Raleigh, NC

Destination Location

Overview

Places to go and things to see are in no short supply in Raleigh, North Carolina. The state's capital is as quintessentially Southern as it gets, and is known nation-wide for its museums and historic neighbourhoods. The nearby Appalachian Mountains make for picturesque and serene landscapes as the nearly 500 million-year-old mountain range covers half the state.

Raleigh has a varied collection of neighborhoods and cultural hubs, each with its own personality and style. The city's grandiose main street, Fayetteville Street, exemplifies Raleigh as a distinguished southern city, with upscale restaurants and modern high-rises coupled with historic architecture. Fayetteville Street is decked out with public art, outdoor cafés and expansive sidewalks, perfect for taking this neighbourhood in on foot.

The warehouse district offers up an eclectic array of local shops, dining options, and antique stores. This neighbourhood is home to the Contemporary Art Museum and perfect to wander around during the day as its laid back atmosphere juxtaposes the hustle and bustle of Fayetteville Street.

If you're looking to take in the city's creative offerings, Moore Square is at the heart of Raleigh's arts and cultural entertainment centre. Locally curated art galleries and the Marbles Kids Museum serve as the perfect mix of arts attractions for families. Chalk full of restaurants and clubs, this is also a great nightlife spot and provides numerous cuisine and dining options sure to satisfy any visitor. City Market, a downtown legend in Raleigh, is located just south of Moore Square Park and offers a throng of retail shops and makes for a perfection destination for those looking to take something special home from their trip.

No neighbourhood in downtown Raleigh does hip and trendy like Glenwood South. Avant-garde restaurants line the locally revered Glenwood Avenue to create the perfect people watching spot on a warm summer night in Raleigh.

If you've had your fill of arts, culture and fare, Raleigh's NHL hockey team the Carolina Hurricane play at the RBC Centre where a good atmosphere and family-friendly crowds make this an excellent place to spend an evening during fall and winter. As well, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in the North Carolina Museum of History exhibits personal items donated by over 300 inductees, making it a must-see for any sports-fan.

North Carolina's state capital offers unique neighbourhoods and a progressive culture that still maintains its southern roots. You're sure to be welcomed and won over by the true charm of the American south. For more information to help you plan your trip, go to visitraleigh.com

WestJet is pleased to offer service to this destination through our code-share agreement with our great airline partners.

Airport served by: Raleigh Durham, NC (RDU)

Destination basics

Summers in Raleigh are typically hot and humid. Daytime highs average between 30-34°C (85-93 °F). Air conditioning comes in handy in the south, as the nights are warm and typically don't drop below 20 °C (68 F). Make sure you check the weather forecast if you're traveling this time of year as temperatures have been known to reach 38 °C (100 °F). Winters are mild and wet with highs generally between 8–12 °C (47–53 °F) with lows around or just below freezing.

The area dubbed the ”Triangle” in the 1950s is outlined by the base cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, which comprise the points of a triangle when viewed on a map. Today, the Triangle spills over into an area far beyond the original three points, and has evolved into a place that is diverse, dynamic, and rich in cultural and recreational opportunities.

Downtown Raleigh/Inside the Beltline
Raleigh, the largest city in the Triangle, offers the most variety. The downtown region, a colorful and historically significant part of the city, has grown to become the center for cultural activities. The BTI Center for the Performing Arts is home to the renowned North Carolina Symphony and plays host to touring Broadway shows, opera and ballet.

The History Museum and Natural Sciences Museum are both free. Exploris, a children's museum centered around global awareness, is the first of its kind in the world.

Major historic sites include the State Capitol, Executive Mansion and Historic Oakwood.

Stroll down the original cobblestone streets of City Market, lined with enough unique shops and galleries to fill an afternoon. Artspace and Raleigh Contemporary Gallery are just two of the galleries that illustrate this city's devotion to the creative arts. Shop for antiques, clothing, gifts and more at Cameron Village, a short drive away. If all that shopping leaves you hungry, fear not. An impressive array of restaurants, pubs and cafes await, especially around Moore Square. Try Big Ed's. As for the nightlife, Raleigh is a sleepy little city no more.  

