Friday, June 24, 2016

Raleigh shares the art of life

Good food, good times, good art and music. Subtract misguided state legislation and Raleigh, NC, is a great place to visit. I was there for a four-day meeting this spring and began wishing for less meeting and more free time to explore, always a good sign.

 Downtown is particularly full of things to do, see and hear.

It gets hot in the summer so start with a cold beer. Trust me, whatever your favorite brew, you will find it at Raleigh Beer Garden, where they claim to have the world's largest selection of draft beers; 135 at last count. Good bar food, too.

Pedicabs dropped us off at DECO.
Cooled down, you can either walk it off or treat yourself to a pedicab ride. The cheerful pedalers work for tips only and can take you to any of the following.

A truly Contemporary Art Museum.
CAM is a most unusual museum. The Contemporary Art Museum has no collection of its own, rather it showcases a different exhibition of cutting edge work by an international cadre of artists every 16 weeks.

The huge spaces at CAM are perfect for contemporary art.
Admission is a nominal $5 but no one is ever turned away for lack of it. Do seek out a docent to introduce you to it all. Middle school students are taught to do just that, giving them public speaking skills and art education as well as hefty doses of self confidence.
 Tip: Use the elevator to go from ground floor to second.

See what some of the area's best artists are creating at Art Space, a re-purposed 1911 livery and car dealership. Painters, fabric artists, sculptors, woodworkers, jewelers and potters find studio and exhibit space here while locals enjoy the classrooms for lessons.
Tip: There is an elevator here, too.

DECO's "parklet" with the only bench downtown.
Deco is a unique shop well worth a visit with work by more than 60 local artisans and its own parklet complete with handsome bench. Open seven days a week, too.

The North Carolina Symphony fills concert halls all over the state, but if they are home in the handsome concert hall downtown, take advantage of it and catch a performance.

Also made in Raleigh are  Holly Aiken's clever designer handbags, Cold off the Press Juice and Raleigh Denim's high-end ($300-plus) custom handmade jeans.

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Videri Chocolate Factory, where Sam and Chris Ratto turned their dream into a delicious array of all tings chocolate.

Beyond downtown is the must-see North Carolina Museum of Art. Situated amid a 164-acre park with sculpture, a theater and a separate building for special exhibits, it can easily entertain you for a day's outing.

The history-spanning collection strong in pre- and Renaissance work of Giotto and Botticelli, not to  mention the 29-statue Iris and B. Gerald Cantor collection of Rodins and 20th century modern and contemporary art. Time your visit for lunch at Iris, the museum's excellent restaurant.

iris Restaurant
One of the best, most enjoyable meal I've had in a long time was at Iris.
You won't go wrong ordering Moroccan fare at Babylon.
Speaking of good meals, here's my favorite from Raleigh. Babylon,  a Moroccan restaurant from courtyard and pool to interior decor, thanks to its ebullient owner Samad Hachly and his long-time French chef John Paul Fontaine.

Even the ceilings are works of art at Babylon.
Our jolly group was greeted by Samad, who orchestrated a memorable meal of Moroccan fare. Entrees run $14 and up, but splurge as we did for the Moroccan sampler at $45 per person; your taste buds will thank you. Dish after dish enriched the palate-pleasing flavors. Highly recommended.

The Umstead Resort offers idyllic settings and view-worthy art.
We were quite happy at the well-located Marriott but if you prefer a more resort feel, the upscale and elegant Umstead Resort and Spa is nearby in Cary.

 Levelers will find Raleigh an easy city to navigate with much to enjoy without undue stress.

Next: Chapel Hill.


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