Blessed with beautiful residential areas, expansive parks, and historic buildings, the city of Raleigh exudes southern charm. Along with Durham and Chapel Hill, it is the largest city of an area in central North Carolina known as the Research Triangle. Raleigh's North Carolina State University joins two other stellar research institutions—the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University in Durham—to form the intellectual nucleus of the Research Triangle.
Over the past decade and a half, Raleigh prospered as an education, government, and research and development center. The city has a superior system of local parks and lakes, easy access to the ocean and the mountains, and a moderate climate, all of which encourage year-round outdoor activities. High-caliber health care services are offered by the many physicians who trained at the state's several top-rated medical colleges, fell in love with the area, and decided to settle in Raleigh. Cultural activity abounds in the city, which offers a major symphony orchestra, an art museum with an outstanding collection of European and American paintings, and the world's premier modern dance festival. Residents and visitors enjoy an ever-widening culinary scene.
As the new century gets underway, downtown Raleigh is one area of focus for city and county planners. Ground will be broken in 2005 for a 500,000-square-foot convention center, as well as a four-star convention headquarters hotel. Both are scheduled to open in early 2008. The city is also currently planning a redevelopment for a regional commuter rail system linking downtown Raleigh with downtown Durham.