Illustrations by Carleigh Flynn

To Raleigh, With Love

In Feature Stories, November 2022 by Melissa HowsamLeave a Comment

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We love Raleigh—obviously. And we love love. And giving thanks. So in honor of that trifecta—we are leaning into this sentimental time of year by spotlighting the places that make Raleigh uniquely what it is—and that fulfill us most. There is much chatter these days of all the ways Raleigh is changing—a lot of mudslinging, complaints we are losing our soul or (god forbid) becoming another Charlotte. As with all things, the critics are loud. But there is much to love about Raleigh. To spotlight, we asked myriad members of the community from all walks of life to tell us what place in Raleigh they go to to reset—their “secret Raleigh happy place,” if you will. From unpaved trails to train station lookouts to cow pastures, we were reminded beyond wonder exactly how wonderful Raleigh is. 

Lake Johnson on the unpaved trail side. It’s quiet, peaceful and beautiful—especially as the sun casts light through the trees at golden hour.” —Tyler Helikson, co-founder & CEO, Happy + Hale

“My secret Raleigh happy place is the Downtown Express Library. I love that, in a short walk across Downtown, I have access to all of the books in the Wake County Public Library System, as well as super-friendly librarians who are always willing to talk about books and lend a helping hand! (Hey, Diane! 👋)” —Jed Byrne, business development representative, WithersRavenel; editor,

“Inside the globe at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences is one of my secret happy places. It’s a perfect retreat, especially during bad weather days. It’s calm and peaceful inside—and the videos they show are always captivating.” —Ashton Mae Smith, sponsorships, Citrix; co-host, Podcast Raleigh

“For a good lift-me-up, I love strolling the State Farmers Market and taking in all the beauty NC agriculture has to offer throughout the various seasons, supporting our farmers, and marveling at the beautiful produce and plants. Fortunately for me, my husband is an amazing cook, so anything I end up purchasing inevitably ends up as something delicious.” —Liv Jorgenson Wiese, commercial broker, Maverick Partners Realty Services Inc.

“This isn’t a place per se, but it is a view that immediately lifts my spirits. It doesn’t matter how long or hard my day has been or what remains on my to-do list, I love driving down Hillsborough Street heading home and seeing the NC State cows. There’s just something about that idyllic pasture scene in the middle of a city that gives me joy. It is definitively Raleigh. I hope they never move them.” —Andrea Weigl, Sandbox Collaborative

“Taking in a water view and fresh air at Lake Wheeler or Lake Johnson from the wonderful boathouse rocking chairs.” —Lisa Jeffries, founder/principal, Raleighwood Media Group + Raleighwood Event Group

“I love walking by the ‘Welcome to Raleigh, Y’all’ mural on East Street and New Bern Avenue. It’s a beautiful reminder that Raleigh’s core is inclusive and community-driven.” —Brit Guerin, co-owner, Current Wellness 

“My son and I love using the Geocache app to hunt down treasures hidden along the the Neuse River Trail—either by bike or on foot. It provides adventure, as well as lots of sightseeing along this nature lovers tree-lined pathway that follows the Neuse River through Wake County.” —Sharon Delaney McCloud, director of corporate communications, UNC Health

“I love so much about Raleigh. It is the longest I have lived anywhere. My favorite spots are the special pond in our backyard and Gonza in North Raleigh. And my most special place is the arts organization where I work: Moonlight Stage Co. (Moonlight Arts and Entertainment). I’m surrounded by people and artists I love to be around.” —Estes Tarver, actor/director, Moonlight Stage Co.

The Roast Grill. It’s simple; it’s small; it’s been there forever; it’s away from most everyone—and you still end up seeing folks you know.” —Gregg Sandreuter, commercial real estate, HM Partners

“My go-to secret Raleigh hangout spot is the Walnut Creek greenway. I love being able to walk from the farmers market into Downtown Raleigh!” —Lindsay Wrege, co-founder, 321 Coffee

“The Company Mill and Reedy Creek trails in Umstead Park: The lovely forested ambling here provides a retreat from Triangle town life—like having a bit of the NC mountains 15 minutes from my house in Raleigh.” —David Burris, TV/film director and producer

“I love the Umstead Hotel & Spa. The service is top-notch, and the environment is lovely and serene. It gives you the sense that you have traveled far away from the responsibilities and stress of your daily grind, and I often escape there for an evening or a weekend.” —Jackie Ferguson, co-founder and Head of Content, The Diversity Movement

“As cheesy and obvious as it sounds because I work here, my happy place really is A Place at the Table. As soon as I walk in, I hear so much laughter across tables; I smell waffles and coffee being prepared from the awesome staff; and I immediately get to hear about people’s days and their ‘happy places.’” —Maggie Kane, founder, A Place at the Table

“Walking at the NC Museum of Art is one of my favorite places to go in Raleigh. There is something calming about the trails with wide-open space in the middle of the city and seeing the permanent outdoor art installations. The museum property also always offers a surprise or two with new art installations, making each trip special and unique.” —Irish Dunlap, chief marketing officer, rXperius

“The State Farmers Market—getting flowers and walking through  the herbs. The smells are like aromatherapy. I highly recommend it.” —Lily Ballance, owner, Willco + La Veladora; co-owner, Five Star

“I have lived in Raleigh my entire life, and, without a doubt, one of my favorite spots in the Triangle is the Green Hills County Park in North Raleigh. This park includes one of the highest points in Raleigh on the Top of the Hill Trail. Despite being surrounded by the city, the Top of the Hill Trail is the most quiet and peaceful location I have found in Raleigh that allows me to unplug and reset after a long week.” —Jacob Miles, BGE

