Since we can’t actually travel anywhere right now, I thought that today I’d take you on an armchair tour of Raleigh, North Carolina! Bookmark this Raleigh Travel Guide, because when we’re free to get out and about again, this city merits a visit.
On our weekend trip (the last prior to shelter-in-place orders 😢) we became super-impressed with Raleigh! The people are friendly. It’s small but with a great mix of culture and independent shops and restaurants. Just two hours to the ocean and to the larger hub of Charlotte – it could end up a place we’d want to retire to!
Downtown/The Historic District
The Raleigh downtown historic district is relatively compact and easily walk-able. If you prefer to get around a bit more quickly, self-serve bike and scooter rentals abound!
Highlight stops in the downtown area include: The North Carolina State Capitol, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, CAM Raleigh and the many parks and squares that intersperse these sites.
Shoppers are in luck! Independent boutiques and quirky specialty good shops are plentiful. Notable favorites from our trip included:
- ArtSpace and The City Market Artist Collective. Both feature various artists-in-residence and exhibition galleries along with occasional special events and classes.
- The Raleigh Denim Workshop. Visit this fantastic space and watch designs being assembled on vintage equipment! The result is impossible-to-mass-produce, high-quality goods, all available for sale in the workshop’s retail section. A great and distinctive souvenir from Raleigh!!
- Father & Son Antiques. A super-groovy journey through time with all kinds of fun finds. Furnishings, clothing, decorative items and more! Was thrilled to score the Pucci rainboots below on the day we visited.
- Videri Chocolate. For the perfect end to your shopping expedition, stop at Videri Chocolate. These are the best of the best! Enjoy a sweet treat and stock up with a box or two to gift your friends back home.
Independent restaurants also abound in the downtown area. Be sure to pay a visit to Brewery Bhavana, a combo beer hall, dim sum spot and retail gift/bookstore. Craft beer lovers will have fun taste-testing their way through an impressive collection. Bida Monda, a Laotian restaurant next door, is another unique spot to try.
If grazing is more your style, stop at the Morgan Street Food Hall. They have plenty of vendors to offer up something for everyone and a couple of bars on site to boot! The outdoor garden area, with picnic tables and live entertainment, was especially inviting.
For a taste of North Carolina, try out City BBQ, located near Videri Chocolate (mentioned above). It’s the best ‘cue in the city! The Boxcar Bar & Arcade next door makes for a fun next stop if you’re looking to extend the evening.
For a fine dining experience, Death & Taxes is a splurge-worthy spot! Chef Ashley Christensen is renowned for her wood-fire cooking. Check out this review from Bon Appetit magazine. If you can’t get in here, don’t fear, you can always check out another one of her Raleigh restaurant locations.
Slightly Outside of Downtown
Two worthwhile sites sit slightly outside the main downtown area. The North Carolina Museum of Art is popular with tourists and residents alike. It’s on the way to or from the airport. If you plan correctly, you could schedule a visit on your way in or out. Be sure to walk through the museum park and sculpture garden for some great photo ops!
Pullen Park is a short rideshare ride out of downtown. It was the first public park in North Carolina and is now the 5th oldest operating amusement park in the US. Take a spin on the famous carousel and see if you can find the Andy Griffith statue. Their Theatre in the Park series is also a great way to spend some time.
We stayed 10-15 minutes north of the downtown historic district in the North Hills area of Raleigh. In 2001 this area was cohesively developed as a multi-use work/live/play/shop/dine area. Midtown/North Hills also offers the benefit of being a short 15-minute hop to the Raleigh Durham airport.
Our home for the weekend was the AC Hotel by Marriott. It featured clean and modern well-equipped guest rooms, a fitness facility and a lovely rooftop bar that is open year-round. A continental-style breakfast buffet is available each day as is a small market place for light snacks and beverages.
A modern indoor/outdoor mall complex surrounds the hotel and features a variety of fitness centers, a movie theatre, and some entertainment complexes as well as a mixture of shops and restaurants. The stores include national brand favorites like Vineyard Vines, Kendra Scott, Lilly Pulitzer, Lou & Grey along with some independent boutiques and smaller, regional chains like Copper Penny, Vermillion, Lou Lou & Monkee’s.
I enjoyed a lovely poke bowl lunch at Rosewater Kitchen & Bar. Owner Giorgios Bakatsias is a James Beard award winner and known for his use of fresh and locally sourced ingredients. For dinner one night, we went to nearby STIR, where the shrimp & grits were a hit as were their other various fish entrees.
A free shuttle bus circulates around the North Hills area 7 days a week, making shopping and exploring that much more convenient!
Right now, they can stop us from doing, but they can’t stop us from dreaming! Wishing you all good health and the chance to travel again one day soon.
2 thoughts on “Armchair Exploring: Raleigh Travel Guide”
Hi Betsy. Raleigh sounds like a fantastic place to visit and when we return to the States, it will be on our itinerary. I notice that you have pictured what looks like a Georgian typical food called khinkali. Is that something offered at the Morgan Street Food Hall? Maybe it’s just something that looks like those Georgian dumplings. Thanks for sharing this very enriching post. I hope we all get back to traveling soon. I hope you and your family stay safe and well. xx
I just looked up a photo of khinkali and think the photo you referenced was one of the dim sum offerings at Brewery Bhavana, also a dumpling! It’s so interesting how many foods of the world overlap in some way – dumplings being one of them. A different filling or a different sauce and you are in a whole new part of the world. I know you love traveling as much as we do! Yes, hope we can all get back to exploring soon. Until then – stay safe, stay healthy. And thank you for stopping by!