Discover Cary and Top Spots to Cool Off in Cary

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The iconic fountain in Frantz Square near the Cary Arts Center. Photo by – Kad Photo.


So you’ve joined the booming number of people who have moved to the sprawling Town of Cary. Welcome! You’ve made an excellent choice. Cary boasts big-city amenities that draw you in, but it still retains the community feel of its small-town roots. 

Here are some of the first things you should do after moving to Cary to get to know the community here.

International Exploration

While Cary is often referred to as “Containment Area for Relocated Yankees,” don’t let the nickname limit your sense of the community. We’re a diverse town that includes both locals and transplants from all over the U.S. and across the world. Approximately 20% of Cary residents were born outside the country. This impact can be seen in the variety of international food options available. Chatham Square, located on the corner of SE Maynard Road and E. Chatham Street, exhibits this diversity perfectly, offering a variety of cuisines from Jamaican to Japanese. Local favorites include Himalayan Nepali (Nepalese), Chengdu 7 (Sichuan), Esmeralda Grill and Rancho Grande (Mexican), and Baghdad Bakery (Iraqi).

The international cultural options don’t stop there. Chatham Square boasts shopping opportunities for everything from candy and fresh tortillas to clothing and beauty salons. Find out about cultures from across the world through this nondescript shopping center—a microcosm for the international options available across Cary. 

Quality Cuisine

Cuisine options don’t stop at Chatham Square. What about breakfast? Pick up a baker’s dozen of donuts at Baker’s Dozen over on Buck Jones Road. Make sure you get there early or you’re likely to miss out on their popular apple fritters or bear claws! Follow it up with a light lunch at Pro’s Epicurean Market & Café in downtown Cary. Relax on the patio with a charcuterie plate of artisanal cheeses and cured meats while enjoying an espresso (or a craft beer from Bond Brothers Beer Company next door). Downtown Cary has many options to satisfy any palate. Whatever you order, consider taking it to go and walking to the new Downtown Cary Park to savor your meal surrounded by lush gardens and tranquil water features.

For a fine-dining experience, head up Harrison Avenue to the Umstead Hotel and Spa and enjoy a five-star dinner at Herons. The four-course prix fixe menu features fruits and vegetables grown on the hotel’s own sustainable culinary farm, including the Carolina native John Haulk corn used to make their delicious grits. 

Be sure to grab a beer at Bond Brothers Brewing. Photo by Dathan Kazsuk

Green Space

After all that good food, you might feel the urge for some exercise. Cary has a vast network of over 95 miles of greenways that offer beautiful views, shade and wildlife. If you have the stamina, hop on the Black Creek Greenway at Lake Crabtree and follow it 7.1 miles through town until it reaches a hub at Fred G. Bond Metro Park. From there you can take another trail, or stick around the park and rent a pedal boat, have a go at the challenge course or go fishing at the waterfront.

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve is another of the many green-space options in Cary. This rare ecosystem for the Piedmont offers three miles worth of nature trails with scenic overlooks. After enjoying the shady evergreens and wildflower garden, head into the Stevens Nature Center for interactive nature exhibits and programs.

Spectator Sports

If you’d rather observe the action than take part in it, you’re in the right place. Cary offers many opportunities for sports enthusiasts. Head to WakeMed Soccer Park for an NC Courage game, where the Lionesses hold the title of reigning NWSL Champions, two years running. It’s also home to the North Carolina FC and hosts the NCAA College Cup and international team friendlies. The ACC championship game can make for an exciting match, especially if a local college is playing. 

In West Cary, the USA Baseball National Training Complex features international games and national team championships and hosts the NCAA Division II national finals. These visiting college athletes often spend the day before the tournament volunteering as buddies for The Miracle League, an organization giving children with special needs the opportunity to play baseball. 

Watch NC Courage play at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. Photo courtesy of WakeMed Soccer Park.

Explore the Arts

If your interests lie in the arts rather than or in addition to sports, you are in luck! Cary has emphasized the arts in recent years, and the result is a rich variety of opportunities to both enjoy and participate in the arts. Koka Booth Amphitheatre hosts music events of all genres, including nationally touring musicians and performances by the North Carolina Symphony. 

Smaller venues like Downtown Cary Park and The Cary Theater offer more intimate musical performances. 

The Cary Arts Center hosts theatrical events, including performances by the Cary Players. This local theater company will celebrate its twentieth season this year. Enjoy their shows, which  range from murder-mystery comedies like “Clue” to musical love stories like “Brigadoon,” as a spectator or a participant. Applause! Cary Youth Theatre offers kids acting opportunities, and don’t let their ages stop you from attending—these kids are talented! Not only do they play all of the parts in shows like “James and the Giant Peach,” but they also help create the costumes and scenery.“Peter and the Starcatcher” plays in July. 

