48 Nourishing Hours in Raleigh, NC

 
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The South might not be known for its health and wellness vibes, but Raleigh is an exception and full of surprises. Raleigh is the Capital of North Carolina, known as the “city of oaks” and is considered a national historical landmark. There is no shortage of ways to stay fit and nourished in Raleigh through local food, fitness and nature walks. I’ve listed a few of my favorite ways to stay nourished in this unassuming southern city. 

Outdoor Vibes in Raleigh

Capital City Greenway

The Capital City Greenway was commissioned in the 1970’s and includes over 114 miles of walking and running trails spread across Wake County. The original documents for these extensive nature paths were called: “Raleigh: The Park with a City in it.” The scenery varies along the paths and includes various lakes, creeks, wildlife and trees…lots and lots of beautiful trees.  

I do not find the online map tools to help navigate the greenway system very helpful. I have included them in this article but I have also listed one path of the greenway that is worthy of checking out if you are visiting.

Capital Greenway Online Map
Capital Greenway Art in the Park Trail - The Museum Park is a collaboration of art by artists and environmental scientists to create art inspired by nature and the natural world that directly engage the landscape. There is a 2.2 mile out and back nature trail leading you through the various art pieces. 

Umstead State Park

This gorgeous state park is one of my favorite places in Raleigh to see all the oak trees in action.

This is a multi-use state park for hikers, runners, bicyclists and equestrians. The park is surrounded by three man-made lakes offering water activities. One of my favorite trails (the Sycamore Trail) leads you to a fallen red oak tree that was transformed into beautiful carving by local artists using only a chainsaw. You will find information below to guide you to the fallen red oak tree. This is a great way to spend some quiet time in nature and stay shielded by trees on those hot Southern days. 

Umstead State Park
Fallen Tree in Umstead Park

Lake Johnson

Lake Johnson is a man-made 150-acre lake offering nature trails as well as a waterfront center offering paddleboards, paddleboat and kayak rentals from May-September.  

Lake Johnson 
Parking at Lake Johnson

State Farmers Market

The state farmers market is a 30,000-square foot space offering local produce, plants and specialty items. This market is open year-round Monday– Saturday. This is a great place to wander both the indoor and outdoor facility and pick up some local products. . 

State Farmers Market

Coffee and Tea Time

The Honeysuckle Tea House

This precious tea house is located on 17 acres of farmland and is about 30 miles outside of Raleigh, but it’s worth the quick drive. This is a unique open-air structured tea house that reminds me more of something you would find in Thailand, which makes sense considering the design and decor has a loose Thai influence. The tea house itself is built on shipping containers and other re-purposed materials and offers a variety of teas, coffee and smoothies which can be enjoyed while listening to live music. 

The Honeysuckle Tea House

Nourishing Food in Raleigh

Vegetarian/Vegan
Fiction Kitchen

Do you follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle? Located in downtown Raleigh, Fiction Kitchen is one of the first 100% vegetarian restaurants in the area offering fresh and locally-sourced ingredients. The culinary skill and creativity used in each dish allow vegans to enjoy some of the southern dishes Raleigh is known for. Menu items include an eastern-NC-style BBQ pulled “pork” and fried “chicken” biscuit with NC blackberry jam.
Tip: They do not take reservations and there can be a long wait on the weekends so going right when they open is best.

Fiction Kitchen

Brunch 

Gonzo Tacos Y Tequila 

Shake brunch up with award-winning Colombian and Mexican comfort food at Gonzo Tacos Y Tequila The interior is vibrantly decorated, the staff is very accommodating and they offer both a brunch and lunch menu to choose from giving you plenty of options. A lot of their food is on the heavy side but their tacos are a great lighter option.

Gonzo Tacos Y Tequila

NOFO at the Pig 

Nofo at the Pig is a combination of Southern cafe and unique and quirky gift shop. The downstairs eatery offers southern dishes like fried green tomatoes and fried chicken; however, healthier options are readily available on the menu. Above the restaurant on the second level is a unique gift shop filled with specialty items from local artists and designers including jewelry, coasters, gift cards, clothing, local jams and honey as well as chocolates. 

NOFO at the Pig 

Sushi

Ajisai

I’ve always heard the best sushi joints are in strip malls, and there is something to that in my experience! My favorite sushi and Japanese fusion restaurant in Raleigh resides in the Cameron Village shopping center. The decor is wonderfully loud and cheesy but it’s the best way, and the food and flavors are authentic and unique. The chefs take pride in their presentation and many dishes come with glow-in-the-dark lighting features and specialty items like a Statue of Liberty figure from the chef’s trip to NYC.

Ajisai Sushi

Fresh Juices on The Go

Raleigh Raw

Raleigh Raw is an organic and community-focused fresh juice and poke cafe. They serve fresh and unprocessed food including fresh juices, kombucha, smoothies and poke bowls, not to mention a decent nitro coffee. They are very community focused and the interior decor and employees ooze hipness. 

Raleigh Raw

Dinner 

Bida Minda 

Bida Manda might not only be one of my favorite restaurants in Raleigh, but maybe even the US, and I have been to a lot! It’s not cheap, but each bite (and drink) at this Laotian-inspired restaurant is worth every penny. The menu combines elements of Thai and Vietnamese flavors with Laotian tradition, and the menu is entirely dairy free with several gluten-free options. My personal favorite dishes are the papaya salad with sea bass and the Tom Ka Gai (coconut chicken soup). 

Bida Manda

Poole's

Poole’s originally opened in 1945 as a pie shop diner, and in the early 1950s brought in some Southern menu items. Today, the restaurant still has a retro diner feel with a u-shaped bar and red leather seating. No hardcover menu is served and instead, the menu is written on the wall throughout the restaurant. The menu is locally focused and seasonal, and while known for their macaroni and cheese they also have lighter menu options available. Bonus: Right next door is the "All are welcome in Raleigh" murual. 
Tip: They do not take reservations and there can be a long wait on the weekends so going right when they open is best.

Poole's

Dessert (and Cocktails)

Bittersweet

Bittersweet is a precious little place offering in-house baked desserts, cocktails and coffee. This is a great post-dinner or date spot to hang out for any of the above. I recommend the vanilla bean ice cream topped with a dessert port wine.

Bittersweet
 

COCKTAILS

Whiskey Kitchen

Although Whiskey Kitchen is a full restaurant, I prefer it for its outdoor patio cocktail vibes. Its outdoor patio in downtown offers communal seating and it specializes in whiskey cocktails (surprise), but they also have a full bar. If the weather is not cooperating, there’s a spacious and well-designed warehouse-like space. 

Whiskey Kitchen
 

Watts and Ward

Watts and Ward is a 1920s-inspired speakeasy with a cigar lounge feel. The large dimly-lit space offers a variety of areas to sit and relax on leather couches, book-lined shelves and exposed brick walls. The cocktail menu offers the classics as well as signature items, and this place is worth the visit for a post-dinner craft cocktail. 

**While writing this article, I discovered there are about 20 other places I want to write about in Raleigh, so a Part 2 of this article may be needed. 

Watts and Ward

**While writing this, I discovered there are about 20 other favorite places I have in Raleigh, so a Part 2 of this article may be needed.