Maybe it's the beer. Maybe it's the food. Maybe it's our particular brand of progressive activism. Maybe it's the fact that we have the greatest sports rivalry known to humankind. Maybe it's our stages or the artists who perform on them. Maybe it's the serenity of nature, which we have in abundance. Or maybe it's all of these things and more.
At the INDY, we're often called to be the bearer of bad tidings. But there are also lots of reasons to love the Triangle—which is why we hold the place to such high standards. Every year (OK, at least since last year) on the week of Valentine's Day, we like to celebrate the things that keep us here and fighting, that make Raleigh and Durham and Chapel Hill and Carrboro and Cary such vibrant, dynamic places to live.
But this love letter to the weird, wonderful region we call home is also meant to whet your appetite. Later this month, we'll launch voting for this year's Best of the Triangle nominations and give you the chance to support your favorite stores and restaurants, hair salons and dentists.
It's almost your turn to tell us what you love about the Triangle. Keep an eye on our social media; details are coming soon.
1. Because we have the best college sports rivalry on Earth.
You've never experienced a hate like this. Whether you were born into a family-induced prejudice for N.C. State, UNC, or Duke, or have chosen your allegiance through careful contemplation, there's no denying your flaming hatred for the other two. This hate—present all year round but especially prevalent during basketball season—manifests in epic ways. Get caught up in the stampede of UNC students rushing Franklin Street after beating Duke, Duke students camping in Krzyzewskiville for weeks before a big game, or State fans lighting up the bell tower red. Oh, and don't forget the bragging rights you earn when your team wins—otherwise known as a license to annoy the shit out of all your friends who rooted for the other team. —Ryan Haar
- Illustration by Chris Williams
2. Because our beer scene is crazy good.
The other day, I was in line at Total Wine buying a six-pack. The couple in front of me told the cashier they were visiting from Maryland. "It's weird how you all have separate stores for beer and liquor," one said. "But it's cool how there's beer everywhere." Thank you, Maryland man, for putting so succinctly what we all feel. Not only are we blessed with award-winning breweries (like Lynnwood Brewing Concern, Bond Brothers, Crank Arm, Fullsteam, and Mystery Brewing), but there are hundreds of places to enjoy a pint, local or otherwise. Beer is so common that a whole economy of beer-based events has been born. We're not just talking trivia night and Girl Scout cookie pairings, though we have those to spare. Explore the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science with a cold one in hand on "adult nights." Join Fullsteam to plant trees in Durham or learn about astronomy. Or just grab a stool at your neighborhood bar, raise a glass, and toast the Triangle. —Sarah Willets
3. Because Amazon likes us better than Charlotte.
It's OK to have mixed feelings about Raleigh's bid for Amazon's HQ2. Sure, you might be excited about those fifty thousand good-paying jobs but also a little trepidatious about the mass of traffic and gentrification that's sure to accompany it, should the Triangle win. And that's not even getting into the wisdom of throwing the richest man in the world a few billion dollars in incentives. We'll see how that all shakes out in the next couple of months. The important thing for our purposes is that there were four North Carolina regions that submitted bids to Amazon—the Triangle, the Triad, Charlotte, and, um, Hickory—and the only one that made the list of finalists was the Triangle, much to Charlotte's consternation. So say what you want about Amazon, but at least they recognize our region's dominance. —Jeffrey C. Billman
4. Because our comedy scene isn't putting up with that toxic-masculinity crap.
Given the misogynist tinge of so much stand-up, it's not too surprising that the #MeToo movement has flourished in the comedy world. And maybe it's also not surprising that the women of the Triangle, an area with a rich history of progressive resistance, have so strongly pushed back. First, last year came the downfall of Zach Ward of DSI Comedy Theater, following an outbreak of accusations on Facebook of toxic masculinity, and the swift closure of Chapel Hill's longtime improv magnet. Then came the premonitory outcry against its replacement, the People's Improv Theater, which seems to have had similar issues with lax sexual harassment policies in New York. But there's not just resistance, there's also forward momentum: Erin Terry's steadfast Eyes Up Here Comedy showcase, which features all women comedians, and newer troupes such as Mettlesome are all doing comedy for a world after the fall of Louis C.K. —Brian Howe
