48-Hour Guide to Raleigh and Surrounding Cities

Take a weekend trip to Raleigh, North Carolina and its sister cities Durham and Cary for a taste of southern charm. Our guide has some of the best attractions, restaurants, and accommodations this area has to offer.

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A quick getaway to Raleigh and its sister cities of Durham and Cary is the perfect way to get a taste of real Southern charm — and we’re not just talking grits and barbecue. Friendly folks are everywhere, willing to share a slice of life and if you’re lucky, pie. No need to over-pack, either. Temps are mild in winter and summer, and colorful leaves and flowers fill autumn and spring. So take a sip of sweet tea, relax, and get to know these southern sister cities.

Stay in Style

There are plenty of budget hotels in the region — especially with the local universities and colleges inviting parents and visitors throughout the year — but why not splurge this trip? The Umstead Hotel & Spa is quiet, beautiful, and centrally located in Cary. The stay comes complete with perks like free yoga, shoe shines, and free weekday use of the spa’s eucalyptus sauna, whirlpool, and meditation garden. Of course, a massage is a great way to start off any getaway. Try the “Smoky Quartz” package, which includes a Swedish massage, manicure, and pedicure, to polish up before heading out downtown.

Close up view of Shrimp and pork sitting on top of homemade grits on a white plate at Crook’s Corner Café and Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Grab Some Grits

All that relaxing can get your tummy growling. Look for what the Raleigh-Durham area is famous for: southern cookin’. Barbecue is big here, and so is brunch. Load up on favorites like shrimp and grits, hushpuppies, Hoppin’ John, and biscuits at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill. You’ll get a big smile as you order some pimento cheese or collards and cornbread. Another popular spot that uses fresh, local ingredients is Acme in Carrboro for dinner and Foster’s Market in Durham for freshly baked goods and veggie-friendly wraps.

A white fence separates a paved path and a lake with orange, yellow and green leaves on the autumn trees at Pullen Park in Raleigh, North Carolina on a brisk morning.

Pedal On

With so many days of great weather, you might as well get out and enjoy it. Head to Pullen Park, which also happens to be the first public park in North Carolina. Buy a ticket for the Gustave A. Dentzel Carousel, which dates back to 1911 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Next, rent a pedal boat and cruise around Lake Howell or, if you have little ones, enjoy the kid-friendly rides. Looking for someplace a little quieter? Head to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, which features 55 acres of art and peace in the heart of Duke University. It’s a free spot to stop and smell the roses.

Piles of juicy red peaches sit in green wooden baskets waiting to be sold at the Historic City Market in Raleigh, North Carolina.

To Market You Go

Located in the heart of downtown Raleigh, the Historic City Market has been a local institution for more than a century. Although it’s seen many uses, its current mix of shops, restaurants, and boutiques is a perfect way to end a quick trip to the area. With all kinds of crafts and goods for sale, it’s easy to pick up a souvenir to bring a taste of the South back home. Located across from Moore’s Square, it’s just down the street from the North Carolina Museum of History, which is also worth a visit. Of course, you may have to save it for next time. Because y’all come back now, right?

Did you discover other highlights in your 48 hours in Raleigh and the surrounding cities? Share pictures of what you loved by tagging us on Instagram.

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