Living and working the city life right outside Manhattan can sometimes be a lot. But just because we want a little change of pace doesn’t always mean we want to head to the hills and be somewhere totally remote (but if that’s your vibe, we have guides for that, too). Instead, if you’re looking to explore a whole new city, Raleigh, North Carolina provides that escape for visitors. It’s an easy trip to somewhere that is still a city, but just a bit slower than NYC. Keep reading for a complete breakdown of where to visit, what to eat (spoiler alert: BBQ), and where to stay in Raleigh, NC.
Getting To Raleigh
Raleigh is located in the middle of North Carolina, but it really is so easy to get to. It’s just a quick hour-long flight from EWR, which is so convenient (and pretty lovely from the new Terminal A). Or if you prefer wheels downs, it’s just under an eight-hour drive from Hoboken, so it’s also accessible by car.
Read More: A Weekend Getaway Guide to Boston, MA
Where to Stay
AC Hotel by Marriott Raleigh North Hills | 101 Park at North Hills Street, Raleigh
Just outside downtown is the great area of North Hills. This Marriott is a trendy spot with a ton of lovely restaurants and shopping. While it seems a bit offset from the city, it’s nice to have a quiet place to come home to, and the rooftop bar is great any time of day or night.
Getaway Asheboro | 2846 Old Cox Road, Asheboro
Okay, so this might be a 1.5-hour drive from Raleigh, but if you are looking to get out of the city, while still being close by, this spot is for you. It’s a lovely, small cabin built for 2-4 people (you can bring pets for a fee), and is a space to really relax and recharge. But no need to charge your phone because service is spotty and they actually have a lock box to put your phones.
Guest House Raleigh | 420 South Bloodworth Street, Raleigh
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This hotel will make it feel like you are home. It’s a quaint 8-room hotel fit for the coziest week(ends) away. It wasn’t always a boutique hotel though, it first was home to Raleigh’s first African American mailman and his wife, a teacher. Then in 2016, it was set to be demolished, but was instead moved a few blocks away to become Raleigh’s first boutique hotel, according to Guest House. Visitors today can expect a lovely room with crisp white linens, and easy access to all the hot spots in town.
The Longleaf Hotel + Lounge | 300 North Dawson Street, Raleigh
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This is a motel-turned-boutique hotel, but still highlights parts of its past. Guests can expect modern conveniences and renovated rooms, as well as proximity to all of the best Raleigh has to offer. The lounge embodies Raleigh at it’s finest, and customers can visit in the afternoon into the night. There are snacks and nice wine and beer list, along with cocktails and mocktails. Guests staying at the hotel can also get a beverage to go and take it to the room.
Things to Do
Good Nights Comedy Club | 401 Woodburn Road, Raleigh
In case you need a good laugh while in Raleigh, head over to Good Nights Comedy Club for a show. You can reserve seats or get general admission tickets, but keep in mind that the box office closes 15 minutes before the show. Oh, and the shows are 18+, unless otherwise noted. Also, be ready to pay for a two-item minimum for guests, which includes alcoholic beverages. From amateurs and open mic nights (held on most Tuesdays), to famous comedians headlining shows, visitors are sure to be in for a chuckle.
Howling Cow Dairy Education Center + Creamery | 100 Dairy Lane, Raleigh
What can be better than ice cream and gazing out over rolling hills filled with cows? This ice cream farm is an educational center run by the students of NC State. Here they learn every facet of dairy production, culminating at the creamery where they also learn about business opportunities. Make sure to get your favorite flavor and sit on an Adirondack chair to enjoy your cup or cone while watching the cows.
Raleigh Beer Trail | Raleigh Area
There is no shortage of beer in Raleigh. With more than 30 breweries in the area, there is definitely a place for everyone. There is even an official passport that you can download or get from the visitors center, and get a stamp at each brewery on there. Once you have up to 15 stamps, you can visit the website and learn how to redeem them for prizes.
Sip N’ Stroll Downtown | Downtown Raleigh
This social district, one of many across North Carolina, went into effect in August 2022. It created an area where visitors can drink alcoholic beverages while walking the street from 11AM to 10PM 7 days a week. Check the website to see what establishments sell Sip N’ Stroll beverages, allow these types of drinks on the premise, and opted out of the district entirely.
Walk Around the College Areas | Various locations
^ The Rose Garden near the NC State Campus
There are so many colleges right in and around Raleigh. It doesn’t matter if you walked the hallowed grounds of NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, Wake Forrest, or Duke University once upon a time, just walking around the campus or surrounding area will make you feel like a college student again. The Hoboken Girl recommends a lovely rose garden right near NC State’s campus.
Where to Eat
City Market | 215 Wolfe Street, Raleigh
City Market is a destination as much as it is a place to eat and grab a drink. It’s lovely to walk the cobblestone street to find the right spot to grab a bite. Big Ed’s Restaurant is good for homestyle cooking, and breakfast is served all day long. Vic’s Italian Restaurant is the place to go if you are looking for classic pizza and other Italian dishes. Head to Woody’s Sports Tavern and Grill for a fun bar experience. There are live music events and TVs for sports games, (make sure to catch an NHL game and watch the Carolina Hurricanes play). City Market Sushi is another great spot when you are craving a roll.
Longleaf Swine BBQ | 300 East Edenton Street, Raleigh
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This BBQ joint is one where the locals go. Everything is honestly amazing, and the service is so fast. If you have a group, or even just a few people, consider ordering the meat by the pound so that people can try a few meats. The sides are all amazing, especially the sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, and fries.
The Pit Authentic Barbecue | 328 West Davie Street, Raleigh
This isn’t your classic hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint, but rather it’s an upscale, lively establishment with an amazing menu. They bring out hush puppies for the table, and then when it’s time to order, The Hoboken Girl recommends the double combo famous plate to try two types of BBQ meat (there isn’t a bad choice). The sides are all amazing, but definitely make sure to try the mac and cheese.
The Raleigh Times Bar | 14 East Hargett Street, Raleigh
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! This bar’s vibes are on point, and really brings the namesake newspaper to life with news clippings lining the wall. The cocktails are great, and the live music upstairs is even better at the Beer and Banjos weekly event. The menu is filled with classic bar fare (The Hoboken Girl recommends the fried pickles).
Where to Shop
Pine State Coffee | 1614 Automotive Way, Raleigh
Sure this place has coffee, but it’s also a store with athletic clothes, sneakers, and other outdoor needs. Visit for a latte (the cold brew is great), and stay for the athletic shopping. There is also a nice patio to sit and enjoy your brew (and see the haul you just bought).
State Farmers Market | 1201 Agriculture Street, Raleigh
This 30,000 square foot space houses stands for farmers to sell goods created in the local area. Come visit for the freshest produce, plants, or other specialty products. There are also a few restaurants to get a quick bite at while visiting this market.
The Raleigh Market | 4285 Trinity Road, Raleigh
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Open from 9AM-5PM on the weekends, this is North Carolina’s largest flea market. Come visit to meander the vendors with everything from books to fancy antiques. This place is on many lists as one of the best flea markets in the U.S.
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Videri Chocolate Factory — Chocolate Bean to Bar | 327 West Davie Street, Raleigh
Videri Chocolate Factory is so much more than a chocolate shop (though the chocolate here is amazing). For anyone who has allergies, the chocolate is made in a nut-free facility, and it really does melt in your mouth. There is also a coffee shop with amazing lattes and it even has frozen hot chocolate (yes, you need to try it). Grab a drink and chocolate bar (or ice cream) and head to the patio to sit and enjoy.