City of Oaks: A Beginner’s Raleigh Guide

By: Jason Frye

December 30, 2013

Named in honour of Sir Walter Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina, was one of the first planned cities in the United States, and when the capital building opened for legislative business, there were few other dwellings in the “City of Oaks”. Seeded in 1792, the town grew slowly, and had fewer than 700 residents in 1800, but by the 1860s, Raleigh, was North Carolina’s fourth largest city. Today, Raleigh’s population is nearly 425,000, making it the second largest city in the state. Take a look at our Raleigh guide to discover some of the city’s best spots.

Raleigh is a cornerstone of North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, a hotbed of academic, biotech, software, creative, and economic activity. As such, a number of colleges and universities call Raleigh home, including North Carolina State University; Meredith College, a lauded women’s college; and Shaw University, the first historically black university in the South. The result of the fervent intellectual energy here is a diverse international citizenry that influences the arts, culture and cuisines across Raleigh.

Contemporary Art Museum | City of Oaks | Raleigh Guide

The Contemporary Art Museum, which regularly rotates its exhibitions © GRCVB/

In downtown Raleigh, don’t miss the Contemporary Art Museum or the North Carolina Museum of History. At the Contemporary Art Museum you’ll find daring exhibitions by some of today’s most exciting working artists. The North Carolina Museum of History walks you through the state’s past from pre-European discovery to present day, with artefacts cataloguing the lives and times of important and influential North Carolinians.


Since Raleigh’s a Southern city, it’s only appropriate to dine on some Southern cuisine. Try Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, where you can sample fried chicken and waffles, chicken biscuits, and a bevy of traditional sides.

Taste some of Raleigh’s international influence at Sitti, an authentic Lebanese restaurant popular for its tapas-like shared plates and entrées.

Grab a drink at Fox Liquor Bar, where the inventive mixologists use an armoury of techniques to craft their cocktails, from custom-cut ice and drink-specific glassware, to surprising flavour combinations.

Capital | City of Oaks | Raleigh Guide

The Capitol building in downtown Raleigh © GRCVB/

Some great musical acts have emerged from the greater Raleigh area, and one place to catch the next rising star is The Pour House Music Hall. Another option is the Lincoln Theatre, which draws larger regional acts to its stage.

Hopscotch Music Festival | City of Oaks | Raleigh Guide

With plenty of indoor and outdoor concert venues, music is a constant in Raleigh © GRCVB/

Raleigh’s annual Hopscotch Music Festival brings in hundreds of the best indie bands for a weekend of concerts each year in early September, while late September sees the International Bluegrass Music Association’s weeklong Fan Fest and awards ceremony arrive in town.

If late nights and live music aren’t your thing, the Capital Area Greenway Trail System consists of more than 100 miles of trails that wander through Raleigh and connect a number of the city’s parks.

Visiting Raleigh has never been easier with our partnership with Delta with daily flights across the Atlantic.

Have you visited any of our favourite places in the City of Oaks? Where are your top Raleigh spots? Share them with us below.

Written by Jason Frye


Jason Frye

Driven by his need to know what's around the next turn, Jason Frye became a travel and food writer. He is the author of two travel guides - Moon North Carolina Handbook (2014) and Moon North Carolina Coast Handbook (2014) - and is a food blogger, columnist, and frequent contributor to publications across the Southeastern United States. He lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with his wife, Lauren.

Categories: Our Places