May 5, 2023 - Things to Do

A guide to visiting Raleigh

Illustration of the sun and moon transitioning over the Raleigh skyline.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Hello, Richmonders. This is Zachery Eanes from Axios Raleigh inviting you to come visit your southern neighbor sometime soon.

  • Here's a small guide we've assembled in case you need help getting around.

How to get here: It's a 2.5-hour drive between the capital cities of Virginia and North Carolina — though admittedly there's not much to be seen along I-95 between the two cities.

  • Alternatively, you can take Amtrak, which will drop you off in the middle of downtown Raleigh at Union Station, built in 2018, in a little less than four hours.

Where to stay: Downtown Raleigh is a great launch point, with several hotels to choose from. But if you're looking for something with more of a local charm, we'd suggest The Longleaf Hotel or Heights House.

  • If you want to treat yourself with a five-star option, you can't go wrong with The Umstead in Cary.
  • All three have great bars.

What to do: Raleigh's festival season has improved dramatically in recent years, with the arrival of J. Cole's Dreamville Festival (held in April in Dix Park) and the International Bluegrass Music Association's World of Bluegrass Festival, which takes place in September throughout downtown and includes many free concerts.

Other notable festivals:

  • Hopscotch Music Festival will bring hundreds of bands to downtown Raleigh in September.
  • Artsplosure, the city's arts festival, brings in hundreds of visual artists every May.
  • Brewgaloo, held every spring, is one of the biggest craft beer festivals on the East Coast.
  • N.C. State Fair is one of the state's longest-running festivals held every year in October. Come and compare it the Virginia State Fair.

Other things to do:

  • The N.C. Museum of Art, which brings in great exhibitions and features around five miles of trails and a sculpture garden.
  • Umstead State Park, located between Raleigh and Durham, has nearly 6,000 acres for hiking.
  • N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, the state's most visited museum, explores the natural world, from dinosaurs to the native animals of North Carolina.

Where to eat: Raleigh's dining scene has grown exponentially in recent years — but a good place to start is one of the many places honored by James Beard Awards.

  • Ashley Christensen, the city's most celebrated chef, has several great venues, including the fine-dining spot Death & Taxes, Poole's (a modern taken on a diner) and Beasley's Chicken + Honey, a great brunch spot.
  • Scott Crawford's Crawford & Son has one of the most adventurous menus in the city.
  • Oscar Diaz's restaurant Cortez has received acclaim for its take on Mexican-inspired seafood. And chef Sunny Gerhart's St. Roch Fine Oysters also packs a delightful seafood menu.
  • Cheeni Food Emporium, an all-day Indian cafe in North Raleigh, is our most recent James Beard nominee and has become one of the most distinctive dining spots in the city.
  • And Raleigh's most anticipated new restaurant is the Middle Eastern-inspired Ajja from chef Cheetie Kumar.

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