All are welcome in this booming North Carolina city, known as the City of Oaks for the number of majestic oak trees lining its streets. There's a diverse population that's evidenced by the city’s broad demographic of college students who come to study in high-class institutions and savvy local entrepreneurs bursting with creativity who are establishing homegrown brands. There's a vibrancy and energy here, mixed with friendly Southern charm.
When to Go
Spring and fall are the best times to visit Raleigh. April is the city’s official craft beer month. With more than 10 spring beer events, it's the ideal time to explore Raleigh's Beer Trail and take in the main event, Brewgaloo, a festival featuring more than a hundred local North Carolina breweries, 50 food trucks, and live bands. In September comes Raleigh M.A.I.N. Events, a month of music, art, innovation, and noise. There's a World of Bluegrass festival, the Hopscotch Music fest, SPARKcon (a weekend-long celebration of creativity), and BikeFest.
An example of Raleigh's diversity is Hopscotch, a September music festival showcasing 120 bands over three days featuring rock, hip-hop, metal, folk, electronic, experimental, and more, with 20 percent of the performers hailing from North Carolina. Bluegrass was born in the state and downtown Raleigh plays host to the country’s premier bluegrass event, Wide Open Bluegrass, with seven stages of free music and more than 90 bands throughout two days, including a free street festival. Think beer, BBQ, and bluegrass.
What to Eat
If there's one cuisine North Carolina (and Raleigh in particular) is synonymous with, it would be Carolina BBQ (pork barbecue, or hog, as the locals call it). Don't leave without feasting on a delicious BBQ sandwich with classic Southern sides. Pimento cheese in various forms can also be found on most menus. Alternatively, seek out the two most ordered dishes from any Raleigh restaurant—Macaroni Au Gratin and Crispy Pork Belly Soup.
Souvenir to Take Home
Looking for the perfect pair of jeans? North Carolina has a rich textile history, and Raleigh Denim started with the idea of making an ideal custom pair of jeans that you can wear all day, every day. Stop in the company’s workshop in downtown Raleigh where their “jeansmiths” make custom pants from start to finish using old and restored textile machines.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Sustainable Travel Tip
Raleigh has a limited public transportation system, but one nice initiative is the R-LINE, a free hybrid bus service that loops around the downtown area with 20 stops connecting you to restaurants, museums, bars, retail outlets, hotels, entertainment venues, and parking facilities. Buses run approximately every 15 minutes and until 2 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Who doesn't love free and eco-friendly?
One of the most Instagrammed spots is the "all are welcome" mural, which speaks to Raleigh's open arms and diversity. It's across the road from Red Hat Amphitheater and near Poole's Diner—did someone say Macaroni Au Gratin? Other popular shots are looking down Fayetteville Street from either end (old state capitol or Duke Performing Arts Center), and Boylan Bridge for a view of the Raleigh skyline (although recent construction has diminished this view).