Nicknamed the “City of Oaks” for its abundance of oak trees and natural landscape, Raleigh is the second-largest city in North Carolina with an estimated 350,000 residents. The area is growing rapidly, as new residents discover Raleigh’s exceptional quality of life. In fact, in 2006 Money Magazine ranked Raleigh fourth in the country on its list of Best Places to Live and Forbes named it second in the country for Best Place for Business and Careers.
Inside the Beltline
Also called Old Raleigh, the area inside the 1-440 beltline that circles Raleigh is revered for its oak-lined neighborhoods and proximity to the amenities of downtown.
As the city continues to grow, the urban communities inside the beltline are becoming more and more attractive for those who want to live close to the action. Because of this, real estate prices here have seen a dramatic increase in recent years.
Near downtown, Oakwood is Raleigh’s only 19th-century neighborhood still intact. With a range of housing styles including Queen Anne, Classical Revival, and bungalow, most of Oakwood’s homes were built between 1890 and 1930. The Hayes Barton neighborhood, developed in the 1920s and ’30s, is named after the birthplace of Sir Walter Raleigh. Considered one of Raleigh’s premier neighborhoods, Hayes Barton offers massive, million-dollar homes adjacent to Five Points.
Other urban neighborhoods with homes from the early 20th century include Glenwood/Brooklyn, established in 1905; Boylan Heights, which features adorable bungalows; Cameron Park, one of Raleigh’s first streetcar suburbs; and Mordecai, which includes the oldest house in Raleigh, built in 1785.
Raleigh’s numerous institutions of higher learning lie inside the beltline, including N.C. State University, Shaw University, Peace College, and Meredith College. N.C. State’s Centennial Campus is a mixed-use development of research, business and residential space that continues to grow.
Near the Centennial Campus, the North Carolina State Farmers Market offers a variety of fresh produce and plants grown by local farmers, as well as a variety of crafts. South of downtown, Caraleigh Mills offers upscale condos and townhomes in the renovated Fred Whitaker Cotton Mill, which date back to the late 19th century and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
There are plenty of recreational options inside the beltline as well. Pullen Park, Raleigh’s oldest park, was developed in 1887 and lies adjacent to N.C. State University. The park includes playgrounds, picnic areas, tennis courts, ball fields, an aquatic center and an authentic Dentzel carousel — dating back to around 1900 — that is still in use today. Lake Johnson Nature Park off Avent Ferry Road includes five miles of trails, fishing, picnic areas and non-motorized boating on the 150-acre lake.
Northwest Raleigh encompasses about 20 square miles, nearly half of which is residential development, the majority being single-family homes. Folks in this area enjoy easy access to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, which is one of the fastest-growing airports in the country, and serves close to 10 million passengers per year.
Proximity to major thoroughfares like 1-40 and U.S. 70 also provides quick and easy access to the nearby cities of Chapel Hill and Durham. A popular shopping destination in the northwest corridor is Crabtree Valley Mall, which features over 220 stores, including Macy’s, as well as several fine dining restaurants. It’s also within walking distance to several major hotels.
Located just off the 1-440 Beltline on Lake Boone Trail is Rex Hospital, which has provided superior health care to Wake County and the surrounding areas for over 100 years. The Rex Hospital campus includes a 394-bed acute-care hospital, family birth center, cancer center, convalescent care center, same-day surgery center, heart and vascular center, and wellness center. Rex was named to Working Woman magazine’s list of the nation’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers for four straight years, and Carolina Parent magazine placed Rex among the Top 40 Family-Friendly North Carolina Companies.
Another highlight of Northwest Raleigh is the William B. Umstead State Park. Named after former Gov. William Bradley Umstead, this 5,439-acre park provides a quiet and peaceful oasis that’s just a short drive from the nearby hustle and bustle of the city.
In addition to a beautiful and scenic natural setting, the park offers a tent/trailer campground with 20 campsites, all of which are surrounded by a hardwood forest and equipped with a picnic table and grill.
Moreover, there are two shelters for group picnics, each with a fireplace. Several camps are also available to youth groups and nonprofit organizations, which include a mess hall, dining area, camper and staff cabins, and washhouses.
More adventurous visitors can explore the park’s forests via 20 miles of hiking trails or rent a rowboat or canoe at the boathouse and enjoy themselves on one of park’s three manmade lakes.
The 55-acre Big Lake, the largest in the park, is also a favorite spot for anglers to reel in a bass, bluegill or crappie. Further downstream is Sycamore Lake and Reedy Creek Lake, both of which cover about 25 acres.
