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    Raleigh, North Carolina


    Where the hilly Piedmont region meets the flat coastal plain lies Raleigh. This rapidly growing city offers all the excitement of a major metropolis with the affordability and laid-back attitude of a classic Southern town.

    In 1789—when North Carolina became the twelfth state in the Union—it needed a capital. Rather than choosing a location based on typical determinants, like size or beauty, state legislators chose a site within 10 miles of their favorite tavern.

    Named after explorer and poet Sir Walter Raleigh, it is the only capital city planned and established by the state. No town existed on the chosen spot until after the capital was constructed. Perhaps because of its fabricated origins, it was slow to "take off." Despite being spared destruction in the Civil War, the city grew very little from its original size until the introduction of streetcar lines in the 1920s.

    The most important innovations in Raleigh's history were the foundation of the Research Triangle Park (RTP) in the 1950s and a freeway known as the Beltline, built in the 1960s. The 7,000-acre RTP is one of the most prominent high-tech research and development centers in the country. It is made up of three cities (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill) with a total population that now exceeds 1.2 million.

    Raleigh is the largest city in RTP and is also one of the fastest growing metropolises in the nation. With more than a quarter of a million residents, it is the second most populous town in the Tar Heel State.

    Keeping busy in the "City of Oaks"

    Due to its prime location and mild weather conditions, Raleigh is unusually green. In fact, its founding fathers called it the "City of Oaks" and were dedicated to maintaining the area's wooded tracts and grassy parks. Today, there are more than 4,300 acres of parkland within the metropolitan area.

    Pullen Park, Raleigh's first public park, is quite possibly its most popular recreational retreat. Founded in 1887, the former farmland is now home to an indoor aquatic center, community center, arts center, ball fields, tennis courts, and a theater. Children particularly love the recreational area's operational carousel, which features intricate hand carvings.

    Often dubbed the "Smithsonian of the South," Raleigh is well known for dozens of attractions like the North Carolina Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the North Carolina Museum of History, which includes a Civil War exhibit and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

    If you're looking for a place to catch a game, check out the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes at the 21,000-seat RBC Center between October and April. In the summer, watch the Carolina Mudcats, a Class AA pro baseball team, at Five-County Stadium. Warmer weather is also a good time to see stock car racing at Wake County Speedway.

    Out and about the town

    As one of the original 13 colonies, North Carolina is a treasure trove for history lovers, and Raleigh certainly has its share of notable neighborhoods. The Downtown Walking Tour highlights 70 points of interest within the city limits, including the State Capitol Building and the Century Post Office, built in 1874.

    Raleigh is also a shopping mecca with department stores, specialty boutiques, and flea markets. There are more than 450 retail shops in the city's three major malls. Unlike many cookie-cutter complexes, Cameron Village features tree-lined streets and quaint awning-covered storefronts. A multi-million dollar makeover has totally reinvented another local icon, North Hills Shopping Center. For vintage finds, shop the Fairgrounds Flea Market and the Raleigh Flea Market Mall, or the more than 30 antique shops sprinkled throughout the area.

    Educational and healthcare opportunities