Hello Friends! We’re still digging out of the boxes from our move to Norfolk, Virginia, but I find myself reminiscing on our past three years in Raleigh. We’ve cultivated quite a few favorite spots: the places we went to again and again without fail. From a tried and true date night spot and Raleigh landmark to a venue that’s equally as fun for adults as it is for the kids, I thought I’d share our favorites here. I want to remind everyone that we lived in North Raleigh, so many of our favorite activities centered around this area. But, we did venture to different areas of the Triangle, and I’ll share our favorites there as well.
Favorite All-Around Place in Raleigh: I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure how to categorize the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA). It has so many things: art, culture, trails, water features, movie nights. I could go on, but you get the idea. The NCMA is a catchall when we’re looking for something fun to do, or when I’m looking for a new place to shoot pictures for the blog…or when I just want to take a walk with the family. It continues to inspire me, and we have yet to explore all that the museum has to offer.
Favorite Kids Activity: Hands down, The Museum of Life + Science in Durham. If you live in the Triangle and have kids and you haven’t visited this museum: First, STOP, RE-EVALUATE YOUR LIFE and then get it together and go to this museum. It’s AMAZING. But in all seriousness I used to go there as a kid, and I associated it as the museum with “the dinosaurs”. Although the life-size dinosaur sculptures of my childhood are no longer there (apparently they were not scientifically accurate–geez 1967 scientists), they were replaced by new and improved dinosaurs complete with a fossil dig site. Oh, and no worries 1980s kids, the original brontosaurus is still there as a reminder of field trips past. But this museum is so much more than the dinosaur trail…our favorite activities include: Hideaway woods with a ginormous treehouse village and wading stream (great for hot summer days!), The Farmyard, The Butterfly House and the Ellerbe Creek Railway (train).
Favorite Playground: This was a tough choice because Raleigh has so many great playgrounds, but I have to go with the Sassafras All Children’s Playground at Laurel Hills Park. The park was recently revamped from its original 1970s wood structures (which were pretty cool too), to a playground full of the most unique play structures you’ve ever seen. From a kid-sized zip line to swings, slides, and climbing apparatus of every variety, this park has it all. But, I dig the small neighborhood parks too so I have to give a shout out to Strickland Road Neighborhood Park. This was a go-to for my play date pals because it’s shaded (KEY in the hot NC summers), it’s not too crowded, and it has all the play structures a kid needs: swings, sand box, and slides of every variety.
Favorite Place for some Alone Time: Whew! With all this kid playground talk, a mom (or SAHM as they call us) needs some alone time! You know…a place where you can stare off in the distance for an extended period or go to the bathroom by yourself or drink a hot beverage and actually drink it hot…this glorious place, for me, is Sola Coffee Cafe. Sola is very close to my house and the house I grew up in, and I remember when it was a bank in a shopping center that was struggling to retain business. You can still see remnants of the bank from the exterior, but the interior has cool white-washed walls and homey wooden tables and an air that’s inviting to everyone from moms getting coffee to hipsters brunching to executives networking. And, the coffee house, along with my next favorite, Gonza, has brought a local flavor of cool to an area of North Raleigh that sorely needed it.
My final three favorites are food-related because, well, I love food. I wouldn’t call myself a foodie, but I’m not an eating rotisserie chicken over the kitchen sink-kinda gal either.
Favorite Restaurant: This was a hard choice too because the Triangle has SO MANY good restaurants, but I have to go with Gonza Tacos y Tequila. Serving up amazing Colombian-Mexican cuisine, you can’t go wrong between the tacos, homemade margaritas or my favorite, The Mexican Flag, a trio of enchilada goodness. But, I have to give an honorable mention to Mateo in Durham. We are always wowed by their unique menu of Spanish tapas (try the Queso Frito Y Huevo for the most amazing fried egg-manchego combo), and the atmosphere in the old Book Exchange building in downtown Durham is top-notch.
Favorite Date Night Spot: Whenever I tell people about the The Wild Turkey Lounge at the The Angus Barn, I say it is exactly how you’d imagine it, based off the name. It’s filled with plush leather couches, warm wood, a piano player, and bartenders who know you by name (or pretend to…). It’s the hipster dream before there were hipsters (the restaurant opened in 1960). You might be thinking…leather, fancy decanters, a piano player?…this place must be fancy. No, fear not. The atmosphere is very relaxed. Emory and I always split the Black-N-Blue Burger (a burger with blue cheese in it, umm yes) , and it’s always more than enough food. It’s our favorite place for a date night, no second thoughts.
Favorite Takeout: This was an easy one. We grab takeout from Sassool, a Lebanese-Mediterranean deli, at least once a week. There’s a deli case that goes on for days with fresh salads, dips and unique sides. My favorite combo is the kabobs with hummus, baba ganouj and fatoush (fresh tomato and cucumber salad). My kids love the cheese pie (similar to pizza and amazing) from their wood stone oven and the complimentary whole wheat pita bread (my kids eating whole wheat–happy dance!!). But, here’s the part that I love about Sassool, apart from their seriously yummy food: my family has a healthy takeout option that we all enjoy. Now, that’s hard to find.
Favorite Brewery: Last but not least, we have come to love a local brewery for it’s kid-friendly atmosphere, outdoor space and stellar beer selection: Lynnwood Brewing Concern on E. Whitaker Mill Road. Imagine it: It’s a beautiful Carolina blue sky day, and you want to be outside. You’ve got a hankering for a date night, but you forgot to schedule a babysitter. Doh! No worries. Head over to the Lynnwood Brewing Concern, grab a pint, stake out a picnic table in the fenced in outdoor space and let your kids roam free. If you close your eyes for a moment, it’s like you’re on a date (but maybe keep one eye open to keep your kid from smashing his face into a cement wall…that may/may not have happened to us!?!). Anyway, you get the picture.
That’s it! I know this list may not be anything new for Raleigh folks, but maybe it made you remember a place you’d forgotten about. Or, maybe you know new people moving to town? Send this list their way, and let me know your Raleigh Favorites (or Triangle). I’d love to hear from you.
Xo and happiest New Year.
Photographs by Shanna Kaye Photo