5. Because our chefs win James Beard Awards and our restaurants make the hot-shit national lists.
Every time someone from out of town asks me about our famed local food scene, I yell, "Hot shit!" in my head like I'm Nelly about to launch into a lecture on country grammar. Except it's more like country cooking—and dispelling myths about Southern food being ordinary. There's a reckoning happening in our food scene, and our chefs are owning it—while racking up national accolades every year. For me, the most notable recent praise is Garland owner Cheetie Kumar's James Beard nod for Best Chef Southeast (semifinalists will be announced February 15). A musician and chef, Kumar performs rituals in the kitchen that fuse a mastery of Indian spices with local ingredients that dance on our palates. (She just cooked up a late-night feast for Robert Plant.) And Brewery Bhavana was ranked among Bon Appetit's top ten best new restaurants in the country—for good reason. It's one of our most beautiful restaurants, for one, and blends Southern and immigrant hospitality effortlessly in its unique combination of Laotian entrees and Shanghai-style dim sum, a stellar forty-tap brewery, immaculate flower shop arrangements, and a woke AF bookstore. —Victoria Bouloubasis
6. Because our bars take their booze seriously.
You can hit up any dive bar to get your boozy fix, but there's also a sophistication to getting sloshed around here. Our bars elevate cocktail menus and wine lists to the level of our food scene, making it a great place to try new things. Bar Brunello in Durham has an unparalleled selection of orange wines, celebrating the young Italian wine making big waves around the world. Raleigh's Bittersweet boasts the largest selection of gin in the state. There's bourbon aplenty at Blind Barbour, classic and innovative cocktails at joints like Foundation and Fox Liquor Bar, and plenty of brown liquor at the appropriately named Whiskey Kitchen. And we can finally get decent mezcal without booking flights to Oaxaca at Gallo Pelón. —VB
7. Because we tore down the goddamn Confederate monument.
North Carolina state law prohibits the removal of "objects of remembrance," like Confederate monuments. But last summer a group of protesters in Durham found a way around the law—by ignoring it, basically—looping a tow strap around a Confederate monument on Main Street and bringing it crumbling to the ground. Video was seen around the country and even brought a Dutch film crew to the Bull City. It was enough to frighten Baltimore officials into removing that city's Confederate monuments under the cover of night. The action touched off a week of demonstrations in Durham, and months later, a conversation continues as to what people, places, and events should be memorialized. With Chapel Hill and Raleigh still stuck staring at their own Confederate monuments, it's clear no other city can quite Do It Like Durham. —SW
8. Because radicals dominate Durham's city council.
For decades—at least until revanchist Republicans retook control of the General Assembly in 2010—North Carolina considered itself something of a modernist, if not always progressive, lighthouse in the Deep South. Today, it's the state's urban areas leading the way, often in conflict with the legislature, on issues of civil rights and social justice. And nowhere in North Carolina is that dynamic as apparent as in Durham, where, following last year's election and an appointment last month, all seven members, from Mayor Steve Schewel on down, could fairly be described as avowed and unwavering progressives, maybe even radicals. Theirs will be an activist council bound and determined to claim the mantle of most progressive city in the South, and, if nothing else, it'll be fun to watch. —JCB
9. Because we have a bunch of local politicians destined for higher office.
Durham has the radicals—and among them, some pols we'd love to see take their game to another level (ahem, Jillian Johnson). But the bench is no less deep on the other side of the Triangle. On the Wake County Board of Commissioners, for instance, there's John Burns, Matt Calabria, and Jessica Holmes, all smart, engaging potential stars in North Carolina Democratic politics. (Calabria is planning to run for state House this year.) On the Raleigh City Council, expect similarly good things from newcomer Nicole Stewart. Dig a little deeper and you'll find Jenna Wadsworth, the youngest woman ever elected to office in North Carolina (the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation Board at age twenty-one back in 2010). There are others, of course, both in local bodies and the state legislature—and some that aren't even on the radar right now. But the point is, the Triangle is awash in progressive political talent right now, and that's pretty cool. —JCB
10. Because we run and then we drink.
It's easy to hop on the fitness trend in a place with so many great options for breaking a sweat. The Triangle is littered with studios and gyms that are the fruition of the dreams of some very inspirational and motivated locals. Not into traditional classes? We've got organizations like Raleigh Group Fitness, which switches up small-group workouts around the Triangle to keep you on your toes. Maybe running is your jam, in which case hit up one of the many run clubs around the Triangle. With different pace and mile options for people of all levels, run clubs are a great way to break into the fitness community. Best of all? Many run clubs are also associated with some of our best local breweries: Big Boss Run Club, Fullsteam Run Club, Bond Brothers Run Club, and Nog Run Club out of Raleigh Beer Garden. Talk about work hard, play hard. —RH
