United States Travel: North Carolina

North Carolina is, unfortunately, the state which holds the least bit of my travel experience. I say unfortunately because I would love to go back and explore more. Something about this state has always seemed to ignite my urge to go out and adventure. Maybe it’s because I have always been so close in neighboring Virginia, or maybe because I see it as a key gateway to the rest of the South (the true South– Virginia, I love you, but you’ve got too much Mid-Atlantic influence). Maybe it’s the appeal of North Carolina’s beaches, mountains, and cities that attract me. Or maybe I just want to learn more about Southern culture, as a born and raised Yankee. Whatever it is, North Carolina will be on my list of travel destinations for some time– as well as the rest of the South. New Jerseyans seem to be flocking to this state in large numbers– whether its for vacation, retirement, or a general life move. There must be some reason we all seem to be uncontrollably attracted to this state. Maybe some day I’ll find out what it is. 

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My first venture into North Carolina was a spur-of-the-moment, impromptu day trip to Raleigh. And with any great road trip to Raleigh, one of the best country songs, “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show, was blasted from the car radio. In fact, you should probably be playing that song now as you read this blog post. The reason for the trip wasn’t entirely random. Brad Paisley, a personal country favorite of mine, was playing at the local Walnut Creek Amphitheater as part of his “Beat This Summer” tour. After a last minute decision the night prior, it was off to Raleigh from Richmond in the morning. 

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Downtown Raleigh surprised me. Although many cities quiet down on the weekends, the North Carolina capital seemed to be especially calm– even relative to neighboring Richmond! And this was especially surprising considering there was some kind of street festival going on when we arrived (complete with lots of corn hole!) The entire downtown, shown above (photo circa June 2013), was more or less based around one street. Fayetteville Street was lined with skyscrapers, but outside of Fayetteville– with the exception of a small handful of parallel streets– the city seemed to turn right back into the suburbs. It was probably only a 5 minute drive from a residential neighborhood to the city center! In addition to a small downtown area, Raleigh had some beautiful surrounding neighborhoods. And a great ice cream joint– I would highly recommend Goodberry’s. Some kind of black magic must go on in that place because our ice cream wouldn’t fall out of the cup if turned upside down. 

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Above is a photo of the North Carolina State Capital Building, found right off of Fayetteville Street. After attending a fundraiser to help North Carolina’s watersheds, and witnessing a Trolley Pub pass down the street (it’s exactly what it sounds like), it was off to the Brad Paisley concert at the Amphitheater. 

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Did I mention, I met country singer Lee Brice? Great seats, cheap tickets, and a wonderful set list and group of musicians. Couldn’t ask for a better North Carolina summer’s night. I was happy to receive a good dose of Southern culture, too. Just walking through the parking lot tailgates was an experience– tons of flags, booze, and girls wearing the identical country hat and boots combo outfit. And once inside, we found plenty of good ol’ Southern boys adorned in red, white, and blue, and too drunk to stand up straight. Ah, this is why I love the South. We wouldn’t get a country concert quite like this back home. 

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A great way to kick off the summer in the South. Thanks, North Carolina.

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