Best Place to Spot a Celebrity
Cute–drug rehab. Also good–the Regulator bookstore in Durham, if by celebrity you mean John Valentine. (We do.) Various answers seemed to indicate a Dean Smith sighting somewhere. But the winner was: the Dean Smith Center itself, where the people in the front row must be somebody since they paid six figures to be there, and the eponymous Smith might appear someday with the androgynous Roy Williams. Runner-up: the airport, currently the best place to see putative prez Johnny Edwards as he jets off to greater glory.
If by celebrity is meant rich, try Duke President Nan Keohane’s office. Rich people go there a lot, especially the ones who think SAT scores aren’t a reliable predictor of their kids’ potential.
Best Place to Bring a Dog
Assuming you’re in compliance with the leash laws, many good choices offered here. The top two: West Point on the Eno in Durham and Umstead Park in Raleigh. Lotta sniffing prospects at both. Cedar Falls Park in Chapel Hill ran third. You could bring your dog to Weaver Street Market, true; but only if the meat’s on sale, yes? “The kennel” as an answer was disqualified.
Few people are lucky enough to work where our furry friends are welcome, but the number of places where we can play with them in public is growing slowly. One such place, Chapel Hill’s Homestead Park, gets our nod for a fave dog-friendly spot. Just off Airport Road a couple miles north of downtown, the 18-month-old park offers 20,000 square feet of fenced-in romping space for canines and their human companions. On any day in good weather, you and your four-legged buddy are likely to find a couple dozen other inter-special couples to toss a Frisbee with. Dog-lovers in the rest of the Triangle will soon have their own leash-free space; Raleigh’s first dog park opened April 11 at Millbrook Park, and Durham’s is set to open May 17 at Piney Woods Park.
Best Traditional N.C. Experience
So much to do, so little time. Hillsborough Hog Day and the Brookhill Steeplechase bespeak the economic diversity of our respondents. Pickin’ music at May General Store sounds good to us, right after drinkin’ moonshine, of course. Mama Dips, Sutton’s for a cherry mash, Cooper’s for barbecue. Or Bullock’s. Grandfather Mountain was a popular choice, but topping the list: The State Fair and the Durham Bulls.
To see what North Carolina used to look like, why not visit the General Assembly today?
Best Place to Watch the Folks Go By
First, a shameless plug for Duck & Dumpling, David Mao’s very sleek Asian bistro on Moore Square in Raleigh. Credit Greg Hatem, a developer (and you thought we didn’t like developers), for saving this sturdy old building, and architect Ted Van Dyke for its snazzy design. Now–stand in front of the place on a sunny day at noon, say. You’ve got your bidness crowd headed to the D&D, or to Tir na nOg next door, or Caffe Luna up the block. You’ve got your many splendid cultures of the world grabbing buses at the Moore Square transit hub. And, across the way, your City Market wanderers. Out in Moore Square, the kids from the charter school and the kids from the magnet school mingle with the guys from the homeless shelter and the tourists headed to Exploris.
Memo to Rodney King: We can all get along. Depending, of course, on the location, location, location.
Best Place to See a Play
In Raleigh, it’s BTI Center over the Raleigh Little Theater. But hey, the BTI has four theaters to RLT’s two. Critics Add: Whatever happened to Theater in the Park? And don’t overlook N.C. State’s tiny Thompson Theater–it’s comin’ on.
In Durham, Manbites Dog Theater is a clear winner, with the Carolina Theater, the Durham Arts Council and Duke University trailing. Question: Does Durham really need a 4,000-seat auditorium?
In Chapel Hill, and the winner overall, PlayMakers, by which we presume is meant the repertory company of that name performing now in the swanky Center for Dramatic Art at UNC-Chapel Hill. The old PlayMakers Theater on campus is, well, old.
Best Place to Skateboard
In Raleigh, various N.C. State sites were named, with the Brickyard the leading vote-getter. “California” is not in Raleigh, ‘Packsters, no matter how much you’ve had to drink. No winner in Durham–but we hear the city’s planning a skateboarding spot in shady Duke Park. In Chapel Hill: Homestead Road Park.
Best N.C. Place to Escape Multimedia Inundation
Ocracoke Island is a pain in the ass to get to. From the Triangle, it takes a four-hour drive and a two-hour-plus ferry. But at the end of those six hours, you arrive in a place that makes it absolutely effortless to escape your life in a wholesale way, until you remember to come home. It’s a self-contained world without one traffic light or movie theater.
On the Pamlico Sound side, facing mainland reality, there’s only one collection of stores, restaurants, small hotels and rental cottages, tightly knit into a village that doesn’t sprawl.
On the other side of the island, facing the Atlantic, there are 16 glorious miles of undeveloped oceanfront. There are plenty of creature comforts and even movie videos for rent in the village (though the only public internet access is at the town library, with limited hours). But if you’re really committed to escaping your email alerts, cell phone dingling and cable TV talking heads, head for the National Park Service campground, three miles north of civilization.
In the campground, the showers are cold and the mosquitoes can be vicious. But you wake up to the sunrise over the waves, and a world of non-electronic possibilities: swimming, walking, fishing, ocean kayaking, biking, nature-trail hiking, bird-watching. Dogs are welcome there, and most of the time your cell phone will leave you alone, as the service is spotty. The days pass in a haze of sunshine and wind, cold beers in sandy coolers, tumbles off a boogie board and the sun setting over sizzling grills.
If you really, really need to know what day it is or to check your messages, you can ride your bike to town for a newspaper, or use the landline pay phone. If you can resist, however, there are plenty of other things to do, just a walk across the dunes away.
Best Urban Park
Pullen Park by a mile over Umstead in Raleigh, perhaps because Umstead ain’t urban. Pullen’s No. 1 as a place to bring the kids or watch the sky. Moore Square, though not really a park, was a popular choice as a place to BE urban.
In Durham, gotta get that Durham Central Park going, because everybody here named Eno River State Park, which is Durham’s country cousin, don’t ya know?
And is anybody doing anything to get Chapel Hill that long-awaited downtown square, or park, or some place where hip Hillians could get real? The Arboretum and Bond Park just don’t get it done. And the Franklin Street Post Office, so useful in many ways, isn’t a park.
Best Preserve That’s About to Have a Highway Built Next to It
Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve on Old Oxford Highway in Durham is a magnificent retreat from the city and only minutes away. It’s an 84-acre piece of wilderness on a bend in the Eno River with a walking path along the water and a rare Piedmont Prairie filled with grasses and wildflowers rising above. The long-delayed Eno Drive, now called the Revised Northern Durham Parkway, will go from U.S. 70 north and along Old Oxford Highway in a compromise that keeps it away from Eno River State Park. But the traffic engineers were determined to lay that asphalt somewhere.
Most Annoying Intersection
We have an annoyed readership, that’s for sure. We’ve forwarded your list of several hundred dodgy places to the Department of Transportation, along with a generous campaign contribution (just kidding, Lyndo). Put them together, and the many annoyances in and around Crabtree Valley Mall caused the most squawking in Raleigh. (So the city’s probably going to OK another mega-deal up the hill? Good move.) In Durham, 15-501 was implicated in many problem locations–at Mount Moriah Road, Garrett Road, I-40, and so on. Out west, Franklin Street-to-Weaver Street is too clogged for local tastes.
The whole downtown Raleigh situation’s awful, but we’ll go here with the Crossroads (Cary) voters. How’d they ever make Walnut Street so bad? Somebody didn’t do the right thing there, Cary-ites.