A Romantic Weekend in the Triangle

A Romantic Weekend in the Triangle

The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary is a AAA 5 Diamond and Forbes Five-Star Hotel

When it comes to a romantic weekend, it’s hard to beat the North Carolina Triangle trio of Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham. Whether it’s a resort or hotel that caters to couples, romantic strolls, a tasty restaurant with lots of two-tops and North Carolina wines, a myriad of museums, or a soothing spa, it’s easy to schedule a romantic weekend in the Triangle.

3-Day Itinerary

Day 1: Start your weekend in and around North Carolina’s capital city of Raleigh, where romance is an art form at museums, restaurants, bakeries, wineries and The Umstead Hotel and Spa.

Day 2: Chapel Hill is next, with a duet of romantic accommodations, more art inside and out, and world-class dining near University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Day 3: Durham, named “The Tastiest Town in the South” by Southern Living magazine in 2013, brings the romantic weekend to a tasty close.

Day 1: Raleigh

Start an exploration of Raleigh strolling hand-in-hand through the North Carolina Museum of Art, one of the premier visual arts museums in the Southeast – including more than 30 Rodin sculptures. Then, outside to the 164-acre art park that is home to larger-than-life outdoor art installations.

The Raleigh Farmers Market is a great place to shop for specialty items from local farms to enjoy back home. Plus, comfort food just meant for couples makes for a tasty farm-to-table lunch at the State Farmers Market Restaurant.

Escazú Artisan Chocolates is a great place to head in the afternoon for a lengthy dessert session for two. Located near downtown Raleigh in the Mordecai neighborhood, Escazú features bars, truffles, confections and more ideal for consumption right at the retail store and workshop – and later.

Raleigh and the rest of the Triangle can also be a great base for visiting romantic vineyards and tasting and toasting award-winning wines – and each other. Area options include Chatham Hill Winery in Cary, Hinnant Family Vineyards & Winery in Pine Level, Vineyards At Southpoint southeast of Chapel Hill, and Starrlight Mead in Pittsboro.

As the sun sets, check in at nearby Cary’s luxurious The Umstead Hotel and Spa and re-confirm the early evening spa appointments you’ve hopefully already made. The Couples Retreat package is highly recommended, including a relaxing bath for two in an air jet hydrotherapy tub, followed by a dual 50-minute Swedish massage.

The Raleigh area has many romantic dining venues. One post-spa possibility is to stay right where you are and book a table for two at Herons Restaurant, well known for perfectly prepared seasonal cuisine. The Chef’s Table at Second Empire Restaurant & Tavern in the historic Dodds-Hinsdale House provides another unique option, giving you the opportunity to dine right in the kitchen with a special menu and wine pairings, all while interacting with the restaurant’s chefs and other staff.

Day 2: Chapel Hill

Before the short drive to Chapel Hill, start the day with delicious coffee, pastries, breads and more at Cary’s La Farm Bakery, an authentic French bakery where Master Baker Lionel Vatinet has created a modern bakery using centuries-old baking traditions and techniques.

After last night’s dinner and this morning’s breakfast, another romantic stroll may be in order. But first, head to Southern Season, a sprawling destination for specialty foods and products. It’s a great place to pick up a picnic lunch for a post-walk spread.

The North Carolina Botanical Garden is ideal for a stroll or picnic, thanks to landscaped gardens perfect for a walk. Another option for a walk and picnic lunch is the area around Gimghoul Castle (not open to the public), including the Lover’s Loop, Lover’s Leap Lookout and the romantic stone Lover’s Chair. There are also great walking and picnicking possibilities at the bustling University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the oldest public university in the country.

Come afternoon, the Ackland Art Museum’s permanent collection consists of more than 17,000 works of art, including one of the state’s premier collections of Asian art.

Nearby, Topo Distillery is also an ideal afternoon destination for couples, where’s it’s fun to take a tour and taste the in-house TOPO Vodka, Carolina Whiskey and Piedmont Gin. The distillery also produces the unique Age Your Own Whiskey Kit for toasting each other back home.

Next, check in at The Carolina Inn or The Siena Hotel, both of which have romance packages with extras like breakfast in bed and more.

For dinner, Chapel Hill has many romantic offerings. Varied possibilities with ambiance, cuisine and tables for two include Carolina Crossroads Restaurant & Bar at The Carolina Inn, Il Palio at The Siena Hotel, Elaine’s on Franklin, Crook’s Corner, and Lantern.

After dinner, loosen up with the locals at The Crunkleton or enjoy sweets and late-night drinks at Sugarland.

Day 3: Durham

Your day in Durham should begin at Scratch Bakery – where the seasonal menu is complemented by serious coffee, whimsical sweets, and a butter-scented and -colored décor – or Guglhupf – which crafts German and French artisan breads and more daily.

Next, there’s lots to explore in town including the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, which features Japanese-style walking bridges, gazebos, water features and more amidst 55 acres.

For lunch, head to the tasty Nasher Museum Café at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art. After lunch, there’s plenty of time to explore the modern 65,000-square-foot building, which houses three gallery spaces, a museum store and more.

Brightleaf Square is the perfect way to while away the rest of the afternoon in Durham. Here, turn-of-the-century tobacco warehouses have been converted into restaurants, art galleries, jewelry stores, clothiers and other specialty shops.

Next, check-in at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, where Duke University couples have been staying for years.

For dinner, reservations options for two abound. You can stay right where you are with a romantic table for two at Washington Duke Inn’s world-class Fairview Dining Room; enjoy tapas for two at Mateo Bar de Tapas; sample local fare at Four Square in The Bartlett Mangum House; or try French bistro cuisine at Vin Rouge.

Afterward, grab two bar stools with the locals at late-closing plow-to-pint Fullsteam Brewery – a great place to toast your time together in the Triangle.

Enjoy all the area has to offer by mixing and matching activities and events to your particular interest. Be sure to check days and hours of operation for each venue.

Lynn Seldon is an Oak Island-based travel writer who loves covering his home state.

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