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30 Awesome Things To Do In Raleigh

The City of Oaks, once a sleepy capital city, now offers incredible art, music, food and entertainment, making it a world-class place while still retaining a cozy, small-town feel. Here are a few of the awesome places worth visiting.

Liz Hester

3 articles, 0 comments

1. Contemporary Art Museum (CAM)-You Don’t Have To Be A New Yorker To Keep Up With the Art Scene

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Jame Willamor

This downtown museum situated in the midst of Raleigh’s warehouse district showcases new and emerging art and design.Opened in May 2011, the museum has a middle school docent program, young professionals group and various community programs.

2. Get Your Groove On At Kings Barcade/Neptunes

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user snerkish

For those in the know and on the cutting edge of the music scene, Kings is one of the best music venues around. When they’re not hosting local and national musicians, they hold game nights, comedy nights and other types of performances. Their downstairs bar, Neptunes, has frequent dance parties and guest DJs, making it a favorite for a late-night dance scene.

3. Poole’s Downtown Diner Equals High Class Comfort Food

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user ac-restaurants.com/pooles

Poole’s is Chef Ashley Christensen’s first Raleigh establishment and arguably one of the best restaurants in town. She serves a seasonal menu of her version of comfort food using only local ingredients. The mac and cheese is not to be missed.

4. Oak City Cycling Project Is Not Just Bike Riding

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Paul Wlkinson

Sure the guys at OCCP will sell you a new or refurbished bike, but more than that, they’ll get you into the cycling community. They sponsor group rides for all levels of cyclists, hold maintenance/repair classes and offer their space for community meetings. The shop often hosts local artists on many First Fridays as well as other cycling-related events in the name of spreading bike ridership.

5. Trophy Brewing & Pizza Co-Pizza And Beer, Do You Need More Explanation?

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user trophybrewing.com

This nano brewery is turning out the best beer and pizza in the Triangle. The beer flavor combinations are imaginative – they once had an incredible banana and chocolate infused brew – and the food is fresh and consistently good. If you’re going to do beer and pizza, this is the spot.

6. At Foundation, Whiskey Is The Only Real Drink

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Barockschloss

If you’re into whiskey, this is your bar. This basement establishment with exposed brick walls and cozy tables is the perfect location to find some of the best whiskey and cocktails around. Their extensive whiskey list ranges from well-priced finds to those hard-to-come-by libations. (They even have a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23-year, although I suspect they won’t have it for long.)

7. Capital Club 16 For Good Food, Good Drink, & Good Company

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Aoife Mac

Owners Jake and Shannon Wolf have created a beautiful space with a rotating menu of seasonal dishes made from local ingredients. The bar has imaginative cocktails and is open late into the night on the weekends.

8. William B. Umstead State Park Provides A Country Trek In The City

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Miguel Vieira

This state park has bridle paths, running trails, biking trails, boating, hiking, fishing and camping among other activities. Positioned in the middle of the Triangle, Umstead opened in 1937 and offers more than 5,500 acres of easily accessible park space for residents.

9. The James B. Hunt Jr. Library For A High-Tech Way To Read

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Wikipedia user Seannator

This research facility on the North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus is a beautifully designed, light-filled space showing off the latest technology. Among its many advances, the library holds an innovative bookBot automated delivery system, which holds up to 2 million volumes in 1/9th of the space needed by traditional shelves.

10. North Carolina Museum of Art-Not Just Art But Events Too

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Chucka_nc

This beautiful space is one of the South’s premier destinations for art, events and concerts. Besides the rotating and permanent art exhibits, the museum holds events such as concerts, movies and plays for adults and children.

11. In The Raleigh Greenway System, A Bike Is The Only Transport You Need

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user -Ted

With more than 100 miles of public greenway trails, Raleigh is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. The paths are wide enough to accommodate cyclists and many residents use them to get around the city, or for jogging and dog walking. From just about anywhere, it’s easy to get on a trail.

12. Bida Manda-To Drink Or To Eat? That Is The Question

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Kerstin Wellekotter

This Laotian restaurant also boosts one of the best bars in town. Stop in for a delicious cocktail and their take on spicy Asian cuisine. The restaurant is lined in wood salvaged from old barns and churches, and the bar is covered in sticks from Western North Carolina, giving it a modern and warm feel.

13. Pullen Park For Family Time Adventure

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user -Ted

If a family outing is what you seek, Pullen Park – North Carolina’s first public park — offers a variety of activities. There’s a restored carousel, kiddie boats and a miniature train that circles the space. The park also offers tennis courts, an art center, picnic space, an aquatics center and baseball fields.

