For a long while now when praise is bestowed on North Carolina's Research Triangle, Raleigh is usually mentioned last, after Durham and Chapel Hill, whose universities, Duke and U. of North Carolina, grab most of the attention for their academic and high-tech clout. But in many ways the once sleepy city of Raleigh now has a lot more to offer than those other municipalities, and, during a recent trip there, I found that the city is on a sure rise to long-delayed eminence.
Raleigh most certainly has its own colleges and universities--ten of them, including North Carolina State and Shaw, the first black university in the South--and its population of 440,000 is nearly double that of Durham and seven times that of Chapel Hill. Forbes magazine ranks Raleigh among six fastest-growing cities in the country.
Neighborhoods retain their architectural integrity, like Oak View County Park, which reflects the city's homestead history; Oakwood, with its graceful Victorian homes; the beautifully landscaped State Capitol area; the picnic-perfect Moore Square; and Mordecai Historic Park, which encloses the city's oldest (1785) residence.
Fayetteville Street, now on the National Registry of Historic Places, has the city's first modern skyscrapers. The dreamers and city planners have been fully supportive of the arts as a principal tourist draw--admirably making all the museums in Raleigh free to everyone.
An abandoned warehouse district can be a boon to a city in expansion mode. The district is full of stores and galleries that pump vitality into the entire region and bring light and night venues to the streets.
Unlike Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery and some other Southern towns, Raleigh is a true walking city, with several neighborhoods falling under what's called the Design District, now teeming with new storefront boutiques, antique stores, fabric shops, art galleries, lighting stores, cafés and jewelers.
Just outside of downtown is Raleigh's most impressive cultural institution, the North Carolina Museum of Art, set on 164 acres of woodlands, with extensive collections of American, African, Egyptian, Greek and Roman art.
The city also has its own widely heralded Carolina Ballet Company and is home to the North Carolina Symphony and North Carolina Opera.
As throughout the South, college football is of titanic importance, as manifested by the 57,583-seat Carter-Finley Stadium built for the NC State Wolfpack. Raleigh lacks pro football, basketball and major league baseball teams, but the Carolina Hurricanes NHL hockey team carries on.