The Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill area is known as the Research Triangle and is home to three well-known research universities — Duke, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. Raleigh has also attracted a highly trained workforce, which in turn has drawn more than 7,000 companies, including biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms. But it’s not all work and no play in Raleigh. The city is also an exceptionally fun place to live. Its residents enjoy a lively nightlife scene and excellent opportunities for outdoor activities.
City Outdoor Adventures
According to U.S. News & World Report, Raleigh ranks 11th on its list of “Best Places to Live.” This city offers its residents an excellent quality of life, including access to many parks, bodies of water, and hiking and biking trails. It’s a healthy environment that probably contributed to Raleigh being ranked as the healthiest city in North Carolina.
It’s probably not surprising that a city that bears the nickname “City of Oaks” would be filled with beautiful parks and green spaces. Raleigh’s residents, in fact, have more than 200 parks to choose from, including but not limited to nature preserves, historic properties, and playgrounds.
At 308 acres, Dorothea Dix Park is Raleigh’s largest city park. It offers visitors wide open fields, walking trails, and a dog park. Raleigh is also home to one of North Carolina’s state parks — William B. Umstead State Park. This 5,439-acre park features three manmade lakes and a network of trails, including 13 for multiuse and 20 for hikers.
Studies have shown that people are happier when they’re near water. Fortunately for the residents of Raleigh, the city boasts almost 1,300 acres of water, including lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds. Popular water activities in Raleigh include boating, fishing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding.
For those who don’t have their own watercraft, some lakes, including Wheeler and Johnson, have kayaks, boats, and boards for rent. Adventurous souls may want to try paddling down the 250-mile Neuse River Canoe Trail, which stretches from North Raleigh to the Pamlico Sound.
Raleigh also has facilities for those who prefer to enjoy their aquatics indoors. Buffaloe Road Aquatic Center has lap lanes, a kid’s area, a three-story waterslide, and a lazy river. Then there is Pullen Aquatic Center, which has lap lanes and a warm water therapy pool
Hiking & Biking Trails
Bikers and hikers can explore a variety of trails in Raleigh. There’s the approximately 6-mile Art to Heart Trail, which connects the North Carolina Museum of Art to downtown Raleigh and travels through the museum’s 164-acre park. This trail is part of the East Coast Greenway, which will one day extend 2,900 miles from Canada to Key West.
The Neuse River Greenway Trail is another good option for runners, walkers, and bikers. This 27.5-mile trail runs alongside the Neuse River and extends from Falls Lake to southeast Raleigh. In addition, Raleigh’s many parks are laced with miles of trails
And because biking is also an important form of transportation, Raleigh has provided its riders with this map, which shows where the city’s bike lanes can be found.
Raleigh is definitely an excellent place to live for lovers of the great outdoors. In addition to the many beautiful recreational activities available in the city itself, Raleigh residents are also within relatively easy driving distance of the sea and the state’s mountains. For instance, Raleigh is just about two hours from Wrightsville and other beaches. And it’s about three and half hours away from the Blue Ridge Parkway that carves through the state’s beautiful mountains.
Raleigh has no shortage of great places to go shopping. Its downtown area, for instance, is home to charming shops and boutiques selling beautiful clothing, locally made crafts, gourmet foods, and unique decor.
The North Hills area is another option for shoppers. Located in midtown Raleigh, this open-air shopping center is home to many well-known chain stores, including REI, Anthropologie, and Plow & Hearth. Shoppers can also head to Brier Creek Commons, which offers more than 75 stores and eateries, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and TJ Maxx.
For those who prefer shopping indoors and out of the elements, there is Crabtree Valley Mall. Not only is Crabtree Valley the largest enclosed mall in Raleigh, but it is also one of the largest in the Southeast, with approximately 200 stores. Another indoor option is the Triangle Town Center, which is the site of the only Saks Fifth Avenue in both North Carolina and South Carolina.
City Restaurants (150)
In 2017, Zagat included Raleigh on its list of the 30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America. And it was a well-deserved recognition. Raleigh has many fantastic dining options, and several of its chefs have been nominated and/or won the prestigious James Beard Awards.
