10 of the Best Weekend Getaway Itineraries in the Raleigh Area
Wednesday, April 12, 2023, 4pm by visitRaleigh
Looking to “retreat” yourself in the coming months? Need a weekend getaway with a loved one? In the Raleigh area, Southern charm meets your sweet escape (and relaxing days at the spa and outdoor adventures await!). Rich history, Southern and global cuisine and authentic experiences are all at your fingertips when exploring in the City of Oaks, Cary and beyond. Below are 10 of the best ways to put it all together for a perfect visit!
How does a weekend stay in one of America's coolest new hotels sound? Opened in 2021, Heights House Hotel—born from a completely revitalized pre-Civil War-era mansion in downtown Raleigh—is a 10,000-square-foot, Italianate-style home that provides nine incredibly gorgeous guest suites. Hardwood floors, cozy fireplaces and grand common spaces with immaculate decor undoubtedly make this one of the Tar Heel State's most unique getaways.
In 2022, The Parlor at Heights House—an intimate cocktail bar with an Italian-inspired wine list, craft cocktails and local beers—opened to the public and allows for exploring the hotel's common spaces (reservations can be made and are required for groups of more than four).
Named for its location within Raleigh's historic Boylan Heights neighborhood and originally built in 1858, the two-story home was purchased by Raleigh residents Jeff and Sarah Shepherd in 2018, and have since meticulously restored, renovated and redesigned the interior of the hotel while maintaining the integrity of the original architecture. Much of the project has been documented on Instagram. The building is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
A big bonus? The hotel sits just steps from the center of the City of Oaks, making for an easy walk to the recently opened Sam Jones BBQ (one of America's most exciting restaurant openings of 2021), beautiful Dorothea Dix Park (among the most important urban park projects in Tar Heel State history) and the award-winning Boulted Bread (where coffee and scones are a way of life).
Tucked away among Cary’s natural beauty and spacious woodlands is an oasis beckoning you for a weekend of ultimate relaxation. Recognized by Forbes Travel Guide and AAA as a Five-Star and Five-Diamond property, respectively, The Umstead Hotel and Spa is not only N.C.’s most highly rated hotel but has also received worldwide recognition, earning a ranking as the No. 3 Best Hotel in the U.S. and the No. 40 Best Hotel in the World. From the moment you step into one of the exquisite guest rooms or onto the stunning lakeside terrace, you’ll understand the accolades.
Now open after undergoing considerable upgrades and renovations in late 2022, the incredible spa—which is open seven days a week for hotel guests (non-hotel guest access may be limited to Mon.-Thurs.)—includes everything from body treatments and massages to manicures, pedicures and facial treatments. The spa also boasts a sauna, steam room, whirlpool, outdoor pool and meditation courtyard.
After a day at the spa, let the hotel’s first-class service "wow" you with a tasty meal at Herons—one of only 62 Forbes Five-Star restaurants in the country (and led by executive chef and James Beard Award semifinalist Steven Devereaux Greene). Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, the intimate, 98-seat dining room features a full-view kitchen, original artwork and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the outdoors. The bar and lounge area offers signature cocktails, a wine cellar stocked with selections from around the world and live music in the evenings.
While it might be difficult to pull yourself away from such bliss, it’s worth mentioning that William B. Umstead State Park is less than a mile away. Escape to nature’s own retreat where 22 miles of wooded hiking trails and opportunities for horseback riding, mountain biking and picnicking await.
For a one-of-a-kind retreat experience, devote a weekend to Raleigh’s first independent boutique hotel, Guest House Raleigh, located in downtown Raleigh. Husband-and-wife team Matt and Nicole saved the 1880s historic Gorham House from demolition, relocated it to its new location in 2017 and opened the home as an eight-room hotel in late 2018. A (much) smaller, more intimate space than your typical hotel, Guest House truly makes you feel like you’re at home—a home with a backyard courtyard, skyline views, a historic parlor and elegant rooms, that is!