North Raleigh and Greater Raleigh
More modern, practical and utilitarian than downtown, greater Raleigh has a lot to offer as well. The State Fairgrounds Flea Market holds treasures waiting for your discovery, and Crabtree Valley Mall boasts more than 200 stores to choose from.

Sports fans and concert lovers flock to the Raleigh Entertainment and Sports Arena, home to Carolina Hurricanes Hockey and N.C. State Basketball. While people here are just starting to warm up to ice hockey, college basketball is a big part of local sports culture and the excitement reaches a fever pitch during the finals.

Stock up on local produce at the State Farmers Market or spend the day at Shelley Lake Park. Raleigh is something different to each person that visits.

Durham
Durham, the “City of Medicine,” is home to almost a quarter million people and offers an eclectic mix of white and blue-collar workers, scholars and artists and ethnic populations. The prestigious Duke University Medical Center, as well as most of RTP, are all located within Durham's borders, but it's not all about business. There are plenty of ways to have fun here too.

Shop at the historic Brightleaf Square, full of locally-owned shops, restaurants and galleries. James Kennedy Antiques, Ltd. The Ninth Street Shopping District and Northgate Mall will make even die-hard shoppers cry “uncle.”

Looking for something to do? Carolina Theatre, the Bull Durham Blues Festival, the Durham Symphony Orchestra and Durham Bulls baseball are just a few choices. The Duke University Chapel and Sarah P. Duke Gardens are sights to behold, and the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science will delight the child in everyone.

There is a wide range of dining experiences available, including the fabulous Francesca's Dessert Caffe.

Chapel Hill
A picturesque university town, Chapel Hill is probably the most politically and ecologically-minded city in the bunch. The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and UNC Hospitals put it on the map and the activities and attractions put it near the hearts of residents and visitors alike.

For a real taste of what Chapel Hill has to offer, start on Franklin Street. This is a district full of the character that makes this city unique, where coffeehouses line the walks and shops offer up everything from exotic jewelry to sporting goods. Restaurant connoisseurs take note: there is a restaurant that will satisfy every visitor to Chapel Hill.

A visit to the Morehead Planetarium, the Ackland Art Museum or one of the many historic sites round out a trip to this fair city. And lest we forget, Carolina Tar Heels basketball games are a local phenomenon, spawning a following like no other.

The Raleigh-Durham region has grown exponentially over the years, due greatly to the explosive success of Research Triangle Park (RTP). Thousands of acres devoted to biological and technological research and development have spawned some big breakthroughs and gained the respect and admiration of cities the world over. This has taken some serious wherewithal and a lot of hard work, but if Triangle residents work hard, they play harder, and the entertainment industry has grown right along with area business.

Sports
The Triangle is nothing if not sports-minded, and there are choices to suit fans of any stripe. The Entertainment and Sports Arena (ESA) is the state-of-the-art home to the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes, Carolina Cobras Arena Football and N.C. State Men's Basketball. N.C. State Wolfpack football, played at Carter Finley Stadium, is a favorite of local fans. Wolfpack fever hits hard every fall and doesn't let up until the end of the season.

Baseball fans can catch a Mudcats game at Five County Stadium or see the Durham Bulls play at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Carolina Courage women's soccer, UNC Chapel Hill's Tar Heel sports and Duke University's Blue Devil football, baseball and soccer keep sports fans busy all year round. If none of these options appeal, maybe a stock car race at Wake County Speedway is the ticket.

Theater
Theatergoers will be pleased with the fine options available. The beauty of the Carolina Ballet, the drama of the National Opera Company and the elaborate sets and costumes of the Broadway South Theatre Series are just a few of the options at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh. Durham Performing Arts Center showcases the raw talent of amateurs as well as seasoned performers. For tastes that run beyond the mainstream, check the play list at Manbites Dog Theater or Playmakers Repertory Company.

Comedy and Music
If you just want to laugh, Charlie Goodnight's Restaurant and Comedy Club dishes up the best in stand-up and Comedy Sportz is improvisational comedy that encourages audience involvement.

The South is commonly associated with the strumming sounds of country and bluegrass, but they're far from the only choices in these parts. You're just as likely to find a big-name rock band as a country singer on the stages at the ESA and the Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek.

