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Moving to the Triangle? Everything You Need to Know About Research Triangle Park

by Team NextBurb 12 February 2021

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One of the biggest centers for business and research on the East Coast, Research Triangle Park and the surrounding areas of Raleigh and Durham are fast-growing communities with unique neighborhoods and nationally ranked universities.

Downtown Raleigh, one of the three major cities in the Triangle
Downtown Raleigh, one of the three major cities in the Triangle

Quick facts about Research Triangle Park

  • Research Triangle Park (also called RTP) is a planned research park at the center of what is often referred to as the Research Triangle, a region in North Carolina that includes cities Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.

    Each of these cities has a major research university: North Carolina State University in Raleigh, Duke University in Durham, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the smaller city of Chapel Hill.
  • RTP was created to encourage community growth and to foster relationships between universities and companies including Fidelity Investments, IBM, and Cisco Systems.

    The 170 companies in the park employ over 40,000 residents.

    The Research Triangle has been able to maintain low taxes for businesses and affordable cost of living for residents despite the area’s rapid growth, making it an appealing option for living on the East Coast.
  • As the park attracts more businesses and residents, local communities have flourished, and local breweries, restaurants, and retail now give unique character to up and coming neighborhoods throughout Raleigh and Durham.

    With all major cities only 25 minutes away from each other, residents have short commute times and enjoy access to all kinds of fun and entertainment.

What to Know About Research Triangle Park

Population & History

Research Triangle Park was founded in 1959 as an effort to combine the strengths of the three major research universities nearby and to leverage the area’s potential to attract business and increase local innovation.

The state government recruited businesses to build headquarters in the park and raised funding with the intention of bettering the community and reinvigorating both research and entrepreneurial spirit.

The park and surrounding areas have been so successful that the Research Triangle Foundation is underway to build a $50 million park center, a public area that will have retail and dining from local businesses along with coworking spaces, walking trails in over 13 acres of forested green space, and even a hotel for guests to the park.

Today, RTP serves as a central point of business and research for the major nearby cities Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, which are referred to as the Research Triangle or simply as the Triangle.

The Triangle also includes suburbs like Morrisville, Cary, and Apex, with a total metro area population estimated at 2,700,000.

Weather in the Research Triangle

The Triangle is located in northeastern North Carolina and experiences mild winters and hot, humid summers.

The area gets an average of six inches of snow per winter and occasional ice storms. Winter daytime temperatures average around 40 degrees, and spring and fall seasons are mild to warm and generally dry.

The summer months have an average daily temperature of 80 and consistently high humidity, which is occasionally offset by afternoon thunderstorms.

The Triangle does experience hurricane damage, primarily from falling trees, during late summer and early autumn.

Tornadoes are rare but have historically caused damage to downtown areas of Raleigh and surrounding suburbs, most recently in 2011.

Early spring in North Carolina
Early spring in North Carolina

Top Attractions near RTP

Most residents and visitors are drawn to RTP for education, business, or research, but find thriving local restaurants and neighborhoods that make the area a unique and fun place to explore.

Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill each have their own personalities and range of hiking, shopping, and other adventures to discover.

We’ve rounded up some of the top attractions and things to see (and eat!) in the Triangle area for people of all ages.

Places to Visit

  • Step into college life: Each of the Triangle’s research universities boasts must-see architecture, gardens, and museums accessible to the public.

    Founded in 1838, Duke University is a living history of Gothic and Georgian architecture, with notable buildings designed by Julian F. Abele, one of the first prominent African-American architects.

    Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University has an amphitheater, a butterfly garden, and a section devoted to cultivated carnivorous plants.

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also has an arboretum with walking and running trails.

    North Carolina State University’s Gregg Art Museum showcases contemporary fine art and sculpture, and Duke’s Nasher Art Museum has a collection that includes works by renowned artists Ai Wei-Wei and Kerry James Marshall.
  • A night out in town: Living in the Raleigh-Durham metro area (which includes Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas of the Research Triangle) provides access to dozens of thriving neighborhoods and restaurants in Raleigh.

