In Raleigh, there’s so much new—new buildings, new businesses, new faces arriving every day—and so much to do that it can feel a little overwhelming at times. That’s why, when we decided to pull together an insider’s guide to life in our growing city, we tried to be selective about what we think you need to know, and discerning about what we think are the very best things to try and explore.
We considered, what is Raleigh best known for? It’s long been known as city in a park, so naturally, we have suggestions for outdoorsy exploits. It’s also got a vibrant, burgeoning food scene, but instead of rattling off a list of all our favorites—too many to count to truly be of service—we bring you the very best of the recently opened, and combine the culinary with the outdoorsy in a comprehensive list of rooftop bars.
As the newly minted “Smithsonian of the South,” we just had to share some of the best ways to enjoy Raleigh’s many cultural amenities, whether it’s taking in a concert or touring museum, watching a ballet or catching a show. And we hope to be useful in bringing you some inside information on what’s going on with all the construction, how much Raleigh and Wake County is growing, some facts on getting around and ways to stay informed.
Though we offer some suggestions for enhancing the hyper-local experience, there’s really no right or wrong way to be a Raleighite. Our hope is that you enjoy the city as much as we do, whether you’re here to stay, or just passing through.
Raleigh at a Glance
Median Age: 33.8
Median Household Income: $64,456
Poverty Rate: 12.1%
Median Property Value: $242,500
Development in Raleigh
Two out of every three housing units in Wake County are single family homes. Over the past ten years, commercial development was valued at more than $7.55 billion.
Notable upcoming commercial developments include:
Midtown East: Wegmans, Cava, Maple Street Biscuit Company
Smokey Hollow at Peace/West Streets: Publix grocery store announced
One Glenwood: An office and retail tower, and boutique Origin Hotel
Gateway Plaza: Gateway Restaurant, Brew Coffee, Raleigh Roasting Company, Craft Habit, Mordecai Brewery
Recent Growth in Wake
October 1, 2017 – June 6, 2018
Total Added Jobs: 4,967
Total Investment: $51,000,000
New Companies: 17
Expanding Companies: 53
Top 10 Employers in Wake County
Duke University and Health System: 36,004 | State of North Carolina: 24,083
Wake County Public School System: 18,554 | IBM Corporation: 10,000
North Carolina State University: 9,069 | WakeMed Health & Hospitals: 8,943
Rex Healthcare: 5,700 | SAS Institute, Inc.: 5,616 | GlaxoSmithKline: 4,950 | Lenovo: 4,200
Transportation around Wake County
The GoRaleigh operating system runs most of the city’s public transit services. The GoTriangle system includes other municipalities in Wake County and beyond.
More than 11 million passengers boarded GoTriangle buses in 2015. Overall, drivers traveled 11.54 billion miles in Wake County in 2017.
The average commute time in Wake County is 25 minutes, while the daily average number of miles travelled per capita is nearly 30. The county has about 771,000 registered vehicles, or .74 per capita.
RDU connects you to 62 nonstop destinations on one of over 400 daily flights. Most recent non-stops added: San Diego; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
Be a Raleighite
The P.R., or the Player’s Retreat on the corner of Oberlin and Hillsborough Streets, was once a dive bar where Broughton students congregated after class. With a Cheers-like feel—walls lined with steins and vintage beer cans—the PR has grown up with the clientele, offering great food and better service.
2. Know What ITB Means
You’ve likely seen it in real estate listings by now. ITB, or Inside the Beltline, refers to property in Raleigh located within the I-440 beltline borders. The increased price tag for properties ITB reflects the value Raleighites place on a central location.
3. Choose your favorite hot dog
Free parking, a little park, a picnic area with seating and the best view in town of airplanes taking off and landing. It’s the perfect place to watch for Grandma’s plane to come to town or to simply spend a free afternoon dreaming about getting a pilot’s license.
