How to spend A Day In the Village district with kids (or Even without)

We love the high-quality staycation experiences that Raleigh has to offer. We put it to the test recently with a family day out at the Village District (formerly Cameron Village) in the northwest of Downtown Raleigh. 

Mother and daughter hugging in front of a mural
Check out the murals while here!

A staycation is simply experiencing your own backyard through the eyes of a traveler. It’s a more affordable and easier way to experience the same feelings a domestic or international trip will give you. 

Joy is joy, no matter where you are!

You don’t have to pack a suitcase – you don’t even have to leave the comforts of your own king-sized bed and favorite pillow.

The Village District is a refreshing invitation to leave the world behind and just have fun together as a family.

Aerial view of outdoor shopping mall
Lovely tree-lined outdoor mall

As it’s the “center of everything”, it is a place where you can attend to everyday stuff – like shopping and eating – while raising the tempo, so it becomes more of a treat than a monotonous chore. 

We love to uncover what lies at the heart of community and the fun you can have simply by wandering the streets, tasting the local flavors, and creating memories together as a family. 

Mom and daughter getting nails done
Families that get nails done together…

It’s our joy to share how we planned a local family day out in partnership with the Village District to help you travel as a local in your own backyard too. 

For this Village District with kids experience, we went shopping together, experienced a little pampering, took photos at the vibrant murals, and enjoyed delicious meals at some iconic Raleigh restaurants.

Brunch at The Flying Biscuit

People dining outside at a cafe
Popular outdoor dining patio

High on the list of best brunches in Raleigh is the Flying Biscuit Cafe, who have been welcoming villagers to their cafe since 2009. 

They’re known for their Southern hospitality, bright decor that gives you permission to relax, and of course their outstanding food – most notably grits and fluffy biscuits (they bake nearly 5,000 biscuits a week). 

As our teen and tween now like an extra dose of Z’s on the weekend, brunch was the perfect way to start our day together in the Village District. (Although breakfast is served all day!)

People dining outside at a cafe

We were welcomed with fresh, warm biscuits and apple butter (think apple pie) as soon as we sat down at our table on the patio. People watchers will love the outdoor dining as a way to further connect to the Village atmosphere. 

I loved the variety of healthy food options on the menu, especially gluten free for myself. My smoked salmon and dill cream cheese scramble was delicious! 

After a follower raved about the chorizo and moon-dusted potato hash, Craig ordered his topped with over easy eggs.

There are plenty of southern breakfast meals kids will love like french toast, pancakes and acai bowls. 

My obsession for healthy foods is equally matched by my obsession for good brunch cocktails.

As I’m trying to hold on to summer as long as I can, I couldn’t resist a creamy champagne twist on a Pina Colada. They have other traditional cocktail twists like a Super Bacon Mary and a Manmosa.

One of the things you’ll love most about eating at Flying Biscuit is the high quality food and experience at affordable prices. $8 cocktails are rare to find in Raleigh now and breakfast dishes range from $5 – $15. 

People dining inside at a cafe
Great vibes indoors too!

Despite being a Southeast chain, originally from Atlanta, The Flying Biscuit maintains the integrity of the neighborhood Village vibe. They also keep ties to the community through volunteering, fundraising, and donations to local organizations.

Shop the Village District

Three ladies looking in a window
So many great stores here

As we spent most of our girls’ life as a nomadic family, shopping together is a rare treat. So we were happy to incorporate it into our family day out, especially when it has such a unique history. 

When the Village District opened in 1949, it was the first shopping center between Washington D.C. and Atlanta, and has since become one of the hottest spots for shopping in Raleigh

aerial view of shopping center
Park your car once and walk to everything!

There are over 6 blocks of stores catering to diverse interests such as fashion, antiques, sports, books, home-ware, jewelry and outdoor provisions. You can easily satisfy the interests of all members of your family.

While there are some chain stores, I like how they are chains that are mostly independently owned and can’t be found in too many locations in the Triangle area.

