A guide to Triangle nightlife: Bars, breweries, arcades, live music and more

·8 min read

It could be argued that life in the Triangle revolves around work.

From well-known research and technology companies, to local hospitals and the health care industry, to start-ups and more, chances are that if you live here, you’re also putting in long hours at your job.

But you can’t work all the time, right?

Whether you want to grab drinks after work or you’re looking to kick back on the weekends, you should know a little about the region’s nightlife scene — bars, breweries and bar arcades, plus nightclubs, LGBT nightlife and live music venues.

Here’s a guide to help you make the most of your time after you punch the clock.

Find the best bars in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill

There are lots of bars in the Triangle — too many to list here. Instead, we’ve selected specific locations in Triangle cities where lots of bars are closely grouped together, giving you the opportunity to explore as many as you’d like at one time.

Raleigh: Glenwood South — The Downtown Raleigh Alliance calls Glenwood South one of downtown’s “signature streets,” and says the area has an “eclectic mix of restaurants, art galleries, stores, nightlife and residences.”

The district is known as the hot spot for Raleigh bars, nightclubs and breweries. You’re bound to find a place that’s right for you.

Popular Glenwood South bars include Raleigh Beer Garden, Hibernian Irish Pub & Restaurant and Dogwood Bar & Eatery.

Learn more about Glenwood South and find a list of businesses there at downtownraleigh.org/districts/glenwood-south.

Durham: Downtown Durham — Discover Durham, which promotes and markets Durham to visitors and locals, calls downtown Durham “uber convenient” for bar hopping, due to the area’s walkability. Within a less-than-one-mile radius, Discover Durham says, you can find a wide range of options with cocktails, beer, wine and more.

Popular bar choices in downtown Durham include Kingfisher for craft cocktails, Bull City Ciderworks for hard cider and The Roof at The Durham Hotel for great rooftop views of the city.

Find out more about the bar and nightlife scene in downtown Durham at discoverdurham.com/blog/guide-bars-nightlife-durham.

Chapel Hill: Franklin Street — Chapel Hill, home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is largely a college town, complete with lots of college bars on Franklin Street, one of the main streets in the town.

Favorite bars among students include He’s Not Here (Home of the Blue Cup), Top of the Hill and Goodfellows. But there are also other, more upscale bars in the area, including The Crunkleton.

Find out more about the bar and nightlife scene in Chapel Hill and the rest of Orange County at visitchapelhill.org/things-to-do/nightlife.

Patrons party in an outdoor area at Alchemy in the Glenwood South bar and restaurant district in Raleigh Wednesday night, Nov. 25, 2020.
Patrons party in an outdoor area at Alchemy in the Glenwood South bar and restaurant district in Raleigh Wednesday night, Nov. 25, 2020.

Breweries in the Triangle

Like craft beer? The Triangle is home to lots — and we mean lots — of breweries.

We can’t name each of them individually here, but if you’re looking to try out a variety of options, we’d recommend following the Raleigh Beer Trail, compiled by Visit Raleigh and sponsored by Raleigh Beer Garden in 2021.

The trail features 42 brewery locations in and around Raleigh, allowing you to stay close to the city or venture out to others, including Cary, Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Wake Forest and more.

For more information on the Raleigh Beer Trail, visit raleighbeertrail.com.

Another opportunity to try a variety of beer comes annually at Brewgaloo, North Carolina’s largest craft beer festival, hosted right in the heart of downtown Raleigh by Shop Local Raleigh.

The 2-day festival features more than 110 craft breweries from around the state, plus local food trucks, vendors and bands — allowing you to taste beer from across North Carolina without leaving the Triangle.

The event requires tickets, which can be purchased in advance or day-of. Find more information about Brewgaloo ticketing at shoplocalraleigh.org/brewgaloo/tickets.

The 2022 festival will take place April 22-23.

Find out more about Brewgaloo at shoplocalraleigh.org/brewgaloo.

Downtown Raleigh hosts Brewgaloo, one of the state’s largest beer festivals, pouring brews from more than 100 North Carolina breweries and drawing more than 50 food trucks.
Downtown Raleigh hosts Brewgaloo, one of the state’s largest beer festivals, pouring brews from more than 100 North Carolina breweries and drawing more than 50 food trucks.

Bar arcades in the Triangle

Bar arcades combine your favorite games from your younger years with your favorite adult beverages.

Try your hand at Skee-Ball while downing a beer, or play Pac-Man while sipping a mixed drink. (Maybe the libations will even improve your performance.)

Here are some barcade options in the Triangle:

Boxcar Bar + Arcade — 330 West Davie St. in Raleigh; 621 Foster St. in Durham; 120 W. Lewis St. in Greensboro

The Baxter — 108 N. Graham St. in Chapel Hill

The Neighborhood Sports Bar and Arcade — 301 N. Harrison Ave. in Cary

Jacqi Linville and Edward Mily play Skee-Ball at Boxcar Bar + Arcade Wednesday, March 11, 2015 in Raleigh, N.C.
Jacqi Linville and Edward Mily play Skee-Ball at Boxcar Bar + Arcade Wednesday, March 11, 2015 in Raleigh, N.C.

