Welcome to Raleigh, Ya’ll. One of the happiest cities in America. Home to low depression rates, people who get adequate sleep, and satisfaction of career and income. Raleigh has been my home for almost 9 years, and in that time I have learned to navigate their unique Southern language (parking deck and not parking garage), their obsession with college basketball (who knew the shade of blue could be so controversially), and their affinity to barbecue sauce (Eastern vs. Western).
But what makes me love Raleigh so much is more than that. It’s sitting outside on a clear night eating a taco, sipping a beer, and talking with friends. It’s running on one of the multiple paths throughout the city or strolling among the sunflowers in a park. It’s driving to the mountains and then the next month driving to the coast. It’s my son running around at one of the multiple museums. It’s the languages and cultures all mixed into one city. It’s the people.
1.) The Food/Drink Scene
I wouldn’t call myself a Foodie or a beer or wine connoisseur per say, but I appreciate both casual and fine dining. Raleigh certainly doesn’t lack in those areas. Our city has two food halls, a pay what you can restaurant, and one of America’s best chefs who owns multiple restaurants. We have restaurants which have been featured on TV: The Pit and Cousins Maine Lobster.
A perfect day would be spent brunching at The Flying Biscuit Café located in the heart of Cameron Village, an open-air shopping center. My husband and I would then drive to a brewery, sit outside, and enjoy a beer while our toddler runs around in a kid friendly beer garden. Later that evening, we can head to downtown Raleigh and stroll the streets while nibbling on bites from different food trucks at a Food Truck Rodeo. Finally, we top it off with dessert at any one of Raleigh’s numerous bakeries or ice cream parlors.
Americans are craving a more authentic eating experience. We simply don’t want to always have to deal with the hassle of kids in a traditional restaurant where we sit in a crowded booth in a dimly lit space. While Raleigh certainly does have those styles of restaurants that are both great and classic, the city offers up experiences for all kinds. Whether you want to sit outside, choose to eat from multiple places at once, or let your kids roam (mostly) free, Raleigh has something for you!
2.) The Active Lifestyle
Having run cross country and track for years in high school and college, I was so happy to find out that Raleigh had miles of trails around lakes, through the city, and so close to home. The running community is thriving here. I have found friends from going to run clubs that meet at breweries or running stores. These friends and I have participated in multiple road races which have people running in kilts or lederhosen or eating a dozen donuts in tutus.
Also, I have opportunities to be involved in other activities. Raleigh offers many free weekly workout classes once the weather gets warm. I can drive to a local park and do free yoga every Wednesday, or I can head to a green space to do aerobic and station workouts with a large group. These are great ways to get your family or friends out for a midweek fitness session. And did I mention it’s free!
Even more, Raleigh has a professional hockey team, a professional soccer team down the road in Cary, and a minor league baseball team in Durham. The people here seem to care about getting fit and staying healthy. It is great to be a part of that!
3.) Central Location
Raleigh has the best of both worlds. Because of its prime central location in the state, you can drive about 2 ½ hours east or west and arrive at the coast or the mountains. You can make a short weekend trip or even a day trip out of it.
We prefer more of the mountain side of the state and definitely have taken advantage of that by making multiple trips to Asheville and its surrounding areas. Going there in the fall is a must for anyone who loves the color of fall leaves and the crisp, cool weather. For me, the Chimney Rock and Lake Lure area are on my bucket list.
On the other side of the state, the coast, we have made trips to Wilmington, New Bern, Wrightsville Beach, Kure Beach, and Ocean Isle. You can spend a nice day soaking up the sun, strolling the boardwalks, or taking a leisurely bike ride. Beaufort is on my bucket list.
4. The Museums/Libraries
I have never been one to frequent museums much before arriving to Raleigh, but now I am thrilled that our city has so many to offer. It's a free way to spend an afternoon learning or letting your kid be amazed. Raleigh has an Art, Science, History, and Kids Museum to name a few of our larger ones. The Kids Museum is by far my favorite because it allows Henry to run wild, and everything's safe and kid friendly. The museum also offers 21+ nights where adults can drink beer and be kids at the same time. The science museum also offers traveling exhibits. I have been able to see the Titanic and Race one, both which have been fascinating and full of wealths of information. I highly recommend these museums.
Conversely, I have always been a fan of libraries, but I am really impressed at what the libraries in this city have to offer. Story times, resources, book clubs, community classes - to name a few. It's comforting to know that Americans spent more time at libraries than movie theaters in 2019. And after visiting the libraries in Raleigh, I can see why.
5. The Diversity
The number one reason why I love Raleigh so much is the people. It's a melting pot for cultures all over the world. Rarely, do you meet someone who is actually from Raleigh and when you do, you are charmed by their Southern hospitality. Go to the mall, a restaurant, a festival, or the State Fair, and you will see all kinds of people coming together and largely embracing one another and getting along. We have cultural festivals multiple times a year. We have one of the most integrated school systems in America. We have people speaking different languages and practicing diverse religions and looking differently helping each other.
From my neighborhood I can walk in one direction to a Spanish tienda and in the other to a Chinese market. I have had students and their parents from Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico, Afghanistan, Somalia, Tanzania, Georgia, Morocco, Austria, and India. I have been in meetings where a Spanish and sign language interpreter are going at the same time. It's amazing! It's not perfect and we have a long way to go, but we are trying and for that I love Raleigh.
Photo used under Creative Commons from does_not_travel_often