Raleigh’s North district is one of the city’s largest, covering nearly 16,500 acres. With the recent opening of Interstate 540 (the Outer Loop), North Raleigh is rapidly becoming a hotspot for newcomers. In addition to several well-established neighborhoods, there are several new and diverse developments in the works as well. Single-family homes occupy nearly 36 percent of the area.
One reason for the area’s popularity is the abundance of public parks and greenway trails, including the Falls Lake State Recreation Area, which is situated along the northernmost section of Wake County. Visitors here can enjoy some fun outdoor activities, including boating and fishing at the 12,000-acre lake or mountain biking along the 13 miles of trails that wind through the 26,000 acres of woodlands. There are also over 300 campsites, many which offer water and electric hookups for RVs, with nearby showers, restrooms and dump stations.
Another great outdoor recreation area is the 53-acre Shelley Lake, situated along West Millbrook Road. A two-mile paved, scenic greenway trail winds around the lake, complete with strategically placed workout stations. Shelley Lake also has a playground area, athletic fields, boat rentals and fishing opportunities.
Another ideal spot to enjoy the great outdoors is-Lake Lynn. It boasts a paved path popular with rollerbladers and bicyclists, a community center, lighted ball fields and tennis courts.
Of course, there’s also plenty in North Raleigh for those who want to enjoy
the great indoors as well, including restaurants, small boutique shops, and the Triangle Town Center. This new regional mall has about 165 stores, including the state’s first Saks Fifth Avenue, which opened in 2004.
There’s also the North Hills Mall, an indoor-outdoor mixed-use retail center, complete with shopping, dining, office space, a fitness center, condominiums, townhomes and a movie theater. And through its Arts and Entertainment Program, North Hills also serves as a platform for various musical, theatrical and visual artists to perform. Over the years, it’s become a favorite venue to showcase new talent and support local cultural events.
Another artistic outlet in the area is the North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, a nonprofit performing arts center. The theater provides a creative outlet for all ages in the community and offers instruction in the performing arts for adults, teens, and children, as well as one-week camps, covering a range of topics in the performing arts for kids under 12. The theater’s “Village Idiots” also perform improvisational comedy skits throughout the year.
This bustling area of the city is home to many cultural, educational and outdoor recreational venues. West Raleigh is perhaps best known for North Carolina State University. With more than 30,000 students, it’s the state’s largest college and over the years has developed a reputation as one the country’s preeminent centers for research and teaching in the sciences and technologies.
There are also numerous smaller universities and colleges in West Raleigh, such as Meredith College. Chartered in 1891, this liberal arts women’s college has about 2,000 students enrolled and offers more than 50 programs of study at the undergraduate level, as well as numerous graduate programs in business, music, nutrition and education.
Of course, it’s not all about books and studying in West Raleigh. There’s also plenty to see and do at places like Cameron Village. This upscale shopping center has a diverse collection of over 100 shops and boutiques, many of which are locally owned, as well as a number of restaurants and cafés.
A great place to take a break from the shopping and crowds is Lake Johnson, one of the city’s most scenic parks. The 150-acre lake, which is ideal for fishing and kayaking, is surrounded by a great trail system and is a favorite among joggers, walkers, and bikers. Lake Johnson also hosts a variety of programs, including sailing clinics, yoga lessons, and a concert series.
The 72-acre Pullen Park, located next to the campus of North Carolina State University, is a fantastic spot for families to spend the day. There are a train and kiddie boat rides, an aquatic center, picnic shelters, tennis courts, sports fields and even a vintage 1912 carousel.
Pullen Park is also the site of Theatre in the Park, one of the state’s most innovative and exciting theater arts centers. The group presents a broad range of comedy, contemporary drama, musicals and Shakespeare, which attracts more than 40,000 people annually.
The theater, which includes a beautiful garden, is indoors, air-conditioned and has a seating capacity of approximately 250. Year-round programming includes at least four main-stage productions, classes, workshops and independent productions.
Another resource for fans of the performing arts is the Raleigh Little Theatre, one of the oldest continuously operating community theaters in the country. The facility showcases 11 productions each year with more than 150 performances. Moreover, the theater serves more than 900 children and adults in its year-round on-site and satellite education programs.
The East District is a burgeoning area bisected by U.S. 64 and bordered by I-40, giving residents easy access to the nearby town of Knightdale, as well as Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Research Triangle Park.
Nearly half of the district is residential, comprised mostly of single-family dwellings. Most of East Raleigh’s development is along U.S. 1 (Capital Boulevard) and Business U.S. 64 (New Bern Avenue).
Parts of East Raleigh, particularly around New Bern Avenue, are part of a Neighborhood Vision Plan, which is exploring different ways to revitalize areas just east and south of downtown. This area contains a mix of residential, institutional and some commercial properties, portions of which are going through a transitional phase.