The North Carolina Symphony performs at Meymandi Concert Hall and a number of other venues across the Triangle. The Amphitheatre at Regency Park, completed in 2001, is the site of Summerfest, a series of outdoor concerts in June and July that invites listeners to pull up a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy the symphony under the stars.

Museums and Galleries
Whether you're a history buff, science fan or art lover, or you're just trying to find a place to take the kids on a rainy day, there is a museum for you in the Triangle. Learn about local history at the North Carolina Museum of History or the Chapel Hill Museum. Investigate the world of science at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, or the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill.

Celebrate art at the North Carolina Museum of Artor the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, the Ackland Art Museum at UNC Chapel Hill or the Duke University Museum of Art.

The younger set will especially enjoy Exploris, an interactive museum that aims to increase global awareness. If fate finds you out of town, Discovery Place in Charlotte is one of the top hands-on science museums in the United States.

Festivals
There is always something happening in the Capital City and surrounding areas. Celebrations, festivals and outdoor events begin with First Night Raleigh and run straight through to the annual holiday parades, celebrations and tree lightings. The arrival of spring is cause for celebration, and Artsplosure in downtown Raleigh kicks it off.

Those unfamiliar with the dining scene in the Raleigh-Durham area are in for a treat. Looking for a fine dining experience at a nationally recognized, award-winning restaurant? No problem. Have a hankering for some good old-fashioned home cooking or want to try traditional southern soul food? You got it. Longing for a taste of European, Asian or Indian cuisine? You will find it all here.

Raleigh/Inside the Beltline
If you've come here determined to sample the local fare, start with breakfast at Big Ed's in downtown Raleigh's City Market. Yummy biscuits smothered in sausage gravy or a breakfast platter of grits and eggs will fuel you for an entire day of work or play. Enjoy a new twist on old Chinese at Five Star, where the dance floor fills up at night. At Tír na nÓg, or "Land of Eternal Youth," you'll find hearty Irish meat and potato style dishes. The restaurant with a funny name, Bojangles', specializes in bringing Cajun-style comfort food to Raleigh. 

Durham
The delicious barbecue and crisp hushpuppies flavored with onion at Bullock's Barbeque in Durham will bring even die-hard nouvelle cuisine lovers back looking for more. Nana's is a great option for romantic dinners. Five Star is a chic warehouse style eatery that serves up superior Chinese fare in an uptown setting. There are no greasy egg rolls here; expect fresh-tasting, crisp vegetables and tender meats in delicious Oriental sauces accented with authentic Far-East spices. Fairview is a cozy place to enjoy your evening. With a rustic interior and many savory options on the menu, it is a mainstay in Durham.

Chapel Hill
Il Palio Ristorante, in Chapel Hill, is a great choice for intimacy and romance; its beautiful décor, magnificent Italian dishes and superior wines sooth the soul. Pasta, seafood and meats are given the star treatment and the desserts are worth waiting for. Carolina CrossRoads Restaurant & Bar is a popular spots for fine dining. Enjoy your meal with some live music on the deck at Top of the Hill. A popular late-night option is the Spotted Dog, which has a variety of homemade dishes available. Stock up on all the Mexican you need at Cosmic Cantina, where traditional fare like burritos and quesadillas are served with cold glasses of sangria.

Raleigh/Durham

State: North Carolina

Country: United States

Raleigh/Durham by the Numbers
Raleigh Population: 451,000
Durham Population: 251,900
Elevation: 315 feet / 96 meters
Average Annual Precipitation: 46 inches / 117 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 42°F / 5.6°C
Average July Temperature: 79°F / 26.1°C

Quick Facts
Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT-5; Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 919 & 984

Did You Know?

Raleigh was named after Sir Walter Raleigh. Word has it he spread his cloak over a mud puddle to keep Queen Elizabeth's feet dry, in addition to discovering tobacco (or so the legend goes).

Orientation

Raleigh is the state capital and is located next to Durham, both cities are in east-central North Carolina. The cities are about 260 miles (418 kilometers) from Washington DC and about 145 miles (233 kilometers) from Charlotte, NC. 

After the American Revolution, the former English colony “Carolina” became the state of North Carolina. The location of the capital city was chosen, as so many things are, by the wealthiest and most prominent citizens of the state. It was in a central location and it was hoped that those in the thickly populated coastal region would migrate west. Named after Sir Walter Raleigh, one of the first English settlers to arrive on America's shores, the city of Raleigh was born in 1792.

