This story was written for our sponsor, the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership.

Wake Forest is known for its expansive acreage of green space and its family-friendly vibe. With niche boutiques, renowned brunch spots and one-of-a-kind coffee shops, it is certainly an idyllic place to spend your days, however, it also boasts an increasingly popular nightlife scene for people of all ages.

“The historic downtown in Wake Forest is vibrant and lively, with a dynamic and ever-increasing range of fun for everyone,” said Jason Cannon, president of the Wake Forest Business and Industry Partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to establishing Wake Forest as a destination for business and industry through economic development activities.

“As the downtown corridor expands, the Town is giving people more options and ways to enjoy nightlife in Wake Forest. From its multiple breweries, cocktail and rooftop bars, unique dining options, a bowling alley, and performing arts at the Renaissance Centre, there’s no shortage of ways to quite literally get out on the town.”

In a post-COVID world, nighttime in downtown Wake Forest boasts options for all ages.

Two local breweries now sit in the heart of downtown with expansive beer and dining options. If beer isn’t your thing, handcrafted cocktails await at Tonic — a five-star rated bar and social club. One-of-a-kind dining options, upscale bowling alley Strike & Barrel and a coming-soon barcade are just a few other downtown gems that make nightlife in downtown Wake Forest unique and alluring.

Additionally, once social distancing restrictions are safely eased back, Wake Forest will resume its extensive events calendar which offers its beloved Friday Night on White series and other events drawing thousands of residents from around the Triangle.

One of these downtown breweries is Norse Brewing Company, a family-owned brewery that features “new craft beer releases on-tap, great Scandinavian food with a Southern twist and always a hearty welcome.”

“We opened in December 2019 and then 11 weeks later the COVID shutdown happened, but we’ve been able to resume our operations within the restrictions and create a place where people can come and socialize and have a good time,” said Chris Jorgensen, who opened Norse Brewing with friend, neighbor and brewmaster Brad Wynn and their families. “It all begins and ends with family. We set forth to create an atmosphere where when our guests come in, they feel like they’re part of the Norse family, no matter who they are and what their backgrounds and beliefs are. You come in here and we’re one in the same. We are one people.”

Norse isn’t your typical brewery. With offerings like special beer paired dinners, weekend brunch and an occasional gnome sighting, it’s all about “beer, food and family.” Jorgensen’s Danish roots play a big role in the branding and culture of Norse —a term for a group Viking of people from southern Scandinavia. Jorgensen wanted to build upon his heritage and what it represents — community, friendship and family.

“When he decided to open Norse, we looked for a space for two and half years — we didn’t rush into the decision. We actually looked at 11 different spaces across North Carolina and South Carolina,” said Jorgensen. “Ultimately we ended up where we are now in downtown Wake Forest in a building that used to be a pizza place where we took our kids as they were growing up. We love the building and the fact that you can walk around Wake Forest and have the experience of a small town — and that has only gotten stronger.”

Jorgensen moved to Wake Forest 15 years ago for a corporate job and decided to live in Wake Forest because it was “quaint and up and coming with a lot of growth potential.” While he didn’t move to town with the intention of starting a business back then, he’s witnessed the growth of downtown Wake Forest firsthand and wanted to be part of its trajectory.

“As we’ve seen and been part of the growth of this community, it seemed logical to open up our business here and also give back to the community by creating jobs,” said Jorgensen.

With a full-time staff of 12 and 55 total employees, Norse has tentative plans to expand next year, pandemic permitting. The brewery’s expansion is reflective of the growth that is happening all over downtown Wake Forest.

WF Nightlife

The Renaissance Centre features 10,000 square feet of “versatile event and meeting space” and is located in the heart of downtown Wake Forest. (Photo Courtesy of Town of Wake Forest)

Debbie Dunn, manager for the Wake Forest Renaissance Centre for the Arts, oversees the Centre and coordinates its diverse programming to cater to a wide array of Wake Forest residents.

The Renaissance Centre features 10,000 square feet of “versatile event and meeting space” and is located in the heart of downtown Wake Forest. Exhibits, plays, concerts, conferences and private celebrations are hosted at the cultural center, which was purchased by the Town in 2013 with an additional expansion in 2014.

The purchase and development of the Renaissance Centre was a major part of the Town’s investment in the downtown municipal district as part of the Renaissance Master Plan to expand the downtown corridor.

“We have something going on all the time here. We have concerts — anything from country to jazz to dance. We bring in artists from all over the nation to do ticketed events,” said Dunn. “One of our most popular events is the Celtic Angels Christmas Show. These events are a lot of fun.”

From violin duos to beach music to artistic showcases, residents always have something to look forward to at the Renaissance Centre. And as Dunn emphasized, with the Centre being downtown, it’s really easy to make an evening of it and get dinner before a show or grab a drink afterward.

“There’s a lot of good restaurants and places within walking distance of the Centre, so that makes it nice. If you want to come see a show, you can come grab a parking spot and walk to some of those restaurants and breweries and then come back and enjoy the show,” said Dunn. “There’s so much to do in downtown Wake Forest — as a resident, you don’t have to venture outside of the zip code to have a great evening.”

“You shouldn’t have to go to downtown Raleigh. If you want to have a good time, you can in Wake Forest,” added Jorgensen. “That’s what you want in a town — to work here,  live here and play here, right? We wanted to be part of that.”

This story was written for our sponsor, the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership.