Raleigh (North Carolina)

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Travel Guide North America USA Southern United States North Carolina Raleigh

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Introduction

Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and has around 400,000 people living in the city, well over 1.1 million people in the total metropolitan area. It is also the largest city of the Research Triangle, Raleigh is the primary political and economic driver of the metro area. Indeed, business and politics are the main draws to Raleigh, which lacks the more trendy feel or active arts scene of Durham or Chapel Hill to the west. However, a concerted effort to expand the residential base and move events downtown has led to significantly expanded retail and restaurant options in the downtown core. Also, visitors will find many of the state's cultural institutions here, namely a major performing arts center downtown and three state museums, and a college town atmosphere in the neighborhood around the campus of North Carolina State University, the state's largest university.

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Sights and Activities

  • City of Raleigh Museum, 220 Fayetteville St. Tue-Fri 10AM-4PM; Sat, 1-4PM. Local history museum, an excellent place to start your visit to the City of Oaks. Free.
  • North Carolina State Capitol, 1 E. Edenton St. M–Sa 9AM–5PM. Built between 1833 and 1840 and originally housed the governor's office, cabinet offices and more. It's now both a working capitol and a museum of North Carolina history, especially the period between the building's construction and the Civil War. Several rooms are restored with furniture and items from the era so you can see how they might have looked, including original legislative rooms, a collection of geological specimens, and a library. Full of plaques and informational signs. Gems include spittoons (for tobacco) in the legislative rooms, and a big statue of George Washington in the style of a Roman soldier. Guided tours are available Saturdays at 11AM and 2PM or by appointment for large groups, or take a self-guided tour whenever the building is open. Free.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.

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Getting There

By Plane

Raleigh-Durham International Airport (IATA: RDU, ICAO:KRDU) is one of the major airports in the state operating more then 400 flights a day. This airport has pretty good domestic service and limited international service. One nice feature is that the budget airline Southwest operates in and out this airport making for cheaper flights to neighboring areas or across the country.

Triangle Transit offers scheduled, fixed-route regional and commuter bus service between the airport and the principal cities of Raleigh, Durham and town of Chapel Hill (where TTA connects with the respective local urban transit systems), as well as to and from Research Triangle Park and several of the region's larger suburban communities.
Taxis, shuttles and rental cars are all widely available at the airport as well.

By Train

Raleigh is served by two Amtrak trains:

By Car

Interstate 40 goes to points west including Durham, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Asheville. Two and a half hours east on I-40 is Wilmington. Interstates 85 and 95, though they do not directly enter Raleigh, provide easy access to the city from up and down the Eastern Seaboard; large access routes from these interstates provide easy access to the city. US 1, the East Coast corridor route, cuts through Raleigh on its way from New York to the Florida Keys; within the city limits US 1 is known as Capital Blvd.

By Bus

The Triangle's inter-city bus service runs routes between Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and RDU, with a hub near the Research Triangle Park. Fares are $2.25 per trip and $4.50 for a day pass.

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Getting Around

By Car

Within the I-440 Beltline are mostly fashionable older neighborhoods and the NC State University area. The North Raleigh neighborhoods are aligned along the "spokes of the wheel"—major thoroughfares emanating from the I-440 Loop and passing through the northern edge of the much larger I-540 loop.

Downtown Raleigh provides easy travel and access through its grid of one-way streets. If you're just passing through, the major thoroughfare is Capital Boulevard (US 401), which splits into Dawson Street heading south and McDowell Street heading north. From the west, it is Hillsborough Street, interrupted midway by the state Capitol building. To the east, it continues as New Bern Avenue (US 64).

The I-440 Beltline was once denoted with "Inner" and "Outer" labels, but they have been phased out in favor of "East" and "West." I-440 West was previously the Outer Beltline, and I-440 East was previously the Inner Beltline. I-440's concurrency with I-40 through the souther portion of Raleigh has also been removed; therefore, the Beltline no longer loops back on itself.

Raleigh is known for particularly aggressive parking enforcement and towing, so be sure to follow all parking signs and rules. Most parking meters have been converted to electronic pay stations that accept coins and MasterCard/Visa. Most metered areas are only enforced on Mon-Fri from 8AM-5PM. Some parking garages are free on evenings and weekends as well, but "special event" rates are common during major downtown events regardless of the time or day.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

There are 36 licensed taxi operators in Raleigh of varying quality. Spanish speakers will appreciate Velo Taxi +1 919 271-5719, Taxi Poly +1 919 538-1750, or Amigo taxi +1 919 862-6162.

By Public Transport

For information on routes, schedules and fares, check GoTriangle.org, for a helpful trip planner.

  • Triangle Transit Authority (TTA), +1 919 549-9999. Routes between Raleigh, Durham, Cary, and Chapel Hill as well as Research Triangle Park and the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
  • Capital Area Transit (CAT), +1 919 828-7228. Routes within Raleigh city limits including a free downtown circulator bus, the R-Line.
  • Wolfline, +1 919 515-9653. Routes in and around NC State University; free and open to the public.

