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A growing center of innovation, Raleigh combines the entrepreneurial mindset of a burgeoning tech city with one of the most vibrant food scenes in the South. As the largest city in the Triangle — a region that includes Durham and Chapel Hill — Raleigh is anchored by a trio of top research universities: Duke, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. It’s known as the City of Oaks thanks to the number of oak trees that line the streets and the thick swaths of forested land that populate the greater metro area. North Carolina’s state capital is also home to top-notch museums like the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the interactive Marbles Kids Museum. With mild weather year-round, it’s rich in outdoor attractions like the 10-acre JC Raulston Arboretum and botanical garden and the verdant Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, as well as entertainment venues such as the Red Hat Amphitheater downtown.
Just 14 miles from town, Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) has daily nonstop flights to cities across the United States. The state’s largest airport, Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), is 170 miles away and services many international locations. If you’re staying downtown, you don’t need a car, but you might want to rent one if you’re planning to explore the Triangle, which covers more than 4,500 square miles. Raleigh also has a local bikeshare company, Citrix Cycle. While the GoRaleigh bus system links the cities in the Triangle, getting around town on foot or by car is more convenient. In addition, Raleigh has numerous taxi services, as well as rideshare options and an Amtrak stop, which connects the Triangle to Charlotte and beyond.
With relatively mild temperatures year-round, there’s really no bad time to visit. If you want to see the botanical gardens in full color, spring is when the azaleas, dogwoods, and other fauna bloom. Autumn is awash in gold, orange, and red foliage, with peak leaf-changing season typically falling around mid-October. Winter can be gray, but with temperatures rarely dropping to freezing, visiting between December and February is an option for avoiding crowds and peak-season pricing. Thanks to all the public spaces like Moore Square scattered around Raleigh, summer months are popular for art walks, festivals, and outdoor community events.
The North Carolina Museum of Art’s glass-walled architectural structure has 127,000 square feet of interior gallery space and a perfectly manicured sculpture garden with reflection pools that marry the concept of nature and art, rounding out the 164-acre Museum Park campus.
Spanning 5,599 acres between Raleigh, Cary, and Durham, the multi-use William B. Umstead State Park is beloved by locals thanks to its bevy of trails that are ideal for hiking, biking, running, and horseback riding. The park’s three manmade lakes are primed for bass fishing.
Raleigh is one of the South’s top destinations for craft beer enthusiasts, and there’s no better way to experience the bounty than on this easy-to-follow trail that links more than 25 breweries across the city, from a Texas-themed ale house to a brewpub housed in an airplane hangar. Pick up a Raleigh Beer Trail passport, get it stamped at participating breweries, and redeem for swag.