Have a gift card that you need to redeem but are not sure whether the store exists in the area? Want to plan ahead to buy for Valentine’s Day or maybe even Christmas next year? Or do you just have too much time and money on your hands? If you fall in any of these categories (and if you are in the latter, we want to marry you), here is a convenient guide for what are the biggest and best places to shop till you drop.
Raleigh has several distinctive options for retail browsing, with major shopping centers in virtually every part of the city. Downtown there is City Market, which features an eclectic array of art galleries, specialty shops and restaurants within easy walking distance. It is an appealing concept – too bad the reality is that many of the shops are vacant Moving west close to the N.C. State campus, Cameron Village boasts more than 100 stores and service centers. Go northwest and you will find just outside the beltline (Interstate 440, if you prefer) Crabtree Valley Mall, with more than 200 stores and 20 restaurants. However, keep in mind that this area is prone to flooding, and if a big storm of any kind hits, you do not want to leave your car in the area unless you want to deal with your insurance company in reporting damages to it afterward. Head even further northwest on U.S. 70 going to Durham and just past Interstate 540 you will find Brier Creek Commons and its 70 different stores and restaurants.
North of Raleigh just outside the Beltline is North Hills, an upscale shopping district with plenty of shopping options and 25 restaurants. Among the latter we would recommend there is our client 115 Midtowne, which specializes in contemporary metropolitan cuisine. Bonefish is another good option. To the northeast near Interstate 540 and Capital Boulevard we have Triangle Town Center, featuring North Carolina’s only Saks Fifth Avenue among its more than 140 shops and restaurants.
For those living in or near Cary, Crossroads Plaza offers around 70 top franchises to visit amid plenty of parking as well as several outstanding restaurants. (It also offers one of the most confusing traffic patterns anywhere in the Triangle, which is saying something. One of our favorites among the latter is our client Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill – check it out for a casual place to eat or drink.
Activity in southern Durham exploded with the addition of the Streets at Southpoint, which features the only Nordstrom department store in the Triangle among its 140 stores and restaurants. A caveat, though: this is a third-tier Nordstrom, so do not expect the same variety you might have received at bigger stores outside the state. Those north of Durham will find Northgate Mall easier to reach (right off Interstate 85) and perhaps cozier to visit, as its 160 shops are not as spread out as those of the Streets at Southpoint (and usually have more parking spaces too).
In the downtown area is Brightleaf Square, which converted a pair of old tobacco warehouses into an attractive retail center of mostly local shops. Satisfaction Restaurant and Bar is a great place to grab a slice of pizza or some homemade fries. Several blocks to the west just two blocks from Duke University’s East Campus, Ninth Street claims to be “Durham’s alternative shopping district,” with mostly local specialty shops contained here. We recommend Charlie’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill, and if you have a sweet tooth, the Mad Hatter’s Café and Bake Shop is a must. Though both Brightleaf Square and Ninth Street are near downtown Durham, thankfully there is plenty of free parking accessible to the shopping centers.
If you have ever heard of or received gifts from friends around here from A Southern Season and wondered what the store looks like in person, visit University Mall in Chapel Hill, where it anchors the shopping center and offers visitors an upscale restaurant, the Weathervane in addition to its award-winning assortment of foods and specialty merchandise. On the other side of Chapel Hill, its sister city Carrboro has its own funky assortment of small businesses akin to Durham’s Ninth Street that make up Carr Mill Mall, a shopping area whose main building is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.
An excellent resource about the latest happenings in the local retail world is Sue Stock’s column in The News & Observer. Besides her column, Sue also has her own invaluable blog of deals and discounts that she updates frequently and can be found here.
We also will be doing reviews of many stores and restaurants found in these shopping centers in the near future. Check back here to get the inside scoop on what to enjoy and what to avoid.