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Raleigh is a capital of good times
The seat of N.C. politics has plenty to offer in arts and nightlife too
Published Thursday, January 30, 2014 11:00 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

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Raleigh's Museum of Natural Sciences is the Southeast's largest natural history museum and includes the rare Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur (kin of the T-Rex) and the Nature Research Center, an 80,000 square-foot wing which allows visitors to interact with scientists and perform experiments.

Boasting of cool attractions, exquisite dining experiences, endless live music venues, notable exhibitions of history, science, art, and much more, North Carolina’s capital city has all the makings for an action-packed day trip or a full weekend of fun.

Raleigh is about a 2.5-hour drive north of Charlotte (I-85 North to I-40 East), or for about $60 round trip, you can hop aboard the Amtrak and get there in about three hours. After arriving, get around free of charge on the R-Line, the city’s electric hybrid bus service that loops around downtown. Buses run every 10-15 minutes.

The museums

Raleigh is not only home to some of the best museums in the state, but houses some the most sought after exhibits and collections in the nation. It’s a treasure trove for those seeking adventures in art, history and science.

Admission is free to many museums and attractions, including the N.C. Museum of Art (2110 Blue Ridge Road), one of the Southeast’s premier visual arts museums. NCMA is home to a world–class collection that includes more than 30 Rodin sculptures. It features a dramatic new gallery building, a center for special exhibitions, and a 164-acre Museum Park.

The permanent collection (free admission) includes everything from ancient Egyptian artifacts and renowned European old master paintings to African and Judaic works of art mixed in with contemporary artists from all around the world.

Another great aspect of NCMA is that it encourages visitors to make their own art by encouraging photography (unless otherwise posted). Be sure to tag #NCMA when posting to social media for “likes” from the museum and possible reposts or follows. Check out the museum on Instagram for a little inspiration or a peek into its treasures.

At the Museum of Natural Sciences (11 West Jones St.) you can learn all about animals past and present. Take a peak at aquatic animals or get your fill of creepy crawlies with displays of snakes and other reptiles.

Raleigh’s Museum of Natural Sciences is the Southeast’s largest natural history museum and includes the rare Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur (kin of the T-Rex) and the Nature Research Center, where visitors perform experiments, interact with scientists and enjoy the three-story Daily Planet Theater.

Explore North Carolina’s past at the N.C. Museum of History (5 East Edenton St.). The exhibit “Freedom Coming, Freedom for All,” which ran through Jan. 26, featured an original copy of the 13th Amendment.

At just $5 a ticket, the Marbles Kids Museum (201 East Hargett St.) is a place where a kid can be anything he or she wants to be with dozens of interactive exhibits, daily educational programs and special events. If your child is interested in theater or acting, he or she can get dressed in full costume and take to the stage.

Does your little one have a passion for animals? Marbles has a life-like veterinarian’s office, where children can don white coats and look after their furry, four-legged friends.

Head over to the Warehouse District and browse the studios of local artists and see what’s happening at the Contemporary Art Museum (409 W. Martin St.). CAM is unique in that it is a non-collecting museum. Its always-changing exhibitions explore what’s hot and happening now. The N.C. Arts Council Artists Awards Exhibit opens at CAM Jan. 31, and will run through April 27, featuring the works of nine visual artists, four craft artists and two film/video artists that have been selected for the 2013-14 awards.

Attend the opening reception Feb. 6. For more information, visit www.camraleigh.com.

Want to see more? Take a journey back in time on the Raleigh Heritage Trail, a self-guided tour made up of 12 historic sites, museums and heritage attractions in the Greater Raleigh area.

The food

Raleigh is truly a foodie’s paradise, boasting of more than 2,000 restaurants and growing.

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The menu at Poole's Downtown Diner changes daily based on season and availability, but the famed Macaroni and Cheese Au Gratin is a constant staple. Folks will wait in line for over an hour for a taste.

Locals flock to the Poole’s Downtown Diner (426 S. McDowell St.), where the wait on weekends can easily exceed an hour or two, yet people stand in line because the food is so good. Here, there are no paper menus as choices are written on blackboards and change daily based on season and availability. However, one constant staple at this no-frills restaurant is the famous Macaroni and Cheese Au Gratin ($10), which can easily put your Mama’s mac-n-cheese to shame, or at least give it some good competition. Also, try one of the classic cocktails, like the Sir Isaac Newton, a concoction made with apple brandy, lemon and house-made apple cinnamon syrup. (And be advised, if you are traveling with children, Poole’s is not the most kid-friendly option. Seating is limited and the average bill is about $50 a person with beverage.)

The breakfast crowd likes to dine at Big Ed’s (220 Wolfe St.), where we’re told the biscuits are as big as your head, and the menu boasts of family recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation since the Civil War.

In the mood for some mean BBQ? You’ve got to stop by The Pit (328 W. Davie St.), which has made a national name for itself as the place to dine on North Carolina’s signature cuisine – authentic whole-hog, pit-cooked barbeque.

Raleigh is also gaining popularity for its thriving beer scene. Sip some suds at one of the local breweries, like Big Boss Brewery (1249 Wicker Drive), and try the Bad Penny caramel brown ale.

The nightlife

As home to more than 80 live music venues, many consider Raleigh to be the live music capital of North Carolina. Its Glenwood South area, dubbed the Entertainment District, has a reputation for  being the place to be for a thriving night scene.

If you plan on staying overnight or for a weekend, check into the Hampton Inn Glenwood, which is within walking distance of the strip along South Glenwood Avenue where you will find restaurants, sports bars, coffee shops, trendy nightclubs and neighborhood taverns.

The second level of Solas in Raleigh's Glenwood South Entertainment District features a lounge with an all-glass dance floor.

One of the hottest spots is Solas, a multilevel entertainment center and restaurant. The vibe here is very South Beach. Bia Restaurant takes up the first floor. Its menu focuses on American cuisine and offers everything from tapas-style sliders and BBQ short rib sandwiches to lamb and lobster dishes. The second level at Solas is a lounge-style nightclub with an all-glass dance floor. (If you are afraid of heights, don’t look down.) A heated rooftop deck is on Sola’s third floor. Here, patrons can lounge and sip specialty cocktails while taking in the view of the bustling Glenwood South strip below.

A couple of doors down, Noir Bar Lounge is a great spot for cheap drinks and people watching. Here, the crowd is diverse, and the DJ spins everything from old school Hip Hop to techno and reggae music. Noir’s throwback European and film noir-themed décor is edgy with exposed brick, crystal chandeliers and boudoir-style furniture.

To learn more about Raleigh or for assistance in planning your next trip, visit www.VisitRaleigh.com


Do you still have the Dancing Feathers exhibition?
Posted on February 4, 2014

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