Although two separate and distinct towns, these two cities form one metropolitan area and are home to some of the state's largest and most prestigious universities, including North Carolina State and basketball powerhouse Duke University. With Duke rival and fellow basketball powerhouse University of North Carolina in nearby Chapel Hill, this area is home to boisterous bball fans, southern comfort food and picturesque green lawns and old southern buildings.

WHAT TO DO

Once a capital of tobacco farms and wealth, Durham is no longer the cigarette capital of the world and is now known as the "City of Medicine" for its high concentration of medical practitioners and researchers at Duke University. The gothic architecture at this university is well worth stopping by the campus, and the Duke gardens and forest makes for a lovely way to spend an afternoon strolling the campus grounds. If you happen to find yourself here during basketball season and manage to get tickets to a basketball game, where you will discover basketball as religion and Coach K as god.

In Raleigh, visit William B. Umstead Park, where you can picnic, hike, go fishing, rent a canoe or relax among the green lawns, picturesque lake and big trees. Also in Raleigh, you can visit Cameron Village and do some shopping in the historic boutiques, eat at a variety of restaurants or grab a drink at one of the many bars.

GETTING THERE

The Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) is one of the country's largest airports without official hub status. American Airlines, which was once based out of this airport, continues to have a strong presence here as well as all other major American carrier also offering service to this North Carolina airport—meaning getting a cheap flight to Raleigh-Durham should be easy if you compare prices.

The airport is not located too far from downtown of either city, so it is easy to get a taxi or airport shuttle from the airport to wherever you are staying. For those traveling to or from the airport by car, arranging your airport parking at Raleigh-Durham in advance can save you both time and money.

WHERE TO STAY

There are a plethora of hotels in both Raleigh and Durham, so not matter what your budget, you should be able to find a hotel in Raleigh-Durham that suits your needs. Maybe it’s just my fondness for college towns, but it’s probably worth staying in a hotel near either Duke University of North Carolina State. Not only are these neighborhoods aesthetically pleasing, they are centrally located to all of the best sites. For those on a shoe-string budget, there are hostels in Raleigh-Durham that may fit your needs.