Last week, I stepped way outside of my travel comfort zone, I attended my first Society of American Travel Writers conference where I didn’t know anyone and visited a city that I hadn’t been to in probably 15 years – Raleigh, North Carolina.
Raleigh, North Carolina was a place that proved to be filled with extraordinary people filled with passion. Whether it be for local eats, craft beer, the beaming pride they had for their city is electric.
Cheers to Craft Beer
The craft beer scene is booming in Raleigh with 22 breweries in the area. During my visit, I explored four breweries (tough job, but somebody has to do it) and I discovered brewers that were so passionate for their work and excited to share stories.
And I’d be amiss to not mention the cheeky names of the local’s favorites pints. My personal favorite was Raleigh Brewing Company’s First Squeeze, an American Wheat infused with blood orange.
The Trophy Wife, the Trophy Husband and the Yard of the Month were favorites at Trophy Brewing. Crank Arm Brewing named their brews with bike-themed names such as Unicycle, Rickshaw, Uphill Climb and Lowgear – an Irish dry stout. Back That Razz Up was a favorite at Lynwood Brewing Concern – beer with a hint of raspberry!
Pro Tip: For an educational and super fun way to tour the breweries, check out Raleigh Brews Cruise. You’ll visit a minimum of three breweries and get a behind the scenes look at the brewing process, with plenty of samples at each stop and learn about the different types of beer available throughout the region.
Great, Local Food
When I see chicken and waffles on a menu, I can’t say no. I was excited to try them out at Mandolin, a local restaurant in the Hayes Barton neighborhood. Raleigh native Chef Sean Fowler believes in using local ingredients presenting dishes with a Southern flair.
I was impressed to learn from our server that they recently closed the restaurant for a day so that staff could join the chef working at the restaurant’s farm. What a great way to take pride in the dishes you prepare and serve to guests! Major cool points from me.
Pro Tip: While the menu is constantly changing to feature what’s in season, if you see Strawberry Pavlova on the menu – get it! It is a light dessert and a perfect pairing after a scrumptious meal of chicken and waffles.
Hot Spots to Shop Local in Raleigh
Now, here’s something I found pretty fantastic — world class jeans are handmade in Downtown Raleigh. The Raleigh Denim Workshop is truly a place to see – with The Curatory (aka store) filled with beautiful handmade jeans, shirts and accessories. Take a peek at the workshop – the team believes in using non-automated machines, with every template cut by hand – making the jeans a true piece of art. All of their cotton is sourced within the state of North Carolina too!
You’ll find these jeans in Barney’s, Saks 5th Avenue and other hotspots throughout New York City. They’ve partnered on collaborations with Kate Spade and are in talks with Hilfiger. Prices start at $185, but keep in mind that every piece of their clothing is handmade, all under one roof. It is incredible to see in person. (Dear Santa – I’d like a pair. Please.)
When I travel, it is always important for me to find ‘the locals’ – and this trip did not disappoint. Raleigh is a thriving city filled with passionate ‘makers’.
I could honestly write for days about the incredible people I encountered during my time in the City of Oaks. I guess that means I need to go back again someday. I’m already looking forward to it. To learn more about Raleigh, go to www.VisitRaleigh.com.
Have You Visited Raleigh?
** I attended this conference at my own cost. Tours, meals and accommodations were included within the cost of the conference. Thoughts and opinions here are my own. **