11. Because we brunch like champs.
Say what you want about the popularity of brunch, there's no denying we serve it up right. Sure, we've got avocado toast, biscuits and gravy, and all the other standard fare you could hunt down somewhere else. But our brunch spots have a lot more to offer: from vegan tofu breakfast burritos at Irregardless to the namesake chicken and waffles at Dame's, from giant slices of quiche Lorraine at Coquette to churros at Beasley's. Extra points for the Triangle getting on board with the state's "brunch bill" this past summer; on Sunday mornings, nothing beats a bottomless mimosa from Mia Francesca or a bloody Mary at Flying Biscuit. —Caitlin Sloan
12. Because there are fifteen parks within fifteen minutes of my house.
Within a fifteen-minute drive from my apartment, there are seven nature preserves and eight parks, not to mention access to the Eno River, Duke Forest, and Sarah P. Duke Gardens. It's rare enough to have so much nature just outside your door, but in the Triangle, we have it alongside all the amenities of a midsize city. I'm partial to Johnston Mill's 296 acres and five trails, which wind past hundred-year-old trees and a historic mill. Hollow Rock is a hidden gem near New Hope Commons. It's great for a quick hike, especially if you take the trail backward and end at the dramatic Hanging Rock for a George-of-the-Jungle-style chest pound. You can enjoy a picnic on the banks of the Eno or take in massive sculptures at the North Carolina Museum of Art's park. From Carolina North Forest to Umstead Park, there are thousands of acres to explore. —SW
- Illustration by Chris Williams
13. Because you can hike along the Eno River until you collapse.
There are dozens of quality hiking trails throughout the Triangle—Umstead State Park in Raleigh, Occoneechee Mountain State Park in Hillsborough, and so on. But my favorite is a long hike along the Eno River itself. There's a good entry point off Guess Road in Durham, just north of Rose of Sharon Road. From there, trek west—first the 2.5 miles on to Pump Station, then take the Pump Station Trail for a little less than a mile, until you can find the Laurel Bluffs Trail again, continue west past Cole Mill Road all the way to Pleasant Green Road. Double back and you're looking at about twelve miles. And if that's not good enough for you, you're but a short drive away from the sundry winding paths of the Eno River State Park, particularly the excellent and gorgeous Cox Mountain Trail. —JCB
14. Because our locally made products rule.
The Triangle is home to some seriously amazing entrepreneurs who have infused our economy with original products that can't be found elsewhere. Products like Chapel Hill Toffee, Bone Suckin' Sauce, and Cackalacky Spice Sauce draw inspiration from our classic Southern roots. We have unique textiles at Raleigh Denim and Stitch. We have craft brews to beat the band from brewers like Gizmo Brew Works, Bond Brothers Beer Company, and Aviator Brewing Company, to name a few. And we have energy drinks to help with that hangover, courtesy of Mati. —RH
15. Because our coffee scene is booming.
It used to be that really great coffee came from niche producers in the Pacific Northwest or other larger metropolitan markets. But in recent years, the Triangle has had its fair share of excellent coffee purveyors and roasters enter the game. In addition to established brands like Counter Culture, Joe Van Gogh, Slingshot Coffee, and Carrboro Coffee Company continuing to grow, new ones have popped up all over the area. In Durham, Cocoa Cinnamon launched 4th Dimenson Coffee with the opening of the shop's newest location in Lakewood. Two former Counter Culture figures—and national award-winning baristas—founded Black and White Roasters in Wake Forest; inspired by her grandfather's roasting business, Gabriela Kavanaugh founded Caballo Rojo in Durham. We're all a-jitter waiting to see what new caffeinated concoctions they can make for us. —Allison Hussey
16. Because no matter where you live, there's a farmers market nearby.
Even with semi-erratic weather patterns, the Triangle can count itself truly blessed by a bounty of local produce all year round. With dozens of local farmers markets spread throughout the region (and nearly every day of the week), the ingenuity of our farmers is on full display. Our organic farmers have been toiling longer than any hobby urban farmer in New York City, and even tobacco farmers have converted fields into environmentally conscious plots of sweet potatoes and collards. You can rest assured that you're buying direct from the farmer, too, as most local markets require that they're present at their stands. From Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina over to Hillsborough and Saxapahaw, markets abound. In the more central areas: Carrboro offers ECO Farm mushrooms (they're experts at growing shitakes) and Tri Sa's Burmese crops—including a diversity of chilis and gourds, as well as fresh lemongrass—from Transplanting Traditions Community Farm. Durham gives you a full street festival every Saturday morning; pack a cooler for Boxcarr Handmade Cheese and Sunset Ridge bison sausage, and pick up Lil Farm's ginger syrup. Raleigh offers everything from a downtown weekday market to the enormous state-run market. Try Fertile Ground Cooperative's offerings on the southeast side of town, too, and give back to social justice projects with your purchase. —VB