14. When Cocktail Hour Had Meaning

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Leyla.a

One of Raleigh’s finest cocktail bars, C. Grace boosts a speakeasy feel and live jazz five nights a week. Located in the Glenwood South neighborhood, this bar takes patrons back to an earlier time and can be a good escape from the more modern clubs that are typical of this area.

15. Headbanging Fun

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Ray Dumas

On the opposite end of the spectrum is one of Raleigh’s oldest dive bars and music venues, Slim’s. With a capacity of 100 people, seeing a band here is like watching them play in your living room – if your living room served cold, cheap beer and shots. They’re known for metal, but host a variety of acts each week. The lone upstairs pool table is usually a good spot for talking to a character or two.

16. Lincoln Theatre-Variety Is The Spice Of Life

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Andy Cox 93

If variety is the spice of life, then the Lincoln Theatre is serving up a lot of spice. This music venue hosts everything from local artists to cover bands. The tiered space guarantees you’ll be able to see the stage and have room to dance.

17. Paradise For True Foodies

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Roberto Verzo

For the foodies out there, there’s the Stanbury, which serves up a rotating menu of ambitious dishes such as bone marrow and steak tartare with quail egg and oysters. The large plates range from fresh fish to house-made pasta. Reservations are recommended.

18. Beer, Beer, Beer, And Food Too

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Ipolinsky

Focusing on great beer and delicious food, the Busy Bee Cafe is a go-to for quality food at good prices. The food typically focuses on local fare, but the Bee is also known for hosting beer tastings, beer dinners and other events. Their upstairs and outdoor space, The Hive, often has bands and is typically at capacity on the weekend.

19. The Raleigh Times Bar For The Casual Bar Crowd

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Ipolinsky

This rambling space has three rooms for drinking as well as an upstairs space and outdoor roof deck. The bar is located in the former home of one of Raleigh’s newspapers, whose clippings adorn the walls. With a wide selection of beer and a great bar menu, this casual spot is a popular hang out. Next door is the also popular Morning Times coffee shop, which offers a large upstairs space for working or meetings.

20. The Players’ Retreat Is A Place For Everyone

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: playersretreat.net/index.htm

Known as the PR to locals, this dive bar is a block from the NCSU campus and is a hangout for students, professors and townies alike. Not much has changed since it opened in 1951 and on any given night you can find a mixed crowd of families having dinner and students shooting pool.

21. Humble Pie For Great Food In Small Bites

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user humblepierestaurant.com

This tapas place serves up some of the best food around in a beautiful space. When the weather is nice, the party moves outside to the tiki bar, the best patio in the area. Humble Pie is also the scene of several great parties and live music.

22. We Celebrate Art And Wine On The First Friday

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user uncalno

“First Friday” is held on the first Friday of every month and many local galleries and design spaces stay open late to accommodate the festivities. Crowds of people wander around sipping wine and exploring the best of local artists. While art, music and themes vary each month, there’s sure to be something for everyone on this big night out.

23. The Generous Bar

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: thelandmarktavern.org

If you’re looking to get rowdy, the Landmark Tavern is your bar. The diverse crowd can get large on weekends spilling out onto the back patio. The bartenders are generous with their pours and the prices are right.

24. Garland Is The Spot For Hip Indian Cuisine

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Flavorrelish

One of Raleigh’s newest establishments, this art-filled room serves up a variety of Indian inspired dishes. After serving food from a take-out window during the summer, the new dining room has quickly become a place for Raleigh’s hippest to gather.

25. Music For Everyone

Another local music venue, the Pour House has an extensive list of beers on tap and a variety of musical acts. With artists ranging from country to blues to rock, there’s usually a show for everyone on the bill.

26. Cool Off And Enjoy The Good Life

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Chucka_nc

The City of Raleigh has four year-round and five seasonal swimming pools, providing a great place to exercise and cool off during the scorching summer months. Several locations hold both group and private swim lessons at reasonable prices.

27. The Borough-Room For All of Your Friends

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user EpsoS.d

A casual restaurant and bar, this downtown spot has a solid menu and a good selection of beer, wine and cocktails. It’s a popular place for a casual gathering of friends since the open space can be good for groups.

28. Carolina Rollergirls For An Old School Fight On Skates

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user Alex Reese

This flat track competition came to Raleigh in 2004. Teams compete with each other and also hold matches against other cities. Competitions are held at the NC State Fairgrounds in Dorton Arena. Bring a chair and grab a spot next to the track to get as close to the bumping, banging and fighting as possible.

29. Centro-Authentic Mexican Food And Tradition

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user centroraleigh.com

Angela Salamanca and her uncle, Carols, opened this authentic Mexican restaurant serving up food with local ingredients and some of the best margaritas around. This restaurant does a lot for the community including hosting a Day of the Dead 5K and weekly margarita run.

