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Are you curious what it’s like to spend a weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina? If so, then this travel guide is for you! As a travel blogger, I’ve been lucky enough to travel internationally to spots like Tulum, Mexico, France, Montreal and St. Lucia. As I travel internationally, though, I realize just how big the U.S. is compared to many other countries, and I realize how little of it I’ve seen. One of my best friends from back home in SF is pregnant, so we decided to take a last trip before the baby is born and settled on Raleigh!
Weekend Travel Guide to Raleigh, North Carolina
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Aloft Marriott Hotel Raleigh, and I can’t say enough great things about it here! Walking in to the main lobby is like a breath of fresh air – and not just for the refreshing air conditioning. Aloft is modern, bright, & colorful, and the staff is really sweet so you feel right at home! Our suite was huuuuge – so much room for activities (extra points if you can guess that movie)!
Aloft Raleigh is just a few minutes from the fun downtown area, a couple blocks from a full shopping center with cute restaurants, and literally down a block from Target (I plead the fifth on how many trips we took there over the course of a weekend – SO convenient)!
We asked the hotel workers to help us move these heavy hand seats to the lounge area. They said, “sure we’ll give you a *hand*”! I’m a sucker for a good pun.
I still don’t know what this installation is but it was mesmerizing! The whole hotel is very modern in a fun, colorful way.
As I mentioned, our room was huge! We had 2 queen beds, and a living room area big enough to do kartwheels in, separated by a desk and large tv. I did get some work done here, though I try to be good about being in the moment and enjoying my vacation as much as possible.
It was so fun gazing out at our view of campus and the clock tower. It’s right across from NC State, so you get a youthful scene here – though it was a bit more quiet since it was summer break.
If you want to keep with a gym routine while on vacation, they have plenty of gym equipment ready for you.
What to Eat in Raleigh
- Beasley’s Chicken & Waffles – You can’t come to the south and not get chicken & waffles! Beasley’s is the cutest joint and the food is AMAZING – get the succotash (super fresh veggies) and cornbread sides, duh.
- Videri Chocolate – This shop & mini-museum is dedicated to unique chocolates, from truffles to hot chocolate to marshmallows!
- Morgan Street Food Hall – Though it’s open Sunday – Thursday: 7 am – 10 pm / Friday & Saturday: 7 am – midnight, this food hall is poppinggg at night, folks! Pro tip: get a sandwich from The Katsu – it’s the best sandwich/burger creation I’ve ever had. Basically it’s fried Japanese-style with an egg on top.
- Jubala Coffee – Attached to the Aloft hotel, Jubala is the cutest (and instagrammable) cafe that was filled with people working on laptops and eating delicious dishes. We got the waffles and they were seriously delicious! The staff was super friendly as well.
Beasley’s chicken & waffles
Videri Chocolates – this is a variety pack where I got to choose various flavors to add to my box! The one on the right is a marshmallow!
Katsu sandwiches from Morgan’s Street Food Hall
Waffles from Jabala in Aloft
What to Do in Raleigh
- Dorothea Dix Sunflower Fields – We went to the festival in mid July. It was gorgeous and about 100 degrees, so stay hydrated! They had food trucks, water stations, slides, ferris wheels, and plenty of photo opps. It’s a huge park that reminded me of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Expect to block off a few hours for this, since we had to drive to a parking lot and wait for shuttles for the festival.
- Goat Yoga – We stumbled upon @RaleighGoatYoga on Instagram and it did not disappoint. I’ve always wanted to try goat yoga and this one was super chill. We did some vinyasa flows while the little goats bopped around us, and the team would come around to place them on you for photo opps. It was really cute and relaxing.
- Shopping – I wasn’t expecting so many cute little boutiques in Raleigh, but they’re filled with them downtown! Street parking is easy to find and they have super cheap meters.
- Nightlife – Raleigh does not play around! They have a really fun nightlife (it’s a university town after all). They have residential houses turned into dance floors / bars, across from chiller beer gardens with lawn games and good food, so there’s something for everyone here. It seems to be a theme for people to pull up and show off their cars and motorcycles at night. They don’t really drive them around, they just park and turn up the radio in what feels like a very macho silent competition. Check out Raleigh Beer Garden, Dogwood, Carolina Ale House, Cornerstone Tavern and similar venues on Glenwood Ave, just a 6 minute drive from Aloft Hotel. You can also stop by Boxcar barcade for some fun and games!
- Strolling Downtown – One thing I was not expecting was the great street art in Raleigh. It was fun just to wander around and see the art there.
- Durham – When we asked the Raleigh Goat Yoga instructors where to go in Raleigh, they said to go to Durham, a neighboring city. We were told to check out the American Tobacco Historic District, but when we went in the middle of the day it was pretty dead, so it’s possible it’s better at night. It did, however look really cool to see the abandoned old cigarette buildings and old school shopfronts.
- NC Museum of Art – The North Carolina Museum of Art is cool because it has stunning outdoor structures. Fun fact: it opened in 1956 as the first major museum collection in the country to be formed by state legislation and funding.
Dorothea Dix Sunflower Fields
Raleigh Goat Yoga
So many cute shops near Videri Chocolate!
Shopping near Aloft Hotel – all the stores had massive sales (like 50-70% off), and one of the shops even had a refrigerator with beer and wine for customers!
Boxcar Barcade – this place was huge and had an outdoor patio and full bar as well.
So much cute street art!
Durham – some cool old artwork in the abandoned American Tobacco factories.
NC Museum of Art – they also have great indoor exhibits, but it closed at 5 the day we went so we enjoyed the outdoors instead!
To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect from Raleigh. I haven’t seen much of the south – I’ve been to Austin, and Virginia/Charlotte for a wedding. Raleigh was much more liberal and artsy than I was expecting, with great food and modern venues.
Have you been to Raleigh? What did you think and where did you go?