Raleigh, North Carolina, is a thriving city—just what you'd expect from a state capital and an internationally ranked research center in an area defined by three major universities. Ranked by several major business magazines as one of the nation's top places to live and work, the Raleigh area has attracted many new restaurants, shopping venues and cultural activities.

Downtown Raleigh, which offers a mix of business and government buildings surrounded by charming older neighborhoods, parks and greenways, has been a work in progress for years. But its day in the sun has finally come. The new $221.9 million convention center opened in September 2008 to much acclaim. It caps off an effort to bring to downtown more residential condos and hotels, public art, a redesigned Fayetteville Street, and a large selection of restaurants and shops. Once a dead zone, downtown is now the place to be during the day and at night.

Visitors to Raleigh usually fall for the same seductions that prompt people to live there permanently. The climate is mild. People are friendly. There's a mix of cultures.

Research Triangle Park, located between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is among the largest research parks in the U.S. Some 140 companies and organizations call the Research Triangle Park home. With that in mind, the area often boasts that it has the largest concentration of Ph.D.s of any place in the world.

Education is in the forefront in the Triangle, with three major universities: North Carolina State University in Raleigh, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University in Durham. The draw of possible jobs, education and an affordable lifestyle has attracted thousands of international visitors, many of whom are charmed enough to stay.

But its popularity has brought Raleigh growing pains, too. To keep up with the influx of new residents and visitors, road construction is widespread and constant. Traffic tie-ups are increasing, especially along Interstate 40, Highway 70 and Highway 54, the three main corridors through Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and on the I-440 beltline around the city. New road construction is alleviating some of the congestion, and the I-540 and Highway 264 bypasses are helping with backups north and east of the city, but in the meantime, as one visitor remarked, "The Triangle will be a wonderful place when it's finished."

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