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Lissa, Gotwals, Bida Manda

Photo by Lissa Gotwals

Chef Lon Bounsanga puts the finishing touches on a dish at Bida Manda.

Why Now: Raleigh has experienced a population surge in the past few years thanks to an influx of transplants being lured by jobs in the area’s Research Triangle, home to companies such as Cisco Systems and SAS Institute. Specialty shops and galleries have blossomed to greet the newcomers, and the food scene has never been hotter.

Where to Go: Pamper yourself with a stay at the five-diamond Umstead Hotel and Spa, located outside the city on a three-acre lake. Make sure to reserve a table at Herons, where the kitchen works culinary magic turning familiar foods into gorgeous edible art. In town, grab breakfast at star chef Ashley Christensen’s Joule (the short rib milk gravy over biscuits is fantastic) or pick up a carrot cake croissant at contemporary pastry spot Lucettegrace. For shopping with a local pedigree, duck into Deco Raleigh for gifts, Holly Aiken for colorful vinyl bags and Raleigh Denim Workshop for high-end jeans. Then immerse yourself in North Carolina’s past at the Museum of History or pop across the pedestrian mall for hands-on exploration at the Museum of Natural Sciences. Hungry again? Stop at Wine Authorities to sample the on-tap offerings, then head next door to chef Scott Crawford’s eagerly anticipated restaurant/grocery Standard Foods, opening this month. Expect twists on Southern food and salads using produce from the eatery’s backyard farm.

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