Raleigh on a shoestring
March 30, 2005 7:28 PM   Subscribe

RaleighFilter: I'm heading to Raleigh, NC for the summer. How do I find a sublet, and what should I do while I'm there?

I'm going to be in Raleigh for 10 weeks working on a research project. I have the option of staying in the NCSU dorms, but I'd like to try to find a reasonably priced sublet first. NCSU doesn't seem to have any off-campus housing resources on the web, and raleigh.craigslist.org isn't particularly hopping. Where else should I check?

I've never been to NC before, so I'm also interested in getting suggestions for things to do and places to see. I won't have access to a car, so I need to be able to get there on public transit. I'm already planning to check out the museums and take in a Bulls game - what else shall I add to the list?
posted by Aster to Travel & Transportation around Raleigh, NC (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The local alt-weekly is the Independent — it might have more sublet-oriented classifieds than the News & Observer.

Cat's Cradle in Carrboro (i.e. Chapel Hill) is the place to see shows. I believe there's a bus from Raleigh to Chapel Hill.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:25 PM on March 30, 2005

Without a car, you're going to be very limited. You'll see things you could see in any small/medium city, or college town.

You might as well go to Duke's campus and check out the gardens, which are pretty, and see if the elevator in the Chapel is running.

Likewise, Franklin Street in Chapel Hill is nice. If you've seen a student-oriented strip before, it's a good one. Certainly a zillion times nicer than Hillsborough Street in Raleigh; Raleigh is the boring white-bread city of the area (well, really, Cary is, but Lord knows there's no reason to go to Cary). If the bus will take you near Elmo's in Carrboro, you must eat there. It is a fantastical diner, with the best damn shakes, cheesecakes, pies, and so on you will find this side of the Eagle Nebula.

That's about it. Downtown Raleigh and Durham are bleah, you'll have seen the campus areas, and the rest you'll be able to get to is horrifying suburbia.

Without a car, you won't be able to get decent barbecue. You might be able to go to Bullock's in Durham, but... meh. With a car, you could get to Allen and Sons south of Chapel Hill on 15-501 (or north of town on NC 86, IIRC), or to the A&M in Mebane, a couple stops west of Chapel Hill on the interstate -- the A&M has the best hush puppies in existence.

With a car, you could take a trip down to Wilmington and see the battleship, which is a *very* nicely done museum to itself.

With a car, you could pop out to the zoo in Asheboro about an hour away -- it is surprisingly good, concentrating on North American and African wildlife, and a nice drive.

With a car, you could have an enjoyable drive through the countryside on back roads over to Pilot Mountain and Mt. Airy, which is the real-world Mayberry. The pork-chop sammiches at the Snappy Lunch can't be beat -- they're weird and all, but they're powerful good.

With a car, you could take a weekend in the mountains. If you've never seen the Great Smoky Mountains, they're not quite what you'd expect -- they're much steeper, and higher above the surrounding land, and generally more no-shit mountainous and alpine than you'd think.

With a car, you could go see the old houses in Hillsborough, the town north of Chapel Hill. This has one of the largest concentrations of pre-revolutionary houses in the country and was almost chosen to be the site for what became Colonial Williamsburg (which was picked because it was closer to a big city).

In short, you really really want to get access to a car if you can at all swing it, at least on weekends, or make friends with someone who's willing to drive with you. Without a car, your options are basically limited to shitty suburbia, sleepy downtowns, and a couple of student strips, all of which are pretty well interchangeable with jillions of other places just like them. With a car, you can start to find out what makes the area special.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:26 PM on March 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Without a car, your options are basically limited to shitty suburbia, sleepy downtowns, and a couple of student strips, all of which are pretty well interchangeable with jillions of other places just like them.

Yeah, I was afraid of that. A car just isn't very doable on the grad student stipend I'm getting. I'm definitely going to try to strike up friendships with vehicularly-enabled folks, and I might possibly be able to swing a weekend rental sometime. I really appreciate the great rundown, ROU_Xenophobe - if I can get my hands on a set of wheels, I'll definitely be checking some of those places out.

Thanks for the heads-up on the Independent, IshmaelGraves. I'll keep an eye on it.
posted by Aster at 8:38 PM on March 30, 2005

Also, I'm partial to the coffeeshops — the Third Place is nice and relaxed. People will recommend Cuppa Joe's but that's because they have no taste. Don't be misled.

On preview: Yeah, Raleigh isn't the ideal city to live in sans car. On the other hand, it has decent public transportation, for North Carolina (i.e. you occasionally see people on the bus who aren't schizophrenic and/or homeless). You might consider living in Carrboro or Chapel Hill and taking the bus to school — they have downtowns which are a bit college-y but at least don't shut down after 6 pm.

