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|Kara Pound • 2/26/18|
The Short Version: Raleigh, a blossoming metropolis in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, awes visitors with its gently rolling hills just a few hours west of the Great Smoky Mountains. The progressive and welcoming city provides the perfect locale for a romantic getaway. There’s just so much to do. “Start downtown at a brewery or chocolatier,” suggested Scott Peacock, Director of Public Relations for VisitRaleigh.com. “Next, grab a bike and ride it along the greenway to the museum park outside of the North Carolina Museum of Art, which is free, and then check out the museum’s private collection before heading back downtown. Raleigh has thousands of places that would make for a great date.”
Raleigh is the second largest city in North Carolina. The capital city is known as the City of Oaks due to its plethora of oak trees, which line the streets in the heart of downtown. Chartered in 1792 and named for English adventurer, writer, and politician Sir Walter Raleigh, Raleigh now has a population of 458,000 people and is one of the fastest-growing cities in the US.
“There’s always something to do in Raleigh,” said Scott Peacock, Director of Public Relations for VisitRaleigh.com. “In the heart of downtown, we have the Red Hat Amphitheater, which is an outdoor amphitheater that hosts everything from hip-hop and Indie rock to bluegrass and country. Just take a look at the calendar and see who’s coming through. It makes for a great date night.”
In addition to its popular downtown area, Raleigh boasts many eclectic neighborhoods. East Raleigh has two distilleries as well as dozens of restaurants that serve down-home Southern food. Across town, North Raleigh is home to several large retail stores, entertainment complexes, parks, and recreation areas.
“What makes us unique is that our city is built around the creative people who live here,” said Scott. “At the end of the day, it’s a very interesting time to be in Raleigh. You have a lot of people who are relocating to the area from the Northeast and the Midwest as well as the West Coast. It’s a hodgepodge of passionate minds.”
From high-end steakhouses to dog-friendly breweries, Raleigh’s thousands of restaurants, outdoor eateries, food trucks, and cafés promise no shortage of dining options on your romantic getaway.
“What makes our culinary scene unique is the diversity within it,” Scott said. “We have a ton of amazing ethnic and cultural backgrounds in the area, and it’s really manifesting itself in food.”
If you want a unique date-night environment, you should check out the Brewery Bhavana in historic Moore Square Park. Touted as a “gathering place celebrating communal beer experiences that exhibit the hand of the maker,” Brewery Bhavana was named one of “America’s Best New Restaurants” in 2017 by Bon Appetit, and Forbes listed it as one of the “10 Coolest Places to Eat” in 2018. The versatile floral shop, brewery, bookstore, and dim sum restaurant has quickly become one of the city’s trendiest places to gather to meet people from all walks of life.
“Next door is a place called Bida Manda, which is owned by the same chef, and it’s a Laotian restaurant,” Scott said. “There’s only a handful of truly Laotian restaurants in the whole United States, so it’s pretty unique and rare for us to have one. We’ve got lots of little places like that.”
Other notable date spots, according to the folks at VisitRaleigh.com, include Mediterranean restaurant Vidrio, Hummingbird, and Herons Restaurant, which is located in a five-star, five-diamond hotel called The Umstead.
Whether you’re looking for a casual pint during the day or an after-dinner sweet at night, Raleigh has you covered. The city has two bean-to-bar chocolatiers. Videri Chocolate Factory on West Davie Street features tasty selections of organic, nut-free, gluten-free, and vegan handcrafted options as well as self-guided tours of the factory. Chocolate lovers can also check out Escazu Chocolates on North Blount Street to satisfy their sweet tooths.
The locally owned breweries in town provide couples with a casual place to share a cold one and have a good time, but beer lovers can also fill their cups at an annual beer festival called Brewgaloo.
“Obviously, craft beer is important all across the country, but it’s something that we’ve celebrated here in North Carolina for quite a long time,” Scott said. “Raleigh has the largest craft beer festival in the state called Brewgaloo, which is in April and welcomes more than 30,000 people and over 100 breweries.”
Brewgaloo is a two-day event held in the City Plaza and on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. Attendees can enjoy food trucks, vendors, live music and, of course, beer. You can spend all day sampling sours, pale ales, and IPAs from Little City Brewing, Carolina Brewing Company, Nickelpoint Brewing Company, and Neuse River Brewing, among others.
“It’s one of my favorite events,” said Jessica Holt, Public Relations Manager for VisitRaleigh.com. “There’s a music stage set up with bands playing then sprinkle in some local vendors like T-shirt printers throughout the festival, and it’s the perfect weekend for a couples’ getaway.”
Some people refer to Raleigh, North Carolina, as the Smithsonian of the South, and with good reason. This Southern metropolis is bursting at the seams with art museums, performing arts venues, and visual art galleries. The city is also home to acclaimed organizations such as the Carolina Ballet and North Carolina Theatre.
Whether you enjoy talking about art or listening to jazzy tunes, you and your date can find an affordable and stimulating date activity in this cultural hub.
“The North Carolina Museum of Art is a great destination for a couple that is more outdoorsy,” Jessica told us. “It has a 164-acre park called the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park that encourages creative experiences and human interactions. There are public art installations, gardens, miles of recreational trails and a pond.”
The Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh on West Martin Street is another popular date spot for artsy couples looking for conversation and enlightenment. The museum curates the most contemporary works of art and design from emerging artists with regional, national, and international recognition.
“A big musical event that Raleigh hosts is the Wide Open Bluegrass Street Festival,” Jessica added. “It’s a weekend-long Bluegrass festival where we have Grammy Award-winning musicians playing free concerts on the street all around downtown. It’s a chance to celebrate and lift up bluegrass music, which is probably our most native music.”
Known for its beautiful oak tree-lined downtown streets, Raleigh boasts thousands of one-of-a-kind date spots for outgoing couples. Whether you’ve lived in North Carolina your entire life or have a romantic getaway planned, it’s easy to see why you’ll never run out of things to do or places to visit here.
At Robertson Millpond Preserve, for instance, couples can slow down and appreciate the untamed greenery of North Carolina. “It’s an old bald cypress marsh habitat just outside of downtown,” Scott said. “It’s the only habitat of its kind in the middle part of the state and looks like something you might see on the North Carolina coast or down in Louisiana.”
Adventurous couples can rent a solo and tandem kayak on Saturdays to explore the waters together. “They have a mile-long loop course marked out in the marsh,” said Scott. “It’s easy. You don’t need any training to do it, and it’s a beautiful spot to take photos.”
The William B. Umstead State Park features an extensive network of hiking and multi-use trails, paddle sports, and camping grounds. Land that was historically shaped and altered to develop home sites, roadbeds, and agricultural fields has become the most visited park in the North Carolina State Park system.
“That’s pretty unique given the fact that our state has the Great Smoky Mountains and the wildest, untamed beaches,” Scott said. “There’s even places within Umstead State Park where you can horseback ride on trails at various levels of difficulty. If you’re not looking for anything too active, it’s still a great place to set up a picnic and hang out with a loved one.”