Inside, visitors are greeted by a tasteful mix of historic charm and modern comfort. The bedrooms—calm, soft and flooded with daylight—are intentionally designed. Comfy common spaces include the historic parlor and study and a spacious kitchen that opens into a special backyard courtyard with skyline views.
This delightful space also has another perk: it's easily within striking distance of award-winning restaurants (including two new food halls—Morgan Street Food Hall and Transfer Co. Food Hall) and relaxing outdoor spaces (you'll find weekly yoga classes at the beautifully renovated Moore Square, and picnic-goers and Frisbee games at the massive Dorothea Dix Park).
Insider tip: Limited rooms and high demand means you'll want to book your stay well in advance, if possible.
Opened in 2016 in downtown Cary, The Mayton Inn is a 44-room, Georgian-style boutique inn just steps from the future Downtown Cary Park (opening fall 2023). Feast on Southern comfort food at the hotel’s elegant restaurant, Peck & Plume, step next door to meet and mingle in the backyard at Cotton House Craft Brewers or stroll a handful of blocks to Bond Brothers Beer Company (an award-winning brewery with an awesome, dog-friendly outdoor space) for the finest sours and ales around. Grab a bagel for breakfast at Big Dom’s Bagel Shop, or reserve a dinner table at Pizzeria Faulisi, a lively spot for gourmet, wood-fired pizzas (both restaurants are the brainchildren of husband-and-wife duo Zack and Amber Faulisi).
Insider tip: If you’re looking to retreat with a group of friends, reserve The Trinity Suite, which can accommodate up to 10 guests and is the largest, most spacious suite at the Inn—approximately 2,500 square feet!
Vintage motor lodge charm meets contemporary comfort at this refreshingly unique and completely modernized, mid-century gem. Renovated from the ground up, The Longleaf Hotel—opened in early 2020—manages to hold on to the character of the 1960s-era motor lodge it once was.
Step inside this boutique hotel, and you’ll discover crafted bespoke room details from local artists like retro light fixtures, custom photography and wallpaper inspired by the hotel’s namesake, the longleaf pine.
Be sure to make yourself comfortable at the Longleaf Lounge—a relaxed, unpretentious hangout for both visitors and locals alike. As you indulge in evening drinks with the lounge’s selection of wines, classic cocktails and local beers, you’ll be surrounded by retro décor while enjoying Southern hospitality that would make anyone feel special (bonus: the private back patio includes a fire pit for those chilly fall evenings).
Conveniently located at the northern gateway to downtown Raleigh, the Longleaf is an easy jaunt to, well, just about everything! Make a reservation at Mulino Italian Kitchen & Bar (note: temporarily closed for construction in April 2023) for some of the area's best food, yes, but also for perhaps the most unique outdoor dining setting. Craving some flaky blankets of buttery goodness? Stroll on over to Layered Croissanterie for a divine selection of the flakiest croissants you'll ever sink your teeth into. Your trip also wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the largest natural history museum in the Southeast and among the state's most-visited attractions.
Opened in 2017 in the heart of North Hills in Midtown Raleigh, the AC Hotel by Marriott Raleigh North Hills invites you to a weekend of pampering and new experiences. Known for its fantastic hotel dining options, AC gives you, quite literally, a taste of Raleigh without ever having to leave the building! For breakfast, the AC kitchen serves up European-inspired morning meals, including freshly baked croissants, assorted cheeses and artisan-cured meats. Though you’ll want to stuff yourself silly in the a.m., save room for the exceptional hand-crafted cocktails and tapas at the hotel’s rooftop lounge, Level7, which features panoramic views of the entertainment district below.
If you want to venture just a few steps outside into the hip North Hills neighborhood, countless activities, restaurants and experiences are at your disposal. Pamper yourself at a spa or splurge on the bowling alleys, cinemas and shopping within striking distance of your luxurious hotel room. Within walking distance of the hotel, you’ll find an array of global culinary delights—Italian Pinot noir at Vivace, tacos and tequila at bartaco, traditional French fare at Coquette and much more.
