This past weekend Jeff and I were able to visit my mom and step-dad in Raleigh, North Carolina. Friday was my mother’s birthday so I was happy I was able to celebrate the day with her.
Jeff and I got to Raleigh early afternoon Friday and my mother was able to pick us up from the airport. We were all starving and excited to catch up so we headed straight to this southern comfort food restaurant called Relish. They are known for their grilled cheeses so I ordered The Big Cheese with a side house salad. When the sandwich arrived, I was instantly in a cheese coma. The sandwich was practically melting in my mouth. It. Was. So. Good! Since it was my mother’s special day, we ordered their homemade doughnuts. They were cake styled doughnuts covered in sugar, with homemade chocolate and raspberry (seriously the best sauce ever) sauce to dip in. I got no pictures of the doughnuts because we demolished them as soon as they got to the table. This restaurant is well worth the visit!
After we finished with lunch we headed to my mom’s house, which I was super excited to see because I hadn’t ever seen it yet. I loved their new house and the neighborhood they live in, it was like a quiet sanctuary. Ken had to work till 2, so we hung out at the house until he got off of work.
Once we were all reunited and ready for the night, Ken drove us into downtown Raleigh to show Jeff the city for the first time. This was Jeff’s first trip to North Carolina! We parked near the restaurant we had reservations for later that night and started to walk around the town to check it out. I visited 2 years ago, but was only able to see a small glance of the city.
After a bit of walking, we decided to grab a drink at the speakeasy Watts & Ward. Ken found it on Yelp and it had pretty decent reviews. When we got to the speakeasy, there was a very nicely dressed man standing at the door. He told us that we have to be a member to enter and the fee to become a member is $1. We were a little confused about the whole membership ordeal, but we decided to just pay it because it was a small amount of money. When we were finally allowed to enter, I was blown away by the interior. There were leather couches and tables everywhere and there were about 4 different rooms (that we could see) and each room had their own bar. It was a pretty sweet setup and I was pretty excited to order a drink seeing how fancy this place looked. My mom and I ended up ordering a Carolina Lily (made with Vodka, Sparkling Rosè, Strawberry Rhubarb Syrup, and Lemon) and Ken and Jeff each ended up ordering a Manhattan. We were having a great experience until the waiter lost Ken’s credit card for a hot 15 minutes…yeah it got super awkward.
Once we were a little buzzed and stress-free once Ken’s card was found and returned, we hiked across downtown to where we had dinner reservations for Jose and Sons. Jeff and I ordered the Pineapple Express to drink, while my mom got the traditional margarita and Ken got a Dos Equis. We ended up sharing a bunch of appetizers together and they were all so delicious. Our waitress was very kind and even brought out a birthday churro for my mom. If you’re looking for a classier Mexican restaurant that has great service, Jose and Sons is the place you gotta check out.
The next morning we woke up early to pack in a full day of fun activities. We headed straight to Duke University because Jeff had never been before. I visited it once with my mom when I visited her two years ago. The first thing we checked out was the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. I didn’t think it could get prettier from the last time I visited, but it did. There were about 14 Cherry Blossom trees, fully bloomed, right at the entrance of the garden. It was so peaceful walking through the tree tunnel and watching the cherry blossoms slowly blow off the trees as a gust of wind blew by. It was like pink flower rain. We then walked through all the gardens and soaked in all its beauty. This is a must do activity if you are in the Durham/Raleigh area.
Before leaving the campus, Jeff and I decided to check out the Cameron Basketball Stadium. Jeff is a huge sports fanatic, so visiting the stadium was high on his wish list of activities to do in Durham. When we got up to the stadium we were unsure how much we would be able to see since the school was on spring break and the basketball team is on the road. Much to our surprise, the front doors were unlocked. There were glass cases field with jerseys, signed basketballs, and shoes from current and previous Butler basketball players. Jeff was too distracted by the cases, but I was off trying to figure out how to see the basketball court. Right when I got up to the doors that lead to the court, a little old man opened the doors and asked if we wanted a tour. I immediately yelled at Jeff to get over there and off we went on a private (free) tour. He brought us on to the court, through the Duke Athletic Museum, and then finally through the Duke Basketball Museum. We were both in awe of how lucky we were to get a private tour like that. I know that was definitely the highlight of the trip for Jeff.
Once the tour was done we met back up with my mom and Ken and decided to grab some lunch because we were all starving. We decided to eat at Foster’s Market since it was right down the road from the Duke campus. I ordered the Three Cheese Grilled Cheese with Apples, while my mom and Jeff ordered the Grilled Bistro Chicken and Ken ordered the BLT. It was a bit chaotic when trying to order and pay because you have to go to two separate places and there were a bunch of people there trying to do the same thing. We ended up sitting outside and enjoyed our food while soaking up some sun. It was beautiful out! And the food was really hitting the spot, Foster’s definitely gets my stamp of approval.
Once we were full, we headed to downtown Durham. We parked right in the heart of downtown and walked around for a while. We ended up going through a few cute stores, met the cutest golden retriever puppy, and walked around the old Lucky Strikes factory where Burt’s Bees and other stores now fill up the space in the factory, The whole downtown was quiet that Saturday afternoon and there was hardly anyone outside, it was kind of nice. It was like having the whole city to ourselves. I doubt I will get that experience again anytime soon.
After all the walking, we were pooped. We decided to head home for a nap and then freshen up for our dinner reservation at Irregardless Cafe. This restaurant was by far my favorite. There was live music, cool art hanging everywhere, great service, and even better food. The one thing I didn’t like so much was how hot it was inside. There were so many people crammed into such a small place, that it created a ton of body heat. Although we were all sweating for a good portion of the dinner, we had a ton of fun listening to the band playing and savored our delicious food.I ordered the steak frites, Jeff ordered the poached salmon, my mom ordered the chicken kabob and Ken ordered the duck. If you’re looking for a place that has good food and good tunes, Irregardless Cafe is your answer.
Jeff and I had to leave super early Sunday morning, so the trip ended way quicker than I would have liked. However, we packed in as much as we could in the 48 hours we were there and we are already talking about our next trip there. I don’t know if I like Raleigh or Durham better, but they both are quiet, little towns that are the perfect place for a weekend getaway. Can’t wait to return!
Have you ever been to Raleigh or Durham, North Carolina? If so, what were your must-do activities? Favorite places to eat? Drink? I would love to hear about other options for me to check out when I return. 🙂