Several revitalization projects are in the works, including the Chavis Heights project, which is scheduled to include a mixed-income development of villas, townhouses and triplexes, and apartments for senior citizens.
The city is also revitalizing nearby Chavis Park. Built in the late 1930s, the 28 acre park was one of the first to serve the black community. The city recently dedicated a unique sculpture at the park called “Glimpses of the Promised Land” by Carrboro artist Mike Roig. The 18-foot sculpture, made mostly from recycled steel, represents the neighborhoods that faced down Jim Crow-era discrimination. Another of the park’s highlights is the 70-year-old carousel, which features 36
There are also several historically black colleges in East Raleigh, such as Shaw University. Founded in 1865, Shaw is a private, co-educational, liberal arts university affiliated with the Baptist Church and the oldest historically black college in the Southeast. There’s also Saint Augustine’s College, founded in 1867 by the Episcopal Church to educate black teachers, which offers a testament to the resourcefulness of its first students. Saint Augustine’s College was established in 1867, an outgrowth of Christian missionary work in the Reconstruction Era South.
Raleigh’s Downtown District is the vibrant core of the city and has a bounty of cultural and entertainment venues, as well as business and residential developments. It’s without question one of the most desirable areas in the city in which to live, work and play.
One of the downtown’s biggest and most anticipated projects is the new 500,000-square-foot convention center and adjoining four-star Marriott Hotel.
Scheduled to open in the summer of 2008, the convention center and hotel will be centrally located along South Salisbury Street within easy walking distance to a plethora of shops, art galleries, restaurants, and museums.
The new convention center is part of the city’s ambitious Livable Street Plan, a multi-billion-dollar project that will dramatically renovate parts of downtown. Another of the plan’s projects is along Fayetteville Street, which for over two centuries has been Raleigh’s commercial center and premier address. In 2003, the city decided the area needed a modem makeover, and city officials are the process of creating an urban oasis with retail, restaurants and strategic open space to accommodate a variety of events, including concerts, parades, markets and
Of course, there’s already plenty to do in downtown. With nearly 200 bars, restaurants, museums and other entertainment developments, you should be able to find just the right venue, whatever your tastes or interests.
The hip, young and beautiful can often be seen at hotspots like The Office Nightclub. This ultra-modem club in the warehouse district is where people go dancing to hip-hop, R&B, house and techno music. The nightclub also has a spacious lounge bar with plush leather seating and an enclosed patio with sunken Japanese fire pits and a fiber-optic lit waterfall.
If live music is more to your liking, there are plenty of venues to choose from, including The Pour House Music Hall, located in the Moore Square Art District. For over ten years partygoers have been coming to this rowdy, good-time spot that serves a variety of beers, mixed drinks, and wine, and features some of the best live music in town.
For something a little more upscale, check out the Blue Martini, situated in the Powerhouse Square district. Blue Martini is the perfect spot to impress a date or enjoy a memorable night on the town. The classy yet comfortable nightspot offers a varied food and drink selection, live music and, of course, award-winning signature martinis.
If you’re ready to take a break from the party scene, there’s no shortage of cultural and artistic venues. The North Carolina Museum of History, for example, explores the people, places, and events that helped shape the Tar Heel state. The museum has dozens of both changing and long-time exhibits that delve into everything from North Carolina fashion and transportation to weapons and sports.
Other museums in the downtown area include the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Founded in 1879, the museum uses hundreds of exhibits and educational programs to explore North Carolina’s distinct and diverse geography, geology, plants, and animals. After visiting a museum, you can check out one of the area’s many art galleries, like the Collectors Gallery, which has paintings, etchings, photography, sculpture, pottery, glass and jewelry from local, regional and national artists. Or, you can take in a play or concert at the renowned BTI Center for the Performing Arts. This multi-venue complex features Broadway and off-Broadway productions, North Carolina Symphony concerts, Carolina Ballet performances, and Opera Company of North Carolina productions.
With all this activity going on, it’s no, wonder that so many are flocking to the downtown area to live. While “Old Raleigh” is home to many well-established neighborhoods like Boylan Heights, Country Club Hills, and Oakwood, there is a wide variety of new condos and townhomes available.
222 Glenwood, for one, is in the heart of downtown and is a unique, mixed-use condominium project with a private, landscaped interior courtyard featuring a pool and outdoor fireplace. 630 North Street has luxurious one- and two-bedroom residences and office condominiums, with amenities including large walk-out balconies and access to a landscaped garden.
There’s also Bloomsbury Estates, which combines historical architecture with contemporary amenities like custom kitchen cabinetry, high-quality appliances, granite countertops, and ornate mantles with gas logs in each living room.
Of course, these are just a few of the residential developments available, and yet one more reason downtown Raleigh is the place to be.