Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Cary, NC

  • Published 2023/01/27

Cary is a town in the Raleigh-Cary Metropolitan Statistical Area in Wake and Chatham counties.

The Tuscarora people were the earliest settlers in the area before the arrival of the Europeans.

In 1868, railroad tracks were laid down in the area, opening economic development opportunities.

The town of Cary continuously improved over the years, even going as far as becoming the safest mid-sized city in the US in 2021.

Cary also blossomed into a great tourist destination, with many free attractions.

Check out the free things you can do in Cary, North Carolina.

Have a Picnic at Fred G. Bond Metro Park

People walking along Fred G. Bond Metro Park trail

Wileydoc /

Cary’s thriving community and homey atmosphere are just some of the things that make the town a great place to visit.

Although it might seem like the roads are always busy, there are many places where you can relax and take a breather.

One is the Fred G. Bond Metro Park on High House Rd, which offers people the perfect space to rest and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

Boat launch at Fred G. Bond Metro Park

Wileydoc /

Spanning 310 acres, Fred G. Bond Metro Park sits in the middle of the town, making it highly accessible if you want a small picnic.

You can enjoy other activities in the area if you’re willing to shell out a few bucks, such as orienteering and taking on the park’s famous challenge course.

Walk along the Trails at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve is a hidden gem in the heart of Cary and a must-see spot when visiting the town.

Hemlock Bluffs can be found along Kildaire Farm Rd, and the preserve is relatively easy to spot if you know what a grove of eastern hemlock trees looks like.

Embark on a scenic nature walk inside Cary’s prized preserve, and take your pick from three short trail systems across the area.

Hemlock Bluffs is one of the few nature preserves found in North Carolina and is home to various species of flora and fauna that typically grow in mountainous regions.

The Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve is also home to dozens of reptiles, amphibians, mammals, insects, and other species.

Catch the Performances at the Sertoma Amphitheater

Besides trying out various nature-centric activities when visiting the town of Cary, you can also enjoy a few days of live music.

If you pay close attention to Cary’s calendar, you might even find yourself jamming out without paying for tickets!

Live performances usually occur at the Sertoma Amphitheater at Fred G. Bond Metro Park, sitting between the Kiwanis Picnic Shelter and Bond Lake.

The amphitheater’s location is also perfect for those who like the town’s natural landscape as they sing and dance their hearts out.

The Sertoma Amphitheater is also open for those who want to reserve the area for hosting various events.

Join Fit Cary Month

Vacations will typically involve a lot of food trips for a lot of people because trying out delicacies and local dishes add up to the experience.

The town of Cary is not an exception to great food and accommodations that’ll make you want to lay in bed all day.

If you want to stay in shape while exploring the town, you can join some classes during Fit Cary Month.

Fit Cary Month is held every September at various community centers, and there are a bunch of programs in which everyone can participate.

The programs are offered in virtual and face-to-face classes and cover various fitness areas, such as kickboxing, preschool fitness, yoga, cardio, and more.

Check Out Park After Dark

If you’re planning to visit Cary sometime during the summer or fall, swing by downtown Cary to witness the Park After Dark event.

Park After Dark is held at Cary’s old library site on S Academy St, and it’s a great time for friends to come together and explore the town at night.

But the main attractions during this free event are the live music performers gracing the streets and the food vendors offering the most mouthwatering dishes.

Sing along, and enjoy the melody of the guitars and keyboards while hanging out in downtown Cary.

If you’re working with a tight budget, don’t worry because you can bring your food and drinks!

Traverse the Symphony Lake Greenway

Paved trail of Symphony Lake Greenway

Wileydoc /

Immerse yourself in nature’s greatest wonders when you traverse the Symphony Lake Greenway.

Catch the stunning view of Symphony Lake while riding a bike, walking, rollerblading, skating, or running along the asphalt pathway.

There are several entry points across Cary that you can go through to access Symphony Lake Greenway, including the Kooka Booth Amphitheater, Regency Parkway, and Glade Park Road.

The unshaded trail is typically open from dawn to dusk, giving you plenty of time to lounge around.

If you’re lucky, you might catch a couple of community-wide activities, such as the annual Cary Road Race and the NC Chinese Lantern Festival.

Explore the Symphony Lake Greenway.

Check Out the Works at Arts Alfresco

If you consider yourself an art lover, you know that many of the best galleries will require you to pay admission fees.

You must walk around Cary to spot some of the greatest artworks you’ll ever see.

You’ll find a collection called Arts Alfresco along Black Creek Greenway, specifically at the corner of Chapel Hill and Maynard Roads.

Arts Alfresco is a group of clay brick creations by artist Brad Spencer, which he created from 2010-2011 and 2013-2014.

These clay brickworks are benches, a bridge, wing walls, and columns celebrating various art forms like music, visual, and literary.

