Why do we love living in Raleigh, NC? And how did this Australian family end up moving to Raleigh in the first place? Today I’m sharing all that and much more in this blog post down below.
In case you’re new to our site, we’re Craig and Caroline, Australian born global travelers and now Raleigh residents and we love this amazing city we get to call home. When we first moved to Raleigh in 2004 we instantly fell in love with the vibe, the people, and the possibilities.
We’ve spent 22 years traveling through 50+ countries and have lived in five (England, Ireland, Thailand, Australia) and we chose Raleigh to put down roots permanently and raise our two daughters here.
So take it from us, if you’re open to the opportunity of living in Raleigh we think you should explore that idea seriously, even though Raleigh is not perfect as we mentioned in our 15 reasons NOT to live in Raleigh.
We first moved to Raleigh from Australia in 2004 when Caroline was an elementary school teacher and came here via a company based in Chapel Hill called Participate Learning who recruit foreign teachers to expose US kids to different cultures.
Fast forward to today and Caroline is no longer a teacher, and we have since built our travel publishing business to the level that we were recently granted Green Cards to become permanent residents which we are thrilled about.
I know one’s opinion of a city is subjective, but I think we bring a unique perspective about Raleigh considering our background of growing up in Australia and living in four other countries, plus our extensive international travel experiences, and we have also traveled in-depth across the United States.
So whether you are looking to move to Raleigh, or just visit Raleigh, we are here to help.
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I always say to people when they ask about suggestions on where to live, visiting and living in a place are two very different experiences, and you really need a minimum of 6 months to get a real feel for a place. But sometimes a place just gets under your skin instantly, and that’s what happened to us.
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What do we love about living in Raleigh?
So many things. Raleigh, NC regularly tops the “best cities to live and work in the US” lists and we understand why.
It’s the people and welcoming Southern community, the college town vibes and facilities, the greenspaces and oak trees, the thriving restaurant scene, the endless craft breweries, the culture, the climate, the top schools, the solid economy, the affordability, the family-friendly atmosphere, the entrepreneurial spirit, and being central to other great East Coast destinations.
If you are thinking about moving to Raleigh, North Carolina you’re not alone. We’ve always said “Raleigh is America’s best kept secret”, and there are so many interesting facts about Raleigh.
But I think the secret is out, as this is one of the fastest growing and vibrant cities in the South.
1. It’s like living in a forest
We love that when you fly into Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) it’s like you’re landing in the middle of a forest, and RDU is only 20-minutes from Downtown Raleigh!
In case you don’t know, Raleigh is nicknamed the “City of Oaks” for its sheer number of majestic oak trees which line the streets. Now, I don’t know about you, but we love oak trees and how they symbolize wisdom and knowledge and they help to keep the city relaxed and feeling like a small town.
Along with all the oak trees you have pine tree forests everywhere, wooded neighborhoods, green spaces and parklands.
Whenever we have friends visit, they always remark on how GREEN Raleigh is.
Yep, living in Raleigh is literally like living is a forest.
2. Cool capital city
Although historic and the capital city of North Carolina, Raleigh has youthful energy and is a vibrant place to live.
Founded in 1792, it was officially named after the English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh who attempted to establish the first English colony on the shores of the new world in the 1580s, and is one of the few cities in the country planned specifically as a state capital.
It is the second largest city in NC after Charlotte, and is the largest city in the area known as the Triangle region that consists of Raleigh – Durham – Chapel Hill.
Although it’s the capital, it is far from being just about government.
This is a thriving Southern city that’s getting shaped by smart and savvy locals and is bursting with entrepreneurial spirit and energy, and it’s definitely become one of the best places to live in North Carolina!
3. Raleigh is laid back, but far from sleepy!
Downtown Raleigh in particular has undergone a huge revitalization in recent years and become a vibrant place to visit and live with lots of cool cafes, bars, breweries, award winning restaurants, food halls, world class museums, festivals and events, arts and cultural activities.
So has its surrounding neighborhoods inside the beltline (ITB). No, you won’t find the huge variety of options like in Washington D.C. or Atlanta, but the diversity of life and people in the Raleigh area continues to grow and there’s always something going on.
