Boylan Heights Neighborhood Guide (Live, Eat, Drink, Arts)

The historic Boylan Heights neighborhood is one of the premier places to live in Raleigh on the immediate edge of downtown, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district in 1985.

boylan heights raleigh nc 2
Boylan Heights from above

Boylan Heights is one of the neighborhoods in Raleigh we could see ourselves eventually living in. We walk and drive through this area a lot, dreaming of owning one of the historic homes in this walkable neighborhood that’s lined with magnificent trees and within close proximity to downtown.

About Boylan Heights

Neighborhood sign saying Boylan Heights

William Boylan was one of North Carolina’s wealthiest and most influential businessmen who was heavily involved in land transactions in the Raleigh area. 

He helped facilitate the building of the railroad that would eventually run through downtown Raleigh, and he gifted a plot of land to his son, William Montfort Boylan, right outside the city limits of Raleigh at the time. 

Boylan Heights was one of Raleigh’s first planned suburbs with development beginning in 1907. 

A Southern home with front porch and American flag
Gorgeous home in Boylan Heights

When real estate firms began developing old plantation lands just beyond the city limits in response to the early twentieth century housing shortage, the hundred-acre wooded portion of William Montford Boylan’s estate offered a good location.

Parcels went on sale in 1907 and all were sold by 1915. 

Here craftsman bungalows sit along with transitional Queen Anne/Colonial Revivals and Dutch Colonials, while mature trees dominate the streetscapes.

Front porch of an historic Southern home in Raleigh, North Carolina
Beautiful home on South Boylan Ave

On the immediate southwest edge of the city center, the streets extend from the downtown grid but curve aesthetically to match the contours of the hilltop setting. 

The hilly terrain lends itself to a picturesque and truly residential neighborhood overlooking downtown.

Front porch of a home in a historic neighborhood of Raleigh, NC
This is a close-knit community

The most expensive houses in Queen Anne or Colonial Revival styles were built along South Boylan Ave. More modest homes, chiefly in the bungalow style, were constructed further below.

Aerial view of a street with cars, tress, and houses
S. Boylan Ave from above

The spacious lots on S. Boylan Avenue feature deep setbacks and inviting front porches, whilst the rest of the development is made up of modest bungalows on smaller lots and shallower setbacks.

Many residents enjoy incredible views of the skyline as well as their own slice of privacy, and this close-knit community is highly sought after by creatives as well as families.

Neighborhood snapshot:

  • Location: 1.4 miles southwest of downtown Raleigh
  • Map of neighborhood
  • Population: 454
  • County: Wake County
  • Median sale price: $580K
  • Closed Prices:$300K to $1.5 million
  • Zip code: 27603

Looking for a trusted real estate agent to buy a home? We can help with that, click here!

Schools

Boylan Heights is home to Project Enlightenment, an early childhood education and prevention program of the Wake County Public School System for young children birth through kindergarten.

Nearby public schools include: Wiley Elementary, Daniels Middle, Needham Broughton High

Things to Do in Boylan Heights (and nearby)

Aerial view of a home surrounded by trees and city skyline in the background
On the edge of downtown Raleigh

A small, tight-knit community calls the neighborhood home, organizing regular events such as the Artwalk in the winter.

Whilst the neighborhood itself doesn’t have any restaurants or shops, that helps to create a peaceful atmosphere, there are several excellent options a few steps away!

Art Walk

People looking at art displays on the porch of a house
Look at local art on the porches’ of homes

Pre-pandemic we enjoyed the annual Boylan Art Walk through the historic neighborhood and I’m happy to say that it’s back on again this year, and it will be its 30th year!

What is Art Walk? Artists showcase their art on porches of select homes plus in their yards and on sidewalks throughout the neighborhood.

Front porch of a southern home

I love this local artist, Amy Friend, I discovered at the Boylan Heights Art Walk a couple of years go. She draws these birds with red threads in different settings (see image above on left).

The red thread symbolizes her desire for adventure and freedom versus a need for security and roots. You can see more of Amy’s work here.

