Visitors to Raleigh should start their explorations with a trip to the Capital Area Visitor Center, which provides free brochures, maps, and a film about the city's offerings. Tours are available of the North Carolina Executive Mansion, a masterpiece of Queen Ann Victorian architecture completed in 1891. Historic Oakwood, a neighborhood of restored Victorian homes built between 1870 and 1900, occupies a 20-block area adjacent to the 1876 Oakwood Cemetery. The birthplace of President Andrew Johnson can be viewed at Mordecai Historic Park, which is the site of the Mordecai House, a 200-year-old furnished plantation house. Haywood Hall, a Federal-style house built in 1799, is the oldest residence in the city still on its original site. A life-sized bronze statue of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. is on view at the MLK Memorial Gardens, which are surrounded by trees, shrubs, and flowering plants. The State Capitol, built between 1833 and 1840, is an excellent preserved example of the Greek Revival style. Tours are also available through the North Carolina State Legislative Building, home of the General Assembly. Built in the 1760s, the Wakefield/Joel Lane House, decorated with furnishings and gardens of the period, is Raleigh's oldest dwelling.
Dubbed "the Smithsonian of the South," Raleigh is home to a number of museums, including three free state museums. The North Carolina Museum of History displays more than 100,000 artifacts reflecting the history of the state. Holdings include furniture, fashions, crafts, military artifacts, dolls, toys, and period exhibits. Free lectures, films, and demonstrations are presented in its "Month of Sundays" series. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has four floors of exhibits, live animals, and the only Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur fossil in existence. The North Carolina Museum of Art houses paintings and sculpture representing more than 5,000 years of artistic heritage. It also features the Museum Park outdoor amphitheater. Exploris, the nation's first children's museum devoted to global learning and awareness, is a 70,000-square-foot interactive learning center. The IMAX theater is also located there.
Eight acres with 6,000 varied plants from almost 50 countries are the highlights of the North Carolina State University's Arboretum, which also features a Victorian gazebo, Japanese garden, and special areas such as water and reading gardens. Playspace is a creative play area for children of all ages, which encompasses a large sandbox, water play area, climbing structure, and a child-sized bank, grocery store, and hospitals with costumes, a video, and a television area. Tours are available of the 5 acres of landscaped garden surrounding the WRAL-TV studio, which features more than 2,000 azaleas, trees, and plants.
Arts and Culture
Raleigh's downtown arts district is a collection of galleries clustered in a three-block area around the historic City Market and Moore Square. The district comprises a variety of galleries, including Artspace, Inc., a downtown renovation project, offering 26,000 square feet of studio and gallery space to working visual and performing artists. Visitors can tour the gallery and studios while the artists are working.
The Visual Arts Center on the campus of North Carolina State University features changing exhibits of ceramics, furniture, photography, textiles, drawings, and graphic design. Also on campus is the Crafts Center, the largest campus-based crafts facility of its kind in the Southeast, which features changing exhibitions of local, regional, and national craftspersons. At the Wake Visual Arts Association and Gallery, classes, workshops, and exhibits are offered to members and the public. Ninety-day exhibitions of works produced or collected by Raleigh residents are on view at the City of Raleigh Arts Commission.
Raleigh's premier music venue is the ALLTEL Pavilion at Walnut Creek. In its natural setting on 212 acres, the amphitheatre presents big-name rock and pop performers in its 7,000-seat open air pavilion and to an additional 13,000 people seated on a sloping lawn. The North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, the first state-supported orchestra in the nation, performs 55 times annually in the city, with an additional 200 performances and 70 educational concerts statewide. Programming includes solo performances by world-class performers as well as classical, pops, and children's series, outdoor summer programs, and special holiday performances. The National Opera Company, based in Raleigh, performs operatic classics in English, and the Friends of the College Series at North Carolina State University presents world-renowned singers and dancers. NCSU also presents dance, opera, orchestra, and other cultural events at its student center and at Reynolds Coliseum. The city is also the site of the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild series, which brings in international guest performers, and the Raleigh Oratorio Society. Musical performances are also available throughout the Triangle region by such groups and events as Durham's Ciompi Quartet; the North Carolina International Jazz Festival, a two-week festival held annually in Durham; the Piedmont Council for Traditional Music's many concerts of blues, gospel, bluegrass, and other folk music; and the Durham Civic Choral Society, as well as numerous civic symphonies, youth symphonies, concert bands, community choruses, boys' choirs, and barbershop groups.
The performing arts are flourishing in the city with performances by both local groups and touring troupes and Carolina Ballet, Raleigh's professional ballet company, which often collaborates with the North Carolina Symphony. The Raleigh Ensemble Players feature contemporary dramas, including original works by North Carolina playwrights. The North Carolina Theatre brings touring musicals to its home at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. The city's community theater groups include the Raleigh Little Theatre, which has been performing for more than 50 years, and Burning Coal Theatre Company. Pullen Park's Theatre In the Park community group presents dramas, musicals, and occasional children's programs. Stewart Theatre at NCSU presents a professional series of theater, music, film, and lectures. Theatrical productions are also offered by Thompson Theatre at NCSU, Peace College, Meredith College Theatre, and Shaw University Theatre.