Whether it be in downtown or the surrounding towns, in my experience it’s hard to find an excuse to stay home on weekends and I can’t keep up with new content on this website!
4. Not too big, not too small
When I’m asked to describe Raleigh compared to other places I’ve lived, or visited, the comment I always end with is “it’s not too big, not too small”. For me, it’s just about the perfect size!
Raleigh has certainly grown a lot since we first moved here in 2004, especially downtown and with some of the sprawl in North Raleigh, however it still doesn’t feel like a big city to me like say Atlanta or Charlotte, and still has plenty of that small town feel.
It’s small enough that when I go downtown I can run into people we know and don’t feel like I’m in a concrete jungle like other large metros. Yet big enough that there’s nothing you can’t really do here, and we are always meeting new people!
For a city of this size, I feel there are plenty of entertainment options, places to eat and drink, places to shop, play, walk, bike, relax.
And I love that we are within 30-minutes of Durham and 40-minutes of Chapel Hill and all that they have to offer!
Again, my comparison comes from having lived one-hour north of Sydney (5 million people), in London, Dublin, and Bangkok (talk about busy and congested). So yeah, to us Raleigh is a good size and a nice pace of life!
According to the U.S. Census, the population of Raleigh is 474,069 (2019).
5. Central East Coast location
As Australians who grew up by the beach, we love that Interstate 40 (I-40) runs past the outskirts of town and we can be at Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach in two hours. And a 4-hour drive west gets us to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Asheville, and if we keep going west on I-40 we’ll end up in California (as we have done).
Interstate 95 (I-95) is also close by and the main interstate on the East Coast that will take you to Florida or New England (check out our New England road trip tips).
We are a close drive to these destinations:
- Durham: 30 minutes (24 miles)
- Charlotte: 2.5 hours (167 miles)
- Myrtle Beach: 3.5 hours (172 miles)
- Washington D.C: 4.5 hours (278 miles)
- Atlanta: 6.5 hours (407 miles)
- Philadelphia: 7 hours (417 miles)
- NYC: 8.5 hours (487 miles)
- Orlando: 8.5 hours (594 miles)
- Nashville: 8.5 hours (539 miles)
As big time travelers, we love being close to so many other great places for road trips or even day trips. Here are 8 cool day trips from Raleigh.
More than half of the US population lives within a day’s drive from Raleigh.
As for flying, we have a great airport (RDU) with great domestic and international flight options – keep reading below for more on that!
6. Not a big tourist destination
One of the other things we love about living in Raleigh is that it’s NOT a big tourist destination.
We don’t have the big ticket tourist attractions here, it’s more of a place to live, which I like. But as mentioned, we are within easy reach of many other cities and towns and there is plenty of cool things to do in Raleigh as we share down below!
If you’re visiting Raleigh to take in the sites and need a place to stay, check out the:
7. Thriving restaurant scene
There’s an exciting mix of traditional southern food and global flavors (many restaurants receiving national recognition), and with two downtown food halls the community is coming closer together.
Raleigh’s food choices go way beyond BBQ, fried chicken, and shrimp and grits, and whether we go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner we have an ever growing list of local independent restaurants serving up inventive and flavorful dishes to choose from.
From old school Raleigh staples to new age restaurants in Raleigh, the dining scene has been thriving for years and bouncing back after a tough pandemic.
USA TODAY named Raleigh one of five underrated food cities on the East Coast, and named Herons at the Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary one of America’s 30 best restaurants. And Forbes named Raleigh one of 12 global destinations to travel to thanks to our culinary prowess.
Local chef and restaurateur Ashley Christensen recently won the James Beard Foundation award for Outstanding Chef and has five unique Southern style restaurants/ bars in downtown.
There’s no doubt this city is having a major food movement. And no, it’s not quite D.C. or NYC, but beyond the essential Southern eats like barbecue and biscuits, you can find great Italian, Mexican, Asian, Mediterranean, Seafood, pizza, burgers, bakeries, vegetarian/vegan, cheap eats and fine dining!
Read More: 50+ great places to eat in Raleigh
8. Endless breweries
It’s not just the food scene that has grown in prominence, and I can personally vouch that the craft beer scene is up there with the best in the nation!
