Visiting Raleigh-Durham

If you’re planning a visit to the Raleigh area in the near future, then you should be congratulated on an excellent decision. Not only is the “City of Oaks” the capital of North Carolina, but it’s perfectly located when it comes to just about any activity you might want to enjoy when you’re in town. Whether you’re into food or shopping, garden walks or sports, art galleries or historical sites, Raleigh has something to offer you guaranteed.

However, it’s one thing to consider visiting a place. It’s quite another to really know what you’re going to do once you get there. Why choose Raleigh over one of the hundreds of other destinations you could visit? What is the city best known for and what can you expect from your experience while you’re in town? Here we’ll take a closer look at Raleigh and the surrounding areas so that you can plan the North Carolina vacation of your dreams.

What Is the “Triangle”?

Those that are somewhat familiar with the Raleigh area may already know about the Triangle. That’s what those in the know call Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill as a collective. Each is a mere 30 minutes away from the others and all three have a lot to offer when it comes to everything from food, to live music, to sports, and much more.

Enclosed within the Triangle is Research Triangle Park, a massive 7000-acre business complex that’s home to more than 140 different organizations. This makes it easy to find something awesome to do no matter what you might be into. You can see a concert, take in a sporting event, dance the night away, or go on a personal mission to find the perfect glass of bourbon to name just a few of the many possibilities.

That said, those planning a visit to the area will definitely want to factor Durham and Chapel Hill into their plans as well as Raleigh.  Whether you’re a family person traveling with the kids in tow, a couple looking for an intimate getaway, or a solo traveler that prefers to go it alone, you can count on the Triangle to deliver.

5 Great Reasons to Choose Raleigh

Many people visiting Raleigh for the first time don’t quite know what to expect. There’s so much to do and see that it can be hard to put a finger on the true spirit of the city. However, as is the case with every American city, Raleigh has its own set of unique selling points that really set it apart from any other destination you could possibly choose. The following are just a few reasons to put Raleigh on your to-see list.

Raleigh has a truly exceptional craft beer scene.

If you’re one of the many people that loves nothing more than discovering a fantastic new craft beer (or ten) to love, then you will absolutely love Raleigh. North Carolina is already home to more than 120 breweries. What’s more, that number is rapidly growing and then some. Raleigh itself is actually among the top five fastest growing cities in the state when it comes to craft beer in particular.

That said, beer lovers will really want to plan on spending at least one day in downtown Raleigh. It’s a gold mine filled with breweries, craft beer bars, and bottle shops. Best of all, you can hit a wealth of different ones simply by walking in a loop. Raleigh is also home to numerous beer-centric events and activities. These include but are not limited to Greater Raleigh’s Beer Trail and the Brewgaloo festival, a great opportunity to sample the best in local food truck fare and live music as well.

Thinking about making your entire trip to Raleigh all about beer? Consider coming in April. That’s Raleigh’s official craft beer month! Don’t forget to visit the Raleigh Beer Garden while you’re in town. It’s home to the largest collection of working beer taps in the entire world – an astonishing 365!

It’s a hidden gem when it comes to world class eats.

When most people think of major players in the American food scene, they immediately think of New York, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas. That’s why Raleigh is such a pleasant surprise for foodies. It’s actually home to a very legitimate food culture – one that honestly compares to any to be found in any other major American city.

You’ll find world class ethnic cuisine, unbelievable steakhouses, phenomenal barbecue, and even vegetarian food. The area is home to its share of food festivals and events as well. These include but definitely aren’t limited to the Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo and the famous Krispy Kreme Challenge.

It’s the place to be if you love bluegrass.

If there’s one thing North Carolina is really serious about, it’s bluegrass. In fact, they claim to have invented it, so it’s not surprising that it’s a really big deal in Raleigh. That said, if you love music and appreciate bluegrass in particular, you’ll feel right at home.

Many, many bars in the city and the surrounding areas are great places to go for live music, especially when it comes to bluegrass. However, serious fans may want to plan their visit for fall when the World of Bluegrass is in full swing. It’s considered the must-see event of the year for North Carolina music fans.

Raleigh has a fantastic museum scene… and it’s free.

If you’re a hardcore science lover, then it’s probably difficult to picture a trip being complete without at least a couple of museum visits. Not only can Raleigh deliver in that department, but it can do it for free.

Get yourself to downtown Raleigh and check out both the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the Nature Research Center. They’re the perfect places to learn more about both North Carolina in particular and science in general.

More into art and culture than science? Check out the North Carolina Museum of Art or the City of Raleigh Museum instead.

It’s an ideal destination for history lovers as well.

