We Said …
Why we think it's always finer to be in North Carolina
Places mentioned are in Raleigh, unless otherwise indicated.

The Siena Hotel, Chapel Hill, expensive, (919) 929-4000, www.sienahotel.com. You'll be living la dolce vita at the Siena, so named for the owners' favorite town in Tuscany. Everything here, from the furnishings to the cuisine in the hotel's award-winning restaurant, is Italian.

Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, Durham, expensive to very expensive, (919) 490-0999, www.washingtondukeinn.com. Not only does this five-story four-diamond hotel ooze Southern charm, it has the verdant Duke University campus as its home. It also overlooks a lush 18-hole golf course that was recently renovated by Rees Jones, whose father, the late Robert Trent Jones, designed the original layout.
Big Ed's City Market Restaurant, inexpensive, (919) 836-9909. Big Ed, who comes from a family of former tobacco farmers, is a good old country boy serving up some good old country cooking. Fans file in for his signature made-from-scratch biscuits, but you won't go wrong with whatever you fill your plate with here.

Magnolia Grill, Durham, expensive, (919) 286-3609, www.magnoliagrill.net. Emeril Lagasse has called Ben and Karen Barker, the couple behind this long-standing bistro, the King and Queen of Flavor. In fact, they have their own cookbook, Not Afraid of Flavor, featuring favorite Magnolia recipes like pan-fried pork chops on creamy shrimp hominy and roast saddle of rabbit wrapped in country ham.
Haywood Hall Museum House and Gardens, (919) 832-8357, www.haywoodhall.org. A grand estate dating to 1799, Haywood House was the onetime residence of John Haywood, a state treasurer and Raleigh's first mayor. The historic home is accented by vast gardens of aster, hollyhocks, and other flora.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, (919) 733-7450, www.naturalsciences.org. Jaime Pressly touted the other three museums in what Raleigh likes to call the Smithsonian of the South, so we wanted to brag on the fourth. The four stories of fun include a living conservatory that's home to everything from sloths to snakes, as well as a fossil lab where you can chat up paleontologists studying a Pleistocene-era skeleton.