Through our extensive USA travels we have taste tested at many of the best breweries in the USA from San Diego to Northern California, from Portland up to Seattle, and even in our other local favorite, Asheville, and I can say with confidence that some of the best beers I’ve had have been right here in Raleigh!
- Raleigh Beer Garden is in the Guinness Book of Records for having the most beers on tap (350+ beers) in it’s massive 8,500-square-foot venue over 3 levels.
- Bond Brothers Brewing in Cary was crowned USA Today’s Best New Brewery. And it’s one of the top things to do in downtown Cary!
- Other favorite breweries of mine include: Trophy Brewing, Raleigh Brewing Company, Lynnwood Brewing, and Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing – amazing views of downtown!
- And Bombshell Beer Company is one of the first female-owned breweries in North Carolina.
We also have exciting beer festivals too. Brewgaloo in downtown is the 2nd largest craft beer festival in the country. I’ll drink to that!
9. You can eat and drink your way around the world
There’s a growing diversity of food (and drink scene) here in Raleigh, and besides the Southern/American favorites, you can pretty much travel around the world with your taste buds.
You can drink a pint and take in an English Football game at the London Bridge Pub, down a Guinness at the Hibernian Irish Pub, eat amazing greek food at Taverna Agora, Italian at Cafe Luna and Bella Monica, Mexican at Centro, Asian fusion at Garland, Lebanese at Sitti, Indian at Kabab and Curry, French at Saint Jacques, Vietnamese at Anise Pho, a NY style pizza at Oakwood Pizza Box and so much more!
10. The Raleigh coffee scene is on the up!
As Aussies, we think we know a good cup of Joe when we sip on one. Yes, we might be a little biased, but it’s a well known fact that Australia has one of the best coffee scenes in the world, second only to New Zealand in my opinion (don’t tell the Kiwis I said that).
And just like the food and beer scene, the coffee scene has improved considerably over the years with new places opening up regularly, and as coffee addicts, this just adds to the reasons we like living here.
We primarily drink lattes, or flat whites (popular in Australia and similar to a latte but made with less milk). But no matter what style of coffee you prefer, you can find a Raleigh coffee shop for you!
11. 180 miles of greenway Trails
We love our walks and bike rides, and if you do too you’ll love the fact that there are 180 miles of greenway trails here. And when people ask me about things to do in Raleigh, it’s hard to beat the trail system.
Other excellent trails include:
- American Tobacco Trail (23-mile trail running along an abandoned railroad bed)
- Neuse River Greenway (27-mile paved trail stretching from Falls Lake in North Raleigh to the Wake County border line in southeast Raleigh)
- Lake Johnson Park (paved three-mile greenway loop)
- White Oak Creek (1.5 miles of winding boardwalk)
- and of course Umstead State Park (more on that below).
The locals make the most of these trails, and it’s a very active community with lots of people out walking and biking.
See more posts on Raleigh trails to love
12. City parks and squares
Adding to the oak trees, pine forests and greenway trails are the city parks and squares that add to the liveability factor!
Moore Square in the heart of downtown has been a place of gathering since 1972. This four-acre urban green space hosts events and here you will find the old City Market, restaurants, cafes, bars, art galleries, a kids museum, and high-density residential.
Nash Square is another favorite of ours on the edge of the Warehouse District and is a lovely space with oak trees, lawn area, and a Raleigh Firefighters monument in the center.
Mordecai Historic Park is home to many interesting pieces of North Carolina history. The Mordecai Historic House, the oldest residence in Raleigh still on its original foundation, and it’s the birthplace of Andrew Johnson, the 17th President.
Dorothea Dix Park is the largest park in Raleigh with impressive skyline views and a lovely space with wide-open fields, rolling meadows, tree-lined streets. The City of Raleigh has big plans for a transformative public space – think mini Central Park NY.
Pullen Park, located next to NC State University on 66 acres of land is the first public park in North Carolina and the 5th oldest operating amusement park in the U.S.
13. World class museums
We’re not typically big museum people, unless they are something special and there are some excellent museums in Raleigh NC.
In fact, because of the quality and amount of free museums in Raleigh, it is often referred to as the “Smithsonian of the South”.
