1. In-person events are back

After two years of COVID isolation, the Triangle cautiously came back to life this summer, with people flocking to music festivals, plays, and Pride parades that were all back in person.

2. Workers are organizing 

The movement for workers’ rights started strong in North Carolina when baristas at a Raleigh Starbucks decided to unionize in March. Employees across the Triangle soon joined a nationwide movement for better pay and working conditions with workers at a local restaurant and Planet Fitness franchise deciding to strike. It’s an exciting time for employees, who seem to finally have the power. Who knows what next year will bring?

3. Tenants are organizing

North Carolina is still a landlord-friendly state, but after facing possible homelessness during the COVID pandemic and rising prices afterward, tenants are taking a strong stand against an unfair system. In Durham, Walltown residents united to push the city council to use a rezoning request as leverage for affordable housing, while vulnerable residents on the Eno River are resisting eviction.

4. The local music scene continues to bend the rules

Staging a miniature music festival at a ballpark? Check. (Sylvan Esso.) Sourcing musical material from a 19th-century rug? Check. (Jake Xerxes Fussell.) Giving a Gen Z spin to Gen X label aesthetics? Check. (Trash Tape Records.) Releasing music and forgoing standard streaming platforms altogether? Check. (Defacto Thezpian.) Going 20 years between record releases? Check. (Archers of Loaf, who are technically not Triangle-based anymore, but this list, too, can bend the rules.) We could go on.

5. The Raleigh City Council is now majority women

Some Raleigh residents may not be completely happy with this year’s city council election results, given that Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin’s pro-development agenda will likely face some resistance from newcomers. But it’s hard to get mad at the youngest, most diverse city council in North Carolina’s history—one that also now includes six women.

6. Crook’s Corner’s literary reputation lives on (and the restaurant may, too)

When Crook’s Corner announced that it was shuttering in the summer of 2021, the Chapel Hill restaurant’s closure made national news. But hope for the famed Southern institution still sparks: the Crook’s Corner Book Prize has endured, continuing to nurture emerging writers, and pop-up openings peddling honeysuckle sorbets and other Crook’s staples have continued to nurture our hope that the restaurant will reopen. Fingers crossed for 2023.

7. Now-congressman Jeff Jackson is making waves on Reddit

Jeff Jackson, a North Carolina senator who was elected to U.S. Congress this November, has always had a reputation for straight-shooting, particularly in his infamous AMAs on Reddit. After Election Day, Jackson stayed true to form, using his large social media following to give people a firsthand account of what happens after you get elected to Congress.

8. Secrets are just a dusty road away

Earlier this summer, the question “Did the Duffer brothers base Hawkins Laboratory in Stranger Things on the Pittsboro ‘Big Hole’ facility?” evolved quickly into “Wait, what exactly is Big Hole?” Several thousand words later, we know more about the mysterious Cold War–era facility—though it’s still behind a locked gate.

9. Reading series are back (and better than ever)

In-person reading series have been one of the last kinds of events to return to the public sphere since the onset of the pandemic. But between local bookstores like Flyleaf and Letters and scrappy local series like Paradiso and Evenings, it’s easier than ever to go hear a favorite writer—or to discover a new one.

10. Ira David Wood III’s A Christmas Carol is still making fun of Republicans

After nearly 50 years, the Triangle’s local production of A Christmas Carol is a holiday tradition for many families. And it didn’t disappoint this year, continuing to make audiences laugh with well-timed physical humor, inside jokes for repeat viewers, and North Carolina–specific jabs at Donald Trump, COVID naysayers, and Ticketmaster.

11. The North Carolina Museum of Art keeps getting better

The North Carolina art museum is looking to the future with its new environmentally friendly renovation, increasing number of guest artists, and creative visiting exhibits. For art lovers around the Triangle, it’s exciting to see the museum growing and changing (questionable new logo aside).

12. New performance groups and venues are popping up

It’s not easy running a theater company in 2023. And yet, new companies (like RedBird Theater Company and Fun Mom Band) are springing up alongside new venues (like Mettlesome’s Golden Belt location) to host those companies.

13. People care about abortion rights

Abortion rights may be far from secure in North Carolina, but it’s certainly not because pro-choice advocates have been quiet. Earlier this year, the leak of the U.S. Supreme Court’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade prompted statewide protests and drew hundreds to downtown Raleigh to speak up.

14. Drinking downtown has more variety

After years of debate, the Raleigh City Council finally added a little fun to downtown Raleigh by allowing open containers on and around Fayetteville Street (shortly followed by a similar decision from the Durham City Council for its own downtown area). We haven’t seen much partying yet, but just wait until next summer.

15. Seaboard Station is still around

Development is a hot topic these days, but one thing most can agree on is that more people should participate in local government. This year, thanks to an active community group, Raleigh residents got involved and managed to save a property with a rich history from demolition.

16. Going to the Nasher is free

Thanks to a $1 million donation from two Duke University alumni, the Nasher Museum of Art is now indefinitely free to the public. Seize the day now by going to see the museum’s Roy Lichtenstein exhibition, and return in February to see Spirit in the Land.

17. Local officials are buying back guns

The Triangle made a big positive step this year by holding gun buybacks, which turned out to be massively popular. Ultimately, law enforcement officials collected hundreds of guns from Raleigh and Durham owners who felt that selling them to the government was the best thing to do.

18. The first state monument to Black North Carolinians is going up

North Carolina’s first state monument to African Americans—dubbed Freedom Park—took years to set in motion. But this fall, construction finally began on the one-acre park and a 40-foot-tall Beacon of Freedom, shining a light on the contributions of Black residents to the state.

19. Triangle teens are walking out in protest

Like high school students across the country, Triangle teens are taking a stand on climate change, gun control, and abortion rights, mostly by walking out of classrooms. Bring on the next generation of lawmakers and leaders.

20. The LGBTQ+ community has new protections

The LGBTQ+ community scored a major victory this summer when Raleigh finally got with the times and passed a local nondiscrimination ordinance. Now, the rights of people who are queer are stronger than ever, at least on paper. Those who are discriminated against in public or at work have the right to hold their antagonists accountable.

21. Raleigh is home to a cheese-rolling champion

What do you do after graduating from NC State? Apparently, you travel to England and become the first American woman to win the Cooper’s Hill annual cheese-rolling championship in Gloucester. Thanks, Abby Lampe, for giving us something unique to celebrate.

22. The international food scene is alive and well

The restaurant industry took a major hit during COVID, with the closings of some of our old favorites. This year, however, many ambitious residents took advantage of pandemic downtime to finally open their own restaurants, including, in Durham, a new Polish bakery (Chef Chick’s Bakery) and French-Algerian bakery (La Recette Patisserie) and, in Cary, a micro-bakery selling Filipino sweets (Bad Oven).

23. The American Dance Festival is back

The emergence of COVID-19 necessitated that the prestigious American Dance Festival become a smattering of online and short weekend events. But seeing dance in person is truly special, and this year, the festival returned with 15 programs and a bonus weekend.  

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