Look for the Academy Street Melody

The simple act of walking is certainly not dull when you’re touring the streets of Cary because you’ll find many things you won’t see anywhere else.

Art is all around town, and going on a scavenger hunt to find some of them can be an enjoyable activity in Cary.

One of the things you should keep an eye out for would be the Academy Street Melody by artist Jack Mackie.

Cary’s Academy Street is lined with granite and lithichrome benches that resemble several musical instruments, including the mandolin, dulcimer, dobro, violin, and courting dulcimer.

The etched texts by renowned classical poets from North Carolina make these benches even more remarkable.

Join the Spring Daze Arts and Crafts Festival

Let your creativity run wild when you attend the annual Spring Daze Arts and Crafts Festival at Fred G. Bond Metro Park on High House Road.

The Spring Daze Arts and Crafts Festival is held every September and takes crafty visitors for a ride with tons of fun activities.

This annual Cary festival is also one way of bringing the community together while learning some stuff.

When you attend this event, marvel at the unique talents of local artists while spending a fun day with live entertainment and great company.

Some attractions you can expect from this event include play zones, fairy circles, earth day lane, and more.

Light Up Your Evening at the Lantern Parade

Animal-shaped lanterns at the Lantern Parade

Sergey Galyonkin, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are many things to look forward to in Cary, and most don’t require you to spend a single penny.

One of the many events you can look out for is the annual Lantern Parade, which is celebrated every January.

Prepare to see some of the best creations during the parade, which will begin at the Herbert C. Young Community Center.

Lantern tree at the Lantern Parade

DiscoA340, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The parade route kicks off at Wilkinson Ave. and goes to Town Hall, giving the people of Cary a sight to behold wherever they may be.

The Lantern Parade is a part of Cary’s outdoor exhibition, which also involves a couple of lantern-making workshops.

Have Fun at the Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival

If there’s one thing you should know about Cary, you can find art everywhere.

Art is celebrated so much in town that numerous arts and crafts festivals are held annually at various locations.

One is the Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival, held every August at the Cary Town Hall Campus.

This festival is a two-day celebration at the heart of downtown Cary where art, entertainment, food, and great company come together.

Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival was introduced in 1977, celebrating the final days of summer using participants engaging in interactive art activities.

Uncover the Town’s Stories at the Cary Heritage Museum

Like most tourist destinations, Cary has many extraordinary stories that helped shape its culture and heritage.

So if you’re curious to know the town’s history, you might want to check out the Cary Heritage Museum at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center.

The Cary Heritage Museum is somewhat crammed into a small space on the third floor, but its artifacts and displays are more than enough for viewers to know more about the town.

Kick off the educational journey by checking out the timeline exhibit, which depicts Cary’s early stages of development.

Check out WWI uniforms, medical instruments, restored paintings, dioramas, and other informational displays.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Dorothy Park

Venturing into a new environment can be exciting, but there might be times when you want to relax and slow down.

When visiting Cary, Dorothy Park is one of the many places where you can take a breather.

The open space park is perfect for those who want to have a small picnic, walk around, or read their favorite book while resting under a big tree.

Sip on your favorite drink while flipping through the pages, and admire the sight of rustling leaves under the clear blue sky.

Dorothy Park is also an ideal location for those who want to get their daily exercise near a stream.

Let Your Kids Enjoy Marla Dorrel Park

Visiting Cary should be enjoyable not only for you but for the little ones alongside you as well.

If you happen to run out of ideas on where to take them, or you’re simply looking to save a few bucks, you can take them to Marla Dorrel Park along Thurston Dr.

Cary’s Marla Dorrel Park is home to the Kids Together Playground, a popular attraction that your kids are bound to enjoy.

This suburban park also takes playgrounds to a new level with unique structures like a dragon climbing structure and inclusive playground elements.

The Marla Dorrel Park also connects to a pedestrian overpass linked to MacDonalds Woods Park.

Explore Downtown Cary

Water fountain at Downtown Cary

KAD Photo /

Downtown areas are always fun to visit because of the vibrant atmosphere and lively neighborhood, and Cary is no exception.

Immerse yourself in the local scene as you explore the downtown streets and check out many nearby attractions.

From live entertainment and art galleries to great restaurants and coffee shops, Downtown Cary has almost everything you need.

Shops along Downtown Cary

KAD Photo /

This walkable urban space is ideal for those who want to get acquainted with the community.

Downtown Cary is also recognized as a space where anyone can work, play, live, and shop simultaneously.

Aerial view of Downtown Cary

John Couture /

Final Thoughts

There are tons of stuff to do in Cary, and most of them don’t have to cost you a lot of money.

Stick to this list of the best free things to do in Cary, North Carolina, and you’re sure to make the most of your trip!

What are you waiting for?

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