Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)

Home to North Carolina State University, Raleigh is part crunchy college town, part high-powered politics — it's the state capital, after all. And with its acres of parks and lakes, it's also a family-friendly haven. It also has the benefit of being in a prime location, just two hours west of the beach at Wilmington and three hours east from the mountains of Boone and Blowing Rock.

It seems like every restaurant in Raleigh has a local angle, either a partner farm or a commitment to organic ingredients. The state farmer’s market is a source for restaurateurs and private citizens who snap up fresh produce, jams, honey and baked goods, reacquainting themselves with the tradition of cultivation and unprocessed fabrication. And the international population means there’s exotic fare that has upped the food choices in the city. The noteworthy Buku is a prime example, with a street-food concept that satisfies the cravings of just about anyone who has ever spent time in another culture.

Arts and Enlightenment

At the North Carolina Museum of History, visitors can take in 600 years of history and a great decorative arts collection that celebrates the rich tradition of local craftsmanship. And the North Carolina Museum of Art is the latest triumph in this city that continues to evolve creatively and culturally — a state of the art collection of international art and an art park that both aggressively promote the idea that art is for everyone.