text overlaying blurred background of fairgrounds

A Pocket Guide to the North Carolina State Fair

Fall Break might be just around the corner, but we all know fall is really here when the North Carolina State Fair comes to town. Lucky for us, that’s only a couple of weeks away!

What to See, Do, and Taste at the 2017 NC State Fair

The 2017 North Carolina State Fair (which is celebrating its 150th anniversary — wow!) will take over the fairgrounds on Hillsborough Street and Blue Ridge Road from Thursday, October 12th through Sunday, October 22nd. If you’ve never been, cancel all your plans and go buy tickets — the NC State Fair is a true Raleigh tradition.

Regardless if you’re a stranger to the experience or a State Fair aficionado, there are quite a few things that every visitor must do each time they stop by. So without further ado, here are the top 10 things to do at the North Carolina State Fair!

nc state fair heritage circle

10. Take a Step Into Yesteryear

It’s totally possible to time travel — just stop by the Village of Yesteryear. The round Holshouser Building is where you’ll find artisans hard at work (and many in period dress) carving wood, spinning yarn, weaving baskets, and more.

While you’re there, don’t miss out on the food and history at the Heritage Circle. Be sure to grab a hush puppy while touring the Grist Mill, too!

pumpkins and gourds at nc state fair agricultural exhibit

9. Visit the Agricultural Exhibits

The North Carolina State Fair is first and foremost an agricultural fair, so you’ll find some cool exhibits throughout the fairgrounds.

Take a peek at old farm machinery near the Village of Yesteryear, shop local at the Got To Be NC Agriculture tent, see the winners of the livestock competitions, and take a picture with the fair’s biggest pumpkin at the Expo Center. Here are a few more activities to try!

research van at nc state fair

8. Earn Money for Taking a Survey

This one’s a best-kept secret. Researchers with Duke University’s ResearchMobile, which is typically set up behind the Village of Yesteryear near the Grandstand, pay participants a couple of bucks to fill out a questionnaire and participate in a study.

monster made out of construction barrels

7. Take a Picture with NC State’s Own Barrel Monster

The Barrel Monster is the stuff of Raleigh legend. In 2009 when Hillsborough Street was just beginning its rebirth, an NC State student named Joseph Carnevale repurposed some white-and-orange-striped construction barrels into a 12-foot statue that was part horror, part modern art.

Though he was arrested and sentenced to community service, his fame skyrocketed; Carnevale was named to Time‘s “Top 10 Guerrilla Artists”, but better yet, people around NC State University liked his artwork so much that they had him make more.

The Barrel Monster (and his new wife) popped back up on Hillsborough Street and at the North Carolina State Fair that same year. Now, the Barrel Monsters are fixtures of the State Fair.

(If you’re looking for more street art by Joseph Carnevale, his Street Knight sculpture now guards the staircase in Cameron Village Library.)

ski lift ride over the midway

6. Ride the New Fair Flyer Over the Midway

Okay, so it’s not brand new; the ski lift-like Fair Flyer made its debut in 2016 and became the first permanent ride at the fairgrounds. But considering the North Carolina State Fair is celebrating more than a century of heritage, it’s pretty new.

the fountain at the nc state fair

5. Stop By the Iconic Fountain

Big, massive, and centrally located within the fairgrounds, this fountain serves as both a popular meetup spot and a scenic picnic area. This iconic fountain is located in front of the Dorton Arena. Seriously, you can’t miss it.

guitar player at a concert

4. Catch a Concert from a Local Band

Looking to expand your music palate without spending money? The North Carolina State Fair has just what you need. At the Homegrown Music Fest, you can take your pick of three different stages and a full calendar of concerts, from single artists to musical groups, from country to hip hop, and from up-and-coming to well-known stars.

popular place for fried food at nc state fair

3. Eat Something Fried (Bonus Points for a Krispy Kreme Burger)

It’s not true fair food unless it’s been deep fried, skewered, or smothered in chocolate. But despite all these options, the North Carolina State Fair is best known for its fried foods — even vegetables are fair game!

