A unique feature for planners working with the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau is a direct connection to local community thought leaders through its “People First Tourism” program. For example, during a walkabout of Mordacai, the oldest neighborhood in Raleigh, attendees visit backyard gardens, community gardens and various restaurants that source their food locally. A Muscadine wine-making workshop at Adams Vineyards and Winery introduces visitors to this native grape, letting them pick their own grapes and finishing with a tasting of a few of the vineyard’s award-winning wines. Group sizes and seasonality varies by tour. Planners can also work with the CVB to tap experts from the Raleigh region’s dozens of colleges and universities, plus The Research Triangle Park and North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus, for speakers, sponsors or exhibitors.
Other must-do’s while in Raleigh? A popular African-American heritage tour starts at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Gardens, the only public park in the United States devoted to the civil rights movement, and explores the city’s historically black colleges and universities, including Shaw University and Saint Augustine’s University, as well as the African American Cultural Complex. Raleigh has also been called the “Smithsonian of the South” for its museums, many of which are within easy walking distance of the downtown convention campus. The Red Hat Amphitheater hosts live music concerts throughout the year, and the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts is home to the North Carolina Symphony and Carolina Ballet.
The talk in town is about the need for more hotel space to accommodate the 500,000-sf Raleigh Convention Center. There are four hotels under consideration, which would bring the city over 1,000 much-needed rooms. Plans for a 176-unit Residence Inn, the first, have been approved and construction is expected to start soon.