- The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is the Southeast’s largest natural history museum and North Carolina’s most visited museum.
- The North Carolina Museum of History, founded in 1902, displays more than 14,000 years and 150,000 artifacts of North Carolina history.
- And the NC Sports Hall of Fame showcases artifacts of many of the members, along with a recognition of notable accomplishment across all sports. Read our guide to the NC Sports Hall of Fame here
14. Historic Raleigh neighborhoods
There’s plenty of charm and history here, showcased in the many historic neighborhoods in and around the city center.
- Historic Boylan Heights was one of Raleigh’s first planned suburbs with development beginning in 1907 and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
- Oakwood Historic District dates back to the 1800’s and rose after the Civil War. It’s home to magnificent oak trees, Grand Victorians and modest bungalows.
- Mordecai is Raleigh’s oldest neighborhood. The Mordecai House, which dates from 1785 is the oldest house in Raleigh and Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States, was born here.
- Cameron Park near NC State University was developed between 1910 and 1935 and was one of three suburbs subdivided into lots as development began with a streetcar line making the location appealing and convenient.
- Hayes Barton is one of the premier Raleigh neighborhoods. Built in the 1920’s in the post World War I wave of suburban development, homes here are a collection of Georgian, Colonial, Tudor, Craftsman, Bungalow and contemporary designs.
15. Walk and bike friendly
Our favorite way to explore any city is by foot or bike, and I’m happy to say that Downtown Raleigh is very walkable and bike friendly.
One of our favorite things to do in Raleigh NC is grab a coffee and just wander around and take in the vibe of the city neighborhoods.
Downtown is essentially a 12-block radius and easy to navigate, but keep in mind that once you move away from downtown, and especially outside the beltline, you definitely need a car!
The City of Raleigh has a decent bicycle network, and BikeRaleigh has maps showing bike lanes, greenways, as well as preferred routes that are based on bicyclist feedback and street conditions.
16. Ya’ll are welcome
From the minute we arrived in Raleigh back in 2004 we’ve felt very welcomed in the community.
It’s still funny to me how much Americans, and in particular Southerners love hearing our Aussie accent and often say “ya’ll talk real pretty”. To me, our accent is kinda bland and boring.
With the growth of Raleigh there’s been a natural increase in the cultural diversity of people which I think is a good thing and makes the place more interesting and vibrant.
But it’s not just a diverse population in regards to race, color and gender, but also filled with youth, a large educated population, and people of all ages.
The Welcome to Raleigh Y’all mural was created to promote equality, inclusion, and tolerance and “Welcome to Raleigh Y’all” is depicted in 17 different languages.
17. Our efficient Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)
We love our mid-size airport, and it’s usually a pleasure to fly in and out compared to most of the other bigger and chaotic airports across the US.
Typically, checking-in and getting through security is relatively smooth and easy, and RDU consistently ranks among one of the most efficient airports in America.
Even though the Raleigh Durham NC airport is not a major hub like Atlanta or Dallas, when we want to get away we can pretty much fly anywhere easily enough, and it’s located just a 20-minute drive from downtown, and I actually worked here for 18 months with Delta back in 2009-10.
Non 2020 craziness, Raleigh-Durham Airport typically operates 400 daily flights with 50+ non-stop destinations to major domestic cities like NYC, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and LA.
As Australians, the other thing we’re excited about living in Raleigh (and the Northern hemisphere) is being closer to Europe.
From Sydney to London is a 24 hour marathon and we can’t wait to do the 8 hour direct flight from RDU to London on American Airlines.
Plus, we have direct flights to Paris on Delta (8 hours).
Some of the domestic direct flights from Raleigh include:
- New York City
- Washington D.C.
- Salt Lake City
Internationally we can fly non-stop to:
- London (American Airlines)
- Paris (Delta)
There are two terminals at RDU, and Southwest Airlines has a major presence here which is great!
The 10 airlines currently operating out of RDU include the major and budget airlines:
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
- Jet Blue
18. Top Universities
I love college towns and always make a point of exploring them on our travels throughout the USA.
A major draw to the area are the world-class educational institutions including 11 principal universities in Raleigh, the main one being North Carolina State University – a powerhouse in engineering, math, technology and science.