The completion of the BTI Center for the Performing Arts in 2001 offered Raleigh three new theaters to offer an additional 2,470 seats daily for arts lovers. The Fletcher Opera Theater is designed for opera, dance, and theatrical productions, offering performances from such groups as Carolina Ballet, National Opera Company, and A. J. Fletcher Opera Institute. Meymandi Concert Hal is the home of the North Carolina Symphony. The Kennedy Theater is an experimental theater that provides performance space for innovative groups as Burning Coal Theatre.
Festivals and Holidays
Raleigh welcomes spring in May with the Artsplosure Jazz and Arts Festivals, which combines exhibitions, food, and open air performances. July Fourth activities include the Capital's Celebration with a parade and free live entertainment; exhibits, rides, and fireworks at the State Fairgrounds; and the North Carolina Symphony's annual extravaganza with a concert and fireworks at Regency Park. In August, attendees can meet, greet, and perhaps eat some of the coolest critters around at Bugfest! Autumn brings the Pops in the Park in September with the North Carolina Symphony performing pop music in a picnic setting.
The North Carolina State Fair in mid-October offers craft demonstrations, livestock exhibits and competitions, top-notch concerts, games, rides, side shows, food, and other family-friendly entertainment. The Greater Raleigh Antique Show at the State Fairgrounds takes place in November, as does the six-day handicrafts and entertainment of the Carolina Christmas Show. November's Raleigh Christmas Parade kicks off the holiday season, which includes December's Holiday Festival at the North Carolina Museum of Art; the Christmas Celebration on the Mall in downtown Raleigh which features the lighting of the state Christmas tree; annual performances of A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker; and candlelight tours through a variety of historic homes decked out for the holiday season. First Night Raleigh on December 31 welcomes the new year with performances, visual arts, food, and a midnight countdown downtown. The Home and Garden Show in February offers 100,000 square feet of springtime gardens, flowers, designer rooms, seminars, and hundreds of home product displays at the Raleigh Convention and Conference Center.
Sports for the Spectator
Sports Travel magazine has rated Raleigh as one of the "hottest sports cities" in the country. Raleigh's state-of-theart Entertainment and Sports Arena hosts the city's first major league professional franchise, the National Hockey League's Carolina Hurricanes. With seating for more than 20,000 people, the arena is one of the premier event venues in the southeast. The Arena Football League's Carolina Cobras also play at the Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Celebrated college sports teams in Raleigh and the Research Triangle area include the North Carolina State University Wolfpack, who play their basketball games at the Entertainment and Sports Arena and their football games at Carter-Finley Stadium; the University of North Carolina Tarheels; and the Duke University Blue Devils. Two professional baseball teams are located within a 30-mile radius. A farm team of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Durham Bulls play from April through August at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Carolina Mudcats, a Double A professional baseball affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, play home games at Five County Stadium in Zebulon. Sports fans also enjoy the athletic events at Raleigh's Shaw University and St. Augustine's College.
Sports for the Participant
Raleigh citizens take pride in their extensive recreational assets. The city's Parks and Recreation Department has more than 7,300 acres of park land and green spaces and more than 1,300 acres of water. Forty-one miles of greenway with 24 different trails can be found throughout the city. Park facilities include 19 community centers and 8 different organized sports teams for adults and youths, as well as 21 public golf courses, 112 lighted tennis courts, and 8 public swimming pools.
Major recreational sites include Pullen Park, a 65-acre inner city children's play facility with an aquatic center, complete with a 50-meter indoor pool; Umstead State Park, which offers picnicking, camping and hiking; Lake Wheeler, 650 acres of lake and park land offering boating, skiing, fishing, and picnicking; Shelley Lake, which can accommodate boating as well as bird watching, fishing, nature walks, jogging, and concerts; Falls Lake, a 12,000-acre facility with beaches, boat ramps, fishing, and picnic areas; Jordan Lake, a lakeside recreation area and marina that is the largest summertime home of the bald eagle in the eastern U.S.; and Lake Johnson, a 137-acre creek-fed lake with forests and a boathouse.
Shopping and Dining
Six shopping malls, featuring major department stores and popular clothing chains, and more than 100 shopping centers serve the Raleigh area. The shopping scene is made more interesting by the variety of local shops featuring original art, crafts, jewelry, children's boutiques, native gem jewelers, and garden shops, as well as burgeoning outlet stores. Antique shops are located all over the city, and settings range from flea markets to upscale import-export emporiums. Among the city's favorite shopping sites are Crabtree Valley Mall, North Hills, Tower Shopping Complex, Cameron Village, and Triangle Towne Center, which is currently undergoing redevelopment. The old mission-style City Market Building and adjacent Moore Square have been transformed into a festive retail district. The State Farmer's Market is also a fun place to shop for fresh produce, crafts items, and plants.
Greater Raleigh offers a wide variety of dining experiences, from steak houses, chain restaurants, and ethnic eateries (featuring French, Middle Eastern, Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and Japanese food) to down-home cooking. Ambience ranges from casual cafes to big screen sports bars to elegant dining rooms.
Visitor Information: Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitor's Bureau, 421 Fayetteville Street Mall, Suite 1505, PO Box 1879, Raleigh, NC 27602-1879; telephone (919)834-5900; toll-free (800)849-8499
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