A Feather In My Cap

24 Eleanor and Ed and MapLinda Burton posting from Raleigh, North Carolina – Faithful followers, we have reached the Journey’s halfway point! Raleigh, North Carolina is the 25th stop; I’m on the east coast now and see license plates from Virginia as the “out-of-states” in the parking lot. And Connecticut. I was feeling downright jubilant over my accomplishment as I unloaded the car yesterday. Eleanor and Ed were just arriving too; they asked what in the world was a “Journey Across America;” I explained and invited them to point out their home state. “I’ll be in Connecticut in November,” I promised, as I traced the route between now and then on the Scion’s back-window map. “Meanwhile, I’m living in Raleigh now!” Raleigh, North Carolina, my 25th capital city – what do I know so far? Statistically I know that Raleigh is the 11th largest capital city, with a population of 403,892 (US 2010 Census), close in size to Atlanta and Sacramento, and the second-largest city in the state. I know that it’s located in the rolling Piedmont hills about halfway between the Atlantic coast and the Blue Ridge Mountains. And I 25 raleigh mapknow that it’s a point in the “Research Triangle” – partnered up with Durham and Chapel Hill it offers unparalleled educational and employment opportunities. Yes, Duke and UNC and NC State have major research facilities, resulting in a well-educated workforce in a compressed area; Raleigh ranks 3rd in the country in percentage of capital city residents holding Bachelor’s Degrees, at 47.3%. This, of course, is a real-time factor for attracting business, which in turn (if done right) affects quality of life.

Settled in my room, I began to peruse the Visit Raleigh materials I’d picked up at the Welcome Center when I entered the state. There is a Can’t Miss list, complete with exclamation point. According to the booklet, Raleigh has some world-class offerings.

25 daily planetMuseums, for instance; it’s often dubbed the Smithsonian of the South for its 40+ enriching attractions. That’s quite a quality-of-life plus I’m thinking, as I read of dynamic state museums with high-quality exhibitions. Raleigh has the NC Museum of Art, the NC Museum of History, and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, the largest natural history museum in the southeast. The Nature Research Center, that just opened last year as a wing in the Natural Sciences Museum, allows visitors to interact with working scientists; no kidding; you can experience and participate in experiments in progress. Windows on Research areas outside the labs provide information about the scientists and their work, and in the SECU Daily Planet (a three-story globe-shaped auditorium), museum staff, scientists and guests deliver lectures, 25 marbles posterconduct question-and-answer sessions, and screen films. For the little ones, Marbles Kids Museum is all about “learning by playing” – with board games, games of skill, activities like dancing and creating art, and demonstrations. There’s even a woodshop for tinkering and Moneypalooza for learning about finances and savings! All topped off with an IMAX theater.

And so my list begins. I’ll head for the Museum of History first; it will get me oriented to “North Carolina” from pre-colonial times to what makes the state unique today. As for the focus on Raleigh, I’ll follow the Raleigh Heritage Trail – 12 stops beginning at the African-American Cultural Complex (it’s a nationally acclaimed 24 aa complex postermuseum) and moving across Raleigh to Haywood Hall House and Gardens, and the State Capitol, and the Joel Lane House Museum. Joel Lane is called “The Father of Raleigh” because he facilitated the location of the capital city on his land way back in 1792; you might say that is the birthplace of the city.

25 wolf packIf I lived here all the time, I’m pretty sure I’d get hooked back into golf again; this part of the country is golf heaven; the Lonnie Poole Golf Course, which was designed by Arnold Palmer, would likely be too challenging for me (it’s where the NC State Wolfpack teams play), but there are many public and semi-private courses; and for watching, the PGA Champions Tour has been coming here since 2001. Other sports (for watching or jumping in) – the Carolina Hurricanes for hockey, the Carolina Mudcats for baseball; the Carolina RailHawks for soccer, and hey, the Carolina Rollergirls for real gutsy entertainment. There’s NC State Wolfpack Atlantic Coast 25 bike on bridgeConference college football; there’s on-your-own kayaking and scuba diving on the Neuse River and Lake Crabtree and Fantasy Lake; there are walking, hiking, biking, and horseback trails all over the place. The Capital Area Greenway System is a network of recreational trails connecting Raleigh parks with more than 75 miles of bicycle paths; the Rocky Branch Trail takes you along the edge of the city for great skyline views, and by the State Farmers Market, where you can stop for a snack.

Speaking of food. Raleigh has plenty of southern sweet tea and barbecue; The Pit has been recognized by the Food Network, Zagat, and the Travel Channel; their Carolina ribs are 25 david's noodlesserved with a tangy eastern Carolina vinegar-based sauce. But the city brags about ethnic restaurants and unusual sites too – Mami Nora’s is authentic Peruvian, Unaabi is authentic Afghan; J Betski’s serves schnitzel, an Austrian staple. NOFO at the Pig is a gourmet café and gift shop in an old Piggly Wiggly store; the steaks at Angus Barn are really served in a big red barn, a city landmark. Southern Living named Raleigh as one of the Top 10 Tastiest Towns in the South in 2012. I’m adding David’s Dumpling and Noodle Bar to my list; I read that Chef David Mao is often out in the dining room delivering his specialty – dumplings filled with pork and cabbage, then steamed, then fried, both soft and crunchy; Pan-Asian food in a hands-on kind of place.

25 camA few more pluses on the quality-of-living list with Raleigh’s arts and culture offerings and live music scene. Raleigh has the nationally acclaimed Carolina Ballet, the NC Symphony, the NC Theatre, and the NC Opera; all large presenters bolstered by a thriving community of smaller galleries, events, collections and independent performances. You can get behind the scenes in Raleigh’s art studios; enroll in oil painting, drawing, or photography classes; or just gaze as you wander around the architecturally-striking Contemporary Art Museum. Raleigh is dubbed North Carolina’s “Capital of Live Music,” there are some big venues here, and a lot of name-dropping. Paul McCartney, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Prince have performed at the PNC Arena; The Big Shed at Walnut Creek is site of the Country Mega Ticket; the Red Hat Amphitheatre has seen variety stretching from The Beach Boys to Florence + The Machine. Lincoln’s Theater is a haven for singer-songwriters; The Pour House Music Hall hosts bluegrass, metal, and reggae; enough sights, and sounds, for all.

25 walter and featherI haven’t checked into libraries and schools and shopping and housing and roads and transit yet, but this is enough quality-of-life for one post. If Sir Walter came riding into town from out of the past today, would he consider Raleigh a feather in his cap?

Getting here is definitely a feather in mine.

City of Raleigh http://www.raleighnc.gov/

Visit Raleigh http://www.visitraleigh.com/