Second only to concoctions like the bacon-wrapped grilled cheese sandwich (a new item in 2016), one of the weirdest foods at the State Fair has to be the Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheeseburger. It’s just what you think it is: a beef patty with bacon sandwiched between two original glazed Krispy Kreme donuts, not to mention all the traditional burger condiments in between.

The Krispy Kreme Burger was so popular that variations of it, including a Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe, soon popped up on the fried fair food scene.

nc state university ice cream

2. Wait in Line for Howling Cow Ice Cream

NC State students can’t get enough of Howling Cow — that’s the university’s own brand of ice cream, made with milk from the school’s cows and produced right on campus.

Normally you can only buy Howling Cow ice cream from various spots around campus, but when the State Fair’s in town, that’s a different story! You can find the Howling Cow tent along the Grandstand.

new food stand at the state fair
Home of the bacon-wrapped grilled cheese sandwich, a new item at the 2016 State Fair

1. Try the New Things Everyone’s Talking About

Every year, the North Carolina State Fair has something new, from you-absolutely-have-to-try-these fried foods to don’t-you-dare-miss-these thrill rides. Here’s what’s new to the 2017 State Fair:

  • Cheap admission: Since the fair is celebrating 150 years, it’s kicking off the event with $1.50 admission on Thursday, October 12th. That day, the first 15,000 visitors will get a commemorative button, which is the ticket to possibly winning free ride passes and other prizes.
  • Unlimited fair rides: For the thrill-seekers, unlimited ride wristbands are available online for $25 until October 12th. Wristbands will be $35 once the fair starts.
  • The coolest ski-lift: Back after its debut at the 2016 State Fair, the State Fair Flyer will once again soar over the fair rides on the Midway. It’s also a scenic way to get from one end of the fairgrounds to the other.
  • New thrills: The Air Raid, F5, and Dodgems Chop Shop are the latest adrenaline-pumping rides, while the Fun Time Railroad is a gentler thrill for kids.
  • New tastes: A beer garden’s coming to the 2017 State Fair! The Our State Public House features craft beer and wine from all across North Carolina, and visitors will be able to buy a flight of four samples.
  • Amazing entertainment: From a phenomenal mural painter to a head-turning ostrich rider, the 2017 State Fair has some intriguing entertainment on this year’s lineup.

What are you most excited for at this year’s fair? Leave us a comment below!

Keep Up with All Things NC State

From exciting Raleigh traditions like the North Carolina State Fair to local happenings along Hillsborough Street, The Student Saver is the ultimate guide to everything on and off North Carolina State University’s campus. Hit that “follow” button and always be in the know!

elk in a North Carolina park in the fall

12 Awesome (And Cheap!) Road Trip Destinations Close to Raleigh

No need to drop hundreds of dollars on a cross-country road trip — WalletHub says NC is the place to go!

Thanks to North Carolina’s central location on the East Coast, you can still have some summer fun at the beach or, if you’re ready to dive straight into autumn, you can soak up all the fall colors in the mountains. Whether you’re planning for Fall Break or are craving a weekend getaway, pick a destination and prepare yourself for an epic road trip across the state!

Amazing Sight-Seeing Spots

bridge over the mountains in NC
The Mile-High Swinging Bridge in Linville, NC

Blue Ridge Parkway

Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, especially on the Linn Cove Viaduct, which is the view that you see in all those postcards. While you’re driving through the mountains, consider visiting the Mile-High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain (you have to pay to visit Grandfather Mountain, but the view is worth it).

  • Location: Appalachian Mountains in western North Carolina
  • Cost: Free (Grandfather Mountain admission is $20 for adults)
  • Driving Time: 3 hours, 35 minutes from Raleigh to the parkway in Linville

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

This is the ultimate hiking destination on the coast of North Carolina. Climb the largest sand dunes on the Atlantic Coast in Jockey’s Ridge State Park, one of the most intriguing landmarks in the state. Because the dunes are so high, activities like hang-gliding, sand-boarding, and windsurfing are popular.