17. Because we care about local landmarks.
Not the ones we pull down, but the beacons that preserve our regional culture against a flood of outside development. We've sustained heavy losses in recent years, to be sure, with two Nice Prices down and Manbites Dog Theater to follow this year. But look at what we're saving. Local readers have raised more than $50,000 and counting so that The Regulator Bookshop, a venerable Durham bastion of touring readings and local letters, could carry on after the retirement of its founders. A similar community drive is currently underway to save The Chelsea Theater in Chapel Hill, with film lovers banding together to try to turn it into a nonprofit, defending a precious sliver of old Chapel Hill. (Should we go ahead and start GoFundMe pages for Sutton's and The Shrunken Head now?) —BH
18. Because we've got a virtual reality arcade in Durham.
Because of course we do, right? Here in the Silicon Piedmont. Augmentality Labs quietly opened on North Church Street last summer. It's co-owned by Alicia Hetrick, who also runs the NC Escape game on nearby Orange Street, and who seems intent on creating downtown respites from reality for Durhamites. A variety of single- or multiplayer virtual reality games are on offer, from shooters and fighters to simulators, for twenty bucks per half hour. That's pretty steep, but where else are you going to get your head in a $600 VIVE display? Lovers take note (and act fast): there's a Valentine's Day package at 30 percent off, because nothing says "we're in this for the long haul" quite like spending Valentine's Day flailing around a mostly empty brick room in a funny visor. —BH
19. Because our folks are generous and philanthropic.
Southern hospitality applies to all walks of life in the Triangle, as evidenced by the many locally based nonprofits and philanthropies that call RDU home. The Center for Child & Family Health in Durham works to prevent and treat childhood neglect, abuse, and trauma. StepUp Ministry in Raleigh aids adults in finding employment and giving them life-training skills. IntraHealth International Inc. of Chapel Hill seeks to improve the quality and accessibility of health services for people by. These are just three of the dozens of organizations and programs cultivated by our generous and motivated locals. —RH
20. Because our local culture goes all over the world.
It's always nice to be able to celebrate a locally made product, but the Triangle's movers and shakers don't just stay in their own backyards. Sure, we've got current bands like American Aquarium, Hiss Golden Messenger, and Sylvan Esso that tour the globe. Other musicians like Superchunk, Algia Mae Hinton, Libba Cotten, and 9th Wonder have permanently shaped indie rock, the blues, folk music, and hip-hop. Durham's Duffer brothers are responsible for the smash hit TV show Stranger Things, and Raleigh Denim's carefully crafted wares are celebrated in high-end department stores. Even the podcast Criminal, which is made in Durham, has fans around the globe. —AH
21. Because local African-American artists are chipping away at white supremacy.
The local arts scene touts its inclusivity, but the structural reality is that it is dominated by white institutions that shape white spaces for white audiences. Often, African-American artists who are invited to the party still find their work distorted through a white lens. This will take generations to fully change. But it is changing, in both academic and independent contexts. Last November, Carolina Performing Arts presented Toshi and Bernice Johnson Reagon's stunning musical adaptation of Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower, which demonstrated that, if the academy cedes its cultural perspective to African-American artists, then a robust African-American audience will come to the usually snowy Memorial Hall. Earlier this month, Monét Noelle Marshall's independent immersive theater piece, Buy My Soul and Call It Art, viscerally confronted black and white artists and audiences with the stark differences between their privileges and experiences. And Black Ops Theatre Company's new Bull City Black Theater Festival is coming to Manbites Dog in March. Inclusive isn't enough, and we love the Triangle because local artists are trying to change the shape of the container. —BH
22. Because there's data for everything.
The Triangle is frequently recognized as a top tech hub. The explosion of this industry, along with a wealth of experts at local universities, means there is data for everything—even the percentage of North Carolinians who have, in the spirit of Petey Pablo, taken their shirt off and twisted it around their heads just like a helicopter (15 percent, per Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling). True, the growth of tech has driven up real estate prices, but sometimes our techy side collides with our social justice side and does some good. Analysis of traffic-stop data led to reforms at the Durham Police Department. DataWorks NC is studying Durham's high eviction rate, and the Center for Responsible Lending is tackling pretrial detention. The NC Justice Center and UNC's Poverty Research Fund are exposing issues of inequality statewide. If the first step to tackling any problem is understanding it, the Triangle is on good footing. —SW