Also in the center of the city we’ve got:
- Meredith College – a women’s liberal arts college and coeducational graduate school.
- Shaw University – the first historically black university in the South.
- William Peace University – a private college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.
- St. Augustine’s University – a private historically black college.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) is the nation’s first public university and one of the best universities in the world, is 40 minutes away.
Duke University, a private research university and often referred to as the “Harvard of the South”, is 30 minutes away.
Plus, the largest community college in the state, Wake Tech, is here.
All of those schools add tremendous value to the area as far as services, activities, jobs, atmosphere, the wonderful hospitals at UNC and Duke, and it being an educated community with a youthful vibe making it a great place to raise a family.
19. Educated City
Speaking of an educated community, Forbes ranked Raleigh as the second most educated city in America, and Durham third.
Bloomberg ranked Raleigh 4th in America’s most educated cities and where college-educated adults choose to live.
With all those top universities in the area, higher education is a focal point. According to the U.S. Census, in the Raleigh area over 50% of persons aged 25+ have a Bachelor’s Degree and 20% a doctorate.
The city of oaks is awash in entrepreneurial energy from homegrown clothing labels, craft breweries, innovative restaurants, and converted warehouses and art galleries.
Raleigh has been ranked 3rd on a list by Forbes for best places for business and careers. The future is exciting.
20. Cost of living in Raleigh NC
The cost of living, in particular real estate has risen in the past 5 years due to low inventory and high demand! More and more people are moving here due to the quality of life and how affordable it is from out of state, and internationally – hello!
Keep in mind that we haven’t lived anywhere else within the US, and I’m no expert on Raleigh NC real estate but I believe real estate in the downtown area is generally affordable compared to other bigger US cities, and the market here has always seemed to be steadily growing, without the big spikes or dips like in other cities.
As mentioned, we have lived in big cities like Sydney, London and Dublin where real estate is EXPENSIVE so for us Raleigh is way more affordable, and we don’t have to factor in local wages as we work online and have a global business!
If you happen to be in the tech industry, your cost of living in Raleigh can be significantly less than other major tech cities like San Francisco or even Austin.
We recently lived in an apartment above a family who moved here from Orange County, California, and the father got a job with the big gaming company Epic who are based in Cary. Well, he couldn’t believe that for the price of his one bedroom condo in the O.C. he could get a huge 4,500+ sq ft home here!
And that seems to be standard with people moving here from New York or New Jersey and Boston, that you can severely down-size in price, but significantly up-size in square foot!
We can’t speak from personal experience in the job market as we work for ourselves, but the economy also seems to be steady.
Basic economic data:
- Median household income (2018) is $63,891
- Medium home value is $311,826
- Average apartment rent ranges $1,001-$1,500 p/m
- Income tax is a flat rate of 5.25%
- Sale tax is currently 4.75%
- Unemployment rate in Raleigh-Durham-Cary is currently 6.20% (remember this is the crazy year of 2020)
On the website Payscale.com, the cost of living in Raleigh is 5% lower than the national average, and 58.7% lower than NYC, and housing is 85.2% lower than NYC!
And Realtor.com named Raleigh the most affordable alternative “kindred city” to San Francisco.
Overall, I think the cost of living in Raleigh is relatively low or very competitive compared to most comparable cities in the US, but it will continue to grow and there is a ton of construction of condos and houses going on.
As for activities, there are plenty of free things to do in Raleigh NC (or on the cheap) so it’s a great place to visit for those on a budget, or to live below your means!
21. Research Triangle Park (RTP)
Raleigh-Durham is home to Research Triangle Park (RTP), one of the greatest technological research parks in the world with top employers including: IBM, Cisco, GlaxoSmithCline, Nortel Networks, Sony Ericsson, and Lenovo just to name a few.
The 7,000-acre RTP is home to more than 200 companies and over 50,000 people with expertise in fields such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, microelectronics, chemicals, and environmental sciences.
RTP is centrally located between Raleigh (18 miles) and Durham (12 miles).
If you’re looking for jobs in Raleigh in engineering, sales, or marketing, I imagine your chances are promising with all the tech and big pharma companies in town.
