Give your guests a local experience with these stays that are walkable to great bars, restaurants and shopping.
By Emily Gajda
Yay! People are traveling again — but do you really have enough guest rooms for Mom & Dad, plus your sister and her whole family? As big gatherings gear up again this season, you may find yourself looking for places to put everyone. There are plenty of great chain hotels in the area, but if you want to offer out-of-town guests a true taste of Raleigh, consider one of these five downtown Raleigh hotels that are walkable to good restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping and cultural opportunities. The more your guests have to explore, the easier it is to host — and it’ll make visitors fall in love with Raleigh, too.
For the Classic Raleigh Tourist: The Longleaf Hotel
Built as a Days Inn in the 1960s, The Longleaf Hotel was rehabbed in 2020 as an updated travel-lodge with a retro-cool Mid-century interior. The hotel boasts its original breezeblocks, which were recently uncovered after a postcard revealed their existence under years-old stucco, and a color scheme of green, peach and warm neutral tones that evoke the natural beauty of North Carolina. Stop by the lobby in the morning for baked goods from Union Special Bread and brew from Slingshot Coffee, both handcrafted in Raleigh. In the afternoons and evenings, The Longleaf Lounge offers elevated cocktails, beer and wine in its plush lounge or out on the patio, where fire pits keep it cozy through the winter.
From there, guests can take 7-minute walk south to get to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the Museum of History and the Capitol Building. Mulino is just across the street for upscale Italian, or they can walk a little further west to hit favorites like Five Star, Cortez and oldie-but-goodie 42nd Street Oyster Bar. If your guests are willing to walk a little further north, send them towards Layered Croissanterie for Instagrammable baked goods or The Cardinal for a classic beer-and-a-hot-dog combo.
300 N. Dawson Street; thelongleafhotel.com
For Design Lovers: Heights House
Named one of the best new hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure when it opened, the Heights House Hotel is a former 19th-century mansion in Raleigh’s Boylan Heights neighborhood. The boutique hotel has just nine rooms, all furnished in chic muted tones that blend its Italianate architecture with modern design. The main floor offers a breakfast room, drawing room, library and parlor for guests to dine and lounge. In the afternoons and evenings, The Parlor offers cocktails, wine and beer — and hotel guests never need a reservation to partake — to grab while you wander through the main floor, onto the porch, out to the firepit or down to the tucked-away Lower Lounge.
Just across the street is Rebus Works, a small gallery with rotating pop-up shops, and few blocks away is Wye Hill Kitchen and Brewing, with inventive food and what might be the best view of Raleigh’s skyline. Walk a little further to get into the Warehouse District, where you can find everything from mission-driven A Place at the Table, to upscale eateries like Heirloom Brewshop, Junction West and Barcelona Wine Bar, to casual-but-delicious spots like Humble Pie and Poole’s (a diner run by a James Beard Award-winning chef, Ashley Christensen). For culture, CAM Raleigh is a great bet, or shop at nearby Father & Son Antiques, Raleigh Denim Workshop or The Flourish Market.
308 S. Boylan Avenue; heightshousenc.com
For the Wannabe Local: Guest House
“A love note to Raleigh,” its website says, and it’s true: the Guest House is the perfect spot for those who want to feel like they live in the neighborhood. The building was first home to Arthur Gorham, Raleigh’s first Black mailman, and his wife Annie, a teacher, in the 1880s. Slated for demolition in 2016, Gorham House was moved from the Prince Hall Historic District to its current location on S. Bloodworth Street by now-owners Matt Tomasulo and Nicole Alvarez, who turned it into an eight-room boutique hotel with a warm Scandinavian interior.
Guest House is the perfect launchpad to explore the southeast corner of downtown Raleigh. Right nearby, Raleigh Wine Shop, Roshambo and Transfer Co. Food Hall offer truly-local spots to grab a drink or bite. Or head west toward Moore Square, cutting through the historic City Market with its picturesque cobblestone streets and evening twinkle lights. Within a few blocks, you’ll find award-winning Laotian food at Bida Manda, classic Italian-American food at Vic’s, elevated Japanese at City Market Sushi and belly-filling Southern food at Big Ed’s. Then stroll along Hargett Street, once known as Raleigh’s Black Wall Street, to find locally-owned boutiques and eateries like Read with Me, Munjo Munjo and Nashona.
420 S. Bloodworth Street; guesthouseraleigh.com
For the Scenester: The Casso
The Casso, part of the Marriott Group’s Tribute Portfolio of independent hotels with local character, isn’t quite a boutique hotel — but it’s a great place to park younger, more lively guests who will enjoy the bustling social atmosphere of Glenwood South. The hotel is named after Casso’s Inn, the most popular hotel of Raleigh’s early years and the registered birthplace of Andrew Johnson in 1808. It’s social spaces and full-service restaurant, Good Day Good Night, are filled with art that’s unique to the City of Oaks — like a wall-sized mural of Sir Walter Raleigh himself.
The area around The Casso is brimming with restaurants, lounges, bars and late night hangouts like Tin Roof, a spot with live music every night, and Clockwork, a bar with speakeasy vibes and smart cocktails, plus photogenic spots like the rooftop bar The Willard or the leafy Botanical Lounge. Beer aficionados can visit Clouds Brewing or North Street Beer Station. Restaurants The Rockford and Sushi Blues are popular spots, while Morgan Street Food Hall offers tons of locally-owned options for a quick sit-down.
603 W. Morgan Street; thecassoraleigh.com
For the College Nostalgic: Aloft Raleigh
Aloft Raleigh, though part of a bigger hotel portfolio, offers a unique stay thanks to its proximity to Raleigh’s North Carolina State University — some of its rooms even overlook the university’s iconic stone downstairs, Jubala Coffee serves up all the espresso drinks. The hotel even has a free bike rental program for guests to trek around campus or connect to Raleigh’s 100+ miles of greenways.
Outside of the hotel, guests can weave in and out of campus to take in things like exhibits at the Gregg Museum or a tour of the historic Reynolds Coliseum. Wander up Hillsborough Street for an eclectic college town experience: CupAJoe is a longtime study spot with strong caffeinated beverages, The Green Monkey serves up weekly drag alongside its adult beverages, and Mitch’s Tavern and The Players Retreat are Raleigh stalwarts for beers and American food. Visitors can also wander through nearby neighborhoods Oberlin Village and University park, and shop at the many locally-owned boutiques in The Village District.
2100 Hillsborough Street; aloftraleigh.com
Whether you’re hosting family and friends or looking for a place to stay yourself, Raleigh has plenty of options to keep you entertained and comfortable.