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Finder: Guide to Wake County

Raleigh's cool meter gets a jolt from Old South-New South transition

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If you live or work in Raleigh or Cary, try this little experiment. Step outside. Angle your head just a bit so an ear points slightly north, like the RCA dog listening in wonderment to a recording—or like your own adorable dog, if you are part of the city's fast-growing demographic that demands pet-friendly outdoor dining.

Now, close your eyes and see if you can hear it. It's not loud, but it's definitely there.

That barely perceptible hum is the buzz—that certain something that provides an electric jolt of cool in once-sleepy Southern towns. It also radiates the warmth of hospitality, the welcome of diversity and the increasing promise of a decent job.

Raleigh and Cary may not jingle with the same gusto as Durham or Chapel Hill, but the times they are a-changing. You can buy clothes downtown that help you dress like a rock star or shred your threads playing rough-and-tumble bike polo in a nearby parking deck. You can even hire someone to haul away your food waste and convert it into the rich dirt from which future organic vegetables will sprout.

Prefer to tiptoe through the tulips? Spend some quality time admiring a world-renowned research facility that masquerades as a 10-acre public garden. Hungry? There are places all over Raleigh and Cary where you can be both on trend and grossed out by eating offal. If you can hang on until fall, you can sink your teeth into handcrafted donuts that don't rely on a commercial mix.

That's right. You can do just about anything here that you can in those towns that surround us, where citizens doubt the subtle but indisputable truth of the buzz. Poor us, they think. So conservative and dull ... yet we have enough bounce for a Latina living in Cary to become a nationally recognized cookbook writer. We have a new artists' collective dedicated to branding Raleigh's imaginative image. We even have one of the nation's top 10 flea markets, where crap and culture await those with vision and cash.

Hell, we've even got people who love Raleigh so much they'll tattoo the skyline on their arm—and feel right proud when it becomes an old-school reminder of a place said to roll up the sidewalks at night.

Don't be like our namesake, Sir Walter Raleigh, who never stepped foot in the New World and had to hear from others about its wonders. It's more fun to be like the sculpture of the man, which perched in several places around town before settling at the Convention Center plaza.

Get out and see it all. Just follow the buzz.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Buzz buzz!"

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