Foodies can start their search for a good meal in Raleigh’s Village District. When this neighborhood opened in 1949, it was considered to be the first shopping center between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. Today, this neighborhood is dotted with many dining options, ranging from fast food to trendy eateries. Another idea? Gourmands need to dine in at least one of the five restaurants owned by Ashley Christensen. In 2019, Christensen won the much-coveted James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in the country.
The popular food hall trend has also found a home in Raleigh. Foodies can try out what’s new and tasty at the 22,000-square-foot Morgan Street Food Hall or the 43,000-square-foot Transfer Co. Food Hall, both of which are located in the downtown area.
Raleigh’s Arts and Culture Scene
The arts and culture scene in Raleigh is truly rocking. So much so that Raleigh officials are working hard to have the city be recognized as the “Arts Capital of the South.” Raleigh also likes to boast that this city is where arts meet smarts (Raleigh residents hold the second-highest number of advanced degrees in the south).
It’s probably not surprising that a city located in the Research Triangle would be home to an abundance of museums. Raleigh, in fact, has so many that it has earned the nickname the “Smithsonian of the South.” One of its best-known museums in Raleigh — the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences — is actually an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. It offers four floors of exhibits and is also the largest natural history museum in the southeast.
Those interested in learning about the Tarheel State’s interesting and rich past will definitely want to check out the North Carolina Museum of History, which is home to approximately 150,000 artifacts. And, of course, there is an abundance of smaller specialized museums, including the Marbles Kids Museum.
Arts & Galleries (100)
Raleigh enjoys a thriving arts scene. It is home to two excellent art museums — the North Carolina Museum of Art and the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) Raleigh. In addition, galleries and art shows can be found throughout the city. One of Raleigh’s more artsy neighborhoods is Boylan Heights, which is located close to the city’s downtown area and is known for its art galleries and studios, as well as video production firms. Boylan Heights is also the site of the popular ArtWalk event, which has been a December tradition since 1992.
The Warehouse District, which consists of six blocks of red-brick industrial buildings, is another artsy neighborhood in Raleigh. This is where the Visual Arts Exchange — a 4,000-square-foot nonprofit art gallery — is located.
Dance & Theater
Being a capital city has its perks. It’s typically where you’ll find a state’s major cultural venues. Raleigh is no different. It is home to several important performing arts groups, including the North Carolina Symphony, the Carolina Ballet Company, the North Carolina Theatre, and the North Carolina Opera.
Raleigh also has several performing arts venues. Its Duke Energy Center contains five venues, including the 600-seat Fletcher Opera Theater, the Kennedy Theater, and the Memorial Auditorium. The city is also home to the Raleigh Little Theatre. This community theater typically puts on ten productions a year
Raleigh’s residents are very fortunate to live in a city that is rich in cultural and artistic offerings. These are the type of things that can truly elevate a city from run-of-the-mill to cosmopolitan.
With five walkable entertainment districts, Raleigh is the perfect playground for those who take their nightlife activities seriously. The Glenwood South district is a favorite with locals and is home to several trendy and cool spots, including The Green Light. This is a speakeasy-style bar located in the Architect Bar & Social House, and it can only be accessed through a door hidden behind a bookcase.
Then there is the Fayetteville Street District. This vibrant neighborhood is home to more than 50 restaurants and bars, including Foundation, which is known for its talented mixologists and handcrafted libations.
Brewski lovers will definitely want to check out the Raleigh Beer Garden, which is located in the Glenwood South District. This venue proudly offers more than 350 beers on tap and has been certified by the Guinness World Records as having the largest beer selection in the world. Another popular bar in the Glenwood South District is Still Life.
For those who prefer to play fun games while imbibing, there is Boxcar Bar & Arcade. This venue, which is located in the Warehouse District, features a full bar along with both new and retro arcade games.
Raleigh also has more than 80 top-notch music venues. One of the best-known is the Red Hat Amphitheater, which is an outdoor concert venue situated in downtown Raleigh. This venue has featured some of the top musical acts in the country.
Obviously, Raleigh has a lot to offer prospective homeowners. In fact, it was ranked number two on Livability.com’s 100 best places to live in the country. Prospective homeowners interested in moving to Raleigh should consult with a real estate professional to ensure that they are choosing the right neighborhood and home for their particular needs. An experienced agent will also be knowledgeable about the current market and educate a buyer on the right price to pay for their dream home in Raleigh.