22. Booming tech scene
As I write this blog post I’m sitting in a co-working space downtown at Raleigh Founded (a Raleigh start up) and since we lead a digital lifestyle and use various technologies to run our online publishing businesses it’s exciting to see a fast growing technology hub emerging.
Along with the top universities in the area, the growing tech and startup scene just adds to the entrepreneurial spirit in the community.
Some of the flagship tech companies here are:
- SAS Institute began as a project at NC State University and has 5,000+ employees at its world headquarters here in Cary.
- Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source solutions has its corporate headquarters in Downtown Raleigh.
- Cisco Systems is one of the Triangle’s largest tech employers with 4,000.
- IBM was one of the first tenants of RTP and their base here is the second largest operation only to India, employing over 14,000 people.
- Lenovo’s operational headquarters are here in Morrisville.
- Epic Games was originally founded in Maryland but moved to Cary in 1999.
- Bandwidth, who provide cloud-ready voice, messaging, and emergency service connectivity, is headquartered in Raleigh.
- Lulu, an online self-publishing company founded by Red Hat co-founder Bob Young.
- Citrix ShareFile, a cloud-based file sharing and storage service.
- Pendo, the analytics software company, was founded in Raleigh NC.
- And FreshBooks, accounting software for small businesses that we personally use, has one of its three offices here.
So if you’re considering moving to Raleigh and you’re in the tech industry, your employment chances are probably good!
23. Happening sports scene
I’m a sports addict and I’m happy to say there are endless local sporting teams to participate in or follow in the greater Raleigh area.
Of course the Triangle region is ACC Basketball territory with NC State Wolfpack, UNC Tar Heels, and Duke Blue Devils fighting it out each year for local supremacy – even though we live in Raleigh and publish a blog about Raleigh, sorry guys but we’re big Tar Heel fans!
So if you love College Sports, it reigns supreme here with the three big universities, and all with big fan bases.
As for Pro Sports, The NHL Carolina Hurricanes Ice Hockey Team is based in Raleigh at the PNC Arena. We just happened to be living here in 2006 when the Canes brought home the Stanley Cup for the first time which was wild!
Golf lovers will love living in Raleigh NC as there are a huge number of golf courses in Raleigh and people travel from all over to play golf here.
And, just over an hours drive Southwest of Raleigh is the famous Pinehurst, a city known as the “Home of Golf in the U.S.” with three of the top five golf courses in North Carolina.
We don’t have an NFL team unfortunately, but it’s only a 2.5 hours drive to Charlotte to cheer on the Panthers! And many of the NFL teams have designated supporter bars. E.g. New England Patriot fans go to The Brickhouse Sports Bar, Steelers fans go to Sammy’s Tap & Grill.
24. Fun festivals and events in Raleigh NC
We love a good festival, and there are tons of festivals in Raleigh each year to keep anyone entertained through all seasons.
There’s nothing better than good weather, local beer, food trucks, live music and a fun atmosphere.
Some of the biggest annual events in Raleigh include:
- Wide Open Bluegrass Festival – two-day event and the largest FREE urban bluegrass festival in the world.
- Hopscotch Music Festival – three-day music festival in downtown with more than 120 bands.
- Triangle Restaurant Week – week-long celebration of culinary excellence.
- St. Patrick’s Day Parade – a day of fun with a full line-up of live music
- Art in Bloom – four-day festival of art and flowers.
- Brewgaloo – N.C.’s largest craft beer festival-featuring 100 breweries, 50 food trucks.
- Artsplosure – Raleigh Arts Festival that attracts 80,000 people to downtown.
- Food Truck Rodeo – 50+ food trucks in the city center spanning 11 city blocks.
- Krispy Kreme Challenge – started by NC State students, this fun run starts at the campus then you run 2.5 miles to Krispy Kreme, then attempt to consume 12 doughnuts, then run 2.5 miles back. Watch our video below to see all the fun we had:
- GalaxyCon – 3day festival for fans of pop culture, superheroes, science fiction, and more.
- Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival – 2 days of beer sipping, bourbon tasting, and music.
- Packapalooza – all-day block party with more than 80,000 attendees that caps off NC State’s Wolfpack Welcome Week.
