Raleigh, North Carolina is a mecca of history and culture, as well as a part of the three-city area known as The Triangle, which boasts plentiful state parks and museums. When visiting Raleigh, highlights of the city include the Museum of Art, Museum of History, and Pullen Park. However, there are an abundance of low-key attractions that casual tourists are missing out on. These hidden gems are known by relatively few people, but can take your visit from ho-hum to “Let’s visit again!” With many incredible Raleigh vacation rentals dotted throughout the area, you can be within an easy drive or even walking distance of the best-kept secrets in the city. Check out a few of them.

1. Raleigh Rose Garden

Rose garden with stone construction
Source: Flickr/Suzie Tremmel

The Raleigh Rose Garden lies just northwest of the downtown area boasting 60 rose beds, perennials, and lush lawns. Located in northwest Raleigh a stone’s throw from Pullen Park, Fred Fletcher Park, and Jaycee Park, it’s not the obvious tourist destination, but it’s a little oasis in the city sans the crowds. Plus, it’s open seven days a week, making for easy access. There’s an annual Art in the Garden event if you want to piggyback some culture into your outdoor time. With its location close to the university, there are plenty of vacation rentals making visiting the garden that much easier.

2. Lonerider Brewery

A can of ale on stone with mountains in background
Source: Facebook/Lonerider

The Lonerider Brewing Company is located in north Raleigh near the William B. Umstead State Park, the ideal place to get a vacation house for a little solitude. As a bonus, Lonerider Brewing Company up the rode offers all kinds of craft beers in an Old West, cowboys and Indians theme. Take a tour of the brewery and do some beer tasting, then head to the deck for some fresh beer on tap, the brewery’s best-kept secret.

3. Soo Cafe

Korean-style fried chicken
Source: Flickr/Arnold Gatilao

Soo Cafe is a Korean barbecue eatery that has some of the best fried chicken in the metropolitan area. Locals say they go exclusively for the KFC (Korean fried chicken) and always leave happy. It’s located in northeastern Raleigh in the Stony Brook shopping center and shares a building with the post office, so don’t miss it. Afterward, take the kids to Adventure Landing down the road where they can play miniature golf as you digest (and gear up for seconds).

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4. Oakwood Cemetery

Picture of grassy cemetery
Source: Flickr/Mike P.

Oakwood Cemetery, which lies in downtown Raleigh, is an overlooked historical site, especially when shopping and eating awaits. However, this historic cemetery is big (102 acres), beautiful and wooded, completely walkable, and just happens to house Civil War Confederate soldiers in their eternal rest. Walk among the memorials and pay respects to the fallen. Sign up for a large group visit or guided tour. There are special events held regularly at the cemetery and even public restrooms so you can spend hours exploring the place.

5. James B. Hunt Library

Top view of a modern library
Source: Flickr/UNM Research Data Services

The James B. Hunt Library in North Carolina State University is accessible to the public if you want to browse the books, lounge in the supercomfy chairs, and rediscover your love of the printed word. Plus, the robot librarian makes it an interesting experience. Afterward, stroll the all-brick campus, a walk back into history, and visit the NC art museum. The area lies in the suburbs of southwest Raleigh and just minutes from Lake Raleigh and the Lonnie Poole Golf Course if you want to thoroughly explore the area.

6. Lake Johnson

A house by the lake
Source: Flickr/Suzie Tremmel

When it comes to the outdoors, most visitors head to the Umstead State Park or Falls Lake State Recreation Area, which is why you should go south to Lake Johnson. Not only is it located within the city, so getting a vacation rental nearby is easy, but it’s less occupied than the other options, a great place for peace in the midst of urban life. Take one of the wooded hiking trails along the lake for some great views or go kayaking and canoeing. Johnson Pool is located in the attached park for some more water fun.

7. First Friday

View of building from the outside at night
Source: Facebook/First Friday Raleigh

First Friday is more of an event than a place, but this hidden gem is something that locals like to get out and do every month that tourists usually miss. It’s a gallery crawl on the first Friday of every month in the downtown area that’s not limited to just art: it includes music and food as well. Patrons visit galleries, museums, venues, boutiques, and restaurants, each of which offers special exhibits and deals, live entertainment, and other extras (such as refreshments). You’ll know a participating First Friday venue when you see the telltale flag. It’s a great way to get to know the local art scene on a personal level.

8. Cloud Chamber

Outdoor exhibit at museum park
Source: Wikimedia Commons/Ivy Dawned

The Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky, a.k.a. the Hobbit House, is a gem hidden quite literally beneath most peoples’ noses. While most tourists are browsing the exhibits at the North Carolina Museum of Art, very few are taking a walk around the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park, which covers 164 acres of fields and forests. Take the trail that goes from the parking lot to the woods—you cross a stream in the process—to the Cloud Chamber. While inside, the Cloud Chamber utilizes tricks of light to make it look as if you’re walking in the clouds. The room is 14 feet in diameter and completely dark with the exception of a narrow pinprick of light, so it may feel a bit restrictive if you don’t like confined spaces.

9. Chubby’s Tacos

Macro shot of tacos
Source: Facebook/Chubby’s Tacos

Chubby’s Tacos is the epitome of hidden in plain sight. From the outside it looks completely remarkable, a dive with odd neon lighting that most people—locals included—walk right by. But don’t. This place has amazing inexpensive food, possibly the best Tex-Mex in the state (or country); the shrimp tacos are the thing to try if you haven’t been. Plus, it’s located a few blocks from the North Carolina Museum of Art, so you can hit the museum and Cloud Chamber before feeding your inner foodie.

 
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