Is this city the new belle of the American South?

They say good things come in threes, and North Carolina’s Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill is no exception. Raleigh is the state capital, Durham, with its healthcare, life sciences and biotech industries, is the “city of medicine,” while Chapel Hill is a university town. While they are for sure a powerful trio, there are plenty of reasons to visit just Raleigh. It’s a destination in its own right. Last year 15 million visitors came to Raleigh, despite having not a beach or mountain in sight. Go figure.

For one thing, times have changed. To say that downtown was once sleepy is polite. What was “dead” just a few years ago has morphed into a hip hub, one where folks not only hang out after work, but also on weekends. What happened? Duke Energy sold to Red Hat, Citrix moved from the suburbs to downtown and HQ Raleigh, a startup incubator, sprang up. The Warehouse District, a major piece of downtown, has been revitalized with many old red brick buildings repurposed. Investments in apartments, condos, mixed-use developments followed, as did a slew of restaurants, bars and music venues. Hoteliers haven’t missed out. The Residence Inn by Marriott Downtown Raleigh is a welcome addition, especially with its 10th & Terrace rooftop bar.

There’s no shortage of hot spots. Bon Appetit just ranked Brewery Bhavana one of the top 10 restaurants in the nation. It’s on historic Moore Square park downtown, and you could spend hours there. It’s a brewery, dim sum restaurant, flower shop and bookstore. Pick out a book and relax at the long tables and sip a brew. Whiskey Kitchen is a little bit country and a lot whiskey. Get set for some of the best fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese and pea tendrils, boiled peanuts with pickled peppers, lamb burgers, shrimp rolls and more in the site of a former automotive shop. Garland, meanwhile, is a tasty mashup of Indian and Pan-Asian fusion and craft cocktails. Its whimsical setting feels more West Village than You can’t visit North Carolina without some barbecue. The Pit Authentic Barbecue has been featured on the Travel Channel and the Food Network, among others. It’s no surprise. This whole-hog, pit-cooked barbecue passes the taste test for the most discerning BBQ fans. Not only do you get pork, but Texas-style brisket, barbecued turkey, fried chicken, skillet cornbread, deviled eggs, collards, mac ‘n’ cheese. Whatever you order must also include the banana pudding.

The Warehouse District is also home to CAM Raleigh (Contemporary Art Museum). There is no permanent collection, so there’s always something new.  Boxcar Bar + Arcade is where you can just plain have fun. Remember Skeeball and air hockey? Get your fill of them here, plus more than 100 arcade games, live music, draft craft beers and a full bar. Visit Videri Chocolate, the Morgan Street Food Hall & Market, as well art galleries and unique stories like Raleigh Denim

Workshop, for limited edition jeans made from start to finish in downtown Raleigh. These jeans are designed for men and women, “who love what they do and get shit done.”

Perhaps plan a trip around one of the city’s numerous fests, like the annual Wide Open Bluegrass Festival, featuring a weekend of concerts at the Red Hat Amphitheatre, plus several stages of free concerts around downtown. There’s also the North Carolina Whole Hog BBQ Championship including a conference, exhibits, food, drinks and street vendors. Every month there’s some kind of festival, especially in September and October.
The action doesn’t begin and end in downtown. Do venture to the North Carolina Museum of Art and Art Park, which at 164 acres is the largest museum art park in the U.S. and features larger-than-life outdoor art installations, woodlands and creeks. Drink up at dozens of breweries along the Raleigh Beer Trail. Elsewhere, there are plenty of places to bike and golf. Don’t cheat yourself. Explore neighboring towns like Cary, where you can chill out at the Five-Diamond Umstead Hotel and Spa, where pampering and pleasing is a priority.

Raleigh isn’t trying to be like any other city; it’s cool with who it is and what it’s becoming. Folks in Raleigh live by the state motto, “To be, rather than to seem.”

by: Sheryl Nance-Nash

 

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Happy Thanksgiving! This Teacher’s Story Will MAKE Your Thanksgiving

When Mrs. Klein told her first graders to draw a picture of something for which they were thankful, she thought how little these children, who lived in a deteriorating neighborhood, actually had to be thankful for. She knew that most of the class would draw pictures of turkeys or of bountifully laden Thanksgiving tables. That was what they believed was expected of them.

