Raleigh is one of the few cities that was established with the express intention of being a state capital. Located in what is now the Historic Oakwood neighborhood, the original State Capitol building burned down in 1831. However, a new Greek-inspired Capitol was built in 1840 and is still in use today. It's recognized as a National Historic Landmark. The neighborhood, which became Raleigh's first historic district in 1974, is also home to the Governor's Mansion, Historic Oakwood Cemetery, and many Victorian homes with Southern charm, including the city's oldest residence with its original foundation, the Mordecai House.
Also located in Raleigh is the North Carolina Film Office, which helps coordinate and facilitate the production of movies, TV shows, and commercials from mountains to coast. The NC Film Office has helped establish the Old North State as an ideal filming locale, especially when Hollywood costs might run high. For instance, among those movies with Raleigh settings (at least in part) is Bull Durham (the bar scene was filmed at Mitch's Tavern on Hillsborough Street). Other Hollywood ties: actors Michael C. Hall and Evan Rachel Wood are from Raleigh.
Raleigh's Celebrity Ties
Before becoming a Hollywood actress, Evan Rachel Wood got her start on the Raleigh stage where her father, Ira David Wood III, has been a prominent actor for more than 30 years (and is still the executive director of Theatre in the Park). Other prominent theater companies include the Raleigh Little Theatre, the Burning Coal Theatre Company, and the region's most successful professional group, the North Carolina Theatre. Other performing arts groups of note are the Carolina Ballet and the North Carolina Symphony.
Raleigh's Arts Scene
Visual arts are also a prominent part of Raleigh's creative community. The city's thriving museum and gallery scene is anchored by the North Carolina Museum of Art, which is home to one of the Southeast's most impressive collections. The museum's permanent holdings include works from around the world, some dating back 5,000 years. The facility also features the nation's largest museum art park, complete with sculpture and seasonal movie screenings and concerts. Many major exhibitions have been presented at the museum, including American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell, on display through January 30, 2011.
Raleigh's University Life
While NC State University provides Raleigh with educational and athletic fixes, plenty of campus events take care of folks interested in art and culture. Gregg Museum of Art & Design features functional and architectural works made by man or machine from textiles, ceramics, and other materials. The University Theatre puts on several productions each year, from the seriously dramatic to the theatrically comical. Throw in concerts, dance, and other performances at Center Stage, as well as the school's own music and dance programs, and you've got more entertainment than you can handle!
Raleigh's Biking Culture
With its small town-meets-big city feel, Raleigh offers lots of ways to get around town easily. But in these health-conscious and eco-aware times, Raleigh is becoming more and more bicycle-friendly. Bike lanes continue to be added to roads throughout the city, and the capital's greenway system offers trails and paths all around town for both bikers and pedestrians. Major routes, including US Bicycle Route #1 and the scenic "mountains-to-sea" NC Bicycle Route #2 run through Raleigh. Also, most buses have bike racks to make it easier for people who commute via bicycle.
Raleigh's Music Scene
Although nearby Chapel Hill (the third corner of the Triangle composed with Raleigh and Durham) is better known for its indie and college rock scene, Raleigh has a thriving music scene of its own. From current hardcore and metal bands such as Corrosion of Conformity, Between the Buried and Me, and Alesana to alternative and indie rock bands such as the Connells and Annuals, Raleigh has spawned acts of many genres. Even former American Idol standout Clay Aiken is from Raleigh. So whether you're hoping to see a local or up-and-coming band at the Brewery or have tickets to a bigger touring act at the Lincoln Theatre or the Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek, Raleigh is gaining prestige for its burgeoning music scene as well.
Raleigh has its share of athletics, from match-ups featuring the former Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes (who will host the NHL All-Star Game at the RBC Center in 2011) to competitions showcasing the NC State Wolfpack teams (football, basketball, and more). But if you're looking for a retro sport with punk-rock attitude, Raleigh is also home to the Carolina Rollergirls, a member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association. Home bouts take place at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, and the season begins February 19.
Although Raleigh is large enough for diversity in dining (Italian, Asian, and other ethnic offerings), its real claim to fame is its abundant Southern fare. Quaint, quirky Pam's Farm House offers delectable down-home Southern favorites like fried chicken, homemade biscuits, barbecue, pork chops, mashed potatoes, sweet tea, and banana pudding. Also serving great Southern cuisine is Big Ed's City Market, with breakfast offerings like grits with red-eye gravy, country ham, enormous pancakes, and even deviled eggs and brains. If you want a more upscale meal in this historic Southern town, consider The Angus Barn, a long-lived mainstay specializing in terrific steaks and seafood.
With all of its enticing entertainment options, it's no wonder that Raleigh is considered to be one of the best places for singles in America. Whether you're taking a first date to Goodnight's Comedy Club for a standup show, heading out to enjoy the dueling piano vibes of Rum Runners, or taking part in the see-and-be-seen atmosphere of Liquid Nightclub, you're likely to either impress a potential mate or meet a new one. Gay clubs also find a comfortable place in town, and venerable places like Legends and The CC continue to be downtown hot spots for members.