Top 4 Concert Venues in Raleigh, North Carolina (and Within Driving Distance)


If you happen to have caught any of the Good Vibes posts you should be well aware that I am a fan of a wide variety of music.  Prior to moving to Thailand I lived in Raleigh, North Carolina which is arguably the best city for live music throughout the entire state.  With more venues than any other city in North Carolina as well as being the home to unique music festivals such as Hopscotch Music Festival and World of Bluegrass, Raleigh has cemented itself as the go-to city for concerts in the state.  Now that I am back stateside I already have numerous shows to attend and many of them are actually in Raleigh.  Below you’ll find some of the best venues that make North Carolina’s capital city a truly special live music hub along with a couple of cheat concert halls that are within driving distance.

The Pour House Music Hall – Raleigh


The Pour House Music Hall could easily be passed by without even the smallest glance.  Tucked away in downtown Raleigh is a black door adorned with hundreds of stickers that leads you into this tiny venue.  The Pour House is such a small room that no matter where you are you will feel like you have front row seats.  Many of the bands that make their way through here are unknown, local, or relatively new artists seeking to spread their love of music in any way that they can.  This leads to great ticket prices typically ranging from $5-$15.

The kicker that really takes this hole-in-the-wall up a notch is the beer selection.  The bar features a lineup of North Carolina craft beers on tap as well as a few budget options.  There is almost always a craft beer on special so your wallet will not be hurting too much after a visit.

Red Hat Amphitheater – Raleigh


This amazing outdoor venue is a mid-sized amphitheater at the edge of Raleigh’s downtown area with the cityscape standing over the crowd.  Red Hat offers a variety of music choices ranging from Slightly Stoopid to Ray Lamontagne.  The venue consists of a majority of assigned seats with a small stretch of lawn seating surrounding the outskirts, but the nice thing is you are sure to get quality sound regardless of your location.

The icon of the venue is the Cree Shimmer Wall behind the lawn.  The wall is made up of thousands of tiny, glistening tiles as well as a silhouette of an oak tree.  When there is even the slightest of breezes the tiles will shimmy to create a “leaves in the wind” effect while also shimmering from the lights of the concert.

Haw River Ballroom – Saxapahaw


This one is a bit of a drive from the city.  Located roughly an hour away from downtown Raleigh in Saxapahaw is the Haw River Ballroom, a venue housed in Saxapahaw’s Historic Cotton Mill.  The venue is made of three-tiered levels, an outdoor river view area, and a large standing area to enjoy the music.  The sound reverberates beautifully throughout the hall and its high ceilings to create a unique concert-going experience for everyone in attendance.


The Haw River Ballroom has featured numerous indie bands such as Fitz and the Tantrums and Sufjan Stevens among many others in an attempt to truly embrace the creative atmosphere offered by the architecture of the venue.  Be sure to get here early to truly experience all this venue has to offer.  Aside from the concert hall, the restored cotton mill features the Saxapahaw General Store, The Eddy Pub, and a Saturday farmer’s market and music series during the summer months.

Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro


Located in the tiny artistic town of Carrboro is Cat’s Cradle, a small, indoor venue that entertains the students of the University of North Carolina multiple nights a week with many engaging artists.  Many big name artists make some of their first tour stops at the Cradle.  As a former student of UNC, I have formed many fond memories at this venue after seeing acts such as HAIM, Pepper, and Lights.  The beer selection, much like The Pour House, features numerous local craft beers and because this is a college town they are all at a great price for a concert.

The truly outstanding aspect of Cat’s Cradle is that it actually made up of two venues.  The primary hall is a large standing room akin to many college town venues.  The back room is a bit more unique with a lower crowd capacity, a theater-style stage, and a second level balcony from which to watch the concert and also speak with the bands.  Because the back room is more intimate it allows for a closer experience with the band and the rare chance for a unique experience such as the one I had with the band Lucius (video).

There are so many historical concert venues throughout the world.  They each hold a special quality that allows them to stand out from the others which only helps to make the concert more memorable.  When seeing live music the venue can hold as much, if not more important than the concert itself.  Do you have a favorite venue?  What makes it truly special?  Let me know in the comments below.

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