Raleigh, N.C., 101

The Basics | Fast Facts

The Basics

Carolina BBQ

N.C. is known as the Cradle of 'Cue, and as any good North Carolinian will tell you, it’s a polarizing topic. Eastern or Western styles are your choices, each with its own distinct flavors and cuts of pork. Eastern-style is a vinegar-based sauce, and the whole hog is used, whereas in the west, pitmasters use only the shoulder and add ketchup to the sauce.

At The Pit in downtown Raleigh, Pitmaster Darrell Brown uses all-natural, hormone-free pigs bred in N.C. to create traditional Southern favorites in the upscale (yes, white tablecloth) eatery with an extensive wine selection. If local landmark restaurants are more your style, sit at the counter at Clyde Cooper’s BBQ and see what all the fuss has been about since 1938.

The Pit Authentic Barbecue, Raleigh


Artisanal chocolates

The Raleigh area is gaining notoriety for its bevy of artisanal chocolate makers. Currently, the area has more than five specialty chocolatiers, in which two have storefronts that visitors can see and learn about the process. Escazu Artisanal Chocolates' staff were the first true, bean-to-bar chocolate makers in the Raleigh area and one of the first few in the entire country. Escazu sorts, winnows and grinds cacao beans to bring out the complexity of flavors. The chocolate is then aged and tempered in antique machines before becoming flavors like Beaufort Sea Salt or Grapefruit Bacon.

The newest shop on the block is Videri Chocolate Factory, located in downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District. Videri focuses on teaching the process of how bean-to-bar chocolate is made and has a nice display area where visitors can see the process in action.



Totally-Raleigh festivals and events

The Raleigh area offers good, old-fashioned, Southern charm, but we can also turn on our flair for the unexpected. A road race of five miles may not seem like a big deal to dedicated runners, but when you stop in the middle to eat a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts and then finish the last two-and-a-half miles, it adds more of a challenge. More than 7,500 runners participate in the Krispy Kreme Challenge each Feb., and when you do the math, that equals more than 90,000 doughnuts.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences can lay claim to the largest, single-day bug event in the country. BugFest is a celebration of all things buggy and happens each Sept. Featuring events like the Roachingham 500 and Café Insecta, where local chefs cook up some tasty treats featuringyou guessed itbugs, this festival offers educational programming, music, entertainment, displays and exhibits, which makes it a family favorite.



The most music

When you think of well-known musical destinations, cities Nashville or Austin come to mind, right? Well, Raleigh is well on its way to becoming a major stop for music fans. Raleigh has more live music than any other destination in N.C.! Major venues like Coast Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek and smaller concert venues like Lincoln Theatre or The Pour House Music Hall & Record Shop welcome musicians of all styles and genres, almost on a near-nightly basis. Hopscotch Music Festival is a hit in downtown Raleigh each Sept. IBMA Bluegrass Live! powered by PNC also takes over downtown Raleigh in late Sept./early Oct.

Hopscotch Music Festival


Fashion-forward destination

Who needs Milan, Paris or New York when the Raleigh area has a progressive fashion scene with many designers making a name for themselves on a national stage? North Carolina State University has one of the best textile design schools in the country. Try on a pair of Raleigh Denim jeans, handmade using N.C. textiles; also be the envy of your friends with a personalized Moon and Lola monogrammed necklace from Kelly Shatat.



Craft breweries

More than 25+ local breweries have popped up in the Raleigh area. Take your own brewery tour with the Raleigh Beer Trail. Many of the breweries will provide free tours to visitors so you can learn the difference between beers like porters and doppelbocks and sound like the beer connoisseur you plan to be for the future.

Lonerider Brewing Company


Unexpected places to scuba dive

Really? Scuba diving in the Piedmont of N.C.? It’s trueFantasy Lake Scuba Park in Rolesville is a former rock quarry that has become a haven for scuba divers. It has become the largest scuba diving park on the East Coast, and its 100-acre scenic environment is carefully landscaped and maintained.

Fantasy Lake Scuba Park 03-216.jpg


Carolina basketball

In the region, and certainly in the Raleigh area, basketball is a way of life. There are 12 traditional universities and colleges in Wake County, and UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University are only about 30 minutes away. With three powerhouse basketball schools, we are one of the best regions in the country for college basketballsome joke that March Madness is a holiday in our area.

2016 NCAA Basketball

Fast Facts

From area weather and population to major cultural assets, here are some at-a-glance facts about Raleigh, N.C., and Wake County.

City of Raleigh Mayor: Mary-Ann Baldwin

Population: Raleigh (2020): 467,665; Wake County (2020): 1,129,410; Raleigh-Cary MSA (2020): 1,420,376

Land Area: Raleigh (2014): 146 square miles; Wake County: 857 square miles

Geography: 434 feet above sea level, Raleigh lies in east-central N.C., where the hilly Piedmont region meets the flat coastal plain.