Lastly: based on what I've seen of the NCSU dorms, you don't want to stay there.

Lord knows there's no reason to go to Cary

God, no. Unless you want to stalk Mark Pilgrim.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:40 PM on March 30, 2005

You might consider living in Carrboro or Chapel Hill and taking the bus to school

GoTriangle.Org is the best site for planning how to get from here to there on public transportation. That says it's a commute of 1hr 15 mins with one transfer--add 30 minutes and another transfer to that if you live in Carrboro. Plus, it's very, very hard to catch a bus in the evening.

I live in Carrboro without a car, and I just don't get outside of Chapel Hill. Durham, maybe, very occasionally.

In the NCSU area, Brothers Pizza is some of the best pizza I've ever had. Go check out Comedy Sports if that's still around and you like improv.

Don't know of anywhere to find an apartment, but I have a hunch it could be hard. Make SURE of the public transportation options when you do find something, because there are a lot of apartment complexes in the suburbs, in places the buses just don't run.
posted by Jeanne at 4:44 AM on March 31, 2005

Raleigh has a reputation for being a town without much going on but some of the best places in the Triangle are in Raleigh. I live in Durham because it is my favorite of the Triangle cities but I work in Raleigh and hang out and go out there pretty regularly.

There is good BBQ in Raleigh, right across from NCSU on Hillsborough Street, at The Q Shack. Also on Hillsborough there is a bowling alley and a bowling alley restaurant that serves great Southern diner food (I'm particularly fond of fired chicken day but BBQ day is also good), the best gelato in the area (Siliva d'Italia), the best veggie chili in the area (Mitch's), Encounter’s Cafe (the easiest coffeehouse to become a regular at very quickly) and lots of other restaurants of varying quality.

Two of the 5 best concert venues in the area are inside the beltline in Raleigh (The Pour House & The Lincoln).

The Glenwood South neighborhood is one of the trendiest in the area and there are a slew of nifty and fancy restaurants and bars there.

All the queer bars except the lesbian bar (which is in Durham) are near each other downtown. The View @ Legends has ladies night on Wed. Flex has trailer trash drag on Thur. Legends, CC & Flex all always have something going on the weekends. Legends is the best dance club - gay or straight - in the Triangle and anyone is welcome.

A few years ago Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh was named the best independent bookstore in the south. The larger Nice Price Books is in Durham but the one in Raleigh on Hillsborough is a great place to find used books/records/cds. Schoolkids Records (also on Hillsborough) is an excellent indy CD store.

Raleigh has large handful of nifty at galleries and the First Friday Gallery is a wonderful way to get out, see art, and meet people.

Do you have a bike? The inside the beltline areas of Raleigh are not the most hospitable to bikers but everything is close enough together to bike your way around and bikers are getting more common. Taking a bus from Raleigh to Chapel Hill at night sucks but if you want to go to Chapel Hill for a concert it should be pretty easy to bum a ride to the show.

Raleigh doesn't look like much of a city if you don't know where to look but there really is a bunch of really fun, cool and interesting stuff going on inside the beltline, you just need a local’s eye & knowledge to point you in the right direction. Inside the Beltine and Downtown Raleigh are the two best website about the area and I'm happy to answer any Raleigh questions you have.
posted by smash at 5:31 AM on March 31, 2005

I'd also be happy to help with any Raleigh questions -- I don't live there now (but parents, friends, and cousins do), but I grew up there.

Pretty much second what everyone else has said. The NCSU dorms I've seen are on the grim side. Downtown Raleigh is experiencing kind of a renaissance, and if you're taking the bus, you're going to get quite familiar with Moore Square, which is the main transfer point. Near there, Hargett Street has some nifty restaurants and galleries, and the City Market area has more. (City Market is also home to Big Ed's, the best artery-clogging Southern breakfast you'll ever have.) Speaking of artery-clogging food, you must have a burger and shake (thickest ones around!) at Char-Grill.

I love Quail Ridge Books with a passion -- even helped 'em move to their current location a few years back.

The Third Place is a nice coffeehouse in the Hayes-Barton area, and the adjacent pizza place (Lily's?) is fab. The Hayes-Barton Pharmacy down the street is a great place to go for old Southern lunch counter food, like toasted chicken salad sandwiches.

And Glenwood South is fun to explore as well. (Man, it's different from how it used to be.)
posted by Vidiot at 8:27 AM on March 31, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you all for the great suggestions! Videot and smash, I just might lob a few questions your way when it gets closer to the time I'm going to be leaving. Jeanne, the GoTriangle website is just the sort of thing I'll be needing once I'm there - the trip planner will be very useful.
posted by Aster at 8:14 PM on March 31, 2005

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