For an affordable vacation, it's hard to beat North Carolina's Triangle area: Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Visitors will find an assortment of free attractions, plus budget-friendly rates... even for 4-star hotels.
Raleigh likes to say that it mixes big-city excitement with Southern charm. The downtown area in particular is home to a lot of architectural gems, including the State Capitol, Raleigh Banking and Trust Building, and the Briggs Hardware Building -- home of the Raleigh City Museum.
Known as the Beverly Hills of the South, upscale Buckhead is a hip neighborhood filled with boutiques, mansions and sizzling nightlife. Shop for antiques and cutting-edge clothes by day; bar-hop at the area's plentiful hotspots after dark. Buckhead is also home to the Raleigh History Center, surrounded by more than 32 acres of gardens. MARTA light-rail offers easy access to and from Downtown Raleigh.
The college town surrounding the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is where you'll find the North Carolina Botanical Garden, Ackland Art Museum, Morehead Planetarium and Coker Arboretum. Visit the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery for spooky sightseeing.
If you love museums but hate the admission fees, you'll feel at home in Raleigh. The city's state museums -- devoted to art, history and natural sciences -- all offer free admission. They're just three out of more than 20 free attractions in the area.