Our Raleigh City Guide update comes to us from local graphic designer and photographer Amy Jones. as a graduate of North Carolina State College of design, Amy has come to know and love the city of Raleigh. Today she adds onto Darling Dexter’s Whitney Barnes original guide with some of the must-see locales, eateries and shops in this historical city. Thanks amy for showing us around!–Stephanie
CLICK HERE for the full city guide after the jump!
As the capital of North Carolina, Raleigh stands as a richly historic city on the brink of cultural explosion. Now in a period of urban renewal and downtown revitalization, what once was a small city is now transforming in front of our eyes. Its geographic location in the center of the state allows easy access to the mountainous west, the coastal east, and everything in between. It fuses small town charm with urban living to produce a plethora of trendy restaurants, unique shopping, intriguing vintage markets, and sweet southern hospitality. What makes Raleigh so appealing is that it is part of the larger Research Triangle metropolitan region consisting of three main cities: Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Together, the “Triangle” region is home to collegiate powerhouses (Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State), Research Triangle Park (land of high-tech companies and empires), and a bounty of design/cultural experiences.
On the First Friday of every month, the artsies come out in droves to local museums for food, drink, music, and plenty of pleasure for the eye. A good starting point is Artspace – a community arts center housing studios, open exhibitions, and arts instruction. After taking in two levels of local creativity, grab a rickshaw and head on over to Lump Gallery for exhibitions of paintings, drawings, sculpture and more from a wide range of contemporary artists. Even if you don’t make it over to the warehouse-turned-culturally-aware churchVintage 21 for their gallery presentations, your artistic palette will be satisfied by night’s end. And what to wash it all down you ask? Stop by one of the downtown watering holes such as Raleigh Times Bar (a former newspaper building recently renovated to pay homage to its historic past) or The Big Easy (phonetically and tastefully New Orleans). Once your thirst is whetted, hop across the street to the “The Fish Market” (NCSU College of Design’s gallery) for presentations from up-and-coming artists/designers.
The one thing you MUST DO as soon as you arrive in Raleigh is to take a segway tour of downtown / historic Raleigh. Nothing makes a Raleighite’s day like seeing 13 segways riding single file down the street, and there is no better way to get acquainted with the city. And shame on you if you live in Raleigh and haven’t done this! Cap your ride off with a visit to the Raleigh City Museum and you’ll be an expert by the end of the day.
Speaking of advances in transportation, Raleigh has taken its first stab at generating more interest in downtown via easy transportation with the new R-Line – buses loop in and around downtown and you can hop on at any of the R-stops FREE! I love free!
An unexpected national attraction to Raleigh is the NC Museum of Art. It was a decent gallery in years past but is reopening April 2010 with a huge new addition which will house the permanent collection, making more room for rotating exhibits. Part of the museum is an interactive art park which connects to the greenway trail that goes all over the City and is a great place to bike, run, or take the dog! In the spring JC Raulston Arboretum is a great place to take the ol’ Holga, picnic, or even get married! The laboratory beds are open to the public – it’s always interesting to see what kinds of plants people are testing in the NC soil & climate. One of my first projects at the NCSU College of Design was designing a map & brochure for the gardens!
Any city without a local roller derby league definitely loses some cool points now that I’ve lived in Raleigh and know what it’s all about. The Carolina Rollergirls teams are sure to put on a good show- even if you don’t understand how points are scored (you will after 3 bouts or so), you are plenty entertained by these amazons on skates and the people sitting around you (pictured the Trauma Queens vs. the Tai-Chi Tahs, by Raleigh photographer Joshua R. Craig).
Side note- if you’re addicted to “Dexter” like I am, you’ll be interested to know actor Michael C. Hall went to high school in Raleigh.
Stitch: Stitch serves as the design studio for handbag designer, Holly Aiken. Aiken creates handcrafted bags completely from vintage-inspired vinyl. Beaming in unique color combinations, Stitch houses her latest collections and super discounted treasures.
Father & Son Antiques: A hub of vintage flair, you can find it all here. Be it an Eames era chair, a classy leisure suit, or a Benjamin Miracord turntable – you are certain to get in touch with your inner mod on one of their four floors of vintage clothes, house wares, furniture, records, and gallery spaces. If you can’t find it here, it probably never existed.
Ornamentea: This crafty haven not only offers a fabulous collection of beads, they also have some of the finest beading classes in the state. Situated in a lime green, converted warehouse, it’s a can’t miss for local hobbyists and professional crafters.
Askew Taylor Paints: A disheveled art supply store offering everything you could think of – but only that which you can find. Known to the locals as “the” art supply store, this 60+-year-old store overwhelms newcomers by its size and unorganized nature. If you are looking for something specific, you are better off just asking where it is! But have no fear, this controlled chaos is a treasure-trove of artistic must-haves.
Accipiter: One-of-a-kind boutique in Cameron Village perfect for home décor and unique/unusual gifts. If you are in the market for jewelry made by local artisans or just trying to find the perfect Galileo finger puppet, you are sure to be here.