5. Be able to identify Beach Lovers’ Bumper Stickers
OBX- Outer Banks
TI- Topsail Island
OKI- Oak Island
Wander Through a Museum
Raleigh has rightfully merited the “Smithsonian of the South” moniker, a title earned through the diversity of its museums and exhibits, as well as the museums’ accessibility to all.
1. City of Raleigh Museum (COR): Founded in 1993, COR Museum is a welcoming center located on Fayetteville Street downtown. It offers history about, and insight into, the ever-growing City of Oaks.
2. North Carolina Museum of Art: Opened in 1956, the NCMA on Blue Ridge Road is home to several exhibition galleries, studios, gardens, an atrium, a library and learning center, a museum park and amphitheater, and an impressive permanent collection. The museum offers all kinds of tours and maintains a packed events schedule year-round. “Insider Magazine” recently ranked the NCMA 13th on its list of top 25 museums in the country.
3. CAM Raleigh, downtown’s non-collecting contemporary art museum, has cultivated a reputation for showing memorable, one-of-a-kind exhibitions and pieces, and hosting engaging educational programs and cultural experiences. Less than a decade old, CAM’s goal is to spark new thinking by creating ever-changing experiences that explore what’s new and nearing.
4. NC Museum of Natural Sciences is the largest museum of its kind in the Southeast. The three-story, 200,000-square-foot facility features dozens of permanent and rotating exhibitions in its Nature Exploration and Nature Research Centers. Kids can meet animals including rabbits, snakes and hissing cockroaches, or see dinosaur replicas and a full-size whale skeleton.
5. Marbles Kids Museum near Moore Square Park in downtown Raleigh celebrates hands-on, minds-on learning for children and families, with exhibits and play spaces as well as an IMAX movie theatre.
Rent a Boat
Jon boats – $4/hour, $20/day
Pedal boats – $6/half hour
Canoes/kayaks – $5/hour
Sunfish sailboats – $10/hour
Or, launch your own boat! As long as it isn’t motorized and doesn’t require a trailer, you’re welcome to use your own after checking in at the park office ($2-$6 a day).
408 Ashe Avenue
Up to four people can cruise around Lake Howell in a pedal boat – $6/half hour.
Shelley Lake view
Jon Boats – $3/hour, $15/day
Canoes – $4/hour
Pedal boats – $5/half hour, $7 an hour
Jon boats – $4/hour, $20/day
Rowboats – $4/hour, $20/day
Canoes – $5/hour
Kayaks (single and double) – $5/hour
Pedal boats – $6/half hour
Sunfish sailboats – $10/hour
Launch your own boat, trailered or not, after buying a launch pass. Motorized boats are allowed, as long as it isn’t a jet ski.
The park features three man-made lakes, all-accessible for fishing. Big Lake also offers canoe and rowboat rentals.
Visitors are welcome to catch-and-release fish, sail, boat, row and paddle on the lake, and adult canoeing instruction and standup paddleboarding is available.
The 12,000-square-foot reservoir serves as both a recreation area, with an array of water activities, and a wildlife habitat. Several swimming beaches, including Beaverdam, Rolling View and Sandling Beach, are open to the public, and the privately managed Rollingview Marina offers slips and mooring, kayak, paddleboard and canoe rentals.
Walk a Raleigh Greenway…
Lake Johnson (East or West Loop) – Located on either side of Avent Ferry Road, Lake Johnson provides visitors with two options, the paved 2.8 mile East Loop (3.5 miles if you venture off the main loop) or go off-road on the 2.1 mile West Loop, accessible by crossing Avent Ferry at the marked signs. While it is a dirt trail, it’s well kept and can easily be combined with the East Loop for a more robust 4.9-mile hike.
Shelley Lake Loop – For a casual and stress-free walk (or jog), explore the 2.1 mile trail in Shelley Lake Sertoma Park. Bring your kids, your dog, or just yourself. Shaded portions give you a break from the sun and benches offer spots to rest if needed.
House Creek Trail – Running parallel to the Beltline from Meredith College to the Crabtree Valley Mall, this trail at approximately 3 miles long has numerous connections and destinations along the way.
