With its 9000-plus acres of parkland, a diverse and unique arts scene, and deep-seated connections to history, Raleigh, North Carolina is the perfect getaway destination. There is an endless number of sites to see and intriguing things to do in Raleigh for vacationers and residents alike. Winters are mild, and, although the summers can be quite hot and humid, there are plenty of ways to escape the heat in this vibrant city. Whether the goal is relaxation or exploration, Raleigh offers something for everyone.
Self-guided tours are free at this local bean-to-bar chocolate factory. Visitors not only experience the chocolate-making process but can sample the delectables afterward. The Videri Chocolate Factory coffee bar offers an array of espresso coffee drinks and chocolate pairings, including sipping chocolate and frozen hot chocolate. Visitors can savor their beverage on the outdoor patio or in the comfort of the air-conditioned cafe. Stop by the chocolate counter and purchase some signature chocolate bars or bonbons to enjoy later.
Those seeking a walkable Raleigh experience should head downtown and explore the galleries, art studios, restaurants, and innovative shops in the Raleigh Warehouse District. The area is quickly becoming one of the top entertainment and nightlife spots in the city. Catch a view of the city skyline on the Dillion Sky Terrace, a ninth-floor BYOB rooftop where birds-eye-view of the city abound. Visit the Morgan Street Food Hall, which features 20 unique culinary concepts, craft beers, and tasty libations. Tired of walking? Grab one of the bright yellow rickshaws for a driver-narrated tour of the area.
Whether visitors are seeking a day excursion or a complete nature-lover’s experience, William B. Umstead State Park, located 10 miles northwest of Raleigh, offers 5600 acres of the great outdoors to explore. Its 20 miles of hiking trails are perfect for short strolls or long hikes through the unique flora and fauna. Anglers enjoy the three manmade lakes. Rent a canoe from the visitors center and explore the 55-acre Big Lake, the largest of the three. From March to December, guests who don't want the fun to end can camp on the site, as well.
In Raleigh, traditional Southern dishes and eclectic edible fare share the spotlight. Local restaurants offer cuisines ranging from down-home comforts and farm-to-table meals to international gourmet delights. Connoisseurs and casual food-lovers alike can explore the local menus and architecture by joining a walking food tour. Arrange a customized food experience according to your budget and preferred cuisine. For those hoping for a romantic gourmet experience, the elegant, historical surroundings and extensive wine list at Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern can't be beat. Feast under the crystal chandeliers in the main dining room, or enjoy a meal in the atrium or tavern.
The oldest public graveyard in Raleigh, established in 1798, City Cemetery is the burial place of many of the citizens, city founders, and legislators. Builders created separate burial areas for visitors, slaves, and free black citizens. City Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 and is a respected resource for genealogy searches. An online GIS map lets you plan out walking tours to locate specific graves throughout the cemetery grounds.
Children love hands-on experiences, and the Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh is full of interactive, educational exhibits and special events to trigger their imaginations. Parents will enjoy the toddlers’ area that allows for safe exploration and discovery. See a blockbuster movie in 3-D in the Marbles IMAX theater. Visit the museum’s store, which offers a variety of books, puzzles, and gifts.
North Carolina State University manages this 10-acre botanical garden, located in West Raleigh. A favorite locale for horticulturists, the stunning site serves as a live laboratory for students. Visitors will not only enjoy the relaxing, eye-catching surroundings but also the free admission. The diverse collection of 6500 plants is popular with amateur and professional photographers, selfie artists, and Instagrammers alike. Start at the Bobby G. Wilder Visitor Center to pick up a map and event calendar, along with tips for self-guided tours.
One of the most Instagrammable sites in Raleigh is the Fayetteville Street District. Not only is this area home to a variety of parades and celebrations throughout the year, but boutiques, restaurants, and a wide variety of businesses line the streets as well. Check out the City of Raleigh Museum and the Mahler Fine Art Gallery. Grab an espresso while you upload the best pics on the district-wide free wi-fi. Winter visitors will enjoy the two-month-long Ipreo Raleigh Winterfest along the 400 Block of Fayetteville Street. The event plays host to live music, a skating rink, carnival rides, and a tree-lighting ceremony.
Plane spotters, aviation enthusiasts, and children choose the RDU Observation Park as one of the most popular sites in Raleigh to visit. The observation deck is located near the air traffic control tower at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Open from sunrise to sunset, visitors can not only watch planes taking off and landing on the 10,000-foot runway, but also listen in on the pilot-tower communications. A picnic and play area is nearby.
One of the top cultural experiences all visitors to Raleigh should seek out is traditional North Carolina barbecue. Most locals agree that there are two distinct types of barbecue available here. The Eastern style starts with an entire hog cooked over wood coals. The shredded meat is seasoned with vinegar and pepper flakes and served with or without a bun. Lexington-style barbecue uses only the shoulder of the hog, cooked over hickory or oak. The sauce is a vinegar base sweetened with brown sugar or tomato paste. In Raleigh, visitors will find an array of popular restaurants offering either type of barbecue or a combination of the two.