If you find breaking a crazy sweat therapeutic, take a motivating class at CYCLEBAR (heart-pumping spin classes) or Midtown Yoga (where hot yoga cures all). Both fantastic fitness centers are just outside of Happy + Hale, perfect for that post-workout smoothie before heading back to crash in your luxurious guest room.
The Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel is as classy as it sounds. This four-star hotel is at the epicenter of North Hills and boasts 229 grand guest rooms. This retreat is a shopaholic’s paradise (and not just for clothes). Get ready for some serious retail therapy with shops like Quail Ridge Books (a legendary local bookstore providing an oasis for avid readers for 35 years now), REI for the outdoorsy folks and Lululemon for the trendsetter (among others!). The area's largest indoor shopping mall—Crabtree Valley Mall—is also just a couple of minutes away by car.
Dine at one of the countless fine restaurants around the area, including Rosewater Kitchen & Bar, The Capital Grille and The Cowfish (a fun fusion restaurant where burger-meets-sushi, the milkshakes are a summer staple, and plenty of outdoor seating awaits). Or, head back to the hotel and enjoy an evening at 41Hundred, the hotel’s own upscale restaurant known for whiskey, weekly entertainment and ice cream sodas!
The StateView Hotel overlooks picturesque Lake Raleigh on North Carolina State University's beautiful Centennial Campus and serves as a modern, innovative retreat experience ideal for you and a group of friends.
The StateView offers plenty of experiences inside and outside of its walls. For starters, the advanced amenities and tasteful décor of this tech-savvy and fascinating hotel are worth admiring any time during your stay. You’ll find the attention to detail and innovation truly remarkable. Then, there’s Flask & Beaker—the hotel’s creative, upscale restaurant and a hopping spot to take in beautiful views of Lake Raleigh and dig into a locally curated menu. After your meal, take a stroll through campus—you'll find the incredible James B. Hunt Jr. Library (named among the world's most beautiful libraries) and Lonnie Poole Golf Course (a challenging, NCAA championship-level layout) just outside the front doors of the hotel.
Just a few minutes from downtown Raleigh, The StateView also provides easy access to Raleigh’s finest bars, restaurants and museums, plus a perfect relaxation spot within easy biking distance at beautiful Dorothea Dix Park. You’re also close to PNC Arena, which makes adding sports to your weekend retreat a breeze—the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes (in action October through April for the regular season; April and beyond for the playoffs!) and the North Carolina State University men's basketball team (November through March) call the arena home.
If you’re looking for a fun retreat at one of the City of Oaks' newest hotels, look no further than The Casso, named after the largest and most popular hotel in Raleigh in the 1700s, Casso’s Inn, which was actually on Fayetteville St. about five blocks east from the hotel today.
This pet-friendly, 126-room, seven-story hotel with locally inspired décor is the perfect spot for a fantastic getaway for you, your friends or your family.
As you step outside the doors, you’ll discover countless exciting things to begin your Raleigh, N.C., adventure. Directly across the street is Dram & Draught, a neighborhood bar with more than 300 whiskeys from around the world, hand-crafted cocktails and draft beer. Step over to Morgan Street Food Hall for a mind-boggling array of mouth-watering food options to be enjoyed on the massive back patio. If you’re itching for a little exercise and want a nimble way to get around the city, head over to the Cardinal Bikeshare station across from the food hall, rent a bike and pedal to your heart's content. For beer enthusiasts, make the easy walk over to Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing for refreshing craft brews, great bar food and what many believe to be the best view of the Raleigh skyline from your table.
Don't miss out on dinner at the hotel's on-site restaurant, Good Day Good Night, to cap off an amazing day of fun and adventure in and around the hotel.
If you really want to be in the center of it all, plan your fall retreat at the Raleigh Marriott City Center, located in the heart of the City of Oaks, where you can enjoy the indoor pool, jacuzzi and fitness center (complete with Peloton bikes) and a Starbucks coffee shop without having to step outside. The Marriott's on-site restaurant, the highly rated Rye Bar & Southern Kitchen, serves up Southern favorites seven days a week at dinner time.