You might think the girls (especially our teen) might want to head straight to the fashion stores, but no, they bee-lined straight for…

Barnes & Noble

Two kids outside a Barnes & Noble bookstore

Yep. Kalyra already has it noted that her first job will be at this beloved book store. She can always be found with a book in her hand and has a rapidly growing library in her bedroom. 

I love this relatively new location in the Village District. As it’s smaller in size, it maintains that village feel, and there is always a greeter at the door to help you find the perfect book for you. 

Craig and I both understand the value of a bookstore for dreaming. Having a coffee at Barnes & Noble was a weekly event for us back in 2006 when we were planning for our big USA and Asia trip while living in Raleigh! 

Girl looking at books inside a bookstore

With new book purchases underarm – including a collector’s edition of Little Women (Kalyra’s favorite movie) – we moved onto the Fashion stores. 

Consider: For families with younger children, you may want to incorporate a stop at the Oberlin Regional Library. They have a range of in-person events such as Story Time. When our girls were younger we visited this spacious library with them often. 

Fab’rik

Girl shopping flor clothes

As I knew Craig and I were planning a date night in the Village District, finding a dress was high on my list. 

We stopped into Fab’rik and they helped me choose a boho dress for our night at Goodnights Comedy Club. Because TikTok is so normal for our children now, Savannah and I had fun in the dressing room filming my dress changing transitions! (making the everyday fun!)

What I love about Fab’rik is they have limited quantities of their range of clothes and accessories so you don’t have to fear meeting too many people in Raleigh dressed like you!

They also match style with affordability, as all items are priced under $100, except for the extensive denim collection. You’ll even find clothes for your teen here. 

The Village District is the only Fab’rik location in Raleigh. 

Fab’rik are committed to fashion sustainability with clothing donation bins, which are then taken to local organizations to help clothe women in need. Learn more here

Onward Reserve

Man enjoying a beer in a store
Shop with a beer in hand? Yes please!

Let’s be honest. The men in our lives tend to get really bored when the girls in the family go shopping. And there’s nothing worse than feeling that ominous cloud trailing us around.

The Village District has the perfect solution: Onward Reserve. This specialty men’s apparel and lifestyle brand is tuned into what men need most: laid-back approach to luxury and unwavering quality with the motto “Live Authentically.” 

Okay let’s really be honest. There’s a bar inside and a comfy couch section where your fella will find their favorite football game playing. 

Now they’re settled, you can shop with your kids for as long as you like!

Man shopping for clothes in a store

Onward Reserve quickly became Craig’s favorite men’s store in Raleigh. Not just for the reasons mentioned above, but also for the excellent customer care and Southern hospitality. 

Man holding a beer and trying on a sports coat
Like Craig’s style?

Store manager Kit Luciano welcomed Craig in like a neighborly friend, served him up a beer, helped him choose a sports coat to match his blue eyes, and spoke at length about the quarterback moving from her team to the Panthers – Kit grew up in Cleveland and Baker Mayfield (former Browns quarterback) is now the Panthers QB!

Craig was happy to leave the girls and I shopping while he took a break at Onward Reserve, but he made sure to rejoin us at the Great Outdoor Provision Co!

Great Outdoor Provision Co.

Hats and shirts inside a store

A store like the Great Outdoor Provision Co. is a place for dreaming for our family. More than that. It’s a place for bringing our dreams to reality. 

With their huge range of outdoor supplies we can get kitted out for any kind of adventure we want. 

It may seem strange to some, but enhancing the shopping experience here is the comforting sound of the creaking floorboards, an intentional feature of the stores by founder Tom Valone. He wanted to create a homely feel when he first opened the store at the back of a Carrboro bike shop in 1972. 

It helps me to feel like I’m in a space that honors roots, tradition, and the value of staying connected to the earth. 

Man looking at a tent inside a store
All your outdoor needs

Staff greet you as soon as you walk in and are ready to help answer any of your outdoor questions. They are all passionate experts in adventures that range from rock climbing to kayaking. Craig got expert advice in choosing his new pair of waterproof hiking shoes, Oboz Sypes.