NOFO at the Pig: Whimsical, daring, and delightful accessories for the home and garden describe this west Raleigh shop and eatery.
SomethingPressed: Ryan Cook, who happens to be a good friend from design school, has recently opened a letterpress shop! And let me tell you, he’s probably the most anal typesetter I’ve ever met. Here’s his photo of some cards he sold for Valentines Day this year.
Adam Peele: Maker of the most intricate seam-crossing ink-loving screenprinted apparel I’ve ever seen. Right next door to SomethingPressed and you can pretty much count on him being at the Rock & Shop. Give your brother a Peele shirt and see if you don’t become his favorite sibling. Worked for me!
Rock & Shop: Held annually, The Rock & Shop is a downtown event that proves to be the perfect combination for buying handmade and indulging in music from some of Triangle’s best independent acts. A definite must-go.
Handmade Market: As the name might suggest, this is a fabulous handmade market. Always brings out some of the best indie designers in NC. Again- you Must. Go.
Furbish Studio: Interior design shop, full of pretty things.
Revival Antiques: Located on the warehouse side of Capital Blvd near downtown, one would not normally think to stop in here. It’s just not all that inviting of a location. But there are so many affordable treasures inside! My husband and I bought a wonderful farmhouse table there, and were tempted to buy most of the other pieces of furniture, too. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for on the floor, walk down the sidewalk to the storage warehouse, where you can pick out your piece and buy it as-is or ask Jim to fix it up however you like!
Moxie Kids: I might be biased because I got to design the logo, etc, but this is definitely a store for kids who are hipsters or kids who were born to hipsters. We don’t even have kids in the works and I bought a Raleigh kid t-shirt there to hang onto for posterity!
Rebus Works– an art gallery & shop dedicated to presenting compelling and innovative works in the Boylan Heights neighborhood.
Habitat ReUse Center – 42,000 sqft of salvaged building materials. Great for home renovation projects plus your purchases support Habitat for Humanity, a volunteer run organization that builds houses for those in need
The State Farmers Market – Buy a bouquet of flowers, fresh baked bread and of course fresh veggies from the dozens of farmers selling their goods. Or eat some delish country cooking at the Farmers Market Restaurant across the street (between the two pig statues).
Alter Ego: Hair salon + art gallery downtown. Everyone looks like a magazine cover.
Lather: Down-to-earth hair salon in NW Raleigh where the stylist are from places like Roxboro and have sweet accents. And bonus! They give you the cut you want!
The Morning Times: This little coffee shop (connected to the Raleigh Times bar) features really nice baristas, delicious egg sandwiches, a comfy sitting area upstairs, free-wireless and completely-booked art gallery. They encourage people to come hang out even if they aren’t buying anything.
Tir Na Nog: Bar / music venue features local bands & local brews every Thursday night. It’s where I downed my first whole pint of Guinness before allowing it to get warm. Also strangely has a great Sunday brunch.
Sitti: The Lebanese food in this downtown Raleigh restaurant is great but what you can’t help but love is the atmosphere! Empire properties does a wonderful job of updating historical buildings while keeping some of the old-Raleigh appeal and making it work for the occupant.
Dos Taquitos: The original Dos Taquitos is located in a strip shopping center in northwest Raleigh, and is the absolute best Mexican food in town. The walls are rife with memorabilia and instead of taking your name they’ll hand you a toy and call out your toy when your table is ready. And the margaritas are delish. There is also a Dos Taquitos Centro in downtown Raleigh but you should so go to the other location to get the full menu (and lower prices).
Mitch’s Tavern: Many an NC State student as well as Kevin Costner has frequented Mitch’s across from the NCSU campus. The bar scene in the movie Bull Durham was filmed there, but otherwise, it’s just a very chill locals’ place to get a drink and “Rudolfo’s Feast.” Don’t miss the stairs to the right of Global Village Coffee. And don’t let the crappy website fool you.
Lynnwood Grille: This pub in northwest Raleigh is the epitomy of neighborhood bar with the widest and most affordable menu I can think of. And I can walk there from my house and sit outside with my dog. Oh, and you can swap your side of fries for pickle chips. Yeah… one of my favorite places.
Ole Time BBQ: Carolina BBQ in the traditional small-town diner style. Texans do not like it.
Abbey Road: BEST burger place in the Triangle happens to be in a converted gas station in Cary and themed with Beatles paraphernalia. They grind their own meat so have it cooked like you like!
Krispy Kreme: When it comes to doughnut loyalty any Raleighite has to claim Krispy Kreme and has probably been going to this Peace St location since they were little. It’s been on that corner for 60+ years! Watch for the “hot” sign to get lit.
Mez: Slightly upscale “gourmet” Mexican… like Dos Taquitos in its “Sunday best.”
Larry’s Beans is a local company specializing in fair trade & organic coffee
Scratch Bakery – Pheobe Lawless makes the best baked goods using local & organic ingredients. I especially love her Sweet Potato Empanadas. Find her at markets around town or buy into her “community supported pie” concept
If you are near the North Carolina State Campus be sure to check out locopops, a local chain that creates gourmet popsicles with flavors like basil and tequila!
