Raleigh. Really? Yes!

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Raleigh.  Really?  Yes!

Friends invited us to their wedding in Southern Virginia and the closest airport is Raleigh. So, we padded in an extra day after the ceremony to see the capital of North Carolina.

Arriving from the north, I thought we’d be remiss not to stop in Durham and see Duke University—which is just as nice as I expected.  Glad we stopped.

Onto downtown where we checked in to “a modernized mid-century gem” called The Longleaf Hotel. (“Longleaf” is the state’s namesake—the longleaf pine.)  The visitors’ bureau correctly describes it as a renovated vintage motor lodge.  Very cool.  (www.TheLongleafHotel.com)

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The hotel is in a perfect location to walk around downtown—and that was our main goal:  Our first stop was lunch, and we were directed to the “Warehouse District” where we found a trendy place called the Morgan Street Food Hall with plenty of options.  I have a gluten allergy but was able to have a bowl of New England clam chowder for the first time in years! 

Next door was a chocolate factory with a coffee bar.  (Videri Chocolate Factory and Black & White Roasters.) So far, we were loving Raleigh! The Warehouse District is a series of repurposed old buildings converted into a mixed-use district that includes museums, antique shops, and breweries.

Erin enjoyed shopping as we made our way toward the state capitol.  Lots of choices for her while I sat outside on benches and read up on the history of this cool city that was starting to feel as comfortable as another state capital, Nashville.  (www.VisitRaleigh.com)

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Tucked in the middle of downtown is a National Historic Landmark completed in 1940 and “is one of the finest and best-preserved examples of a major civic building in the Greek Revival style of architecture.”  I like seeing state capitols.

We walked across the street and stumbled upon the North Carolina Museum of History.  We were happy to enjoy a couple of hours in this Smithsonian affiliate, enjoying all the fascinating secrets and hidden gems from the state’s past.  Nice that it was free. (www.NCmuseumofhistory.org)

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We completed our circle of downtown Raleigh and wound up back at The Longleaf Hotel.  We told someone during our travels that we were staying there, and they quickly mentioned how popular and trendy the hotel’s lounge and patio has become for locals.

We enjoyed a drink at the hotel bar, met a guy who manages another restaurant in Raleigh—who confirmed The Longleaf has become the place to go.  He also made a great recommendation for a dinner spot directly across the street from the hotel.

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Mulino Italian Kitchen & Bar was built in a reclaimed mill and specializes in Italian plates and wines.  Erin and I sat at the bar and had a wonderful dinner.  I had salmon and she had spinach ravioli.  Memorable place, great atmosphere—and a perfect location to walk back across the street to our hotel.  (www.MulinoRaleigh.com)

Before going to the airport, the next morning, we went looking for breakfast.  We stumbled on a place that’s become a media sensation.  It’s called “A Place at the Table,” and patrons can pay whatever they can afford. The Today Show produced a feature about it and the Kelly Clarkson show gave the restaurant a $100,000 grant as “Good Neighbor of the Year.”  (TableRaleigh.com)

We had a wonderful 24-hours in this very cool city and are so glad we built extra time into our trip to check it out first-hand.

Ray Collins is a Sarasota-based travel writer who has been published over a hundred times covering destinations around the world.  www.raycollinsmedia.com/articles  He’s also a top Realtor, elected official and former TV news anchor. 

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