All products in the store are thoroughly tested and loved and feature top brands for hiking, paddling, running, camping, fishing, traveling plus tech and toys.

Girl looking at shoes on a rack inside a store
Great range of shoes to choose from!

When you shop at Great Outdoor Provision Co, you’re supporting a North Carolina owned business that has a mission to leave behind a world that’s better than we found it.

A percentage of every purchase made at their stores goes toward local conservation efforts. Our only problem is we want to buy one of everything for every outdoor adventure possible!

Take Photos at the Murals

Girl posing in front of a mural

While you’re popping in and out of stores, pay attention to the colorful murals and living walls adorning the walls of the Village District buildings. 

If there is a mural in a destination we travel to, we always find it. We love them for the stories they tell about local personality, culture and history, but also for the photo opportunities they provide. 

Mani Pedi at the Village District Nail Spa

Women sitting in chairs inside a nail salon

The girls were thrilled when I told them we were going to visit the nail spa together. I know so many friends who often do mani pedis with their daughters, and now I understand why!

The Village District Nail Spa was large, clean, spacious and busy. Not annoyingly busy, but bursting-with-happy-vibes busy. 

The Nail Spa was full of mostly women treating themselves and spending time with friends or mothers and daughters. 

As we came to learn during our time at the Village District, this really is a place where people gather to spend quality time. 

Girl getting a mani pedi
Fun mommy & daughter date!

Kalyra was happy to disappear to her own teen space with her technician to get her acrylic nails done, while Savannah and I settled into the comfortable pedicure chairs.

An extra treat for both of us was the extremely comfortable Shiatsu back massage chairs (and a glass of complimentary chardonnay for me).

Lady drinking a glass of wine while having a foot spa
Cheers to foot baths!

It wasn’t just a place for Savannah and I to chat and laugh together, but to also get to chat with my technician about Vietnam, the country of her birth. She was thrilled to hear Craig and I spent six weeks there in 2003, and it’s one of our favorite countries. 

The lady beside me was also friendly. She was enjoying a pampering session with her daughter and shared with me how much she loved coming to this nail spa. 

So far, it’s been my favorite mani pedi in Raleigh and I’ll be back with the girls for another mother-daughter date.

revive your hair at HairColor Xperts

As I said, if you’re going to be attending to certain everyday tasks anyway – like getting haircuts – why not turn it into a family experience, and layer it with the other treats the Village District offers. 

The girls and I had reached the desperate-need-for-a-haircut stage and incorporated a hair pampering session into our day. 

Before we walked in the girls had pleaded with me to upgrade their traditional cut-only to a hair pampering shampoo treatment package. 

Two ladies getting their hair cut
We were in good hands!

This was the first haircut experience where the girls didn’t need any input from me as to how to cut their hair. The stylists took over and worked with them to create the look they desired. 

That freed up my time to relax and chat with my stylist Arlee about the Mule Day festival in her home town of Benson in Johnston County. 

We are so happy HairColor Xperts were able to deliver three stylish looks for us.

Beer Break at the Village Draft House

Man sitting at a bar drinking a beer
100 beers to choose from!

If all the shopping tires you out, and you’re not full after your Flying Biscuit brunch, the Village Draft House is one of our favorite casual eating places in the Village District, even if you just want a drink or a snack. 

This brick-walled tavern offers an impressive 100 beers on draft and over 40 North Carolina brews including Pilsners, lagers, kolsches, brown ales, porters, stouts, and IPA’s. No matter your preference, there is a flavor you can savor. 

While the girls and I were getting our hair and nails done, Craig snuck away here for a pint of Kolsch from White Street Brewing in Wake Forest at the bar watching some baseball.

We did take our time, so he snuck outside for a  second beer in the sun accompanied by wings!

Dinner Cantina 18

People dining outside a restaurant under umbrellas
Nice patio dining!

The first thing you’ll notice as you walk into Cantina 18 is the welcoming painted portrait of Anthony Bourdain on the wall. 