The Town of Cary also offers classes for all ages, including many in the arts, through the Cary Arts Center. With so many different options, you are sure to find something that interests you. Have you considered learning to sew or oil paint? There’s a class for that. The town also offers courses on woodworking, stained glass, pottery and jewelry-making. Consider taking Introductory Acting, learning a musical instrument, or any of the dozens of other classes the Arts Center offers. (And the town also offers many classes in areas outside the arts—opportunities to learn about everything from the natural world to sports and technology.)

There is so much more to explore in our town, but the best part about Cary is the friendly atmosphere. So chat with neighbors or a stranger at the Downtown Cary Farmers Market and ask about their local favorites. You’ll be one of the locals in no time.   

Jack Smith Park and Sprayground. Photo courtesy of the Town of Cary.

Where to Go to Cool Off in Cary

By Judith Cookis Rubens


Downtown Cary Park

Cary’s newest park—the 7-acre, three-years-in-the-making downtown gathering spot—debuts its Splash Pad within The Nest, a children’s imaginative play space. Anchored by its two iconic cardinal play structures, The Nest’s Splash Pad offers splash-tastic jets. Nearby, at the Barkyard, the pups can cool off with their own water feature while adults catch some shade and relax with a craft brew or glass of wine at The Bark Bar’s shady pavilion.

7 a.m.– 11 p.m. 

327 S. Academy Street, Cary 



Jack Smith Park and Sprayground

Located in southeastern Cary, the park features the town’s first splash pad for ages 12 and younger with seven water features including water jets, dumping water buckets and spray hoses. Also at Jack Smith Park: cool public art, a dog park, a playground and a 10-foot-tall climbing wall.

9a.m.– 8 p.m. 

9725 Penny Road, Raleigh



Bond Park Boathouse

If you want to get out on the water, take a pedal boat, kayak, canoe or small sailboat out on Bond Lake to catch a breeze. Boat rentals are first-come, first-served. Take a break from the sun at the Boathouse, where you can enjoy an ice cream, snow cone or cold drink in the shade of the screened-in porch.

Fred G. Bond Metro Park

197 Bond Park Drive, Cary


Triangle Aquatic Center

Triangle Aquatic Center is a top-rate swimming facility that hosts dozens of local swim meets and championships. It has four pools—including an Olympic-sized outdoor pool—open to the general public with no membership required. Daily, monthly and yearly passes are available. Open swim availability depends on local events and rentals. 

275 Convention Drive, Cary



FRESH. Local Ice Cream

From its outpost on E. Chatham Street in the heart of downtown Cary, FRESH is a family-owned business serving handcrafted ice cream with ingredients from local farms. Try everyday favorite flavors like Midnight Brownie Crunch, Blueberry and Peanut Butter Cup, or fun concoctions like Cheerwine ice cream soda floats. 

138 E. Chatham Street, Cary



Honeysuckle Gelato

With food truck roots, the Honeysuckle scoops, pints and even gelato sandwiches have taken the Southeast by storm and made it a Fenton must-stop. Boasting a dozen standard flavors (including a Nutella option), Honeysuckle’s key lime, lemon bar and other seasonal flavors are supremely refreshing. 

7 Fenton Main Street, Cary



Vida Dulce

“Vida dulce” is Spanish for “sweet life,” and this colorful Mexican dessert and street food shop truly has something for everyone with its bright assortment of house-made ice cream, ice pops and frozen fruit drinks. Choosing between the more than 60 popsicle blends (from creamy tres leches to invigorating spicy pineapple) and 28 ice cream flavors—all made from scratch in-house—is hard. Other fun menu items include the churro split, with cinnamon sugar–dusted churros served alongside three ice cream scoops with all the toppings, and the rolled ice cream taco served with a waffle cone taco shell. Spice-seekers will gravitate to the mangonada, a sweet/sour/spicy slush of mango sorbet, fresh mango chunks, tamarind sauce and Tajin seasoning.

836 E. Chatham Street, Suite 104, Cary 




This Thai-style hand-rolled ice cream and milk tea bar in the Wellington shopping center offers delicious, ice-cold refreshments. Premium ingredients—rose, jasmine and ceremonial-grade matcha teas sourced from Japan, along with organic milks and fresh fruit—make the difference in its cooling boba tea drinks, which are made with chewy tapioca pearls. The custard-based ice cream can be mixed with all sorts of goodies. 

6418 Tryon Road, Cary



Andia’s Ice Cream

Nationally awarded for its inventive, small-batch flavors, Andia’s serves up cones, cups and Mason jar–brimming Monster Shakes in its west and southeast Cary shops. Husband-and-wife team Andia and George Xouris have experimented with 250+ ice cream and sorbet flavors since 2017—favorites like Coffee Bean Crunch, Rose Pistachio and Brownie Batter are mainstays. But don’t pass up other unique options—like vegan-friendly Ube, a Filipino-style creamy blend made from purple yams, with a slightly nutty, vanilla taste. Andia’s also has a catering business with sundae bars and decadent ice cream cakes for all occasions.

10120 Green Level Church Road #208, Cary

1008 Ryan Road, Cary


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