If Raleigh pops up on your list of places that are soon to be traveled to, you're in luck. For one, the capital of North Carolina is a gorgeous place to be in the spring, and moreover, yours truly has spent the vast majority of his life calling The Tar Heel State home. In an effort to get you outside the boardroom and into the best parts of central NC, we’re offering up two restaurants, two attractions, and one bar that you can hit with just a few extra hours between meetings.
Being that you're in the south, you'd be doing yourself a tremendous disservice if you left the downtown Raleigh region without a visit to The Pit. While simply named, this eatery is truly one that you won't soon forget. It's beautifully decorated, staffed by folks with genuine hospitality, and it offers up some of the best southern cooking you'll ever taste. Be it pork, ribs, grits, green beans, or fried okra, everything that's served here is cooked to perfection.
If you're in need of a place that can serve as a fancy dinner spot or simply an upscale place for lunch, look no further than Second Empire. In all my years of eating, I've yet to find a place I enjoy more than this. Reserve a table "upstairs" for suit-and-tie functions, or ask for a spot in "The Tavern" if you're in the mood for something a bit less stuffy. The secret to sitting in The Tavern is that you can sample from both the lower and upper menus, while patrons who sit upstairs can't partake in The Tavern menu. Speaking of the menu, it rotates frequently with locally sourced fare, and the chef will usually take time to shake your hand if you ask.
If you brought your walking shoes, take a stroll down Hillsborough Street. With school back in session at NC State, the entire street is alive. You'll find easy access to "The Brickyard," a few legendary shops that stock classic NCSU gear, plenty of pubs to grab a drink at, and lots of smiling faces to converse with. You can walk the main drag in around 30 to 45 minutes, and from there, pivot to the JC Raulston Arboretum. Admission is free, and the flora here is excellent to photograph.
While most larger cities promote see-it-all tours that involve you spending all day hopping on and off of an impersonal tour bus, Raleigh Rickshaw provides a far more intimate experience. Locally owned and operated, this group will haul you around downtown Raleigh in a rickshaw, and moreover, will clue you in on some of the town's interesting history along the way. It's a great way to get a better grasp of the city you're visiting in a short amount of time, and the folks pedaling actually love to answer any questions along the way.
Before heading home, I'd recommend blowing off steam at Seaboard Wine & Tasting Bar. It's an independently owned venue that's been around for over a decade, and if they don't stock something that suits your palate, I'd be hugely surprised.
This is a recurring feature exploring must-visit locales in a variety of cities. If you find yourself traveling to a place for business, why not venture out and enjoy your surroundings?
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