Best Things to do in Raleigh North Carolina

Choosing to make a city your home usually speaks volumes about your adoration and love of it. When I visited Raleigh in North Carolina for the first time in 2014, I could instantly see myself living there. It’s a great city and I chose to make it my home for my dual-city based life.

Recently, I saw it hit a rather notable Forbes list of the best destinations to visit and was struck by the declaration! Did other people recognize how great this city was too? Clearly, they do, they do! If you haven’t been yet and you’ve wondered what all the fuss is about, read on to find out what it makes Raleigh so great.

Why Raleigh in North Carolina should be on your travel radar

Raleigh is the capital of the state of North Carolina. It’s situated on the east coast of the United States, south of Virginia and north of South Carolina. The city is centrally located in the middle of the state; residents famously say it has the best of both worlds being hours from the beach and hours from the mountains (to be precise, it’s about three to four hours from the Blue Ridge Mountains and about two hours from the closest beach), It’s a liberal city in the historically conservative south and is booming with notable chefs, shops and attractions.

Notable chefs

Raleigh is famous for a few restaurants, including some headed by chefs nominated for the famed James Beard Award. Chef Ashley Christensen’s restaurants are most noteworthy, including Death & Taxes, Beasley’s and Chuck’s. If you’re downtown, don’t miss Stanbury, Crawford and Son and Sitti. There are also some seriously good bakers in town crafting artisanal breads and pastries. A personal favorite of mine is Daniel Benjamin’s very much French inspired contemporary patisserie, LucetteGrace.

City festivals

The city is constantly hosting festivals and street fairs, including multiple Food Truck Rodeos in the summer, the Artsplosure annual art event, Supercon (like Comic-Con but smaller) or cultural celebrations including the Lebanese Festival and Out Raleigh’s gay pride weekend. For a full list of city events check out the Visit Raleigh website.

Great bars

You’ll never go thirsty in this city, that’s for sure. There’s a strong cocktail and beer culture in the city with something for everyone including cocktail bars, breweries and wine bars. You’ll find great places to relax, unwind with friends and sip beverages on just about every block in the small downtown area. Try Foundation on the main street or Whiskey Kitchen’s outdoor area if the weather’s nice. Raleigh Times is the bar I clung to when I first moved before I later discovered Lynwood Brewing just outside downtown’s walking radius.

Manageable size

Something that struck me upon my first visit to the city was the ‘goldilocks’ feel of the downtown area: not too big, not too small. The scale of its buildings also feels just right. It’s urban but not in the big-city way that can leave you feeling anxious walking through the streets. The city definitely has a very welcoming feel to it.

Support of local artists

The city is proud to support local artists. It’s very comforting as an artist myself to live in a community that supports creativity like that. There’s multiple murals around the city, small shops that carry artists’ postcards, posters and original paintings and an abundance of galleries around town, like Deco.

Hub of startups

Would you believe that Raleigh is an incubator for an endless list of new companies? It feels as though a new collaborative office workspace, like HQ Raleigh or Industrious, is opening every month to accommodate a growing list of startups. This means more and more people are moving to the city as more job opportunities open up – it really is a booming environment and the energy of the area is exploding!


In Raleigh you’ll find museums for adults and children alike. CAM is an art museum showing about two art exhibits at any one time, rotating them several times a year. It also has a beautiful photo-worthy exterior. North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) is a larger museum that houses multiple rotating art exhibits and has a free outdoor sculpture park.

Public transportation

Raleigh has a wonderful bus system that will take you through the greater Raleigh-Durham area (Durham is the next major city, northwest of Raleigh) and a free downtown bus system called the ‘R Line’. Uber, Lyft and taxis are also readily available. The downtown area’s best mode of transportation though is your own two feet; everything is very walkable.

How to get to Raleigh

It’s easy to fly to Raleigh via the Raleigh Durham International Airport (code RDU). The airport is a 20-30 minute drive from the downtown area. Trains are another option as there’s an Amtrak station downtown or hop in your car and hit the road! The interstates in North Carolina are some of the prettiest, well kept I’ve seen in America.


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