Raleigh, North Carolina: Population = 370,896 (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill metro area = 2,037,430) , elevation = 400 feet, average January low temp = 31.5, Average July high temp = 89, average sunny days = 213, annual snowfall = 4.6, annual rainfall = 45.2, air quality index = 26.2, water quality index = 90, comfort index = 36, median age of residents = 33.6
Our trail South has become a zigzag, crossing from coast to inland and back again. This week finds us inland, exploring yet another state capital in Raleigh. Sorry, North Carolina, but your capital is pretty pathetic. We entered this smallish building to look around and mostly we saw beige paint and peeling wallpaper. The chambers are drab little rooms with plain wooden desks. The rotunda is plain and bland. A statue of George Washington, sitting in Roman toga and short haircut, for some inexplicable reason, resides in the middle. OK, we finally figured out that this building is kind of a museum of state government as it was a century ago. The only active part of the building is the Governor’s office. That may explain a lot.
We found the actual, active government in the State Legislative Building. Out of session and under construction, but still, this is the building. Flat and boxy, squares with little courtyards and fountains in the center, dull and utilitarian, this building has the grandeur of a scrub brush. If there were lockers along the walls, it might pass for a high school. I searched and finally found a room labelled “Rest” instead of “Mens”, so I would not have to show a birth certificate.
Anxious to rinse that stale government taste out of our mouths, we crossed the city to find some good beer. Raleigh is in the midst of a craft beer explosion and breweries are everywhere. Trophy Brewing came highly recommended, with good reason. They make a great selection of beers, including the popular DAVE series. Their pizza is thin crusted and crunchy and topped with creative blends of good things. We had a great time talking to the staff and regulars, who were bright, fun, and funny (and dapper!) and made us feel (again) that the Millennials and GenX’ers are going to build a new and better world. If they get involved and vote out the knuckle draggers.
Downtown Raleigh is compact and walkable. There are a few tall office buildings, but mostly you will find shorter buildings with many shops, restaurants, and small businesses residing at street level. Good and varied places to eat are everywhere. We found Jamaican, Lebanese, Laotian, Irish, Mexican, Cajun, Chinese, and Southern, to name a few. We understand there is a great live music scene here too, but most of it starts after 9:00 PM, so us old fogeys didn’t get to see it.
Just outside of Downtown we found Pullen Park. This is a big, beautiful park with a lake, trails, and flower gardens for sunny afternoon strolls. Follow the calliope music to the carousel for a ride on your favorite animal. Look both ways at the tracks because the little train may be chugging along with its load of kids, big and small. Be sure to say “Howdy” to the Andy and Opie statues.
On another trip to the ‘burbs, we went to the North Carolina Museum Of Art. Besides the many collections of art, both old and new, they were showing Art Deco Cars from the 1930’s and 1940’s. These were concept cars: unique, trend-setting, and beautiful.
Back downtown in the city, we also toured the North Carolina Museum Of History. North Carolina is one of the original colonies and has a lot of history. The museum is arranged in a series of sequential rooms that each display text and artifacts of the period.
Raleigh is a city of many diverse neighborhoods. Driving around the city we saw everything from tired old shacks to stately brick mansions; middle class suburbs to college campuses. One section stands out though, the Oakwood neighborhood. This was a community of big mansions that became multiple family houses that became restored jewels.
The cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill form the Triangle, a large and diverse area including several colleges and major businesses. With only a week to spend, we couldn’t really get to the rest of the Triangle. Maybe next time.
Next up: New Bern, North Carolina