Visitors: 15.8 million to the Raleigh area in 2021; 12.9 million in 2020

Sales Tax: 4.75-percent state tax; 2.5-percent county tax

Raleigh Facts: Raleigh was founded in 1792 as N.C.'s capital city. It was named for Sir Walter Raleigh, who attempted to establish the first English colony on the shores of the new world in the 1580s. It is the only state capital to have been planned and established by a state as the seat of state government, and it is the largest city in a combined statistical area known as Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (the Research Triangle Region). The city's founding fathers called Raleigh the "City of Oaks" and dedicated themselves to maintaining the area's wooded tracts and grassy parks. Home of the N.C. State Fair, N.C.'s largest annual event.

Wake County Facts: Includes Raleigh and 11 other Wake County municipalities. Sometimes referred to as Raleigh, N.C., Greater Raleigh or the Raleigh area. Home to RDU International Airport and a portion of internationally renowned Research Triangle Park. Accessed by I-40 and four major U.S. highways; I-85 and I-95 pass nearby, with I-95 connected to Raleigh by I-495. Home to 11 principal colleges and universities.

Climate: Springs and summers range from the upper-60s to the upper-80s (degrees Fahrenheit); fall averages in the 70s; winters hit the high-20s to mid-50s. Mean annual rainfall (inches): 45.23. Annual average temperature (°F): 71 (high), 50 (low). Annual average snowfall (inches): 4.7. Average relative humidity (%): 71.3.

Distance from Other Major Cities (in miles)
Asheville, N.C. -- 241
Atlanta, Ga. -- 424
Charlotte, N.C. -- 143
Chicago, Ill. -- 784
Nashville, Tenn. -- 515
New York City, N.Y. -- 489
Orlando, Fla. -- 588
Washington, D.C. -- 251
Wilmington, N.C. -- 123

Parks and Recreation: Raleigh boasts more than 9,000 acres of parkland and almost 1,300 acres of water, offering recreational activities year-round. A nationally-acclaimed greenway system spans more than 180 miles, providing walking, jogging and hiking trails that connect many of the City of Raleigh's 200+ parks and Town of Cary's 30+ parks. Surrounding towns have even more parks and recreational opportunities.

Fauna/Flora: The Raleigh area's hardwood and mixed conifer forests are home to a wide variety of wildlife, including wood ducks, white-tailed deer, Canada geese and wild turkeys.

Sports: Sports and outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to cheer about. Hockey fans can catch the excitement of the NHL Carolina Hurricanes. Relax outdoors at a Carolina Mudcats Low-A baseball game or at WakeMed Soccer Park watching North Carolina FC men's or North Carolina Courage women's pro soccer. The area is also home to stock car racing and great college athletics.

Arts and Culture: Raleigh has an exceptionally diverse art scene. Visitors can see a touring Broadway show, view original plays in theatres and outside in the parks, listen to the North Carolina Opera or North Carolina Symphony or watch the Carolina Ballet. The Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts has a suite of facilities for almost any size performance, including a state-of-the-art symphonic music hall.

Museums: Raleigh is home to three major state museums--of art, history and natural sciences (all are free). The North Carolina Museum of Art celebrated its 50th anniversary in April 1997 and opened a $75 million expansion of iconic gallery and public spaces in April 2010. The North Carolina Museum of History, which moved to its current facility in 1994, provides innovative exhibits that tell the state's history. Across the Bicentennial Plaza, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences moved into a beautiful new facility in April 2000 becoming the Southeast's largest natural history museum: it opened the state-of-the-art Nature Research Center, a new wing of the museum in April 2012. Marbles Kids Museum also gives kids a chance to be hands-on with role-playing and special exhibits. Marbles is also operating N.C.'s only large-screen 3D IMAX theatre next door.

Major Historic Sites in Raleigh
The North Carolina State Capitol, a National Historic Landmark.
The North Carolina Executive Mansion, home to more than 25 governors and their families since 1891.
Historic Oakwood, a neighborhood of 19th-century Victorian homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Shopping: Even the most seasoned shoppers will find an impressive array of well-known retail stores, boutiques and locally-owned shops in and around Raleigh. Browse the Raleigh Flea Market or the more than 30 antique stores spread throughout the area. Major shopping areas and centers include Brier Creek Commons, Beaver Creek Commons, Village District, Crabtree Valley Mall, North Hills, Park West Village, Triangle Town Center and White Oak Crossing. The list of specialty stores and upscale shops in Raleigh is impressive--and just keeps expanding.

Cuisine: Raleigh's array of cuisine serves up something to satisfy almost any craving. Menus range from upscale fine dining to brewpubs to traditional Southern cooking. The area is also home to three wineries, two distilleries and nearly 30 craft breweries.

Nightlife: Enjoy nightlife in downtown Raleigh in the Capital District, Fayetteville Street district, Glenwood South, Moore Square district and the Warehouse District. Listen to live music performed by popular local bands or international superstars at one of the area's major venues, concert venues or entertainment complexes, or simply dance the night away to DJs. The Raleigh area has the most live music venues concentrated here than anywhere else in the state and has more than 15 percent of the state's craft breweries, making it a capital of craft beer.

Transportation: Raleigh is easily accessible by car, bus, rail or airlines.

Principal Colleges and Universities
Women's Colleges: Meredith College. Religious Colleges: Shepherds Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Free Will Baptist College. Community College: Wake Technical Community College. Historically Black Universities: Saint Augustine's University, Shaw University. Major Research University: North Carolina State University. Law School: Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law (Campbell University). Other Private: William Peace University.