If you’re into history, then you won’t be the least bit disappointed in Raleigh. It’s actually among the American South’s most historic cities. That said, a history-themed tour of both the downtown area and the suburbs is definitely in order.

Try a walking tour or a hop-on bus tour for an easy way to make sure you hit all of the must-see sites. There are also options available for those that are interested in historical tours with a theme. For instance, you can sign up for tours that focus specifically on the Civil War, love stories, or local scandals. There are also architecture-themed options that provide an excellent way to take in the city’s churches, Victorian homes, or colleges.


Getting Around Raleigh

Like most major cities, Raleigh has plenty of options available as far as public transportation goes. This is especially the case downtown, as the R-Line bus runs free shuttles every 10-15 minutes or so in a continuous loop. If you’re looking to get into Durham or Chapel Hill for the day, you can count on the Triangle Transit Authority busses to get you there.

Even so, many travelers still consider cars to be the easiest way to get around the area. Just make sure that if you do decide to drive into town or rent your own car once you get there that you follow parking signs and rules to the letter. Raleigh is well known for being super aggressive when it comes to enforcing the rules, as well as towing the vehicles of violators.

Staying Safe in Raleigh

The crime rates in Raleigh are actually below the national average for a location of comparable size. However, it’s still really important that you use your judgment and be careful, especially after dark.

After sundown, stick to busy, well-lit areas if you’re exploring the downtown area. Steer completely clear of neighborhoods to the east or the south of downtown after sundown or late at night. You should also be careful of using ATM machines after dark. If you absolutely must use one, choose one located someplace with lots of people around and plenty of lighting to boot.

6 More Fun Things to Do in Raleigh

As touched on above, Raleigh and the surrounding areas really come alongside the lion’s share of options when it comes to things to do. Here are a few more to consider.

Go hiking at Umstead State Park.

Those that plan to be in Raleigh with their families in tow will definitely want to plan a wonderful day outdoors in beautiful Umstead State Park. It’s 5500-acre paradise located right smack in the center of the Research Triangle. Go for an invigorating walk, stop for a picnic, and even do a little fishing at the park’s beautiful lake.

If you’ll be in town with small children, you’ll also want to check out Pullen Park, a 72-acre area that features attractions like a carousel complete with hand-carved animals, a miniature train, and multiple rides.

Visit some of the city’s most historic haunted spots.

If you’ve always been able to appreciate a good ghost story, then you won’t want to leave Raleigh without treating yourself to a visit to some of the Triangle’s historic haunts. See if you can hear the ghostly music at the Carolina Inn, spot the ghosts of Hannah’s Creek Swamp, and much more.

Visit the Raleigh Denim Workshop.

North Carolina is known for a number of different industries, but one of the most prominent is definitely textiles. Even so, any proud resident wants visitors to know that their state doesn’t just make textiles. They design them as well.

If you appreciate nothing better than a pair of jeans that fits you to a tee, you’ll want to visit the Raleigh Denim Workshop and get yourself fitted for a custom pair. Their “jean smiths” still use old-fashioned machines to create their masterpieces!

Watch chocolate being made at the Videri Chocolate Factory.

Southerners love their sweets almost as much as they love barbecue and bourbon. That said, those with a sweet tooth might want to pencil a visit to the Videri Chocolate Factory into their itinerary. Visitors are treated to an enchanting look at every step of production when it comes to their numerous candies.

Don’t worry. You’ll get plenty of chances to sample the treats as well! You can also visit the shop and stock up on gourmet candy to enjoy at home or give away as gifts.

Enjoy some seasonal cuisine at Poole’s Downtown Diner.

If you’re the type of traveler that always wants to know which restaurant is considered the best in town, then look no further than Poole’s when you get to Raleigh. Chef Ashley Christensen serves up a phenomenal menu featuring seasonal items, world class comfort food, and fresh local fare.

What dish do the locals swear by when they come to Poole’s? It’s the mac and cheese hands down. Don’t leave without sampling an order of your own.

Check out beautiful Raleigh from the back of a bike.

Outdoor enthusiasts and cyclists won’t want to miss a chance to go biking when they get to town. Raleigh is home to more than 100 miles of beautifully green public bike trails. Locals even use them to actually get around the city, so consider spending a day exploring this way.

Prep for Your Trip to Raleigh

with Some Local Interest Reading

If you’re an avid reader, then you naturally don’t need to be told that a great way to get more out of a given vacation is to read up on the area before you arrive.

Read up on historic Raleigh to get a handle on how the city developed its beautifully unique personality. Check out the backstories of some legendary locals from around the area. Marvel at the timeless beauty of the city with collections of priceless vintage postcards as well. Explore the possibilities today!