Raleigh - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Raleigh


North Carolina's capital, Raleigh, makes up the southeastern corner of the famous Research Triangle, with Durham and Chapel Hill at the other two points. The state's second-largest city is a vital centre of high-tech business and education. Unlike many cities that grew up around ports or stations, Raleigh was planned specifically to be the capital.

At its centre stands the beautiful North Carolina Capitol building, a fine Greek Revival-style landmark, from which wide, oak-lined streets radiate. This careful geometry makes exploring Raleigh quite straightforward, although the city lacks the charming scenes that often develop with more haphazard growth, such as shops on crooked alleyways and old homes on narrow, hidden lanes. Nonetheless, Raleigh remains a pleasant city, with a unique mix of Southern heritage and down-home manners; elite academia and boisterous university life and athletics; and the fast-paced, sleek sophistication of Triangle professionals.

Raleigh has been described as somewhat sleepy in the past, but its nightlife scene has become much livelier in recent years, and its diverse historic districts and neighbourhoods cater to many different tastes. The area surrounding the Capitol is the centre of government, business and history. Despite its daytime bustle, it remains a lovely spot for a stroll, with grand museums and a leafy square. Nearby Oakwood is full of exquisitely restored 19th century homes and gardens. Moore Square, with its old-fashioned lampposts and cobbled streets, is another city oasis. By day, visitors can lounge in the park and must rub for good luck the giant copper acorn sculpture, in honour of Raleigh's 'City of Oaks' nickname. By night, Moore Square comes alive with upscale bars and restaurants, as do pedestrian Fayettesville Street and the chic Warehouse district, popular with Raleigh's 'urban hip' crowd.

Shoppers should head for the posh shops of North Hills or the boutiques of Cameron Village. Those in search of a more colourful atmosphere, however, will find it on Hillsborough Street and in the NC State University district, where a jumble of undergrads, professors and tourists mingle in coffeehouses, restaurants and casual pubs. NC State is the North Carolina's largest university, and its strong reputation for research is often overshadowed by its wildly popular Wolfpack, a leader in intercollegiate sports.

Raleigh is often lumped together with nearby cities Durham and Chapel Hill, and though the three are only about a 30-minute drive from one another, there are different communities. Durham was once one of the most thriving African-American centres in the country. Today, its main attraction is Duke University, one of the top schools in the United States and home of the Blue Devils, another sports powerhouse. Its downtown areas, however, have suffered in the past years, although revitalization efforts are underway. Chapel Hill, meanwhile, has the reputation of a lovely college town, with beautiful old homes; endless independently-owned coffee shops, pubs and restaurants; and a decidedly liberal leaning. It is home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, another top American institution, and the beloved Tar Heels, another top force in college athletics. The three cities, and their massive college sports followings, remain friendly rivals.

Information & Facts


Raleigh has a moderate subtropical climate. Although it has four seasons, warm weather is common throughout spring, summer and autumn. Summers can be quite hot and humid, while the spring and autumn seasons are extremely pleasant and sunny. Winters are mild, with somewhat chilly temperatures but very rare snowfalls.

Getting Around

While it is possible to walk in Raleigh within certain districts, especially in the central downtown area, a car is highly recommended. Raleigh is a big city, and destinations are spread out, though navigating the area by car is relatively straightforward. Capitol Area Transit (CAT) operates a bus system; regular fare is $1. When in need of a taxi, it is best to call ahead for one, as it can be difficult to hail one on the street.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

Artspace is a pioneering visual arts centre that allows the public to become part of the creative process. As the heart of Raleigh's arts community, Artspace stages countless challenging and award-winning exhibitions, workshops, outreach programs and public events each year. Its unique open studio environment enables artists to collaborate with one another and with visitors. Today, it is the second-largest open studio space in the country.

The collection at the North Carolina Museum of Art spans 5,000 years, from ancient Egypt up to the present day. Ancient pieces include Greek and Roman sculptures and vases, but it is the European collection that is internationally celebrated. This includes significant works from the Renaissance through Impressionist periods by artists such as Botticelli, Raphael and Monet. American art, however, is certainly not neglected. The museum has a range of 18th and 19th-century American works as well as modern art by major contemporary artists. The museum shop offers books, posters and other art-related merchandise, while the Blue Ridge restaurant, overlooking the lush grounds scattered with sculptures, serves delicious lunches.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has recreated a series of natural environments, complete with living animals and a 20-foot-high (6m) waterfall, through which visitors can walk and discover North Carolina's diverse geography, geology, plants and animals. The museum is also home to Willo, a 66-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton, the only one in the world with a fossilized heart. Other dinosaurs are also on display, as is one of the world's finest great whale skeletons. The Afro Café serves tasty breakfasts and lunches.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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