Typically, over one hundred artists and craftspeople sell a wide range of glasswork, jewelry, metalwork, woodwork, fiber, clay work and ceramics, photography and prints, multimedia, painting and other art. 

You simply wander around the streets on foot and take in the local art scene. It’s a great way to start the holiday season.

Rebus Works

People sitting at tables in a coffee shop

Rebus Works is such a cool little neighborhood shop that is part coffee shop, art gallery, and grocery store!

Established in 2003 as a community oriented gallery run by artists, for artists and a joint project of local photographer Shonna Greenwell and printmaker Lee Moore, they focused on media and artists that were less frequently featured in other Raleigh locations.

Pop in here for a really good coffee and tasty treats (or stay for a while and work online), and enjoy the cool and quirky decor with open space and nice lighting.

Admire the art on display, grab a quick bite made with local produce, explore the local products in the grocery section, or maybe indulge in a draft brew (or grab a can to go). 

Lady at the counter in a coffee shop
Interior of a coffee shop with records on display

They also have a weekend market with local vendors. A definite hidden gem in Raleigh that truly supports local. Lovely spot to visit with your partner or a friend, or even solo. 

Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

People sitting at a table eating food
Brunch at Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

“I wouldn’t mind Wye Hill being my neighborhood local” I say to Caroline as we drive through Boylan Heights.

Just a short walk across Boylan Bridge (which offers magnificent skyline views) brings you to one of the best local downtown Raleigh restaurants and breweries with its own unrivaled view of the downtown skyline.

Yep, come for the refreshing brews and creative food and stay for the fantastic views!

people sitting at a table overlooking the city
Uninterrupted downtown views!

Here you can expect innovative meals with a healthy twist, an amazing outdoor patio area or cozy indoor seating, and refreshing craft beers. And whilst Wye Hill is a Brewpub, there are some great signature cocktails and wine on the menu too!

I’m a fan of the Wye Hill Burger and Deviled Eggs. There’s also a kids menu. When you visit the Art Walk in Boylan Heights, do as we did and stop in here for brunch!

Consider Wye Hill a top neighborhood spot for brunch, lunch or dinner. Even though we don’t live in Boylan Heights, we bring all our visiting friends who are first-timers to Raleigh here!

Boulted Bread

Exterior of a bakery store with car out the front

Even though Boulted Bread is not officially within the boundary of Boylan Heights, it’s definitely worth walking the few extra steps to this chic, local neighborhood bakery loved by the locals. 

Residents of Boylan Heights, and Raleigh locals, flock here for their fix of pastries and loaves of bread made with local and organic grains.

As one of the most popular Raleigh bakeries, they serve phenomenal artisan bread and sweet and savory pastries created in a bright, rustic bakery. 

Popular items include their Morning Bun, Chocolate Croissants, Seeded Levain bread, and Nordic Rye Bread. 

Sam Jones BBQ

Exterior of a bbq restaurant

Another two blocks away from the boundary brings you to Sam Jones BBQ. Opening in early 2021 to much fanfare, Sam Jones out of Winterville, NC has some of the best BBQ in North Carolina and is undoubtedly one of the best BBQ joints in Raleigh

Girl eating bbq on an outside table at a restaurant
Great ribs and sides

At their W Lenoir Street location in Downtown Raleigh, they smoke whole hogs on site every day and are famous for their chopped BBQ, Fried Chicken, Mac and Cheese, Collard Greens, and baked flat cornbread (if you don’t like cornbread, the sweet potato muffin is my pick!)

Person holding up a plate of bbq and sides
Chopped bbq, turkey, and sweet potato muffin

At Sam Jones, you can choose from indoor dining or outdoor seating on one of their picnic tables  – inside there’s seating at the bar and several dining tables.

A popular lunch spot with the locals, if I lived in nearby Boylan Heights it would definitely be in my weekly planner for a lunch date!

Vault Craft Beer

Exterior of a brewery

Take a 5-minute walk down the hill from S Boylan Ave and you’ll arrive at Vault Craft Beer, who have done a fantastic job of bringing a slice of history back to the Raleigh community.