This contemporary hotel is easily accessible to all that downtown has to offer, including its fascinating museums—the North Carolina Museum of History, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, CAM Raleigh (Contemporary Art Museum), Marbles Kids Museum and the City of Raleigh Museum (there's a pretty good reason Raleigh has earned the nickname "the Smithsonian of the South!").
A quick car ride will get you to the State Farmers Market, considered one of the nation’s best and most modern markets, with 75 acres of indoor/outdoor specialty shops, restaurants and garden center, with fruits, vegetables, meats and gifts from across the state.
Although sunny summer days have given way to crisp autumn air, outdoor dining is still ramping up. For walkable outdoor eats, try St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar, serving up fresh N.C. seafood with just a dash of creole (highly recommended for brunch in addition to dinner). If you’re in the mood for some true Tar Heel State barbecue, pop over to The Pit, offering up authentic whole-hog, pit-cooked barbecue in the Warehouse District. And if you're celebrating a special occasion, chef Chris Hylton's ORO Restaurant & Lounge serves up a contemporary American menu meant for sharing that lives up to the fun, chic atmosphere in the dining room.
Another awesome retreat option in the heart of downtown Raleigh is the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel. The incredibly comfortable and well-appointed rooms—many with spectacular views of downtown—feature cable programming and video game consoles as well as down comforters and premium bedding to keep you warm and cozy any night of the year.
Once you’ve settled in, head down to enjoy a delicious meal on the posh outdoor patio of the hotel’s signature restaurant, Jimmy V’s Osteria + Bar, where the robust menu will satisfy all the foodies in your party. Or, venture out and discover a few of the other many superb outdoor dining choices nearby that include Jolie, a French bistro with rooftop seating from five-time James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Southeast semifinalist Scott Crawford. There’s also Whiskey Kitchen, a wildly popular bar and restaurant known for its massive selection of whiskey, a food menu full of Southern inventions and its spacious outdoor patio.
If authentic Italian cuisine is your sweet spot, walk over to Vic's Italian Restaurant for outdoor dining in the middle of beautiful City Market. For avid bar-goers and brew enthusiasts, check out 10th & Terrace offering perfectly poured cocktails, fine wine or local craft beers, and one of the most unique rooftop views in the city. Or you can wander over to Glenwood South and soak in the sunshine with plenty of outdoor space at Raleigh Beer Garden, featuring one of the world’s second-largest selection of beers on tap.
At this hip, full-service hotel across from North Carolina State University's Memorial Belltower, visitors have quick and easy access to school spirit on the Wolfpack's campus, good eats and drinks in downtown Raleigh and hopping shopping in Village District (and exploring is easy thanks to complimentary bike available at the hotel front desk).
But guests need not leave the hotel property at all to enjoy a relaxing getaway. For breakfast, the ground-level Jubala Coffee's espresso, French-press and pour-over drink options—plus a food menu that goes heavy on biscuits and waffles—have earned much acclaim (including a spot on The Daily Meal's 50 best coffee shops in America). At dinner, you'll find Gonza Tacos y Tequilla waiting downstairs, serving Columbian-Mexican comfort food with homemade chips and salsa that never fail to hit the spot. And for after-dinner drinks, the hotel's own W XYZ® bar allows you to sip in style with artful cocktails, craft brews and a curated selection of wines and small bites late into the night (with terrace views looking towards the city skyline).
If you need more options, of course, just a block away sits The Players' Retreat (one of the city's oldest and most beloved burger joints) and David's Dumpling and Noodle Bar (a go-to for its namesake menu items and much more).
In between bites, take time to explore the beautiful Gregg Museum of Art & Design (North Carolina State University's collecting and exhibiting museum with more than 35,000 objects), and hunt for antiques and thrift finds at two massive Village District shops—Cheshire Cat and Antiques Emporium.
Header photo of The Umstead Hotel and Spa by Charles L. Harris
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