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Bittersweet is one of downtown Raleigh’s newest dessert bars, serving up delicious sweet treats and stiff drinks. If you’re looking for a fun place to go out in downtown Raleigh after dinner, visit Bittersweet. Bittersweet is open for dessert, cocktail and coffee service starting at 5pm, Wed. through Sat.

Bittersweet also recently announced that they have a coffee window, which is open Mon. through Fri., 7am-1pm. Now you can order a cup of coffee from the sidewalk! Bittersweet features a full espresso bar, drip coffee, iced coffee, tea and morning pastries like organic blueberry muffins, cinnamon-sugar doughnuts and banana bread.

Of course, I had to check out Bittersweet. Bittersweet features an all-natural, seasonal menu with drink and dessert pairing specials offered regularly. They are also committed to sourcing locally and have a great N.C. beer menu, wines, champagnes, seasonal cocktail selection and more.

IMG_1476Upon entering Bittersweet, I noticed that the atmosphere definitely fits the mood for the perfect after dinner spot. The bar has dim lighting along with minimal seating, which creates a sense of intimacy for Bittersweet’s visitors.

IMG_1484I suggest ordering desserts and drinks to try amongst your table. The desserts are baked in-house daily by owner, Kim Hammer of bittycakes and Bittersweet’s in-house bakers. I tried the derby pie, which includes bourbon, pecans and chocolate.

IMG_1480Of course, the cookie platter was my absolute favorite. This dessert plate is perfect for sharing and gives you an excellent sampling of Bittersweet’s desserts. The platter includes a sea salt cookie, homemade Oreo and everything bar. At least one of the cookies is sure to satisfy any palate.

IMG_1479Pay a visit to Bittersweet in downtown Raleigh next time you’re looking for a sweet ending to your evening paired with a great cocktail or cup of coffee.

If you like the charm of a small town, plus the sophistication of good restaurants, craft brews and shopping that big cities offer, I’ve found it all in historic Apex, North Carolina.

Apex, N.C. Apex is one of my favorite destinations in Greater Raleigh. The town, founded in 1860, is considered one of the most intact turn-of-the-century railroad towns in the area and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district.

With its location only about 20 minutes from downtown Raleigh, it’s a great place to spend the day, a morning or afternoon.

Apex historic districtI love to have lunch in downtown Apex. Around lunchtime, the town is bustling with people, so parking is at a premium. There are lots of great choices for dining, but I can’t resist Anna’s Pizzeria when I’m in town. A slice of white spinach pizza pie is my favorite dish served with a salad. It’s just yummy.

I think it’s delightful to stroll through the downtown shops after lunch. There are more than 25 retailers in historic Apex, each offering something unique, and all locally owned.

Apex Shopping From the bookstore, All Booked Up, to fashion-forward stores like Fedora, Sophie and Mollie’s and My Girlfriend’s Closet, there is something to see on every block. Beer lovers will adore The Beer Dispensary of Apex. It’s stocked with the best craft beer available in N.C., all over the U.S. and around the world in a “tavern-esque” atmosphere!

Apex StationaryIf you love monograms, then you’ll love visiting Gone Stitching Gifts and Monograms. From stationery to cute coolers, you will be able to find a gift for everyone on your list at a very reasonable price.

And for those of you who cannot get enough of the N.C. lifestyle brand known as Moon and Lola, you’ll love knowing that the headquarters of the company is in the heart of town. A brand new Moon and Lola retail shop is located on Salem St.

Apex Historic District Moon and LolaSomeone I know is going to cost her mom a lot of money one day because she loved everything in the store.

After an afternoon of shopping, it is fun to pop into Common Grounds Coffeehouse for a house-roasted coffee or, if you are looking for something more Parisian chic, served with a Southern smile, then stop in Buttercream’s Bake Shop for something sweet and an espresso.

Apex historic districtY’all know I can’t resist coffee, sweets and a town with Southern charm. See you in historic Apex.

For more on Apex, click here.

