Location: Raleigh, Durham, Carrboro and Chapel Hill, North Carolina
We had less than 2 days, but our mission was to see as much of our little corner of North Carolina as we could. Our plan was to visit Chapel Hill (since I would be attending UNC), Carrboro (known fondly as Chapel Hill’s hippie cousin), Raleigh (the State’s growing capital), and Durham (an entrepreneurial hub for young professionals). Too many flights made our experience a little haggard, a little tiring, but we managed to pull out all the stops. These areas are conveniently located within 30 minutes of each other, so we rented a car and got to seeing the sights.
We didn’t know what to expect. We were told that the area known as the “Research Triangle” represented the best of what the South had to offer- all of the hospitality combined the progressiveness that comes with being a hub for higher education. The Research Triangle, commonly referred to simply as “The Triangle” by locals, is the region anchored by North Carolina State University, Duke University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Its an 8-county region and home to a population of 2,726,000 people. But, you wouldn’t know it from being there. It’s sprawling and absolutely blanketed in a thick layer of oak trees as far as the eye can see. It feels almost empty on the freeways- even at peak hours- and you can get from one point in The Triangle to the point opposite in under 40 minutes. The “Triangle” is home to numerous technology companies, and continues to expand. The research facilities and the educated workforce supplied by the 3 universities serve as a major attraction for businesses in the region. Today, North Carolina is the fastest growing state in America.
Anyways, back to our trip. So the first thing we noticed was the TREES. Everywhere. From the road, you can’t see anything but green. It’s easy to see how the region got it’s name. We can’t wait to see how they change into a colorful autumn rainbow.
We stayed at the most beautiful airbnb. It was our first time using airbnb on a trip, and we would do it again in a heartbeat! Our hosts were a gracious married couple- Lee and Josh- about our age, who lived in a beautifully furnished cottage in the woods of Chapel Hill. It was a short walk to Franklin Street and the downtown area, but the area where they lived was secluded and quiet. We took so many pictures of their place because of the amazing antique furniture they had (Lee’s parents own an auction company), and because their kitty was so photogenic. Although we tried to maximize our exploration time, we still managed to chat with them and get their first-hand advice about all the things that the area had to offer.
Naturally, I wanted to see the University because I’ll be spending so much of my time there starting in the fall. Because graduation had happened and all the young people disappeared around Duke and Chapel Hill, it was almost deserted. We got a chance to explore these campuses unencumbered. UNC’s campus was old and regal- straight out of the antebellum era. It reminded me of an enormous Southern plantation, with blossoms everywhere, long winding paths, and Georgian buildings made of brick. My favorite of these buildings were the Bell Tower and Wilson Library (looks like the Capitol Building, right!?). It was built in the late 1950’s in the Beaux-Arts style, so it has many Renaissance elements including gigantic Ionic columns. Naturally, we took many photos of Old Well, which stands as the visual symbol of the University today. Surrounded by blossoms, it stands at the heart of campus, and students have a drink underneath it for good luck on the first day of classes.
And, what would be a visit to the South without a taste of the food. We went to several different restaurants. My favorite was “Fiction Kitchen” in downtown Raleigh. We were able to try all the Southern staples- chicken n waffles, barbecue pulled pork, shrimp and grits, etc.- completely meat free! As vegetarians, we were in awe at how realistic and delicious everything was. We also visited some downtown bars including Clockwork Bar (on Buzzfeed’s list of bars in America to drink at before you die). It’s a crazy 70’s themed bar with gold statues and psychedelic patterns on the walls. All the drinks have inspired names like The Pussy Galore, Tango in Paris, and Who Loves You Baby. Walking inside feels immediately like Alice falling down the Rabbit Hole.
We also tried the reported best donuts in the area at Durham’s “Monut” just outside of Duke’s campus. We tried Strawberry Shortcake, Butter Pecan, and Mango Chili. Needless to say, the lived up to their reputation. K also tried a local drink specialty made with Boylen’s Soda and Espresso. He described it as “smoky,” and said the bitterness paired nicely with the sweetness of the donuts.
On Sunday, we went for Bloody Mary Brunch in Durham’s up and coming arts district at Motorco Music Hall. It’s a really industrial area- previously depressed- but now re-populated with with yoga studios, vintage stores, and artisan shops. In fact, there was a local art fair going on when we visited. At night you can get food from numerous food trucks and eat on the roof of the Surf Club. We went to the neatest women’s consignment shop that I’ve been to in ages, and I got a Mod dress straight out of the 80’s.
Needless to say, it was a whirlwind visit. The most whirlwind weekend adventure we have done yet. All in all. It was hot, cordial, and classy. The best of the Carolinas for sure.
We feel really good about our decision to move here! It was a tough choice, but we hope this post will help you guys get on board with this adventure. We hope you keep following all of our journeys and having some of your own.
Let us know about your summer fun in the sun,