I took this as evidence that chef-proprietor, Jason Smith has a commitment to providing an exceptional dining experience that the Father of contemporary Travel and Food would approve of. 

It has a bright festive ambiance that speaks to a traveler’s soul. We may be in the heart of Raleigh, but at Cantina 18, your family will be taking a Tex-Mex journey laced with southern charm and hospitality. 

People dining outside on a patio
Lovely setting outdoors

There is ample seating inside, but the slider doors opening up to the bright and airy patio sweep us outside for dinner. There is also a large upstairs seating with Juliette windows overlooking the Village District (sometimes closed for functions).

Jason Smith uses as much fresh seasonal North Carolina ingredients as he can to create a flavorful menu filled with favorites like tacos, nachos, sandwiches and entrees. 

It caters to the young and old, traditional and those who like fusion twists – this is not your traditional Mexican food. Come here with adventure on your taste-buds. 

We started with our favorite fusion from Cantina 18: Goat cheese guacamole with tomatoes, pickled jalapeños and black beans. If this was the only dish you ate at Cantina you’d be delightfully happy. And the chips are sensational.

Ramp up the delight with one of the freshest margaritas in town (with freshly squeezed lime juice). Once you have one of those you’ll be tossing that fake sugary stuff in a bottle out the window. 

The taco options are extensive so we asked our friendly server for her recommendations and fan favorites. With mix and match platters available you can experience multiple flavors in one night. 

We settled on crispy sweet chili-lime wanchese shrimp with pico de gallo and queso fresco; seared pork belly with smoked apple salsa and poblano crema; Spicy braised short rib with pickled corn relish and chipotle crema.

Two tacos on a plate
Every day should be Taco Tuesday!

On the menu you’ll also find fajitas, adobo glazed salmon, and daily specials. From the daily specials, we enjoyed tasting plates of their appetizers including a Southern favorite, Fried Green Tomatoes.

Fried Green Tomatoes on a plate
Fried Green Tomatoes

Craig’s burrito came fully loaded with Spicy Braised Short Rib, and Savannah’s kids quesadilla was just how fussy eaters like them.

Burrito on a plate
Spicy Braised Short Rib burrito

If you have any dietary concerns, you’ll be happy to know Cantina will cater to you with plenty of options. 

This family friendly neighborhood favorite is the place to end your day out in the Village District. I was grateful to be wearing a maxi dress to hide my extremely full and satiated belly.

But, did I leave room for dessert? Y’all know the girls did!

End Your evening With a Goodberry’s Frozen Custard

Hand holding up a cup of frozen custtard

It was a difficult choice whether to stay at Cantina 18 for dessert or layer in one extra Village District treat to our day out. 

The traveler in me wants to always experience as many different things as possible, so Goodberry’s won!

I’m more than happy to take the girls here for a frozen custard. Personally, I like it better than ice cream, but I like their commitment to creating a healthier version of a frozen treat more. 

Girl eating ice cream from a cup
Happy child, happy parents!

How is that so?, I hear you ask. Goodberry’s grew from frustration over the mass production style of modern ice-cream filled with high-fructose corn syrup and other chemicals.

They decided to return to the old-style with 100% all-natural frozen custard made hourly with fresh milk, fresh cream, eggs, honey, pure cane sugar, and only natural flavorings to make our frozen custard.

Goodberry’s first creamery opened in September of 1988, at the corner of Spring Forest Road and Atlantic Avenue in Raleigh. 

They now have nine creameries in the Triangle region. And guess where else they have two locations? Australia! (I love them even more now.)

Three ladies sitting outside an ice cream shop
Grab a treat and sit outdoors

The outside seating area has that lovely Village District communal feel with flowering pot plants and benches hiding under the canopies of trees. 

It’s the perfect place to sit on a warm evening and wrap up a good day spent with your family. 

Now there’s no airport hassle of getting home after your staycation in the Village District – it’s just an easy drive home to your comfy couch!

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