Follow Leigh Hines on Twitter and Facebook, or visit her blog here: HinesSightBlog.

Since 2004, Holly Aiken bags have been designed and assembled in North Carolina. “Influenced by colors found in dime store aisles and vintage racing jackets,” Aiken’s bags are primarily made from vinyl and bold trim, accented by stripes or crisp geometric shapes. The product patterns and colors, however, are completely customizable.

P1160303As a graduate of the North Carolina State University’s College of Design, Aiken moved her downtown Raleigh shop Holly Aiken – Stitch to the corner of Wilmington and Hargett Sts. in 2008, where visitors can see the creative process in action. The retail design showroom is at street level, while the second floor is devoted to manufacturing.


P1160310She offers an array of uncomplicated (and seriously cute!) bags using distinctively retro and indestructible vinyl materials, from messenger and tote bags, to clutches, back packs, diaper bags, wallets and accessories. Aiken now also offers digital/tech and business card sleeves, wrist cuffs, wine bags and hotcup sleeves for your coffee or tea on the go.

P1160306Three styles + six patterns + 25 colors = the opportunity to create a bag as individual as you are.

In addition to an online store, Holly Aiken designs can also be found at Deco Raleigh, Main & Taylor at North Hills, NOFO at the Pig, Sweetbottoms Baby Boutique and at The Umstead Hotel and Spa.

P1160311Whether buying for yourself or perhaps a gift certificate for that special someone, shop smart and look divinely chic with a pick from Holly Aiken – Stitch. P.S.: They do a great gift wrap as well. Open Mon.-Fri., 11AM-5PM and Sat. 1-5PM.

Written by Kristy Stevenson. Follow her online.

Since 1887, Pullen Park has been a magical place for families to have fun. If you are vacationing in Greater Raleigh, you must add this Raleigh landmark to your “must-see and experience” list. You could spend all day or just a few hours here, and I promise you that your children will have such a grand time that they’ll be asking you to go back the very next day.

Pullen Park in Raleigh Pullen Park has the honor of being North Carolina’s first state park, and with a beautiful 1911 carousel on-site, the park is the fifth oldest operating amusement park in the U.S. and the 16th in the world.

Pullen ParkAdmission is free to Pullen Park, but there is a ticket fee to ride the carousel, train and kiddie boats. Tickets can be purchased for rides at the ticket booth at the entrance to the park. Ride tickets are $1 each and each ride requires just one ticket per person for every ride.

Kiddie boats at Pullen Park Pedal boats are also available for your family to ride across Lake Howell, which sits in the middle of the 66-acre park. Each boat will fit up to four individuals, and the cost is six tickets per half-hour ride.

Lake Howell at Pullen Park You can also take advantage of the many free activities in the park. There are several playgrounds for all ages to enjoy, tennis courts and lots of acres to explore on foot. The park has several picnic tables for you to bring your own food, and it also offers visitors a chance to buy snacks and food at the Pullen Place Café. This café, which is locally-owned, serves fresh and local ingredients at an affordable price.

Pullen Park also has an indoor aquatics center, but it is closed currently for renovations until Oct.

Fun at Pullen Park Pullen Park is situated between Western Blvd., Hillsborough St., Ashe Ave. and North Carolina State University. The physical address is 408 Ashe Ave., Raleigh, N.C.  Hours vary seasonally.

See you on the park’s locomotive this summer. The carousel makes me dizzy, but my children love it.

Follow Leigh Hines on Twitter and Facebook, or visit her blog here: HinesSightBlog.

North Carolina Museum of Art is a fascinating place.

Open to the public since 1956, the museum moved into its current 181,000-square-foot home, East Building, on Blue Ridge Rd. in 1983. East Building features a wide variety of rotating exhibitions.

2010 saw the $76.8-million construction of West Building, providing an additional 127,000-square-foot space to permanently house the museum’s collections. Those collections include an impressive display of European Renaissance paintings, Egyptian funerary art and international contemporary art.

