Recently rated the fastest growing city in the U.S. by Forbes, Raleigh is known mostly for new construction, urban sprawl, and general lack of personality. But scratch below the newly-built surface and you’ll find a city with a vibrant arts scene, live music, and homegrown brews.

The Visual Art Scene

The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) is the one of the leading art museums in the American south. Its collection spans over 5,000 years of world art. The museum’s 160-acre outdoor Museum Park is a great place to see some unusual oversized sculptures and enjoy a picnic, especially nice if you’re traveling with kids. The museum offers free admission to its permanent collections.

If smaller art galleries are more your speed, make sure you visit ArtSpace at City Market, a gallery space with a chic industrial look. In addition to the six or so changing gallery exhibits, there are activities for every age group, from art classes to special events.

Local Brews

Chatting with folks over a pint of home-town brew is a great way to get to know the locals while you travel. Raleigh has lots to choose from. A good option is a visit to the taproom at Raleigh Brewing Company, North Carolina’s first female-owned brewery. If you’re looking for more danger in your beer, try the Lonerider, which serves up some tasty brews with names like Shotgun Betty, Peacemaker, and Most Wanted.

Maybe you’d like a gourmet burger with that ale? Take a short drive to nearby Durham, and Bull City Burger and Brewery will hook you up. Everything on the menu is made from scratch, including the pickles, the buns, and even the hot dogs.

Live Theater

You can catch a traveling Broadway show at the gleaming North Carolina Theatre, but if you want to see local talent in a more intimate setting, try one of Raleigh’s smaller live theater venues. Raleigh Little Theatre is one of the oldest community theaters in the country and stages about a dozen shows a year. If you’re there in the spring or summer, make sure to visit their enchanting rose garden.

A bit on the edgier side, the acclaimed Burning Coal Theatre Co tends to perform modern plays or overlooked classics. Located in a former armory building on the edge of Pullen Park, the Theatre in the Park performs a mix of original productions and beloved classics.


North Carolina has a rich bluegrass tradition, and Raleigh is no exception. From days-long festivals to intimate shows, you will most likely be able to catch a show during your visit. Irregardless Café has live music and dinner service nightly, including lots of bluegrass shows. The city is also host to a number of bluegrass festivals, including the mammoth international Wide Open Bluegrass Festival, which draws over 140,000 people annually. If you’re traveling during the Festival, make sure you book your hotel room far in advance.

You don’t have to go far to find local flavor and personality in Raleigh, a town that is buzzing with newness and growing larger by the minute.

This post was created as part of Hipmunk’s #HipmunkCityLove project.