Though this corner of the Tar Heel State may be best known for its contributions in the worlds of higher education and research sciences, Raleigh-Durham more than holds its own as a smart all-around travel destination as well. Whether you’re in town for business, a Duke University function or something else, pay close attention to the following tips.
The best time to visit Raleigh-Durham
The best time to visit Raleigh-Durham is definitely in the fall and spring, when the humidity isn’t raging and the landscape pops with color. During the warmer spring months, the North Carolina state tree, the dogwood, is in full bloom and covers the land as far as you can see; not to mention, the daffodils spring up all over the place.
During this time you can also catch the city’s minor league baseball team, the Durham Bulls, who helped make Kevin Costner famous before Field of Dreams in the film Bull Durham.
As long as the weather is nice and the humidity is light, snag a table on one of the city’s various restaurant patios for a delicious Southern meal.
If you’re lucky enough to come in October, you’ll want to make haste to the North Carolina Fair, which has been delighting visitors for 150 years. In the fall, summer-weary locals flock to outdoor attractions such as Umstead State Park and Eno River State Park to enjoy foliage colors that not even Monet could create — and the Carolina Blue sky makes quite the backdrop.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the basketball teams that play in Raleigh-Durham throughout the winter. Home to Duke, UNC and NC State, Raleigh-Durham has more than its fair share of amazing, can’t-miss games. And don’t worry if you forget that North Carolina won the 2017 NCAA Championship; an overjoyed Tar Heels fan will happily remind you whenever necessary.
What to pack for a trip to Raleigh-Durham
A couple of vital things must be in your carry-on for any trip to Raleigh-Durham. First of all, don’t close your suitcase without that pair of trusty walking shoes. Whether your tastes run toward urban adventures or natural retreats, you’ll find plenty of on-foot exploring to do; we suggest a hike at the Eno River State Park, if you’re an adventure seeker.
If you’re looking for a day full of shopping to the point of utter exhaustion, your sneakers will come in handy for a trip to Raleigh’s Cameron Village. And as you stroll on the campus of the University of North Carolina, you might even think back to your halcyon days at your university — though they may not be quite so idyllic as any time you’ll spend at UNC.
We should also mention your GPS as an important item to bring along. Whether using your iPhone or a portable Garmin, you’ll certainly need some guidance to navigate through the sprawling collection of towns that make up Raleigh-Durham. Though communities are only a few miles apart, it’s easy to become disoriented, especially if you’re an out-of-towner. The locals will be more than happy to help you out, though, if Waze has lost its way, extending that unquestioned charm and Southern hospitality.
The best shopping in Raleigh-Durham
The best Raleigh-Durham shopping is on Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street, Durham’s Streets at Southpoint and Raleigh’s Cameron Village.
On Chapel Hill’s main strip, shop for a sports jacket at Julian’s, where UNC basketball coach Roy Williams buys his ties. You may not be a Tar Heels fan, but you know you’re dealing with quality if a hall of fame basketball coach buys his accessories there.
Speaking of hoops and other sports, if you want to spruce up your closet with fan gear, venture into one of the three universities’ bookstores — North Carolina, Duke and NC State are all nearly within shouting distance of each other.
At Durham’s The Streets at Southpoint, top-tier chain stores beckon. From Anthropologie to a Crate & Barrel furniture store, you’re bound to find what you’ve been looking for here.
And at Raleigh’s Cameron Village, sweet boutiques such as Bevello and Uniquities trot out Trina Turk, Milly, Diane von Furstenberg and other high-end labels.