Raleigh, North Carolina's capital, makes up the southeast corner of the famous Research Triangle, with Durham and Chapel Hill at the other two points. The state's second-largest city is a vital centre of high tech business and education.
Unlike many cities that grow up around ports or stations, Raleigh was planned specifically to be the state capital. At its centre stands the beautiful North Carolina Capitol building, a fine Greek Revival-style landmark, from which wide, oak-lined streets radiate.
This careful geometry makes exploring Raleigh quite straightforward. In this pleasant city, there's a unique mix of Southern heritage and unpretentious manners; elite academia and boisterous university life and athletics; and the fast-paced, sleek sophistication of Triangle professionals.
Raleigh is often lumped together with nearby cities Durham and Chapel Hill. Although the three are only about a 30-minute drive from one another, they are different communities. Durham was once one of the most thriving African-American centres in the country.
Today, its main attraction is Duke University, one of the top schools in the United States and home of the Blue Devils, another sports powerhouse. Although revitalisation efforts are underway, its downtown areas have sadly suffered in recent decades.
Meanwhile, Chapel Hill is a lovely college town, with beautiful old homes, endless coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants, enjoying a decidedly liberal leaning. It is home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, another top American educational institution, and the beloved Tar Heels, a force in college athletics.
Known as the 'Smithsonian of the South', there are a few renowned museums and an excellent performing arts scene. Ultimately, Raleigh is a perfect destination for those seeking to experience a bit of Southern history and culture without giving up the attractions and conveniences of a big city.