They also include one of only two permanent Jewish art displays in an American museum.

The North Carolina Museum of Art sits on 164 acres, which it has turned into the largest museum art park in the country. The Museum Park contains a dozen sculptures, two miles of trails, picnic areas and the Joseph M. Bryan, Jr., Theater, which presents one of the greatest concert series in the state.

NCMA lawnThe Museum Park Theater is a welcoming outdoor amphitheater with a capacity of 2,500 people (500 reserved seating, 2,000 lawn). The venue sells four different canned beers and wine by the glass and bottle. The Museum Park Theater encourages visitors to bring outside food, blankets and chairs. Coming to a show? Be prepared to picnic!

NCMA stage
NCMA patioAs a courtesy to guests, the North Carolina Museum of Art sends out an email the day of the show answering most potential questions about the event.

On July 12, famed singer-songwriters Iris Dement and Loudon Wainwright III co-headlined the bill, the latest in a line of legends to have graced the stage in the Raleigh summertime. The heat of the day gave way to a pleasant evening, temperatures in the upper 70s with a mellow breeze meandering through the crowd as Iris Dement walked on stage at 8pm sharp.

Iris2Backed only by her Steinway grand piano and a chorus of cicadas, Dement’s mournful Southern-gospel-tinged vocals rang through the air, carried on the summer breeze like church bells in the Arkansas delta. Though she confessed to be in the midst of a mild panic attack, her passionate performance masked any hint of discomfort.

Iris1Dement’s 75-minute set included a few tracks off her 2012 release, “Sing the Delta,” such as “Mornin’ Glory,” “There’s A Whole Lotta Heaven” and the title track.  Her setlist also included “Our Town,” a crowd favorite from her 1992 debut album, “Infamous Angel.”

Iris4Recently, Dement became infatuated with the late-acclaimed Russian poet Anna Akhmatova and set nearly two dozen of her poems to music. On this night, she brought two of the poems to life, enhanced by Dement’s soulful country charm.

NCMA moonThe supermoon sat fat and happy over the left shoulder of the stage, and Loudon Wainwright III seemed determined not to let it outshine him. Bursting with energy belying his age, The Ol’ Loudo began his set with “High Wide & Handsome,” a tongue-in-cheek ode to both himself and noted banjo player Charlie Poole, men of large stature and larger-than-life personalities.

Loudon1Then the Durham-born folk singer did something uncommon in the world of touring musicians. He began to play new unreleased material. Seven of the 17 songs he unleashed on Raleigh were from his upcoming album, due for release in Sept. 2014. In fact, 16 of the songs played were recorded within the last decade. Loudon Wainwright III is set to release his 23rd studio album (not including three live albums). He’s been recording music for over 40 years. And he’s sick of playing the same old songs.

Loudon2But that’s okay, because a Loudon Wainwright III show isn’t about sing-a-longs. He mesmerizes the audience with stories and punchlines, and he just happens to carry a guitar. He’s a slightly neurotic and highly expressive actor who finds comfort on the stage. He’s a true entertainer.

As Wainwright approaches his eighth decade, his song motifs have evolved. He may not be singing about dead animals anymore, but he’ll tell you all about parking in New York City, the medications he’s taking, the pains of living in a dry county and death and decay.

Loudon3He’ll also tell you all about his father. Last year, he began performing a one-man show that exclusively pairs his songs with writings from his father, who was a highly respected LIFE magazine columnist. At his North Carolina Museum of Art concert, Wainwright recited all or part of three of Loudon Wainwright, Jr.’s columns, each followed immediately by a song: “Half Fist,” Peter Blegvad’s “Daughter” and “Man and Dog.”

When Loudon Wainwright III finished up his 81-minute set with a two song encore (“The Swimming Song” and “Unfriendly Skies”) at exactly 11pm, he bid the crowd a fond farewell, promising to Google the lyrics of “Grey in LA,” the last verse of which he forgot while playing. Music Maniacs would do well to Google both Iris Dement and Loudon Wainwright III. While they will not be visiting Raleigh again this year, there will be plenty of good music emanating from the grounds of the North Carolina Museum of Art in the near future.


