Surrounding the Triangle capital city of Raleigh are “mini-cities” loaded with personality and plenty to do. Just a short drive from the capital city and Research Triangle Park, bedroom communities are attracting families with big city amenities but not the hassles — Holly Springs, Zebulon, Wake Forest, Morrisville, Garner, Hillsborough, Mebane and others. Among these surrounding towns, a few are the fastest-growing towns in the state —Rolesville, Wendell, Fuquay-Varina, and Knightdale. Each family-friendly community has something special to entice visitors who stop by to experience the flavor of small town living.
Holly Springs (est. pop. 35,000) got its name originally from fresh water springs and an abundance of holly trees. The springs are gone but in its place is a thriving town with recreation and leisure for the entire family. Main Street is experiencing a revival with more than 100,000 square feet of mixed-use space being constructed which will offer retail, restaurant and office spaces, bringing about 35 businesses downtown. For those craving an artistic experience, the Holly Springs Cultural Center in the heart of town offers local theater, live performances and visual arts.
“Play ball” is everyone’s favorite two words in the summer months in Zebulon (estimated pop. 5,300), home of the Carolina Mudcats minor league baseball team and only 21 minutes from Raleigh. The ball park is the place to be in the summer. Parks are a favorite way to get outside at Zebulon Community Park and Whitley Park. Those looking to get out on the fairways can visit Zebulon Country Club for a game of 18 holes. After a round of golf, hungry visitors can head to family-owned McLean’s Ole Time Café for a southern breakfast. McLean’s has been in business since 1956 and is a community staple along with long-standing Whitley Furniture Gallery.
“With a median age of 32, Knightdale (est. pop. 16,000) is a great place to #startsomething,” said Knightdale Public Information Officer, Jonas Silver. Knightdale Station Park is a 76 acre park that includes a playground, dog park, walking/running trails and athletic fields. Visitors head to downtown for shopping at the Mercantile. Afterwards pick up some rum or beer at Lassiter Distilling Company or Oak City Brewing. Across the street from Knightdale Station Park is the highly anticipated PRIME Barbecue.
Saturday mornings are perfect for meeting up with friends and neighbors at the Wendell (est. pop. 6,000) Farmers’ Market (May through October)—where you can select fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers—or for trips to locally-owned coffee spots like 41 North Coffee in downtown or Grounds Café in Wendell Falls neighborhood. In the afternoon, you can hit the links at Wendell Country Club, an 18-hole course that’s open to the public. Raleigh is a 20 minute drive.
Rolesville (est. pop. 8,000) was established in 1837 making it the second oldest town in Wake County. Start with a history lesson at the Little House Museum and Gallery, and later walk to the park in the middle of downtown, Main Street Park, with more than a mile of greenway trails. Big city shopping is only a few miles away at Triangle Town Center (and 30 minutes from Raleigh). Take a dive at Fantasy Lake Scuba Park, a 50-acre, one-billon gallon stone quarry. Afterwards, eat shrimp at Off the Hook Restaurant.
Fuquay-Varina (est. pop. 28,000) has seen its population more than double in the past 10 years as more people discover the beauty of the quaint town. A mineral spring and its healing waters is the reason for the town’s beginning and visitors can imbibe of the water at the site of Fuquay Mineral Spring Park. Retail therapy is relaxing in local shops, and afterwards sip on craft beer in three local breweries, all within a short distance.
Morrisville prides itself on diversity, which is one of the reasons for its phenomenal growth. Other factors include easy access to RDU airport and major highways and proximity to Raleigh and surrounding communities like Cary, Chapel Hill and Durham. These advantages make Morrisville the perfect place for work or play.
Whether you need a day-trip for shopping and trying new restaurants, or a weekend getaway to connect with nature, these Triangle towns have something for everyone.