The Triangle region is a diverse area of North Carolina made up of several cities that have their own distinct personalities including Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill. Whether you're heading to the college town of Durham, where Duke University students attend classes or out to the State Capitol Building in Raleigh, there's plenty to do in this lush mountainous region any time of year.
Duke University is set in the heart of Durham. Here, you can stroll the grounds of the West Campus and take in the gothic architecture and the quadrangles of the residential campus. You also won't want to miss the Sarah P. Duke Gardens with its sprawling magnolias, where you can stand under the wisteria-covered gazebo and take in the magnificent formal gardens and koi pond. At Duke University, you could spend the whole day discovering the nooks and crannies of the native plant areas or losing yourself in the colors of the rose circle.
North Carolina State University is located in Raleigh, the state capital. Start your tour at the Bell Tower at Hillsborough and Pullen that serves as a gateway to the main campus. Other highlights on the campus include the Brickyard, Gregg Art Museum, and the Solar House. Also, across Hillsborough street on the main campus is Mitch's Tavern, the oldest bar on the street and place where some scenes from the movie "Bull Durham" were filmed.
Finish Your College Circuit at UNC at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the oldest public university in the United States and consistently ranks at the top of the list of public universities nationwide. Today, the campus is a mixture of old and new. Visitors should make sure to stop by the Old Well, which is a symbol of the University. Campus lore says students who drink from the well will have good luck. Additionally, the on-campus arboretum is a wonderful place for a springtime stroll.
The Raleigh Farmer's Market is one of five farmers' markets owned by the state of North Carolina and operated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. You can wander through 30,000 square feet of North Carolina-grown fresh produce (during the growing season) and plants (from March through October). The Raleigh Farmers Market is where you can find the freshest and widest variety of produce and plants in the area, but you also won't want to miss the market shops offering meats, cheeses, crafts, bakery items, and North Carolina wines.
The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh is the state's premier art destination. Hosting major national touring exhibits, the museum is also home to one of the largest collections of Renoir sculptures in the United States and one of only two permanent displays of Jewish art in an American art museum. The 164-acre Museum Park is home to more than a dozen monumental sculptures, and the grounds feature an amphitheater that hosts three seasons of music, movies, and other programs. Iris, the restaurant located within the museum, is a wonderful place for brunch. Admission to the Museum’s permanent collection and Museum Park is free, but there is a charge for some special exhibitions and programs, such as concerts, films, classes, and performances.
Witness History at the North Carolina State Capitol
The North Carolina State Capitol building in Raleigh, completed in 1840, is one of the finest and best-preserved examples of a major civic building in the Greek Revival architecture style. It contains its original 1840 legislative furniture, constructed by a local cabinetmaker, and is preserved by the State of North Carolina as a historic shrine, offering free admission to guests on weekdays year-round. Similar points of interest near the capitol building include the State Legislative Building and the Executive Mansion.
The Glenwood South District of downtown Raleigh is the hip and trendy home to restaurants, shops, and nightlife. On warm evenings, the streets come to life with crowds of locals and tourists alike, making the neighborhood's al fresco restaurants great for exceptional people watching. The district’s nightlife completed a significant residential boom, with more than 900 new condos and apartments in the development.
The Nasher Museum of Art is dedicated to global contemporary and post-modern art. A burgeoning private collection supports an ever-changing array of forward-thinking exhibits and multimedia installations from diverse artists, authors, and timelines. The Nasher Museum is located at Duke University in Durham, making it the perfect addition to your trip to the campus.
This indoor/outdoor children's discovery museum is appropriate for toddlers as well as teens. Highlights of the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science include the butterfly house, the train ride (for younger children), the native animal habitats of wolves and bears, the dinosaur trails, and the outdoor play areas. The museum also hosts successive hands-on exhibits and special programs throughout the year.
Explore the Shops at the American Tobacco Campus
The American Tobacco Campus is adjacent to the Durham Bulls baseball park and the Durham Performing Arts Center and is also home to five restaurants. The Campus is a registered historic site and makes use of the original American Tobacco Factory built in the 1800s, but the addition of modern buildings has transformed it into a mixed-use development. The area is constantly adding retail and office space and eventually will include 380 residential units as well. The beautifully-landscaped public space is the site of a popular summer music series.
Located west of Raleigh and south of Chapel Hill and Durham, Jordan Lake is a North Carolina Recreation Area that's one of the largest summertime homes of the bald eagle, the symbol of the United States for more than 200 years. Vast, undisturbed areas provide the perfect home for the bald eagle; there's plenty of fish to eat and a mature forest for roosting. Jordan Lake offers multiple swim and camping areas, and there are limited boat rentals available from Crosswinds Marina.
For hikers, the 24 miles of trails around the Eno River offer some of the most scenic walks in the area. The Bobbitt Hole Trail is a favorite, leading to a lush spot where water rushes over rocks in the spring, summer, and fall. All trails are blazed and signed, but you can request a park trail map for descriptions and distances at the Park Ranger station or online.
Dribble Over to the Carolina Basketball Museum
For all the Carolina basketball fans out there, there's no greater destination than the Basketball Museum. Located in the Dean E. Smith Center on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, the museum features artifacts, videos, photos, plus statistical and historical panels that highlight the history of the Carolina Basketball program. The museum includes video tributes to coaches and players as well as interactive presentations highlighting Carolina's 18 Final Four appearances and 17 ACC tournament championships. The museum is open to the general public Tuesday to Saturday, and admission is free.
A number of years ago, Sports Illustrated called Chapel Hill the "Best College Town in America." One of the reasons is that the campus seamlessly flows into East Franklin Street, blurring the lines between school and city. Walk down Franklin Street, and you can peruse the shops or grab a cup of coffee at a local cafe. When the stars come out, this part of town becomes the center of campus nightlife. If you come on a football weekend or basketball game day, you'll be caught up in a swarm of Carolina Blue and highly contagious Tar Heel fever.
First Friday is a year-round Raleigh tradition. On the first Friday of each month, museums, art studios, and shops offer extended hours, and all the participating restaurants offer specials. Many of the art venues have live music and the museums host special programming. Look for the First Friday Flags to easily locate participating venues, and a free detailed map and guide will be available at each location.