- Dreamville Festival – 1 day multi-stage festival celebrating local culture, food, art and featuring some of music’s biggest national acts.
- NC State Fair – largest annual event in the state draws one million visitors over 11 days.
- SAS Championship – see golf’s best at this PGA Tour Championships event.
- Raleigh Christmas Parade – a tradition for more than 75 years.
- New Years Eve, First Night Raleigh – downtown Raleigh New Year’s Eve celebration.
As you can see, Raleigh is a fun place to be!
Check out this list of 32 Fun Festivals & Events in Raleigh
25. Cool live music scene
We love music and live concerts, and for a city this size Raleigh has a solid list of venues and world class performers who have performed here.
Whilst Atlanta and D.C. always get every big act, just some of the musicians that have performed in Raleigh over the years include: Coldplay, U2, The Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, Bob Dylan, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, Billie Eilish, Tom Petty, Ed Sheeran, Dave Matthews Band, and Metallica.
So from that list, you can see that Raleigh doesn’t lack in attracting the big names.
Among the main venues are:
- PNC Arena (home of the NHL Carolina Hurricanes)
- Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek
- Carter-Finley Stadium (home of NC State football)
- Red Hat Amphitheater
- Koka Booth Amphitheatre
- and the smaller venues The Pour House Music Hall and the Lincoln Theater,
We’ve personally seen Cold Play, Jack Johnson twice, Imagine Dragons, Chris Stapleton, Maroon 5, and last year our eldest daughter went to the Billie Eilish concert with her mum at PNC Arena and had the night of her life!
Raleigh can actually be a great place to see a music act versus going to a large city!
26. Thriving arts and culture
The arts and culture scene is also thriving with great performing arts and concert venues.
The North Carolina Museum of Art is one of the most popular Raleigh attractions with more than a dozen beautiful gallery spaces showcasing art from around the world, plus a 164-acre park and trail system featuring commissioned works of art.
The Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) displays new and emerging work by local and national living artists, and is popular among local residents.
Artspace is one of the largest open studio environments in the country and home to over 30 artists working in a variety of media.
And there’s over 30 outdoor murals around town worth finding!
27. Diverse collection of neighborhoods and towns
Besides the ever evolving Downtown Raleigh area, there is a diverse collection of neighborhoods and towns, each with its own personality.
All up, Raleigh is home to seven different areas, plus 12 charming towns to explore:
Cary is one of the fastest-growing cities in the South and home to renowned restaurants, shopping, culture and arts, and a charming downtown. Here is our guide to Downtown Cary.
Morrisville, in the heart of RTP, is ranked 10th by Money in the 50 best places to live in the USA.
Midtown Raleigh includes four different shopping, entertainment and dining districts all within a close drive – North Hills, Crabtree Valley, Five Points, and Cameron Village – considered the first shopping center to be built between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta.
Apex is a charming town and features more than 60 commercial and residential structures dating from 1870 to 1940 with a quaint downtown area. Here is our guide to Downtown Apex.
Wake Forest, just north of Raleigh, is a beautiful small town with plenty of history, culture and activities and a historic downtown district.
And as mentioned, we are 30-minutes from Durham, and 40-minutes from Chapel Hill. We never get bored of things to do and there is always something going on all year!
28. William B. Umstead State Park
Just 15-minutes from Downtown Raleigh we have North Carolina’s most visited state park, Umstead State Park which offers great hiking trails, biking, camping, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding opportunities.
It’s awesome we have such a great state park in our backyard, and when you visit Raleigh, don’t miss Umstead, a natural oasis surrounding three man made lakes and more than 5,000 acres of forest.
29. Abundance of lakes
Besides being surrounded by forest, another thing we love about living here are all the lakes.
Growing up by the beach we’ve always loved the ocean and we do miss beach life, but here in North Carolina we have come to love lake life.
Getting out on a lake on our stand up paddle boards or a kayak, or walking around them, especially in the fall season, is one of our favorite things to do in Raleigh NC.
Some of the best lakes include:
- Lake Johnson
- Shelley Lake
- Lake Crabtree
- Lake Lynn
- Jordan Lake
- Lake Raleigh
- Falls Lake State Recreation Area
30. Quality schools
We can’t personally comment on the state of the elementary, middle and high schools here in Wake County as our kids currently attend an online school (read more about that here). And when Caroline taught she taught in Johnston County, southwest of Raleigh.