Videri Chocolate Factory’s back patio—cappuccino in hand—under the swaying bamboo and Japanese maple, their shadows dancing across Miriam Ruth’s colorful mural as the aroma of chocolate ebbs and flows. A real Raleigh nook.” –Paul Tuorto, designer & art director

“My absolute favorite spot to reset is the Union Station lookout. It’s a pretty quiet spot where you can catch trains coming in and pulling out of Downtown Raleigh. Normally, there aren’t many people there, and walking through beautiful Union Station on the way to the deck is a good way to clear your head.”
Chris Powers, co-owner, Trophy Brewing | Young Hearts Distilling | State of Beer

“My happy place in Raleigh is the picnic tables at Greystone Village Shopping Center. In this little corner of the shopping center on nice days, there are so many options. I can grab a drink from Bottle Rev and fire up the laptop. My wife and I can take the kids to Two Roosters Ice Cream and let them run around. On date nights, we can grab sushi from Kai (and, then, yes, of course, Two Roosters after). And we can’t forget Gonza for the Mexican flag enchiladas and chicken tinga nachos. I always leave happy and full!” —Jason Gillikin, podcast executive producer, Earfluence

“Any Raleigh park where I can walk my dogs is my happy place. Fletcher. Chavis. Dix. Museum of Art. Umstead.” —Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin

“My Raleigh happy place is Blake Street. The cobblestone and string lights make any day a good day there, and it has some of the friendliest shop owners (Copperline Plant Co.) and best food around (City Market Sushi)!” —Cristi Diaz, engineering intern, BGE

“The view from Boylan Bridge is iconic to Raleigh. As the seasons change and Raleigh grows, this is the view I come back to every time. You can see the cranes, our original skyline transforming, the trains coming and going—you can really see all of it in one stance. #raleighisgrowing.” —Karly Wilson, creative director, @raleighisgrowing

“The Dillon rooftop.” —Sawyer Stephens, student, age 14

“The Raleigh Rose Garden. It’s just a great place to relax, enjoy the quiet and even picnic. Even in the fall, I’ll go there to read or walk. It’s so peaceful and restful during any season.” —Kristen Schrum 

“My favorite spot is Old Reedy Creek Road Trailhead at Lake Crabtree! It’s a great start to the greenway and has some of the best sunsets over the lake.” —Sean Junqueira, photographer, Trivantage

Greenway runs are the perfect reset and a great way to escape for an hour or so.” —Susan Holt, owner/photographer, Susan Holt Photography LLC  

“My favorite place in Raleigh is the Flower and Garden Show area at the NC State Fairgrounds. At night, it is like a magical fairy garden with lights and secret pathways.” —Amelia Lawson Maier, student, age 10

“Two Roosters ice cream. I enjoy trying their monthly rotating and unique flavors! —Abby Lampe, aka “Cheese Queen,” North Carolina State University alum ’22 

“I love to run and walk in Pullen Park because it’s one of the best places to see the changing seasons. During the summer, the wildflowers and the sunflowers are in full bloom. In the fall, the leaves change and create this rich tapestry of colors around the lake. And when we are so lucky to get snowfall, it perfectly complements the park and its quiet beauty.” —Amanda Lamb, WRAL reporter and podcast host

“For me, I love walking from my house to different places in and around downtown. My favorite walk is to go from my house in Five Points to the YMCA on Hillsborough. I like to pass through Fletcher Park, stop at a few points to relax and watch the activity in the park, then walk up Park Drive to the Y. I have my headphones on, and it is a great way to see people and feel the pace of the city.” —Stephen Mangano, executive VP, Team Health

“Walking with the boys around Yates Mill Pond.” —David Meeker, partner, Trophy Brewing + Carpenter Development

“My boys and I love to walk the trails at Historic Yates Mill County Park, or Yates Mill Pond as we’ve always called it. The trails are gorgeous and a great place to catch up-close glimpses of snakes, herons, turtles, even eagles now and then, and other critters in the spring and summer. The different trail lengths are also great if you’re on a timeline or new to hiking or have little ones. It’s a great escape.” —Kurt Meyer, marketing director, Logan’s Garden Shop

Oakwood Cemetery—a fascinating and beautiful cemetery that feels reverent and alive at the same time. They do a great job welcoming the community and presenting our history while respecting those who rest there.” —Matt Smith, vice president, Wake Tech

“One of my favorite Raleigh spots is the greenway over by the Bain Water Treatment Plant in the Caraleigh neighborhood. There is an extended boardwalk that hovers over a wetland—it’s always so green and lush, and feels like a secret oasis so close to the city. The best time to visit is right after a big rainstorm. You’re bound to see turtles and deer and tons of other critters! Be careful if you’re on a bike though—the boardwalk can get pretty slippery!” —Anna Grace FitzGerald, owner, Copperline Plant Co.  

Lake Raleigh and the Museum Park are two of my fave spots in Raleigh to reset and enjoy a glass of wine with nature.” —Doreen Colondres, chef, wine educator & owner, Vitis House 

“My secret place is Laurel Hills Park, specifically the basketball court outside. I grew up at that park—a lot of good memories playing basketball in the summers—and it has now become the place I visit early in the morning just to be alone, shoot some free-throws, and think. I’m older now, so I can’t run around with the teens, but it does take me back to those times, which is soothing…” —Johnny Hackett Jr., CEO, The Black Dollar Corp.

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