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Raleigh, North Carolina travel guide: Where to eat, shop, stay

Often lumped together with its neighbors Durham and Chapel Hill to form the Research Triangle region, Raleigh, North Carolina, is an entertaining and interesting city in its own right.

The state capital oozes Southern charm, the food scene is top-notch and it’s a haven for creators — giving visitors much to explore, especially during spring’s pleasant temperatures.

Where to go

The North Carolina Museum of Art (free admission;
Photo Credit: Devorah Lev-Tov

The North Carolina Museum of Art (free admission; 2110 Blue Ridge Road, 919-839-6262, in Cary, a suburb of Raleigh, has collections spread out over multiple buildings as well as a gorgeous park full of sculptures. The permanent collection features European, African and American art spanning centuries plus changing exhibitions such as the upcoming "Altered Land," running April 16 to Sept. 11 with works by North Carolina natives Damien Stamer and Greg Lindquist on view.

For an outdoor respite, William B. Umstead State Park (8801 Glenwood Ave., 919-571-4170, is the perfect place to explore nature, with more than 20 miles of trails. Enjoy an easy stroll or a more invigorating hike through the woods. There are also plenty of bike paths and three lakes, with Big Lake offering canoe and rowboat rentals.

Like many Southern cities, Raleigh locals are proud of their creative, homegrown heritage -- perfect for a DIY tour. Start at Boulted Bread (614 W. South St., 919-999-3984,, where you can see the flour mill in action as well as grab a morning bun, chocolate chess pie or seeded levain. Next, head to Videri Chocolate Factory (327 W. Davie St., 919-755-5053,, a bean-to-bar factory and cafe with delicious bars, truffles and drinks in an old train depot. Around the corner is Raleigh Denim Workshop (319 W. Martin St., 919-917-8969,, a functioning jeans factory where you can see the action and buy the clothes. For more craftsmanship, Holly Aiken designs and sells handbags made from vinyl at Stitch (20 E. Hargett St., 919-833-8770, And because you can never have too much chocolate, end at Escazu Artisan Chocolates (936 N. Blount St., 919-832-3433,, which has a bean-to-bar workshop and small retail shop where you can try a drinking chocolate or house-made ice cream push-up and browse locally-made gifts.

Where to eat

One should never go to the South without
Photo Credit: Devorah Lev Tov

One should never go to the South without eating barbecue. In Raleigh, the Pit (328 W. Davie St., 919-890-4500, is the place to go for classic North Carolina whole-hog, pit-cooked barbecue. Start with the fried green tomatoes and then choose between chopped barbecue, pulled pork and two different styles of ribs. Save room for the banana pudding.

Raleigh's resident food queen Ashley Christensen's fried chicken spot Beasley's Chicken + Honey (237 Wilmington St., 919-322-0127, does not disappoint. Aside from the incredible chicken, there are sides galore (think creamed collard greens and pimento mac and cheese), tasty mixed drinks and a great selection of North Carolina beers on tap. For a fancier meal, try her well-received Poole's, just a few blocks away.

For breakfast fare, the charming La Farm Bakery (4248 NW Cary Parkway, Cary, 919-657-0657,, run by master baker Lionel Vatinet, specializes in breads like baguettes and fermented sourdoughs as well as pastries like croissants and cinnamon buns. The cafe does breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, with a menu featuring New Orleans and French specialties.

You may not expect to find a Laotian restaurant in Raleigh, or anywhere in the South for that matter, but there is one and it's fabulous. At Bida Manda (222 S. Blount St., 919-829-9999,, try the herb salad and saffron crepe and any of the curries. And definitely get a cocktail.

Where to stay

For proximity to downtown, Aloft Raleigh (2100 Hillsborough
Photo Credit: Devorah Lev-Tov

For proximity to downtown, Aloft Raleigh (2100 Hillsborough St., 919-828-9900, opened last fall with 135 modern rooms featuring upscale comforts like Bliss Spa bath amenities and an outdoor pool.

The Umstead (100 Woodland Pond Drive, 919-447-4000,, a luxury resort in Cary, boasts the excellent restaurant Herons, run by Chef Steven Greene, which utilizes produce from the property's large garden. Stroll around the lake and beautiful grounds, peruse the mini art gallery on the first floor or relax poolside. And be sure to get a treatment in the spa.

The brand new Mayton Inn (301 S. Academy St., 919-670-5000, in Cary is Raleigh's only boutique hotel. The Georgian-style inn has 45 rooms -- and no two are alike. A gourmet breakfast is served every morning at the hotel's restaurant, Verandah.


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