Lilly’s Pizza in Five Points offers up tasty pizzas with mostly organic & vegetarian-friendly ingredients in a rawkus punk-rock environment
NCSU Ice Cream: Eat ice cream from the vet school dairy. It’s the best, and cheap!
Rialto Theatre: the best old theatre for new independent films, the Rialto also screens Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday night at midnight for those wishing to indulge in their secret love of cult musicals.
Lincoln Theater: From mainstream pop acts to local indies, this newly renovated music hall hosts the best of live entertainment in downtown Raleigh.
Pour House Music Hall: On Wednesday nights your thirst for song and drink will be well served at “mug night” – good beverage and great local music.
Koka Booth Amphitheatre: Quaint little outdoor venue showing everything from Wilco to outdoor movies during the summer.
Not only is Raleigh just a few hours from the mountains AND the beach, it’s also really close to Durham & Chapel Hill. So I have to list a few faves from each of those places:
Durham Top Ten:
The Scrap Exchange: This non-profit organization reclaims industrial discards including fabric, paper, boxes, wood, glass, metal scraps, and more to resale at discounted prices.
Branch Gallery: This contemporary art museum houses national and international emerging artists. The gallery has a strategy of showing two artists at one time: a well-known with an unknown in order to expose up and coming artists and further showcase the well-established.
LabourLove Gallery: John Pelphrey and Kelly Dew opened LabourLove over at GoldenBelt in the hopes of bringing art to Durham that people could actually afford. They want to be of service to young artists AND be welcoming to everyone which they are seriously successful at – if you stop by it feels like you’re visiting an old friend! You can also attend an art party there which includes a glass of wine & materials for one fun evening!
The Nasher Museum: Serving as a leading university museum on Duke University’s campus, this young museum is a cultural meeting place for students and community members. Its stunning architecture combined with a multidisciplinary approach to presenting contemporary art and its place in the modern world we inhabit, make a day at this museum thought-provoking and pleasing for any eye.
Watts Grocery: Using mostly local and organic ingredients, longtime local chef Amy Tornquist of Sage & Swift creates a rotating menu full of foods that reinterpret her North Carolina roots. Don’t skip the hush puppies- the dip that comes with them could be sold by the gallon to people like me who just end up dipping their fingers in it.
Duke Gardens: The university’s public garden is just beautiful- a great place to make a photography date in any season. It attracts visitors from all over the world. Definitely a don’t-miss.
Full Frame Film Festival: This international festival is focuses on every aspect of documentary film. Drawing in some of the biggest names in film (see: Scorsese) as well as undiscovered talent, the Full Frame Festival is an event not to be missed.
Durham Bulls Athletic Park: Minor league baseball right next to the American Tobacco complex makes for a great evening! Head over to Tyler’s Taproom after the game. If the restaurant is full go get a drink at the speakeasy.
DPAC: Grandest place in the Triangle to see a Broadway show or other production for 20,000+ seats. Of course, this is still Durham- you can wear jeans OR an evening gown and be appropriately dressed!
DSI Comedy Theater: An interesting twist on the usual improv show, Mister Diplomat features a local celebrity or other special guest telling stories off of which the improv actors take cues. I also love a good student show where everyone is delightfully self-aware!
Chapel Hill / Carrboro Top Ten:
Cat’s Cradle: Best local venue for indie shows. I hugged Ben Kweller there.
Nested: A little boutique housing the best in home interiors and gifts. From quality handmade items to marimekko fabric, there is a treasure here for everyone.
Carr Mill: This converted cotton mill is home to several local boutiques and eateries. Businesses include: Elmo’s Diner, Wootini (shop & gallery of vinyl & plush art toys), The Original Ornament, and Mulberry Silks and Fabrics.
Aveda Institute: Let the Aveda students cut or color your hair- cheap!
Cameron’s: A unique collection of handmade gifts, jewelry, accessories, and more. The perfect place to find something cute, quirky, or just plain lovely.
Crook’s Corner: This local eatery is the perfect combination of southern delight with uptown class. With a pig on the roof, it can’t be missed.
Mama Dip’s: for the best in down-home, country cooking – this place can’t be beat. Sweet tea, fried chicken, and homemade pies have brought crowds here in droves for 30 years. You can usually find the namesake herself on any given day to sign your cookbook or just say hello.
Maple View Creamery: Okay, so it’s not quite Chapel Hill, but it’s still Orange County although it feels like you’re in the English countryside. And the homemade ice cream doesn’t hurt. I don’t have a problem eating it at looking out over a field of the cows who helped produce it! Don’t taste the fresh milk unless you’re willing to develop a habit of driving out there every time you need a gallon.
Banditos: Hole-in-the-wall Mexican off of Franklin Street in case you’re trapped in Chapel Hill and can’t make it to Dos Taquitos. Take on the El Gigante and get your picture on the wall!