23. Because N.C. State is upping its arts and culture game.
Traditionally, you look to UNC and Duke for arts, N.C. State for tech. But in recent years, the engineering school has been catching up. In 2015, it completed a major renovation on Talley Student Union, making the campus's main auditorium, Stewart Theatre, much more inviting. Last year, the university moved its previously obscure Gregg Museum of Art & Design into a prominent, gracious Phil Freelon-designed building, giving State something like a Nasher of its own. The state-of-the-art James B. Hunt Jr. Library has become a reliable venue for all manner of culture events, including offsite presentations of big authors by Quail Ridge Books. And NC State LIVE, the university's perf-arts presenter—whose most prominent shows used to tend toward "fun for the whole family" fare—is taking bigger artistic swings, with strong bookings this season such as legendary hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris and the almost literal social-justice warriors of Urban Bush Women. —BH
- Illustration by Christopher Williams
24. Because we're finally getting Hamilton.
"Our Shot" (after/with apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda)
We are not throwing away our ... shot!
We are not throwing away our ... shot!
Hey yo, just like our country,
We like musicals a bunch, see,
And we're not throwing away our ... shot!
I'ma get a comp ticket to Hamilton.
I probably shouldn't brag, but dag, that's the business I'm in.
The problem is we don't know exactly when it's coming,
But at DPAC, this year for sure, Lin-Manuel is stunting.
(OK, fine—not him. It'll be a touring cast
And it might be next year before we see this thing at last.)
It's only like three but it feels way older.
Do these Durham streets got mold, or ...? We shoulder
Every burden of being in a smaller-city market,
Up-and-coming, waiting for our turn to really spark it,
A diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal
Trying to reach our goal: blockbuster shows before they're cold.
But we've learned to manage—there's always The Sound of Music.
We're hyped for Hamilton and we don't mean to abuse it.
We get that New York is still the top of the game,
But damn, why can't we see shit at the height of its fame?
25. Because our arts institutions are evolving to meet the needs of artists.
The longer an institution exists, the harder it can be for it to change. So it says a lot about the strength of local dance that, last October, the NC Dance Festival made a big change to meet our independent artists on their terms. After more than twenty-five years of presenting at Meredith College, the NCDF moved to The Rickhouse, a stageless event venue in downtown Durham, acknowledging that many dance artists now make work for intimate social spaces rather than large formal ones, and that you can't just plunk the former down on the latter. This month, UNC and Duke both cut ribbons on small, open, flexible theaters—Current ArtSpace & Studio and von der Heyden Studio Theater, respectively—that will let audiences closely mingle with unconventional work, as our academic presenters follow the lead of artists beyond the proscenium arch. —BH
- Illustration by Chris Williams
26. Because we have the Duke Lemur Center.
Have you ever looked an aye-aye in the eye? Or said hello to a sifaka? In Durham, you can. One of the city's best sort-of secrets is the Duke Lemur Center, a research hub focusing on prosimian primates—our earliest evolutionary cousins. Research on lemurs, as it turns out, can tell us a whole lot about our human selves. Outside of the strictly science stuff, the Lemur Center has produced celebrities like Jovian, who was better known on TV as the titular critter of the PBS children's show Zoboomafoo. To help with fundraising efforts, the center offers inexpensive tours that are as delightful as they are educational. You can't take a lemur home with you, but you can take home a little souvenir finger painting by a lemur (they like to have fun, too!). —AH
27. Because Raleigh drops a giant nut on New Year's Eve.
Anyone can drop a giant ball to commemorate the new year. Boring. It takes a special group of people to suspend a 1,250-pound copper acorn in the middle of downtown to descend in time with the last seconds of the year. We are those people. Tacky? Yes. Weird? Yes. And we wouldn't have it any other way. Speaking of tacky, weird traditions, also see Raleigh's personal groundhog, Sir Walter Wally. —RH
28. Because there's still an alt-weekly here.
Look, we'll be straight with you here: the business of being a free weekly paper isn't easy. Alt-weeklies like the INDY have, historically, been essential pillars of journalism for their respective communities. We're not bound to the formalism or deadlines of dailies, which allows us to dig deep and tell different kinds of important stories, like investigating hog farm corruption in the eastern part of the state. But alt-weeklies have been closing and contracting all over the country at an alarming rate—even the LA Weekly, which was once one of Los Angeles's biggest papers, is now a shell of its former self. Same goes for the Houston Press, which ended its print run in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The Pitch in Kansas City and Atlanta's Creative Loafing have become monthlies. Even the freaking Village Voice, the granddaddy of them all, abandoned print last year. Fortunately, we at the INDY are lucky enough to still be here. We're happy and grateful to have been part of such a strong local community that we've served for thirty-five years. Here's to thirty-five more—we look forward to telling even more tough and vivid stories that you couldn't get anywhere else. —AH