By Liz Hester
The City of Oaks offers incredible art, music, food and entertainment, making it a world-class place while still retaining a cozy, small-town feel.
1. Contemporary Art Museum (CAM)-You Don’t Have To Be A New Yorker To Keep Up With the Art Scene
This downtown museum situated in the midst of Raleigh’s warehouse district showcases new and emerging art and design.Opened in May 2011, the museum has a middle school docent program, young professionals group and various community programs.
2. Get Your Groove On At Kings Barcade/Neptunes
For those in the know and on the cutting edge of the music scene, Kings is one of the best music venues around. When they’re not hosting local and national musicians, they hold game nights, comedy nights and other types of performances. Their downstairs bar, Neptunes, has frequent dance parties and guest DJs, making it a favorite for a late-night dance scene.
3. Poole’s Downtown Diner Equals High Class Comfort Food
Poole’s is Chef Ashley Christensen’s first Raleigh establishment and arguably one of the best restaurants in town. She serves a seasonal menu of her version of comfort food using only local ingredients. The mac and cheese is not to be missed.
4. Oak City Cycling Project Is Not Just Bike Riding
Sure the guys at OCCP will sell you a new or refurbished bike, but more than that, they’ll get you into the cycling community. They sponsor group rides for all levels of cyclists, hold maintenance/repair classes and offer their space for community meetings. The shop often hosts local artists on many First Fridays as well as other cycling-related events in the name of spreading bike ridership.
5. Trophy Brewing & Pizza Co-Pizza And Beer, Do You Need More Explanation?
This nano brewery is turning out the best beer and pizza in the Triangle. The beer flavor combinations are imaginative – they once had an incredible banana and chocolate infused brew – and the food is fresh and consistently good. If you’re going to do beer and pizza, this is the spot.
6. At Foundation, Whiskey Is The Only Real Drink
If you’re into whiskey, this is your bar. This basement establishment with exposed brick walls and cozy tables is the perfect location to find some of the best whiskey and cocktails around. Their extensive whiskey list ranges from well-priced finds to those hard-to-come-by libations. (They even have a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23-year, although I suspect they won’t have it for long.)
7. Capital Club 16 For Good Food, Good Drink, & Good Company
Owners Jake and Shannon Wolf have created a beautiful space with a rotating menu of seasonal dishes made from local ingredients. The bar has imaginative cocktails and is open late into the night on the weekends.
8. William B. Umstead State Park Provides A Country Trek In The City
This state park has bridle paths, running trails, biking trails, boating, hiking, fishing and camping among other activities. Positioned in the middle of the Triangle, Umstead opened in 1937 and offers more than 5,500 acres of easily accessible park space for residents.
9. The James B. Hunt Jr. Library For A High-Tech Way To Read
This research facility on the North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus is a beautifully designed, light-filled space showing off the latest technology. Among its many advances, the library holds an innovative bookBot automated delivery system, which holds up to 2 million volumes in 1/9th of the space needed by traditional shelves.
10. North Carolina Museum of Art-Not Just Art But Events Too
This beautiful space is one of the South’s premier destinations for art, events and concerts. Besides the rotating and permanent art exhibits, the museum holds events such as concerts, movies and plays for adults and children.
11. In The Raleigh Greenway System, A Bike Is The Only Transport You Need
With more than 100 miles of public greenway trails, Raleigh is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. The paths are wide enough to accommodate cyclists and many residents use them to get around the city, or for jogging and dog walking. From just about anywhere, it’s easy to get on a trail.
12. Bida Manda-To Drink Or To Eat? That Is The Question
This Laotian restaurant also boosts one of the best bars in town. Stop in for a delicious cocktail and their take on spicy Asian cuisine. The restaurant is lined in wood salvaged from old barns and churches, and the bar is covered in sticks from Western North Carolina, giving it a modern and warm feel.
13. Pullen Park For Family Time Adventure
If a family outing is what you seek, Pullen Park – North Carolina’s first public park — offers a variety of activities. There’s a restored carousel, kiddie boats and a miniature train that circles the space. The park also offers tennis courts, an art center, picnic space, an aquatics center and baseball fields.
14. When Cocktail Hour Had Meaning
One of Raleigh’s finest cocktail bars, C. Grace boosts a speakeasy feel and live jazz five nights a week. Located in the Glenwood South neighborhood, this bar takes patrons back to an earlier time and can be a good escape from the more modern clubs that are typical of this area.
