With numerous free attractions, a vibrant art district, cutting edge dining and major league shows and sports, Downtown Raleigh makes a great weekend destination.
Visitors arriving to check out the revitalized downtown won’t find a better location for a weekend getaway than the new Raleigh Marriott City Center next door to the convention center. Strategically located at the head of Fayetteville Street, this 400-room smoke-free property is just steps from the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, and a short walk to both the Moore Square and Warehouse entertainment districts. The state capitol and the museum district, plus numerous dining and entertainment options, are within walking distance.
Crawl the Galleries or Catch a Show
Friday nights are exciting times to be in Raleigh, especially the first Friday of every month. Dozens of galleries in downtown Raleigh and along Glenwood Avenue stay open late while area restaurants offer special First Friday deals.
You’ll find excitement nearly every night at the Progress Energy Center, where four theaters host over 700 events every year. Resident companies include the Carolina Ballet, the North Carolina Symphony, Raleigh Little Theatre, and North Carolina Theatre, now in its 25th season of producing Broadway hits. Progress also hosts the Broadway Series South, presenting the touring companies of top shows such as Chicago, A Chorus Line, and The Wizard of Oz.
If sports are more your style, the RBC Center is home to the NHL champion Carolina Hurricanes and NC State Wolfpack basketball, as well as numerous other events each year.
Saturday morning head over to Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant at Moore Square for a family style breakfast featuring Old South favorites from grilled biscuits to redeye gravy. Founder Ed Watkins. usually found at his favorite table, recommends the giant pancake: “I took my momma’s pound cake recipe and doctored it up some.”
Raleigh has plenty to occupy your time. On Fayetteville Street, you’ll find the Raleigh City Museum open for business with exhibits on the city’s growth. The Raleigh Visitors Center, located in the same building, offers walking tour maps of the city’s historic neighborhoods.
Take free guided or self-guided tours of the State Capitol building or visit the N.C. Museum of Natural Science and the N.C. Museum of History, free state museums that face each other across a pedestrian plaza just a block from the State House.
Art lovers should motor out to the free NC Museum of Art to check out the huge collection of bronzes by Rodin, as well as other impressive permanent and changing exhibits. Take time to walk the outdoor art trail to discover fresh and whimsical delights.
History buffs have lots of options, including the Mordecai Historic Park, where you can tour the oldest house still surviving in the city, as well as a number of other historic buildings including the birthplace of President Andrew Johnson. You can catch a trolley here on Saturdays, March through December, for a guided journey into city history.
Dine In Style
New dining options in the downtown district range from famous pitmaster Ed Mitchell’s authentic whole-hog barbecue at The Pit to chef-driven steaks and small plates at The Bolt Bistro & Bar, located in a former bank building on Fayetteville Street. At the venerable Irregardless, bringing local produce to tables since 1975, you can enjoy live music following your meal. The local favorite is known for its vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free cuisine.
Sunday brunch caps off a weekend getaway in style. Check out the unique menus at tapas restaurant Humble Pie in the Warehouse District, the farm-to-table cuisine at Provenance near Moore’s Square, or the seasonal specialties at Poole’s Diner, right on Fayetteville Street.
Or stop on the way home at the elegant Umstead Resort, just off I-40 in Cary, to sample the exceptional cuisine featured on its ever-changing brunch menu, then walk off the calories with a stroll around the lovely pond on the hotel grounds.
However you choose to spend those precious weekend days, you’ll find Raleigh a fascinating—and delicious—adventure.