When I first moved to North Carolina, all I wanted to do was go hiking in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains or go searching for wild horses in Corolla. After about a year as a North Carolinian, I made my way to Raleigh. It’s a shame it took me so long to explore the capital city because I always have such a wonderful time!

The first time I ever went to Raleigh was for my sister-in-laws senior pictures. I’ve been in love with the capital city ever since. For those who don’t know, I’m a portrait photographer. I mostly take pictures of little ones, but I love photographing everyone. When Hannah finished her junior year of high school, I had already started looking for places in NC for a place to take her senior pictures. Maybe a little soon, but we were excited! 

I had these grand plans for an all day beach shoot. We’d go to the beach and take pictures at first light, pictures when the sun was high in the sky, maybe take a nap in a hotel, grab some dinner, then photos again at sunset. Those grand plans were put to an end after we checked the weather. It was going to be raining on most of the coast, so we decided on Raleigh.

We were disappointed at first, but I quickly became excited to be able to take her pictures and explore what is now one of my favorite towns in North Carolina.

Things To Do

One of the most beautiful and most enjoyable places in Raleigh is the JC Raulston Arboretum. The arboretum takes up ten acres on the NC State University campus and is the largest and most diverse collection of landscape plants in the southeast United States. There are loads of beautiful spots to take pictures. And the best part is, it’s free!

Another wonderful outdoor area to explore in Raleigh is Dorthea Dix Park. The park is famous for a couple reasons. First, the park has arguably the best view of the skyline in all of Raleigh. There’s a large open lawn for people to picnic or to sit and enjoy the view. Also, in the summer, the parks wild flowers and sunflowers bloom. Such a beautiful sight! We went during around two in the evening on a weekday and it was PACKED. (Would hate to visit on the weekend!) 

Amongst all the modern buildings and city life is the Historic Yates Mill; a 174 acre wildlife refuge and environmental research center. The mill itself has had fifteen different owners since 1750 and is now a free park for us to enjoy. The park has three walking trails that are all one mile or less, ranking, easy, moderate, and strenuous. The park holds events and meetings year around. There are educational displays, a lake view, and you have the option to book a guided tour of the mill. The mill tour costs $3-$5 and all proceeds go towards the maintenance of the mill.

NC Art Museum is a must do when in Raleigh. The exhibits have truly beautiful artwork and the grounds around the museum are filled with art sculptures, an amphitheater, and walking trails. This is another great place for portraits! Although the museum closes at 5pm on most days, the surrounding park and trails remain open until dusk. The park is a lively area where a lot of college kids hang out and where people come to hang up their hammocks. General Admission is free, but special exhibits do charge an entrance fee. Keep in mind, the museum is closed on Mondays.

I always like to walk around when I’m traveling. I’d rather explore on foot than any other mode of transportation. When exploring downtown Raleigh you will find parking quite easy. There is parking along almost every street for free, some parking meter spots, and several paid garages and lots for visitors. If you are exploring downtown Raleigh, I recommend you check out the capital building, the museums, murals, and the beautiful old churches.

If you don’t want to get around town on foot you can rent a scooter. The first time I visited Raleigh I never noticed the scooters that were scattered around the city. Let me tell you, people use these things ALL the time. You can’t visit Raleigh anymore without seeing people scootering around town. And people leave them everywhere! I have never used one, but if you are wanting to rent a scooter you won’t have a hard time finding one, just look on any street corner.

It’s a great way to spice up your travel days, take a break from walking, and have some fun at the same time!

Good Eats

I RARELY talk about where to eat. It seems like a lot of people will tend to talk about the same restaurants. Many times because the restaurants are honestly that good and sometimes a lot of them are obvious. For example; when planning a trip to New Orleans, people will quickly learn that Cafe Du Monde is a must while in New Orleans.

If I ever go in depth about the best places to eat in a certain place, you’ll know I must have really enjoyed it! It’s not that I don’t eat out when I travel, it’s just that I tend to focus more on what there is to do. Whenever I’m out to eat, I could sit for hours and sip and snack while enjoying the views and people watching. When I was in Raleigh with Hannah, I had the pleasure of grabbing a bite to eat. It was so good that I have to share it with you. (I’d hate for you to miss out!) 

My favorite food is mediterranean cuisine and Hannah loves all things Greece, so Taverna Agora was an easy choice for us. The restaurant was very simple on the outside, And the tables inside were covered with a simple blue and white gingham table cloth. I highly recommend eating outside on the roof top terrace.

In the summer all of the windows are open and the vibe is just so relaxing and comforting. There is a bar with a large selection of Mediterranean alcohol. Beautiful plants and lights hang from the ceiling and walls adding to the chill vibe. This is not at all an expensive place to eat, but the servers acted as if we were in a high class restaurant. I felt so cared for! I ordered the Moussaka (my favorite mediterranean dish) and they did not disappoint. It definitely gave my favorite Greek restaurant back home a run for its money.

You can learn more about what to do while in Raleigh, HERE.

Final Advice

One piece of travel information about Raleigh that you should know is that like most bigger cities, the city has a pretty big homeless problem. I’m not by any means saying that all homeless people are dangerous or anything, I just think it’s nice to know what to expect before you go. I also know that it can be quite distressing to see for some people.

Raleigh isn’t at the top of most peoples must see list. To be honest if I hadn’t move to North Carolina, I probably would have never visited. However, I’m so thankful that I gave Raleigh a chance. If you are going to travel to North Carolina soon, Raleigh is definitely worth the stop!

So, here’s to more time spent in the beautiful capital city of North Carolina. I hope you get to see Raleigh soon and please share your favorite things to do in the city. I’d love to add to my list of things to do when I visit!

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