This building was previously the First National Bank and home to the first ‘drive-thru’ bank in Raleigh. And now, instead of a bank teller counter, in place are 16 taps for draft beer and two large built-in coolers with cold beer to take home.

People standing at a bar drinking

Founder of Vault, Greg Kelly and partners focused on preserving the history and mid-century modern architecture of this little drive thru bank using the bank’s lobby in 1957 as the inspiration, with a goal to serve as a community gathering place for another 60 years!

They also added a new canopy on the West side where the drive-thru lane used to be which acts as a great outdoor seating area perfect for families (dog friendly too!) 

Glass of beer on a bar

We enjoyed a cold beer here recently, chatting with Greg about his story and vision. Pop in for a brew, watch a game on the screen, and keep an eye on their website for vinyl nights, trivia nights, and food trucks. 

Dorothea Dix Park

Dorothea Dix Park

South Boylan Ave, the main road through Boylan Heights, continues southwest across Western Boulevard and into Dorothea Dix Park, the largest park in Raleigh on a whopping 300+ acres with impressive skyline views and a lovely space with wide-open fields, rolling meadows, and tree-lined streets.

An easy 10-15 minute walk would get you to the heart of Dix Park from Boylan Heights, another bonus of being in this historic neighborhood. 

dorothea dix sunset
Such a pretty sunset spot
Dorothea Dix Park, Raleigh
Picnic at Dorothea Dix Park

There are traffic lights at Western Blvd that allow you to cross safely, but an overhead pedestrian walkway would be a fantastic addition – hopefully that gets incorporated into the City of Raleigh’s master plan for a transformative public space at Dix Park.

Mother and daughter taking pictures at the sunflower field.
Sunflower field at Dix Park

Dix Park is a lovely space at any time of the year for a stroll, a picnic, and it plays host to numerous events and festivals, including the field of sunflowers and Falling for Local

Stay at Heights House Hotel

Path leading to the front door of a historic hotel
Heights House Hotel

Keeping up with the historical theme of Boylan Heights, how does the idea of staying in a property that dates back to 1860 and offers a glimpse at Raleigh’s deep history sound?

Previously known as Montford Hall, this property was the plantation home of prominent citizen William Montford Boylan and today stands as a landmark at the northern entrance to the Boylan Heights Historic District. 

Lobby area of a historic hotel
The beautiful lobby area

The Italianate style mansion, now known as Heights House Hotel, sits on the highest point of the historic neighborhood and is one of the few remaining pre-civil war houses in the Raleigh area, and a National and Raleigh Historic Landmark.

In 2018, Sarah and Jeff Shepherd acquired the property with a vision of transforming it into a boutique hotel to be enjoyed by locals and visitors to Raleigh.

Sitting area of a historic hotel
Gorgeous interior of Heights House

They envisioned a “Modern Victorian” experience that honored the history of the house, and whether you stay for just a night or an extended stay, Heights House has several tailored rooming options, from historic luxury suites, to new standard rooms.

Path leading towards front door of a historic hotel

Sitting on an acre of land, Heights House is capable of accommodating any number of events, from weddings to private dinners. 

And even if you’re not staying at the hotel, you can enjoy a drink at their bar, The Parlor (reservations recommended) and choose from a curated menu of Italian influenced craft cocktails, an all-Italian wine list, and local beers.

Nearby Boylan Heights

Aerial view of homes surrounded by trees with city skyline in the background

Of course, Boylan Heights’ prominent downtown location means you’re on the edge of the fantastic Warehouse District that offers an ever growing choice of restaurants, cafes, bars and breweries. 

Plus all the best bars, restaurants and cafes in Downtown Raleigh are within walking distance or a 5-minute drive, as is the Red Hat Amphitheatre and Performing Arts Center!

And, you’re a short bike ride away on the green-way from Pullen Park, the first public park in North Carolina, and the fifth oldest operating amusement park in the US.

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