NYTimes 36 Hours in. . .The Research Triangle of North Carolina

NC-ResearchTriangle350px.jpgI enjoy this regular feature in the New York Times where editors put together highlights of specific destinations that can be enjoyed in a day-and-a-half. In this weekend’s Travel Section, now online, my adopted home gets the treatment.
I’ve always wondered how locals in each area covered might view the choices. For us, I’d say that J.J. Goode’s opening paragraph captures this scientific training and career destination pretty well:

TELL North Carolinians you’re heading to the Research Triangle, and they’ll probably ask “Which school are you visiting?” Yet the close-knit cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill are marked by more than college bars and hoops fans. Visitors not bound for Duke, the University of North Carolina or North Carolina State come to see buzz-worthy bands, dine on food from farm-worshiping chefs and explore outdoor art. From its biscuits to its boutiques, the Triangle occupies a happy place between slow-paced Southern charm and urban cool.

My only arguments there are that 1) the Triangle is home to at least another 5 colleges or universities as well as a few more two-year colleges and 2) the three cities of the Triangle are anything but close-knit. With each situated in a separate county (Wake, Durham, and Orange, respectively), region-wide initiatives (such as mass transit) are hampered even before discussions begin.
But I digress.

Of the 11 categories of things to do and places to go, I strongly agree with three: the best place to see bands (the legendary Cat’s Cradle), the Durham taqueria scene (ably covered by the Carpe Durham blog), and the natural history gem that is the Eno River State Park.
The lamest suggestion, however, was for the choice of elegant restaurant – a decent place, mind you, but in the state capital of Raleigh. For my money, the dining scenes of Chapel Hill and Durham are far superior.
While I’ve been a homer and posting a lot of local info lately, the Research Triangle is actually a major center for education, research, and technology development. In fact, many outstanding science bloggers have passed through this area at one point or another, including Derek Lowe and Zuska. Science bloggers and medical communications folks also converge here often, especially for the annual ScienceOnline unconference. So, I thought a good number of readers might be interested in this little article and accompanying slideshow by NYT photographer, Jenny Warburg.
So to all of you here or who have been here, what’s your take on the 36 hours in the Research Triangle? What would you do?

9 thoughts on “NYTimes 36 Hours in. . .The Research Triangle of North Carolina

  1. In no specific order and totally not all-inclusive:
    -Raleigh downtown live in the summer (so pissed I had too many commitments to hit that one up tonight!!)
    -Top of the Hill in CH (get yourself a summer lemonade or 3 and thank me later)
    -West End Wine Bar and the club upstairs that I’m usually not sober enough to remember (get the Diamond Dole. tasty.)
    -American Tobacco Trail… srsly props to that
    -Excellent shopping in several places in all 3 cities
    -Bandido’s… and Torero’s too, for that matter. Full plates, good prices.
    -The Nasher @Duke
    -The Joyce in Durham
    -Tyler’s Taproom, also in Durham
    -The Varsity Ale House (it might be Carolina Ale House now, I lost track)- it’s placed perfectly in Durham so that many UNC and Duke fans are all housed under one roof during the famous head-to-head matches
    -Highly, HIGHLY recommend Eno State Park…
    -Ummm… can’t think of any more at the moment.
    Yeah, mostly free stuff and bars… uh, that says nothing about my life!

  2. And don’t forget DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center), Durham’s world class ballet company and the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh (it is fabulous). This is one happening, cutting edge place – with a great climate, mountains and the sea, plenty of green and (relatively) fresh air. AND we were BLUE (okay, light blue) in the last election. (Nod of appreciation to all the yankee transplants.)
    I’m a native and although I would pack my bags and move to New York TODAY (what can I say? It’s like the “old country” for Southern Jews), Bora likes it here and I sure would miss the BBQ.

  3. I won’t quibble with the NYTimes choices (only 36 hours, after all, and they’re writing for NYTimes readers, not everyone) but I do question why they have folks going to the Eno in early afternoon, back to Raleigh for dinner, then back to Durham for a ballgame. I suspect that this strange routing either fits (a) your comment that they don’t understand how much the towns are separated or (b) they think that living on I-40 is an essential part of the Triangle experience. (Digression: Mary Easley apparently didn’t want it to be, for her, per jokes at Bull City Rising.)
    There’s one thing that I find sadly missing in this and all the 36 hour lists: a visit with someone at their home. I understand, of course, that community connection is hard for a 36-hour visit. But for me, “living locally”, if only for a few moments is what makes everything real for me. When I travel, I often visit friends in their homes, and the easiest thing for making it real is when I get to shop at their grocery and cook a meal.
    For those without local friends, staying with a local host via Couchsurfing.com could make the 36-hour visits much richer, if we’re up for it. But of course we sometimes want our own space at night, or the flexibility of not feeling beholden to a host (and their schedule). So what other options are there for feeling like we’re really “living locally”, if only for a few moments? Here’s a quick list:
    Share a table at a restaurant (or coffee shop or even bar).
    Visit the public library to find out something you need to know. You might not meet anyone, but you’ll be doing what the locals do.
    Get your oil changed, or wash your car.
    Ask a local person for advice/directions. (Maybe about where to eat, or maybe about anything else.)
    See if there’s an opportunity to volunteer somewhere (I once got lucky and helped do post-flood cleanup during an overnight visit to Iowa City. A few hours later, I gave a panicked dude a ride to his house to pick up a tuxedo, and got invited to his wedding, which was great.) Or just pick up some litter.
    Go to a religious service (and hang out for coffee if they serve, afterward).
    Find a pickup game of whatever you play.
    Go to the farmer’s market. Take some of the food home with you.
    Take the local public transport. (If there is any. NYTimes is certainly forgiven for not mentioning that in this article.)
    And walk. Make sure to walk.

  4. I hope I am not repeating.
    Twenty years ago I went to Research Triangle Park to give a seminar. My host advised me that smoking was prohibited in the area, not just inside the buildings. It didn’t matter to me, except that I would not have to go through the stinking herd outside the doors of the buildings. It seemed rather progressive for NC.

  5. For the Chocoholic–Southern Seasons in Chapel Hill; Sage Restaurant for even the non-vegetarian crowd (CH). Closest to an NYC, lower East side deli my vote goes to Guglhupf’s. A nod to DPAC and the Nasher. Still searching for jazz spot (no McMusic, please) with a cozy atmosphere.

  6. I’m from a few hours south and can attest to the beauty of this area and how special of a place it is. It has quickly become a hub for scientific activity with a lot of great science being done. The landscape is beautiful and the people are quite friendly. I mean what else could you ask for.

  7. I found the story delightful, but Phil does rightly point out the weak link: “I do question why they have folks going to the Eno in early afternoon, back to Raleigh for dinner, then back to Durham for a ballgame.”
    This was the obvious weak link. It reminded me of those spoof itineraries from Roadside America (Day 5: Drive from Mini-Graceland in Roanoke, Va., to the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway in Palm Springs, California…)
    I wrote to JJ Goode, the author. His response: “Funny that you mention the 100-mph kind of driving that would get someone to and from the pit in time for the Bulls game. I asked my editor about that kind of thing, and he said the itinerary is more of a guideline than something readers should literally follow. And because I love Ed Mitchell’s barbecue, I decided I had to include it!”

  8. Let comment #8 speak to the exhaustive investigative effort characteristic of journalist Barry Yeoman. He can’t even comment on a blog without going to the primary source!!!
    Thanks so much for digging in here, Barry. I haven’t yet been to Ed Mitchell’s but JJ’s article and response makes me want to soon.

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