The Wake County Public Schools in Raleigh have always seemed highly rated, but as of the last few years the school system is in the news a lot.
It seems to have become a bit messy with the growth of the area and the system adjusting its districts regularly. But way back in 2010, GreatSchools.Org ranked Raleigh as the number 1 city for schools in the US.
We are considering putting our kids back into traditional school next calendar school year, so we’ll do more research then!
Clear up the confusion with Libby Taylor from SchoolUp Wake who is an expert on all things Wake County Schools. We chatted with her on our podcast about public schools, magnet schools, charter schools, private schools and much more. Libby has her own business consulting to families on how to pick the right school for your kids, and she shared some great insights and information.
31. Amtrak stops here
We haven’t traveled by train in the US yet, but with a new Amtrak station in downtown it’s nice to know another option is there!
Raleigh Union Station (RUS) in the Warehouse District opened in 2018 and serves as the new Amtrak passenger station that has the capacity to serve more than 160,000 travelers per year. And it’s a cool space just to visit.
- The Carolinian service from New York City to Charlotte stops in Raleigh and Cary once per day.
- The Piedmont service operates between Raleigh and Charlotte 3 times per day in both directions.
- Amtrak’s Silver Star service runs between NYC and Miami and stops in Raleigh and Cary.
32. Free downtown bus circulator
Raleigh is predominantly a driving city, and public transport is lacking.
But one cool thing is the RLine, Raleigh’s free downtown circulator bus service that features hybrid electric buses connecting you to restaurants, retail, entertainment venues, museums, hotels + parking facilities in downtown Raleigh.
RLine buses run approximately every 15-minutes, with the full route taking about 30-minutes to complete and whether you’re a visitor or resident it’s a handy way to get around downtown.
Standard operation hours:
- Mon-Wed (7 am-11 pm)
- Thurs-Sat (7 am-2:15 am)
- Sun (1 pm-8 pm)
33. All four seasons
Coming from Australia where we basically have two seasons, summer and winter, we really enjoy experiencing all four seasons, although Fall seems to be getting shorter each year!
We love hot summers and high humidity (we are used to it from down under) and those Carolina blue skies – summer here is long and consistent which is great.
Fall season in Raleigh is my favorite though – college sports, pumpkin flavored beer and treats, fun events, and fall foliage – this is not New England or the North Carolina Mountains though, so keep your expectations in check.
Typically the most vibrant colors are near the lakes and along the Greenway trails.
We don’t like the cold, and winters here are cold for us compared to Australia, but compared to North America standards in the North East it’s nothing.
If you come from somewhere like Boston that has long deep winters with lots of snow, Raleigh in winter will be very mild for you – average temperature is about 43 degrees.
It gets a bit rainy and dreary in winter, with maybe one small snowfall each year, but the city shuts down for a few days as they don’t have the equipment like in the North East, and we get black ice.
Overall, I think the Raleigh NC weather is perfect and suitable to our outdoors lifestyle, and the air quality is good too!
34. Southern hospitality
Not being from the South, I’m still getting used to being called “Sir” and Caroline “ma’am”, but we really like it – good manners still count in the South!
From the grocery store, to the restaurants, to the people you meet on the street, for the most part we find the people very friendly, welcoming, and willing to have a conversation with you and it’s a big part of what makes the community so great here.
Regardless of where we have traveled or lived in the world, it’s the people who make a place, and I think the happiness of the people here stems a lot from the great lifestyle they enjoy!
If you’re thinking of moving to the Raleigh NC area, I’m positive you won’t regret it and it will live up to the hype!
For us, settling down in Raleigh was easy and we don’t find the culture in the US all that different from Australia.
But keep in mind we have lived in five countries around the world and traveled to over 50 (and many third world countries) so we are used to change and having to adjust!
For you, depending upon your previous experiences, it might take a bit longer to settle in.
If you’re looking for BIG city life, you might find Raleigh a little too quiet, but if you want a great place to live and enjoy southern culture, definitely consider living in Raleigh NC!
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