The North Carolina Museum of Art’s 18th annual summer concert series is again being hosted in the Joseph M. Bryan, Jr., Theater in the Museum Park.

The Museum Park Theater welcomes America’s finest singer-songwriters and critically-acclaimed musical ensembles from around the world. This Sat., July 19, marks the return of Grammy-winning musician (and former member of ’80s rock band The Del Fuegos) Dan Zanes.

302993_10150324556628522_2107693151_nThe North Carolina Museum of Art considers him a “national treasure.” And if your family watches Sprout or The Disney Channel, you’ve likely seen Zanes before. As one of the country’s finest family entertainers, Dan Zanes and Friends perform classic American folk songs, original tunes and music reflecting the cultural diversity of our nation and the world with great talent and joy. They have a magical ability to connect with young and old audiences alike.

313895_10150324556543522_317037778_n“We’re making music for everybody. At our shows, kids are only half the audience. It’s really important to me that we have a shared experience,” said Zanes.

The theater offers limited reserved seating and ample lawn seating under beautiful shade trees, and parking is free. Dan Zanes and Friends appear at 6pm. Tickets are $20 for adults ($15 for museum members) and $10 for children 3-12. All seating is general admission, picnicking is encouraged and the doors open at 4:30pm.

311315_10150324556093522_600290067_nAdditional 2014 summer shows:
July 26, 7pm – Lisa Fischer, followed by screening of 20 Feet from Stardom
Aug. 2, 8pm – An Evening with Judy Collins
Aug. 9, 8pm – Carolina Chocolate Drops
Sept. 12-14, 7pm – Paperhand Puppet Intervention
Sept. 27, 8pm – The Head and the Heart

While you’re there, consider some art appreciation in the great outdoors. Encompassing more than 160 acres of fields, woodlands and creeks, the Museum Park presents a unique setting to explore the intersection of art and nature and invites visitors to encounter dramatic works of art through riding bikes, walking dogs or just enjoying the scenic paths.

Written by Creative Genius Kristy Stevenson (who can also be a Music Maniac or Lifelong Learner, depending upon the day of the week). Follow her online.


If you’re visiting downtown Raleigh, I encourage you to take a stroll through one of my favorite spots. Don’t miss Raleigh’s beautiful cobblestone street located in historic City Market. This street is charming and always takes me back in time. What you might not realize is that it’s been 100 years since City Market has actually served its original purpose as a market.

city-marketThanks to Raleigh City Farm, local farmers and City Market, Raleigh City Farmers’ Market launched this summer. Raleigh City Farm and other local farmers will hold the market every Wed. from 4-6pm under the awnings of Cobblestone Hall.

Raleigh City Farmers' Market
Not only will there be a variety of locally grown produce and artisan foods, but the market features art vendors, live music and culinary demonstrations from Greater Raleigh chefs. The Raleigh City Farmers’ Market is a great way to meet other Foodies and people involved with local food in the Greater Raleigh community. You can talk to chefs about how to cook with local ingredients and plan to make one of their market demonstrations at home.

Chef demo 1Along with the great market activities, Raleigh City Farmers’ Market offers a wide range of goods from locally baked breads to seafood. Vendors include Chapel Hill Creamery, Kailyard Farm, The Grange, Endless Sun Produce, Understory Farm, Old Milburnie Farm, Boulted Bread, Color Fields, Coon Rock Farm, Walk Ahead Farm, Moonflour Baker, Locals Seafood, Double T Farm, Crude Bitters and Sodas, 5th Season and Following the Field.

Make plans to visit the Raleigh City Farmers’ Market to interact with vendors, try delicious samples from chef demonstrations and pick up local ingredients for your next snack or home cooked meal!