…Or Bike One
Neuse River Trail – Extremely popular, this 27.5-mile bike trail connects to Wake Forest, Falls Lake, Knightdale, into Johnston County into Clayton, and also to the Walnut Creek and Crabtree Creek trails. There are educational opportunities along the trail with interpretive signage highlighting the wildlife, including herons and beavers, as well as other ecological features unique to the area.
Crabtree Creek Trail – Begin at Anderson Point Park and head northwest toward Lindsey Drive to bike the full 14.6 miles. Take a break at one of the parks along the way, including Kiwanis Park and North Hills Park. Mine Creek Trail branches off to the north, House Creek Trail branches to the south, and the Neuse River Trail runs perpendicular at Anderson Point Park, allowing you to extend your ride, or switch it up for something different each time.
Cocktails with a View
• Level7 (North Hills)
• 10th & Terrace (Downtown Raleigh)
• Hibernian (Glenwood South)
• Raleigh Times (Downtown Raleigh)
• Trophy Tap and Table (Downtown Raleigh)
• Carolina Ale House (Glenwood South)
• Raleigh Beer Garden (Glenwood South)
• Taverna Agora (Downtown Raleigh)
New Restaurants & Bars
A Place At the Table— 300 W. Hargett St. #50
Brewery Bhavana— 218 S. Blount St.
The Cortez— 413 Glenwood Ave.
Crawford and Son— 618 N. Person St.
Hummingbird— 1053 E. Whitaker Mill Rd. Suite 111
Mofu Shoppe— 321 S. Blount St.
Oakwood Pizza Box— 610 N. Person St.
Pizza La Stella— 219 Fayetteville St.
Pizza Times— 210 S. Wilmington St.
Royale— 200 E. Martin St.
St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar— 223 S. Wilmington St.
Tonbo Ramen— 211 S. Wilmington St
Vidrio— 500 Glenwood Ave. #100
Wahlburgers— 319 Fayetteville St.
The News and Observer (daily)
INDY Week (weekly)
Triangle Business Journal (weekly)
The Carolinian (bi-weekly)
La Conexion (weekly)
Que Pasa (weekly)
Raleigh TV News Network Affiliate Stations:
WRAL-TV Channel 5 (WRAL)
WTVD-TV Channel 11 (ABC 11)
CBS 17 Channel 17 (WNCN)
Raleigh News Radio:
Wake County residents can get a library card for free. Just go to your nearest Wake County Library location with a photo ID and proof of address; a librarian will help you set up an account, which gives you access to check out material from all of Wake County’s 20-plus libraries, use computers and download books online.
Raleigh’s Amphitheater is set in the heart of downtown so after your favorite artists say goodnight, you can continue your evening at any number of restaurants and bars. The 5,990-seat venue hosts a great mix of artists.
2. Walnut Creek
If your summer concert style is go big or go home, Walnut Creek Amphitheatre should be your first stop for outdoor rockin’, jammin’ and swayin’. The 20,000-seat venue draws notable names from May to August.
For almost 20 years, music artists have visited the Theater in the Museum Park from May to September. The venue offers limited reserved seating with ample lawn seats. Great spot for a picnic! You can purchase food and drinks from The Museum’s Iris restaurant.
4. North Hills
The 11th season of the Midtown Beach Music Series will host more than 125,000 guests at North Hills Commons during the 17-week season. The free series offers the best of beach music every Thursday from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
See a Show
Located on the northern end of Pullen Park, catch a comedy, musical, Shakespearean or contemporary drama at this classic black box theatre.
Musical theatre, dramas, comedies, concerts and theatre opportunities for young people converge under one roof at the Kennedy Theatre. Look for family and summer series and special events.
Catch one of four mainstage shows each year in Memorial Auditorium at the Progress Energy Center for Performing Arts.
A world-class professional ballet company, performing primarily in Raleigh since 1997.
Other notable show runners:
North Carolina Symphony, North Carolina Opera, Burning Coal Theatre Company, Black Box Dance Theatre, Sonorous Road Repertory Company.