  • Location: Nags Head
  • Cost: Free
  • Driving Time: 3 hours, 10 minutes
lighthouse in nc
The Bodie Island Lighthouse on the Outer Banks

Outer Banks National Scenic Byway

The mountains have the Blue Ridge Parkway, but the coast has the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway. This nearly 145-mile highway system passes through 21 seaside villages and covers 25 ferry routes for a total of 6.5 hours of breathtaking scenery. While you’re at the coast, you might as well stretch your legs and visit North Carolina’s lighthouses.

  • Location: The Outer Banks in eastern North Carolina
  • Cost: Free (one-way ferry tickets to the barrier islands cost $5 to $15 per vehicle)
  • Driving Time: 3 hours from Raleigh to Whalebone Junction Information Station in Nags Head

Quintessential North Carolina Experiences

The Original Mast General Store

Visit the original Mast General Store (established in 1883!) on Highway 194 in Valle Crucis and buy a treat for yourself. Driving around all those mountain curves, you earned it. While you’re there, stock up on outdoor gear and venture to nearby Grandfather Mountain or Linville Gorge for an unforgettable hike.

  • Location: Valle Crucis
  • Cost: Free (unless you want to buy something)
  • Driving Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

close-up of Bojangle's meal


While not the cheapest place to visit, Carowinds certainly deserves a spot on our road trip destinations list. This theme park straddles the North Carolina/South Carolina border in Charlotte and features dozens of rides that will excite any thrill-seeker. In the fall, the park pulls a Jekyll and Hyde with its “SCarowinds” nighttime haunts and terrifying monsters. While you’re in Charlotte, you might as well buy lunch from the original Bojangles’ location, 300 West Boulevard — because why not?

  • Location: Charlotte
  • Cost: About $50 per person
  • Driving Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

North Carolina Zoo

Always wanted to travel the world? You can do that in a day from the North Carolina Zoo. Take a peek at alligators and cougars living in cypress swamps, say hello to the polar bears and puffins of the arctic, pass by scorpions and sand cats in the desert, and spy on the elephants and rhinos of the African grasslands. The zoo in Asheboro is only a short drive away, so you can spend less time in the car and more time walking around the habitats.

  • Location: Asheboro
  • Cost: $15 per person
  • Driving Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

The Perfect Hike Through the Woods

swamp and river in Apex NC
Beaver Creek along the American Tobacco Trail

American Tobacco Trail

Spanning more than 22 miles from rural Apex to Downtown Durham, the American Tobacco Trail is a popular place for biking and running. It’s one of the flattest trails in the Raleigh area, too. The reason? The trail was built on top of an old railway line, which was abandoned and dismantled several decades ago. The trail is a scenic and shady place to visit, especially along Beaver Creek near the New Hill parking area.

  • Location: Western Wake County
  • Cost: Free
  • Driving Time: 30 minutes from Raleigh to the New Hill parking lot

Graveyard Fields Loop Trail

Even the name of this trail evokes a kind of ethereal beauty. Considered a favorite among Asheville’s hiking trails, the Graveyard Fields Loop Trail shows off North Carolina’s best features, including the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows of fall foliage.

  • Location: Milepost 418.8 of the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Cost: Free
  • Driving Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Neuse River Trail

sign for the neuse river greenway trail in Raleigh

Like the American Tobacco Trail, the Neuse River Trail is another long-distance trail near Raleigh. From the Falls Lake Dam in North Raleigh, it winds its way more than 27 miles along the Neuse River, passing under highways, behind buildings, and beside landmarks that have disappeared into the foliage, and emerging into Johnston County, where the trail continues a few more miles into Clayton.

  • Location: Eastern Wake County and western Johnston County
  • Cost: Free
  • Driving Time: 30 minutes from NC State to the Pleasant Union Church Road parking lot

NC on the Big Screen

Okay, this category is worth mentioning. North Carolina has played a major role in Hollywood films for years, but you might be surprised at just how many movies have been filmed in our statePaper Towns, for instance, was filmed at Central Cabarrus High School in Concord; Wilmington landmarks took on haunted personas in The Conjuring; and our very own Mitch’s Tavern had a cameo in Bull Durham. Here are a few other filming locations worth visiting.

The Hunger Games Filming Locations

red and orange trees in the fallFrom District 12 to the Capitol, North Carolina’s scenery was front and center in The Hunger Games. Want to take your own tour? Hike through the woods of the Arena (DuPont State Forest), venture to District 12 (Downtown Shelby), or explore the heart of the Capitol (Uptown Charlotte).

  • Location: Charlotte and western North Carolina
  • Cost: Free
  • Driving Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes from Raleigh to Charlotte 

Dirty Dancing Filming Location

Cult favorite Dirty Dancing was filmed right here in North Carolina — at Lake Lure, to be exact. While it’s a little too late to attend the Dirty Dancing Festival (it’s held annually in the middle of August), you can still have the time of your life with a scenic boat tour of the lake.

  • Location: Lake Lure
  • Cost: $15 per person for guided boat tours
  • Driving Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes

Various TV Show Filming Locations

There’s a reason Wilmington is fondly known as “Wilmywood.” Everything from Iron Man 3 to We’re the Millers has been shot from this North Carolina city, so it’s no surprise that Wilmington has its fair share of tour-worthy sights. Take a self-guided tour of the city to spy where filmmakers shot scenes from One Tree HillDawson’s CreekSleepy HollowUnder the Domeand more.

  • Location: Wilmington
  • Cost: Free ($11 per student for guided Hollywood Location Walk tours)
  • Driving Time: 2 hours

There’s Always Something to Do Near NC State

Have you checked off all of these road trip-worthy destinations from your bucket list? Let us know in the comments! If you’re looking for something else to do, take your pick of fun happenings from this list of upcoming events near NC State University.

group of friends on the beach

6 Weird But Foolproof Ways to Make Friends This Semester

It’s September and you’ve got the whole routine down. You’ve memorized your class schedule, you (finally) have all your textbooks, and you even have a favorite study spot on campus. Only one problem: you don’t have that big college friend group you were hoping for.

Besides navigating morning rush-hour traffic and finding a place to park, making friends in college is one of the hardest parts about being a commuter student. Somehow it’s just not as easy as it was in Kindergarten. But luckily there are a few weird but effective ways to start up a conversation and make friends for life.

college students in a club meeting1. Embrace Your Inner Nerd

There are over 700 clubs and organizations at NC State, ranging from fraternities and sororities to fun stuff like theater and improv. It’s a bit overwhelming to take in, so you might want to start with a club that’s associated with your specific college, educational interests, future career path, or even favorite TV shows. In other words, embrace your inner nerd.

Here are a few examples of clubs to try:

  • Educational clubs — Astronomy Club, Companion Animal Club, Chinese Language Club, Poetry Club, etc.
  • Honor societies — Alpha Epsilon Delta (Pre-Health), Alpha Omega Epsilon (Engineering), Phi Alpha (Social Work), etc.
  • Pop culture clubs — Anime Club, Disney Film Club, League of Legends Collegiate Club, etc.

2. Bribe Other Students with Food

Studying in Talley or the library? See a group of people you’d love to talk to? Buy some food and share it, whether it’s Pokey Stix from Gumby’s or a box of goodies from Insomnia Cookies. A little free food goes a long way, especially when you’re trying to make friends.

3. Stir Up a Little Controversy

activism flags

Nothing starts up a conversation quite like politics. If you’re feeling a little adventurous and don’t mind inciting a heated debate, talk with a stranger about current events or something you’re passionate about.

4. Go Up to a Stranger and Compliment Them

You’d be surprised at how much a compliment can brighten someone’s day. While you may not become fast friends with every student you compliment, you’ll at least get to know a few people better.

5. Wear a Giraffe Onesie to Class

College is when you can do a lot of weird stuff and get away with it. And nothing starts a conversation (or turns heads) quite like showing up to class decked out in an awesome pair of pajamas. Of course, a t-shirt with your favorite band or superhero on it can also have the same results.

students in a lecture hall6. Try One of These Unique Conversation Starters

Small talk topics, like “what are you majoring in” or “what year are you,” might not be as effective at getting to know someone as a question that really digs down deep into who they are. Try these the next time you find yourself sitting next to someone you don’t know:

  • “What did you think of that last episode of [insert TV show name here]?”
  • “I’m looking for some cool people to follow on Instagram. Any recommendations?”
  • “Seen any good Netflix shows lately?”
  • “Are you in any fun clubs?”
  • “What’s your favorite restaurant?”

Or You Could Always Bond Over Commuter Student Problems

Being a commuter student has its challenges, but if you find a fellow commuter and strike up a conversation, you have infinite possibilities for keeping that conversation going (and maybe even making a friend for life). Check out this student commuter guide for even more tips about how to succeed as a commuter student at NC State.

crane over The Alley

We Finally Know What Happened to the Hillsborough Lofts Building

If you’ve been on Hillsborough Street at all in the past two years, you’ve seen it: a brick-red shipping container standing in for the sidewalk, a two-story skeleton comprised of steel beams and concrete pillars, and a massive crane towering above the whole construction site.

Back in 2014, Hillsborough Lofts, which is nestled between what was once The Alley and what’s currently WABA/Shanghai Express, was just one of the seemingly dozens of new student apartment complexes that were going to transform Hillsborough Street into NC State’s version of North Hills. But it’s now 2017 and there’s still no building. So what gives?

Why Did Construction Suddenly Stop?

apartment building under constructionThanks to this recent article in The News & Observer, we finally have some closure.

So here’s how the Hillsborough Lofts project was supposed to go down: a crane would build up the 7-story building starting in June 2015, the construction would go off without a hitch, and students could move in just in time for the Fall 2015 semester. But clearly something went wrong; the crane is still there and no students (as far as we know, anyway) are occupying the building.

What happened? Two words: legal drama.

Basically, two contractors and a bunch of delays later, the whole site is being put up for auction at the end of September. So at least now we know what happened. We’ll keep y’all updated about any new changes!

Curious About What Else is Coming to Hillsborough Street?

We’ve kept an eye on the City of Raleigh’s development website (yes, really) for any new stuff, and there are plenty of new apartments still coming to Hillsborough Street. Check out our guide to the new apartments for all the details!


10 Life Lessons College Students Can Learn from “Moana”

title credits for Moana movie

By now you should have seen the totally-worth-the-hype masterpiece that is Disney’s Moana — it came out in November, after all. But if you haven’t, that’s okay, because it’s coming to Netflix on June 20th. (You’re welcome 😉 ).

Like in any kids’ movie, there are a fair amount of life lessons sprinkled in with all the catchy musical numbers and comic relief scenes. But surprisingly, there are plenty of lessons that college students can take from this movie. Here are a few.

(WARNING: Potential spoilers ahead! It’s summer break, so just go see Moana. Rent it on Redbox. Borrow it from a friend. Do whatever you need to do to watch it. It’s worth it!)

1. It’s okay to want a different path than your parents envisioned.

Moana contemplating her destiny

College is where you figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life.

2. Tough situations show you where you need to go.

Moana staring at a giant wave

Failing a couple of courses may not be what you wanted, but how else would you have known you needed to change your major? (Speaking from experience here…)

3. Sometimes, you just gotta go for it.

Moana paddling her canoe

Take that art class. Talk to that person. Apply for that study abroad program. Carpe diem!

4. Of course, it’s gonna take some effort.

Moana having trouble sailing

College isn’t easy, so you have to put in the work to succeed. As another well-known Disney princess said, “The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work.”

5. Buy an alarm clock.

Moana's chicken screaming

You can’t pass your 8 AM English class if you can’t wake up for it.

6. Buy some pencils, too.

Maui signing Moana's oar with Hei Hei's beak

Not everything is online in college. You’ll still have to complete tests by hand. (Don’t forget to buy a couple of Blue Books from the bookstore!)

7. If you don’t know something, find the answers for yourself.

Moana finds the hidden cave

You have endless resources at your disposal, especially when you go to NC State. If you’re looking for advice or information, just ask!

8. You’ll have to do stuff you don’t want to do.


Could be a group project, could be an internship, could be just talking to someone you don’t know. Jumping into the unknown is tough, but it’s worth it in the end.

9. But your friends always have your back.

Moana's friends on the island

Friends, family, neighbors, coworkers… there are plenty of people willing to help you succeed in college. Stick with them and you’ll be unstoppable!

10. You’ve totally got this.

Moana high-fiving the ocean

Taking 18 credit hours next semester? Tackling a gigantic Capstone project? Figuring out how to juggle a full course schedule, a part-time job, and a 30-minute drive to school? You can do anything you set your mind to. (This commuter guide can help!)

Have a great summer!

why we love north carolina

11 Reasons Why North Carolina is the Best State Ever

Whether you were born and raised here or just came here for school, you know there’s something special about living in North Carolina. But the Old North State isn’t just a great place to live. It’s the best. And here are just a few reasons why.

NCSUs iconic Belltower

1. Our Landmarks Sell Tons of Postcards

North Carolina is home to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Biltmore Estate, Downtown Raleigh, Asheville, dozens of waterfalls, and some beautiful college campuses (including NC State, of course!). The state tourism industry probably rakes in a lot of cash just from the postcards and t-shirts alone.

Cheerwine sign at Char-Grill

2. We Have Cheerwine

If you haven’t had this fizzy cherry-flavored soda, you’re missing out. This true North Carolina gem is only available in our state, and you can find it at places like Cookout and Char-Grill on tap. Cheerwine is made in Salisbury and it’s celebrating its 100th anniversary this year!

3. We Gave the World Pepsi (You’re Welcome, World)

Speaking of sodas that were made in North Carolina, this soft drink giant was born in a small pharmacy in New Bern in 1898. If you’re looking for Pepsi at NC State, though, there’s only one place on campus that sells the stuff: the 1911 Building snack bar.

sausage biscuit, fries, and sweet tea

4. Bojangles’ is a Thing Because of Us

Charlotte is home to the nation’s first Bojangles’, and North Carolina single-handedly supports the Southeastern fast food chain with more than 300 restaurants in our state alone. Good news if you live out of state: You’ll find Bojangles’ as far north as Reading, Pennsylvania.

5. We’re First in Flight

In 1903, the Wright brothers took flight with a little help from the dunes and wind at Kitty Hawk, and the rest is history. Sorry, Ohio. Y’all may be the “birthplace of innovation” since Orville Wright was born in Dayton, but we’re the actual birthplace of flight.

neon restaurant sign and menu

6. We Have Better Burgers Than California

California has In-N-Out Burger, which is great. But North Carolina has Char-Grill and Cookout, which are phenomenal.

Krispy Kreme in Raleigh

7. Krispy Kreme and Britt’s Donuts Were Born Here

Obviously, Krispy Kreme has a special place in your heart because it has its own race right here in Raleigh. But most of the United States doesn’t even know about Britt’s Donuts in Carolina Beach. Ah-mazing.

8. Our Barbecue is an Art Form

It’s the never-ending battle of East vs. West when it comes to barbecue in North Carolina. So which is your favorite?

basketball game at PNC Arena

9. We’re the Reason College Basketball is a Big Deal

In North Carolina, you’re practically considered a social pariah if you don’t create at least one bracket during March Madness. And with both UNC and Duke boasting several national championships and dominating the NCAA leader boards year after year, it’s clear that college basketball is more than just a sport in North Carolina.

10. The Beach and Mountains are Close By

In just 2 hours, you can be digging your toes in the sand and soaking up the sun. In just 4 hours, you can be hiking to North Carolina’s best waterfalls or exploring hidden gems like Mast General Store.

11. We Have Some World-Renowned Universities

UNC Chapel Hill was the first public university in the nation. Duke University is known for its medical program. And, of course, NC State is acclaimed for its science and engineering curriculum. So it’s no surprise that North Carolina’s schools are at the forefront of innovation.

Comment Below with Your Favorite Reason!

Obviously, there are countless other reasons why North Carolina is the best place to live and go to school. Do you agree with our list? Did we leave out your favorite reason? Let us know in the comments!

5 Restaurants You Need to Try in Mission Valley Before You Graduate

If you ran the Krispy Kreme Challenge this morning, you might not be feeling up for dinner anytime soon. (I mean, if you are, kudos. Not everyone can down a dozen donuts, run two and a half miles, and feel fine afterwards.) For everyone else, Mission Valley should be on your list of dinner destinations.

The Student Saver Restaurant Rankings

We already covered the best restaurants on Western Boulevard, so now it’s time to look at the ones in Mission Valley shopping center. If you’re unfamiliar with this side of campus, it’s on the corner of Western Boulevard and Avent Ferry Road, which is where the Mission Valley Cinema is. There are a few hidden gems, but these are our favorites.

TVs at Sammy's Bar & Grill

The College Bar with the Best Mascot: Sammy’s Tap & Grill

I mean, it has a shuttle bus called “The Wolf Wagon,” so you know it’s a State fan hangout. But if you also happen to cheer for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sammy’s will make you feel right at home.

mural on Cup-A-Joe building

The Coffee Shop Right Out of a ’90s Sitcom: Cup A Joe

Think Central Perk from Friends. Cup A Joe is the off-campus coffee shop of choice for studying, getting your caffeine fix, and hanging out late at night. (Okay, yes, this isn’t a restaurant per se, but it’s certainly a place you need to visit before you graduate. Cup A Joe does serve food, after all.)

hot dog restaurant near ncsu

The ’50s Diner That’s Authentic Without Even Trying: Cloos’ Coney Island

Sure, Cloos’ Coney Island has the vintage-style seats, checkered floors, and 1950s memorabilia hanging (or spraypainted) on the walls. But its laid-back vibe and friendly employees really seal the deal in this hole-in-the-wall diner hidden in Mission Valley.

The Mexican Restaurant That’s Good for Any Budget: El Cerro Bar & Grill

There are a surprising number of Tex-Mex places around NC State: Gonza Tacos Y Tequila, Chipotle, La Rancherita, Wicked Taco… El Cerro, though, is the right balance of budget-friendly dining with an awesome food and drink menu. The ACP, fajitas, and chimi cheesecake are popular dishes. (Student discount: 10% off your bill.)

waffle house restaurant at night

Hands Down the Best Place to Eat If You’re Craving Breakfast at 3 AM: Waffle House

What’s not to love about a breakfast diner that’s open 24/7? The Waffle House near State is tucked away beside Schoolkid Records on the far side of the shopping center, and the decor is excellent. There’s even a jukebox.

Want to Try Even More Restaurants? Get the Guide

Mission Valley has its share of best-kept secrets. You can find everything from Ethiopian cuisine to good ol’ fashioned wings on the same strip, so you’re bound to find your favorite restaurant here. Need a full list of places to eat at Mission Valley? Check it out in the commuter guide.