Chef demo

RaleighAlbumCollageThis list was originally posted by Dave Rose on his blog, July 3, 2014. Spotify widgets below added by visitRaleigh. Thanks to Dave for letting us repost/share this list here on

By: Dave Rose

I was raised in North Carolina. I graduated from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. And 20 years ago I co-founded and am still president of Deep South Entertainment (DSE Music Group), a company based in Raleigh. Partially why I never made New York, L.A. or Nashville my home–although I spend a lot of time in each (mostly in Nashville, of the three)–is because of the amazing talent in this Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill area. I’m proud to call Raleigh home.

For those of you unfamiliar with the area, or to you natives that just want to tip your hat to the local favorites, here’s a list of the 15 most notable albums to come out of Raleigh.

These albums reached global audiences and shaped the Raleigh music scene.

Just to clarify, I’m focusing on Raleigh for this list. It’s undeniable the amazing music to have come from our neighboring cities like Chapel Hill (Southern Culture on the Skids, Valient Thorr, Superchunk, James Taylor, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Archers of Loaf etc.) or Durham (Branford Marsalis, Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Mountain Goats, 9th Wonder etc.).

But these are the 15 albums from artists that have called, or do call, Raleigh home. These are 15 albums that have been instrumental in reaching beyond the boundaries of Wake County and extending to audiences world-wide.

Raleigh’s 15 most notable albums…

15. WPTF-680AM – (1930s and ’40s) Rounding out the bottom of the list isn’t an album at all, but it influenced hundreds, maybe thousands, of albums throughout history. Today Raleigh is known by many as the Bluegrass Capital of the World, hosting International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) annual World of Bluegrass conference and festival. But long before organized bluegrass festivals, and even before the popularity of full commercial albums, WPTF (in the 1930s and ’40s) influenced bluegrass musicians worldwide with their programming. This history is nicely documented by David Menconi and Thomas Goldsmith in a News & Observer article.

I’d venture to say that many of the albums here on Raleigh’s “most notable albums” list are even, in some way, tied to the roots laid by WPTF’s programming in the ’30s and ’40s. Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe even lived in Raleigh in the 1930s. WPTF, now a news station, was the nucleus of bluegrass music back then.

The remaining items on this list need no explanation, but I encourage you to look them up if you don’t already know them. Discover Raleigh by discovering its great music.

Download Spotify here to listen to the albums below.

14.  The Rosebuds – Birds Make Good Neighbors (2005)


13. The Embers – I Love Beach Music (1979)

Screenshot 2014-07-02 22.14.10

12. The Annuals – Be He Me (2006)


11. Tift Merritt – Another Country (2008)


10. The Love Language – Libraries (2010)


9. Nantucket – Nantucket (1978)

Nantucket_LP (1)

8. Corrosion of Conformity – Deliverance (1994)


7. The Connells – Ring (1993)


6. Chatham County Line – Wildwood (2010)


5. Dag – Righteous (1994)

CK 57341

4. Jason Michael Carroll – Waitin’ In the Country (2007)


3. The Backsliders – Throwin’ Rocks at the Moon (1997)


2. Cry of Love Brother (1993)

Cry Of Love - Brother

1. Whiskeytown – Stranger’s Almanac (1997)


Harrys9If you were to traverse the half-mile stretch of southern Glenwood Ave. between Peace and Morgan Sts., breezing past a number of excellent bars, restaurants and nightclubs, you’d find one edifice that sticks out from the crowd. This cream-colored, red-trimmed, stumpy little building occupying space at 616 Glenwood Ave. was once an eyeglass grinding factory, but now it houses one of Raleigh’s most famous shops.

Harry’s Guitar Shop opened on Nov. 5, 1985, and moved to its current location on Glenwood Ave. in 1988. For almost 30 years, the multifaceted business has served the music community’s needs in all things fretted.

Harrys2Owner Harry Tueting recounted the origins of Harry’s Guitar Shop.