What took Mrs. Klein aback was Douglas’s picture. Douglas was so forlorn and likely to be found close in her shadow as they went outside for recess. Douglas’s drawing was simply this:

A hand, obviously, but whose hand? The class was captivated by his image. “I think it must be the hand of God that brings us food,” said one student.

“A farmer,” said another, “because they grow the turkeys.”

“It looks more like a policeman, and they protect us.” “I think,” said Lavinia, who was always so serious, “that it is supposed to be all the hands that help us, but Douglas could only draw one of them.”

Mrs. Klein had almost forgotten Douglas in her pleasure at finding the class so responsive. When she had the others at work on another project, she bent over his desk and asked whose hand it was.

Douglas mumbled, “It’s yours, Teacher.”

Then Mrs. Klein recalled that she had taken Douglas by the hand from time to time; she often did that with the children. But that it should have meant so much to Douglas …

Perhaps, she reflected, this was her Thanksgiving, and everybody’s Thanksgiving—not the material things given unto us, but the small ways that we give something to others.

BY 

Making Homeownership Work on a Budget

For low-income families, buying a home can seem out of reach. On top of financial stress, the competitive market  may make buyers feel like they will never find a home they can afford. If you dream of buying a house but have lost hope because of you don’t think you can afford it, don’t give up. There are several things you can do to help make your dream of buying a home into a reality.  But always keep in mind how much you can really afford considering upkeep, etc.

Search in More Affordable Neighborhoods

When trying to buy a house in a competitive market, you might see high-end houses snapped up in minutes. In order to avoid bidding wars and having to either walk away or agree to a price way outside your budget, consider looking at areas with less interest. This includes neighborhoods you may have written off – you may find a hidden gem in an area you originally ignored.

Consider neighborhoods farther away from downtown, which often have lower house values. You could get more bang for your buck in terms of home size and outdoor space in these areas. Some neighborhoods on public transit lines may end up being quicker commutes than areas closer to downtown metros.

Save for Amenities

If switching neighborhoods isn’t an option, scale back on your must-have list. A great home doesn’t have to come with all the bells and whistles and you can save up to make gradual improvements after you purchase your home. Several aspects of residential properties can increase the value of a home:

  • Large yard
  • Landscaping
  • Brand-new appliances
  • Finished basement
  • Renovated kitchen and bathroom

Houses without these characteristics are often less expensive and a good place to start when looking for affordable homes.

FHA Loans

FHA loans are mortgages approved by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Borrowers only need 3.5% of the total price for a down payment and a minimum credit score of 580. These kinds of loans are helpful if you can’t afford to save tens of thousands of dollars for a down payment. Even if you have recently gone through a bankruptcy, you might still qualify for an FHA loan.

There are a few downsides to an FHA loan. You will be required to foot two types of mortgage insurance premiums: one upfront premium that’s built into the mortgage payment, and an annual premium that you break down into monthly payments. The house you want to buy must also meet Minimum Property Standards and pass an inspection from an FHA-approved appraiser.

Additionally, you must meet a number of other requirements to qualify for an FHA loan.

Reduce Utility Expenses

Owning a home comes with additional costs you should consider, especially if you’re moving to a house from a rental apartment. Not only do you need to pay a mortgage and save for a down payment, you’ll also have higher utility bills, and any repair bills fall on you. Maintaining the day-to-day aspects of a house can be expensive, but there are ways to cut these costs.

Several states and utility companies have programs to help low-income residents pay for services. These programs include energy assistance, utility assistance, housing initiatives, and more. Other options such as Access from AT&T provide low income households with internet service for as low as $5 a month. Some states even provide cell phones for low-income residents.

Be sure to do research on what programs are available for low income families at both the state and federal level – most states have numerous forms of income-qualified assistance programs.

Other Government Assistance Programs

There are dozens of programs available to assist low-income families with dreams of buying a home in the near future. Some programs are available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), while others are funded through different government branches.

Difficult finances shouldn’t keep you from living in a home suitable to your family’s needs. There are dozens of options available for individuals from all backgrounds. If you would like to reach your dream of owning a home, investigate your options and find what works for you.

By Jonathan Deesing, RISMedia’s Housecall