Bars Nightlife and Entertainment in NC.
North Carolina. Home to the first English colony in the Americas, North Carolina was the last of the Confederate states to secede from the Union in 1861 and was then readmitted in 1868.
Originally home to various Native American tribes including the Cherokee, Tutelo, Catawba and Machapunga, there are still eight tribal nations living in the state today. English interest in the state goes back to Elizabeth 1 when she granted a charter for land in this region (at that time part of Virginia) to Sir Walter Raleigh – after whom the capital is named. The state capitol building in Raleigh was completed in 1840, and still remains today.
In 1860 North Carolina was a slave state – though not as bad as other Southern states – and did not join the confederacy until Lincoln ordered it to invade South Carolina. Few Civil War battles took place here; the only one of any note at Bentonville when Confederate General Joseph Johnston tried to stop (unsuccessfully) Sherman’s advance. Wilmington was the last Confederate port city to surrender to the Union in 1865. Today, though rich in history, North Carolina is very much ‘New South’.
With a population of around 9m – 66% of which live in the middle Piedmont area of the state – this is a scenic and varied state, ranging from sea level on the Atlantic Coast to over 2,000m in the Appalachian and Great Smoky mountains, with numerous state and national parks in between, including the Blue Ridge Parkway. This, combined with its heritage, makes North Carolina a popular state to visit in summer and winter. Fishing, hunting, swimming, skiing, camping, canoeing, rock climbing, hiking and more are on offer here, along with a good range of zoos, theme parks, museums, historic sites (including a lot of lighthouses), and a really rather good nightlife.
North Carolina is also where the Wright brothers made their first air flight at Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk and it can pat itself on the back for inventing barbecue sauce (various sauce recipes can be tried around the state), and being the original home of Pepsi-Cola, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and cigarette brands Winston and Salem (the city of Winston-Salem being home to RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co).
North Carolinans love their food and there are numerous festivals throughout the year including an Annual Ribfest, the Engelhard Seafood Festival and the Annual Ham and Yam Festival. If you’re on the Atlantic Coast head for Calabash, which gives its name to a style of seafood cooking that has to be tried. Fresh oysters, clams, scallops, shrimp and crab can and should be enjoyed here.
About 50 wineries can be found throughout North Carolina, including the first run by a Native American tribe – the Native Vines Winery. Owned and operated by Darlene Gabbard in Lexington, the winery is sited on a family farm bordered by Historic Highway 150 – the old Waxhaw Indian Trading Trail, and Indian Grave Creek, where ancient tribes buried their dead in the banks of this ‘life giving stream’. Arrowheads can still be found in the soil. Definitely worth visiting, for the atmosphere as much as the wine!
North Carolina also has two Indian casinos- Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel and Cherokee Tribal Bingo , following an agreement in 1994 between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the governor to allow video gambling as long as games had a skill factor. So you won’t find table games, only video slots, video poker, and digital versions of baccarat, blackjack, and craps. The slot machines also have a required skill factor. Minimum gambling age is 21.
The Piedmont region is one of the most economically dynamic in the US and here is where you’ll find the main cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill – known as The Triangle. Each has its own appeal. Centrally located in the state – so it’s a great area to stay if you want to explore – they are pulled together by Research Triangle Park, a massive business complex of 7,000 acres which houses over 140 companies plus four major universities and several smaller schools and colleges. Museums, parks, galleries, gardens, and sports events keep visitors well occupied during the day and all three cities offer plenty of nightlife choices for the evening with the majority of bars and clubs open til 2am seven days a week.
Where to find good beer? The Carolina Brewery and Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery in Chapel Hill are both good bets – you can actually view the brewing equipment in the latter. Top of the Hill also has an excellent menu and is a classy place to go – so dress up for the occasion. In Durham, try Tyler’s Taproom and the Speakeasy which has some 60 brews on offer along with a hearty menu that includes three cheese burger and meatloaf.
What about bars? If classy is what you want, then you can’t go wrong with the East End Martin Bar in E Franklin St, Chapel Hill, where over 100 martinis are on offer; the West End Wine Bar on W Franklin St; The G Loft on 9th St, Durham, which has a Champagne and Chocolate discount at the weekend.
In Raleigh head for Underground, an award winning restaurant and bar that’s open late with $4 pitchers on Tuesday nights, or Jax Sports Bar on Gorman St, a popular student hang out that features live music on Saturdays. At the other end of the scale, where casual is cool, try Cave on W Franklin St, Chapel Hill; the Down Under Pub on W Main St, Durham, a friendly establishment in the historic downtown area which is highly popular with students; Satisfaction, also on W Main St, a loud and busy sports bar with great homemade potato chips/crisps; and The Pour House on S Blount St in Raleigh, which features a variety of live music, 30 draft beers, and pool.
Decent Irish bars include WB Yeats on W Franklin St in Chapel Hill; the James Joyce Irish Pub on W Main St in Durham , which features live music on Friday and Saturday; and the Tir na NOg Irish Pub on S Blount St in Raleigh, were traditional Irish music plays several nights a week.
Live music? Blue Martini in Raleigh (North West St) is an excellent blues lounge (no cover charge) with live music every night, a full menu and 60 signature martinis, while The Berkeley Cafe on W Martin St mixes blues with occasional rock, jazz, country and R&B. If rock is more your thing, 42nd Street Oyster Bar on W Jones St, combines live music from Thursday to Saturday with excellent food and a great choice in beer and wine. Downtown on Wolfe St, Zydeco has a massive jazz following, who enjoy cocktails and southern style foods while watching the fish in the bar’s built in aquarium. In Chapel, Cat’s Cradle on E Main St is ‘the’ place to see up and coming bands of all music types.
Dancing? Players is Chapel Hill’s leading night club on E Franklin St (in Chapel Hill, pretty much all the entertainment is on W or E Franklin St), open from Thursday-Saturday from 10pm to 2am and featuring a good range of top 40, R&B, hip hop and salsa music. In Raleigh head for the Rush Lounge on Glenwood Ave which offers Top 40 rock, alternative, breakbeat and old school mixes as well as live music. Durham’s dancing venues include Sirens Lounge on W Markham Ave, which doubles as a popular after work drinks/martini bar before the dancing kicks off around midnight; and Ringside on W Main St, which offers a variety of music on four levels. In Raleigh, choices include atmospheric The Office on S West St, featuring hip hop, top 40 and R&B music alongside a chic cocktail bar.
Heading south west from Raleigh, still in the Piedmont area, you’ll come to Charlotte, the largest city in the region. Named after George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, the city was for many years the nation’s leading producer of gold and a branch of the US Mint was located here for a while. Today, a city of sky scrapers including the 40 storey Bank of America Plaza and 46 storey Hearst Tower, Charlotte is thriving and visitors will find a big city mix of international shopping centres; two major venues – the Charlotte Bobcats Arena and Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre; a growing arts district; a home-based professional football team, the Carolina Panthers; and an increasing choice of chic restaurants and cool bars.
The Pub at Gateway is a modern day pub/restaurant on W Trade St, where the ‘menu’ includes live acoustic music, DJs, daily food and drink specials and big LCD TVs for watching a game. ‘In’ late nightspots include Crush on E Stonewall St, which attracts the young and trendy with its amazing light shows; Cosmos Cafe and Alley Cat both on North College St, the latter a rock and roll club with both Djs and live bands, along with a diner-style menu.
At the time of writing, there are no state smoking bans in North Carolina. In fact, a state law was passed in 1993 that actually prohibits any smoking restrictions to be enacted by local government, other than in local government owned buildings and transportation vehicles, public meetings, librarires/museums open to the public etc.