Raleigh, North Carolina is the capital city of the state, located at the crossroads of major intersections with an international airport. The name comes from Sir Walter Raleigh, an English statesman known for his association with the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke.
The city was established in 1792, settled near where a boarding house was located. Two railroad lines increased the population. It’s also home to a number of colleges and universities including North Carolina State University. There is no shortage of fun things to do in Raleigh from museums to food and history as well as day trips to nearby Durham and Chapel Hill.
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What to Do in Raleigh
There’s always something going on in Raleigh, especially because of its place as a capital city and college town. Art in Bloom, Dreamville Festival, and PrideFest are a few of the favorite annual events.
CAM Raleigh– Raleigh’s contemporary art museum is home to rotating exhibits of regional artists. While only open on Saturdays and Sundays, it’s completely free to visit. 409 West Martin Street
North Carolina Museum of Art– Opened in 1956, the NCMoA was one of the first in the country to receive funding from the national legislature to build its collection, which ranges from antiquity to the present. It’s free to visit and in addition to the galleries, it has an over 160-square foot park dotted with sculptures. 2110 Blue Ridge Road
North Carolina Museum of History– This Smithsonian affiliate showcases the best of the state’s past including exhibits on famous figures, artwork, and artifacts from the mills. 5 East Edenton Street
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences– Another free museum, this one focuses on the natural history of the state, with exhibits on dinosaurs, Venus fly traps, minerals and more. 11 West Jones Street
Umstead State Park– Spread across over 5,000 acres, this park is one of the largest in the state’s system. It has trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding as well as boat rentals and camping. 8801 Glenwood Avenue
Yates Mill County Park– This 174-acre park is centered around a historic mill complex dating back over 200 years. It’s also still in working order. 4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Breweries– Explore some of the city’s breweries like Trophy, Big Boss, Little City, and Compass Rose.
Where to Eat in Raleigh
Raleigh is often cited as one of the South’s best food cities, home to a number of James Beard award nominees like Ashley Christiansen, Cheetie Kumar, Oscar Diaz, and Sunny Gerhart. Give yourself plenty of time to dine out as much as possible, sampling every range of cuisine type!
Benchwarmers Bagels– Located inside the Transfer Food Hall, these bagels made with heirloom grains have a cult-like following among locals. Come by early for a breakfast sandwich, including topped with eggs prepared in Duke’s mayo, and a craft coffee. 500 East Davie Street, no phone
Brewery Bhavana– Far more than just a brewery, this design-forward brewpub has a menu of dim-sum style dishes like soup dumplings, bao, lo mein, and steamed whole fish. And of course, don’t miss the creative varieties of beer! 218 South Blount Street, (919) 829-9998
Crawford and Son– Chef Scott Crawford’s empire includes a number of local restaurants but this is the most famous, open since 2016 in the Oakwood neighborhood. The menu includes dishes like crudo, beef rib, and North Carolina trout. 618 North Person Street, (919) 307-4647
Garland– This restaurant fuses the flavors of India and South Asia with Southern cuisine. The space is filled with colorful artwork and dishes include lamb cheek stir fry and vegetable sambar. Be sure to check out the downstairs bar. 14 West Martin Street, (919) 833-6886
Jolie– This French bistro from Scott Crawford has traditional dishes like escargot, steak tartare, mussels, and coq au vin. 620 North Person Street, (919) 803-7221
Mandolin– This restaurant has a little bit of everything from pork chop to hanger steak to catch of the day. They also have weekend brunch. 2519 Fairview Road, (919) 322-0365
Poole’s Diner– The original chef owned restaurant in town, Poole’s Diner is a favorite with Southern classics that change often. 426 South McDowell Street, (919) 832-4477
St. Roch– You don’t have to go to New Orleans to enjoy the Big Easy’s best dishes. The menu includes fresh oysters on the half shell, barbecue shrimp, and authentic boudin. 223 South Wilmington Street, (919) 322-0359
Where to Stay in Raleigh
If you don’t care for big name hotels and prefer to stay like a local, you’re in luck. Raleigh has had a boutique hotel renaissance, with plenty of options to choose from.
Guest House Raleigh– The city’s first boutique hotel opened in 2018 in a historic home with eight rooms. There is miniamlist but stylish decor. It’s conveniently located near the food hall. 420 South Bloodworth Street
Heights House Hotel (review here)- Located in an 1858 Italianate mansion, this lovingly restored hotel has nine guest suites with Frame televisions and coffee makers. The property also has complimentary braekfast, WiFi, parking, and happy hour. 308 South Boylan Avenue
The Longleaf Hotel– The midcentury modern motel was converted into a stylish property in the heart of downtown. It’s named for the longleaf pine trees of the Piedmont and has 56 rooms as well as an onsite lounge. 300 North Dawson Street
Hotel 83– Set in the warehouse district, the 126-room hotel opened in 2020 with an in-house restaurant. Rooms are pet-friendly and guests can enjoy the onsite fitness center. 603 West Morgan Street
The StateView Hotel– The Autograph Collection property on Lake Raleigh is close to the state farmer’s market and North Carolina State University. The hotel has an outdoor pool and fitness center. 2451 Alumni Drive
The Store– The adults only mini-hotel is located in a former grocery store in a residential neighborhood has art-filled rooms and lounge space. 719 Devereux Street
Rentals- If you’re traveling with a group, your best bet is a rental from the major sites. Options include this downtown Raleigh townhouse and this stylish North Raleigh abode.
Camping- If you’re traveling with an RV or tent, there are plenty of campgrounds nearby. Umstead State Park is an option, along with the RV sites at the North Carolina State Fairground.
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