1. Where to Stay
Sample chèvre cheese and organic omelettes from the goats and chickens grazing out back at the Inn at Celebrity Dairy (from $90), an eight-room B&B and dairy farm that supplies cheese to local restaurants. (Watch the evening milking at the barn out back between 6 and 7 p.m.)
Request one of the south-facing rooms on the sixth floor at the Umstead Hotel & Spa to ensure a view of the three-acre lake and gardens from a private balcony. Even the spa is seasonal — the 50-minute raspberry-rhubarb facial ($110) is available only through August.
Listen to live bluegrass on the front porch of the Carolina Inn, a 1924 hotel decorated in southern colonial style (from $174). Picnic-style southern comfort food ($12) and cocktails ($6) are available during the Friday-night concerts.
2. Where to Eat
Elevate lunch at Toast, a paninoteca that serves its Italian-style sandwiches as tramezzini (cold), panini (hot), bruschetta (grilled), and crostini (bite-size). Nearby farms deliver ingredients twice a week.
Arrive by 1 p.m. to beat the lunchtime lines at Saxaphaw General Store, a convenience store turned gourmet café in June 2008 by owners Jeff Barney (a butcher) and Cameron Ratliff (a biscuit baker). The pizzas and sandwiches are made from in-state ingredients, like Cane Creek pork chops and Scratch Baking bread.
Gorge on North Carolina specialties like Dolly Mama’s cayenne chocolates (made with local cream), Bonlee Grown Farm’s pepper jelly, and Only Burger’s fried-green-tomato-and-pimento cheeseburgers at the Durham Farmers Market, where over 50 vendors set up stands around the picnic-friendly Durham Central Park (Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon).
3. What to Do
Knead artisanal ciabatta and sourdough with French master baker Lionel Vatinet, who teaches three-hour classes at his bakery and café La Farm ($75; call 919-657-0657 to register). Get there early to pick up weekend-only varieties like cinnamon raisin pecan or the white chocolate mini-baguette, which tend to sell out by 11 a.m.
Make your own lunch at Chop Shop, a monthly five-hour cooking class and meal ($200) taught by chef Jim Anile in his kitchen at Durham restaurant Revolution. For a less time-consuming lesson, shop the South Estes Farmers’ Market and create seasonal dishes with instructor Marilyn Markel at Chapel Hill gourmet shop, restaurant, and cooking school A Southern Season ($45; July 31).
Pick your own blueberries and blackberries at Herndon Hills Farm (7110 Massey Chapel Rd.; 919-544-3313; $2.75/pound). Berry season runs through July and ten varieties of grapes ripen in late August. Arrive at opening time (7 a.m.) on Saturdays; the blackberry bushes tend to be picked over by 9 a.m.
4. Insider’s Tip
Don’t confuse Johnny’s (901 W. Main St.; 919-593-5551) with a typical bait-and-tackle shop. In the backyard, find a local hangout, café, food-truck hub, and farmers’ market. On Fridays and Saturdays, Indian, taco, and crêpe trucks pull up at 6 p.m., and jazz and jam sessions start around the fire pit. Grab a Carolina Brewery growler from the adjoining general store.
5. Oddball Day
When Merge Records launched in Chapel Hill 21 years ago, the Triangle was a nascent hotbed for what would become known as indie rock. Today, Durham has musical opportunities for every preference. Start at Offbeat Music (905 W. Main St.; 919-688-7022), where owner Patrick McKenna’s stock includes Carolina beach music, Piedmont blues, rockabilly, and soul. At Bull City Records, a second-floor CD and record store, ask owner Chaz Martenstein to recommend a local band worth hearing. Grab a drink at pool hall and hangout the Green Room (1108 Broad St.; 919-286-2359) and compile a playlist on the jukebox—anything from obscure Curtis Mayfield to live Steely Dan—dubbed one of the top in the Triangle last year by the alt Independent Weekly. Later, head over to the Durham Central Park pavilion to listen to live funk, world, or old-school R&B bands, playing sets every Sunday through August (5 p.m.). Stop for a wood-fired pizza at the Broad Street Café, where folk, jazz, and indie-rock musicians play five nights a week (from 8 on Saturdays; 7:30 on Sundays). Finally, settle into a leather armchair with one of up to sixteen North Carolina beers on tap or your choice of more than a hundred bourbons at Whiskey, where pianist Ryan Hanseler and jazz bands play live on weekends (7 to 10 p.m.).
Keep up on concerts and restaurants opening at the Independent Weekly’s site.
Read about noteworthy local dishes and farms at the North Carolina Folk Institute’s food blog.
Search for Raleigh restaurants and reviews at New Raleigh’s Palate blog.
Find nearby pick-your-own farms and check out what’s in season at PickYourOwn.org.