Raleigh, as with most state capitals, is the place in North Carolina to visit state museums, the Executive Mansion and the Capitol building mostly for free. Raleigh is part of the Research Triangle, with Durham and Chapel Hill. Founded right after the Revolutionary War and named for Sir Walter Raleigh, there's plenty to do and see in this bustling university city plus a selection of great restaurants and entertainment.
When traveling around Raleigh, some say it's best to think of I-440 as a loop around the city's center. Inside this beltline are the Capitol, Museum of History and North Carolina State University (NCSU). Outside the beltline, the area is newer and features the Museum of Arts as well as the Entertainment and Sports arena. Be prepared: traffic is busy here sometimes leading to gridlock.
Spring or fall may be the best time to visit Raleigh; summers can be sweltering. Historical sites to visit include the African-American Heritage Preservation Cultural Complex, North Carolina Museum of History and Raleigh City Museum, uniquely housed in a skyscraper. Enjoy the arts at galleries like Artspace, North Carolina Museum of Art (featuring Van Dycks and Raphaels) or explore the natural world at North Carolina Museum of National Science, with four great whales and a dinosaur on display.
City Market is a "don't miss"; with cobblestone streets, brick buildings, street lamps, a produce market, live music and specialty shops, it's worthy of a visit. On the campus of NCSU, visit J.C. Raulston Arboretum in spring when everything's blooming. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Gardens is a quiet remembrance of the leader featuring a life-sized bronze statue.
Try a self-guided walking tour of Historic Oakwood neighborhood, 20 blocks of vintage Victorian mansions. Tours are popular in Raleigh; choose from historic, walking or trolley for an easy way to see the sites.
Accommodations here range from chain motels to upscale hotels with B & Bs and inns between. Dining options in this big city can suit any taste from barbecue to steak, seafood to French cuisine to all-American burgers. Enotica Vin serves nouvelle cuisine while award-winning Angus Barn serves steaks the way you like them.
Nightlife in Raleigh runs the gamut from live music in pubs to jazz, blues, rock or country in clubs around town. Concerts, local theater plus NCSU sports can highlight the night. Outdoor recreation includes Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, a 13,900 reservoir for boating, swimming and fishing where bald eagles sometimes visit. Falls Lake State Recreation Area offers boating, fishing, hiking and camping. William B. Umsted State Park has 5,400 acres of hiking, biking and bridle trails.
Raleigh is located in Central North Carolina, about three hours northeast of Charlotte, NC off I-40 east.