15. Headbanging Fun
On the opposite end of the spectrum is one of Raleigh’s oldest dive bars and music venues, Slim’s. With a capacity of 100 people, seeing a band here is like watching them play in your living room – if your living room served cold, cheap beer and shots. They’re known for metal, but host a variety of acts each week. The lone upstairs pool table is usually a good spot for talking to a character or two.
16. Lincoln Theatre-Variety Is The Spice Of Life
If variety is the spice of life, then the Lincoln Theatre is serving up a lot of spice. This music venue hosts everything from local artists to cover bands. The tiered space guarantees you’ll be able to see the stage and have room to dance.
17. Paradise For True Foodies
For the foodies out there, there’s the Stanbury, which serves up a rotating menu of ambitious dishes such as bone marrow and steak tartare with quail egg and oysters. The large plates range from fresh fish to house-made pasta. Reservations are recommended.
18. Beer, Beer, Beer, And Food Too
Focusing on great beer and delicious food, the Busy Bee Cafe is a go-to for quality food at good prices. The food typically focuses on local fare, but the Bee is also known for hosting beer tastings, beer dinners and other events. Their upstairs and outdoor space, The Hive, often has bands and is typically at capacity on the weekend.
19. The Raleigh Times Bar For The Casual Bar Crowd
This rambling space has three rooms for drinking as well as an upstairs space and outdoor roof deck. The bar is located in the former home of one of Raleigh’s newspapers, whose clippings adorn the walls. With a wide selection of beer and a great bar menu, this casual spot is a popular hang out. Next door is the also popular Morning Times coffee shop, which offers a large upstairs space for working or meetings.
20. The Players’ Retreat Is A Place For Everyone
Known as the PR to locals, this dive bar is a block from the NCSU campus and is a hangout for students, professors and townies alike. Not much has changed since it opened in 1951 and on any given night you can find a mixed crowd of families having dinner and students shooting pool.
21. Humble Pie For Great Food In Small Bites
This tapas place serves up some of the best food around in a beautiful space. When the weather is nice, the party moves outside to the tiki bar, the best patio in the area. Humble Pie is also the scene of several great parties and live music.
22. We Celebrate Art And Wine On The First Friday
“First Friday” is held on the first Friday of every month and many local galleries and design spaces stay open late to accommodate the festivities. Crowds of people wander around sipping wine and exploring the best of local artists. While art, music and themes vary each month, there’s sure to be something for everyone on this big night out.
23. The Generous Bar
If you’re looking to get rowdy, the Landmark Tavern is your bar. The diverse crowd can get large on weekends spilling out onto the back patio. The bartenders are generous with their pours and the prices are right.
24. Garland Is The Spot For Hip Indian Cuisine
One of Raleigh’s newest establishments, this art-filled room serves up a variety of Indian inspired dishes. After serving food from a take-out window during the summer, the new dining room has quickly become a place for Raleigh’s hippest to gather.
25. Music For Everyone
Another local music venue, the Pour House has an extensive list of beers on tap and a variety of musical acts. With artists ranging from country to blues to rock, there’s usually a show for everyone on the bill.
26. Cool Off And Enjoy The Good Life
The City of Raleigh has four year-round and five seasonal swimming pools, providing a great place to exercise and cool off during the scorching summer months. Several locations hold both group and private swim lessons at reasonable prices.
27. The Borough-Room For All of Your Friends
A casual restaurant and bar, this downtown spot has a solid menu and a good selection of beer, wine and cocktails. It’s a popular place for a casual gathering of friends since the open space can be good for groups.
28. Carolina Rollergirls For An Old School Fight On Skates
This flat track competition came to Raleigh in 2004. Teams compete with each other and also hold matches against other cities. Competitions are held at the NC State Fairgrounds in Dorton Arena. Bring a chair and grab a spot next to the track to get as close to the bumping, banging and fighting as possible.
29. Centro-Authentic Mexican Food And Tradition
Angela Salamanca and her uncle, Carols, opened this authentic Mexican restaurant serving up food with local ingredients and some of the best margaritas around. This restaurant does a lot for the community including hosting a Day of the Dead 5K and weekly margarita run.
30. Coquette Brassiere-Bon Appetite!
Located in the North Hills Shopping Center, Coquette offers fine French bistro cuisine in a traditional setting. The owners have extensive restaurant experience which shines through in the food and the well thought-out wine list.