Note that Triangle Transit passes ($4.50 for a 1-day pass) can also be used on CAT and buses in Durham and Cary. But the reverse is not true; CAT passes ($2 for 1-day) are only usable on CAT.

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Eat

Due to the large influx of residents from around the USA and the world as well as the large student population, there is a fairly large variety of cuisine available at a wide range of prices. And, being a Southern city, there are still plenty of options for traditional Southern food and a few modern interpretations of those traditional foods. Of course, no visit to North Carolina would be complete without trying some NC-style barbecue pork. There are actually two major styles in the state: Lexington-style (named after Lexington, NC) which uses only the pork shoulder and is served with a tomato and vinegar sauce and Eastern-style which uses the "whole hog" and is served with a vinegar-based sauce. Both styles are available around Raleigh and some restaurants include both types of sauce on the table.

Thanks to relaxed regulations first in Durham and later in Raleigh, the Triangle area has a lively food truck scene with a wide variety of cuisines available in street food form from burgers and pizza to Chinese dumplings and Belgian waffles, and of course, barbecue. Many have since expanded to brick and mortar locations as well and a few popular restaurants have launched their own trucks. At lunchtime, trucks can usually be found near office parks with few restaurants nearby or on college campuses (there is almost always at least one truck serving weekday lunch on NC State's Centennial Campus). In the evening they often serve dinner at local breweries (see Drink below). Downtown Raleigh hosts occasional food truck "rodeos" featuring over 50 trucks from as far as Charlotte. See their website for upcoming dates and links to truck websites.

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Drink

Southwest Raleigh, particularly the area along Hillsborough Street, resembles a college town, so there are plenty of places to find a drink. What is more, the city has a number of microbreweries. For cheaper places, try near the campus of North Carolina State University on Hillsborough Street. (A scene in "Bull Durham" was filmed in Mitch's Tavern.) The downtown area known as Glenwood South has a few more upscale bars and is located between Glenwood Ave and Harrington Street and between Peace Street and Hillsborough Street just northwest of downtown. The City Market area around Moore Square and the area around Fayetteville Street also offer a good mix. Those not from the American South should be sure to order "sweet tea". Sweet tea, along with Sundrop and Cheerwine, has long been considered a native beverage, and is served in most restaurants. The sweetness will vary in accordance with the locale, but is nevertheless much sweeter than any tea served elsewhere in the nation.

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Sleep

  • AmeriSuites Raleigh/RDU Airport-RTP, 200 Airgate Dr, ☎ +1 919 405-2400. Adjacent to Raleigh Durham International Airport and the Research Triangle Park.
  • Clarion Hotel, 320 Hillsborough St, ☎ +1 919 832-0501. The 20-story hotel is undergoing its first major renovation since the 1960s. Try to get a room on the lower floors, which are being fixed up first.
  • Comfort Inn & Suites Crabtree Valley, 6209 Glenwood Ave, ☎ +1 919 782-1112. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. 6 ml from Raleigh Airport, with free airport transfers. $75-115.
  • Days Inn, 300 North Dawson St, ☎ +1 919 828-9081. Closest to Glenwood South, where many bars and restaurants are located.
  • Embassy Suites Raleigh - Crabtree, 4700 Creedmoor Rd, ☎ +1 919 881-0000. All-suite hotel with tropical atrium featuring full-service amenities, indoor pool, and fitness center. Free breakfast and reception daily for all guests.
  • Fuquay Mineral Spring Inn and Garden. Bed and Breakfast.
  • Marriott City Center, 500 Fayetteville St, ☎ +1 919 833-1120. Attached to the new Convention Center.
  • Marriott Crabtree Valley, 4500 Marriott Dr, ☎ +1 919 781-7000. Close to Crabtree Valley Mall, NC Museum of Art and Time Warner Cable Pavilion at Walnut Creek.
  • Microtel Inn & Suites Raleigh, 1209 Plainview Dr, ☎ +1 919 231-0002.
  • Oakwood Inn - Bed & Breakfast, 411 North Bloodworth St, ☎ +1 919 231-0002. B&B in a historic neighborhood.
  • Ramada Raleigh, 1520 Blue Ridge Dr, ☎ +1 919 832-4100.
  • Renaissance Hotel, 4100 Main (at North Hills St.).
  • Sheraton Hotel, 421 South Salisbury St, ☎ +1 919 834-9900. Another 20-story hotel, a touch fancier, but located on the mostly uninteresting Fayetteville Street Mall.
  • The Umstead Hotel & Spa, 100 Woodland Pond Dr, ☎ +1 919 447-4000. Convenient to downtown, the newer Umstead is the only 5 star hotel in the area.
  • Wingate by Wyndham State Arena Raleigh/Cary (Raleigh North Carolina Hotel- Wingate Raleigh RBC Center), 115 Corporate Ridge Rd (Nearby to Raleigh's downtown), ☎ +1 919 847-7383.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 35.772096
  • Longitude: -78.638615

Contributors

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Raleigh (North Carolina) Travel Helpers

This is version 14. Last edited at 11:19 on Dec 3, 18 by Utrecht. 8 articles link to this page.

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