THE BLOG
02/10/2014 03:02 pm ET Updated Apr 12, 2014

Raleigh, N.C.: Style, Art, Food Made Locally

In Raleigh, you'll find plenty to keep you busy, whether you are a fashionista, art addict, culinary buff or wellness lover. There are quite a few attractions and events that are happening throughout the year; not to mention the staple venues, lovely weather and warm personality that makes the city so appealing. An ideal time to go is during the fall season, as the tree leaves take on the most beautiful palette of colors. Taking a trip to North Carolina's capital city area met my prerequisites for experiencing unique shopping, a wellness spa, good local food and art.

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(Photo courtesy of GRCVB)

Raleigh has a lot to see and do in just the downtown area alone. The Design District and Art Zone provide inspiration and creativity and an opportunity to support local Raleigh businesses. I was also enlightened by the many businesses run by young female entrepreneurs! Another big plus is that the downtown area has a free public transportation service -- the R-Line, which is a circulator service of hybrid electric buses that connects you to restaurants, retail, entertainment venues, hotels, museums and parking facilities in downtown Raleigh. How convenient is that?

Thanks to Ryan Smith, the Director of Communication at Visit Raleigh, I had the perfect itinerary and access to some of the city's best spots. I met Ryan at the Hampton Inn & Suites Raleigh Downtown, my home away from home for the next few days. She greeted me with a warm smile and a press pack full of local goodies! I quickly checked in to my spacious suite and set off for lunch with her.

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We decided to enjoy good southern food at Beasley's Chicken & Honey Restaurant. The venue is run by female chef Ashley Christiansen and has a slick yet homey feel to it. The chicken biscuit is their signature item, but the side dishes like collard greens and macaroni and cheese are worth screaming for.

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We parted ways and I was ready to explore some of the fashion boutiques in downtown. I went to Holly Aiken to see its collection of well-designed tote bags and accessories -- just the right match for a travelista!

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All the designs are locally designed and made in Raleigh. Just a few steps away is High Cotton, a local boutique specializing in bow ties and casual wear, all produced in N.C.

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I visited one of the most deliciously appealing stores in the city, Moon and Lola. This jewelry boutique features necklaces, earrings, bracelets and other high fashion items, all designed and produced in North Carolina. Designer Kelley Shatat sells her jewelry not online in Moon and Lola stores but throughout other retail outlets in North Carolina. I spent nearly an hour here with the associate, having a good time with a spontaneous photo shoot.

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I went back to relax in my hotel and confirm my dinner reservation at Oro. This restaurant was listed as one to try, so I was more than happy to go enjoy dinner after a full day of walking around downtown. Oro Restaurant and Lounge is a stylish and fun venue that offers 'tapas;' rather than serving individual appetizers and main courses, the restaurant invites you to order different dishes that are brought out continuously to share among friends. Menu items include mouth-watering shrimp and grits, truffle mac and cheese, jerk chicken flatbread, fish tacos, smoky ribs... so there's something for everyone.

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The next day, I decided to explore the city's art offering. First on my list was Art Space, a large bi-level complex that serves as a mega studio for established and emerging artists.

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From there I went to the North Carolina Museum of Art to check out the Porsche by Design exhibit featuring the beautiful car and its evolution over the years. This is a must-see exhibit for those who love speed, design, and style.

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If fashion can be classified as art, then I was still in line with my day's itinerary. I went over to North Hills in Raleigh's Midtown area; an outdoor live, work, dine, and shopping district.

On my last day in the city, I spent a few hours pampering myself. I went to The Umpstead Spa, a five-diamond spa and hotel in the suburb of Cary, North Carolina. The hotel is surrounded by nature in a luxurious and tranquil setting, and offers some of the best spa treatments in the country. After the spa concierge showed me around, I went to enjoy the hot tub whirlpool followed by a Vitamin C facial with botanical products.

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As a send-off to my trip to the capital city, Ryan met me for lunch on the outside veranda at the hotel's acclaimed Herons Restaurant. Featuring seasonal ingredients from their very own farm, the award-winning chefs redefine American cuisine with squash ravioli, country fried Portobello, and local flounder with truffle cream and fennel. Even with its elegant ambiance, I found the restaurant's lunch menu to be modestly priced. Nevertheless, this is the type of place you'd love to treat your favorite someone to for dinner on a special occasion. I loved my time in the capital city!

My Raleigh Address Book:
Holly Aiken
High Cotton
Oro Restaurant
Beasley's Chicken & Honey
The Umstead Hotel and Spa
Herons Restaurant
North Hills
The Porsche Exhibit at North Carolina Museum of Art
Art Space
Hampton Inn and Suites Raleigh Downtown

Raleigh is full of numerous dining spots, and it's a shame I couldn't try them all. Some that made it on my list for my next visit include David's Dumpling and Noodle Bar, where Chef David Mao cranks out skillfully cooked Asian cuisine at affordable prices (price range $10). If you're in the mood for fresh baked biscuits stuffed with a variety of flavors and meats, try State Farmer's Market Restaurant (price range $7).

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Thanks to Visit Raleigh for hosting me with my spacious hotel, pampering me at the Umstead Spa, and feeding me well at local restaurants in your city!