘Ninolandia’ for the kids.
  • Another week later, Sept. 12-15 is dedicated to SparkCon, with many options for kids, from music to street art to circus and fashion shows.
  • After catching our breath (or attending a few entrepreneur event without kids), we put in the ear plugs and get ready for Capital City Bikefest, organized by Ray Price Harley Davidson, and declared “family-friendly”. If you think kids and bikers don’t go together, read this article. There will be stunt shows and more to excite little vroom vroom fans.
  • As the bikers are rolling off into the sunset, we seamlessly shift into a quieter kind of noise, as Bluegrass takes over from Sept. 24-28. A whole week of music, trade fair and award show will offer plenty opportunities to bring your kids closer to this genre that is so closely tied to our state.
  • To round off the month, Marbles‘ birthday party is on 9/28, as is the (re-)opening of the City Museum.

Ready? As the wild things said, “Let the wild rumpus start!”

Benefit for the Saturday Market (Sat 9:30a-1:30p)

A visit to the Saturday Market often marks the beginning of the weekend for us. What has started as a food truck and a farm table a couple years ago has become a steady and year-round fixture in our Boylan Heights neighborhood.

The food truck(s) rotate, so it is always a surprise what you find. Captain Poncho and Chirba Chirba are among our favorites. You can always find coffee and sweets, and for “real groceries”, the LoMo Market has a wide variety of fresh vegetables, baked goods, meat, dairy and sometimes seafood.

For the kids, a visit to market is almost as cool as a visit to a farm. Besides the chicken coops, which are the main draw, it is interesting to see what is growing in the garden, watch a train maneuver through the Boylan Wye, or just run around.

This Saturday, a special Benefit event is taking place. You’ll need tickets ($10/adult $5/kid), and will get roasted pork, sides, drink and beer.

To me, the Saturday Market is probably the most authentic Farmers Market we have around, and it is well worth a visit even if you live further away.

Saturday Market