30. Coquette Brassiere-Bon Appetite!

30 Awesome Things About Raleigh

Source: Flickr user coquetteraleigh.com

Located in the North Hills Shopping Center, Coquette offers fine French bistro cuisine in a traditional setting. The owners have extensive restaurant experience which shines through in the food and the well thought-out wine list.

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posted on: January 14, 2014
124,312 views, 12 comments

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12 Comments

  1. Jennifer Gilmore

    Thanks for plugging the Player’s Retreat! They are opening a restaurant in the new Carol Johnson Poole Clubhouse at the Lonnie Poole Golf Course at NC State. Plan to come check them out in their new digs. Parking should be better than Hillsborough for the same great food.

  2. Pat

    I think this is great but i have to agree with all the other comments in that there is much more to do than you have listed. Falls and Jordan lake, Cafe tiramisu, Winston’s Grille, Margaux’s The umstead hotel and spa, Angus Barn Turkey Lounge, Second Empire, The rain ride in south Raleigh near Harris lake. Th amphitheatres, in downtown raleigh, Walnut Creek and cary just to name a few. So my suggeation would be to take a survey of places people like to go in and around Raleigh to compile the next list!

    • Pat! in response to Pat

      ASorry I meant train ride in thte post above in South Raleigh.

  3. roxanne

    I love lists! Especially ones centered on food & drink. Other favorite to-do’s in Raleigh outside of eating- Sparkcon in the fall every year, NC Museum of Natural Sciences and yes the theaters & amphitheaters host plenty of cool acts (along with the awesome small concert venues we have as well that were mentioned), plenty of sporting events to go to (and yes, the Carolina Rollergirls are awesome), and Hemlock Bluffs (although not right in Raleigh)!

  4. eezymeezy

    I can’t say that I agree with this list bcI feel it is lacking a bit, but I do like a lot of the items on it. Kudos for plugging the Players Retreat. It is the only real gem of a food spot listed here. Also, them bike trails! oh yah. Lovem.

  5. James

    Hey Liz Hester, put down your fork and drink, and learn more about Raleigh! How about the museums, volunteer opportunities, all of the cycling and running events, Carolina Hurricanes, the many pool halls, Ironman 70.3 Raleigh and many other things there are to do in Raleigh and the surrounding area.

  6. will mannes

    I love that there is so much to do, and every time I fine something like this it really helps get us out of our rut, but coming from a city like Chicago we always get bogged down in the part about having to get in a car drive to the event find a place to park and find the event. I just hate owning a car we never even had to think about insurance car payment and parking issues in Chicago, DC or New York we walked everywhere used the “L” or bus subway or train to get every place we had something called spending money I just miss that about urban life the weather here is wonderful people are great but everything is every place but were we live and taking the bus is not an option here they move so abstract to the grid of a big city, so we often find ourselves walking from out condo on peace street to the same 4 or 5 places or maybe we will hike to the mall and see what’s going on downtown but normally we get frustrated waiting for the bus that is always late or is pulling away just as we get to the stop. a rail system would be such a great answer to connect so much to so many and I know the triangle would become one of the next top destinations for places to visit for sure

  7. Gene

    I realize that you did mention the Busy Bee Cafe and its BeeHive bar as a sort of music venue, but I would think that after that incredibly successful International Bluegrass Music Association weeklong extravaganza here in downtown Raleigh, and the rising popularity of bluegrass music among all sorts of folks, a mention of the BeeHive as a regular twice monthly venue for local bluegrass musicians would have been a plus on your list.

  8. Oak City Junkie

    While I disagree with the list as a lot of other things in my opinion should have made it, this is just one persons opinion. We are all free to make our own list to have people scrutinize.

  9. Beth

    You must add Hard Knocks to this list!! Hard Knocks is the ultimate place to go to… We have been almost 4 times now. Its more than just indoor laser tag. Check it out!!

  10. Gene

    Restaurants dominate this list for one very obvious reason…..folks like to go out to eat, and Raleigh is now blessed with many options in all sorts of cuisines. One place that is not yet on enough folks’ radar screen is Tuscan Blu, across from The Pit in that long brick former railroad warehouse. Some of the best and most authentic Italian food around at very moderate prices. The chef/owner, Maurizio Privilegi, is an actual Italian native from Livorno, and he now has another Livornese, Chef Lorenzo, working with him. The charming hostess, Patrizia, who is from Columbia and also speaks Italian, is Maurizio’s wife. This ristorante has the best lasagna in town and a special pasta dish called Fiochi…..little pastas stuffed with pear and cheese in pink cream sauce, which particularly appeals to women. Pretty good wine offerings, too. It received a good review from Greg Cox a while back. It’s fun to dine out on the platform in good weather and watch the trains come and go. Check it out!

  11. Gene

    Sorry…..I misspelled Colombia!

 

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