“I was in an acoustic duo at the time and that wasn’t an era when acoustic music was very popular. But we were playing an awful lot and needed to buy some monitors. We were getting a hard time from shops around the state to do it. One night I just said to my partner, ‘I think I can do this better.’ He said, ‘I’m sure you could.’ And the next morning I started working on it.”


Harrys3Harry’s Guitar Shop stocks fretted instruments only, such as guitars, basses, mandolins and banjos, plus all the accessories it takes to drive them. Breeze past the built-to-order sinker redwood Taylor acoustic and the array of contemporary Guild electrics and you’ll find, among other things, amplifiers, tubes, cables, capos, strings and picks. To those who are looking to sell, Harry’s Guitar Shop buys used and trades. A guitar tech works on-site to repair and restore instruments.


Harrys4The shop may best be known for its lessons. Eight classrooms provide private teaching space for the 400 lessons given each week at a very reasonable $25/half hour.

Harrys8“The teachers who work in the building, that’s what they do,” Tueting said. “They’re not also working someplace out in the park and teaching lessons when they feel like it. They do this here all the time.”

Tueting does not charge the instructors for use of his rooms. He subsidizes them, giving something back to the community his store fosters.

After nearly three decades in business, Tueting attributes his shop’s success to stability. His employees are salaried, a move that promotes continuity and reduces turnover.

“The longer you do a job, the better you get at it,” Tueting explained. “We help people find the right teacher or the right guitar or the right help to make the guitar play correctly. There’re simple things that long-term musicians know about how to help other people move the ball down the field and we have that.”

Musicians and Music Maniacs, take a moment to visit Harry’s Guitar Shop and support Raleigh’s greatest music shop. The friendly, knowledgeable staff will help you in any way they can.

Visit its website to check out their inventory.

John Montgomery and his small staff of luthiers have been making violins, violas and cellos in Raleigh for more than 30 years. Nestled on a quiet edge of Hillsborough St., downtown, their unassuming storefront yields treasures beyond the expectations of most passersby.

P1160316The shop offers full restoration for violins, violas and violoncellos. As an instrument maker, Montgomery builds copies of historical pieces as well as contouring models of his own design from maple and spruce. Highly skilled craftsmanship–the shaping of the wood with planes and knives–takes time and precision. From design to proportion, violins and violas each require a month’s worth of meticulous care; cellos take twice as long.

P1160317Instrument and bow selection cover the complete scope of musician interest and range from antique to contemporary. Shop inventory includes violins, violas, cellos, bows, books, cases, strings, rests, sheet music and other accessories. Other services include bow rehairing, insurance appraising and buying and selling instruments from all over the world. And they have a nice sized practice room for trying out bows and instruments.

P1160324It was Montgomery’s passion for music and tinkering lead him to his calling. In the early 1980s, the North Carolina Symphony had not yet blossomed into the component of cultural life it is today. Budding musicians in the area needed someone who knew how to make and repair stringed instruments–and John Montgomery fit the bill.


P1160322Today, he’s worked on John Philip Sousa’s childhood violin, and maintains The Library of Congress’s Cremonese collection of Stradivari instruments. Fully trained in both instrument making and restoration, Montgomery has been working since 1977 when he began as a Watson Fellow studying hurdy gurdy construction in France. He attended the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, trained under William Monical in N.Y. and has been a member of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers since 1987.

P1160320His instruments continue to be played by professional musicians. Recent projects include a violoncello based on a 1700 Goffriller, a copy of the 1690 Tuscan-Medici Stradivari viola and violins modeled on works from 1730 by Sanctus Seraphin and Guarneri del Gesu. An excellent luthier, Montgomery tries to build a quartet per year: two violins, a viola and cello. Out of all the locations he could have his shop in N.C. and the U.S., he’s happy with his shop on the quiet edge of Hillsborough St. He lives within walking distance, and now splits his time between repairs, dealing in instruments and building his own.

Written by Kristy Stevenson (who can be a Creative Genius or Lifelong Learner, depending upon the day of the week). Follow her online.


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