It’s been two and a half years since I moved from life from New York City to North Carolina’s Research Triangle to start my grad program at UNC, and I’ve never felt more at home than I do here. Without a doubt, the community, landscape, and lifestyle are the gems that make this place so special. Each day, if I’m not enjoying a nature walk or bike ride in NC’s mild climate, I’m gathered at one of my favorite local events, from my weekly social bike ride to my favorite local music festival. From arts to fitness to education, I truly believe this area has it all.

This post is a testament to the magic that is the NC Triangle community, as well as other recommendations on where to live, where to shop, where to explore, and anything else worth sharing. I have only lived in Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Durham, so most of my recommendations are targeted to those areas. I see so many restaurant recommendation lists, so I’m going to focus on everything else.

What to do:

Exercise and working out

As an active person now living in Durham, I take advantage of the usually pleasant NC weather through various running and cycling clubs. The Tuesday Ponysaurus social ride, the Durty Bull run meetup, RAD (Ride Around Durham) and many more. Listings can be found here for running. When the weather isn’t ideal, there are two awesome rock gyms in the area – Triangle Rock Club locations, and Progression, as well as UNC and Duke’s gyms for students. TRC has great acro yoga meetups weekly as well as other yoga and fitness classes, and so do other local gyms, like O2 fitness.

How to meet other people

Additionally, there are several library events and Meetup groups worth checking out. For example, there’s a Figure Drawing group on Wednesdays and Durham/Raleigh/Chapelboro Young Professional Meetups every week, as well as language exchanges and board game meetups if that’s your thing. Every Friday, there’s also an art walk between Chapel Hill, Durham, Hillsborough and Raleigh with a different flare. The Triangle has no shortage of arts and culture programming with several galleries,museums, and performing arts centers. I like to explore the dancing scene through Dance Gumbo’s listings.

Want to be intellectually stimulated, or feel bad about your intelligence? There are trivia nights every night. Feeling zen? Check on the Chapel Hill Zen Center, Durham Shambhala Meditation Center, Won Buddhist Temple, and more. I haven’t been much, but there is movement/music meditation through ecstatic dance and drum circles weekly. Still don’t know what to do? Head to Triangle on the Cheap or the Indy Week site for events.

Annual events

My favorite annual larger events include basketball season in January-March in Durham and Chapel Hill, the Art in Bloom festival at NC Museum of Art in March, Shakori Hills in May and October, Festival for the Eno in July, Hopscotch Music Festival in September, NC State Fair in October, Carrboro Music Festival in October, The Orange County Open Studio Tour in November, and The Durham Holiday Parade in December. In the summer, check out the Carolina Inn and Carrboro Town Center live music on Fridays. Year Round, don’t miss the farmers markets in every town.

Some of my favorite outdoor spots include:

  • Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

  • Eno River State Park

  • Jordan Lake

  • Umstead State Park

  • Carolina North Forest

  • American Tobacco Trail

  • Bolin Creek Trail (my old backyard)

  • Al Buehler Trail (my new backyard)

  • Duke Gardens

  • Ellerbee Creek

Where to live

Obviously, this is especially subjective, but my favorite neighborhoods are *walkable*. Therefore, in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, it’s important to be near Main/Franklin Street, and in Durham, close to downtown or ninth street by Duke’s campus. I live in Lakewood/Duke Forest area and am not far from the American Tobacco Trail. I also enjoy being near the cultural amenities of Duke, many of which are free and open to the public. I find most of Apex, Cary and Morrisville to be too suburban. Use the Durham Housing for Lovely People or UNC Chapel Hill Housing Facebook groups to find housing in addition to any housing sites.

Where to shop

  • Food: Trader Joes and Aldi

  • Art supplies: Scrap Exchange (and they have classes!)

  • Thrifting: Scrap Thrift, Rumors, Pennies for Change, and Durham Rescue Mission

  • Online/free: Buynothing groups on Facebook and Facebook marketplace

Where to treat yourself

  • I go to Aveda for facials

  • I used Classpass for my massage at Wu Therapeutics, and also Contact High for a great student deal

  • Groupon sometimes has good offers

Organizations to get involved in

Enjoy all the wonderful Triangle has to offer!

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Rachel Ram moved to North Carolina from Brooklyn, NY to pursue a Master of Public Health in Health Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill. She decided to stay in the area after graduation and now consults for Medicaid...