Top Raleigh nightclubs

Want to dance the night away? Try out one of these local nightclubs in Raleigh.

Alchemy — Located in Glenwood South, Alchemy fuses a “lavish” outdoor patio bar with a “high-energy” nightclub inside. The club features a variety of music, plus two-full service bars and a wide selection of craft beer.

Find Alchemy at 606 Glenwood Ave. in Raleigh.

Zenith Raleigh — Zenith is new to the club scene in Raleigh, having opened in November 2021. The 3,500-square-foot space on Fayetteville Street is “retro-themed” and features throwback tunes and a drink menu that includes cocktails, an “extensive” beer selection and everyone’s party bar favorite, Jello shots.

Find Zenith Raleigh at 226 Fayetteville St. in Raleigh.

Live music venues in Raleigh, Durham, Carrboro

If you’re looking for concerts, the Triangle is full of music venues big and small.

On the bigger side, you can find well-known, nationally touring acts at venues such as Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), and Walnut Creek Amphitheatre and the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh.

But if you’re looking for a more underground sound or a more intimate venue, the Triangle has you covered there, too.

Here are some smaller music hall options in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill:

Lincoln Theatre — One of Raleigh’s “best spots for local music,” the Lincoln Theatre opened in downtown Raleigh in 1945 as a movie theater, but was converted to a music venue in 2001. The venue features national and regional touring acts, plus tribute bands and local artists.

Find Lincoln Theatre at 126 E. Cabarrus St. in Raleigh.

The Pour House Music Hall & Record Shop — “Raleigh’s home for live music since 1997,” the Pour House Music Hall aims to bring concert-goers an eclectic mix of the best local and nationally touring bands. The venue features a rotating menu of 30 North Carolina draft beers. In 2019, the venue converted its second level into a record shop with new and used vinyl.

Find the Pour House at 224 S. Blount St. in Raleigh.

The Ritz — The Ritz is a 12,000-square-foot music venue owned by Live Nation and located a short drive from downtown Raleigh. The industrial style space features multiple bars and has hosted artists such as Chance the Rapper, The Strokes, Tyler Childers, Arctic Monkeys and more.

Find The Ritz at 2820 Industrial Dr. in Raleigh.

Motorco Music Hall — Located in Durham’s Central Park district, Motorco is an entertainment venue that regularly features live music, comedy and other shows. The venue has a state liquor license and serves a variety of alcohol, and also features an on-site restaurant, Parts & Labor, with a menu that includes sandwiches, salads and more.

Find Motorco at 723 Rigsbee Ave. in Durham.

Cat’s Cradle — Cat’s Cradle, located near UNC-Chapel Hill in the heart of downtown Carrboro, has hosted a wide variety of bands and artists in its more than 40-year history, including Nirvana, John Mayer, Joan Baez, Iggy Pop and more. The venue has a capacity of 750 people, making for intimate setting to see both established and up-and-coming bands.

Find Cat’s Cradle at 300 E. Main St. in Carrboro.

Tyler Childers brings his “Country Squire Run Tour” to The Ritz in Raleigh, N.C. Wednesday night, Dec. 18, 2019.
Tyler Childers brings his “Country Squire Run Tour” to The Ritz in Raleigh, N.C. Wednesday night, Dec. 18, 2019.

LGBT nightlife in the Triangle

If you’re looking for a space to kick back in clubs or bars that are specifically LGBT friendly, we’ve compiled some options for LGBT nightlife here.

Legends Nightclub — Legends Nightclub opened in 1991, and the club says it’s been “the leader in LGBT nightlife in the Triangle for over 25 years.” The club is private and requires a yearly membership, which costs $1 or $350, depending on which type of membership you choose.

Find Legends Nightclub at 330 W. Hargett St. in Raleigh.

Flex — Everyone is welcome at this self-proclaimed gay and straight dive bar that features free karaoke on Sundays and Mondays each week.

Find Flex at 2 S. West St. in Raleigh.

Work. — Work. is an LGBTQIA-friendly bar and event space in downtown Raleigh. The space features a large dance floor that’s wheelchair accessible and “state of the art” sound and lighting.

Find Work. at 112 Fayetteville St. in Raleigh.

Ruby Deluxe — Ruby Deluxe is a queer space in downtown Raleigh that aims to include everyone. The space is “a basement bar clad in glitter and sequins with arcade games, pinball machines, pool tables, a lovely snack vending machine and sweet outdoor patio.”

Find Ruby Deluxe at 415 Salisbury St. in Raleigh.

The Pinhook — The Pinhook is a “safer space for queer and otherwise marginalized folk to express themselves and feel comfortable doing so.” The bar is run by queer people and aims to uplift the queer community and people of color.

Find The Pinkhook at 117 W Main St. in Durham.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting