You Have Until Tuesday, July 17th to See the Famous Raleigh Sunflowers

Longtime Raleigh residents know about the beautiful sunflowers that bloom along the Neuse River Trail in the summer. Bike riders, hikers, and Instagram explorers alike flock to mile 25 to stop and smell the flowers each year between June and July.

Well, this year, the sunflowers are in a new spot.

The Sunflowers Are Blooming in Dix Park

This year, you’ll find the field of sunflowers in the heart of Dorothea Dix Park, which is just a stone’s throw from NC State University.

A bumblebee gathering pollen from a sunflower, one of many in a field in Dix Park.Bring your camera and your hiking shoes—it’s a bit of a rocky walk on the way up from the soccer fields off of Hunt Drive, if you decide to park there. Alternatively, you can park in Kirby Lot, which is accessible from Blair Drive off of Centennial Parkway.

The view is simply stunning. Get to the park around sunset and you’ll be treated to a beautiful view of the Downtown Raleigh skyline—along with the gorgeous sunflowers, of course.

Don’t Miss SunFest on July 14th

If you’re in town for the summer and want another excuse to explore the park, come out for SunFest. (This is when the sunflowers will be in peak bloom.) Here’s a taste of what’s happening at this upcoming summer event:

  • food trucks, including Curry In A Hurry and Lumpy’s Ice Cream
  • drinks from Trophy Brewing Company and Bull City Ciderworks
  • arts and crafts activities
  • market featuring local artwork and handmade gifts
  • photo booth
  • live music with Shiloh Hill

Sunflowers Are More Than Just Instagram-Worthy

Sunflowers facing away from the camera.Back in 2010 when the flowers first made an appearance on the Neuse River Trail, the City of Raleigh was testing a unique kind of biofuel: sunflower oil. It just so happened that the sunflower fields they planted created the perfect photo op.

If you’re wondering, each acre of sunflowers produces about 35 gallons of biodiesel. Renewable energy and a beautiful view? Yes, please!

Share Your Photos of the Raleigh Sunflowers!

The flowers are expected to be in peak bloom until July 17th, so be sure to stop by Dix Park in the next couple of weeks. Feel free to share your photos in the comments—we’d love to see them!


Spend Your Summer Festival-Hopping Around Raleigh

There’s always something to do near Downtown Raleigh and NC State during the year, but what about when school lets out for the summer?

Lead singer of We The Kings performing on stage at Packapalooza.
We The Kings performed at Packapalooza in summer 2016.

Well, if you live in the Triangle, you’re in luck.

From arts & crafts festivals to outdoor concerts to summer movie nights, you’ll find dozens of fun (and cheap!) events to add to your summer bucket list.

Here are a few worth checking out around Raleigh.

Kicking Things Off in May 2018…

  • Fest in the West: Saturday, May 5th @ 11am-5pm | Thomas Brooks Park (USA Baseball National Training Complex)
  • Apex PeakFest: Saturday, May 5th @ 9am-5pm | Downtown Apex
  • Ritmo Latino: Saturday, May 12th @ 12pm-6:30pm | Cary Town Hall
  • Got to Be NC Festival: Friday, May 20th-Sunday, May 22nd | North Carolina State Fairgrounds

A week before NC State’s 2018 Commencement is Cary’s Fest in the West, a food truck rodeo meets craft fair with a touch of Western flair. Expect a full afternoon of shopping local, chowing down on food truck cuisine, and rocking out to local bands.

After you stop by Fest in the West, drive down NC-55 to Downtown Apex, where you can have even more food and fun at the annual PeakFest.

Up next on May 12th (right after spring Commencement) is Cary’s Ritmo Latino, a celebration of Hispanic culture — and that means lots of delicious food, mesmerizing dancing, and impressive crafts showcases.

popular place for fried food at nc state fairIf you’re counting down the days until the North Carolina State Fair in October, you can get a taste of the fun at the Got to Be NC Festival in late May. Tractor pulls, pig races, fair rides, agricultural exhibits, and fireworks shows are all on the schedule for 2018.

Visit These Mouth-Watering Food Festivals in June

  • Raleigh’s International Food Festival: Saturday, June 9th @ 12pm-10pm | Downtown Raleigh (City Plaza)
  • Peak City Pig Fest: Friday, June 15th-Saturday, June 16th | Downtown Apex

Wish you could travel the world without going broke? You can (well, sort of) at the International Food Festival. Catch live performances and try delicious food from all over the world!

And speaking of food, nothing says “summer” quite like a backyard barbecue. In Downtown Apex, the whole Triangle gets together for two days of live music, beer, and barbecue (of course!) during Peak City Pig Fest.

Don’t Forget the July 4th Fireworks!

  • July 4th Celebration at Koka Booth Amphitheatre: Wednesday, July 4th @ 3pm-10pm | Koka Booth Amphitheatre
  • 4th on 1st: Wednesday, July 4th @ 5pm-9:45pm | Knightdale Station Park
  • The ‘Works: Wednesday, July 4th @ 12pm-10pm | Downtown Raleigh

Red and green fireworks shooting over Koka Booth Amphitheatre.The Triangle, of course, celebrates Independence Day in style.

Out of Cary’s many 4th of July events, the July 4th Celebration offers an incredible fireworks show, not to mention a stellar performance from the Cary Town Band and NC Symphony.

If you’re out and about in Knightdale, you can catch live music from The Embers and a spectacular fireworks show over Knightdale Station Park at the town’s 4th on 1st event.

And how can we forget Raleigh’s own The ‘Works? During the day, come out for food, music, and all kinds of patriotic fun. After the sun sets, prepare for one of the most spectacular fireworks shows the Triangle has to offer.

There’s So Much More to Enjoy Around NC State

As a college student (or recent grad), “free” is our favorite word. Don’t miss any of these other free and cheap events happening around campus!

Did we miss any of your favorite festivals? Let us know in the comments! We might even add it to our list of upcoming events.

Thoughts You Totally Have While Running the Krispy Kreme Challenge

Bitter 20-degree temps didn’t stop the 14th annual Krispy Kreme Challenge yesterday.

For those who aren’t longtime locals, the Krispy Kreme Challenge is a beloved tradition that combines Raleighites’ love of running, love of glazed donuts, and love of giving back.

The challenge? Run 2.5 miles from NC State’s Belltower to Krispy Kreme, devour a dozen donuts, and race back to the Belltower — without throwing up, if possible. All of the money raised from the race supports the North Carolina Children’s Hospital over in Chapel Hill.

Not surprisingly, a quirky event like this is on many people’s bucket lists, ours included. If you ran the race yesterday, we bet we can guess what you were thinking.

“There Must Be Thousands of People Here!”

A crowd of runners, some dressed in donut costumes, milling around NC State's Belltower with the Aloft Hotel in the background.

There are a lot of unforgettable moments during the Krispy Kreme Challenge. Seeing thousands of people sprinting down a car-free Hillsborough Street is one of them.

Close to 3,000 people finished the race during the 2018 Krispy Kreme Challenge, but that’s not counting the crowd of loyal friends, family, and curious onlookers who showed up to keep runners motivated.

We personally passed people holding hilarious motivational signs (including “You run better than our government”), folks feeding bacon to the challengers, a talented trombone player, and an impromptu acapella group serenading runners from a roundabout.

“Wow, Downtown Raleigh’s Pretty.”

A three-story Victorian house with a large porch, ornately decorated windows and rafters, and a central tower at the roof.
The Heck-Andrews House, built in 1870, as seen from Blount Street

It’s not often you can take a walking (well, running) tour of Downtown Raleigh. From historic Victorian-era houses to centuries-old churches to iconic Raleigh restaurants, the Krispy Kreme Challenge always takes runners on a scenic tour of the city.

Check out this map to find out what unique attractions you might have missed while changing songs on your running playlist.

“Aww, It’s Over Already?”

A group of runners with their backs to the camera about to pass under a sign that says Krispy Kreme Challenge Finish

For the novice runners (like us!), a 5-mile race is no easy feat. Even so, the Krispy Kreme Challenge was a fun event that we can’t wait to do next year.

Check Out Even More NC State and Raleigh Traditions

The Krispy Kreme Challenge is one of many things worth adding to your bucket list. Check out the official list of student traditions, annual and recurring events you don’t want to miss, and our personal favorites.

Have some cool Krispy Kreme Challenge pictures you’d like to share? Follow us on Twitter @ncsu_commuters and tell us about your favorite moments!

How to Prepare for Snow Like a Southerner

If you’re from the South, you know how to prepare for hurricanes, tornadoes, 100-degree summers, and the occasional earthquake (like that 5.8-magnitude quake back in 2011). Blizzards? Not snow much. So here’s a helpful winter prep guide created by Southerners for Southerners.

Step 1: Check Your Weather App Every 30 Seconds

A young woman looking at a smartphone in her hands.

If snow is on the radar, the forecast usually goes like this: “The Raleigh area could see between a trace and three inches during this storm.” Three inches might not sound like a lot, but even a snow flurry is enough to keep Wake County kids out of school for a week. That’s why you should refresh your weather app constantly: to see whether we’ll get no snow or a blizzard.

Bonus tip: While you’re mentally preparing for wintry weather, get into a heated debate with your friends, classmates, and coworkers over how much snow will fall. Longtime Raleigh locals know that snow tends to skip right over us.

Step 2: Buy Bread and Milk, Even If You Don’t Need It

A woman shoving an entire row of grocery items into her cart.
Source: Giphy

Do we Southerners need a two-week supply of these “essentials”? No. Will we buy them just in case? You bet. When it snows here in North Carolina, we’re prepared to be shut in for at least three days. After all, the roads are terrible in the snow! (Actually, there’s a good reason for that.)

Bonus tip: Act fast. If you don’t drive out to the grocery store as soon as Greg Fishel says it’s going to snow, you’ll only find empty shelves.

Step 3: Drive at Least 10 Under the Speed Limit

Four lanes of cars backed up in a traffic jam on roads covered in snow.

If temperatures drop, so should your speed. Subfreezing temperatures and snow make for slick roads, and you don’t want to end up on the side of the road with a missing fender — or worse, with a burning car. Don’t become the next Raleigh blizzard meme.

Bonus tip: Just don’t drive. At all. Combine slow speeds with a few flurries (or inches of snow) and you have a recipe for a loooooooong commute home.

Step 4: When It Starts Snowing, Let the World Know

Instagram post of a person's glove covered in snowflakes.

If you didn’t document the #snowpocalypse on Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, did it actually happen? Once there are enough flakes outside for a good photo, take a picture to show the snowfall to your friends — who are doing the exact same thing. Be prepared for a flood of Facebook posts that say “It’s snowing!”

Bonus tip: Add an exaggerated caption so all of your Northern friends can make fun of your state’s winter weather prep.

Step 5: Perfect the Fine Art of Layering

The kid from A Christmas Story who says he can't put his arms down.
Source: Giphy

Since the temperature rarely drops below 30 degrees here in the South, we don’t own any article of clothing heavier than a sweatshirt. If you’re going to step outside, be sure to wear two pairs of everything: socks, pants, shirts, gloves, scarves, hats…

Bonus tip: Have you realized how little winter clothes you own after you’re already snowed in? Improvise. Wrap your sneakers in plastic bags for waterproofing and wear so many coats that you look like the kid from A Christmas Story.

Step 6: Catch Up on Responsibilities (AKA Netflix)

Jason Alexander of Seinfeld sitting on the couch in front of a TV and eating popcorn.
Source: Giphy

There’s snow on the ground, you’ve stocked up on bread and milk, and you’re not planning to step outside anytime soon. Time to catch up on work… which means binge-watching an entire season of the newest Netflix shows. It’s not everyday that you can relax on a weekday, right?

Bonus tip: Do 15 minutes of work between episodes to convince yourself that you’re being productive.

Stay Safe During the Blizzard, Friends!

If you have to commute to school or work during the snowstorm, tell us how you’re prepping. We’d love to hear about it! If you’re not originally from the South but now live in Raleigh, we’d love to hear your thoughts about making the commute easier! Leave us a comment below.

A barista holding a white cup while pouring a flat white.

5 Real Moments That Happen When You Work Over the Holidays

As if final exams and holidays weren’t enough, throwing an equally crazy work schedule into the mix is a recipe for an insane end of the year. (Side note: HOW IS IT ALMOST 2018?!) Here’s what happens when you have to work over the holidays.

1. When You’re at Work But See Your Friends Having Fun

Matt LeBlanc staring sadly out of a window while it's raining outside.
Source: Giphy

So you have to settle for living vicariously through the group texts and Snapchats…

2. When You Tell Your Friends About Your Crazy Schedule


Crowley from the Supernatural TV show sitting on a couch and unrolling an absurdly long scroll.
Source: Giphy


“Okay, I’m off work on Tuesday and Wednesday, but I have to shop for gifts, visit my Nana, find a White Elephant gift for the company Christmas party, somehow make time to do laundry and grocery shopping…”

3. When You Realize 2018 is Just 15 Days Away

Kermit the Frog standing in front of a red curtain and waving his hands wildly.
Source: Giphy

Wasn’t August just two weeks ago?!

4. When You Get Home After a Long Day

Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service falling face-first on her bed.
Source: Giphy

After dealing with people for hours, all you want to do is watch Netflix and sleep for days.

5. When You Get Your Holiday Paycheck

An animated dog holding a stack of money in his paws while dollar bills fly past his face.
Source: Giphy

All that hard work paid off, at least. Time to treat yourself — you deserve it!

Did We Miss Anything? Let Us Know!

Leave us a comment and tell us about your holiday work experiences, whether you’re still in school or you’ve just recently graduated. Don’t forget to stay updated with The Student Saver blog — we’ll be adding more blogs about the post-grad work life. Let us know what you want us to write next. Happy holidays!

8 Quick Halloween Costumes You Can Make for Less Than $8

A little cash and creativity can go a long way. With Halloween just around the corner, who wants to bother with elaborate costumes that will take forever to make? Instead, these simple last-minute costume ideas are sure to win any costume contest (and not break the bank).

1. Eleven from Stranger Things Season One

pink dress
Thrift store dress
blonde wig
Cheap blonde wig

Of course we’re throwing in a Stranger Things costume idea because, well, season two will be out before Halloween. But we’re sticking with season one Eleven for this costume. All you need is a pink dress and a blonde wig to pull off this soon-to-be-classic look. (A box of Eggo Waffles won’t hurt, either.)

2. A Stereotypical American Tourist

Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses
Gaudy Hawaiian shirt
plastic lei flowers
Dollar Store leis

Ah, a Halloween classic. The tourist is the ultimate last-minute Halloween costume because it’s incredibly simple but completely recognizable. For best results (and a little ’90s touch), buy a disposable camera.

3. Harry Potter in Muggle Clothes

Harry Potter's round glasses
Old-fashioned glasses
Face paint or eyeliner

Harry Potter is another quintessential Halloween costume. Better yet, it’s versatile: just throw on the glasses and scar and people instantly know who you are (even if you’re not donning your Gryffindor scarf or wizard robes).

4. Charlie Brown’s Ghost Costume

bed sheets
Old white sheet
pair of scissors
Pair of scissors

While we’re on the subject of great movie characters, Charlie Brown has an unforgettable Halloween costume. If you haven’t seen It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in a long time, it’s worth watching just for the trick-or-treating scene.

5. A Wolf in Ram’s Clothing

zipper teeth on a blue jacket
Carolina blue jacket (gross)
Red NC State t-shirt

Halloween is the perfect time to capitalize on the NC State-UNC rivalry. Just wear a Carolina blue jacket zipped partially over your favorite NC State t-shirt, and you have the ultimate crowd-pleaser. If you want to take your costume a step further, draw some wolf whiskers and a nose on your face.

6. Barb from Stranger Things Season One

woman in retro glasses
Retro ’80s glasses
high waisted jeans
High-waisted jeans

Turn your Halloween costume ideas upside down (see what we did there?) with this quick and simple Barb costume. All you really need are her iconic glasses and Mom jeans.

7. Old School Rockstar

man in leather jacket
Thrift store leather jacket
band t shirts
Retro band t-shirt

This costume is relatively simple to pull together. A quick trip to Target or Wal-Mart and you’ll find all kinds of nostalgic shirts and jackets to complete this awesome look.

8. The Ultimate Non-Costume

pile of old shirts
Old t-shirt
permanent marker
Permanent marker

Who says you even need a costume to win Halloween? The “Error 404: Costume Not Found” shirt is a great way to poke fun of any costume contest you attend, and not just at Halloween.

Want More Money-Saving Tips? You Got It

We get it: college is expensive. So if you’re looking for ways to save money on everything from textbooks to food, we have you covered. And if you’re a commuter student, we have a guide just for you. Enjoy!

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!