Before my husband started advanced helicopter school, we knew that we wanted to plan a quick get-away somewhere. We toyed with the idea of going to the mountains because that is ultimately where we want to retire, but in the best interests of our wallets, we settled on Raleigh, North Carolina where we could see our family/friends and stay on budget.
When Robert and I were dating, I would visit him during the summers in North Carolina. However, I never got out of my comfort zone and explored the city. The Raleigh-Durham metro area is one of the largest up and coming cities in the continental U.S., so I knew that I wanted to devote some time exploring all that this wonderful place has to offer!
I like to think of Raleigh as the perfect balance between city and suburbs. It wasn’t too big but still had the alluring sounds of city buses on busy streets and commuters bustling to their offices.
We spent time exploring the city (which I give recommendations for below), but most of our time was spent with family and cultivating those relationships. We sat around Grandma’s kitchen table for hours some nights talking about life and our dreams. My favorite stories are when Robert’s younger brother talks about his employee’s shenanigans during his stint as a manager at the deli Jersey Mike’s. I about died laughing when he talked about the time they caught an employee eating a honey bun in their freezer section during the lunch rush.
Rob walking down the path to his Grandparent’s house.
When we were not with family, we spend some time in Robert’s hometown of Clayton, North Carolina which is 30 minutes from the city. They have an adorable downtown district that is worth visiting if you’re in the area. During our visit, they were hosting the annual Clayton Harvest Festival. Multiple local vendors lined the street to display their goods to the crowds that passed by. I enjoyed the food and loved the gift that my sweet husband purchased for me from local decor shop Bexley House NC. It goes perfectly with my Fall decorations on my front porch as pictured below:
My WELCOME FALL sign that I got from Bexley House!
Rob’s favorite part was talking to a Vietnam war veteran about the Huey he had brought to display. This was exciting for Rob because he could potentially fly an updated version of the Huey in the Marine Corps. Look at his huge smile sitting in that cockpit!
Our puppo Trigger came along for the ride and he did surprisingly very well in the car for our 12-hour trip. It was so nice to be able to bring him to visit our family and friends who don’t mind watching him for hours at a time when we go explore. Robert and I realize how truly blessed we are to have such a well-behaved dog. Pro tip: Spend time training and working with your dog. You will thank yourself later that for spending those often frustrating hours teaching your dog to respect you. The dividends pay off greatly!
This trip was so heart-warming and I’m extremely grateful for these memories that we will have together before Rob gets into the fleet. Fellow mil-spouses, take advantage of the time that you have now because you never know what tomorrow will bring!
Here are my recommendations for Raleigh visitors:
- Cameron Village – This outdoor shopping complex is a must for anyone visiting Raleigh. Cameron Village has a great combination of local and mass retail shops. It also has an upscale feel and is just around the corner from a Fresh Market.
Cameron Village. In front of the Lilly Pulitzer store that I was gaga over!
I’ve linked a few similar items for my Cameron Village outfit in this scrollbar. Ladies, my shoes are an awesome TJ Maxx find and under $25! The ones I am wearing and a caramel version can be found below:
- Crabtree Valley Mall – This mall has an array of every store imaginable from J.Crew to Pottery Barn. One of my favorite restaurants from back home is also attached to this mall – Brio Tuscan Grille. If you happen to dine there, get their BRIO sliced steak salad and pasta alla vodka!
- Trader Joe’s – We didn’t make a pit stop in during here during our trip, but if you’re visiting from the Coastal Area where many of my military friends are stationed – make a stop here to grab some goodies before your trip home!
- Visit the Museums – There are incredible FREE museums in downtown Raleigh. The city boasts fantastic history, art and natural science museums. Rob and I opted for the science museum because we’re both love animals and learning about the natural world. Although I did not love seeing a spider the size of a baseball cap in person.
The government buildings located adjacent to the museums. Beautiful landscaping and great views of the downtown hustle and bustle.
- Take a walk around the historic Yates Mill Pond and don’t forget to bring your camera. I would recommend visiting this spot in the morning or late evening for the best lighting to take photos. There is a shaded trail that surrounds the perimeter of the large pond that is great for taking a romantic walk with your significant other. You’ll catch glimpses of beautiful NC wildlife in its natural state.
Historic Yates Mill
- Visit the NC State Campus and nearby Pullen Park – The NC State downtown campus is gorgeous and definitely worth visiting. I am so jealous of all the students that get to soak in such a wonderful location to attend college. Nearby is the popular Pullen Park which also serves a great place for a picnic with your loved one or somewhere to take the kiddos on an inexpensive adventure!
EAT (Lunch Spots):
Chopt Creative Salad Co. in Cameron Village. Ok, this place isn’t local to Raleigh but I used to be a frequent visitor during my lunch break in Washington, D.C. I was pumped to see a store in Raleigh and couldn’t wait to go in an order my trusty Kale Caesar salad.
Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar – This burger joint will not disappoint! Our family ate here to celebrate Robert’s brother’s birthday and we all thoroughly enjoyed the comfort food. Rob and I opted to make our own buffalo burger with added on sweet potato fries. We tried the potato chips and bacon queso as appetizers. Fantastic choices! This place would be a great restaurant to grab a beer and watch football on Sunday’s if you’re a diehard sports fan. They also have a location in Charlotte.
Neomonde Mediterranean – I personally have not been to this spot, but my husband raves about it and says it’s some of the best Middle Eastern / Mediterranean food he has ever tried. I trust him! Plus, it has great ratings on Tripadvisor!
Duck Donuts – After seeing this donut shop splashed around my social media for months (hehe *splashed*), I knew we had to try them. What makes Duck Donuts so unique is that they are made-to-order. You can tell the donut chefs exactly what glaze and toppings you want on your donut and then watch them make it right in front of you. They are served hot and delicious! My favorite was the oreo donut.
Sugarland Bake shop – Located in Cameron Village, we stopped here for coffee and a sweet treat after lunch at Chopt. Their coffee was crisp and bold and the cupcakes were heavenly. I ordered a red velvet with cream cheese icing. This bake shop has been featured in numerous publications such as Martha Stewart and Southern Living.
Red Velvet Cupcake and Americano from Sugarland Bake Shop
Insomnia Cookies – I tasted this deliciousness for the first time in New York City and I was excited to see a storefront in downtown Raleigh. If you have a sweet tooth for cookies, check this place out. You can’t go wrong with the classic chocolate chip!
Until Next Time.