The North Carolina Botanical Gardens (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Raleigh State Capitol building is one of the best examples of Greek Style Revival architecture in the United States. 

Around the turn of the 20th century Durham was a nationally known hub of successful Black entrepreneurs. 

Downtown Chapel Hill becomes a bustling hub of nightlife on the weekends. 

COVID-19 Pandemic numbers are down substantially in North Carolina since the beginning of the year. Vaccines are readily available, and summer is on the horizon. Most people are happy to see the end of curfews, quarantining at home and television reruns as they once again look forward to getting out and about. 

Even though Out! Raleigh Pride has been on hold since 2020 and will remain off the calendar until 2022 to safeguard progress with the pandemic, regional travel is once again an opportunity many are returning to. If you’re looking for an extended weekend getaway or something even a bit more extended, the triangle area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill offer a variety of places to go, see and do. 

Chapel Hill is the home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where Michael Jordan played college basketball for the Tar Heels), and it’s the perfect place to relax at the edge of the triangle. 

From the website visitchapelhill.org: “Our community has a long-standing reputation as the most welcoming place in the state for the LGBT community,” says Lydia Lavell, the state’s first lesbian mayor. 

The area hosts The North Carolina Botanical Garden (ncbg.unc.edu/visit), which offers events, exhibits and guided tours. Main gardens are open to the public, free and don’t require reservations. It’s a great place for getting in touch with nature or tying the knot. This spring and summer the Garden is allowing small outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people. Indoor events permit as many as 25 individuals, but you’d better move quickly. Applications are no longer being accepted for May or June, and they’re already beginning to book for the remainder of the summer, fall and into 2022.

If you’re looking for an activity that’s a little less flowery, head over to the Ackland Art Museum (ackland.org) Wednesdays through Saturdays (1-5 p.m.). They’ve reopened and admission is free, but you will need to reserve your free timed tickets online.

Currently there’s a riveting exhibit, “Holding Space for Nobility: A Memorial for Breonna Taylor.” Get there before it leaves on July 4, and don’t miss the “Clouding: Shape and Sign In Asian Art” installation during your visit. It explores the diverse forms and functions of clouds in Asian art, with different works from different time periods.

Last and certainly not least, you can’t take a trip to Chapel Hill without visiting Franklin St. Considered the center of nightlife for university students and a social destination for all residents of the town, it is home to numerous coffee shops, restaurants, museums, music stores and bars.


A historic building on Parrish St. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Durham has a busy downtown with an artsy warehouse district with many renovated warehouses now serving as apartment complexes. Its rich history includes a four-block area known as Black Wall Street — formerly a hub for Black business and the Black middle-class. A historical marker on Parrish St. tells the history of the area with details of early 1900s Durham accomplishing national success because of the many Black-owned businesses in the area.  

Among them were N.C. Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Mechanics & Farmers Bank. Well known authors Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois celebrated those achievements in their writings. By the 1960s desegregation and eventual gentrification brought about the demise of Durham’s Black Wall Street, though the influence still remains. 

If you’re interested in exploring the history of the area, check out Duke University. The school is a depository of historic information like no other in the country and well worth a visit.

If you’re looking for a more theatrical experience, you should make your way to the Durham Performing Arts Center-DPAC (dpacnc.com) for Broadway-style entertainment and more. A bevy of various musical performances by national and local bands began as early as July.

If you’re in Durham around lunch, stop by Dame’s Chicken & Waffles (dameschickenwaffles.com) on Foster Street for some sweet and savory deliciousness. Dame’s is known for their “Almost World-Famous Chicken & Waffle Inspirations,” which offer palette pleasing pairing varieties that will suit just about everyone.

In case you’re wondering how to end the day or evening in Durham, pay a visit to 21c. Located in the center of downtown Durham, the 21c Museum Hotel (21cmuseumhotels.com/durham) offers 10,500 square feet of art-filled exhibition and event space, a full-service boutique hotel with luxurious guest rooms and a restaurant. You can explore the current exhibit, dine among thought-provoking works of art at their Counting House restaurant or lounge in the original bank vault — transformed by contemporary art.


North Carolina’s state capital. (Photo Credit: Visit Raleigh)

Raleigh offers The North Hills shopping area. It’s filled with an array of shops and stores; among them is the specialty shop Beyond Blue, where you can find hand crafted furniture, excellent design advice, unique gift items, wine and locally roasted coffee.  There’s just about anything a shopper could want at North Hills, including gyms, boutiques, eateries, a gourmet grocery store and more.

As you might imagine, there’s more to Raleigh than shopping. In addition to being the home of the state capital (the Greek revival style main legislative building is generally open Monday through Friday for self-guided tours), N.C. State University and Shaw University. It’s also a place Matt Martin can’t wait to return to.  

Martin is a Professional Grass-roots Advocacy Manager currently living in Burlington.

 “[I] left Raleigh in 2017, when my partner got a job out of town, and we’ve wanted to get back ever since,” he explains. “That’s where all our people are. We miss it [and] just recently purchased a house [there.] We’ll be moving back sometime in June. 

“[We] love everything about the city [and] there are a lot better places to eat that aren’t chain restaurants,” he continues. “One of our favorites is a vegan restaurant called The Fiction Kitchen (thefictionkitchen.com) and our favorite coffee shop is Cup A Joe” (cupajoe.com).

Once you get to Raleigh, and you’re interested in places to visit after lunch, consider visiting the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (naturalsciences.org). They’re open Tuesdays through Sundays (10 a.m.–4 p.m.) with a new [COVID-19] procedure and plans in place to help ensure everyone’s safety.

There is an endless list of things to experience: Have you ever touched the bones of a Right Whale, sat in the center of the earth to hear a scientist talk or come face to face with a scary carnivore? You can do all of that and more in exhibits at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Destinations

The North Carolina Botanical Gardens
100 Old Mason Farm Rd., Chapel Hill
919-962-0522 
ncbg.unc.edu/visit

Aclkland Art Museum
101 South Columbia St., Chapel Hill
919-966-5736
ackland.org

Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St., Durham
919-680-2787
dpacnc.com/home

Dames Chicken and Waffles 
530 Foster St., #130, Durham 
919-682-9235
dameschickenwaffles.com

21c Museum hotel
111 North Corcoran St., Durham
919-956-6700
21cmuseumhotels.com/durham

The Fiction Kitchen
428 South Dawson St., Raleigh 
919-831-4177
thefictionkitchen.com

Cup a Joe
3100 Hillsboro St. Raleigh 
919-828-9665
cupajoe.com

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 West Jones St., Raleigh
919-707-9800
naturalsciences.org

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