Stop in at Artspace during the City Market First Friday Gallery Walk.
Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill are often referred to as “The Triangle,” but this geographic region is much more than one continuous metro area. Though all three cities feature elegant dining, attractive neighborhoods and exhilarating nightlife, each one has its own distinct personality. Known as the “City of Oaks,” Raleigh’s tree-lined streets are packed with funky cafes, stately architecture, historical treasures and exciting cultural activities that range from high-energy sporting events to notable art museums. Durham, home to Research Triangle Park, Duke University and North Carolina Central University, is regarded not only as a national foodie hotspot but as a leader in the worlds of business, health care, medical research, technology, education and spectator sports. And the beautiful town of Chapel Hill, home to the beautiful University of North Carolina, is packed with unique shops, world-class restaurants and real Southern charm, earning itself the nickname “the Southern Part of Heaven.” You’ll want to fully explore each of these cities when you visit the area—but if you’re pressed for time, don’t miss these exciting districts.
One of the busiest districts in the city, downtown Raleigh is at the center of it all. The North Carolina State Capitol and neighboring Executive Mansion are available for touring, as is an impressive collection of world-class museums. As the largest science museum in the Southeast, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is often considered one of the finest in the country, and Marbles Kids Museum will provide hours of interactive and educational fun for the little ones. Grab an after-work drink at the ever-popular Raleigh Times Bar. If you’re hungry, stop in for creative American fare, live music and excellent rooftop views at the Busy Bee Cafe. Also nearby is 518 West Italian Cafe, where you’ll find what many locals will argue to be the best Italian food in Raleigh.
On the first Friday of every month, catch the City Market First Friday Gallery Walk, when many of the area’s restaurants, galleries, studios and stores open their doors for extended hours, live music and special discounts. Drop by Artspace on East Davie Street for creative demonstrations and gallery talks, take advantage of tasty drink specials at Duck and Dumpling and pick up a free map at any of the participating locations for a complete list of First Friday venues.
Ninth Street District in Durham
Durham’s charming Ninth Street District is loaded with specialty shops and nationally acclaimed restaurants, many of which have been a central part of the community for years. The district includes the area between Ninth and Broad Streets and is a fun place to spend an afternoon or an entire evening. Here you’ll find the famous Magnolia Grill, regarded as one of the finest restaurants in the country, and Parizade, an upscale Mediterranean hotspot complete with contemporary design and fresh, creative cuisine. Stop in at Elmo’s Diner for a casually classic American diner experience or enjoy an intimate dinner in the courtyard garden at Vin Rouge, a well-known bistro recognized for its provincial French cooking and savory wine list. After dinner, browse the shelves at The Regulator, a beloved independent bookstore, or stroll through the scenic campus of nearby Duke University, home to the Duke Chapel and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.
Franklin Street in Chapel Hill
You’ll find tons of unique shops and specialty stores along Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, a central thoroughfare and social hub of this charming college town. Shop the racks at Julian’s, a high-end men’s and women’s boutique and staple of Chapel Hill fashion, and pick up Carolina Tar Heel apparel at Johnny T-shirt. In the evening, enjoy the live music at Local 506 or treat yourself to a true Southern meal at critically acclaimed Crook’s Corner. The University of North Carolina Visitor’s Center is also located on Franklin Street, providing an entry point for exploring the beautiful UNC campus. Highlights of a campus visit include the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, one of the largest in the country, the Ackland Art Museum and the Carolina Basketball Museum, which commemorates this record-setting collegiate program.