The dignitaries of North Carolina's capital city set a standard of excellence for building the State House and Governor's Residence, and residents followed suit. This resulted in lovely Victorian homes and charming shops and churches, many of which are still enjoyed today.

Fortunately for all, the city's founding fathers held a real appreciation for the beautiful hardwoods that were prolific in the area. They decided from the beginning that as many mighty oaks would stay in place as possible, and they drew up a plan accordingly. They dubbed Raleigh the “City of Oaks” and amazingly, despite remarkable growth, the original plan is still in force. In 1975, Raleigh was named the first “Green Survival City” in the nation.

The State Capitol, a well-preserved example of Greek-Revival style architecture, is a National Historic Landmark. The original State House burned down in 1831, and the new Capitol was finished in 1840. It is said that the ghost of a confederate soldier roams the second floor, making strange noises and causing unexplained occurrences. A focal point of the rotunda is a marble statue of George Washington and 14 grand monuments are on display on Union Square.

For more than 100 years, Raleigh remained an unassuming, quiet southern city. But by the late 1950s it became apparent to local government and business people that the sagging economy, based on tobacco, textiles and furniture, needed a boost.

The Research Triangle Park (RTP) was cut out of scrub pine forest and old farmland just west of Raleigh. Dignitaries set out to draw people to the area, hoping that having Duke University, North Carolina State University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill nearby would lure big business. By the 1960s, a steady flow began, and when IBM moved in, in 1969, the dam broke.

Growth has been the watchword since; Raleigh is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. The original one square mile has expanded to more than 100. The population increased by 4.04 percent between 1980 and 1990, and more than 30 percent between 1990 and 1999.

Long before the Europeans arrived on the scene, the area now known as Durham was filled with activity. Two Native American tribes, the Eno and the Occoneechi, made their home there. They made their mark as well, setting down transportation paths, patterning the use of natural resources and establishing settlements. Their cultural influence is still evident in local customs and traditions found here today.

In the early 1700s, European explorers took note of the beauty of the area, calling it “the flower of the Carolinas.” By the mid-1700s, settlers from every part of Great Britain had made their way here, building gristmills and working the land. In 1949, Dr. Bartlett Durham provided land for a railroad station. The city was later named for Dr. Durham. Large plantations were built, and by 1860 Stagville Plantation was the heart of one of the largest plantation holdings in the region.

During this period, African-Americans, both slaves and free, came to the area and became a major influence on southern culture. Local cuisine, music and dance are based on many creations that came to life in the slave quarters of early Durham.

A cease-fire at the end of the Civil War erupted in revelry, and the troops celebrated with Brightleaf tobacco. The taste caught fire, literally, and so the tobacco industry was born. The Washington Duke family became one of the wealthiest in the states through the popularity of the golden leaf. The Blackwell Tobacco Company named its product “Bull” Durham tobacco, and Bull Durham became the most famous trademark in the world. Baseball's “bull pens” are named for the trademark that was painted behind the dugouts.

New businesses followed suit. The first mill to produce denim and the largest hosiery manufacturer in the world were built. Today, Durham is known as the City of Medicine and is home to Duke University Medical Center and most of RTP.

In 1792, the hill where New Hope Chapel sat was chosen as the site for the University of North Carolina, the oldest state university in America. As the buildings went up, residents dubbed the town New Hope Chapel Hill, shortened to Chapel Hill not long after. The first students arrived in 1795 and the village began to grow. The Old Well, once the only source water for faculty and students, still stands on the campus as a reminder of the University's rich history.

The city of Chapel Hill is still a university town, and UNC Hospitals are recognized and respected throughout the world. Franklin Street is the center of downtown and runs parallel to the UNC campus. The expected trendy college crowd can be found here, but the charming cobbled sidewalks and the variety of interesting shops draw people from all walks of life.

The Triangle has expanded to include many counties and suburbs, most notably the towns of Apex, Cary and Wake Forest, and the area continues to grow. What started out as pine forest and farmland has evolved into a hotbed of biological and technological research and development. It is a cultural and recreational playground as well.

Points of interest in Raleigh, NC

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