    We’ll get to the food in a minute, but here are some of the best places to go for a local beer or evening art walk:

    Glenwood South has walkable streets where you can find open patio seating at seafood restaurants, tap houses, and trendy fusion restaurants.

    First Fridays happen once a month when galleries and museums open their doors (and uncork some wine) all across town. There’s often live music and food as well.

    One of the most recent developments in the city is in the Warehouse District, where local barbecue joints and breweries sit next to state-of-the-art coworking spaces and a chocolate factory.
  • Catch the game: The Triangle is home to the National Hockey League’s North Carolina Hurricanes, who play at the PNC Arena in downtown Raleigh.

    Strong loyalties lie with collegiate sports teams of the three big universities in the area who play in the ACC: the two-time NCAA football championship winners NC State Wolfpack, the UNC Tarheels, and the Duke Blue Devils.
Duke University’s historic campus
Duke University’s historic campus

To Eat

With three cities to choose from, the possibilities for fantastic meals and creative cocktails are nearly endless. North Carolina is known for its mouth-watering barbecues, smoked meats, and fresh seafood from the Atlantic, and restaurants in the Triangle showcase the best of both worlds.

Here are the top spots to check out in each of the major hubs of the Triangle.

Chapel Hill: For a city with a definitive small-town feel, Chapel Hill doesn’t come up short on excellent options for eating.

You’ll easily find the beauty of simple classics at Al’s, where burgers are cheap and toppings are plenty; the burger joint is so popular that it’s opened several locations near UNC’s campus.

Vimala’s Curryblossom Café serves Indian cuisine in a laid-back space with an airy patio.

At Lantern, choose between a dining room experience with Asian-Southern fusion cuisine or grab a cocktail under the moody red lighting in their intimate bar area.

Durham: Whether intentionally or just by chance, Durham has perfected the art of patio seating.

If it’s a local beer you’re after, check out Hi-Wire’s new patio seating (there’s also indoor space for rainy afternoons), where you’ll find IPA’s and tangy sours to try.

Parts & Labor is a well-known spot that operates like a bar but has a full menu of pub food and burgers that are impossible to pass up.

For a lunchtime spot, find a picnic table at Eastcut Sandwich Bar, which regularly features vegetarian and classic sandwiches served with piles of curly fries.

Raleigh: In terms of variety, we’ve saved the best for last.

Raleigh’s status as a major East Coast city brings in culinary talent from all over, and it’s a hotspot for new takes on the Southern and New England classics that North Carolina does so well.

For a fresh perspective on Southern cuisine, make a reservation at Crawford & Sons: think chicken confit with smoked maitake mushrooms, served in a moody modern atmosphere with your choice of handcrafted cocktail.

La Farm Bakery turns out more fresh-baked pastries and sandwiches than we know what to do in a sunny space with open seating.

If you want a feel-good meal, head to Clyde Cooper’s, where you’ll be seated in a farmhouse-style booth and presented with a mouth-watering menu of smoked meat and comfort food that can cure all woes.

Outdoor Experiences near the Triangle

Surrounding and woven throughout the Triangle area are beautiful, walkable public parks that showcase North Carolina’s vibrant greenery and fall colors and provide opportunities for hiking, boating, swimming, and fishing.

Eno River State Park is a popular choice located northwest of Durham with options for camping and hiking and features a scenic suspension bridge over the water.

For a long trek, check out the American Tobacco Trail, which runs for over 20 miles over old railway beds from Durham’s days in the tobacco industry.

The trail is dog and horse friendly and is a great place to bike as well.

The Triangle is also flanked by two major reservoirs: Jordan Lake and Fall Lake, which have great recreation areas with beach access, boat ramps, and rentals for kayaks and canoes: a great way to spend a sunny weekend.

Hiking trail through a state park in the Triangle
Hiking trail through a state park in the Triangle

Living near Research Triangle Park

RTP’s top employers

Research Triangle Park has attracted a multitude of companies in research: biotech, manufacturing, and finance industries over the past half of the century.

The largest companies include IBM, Fidelity Investments, Cisco Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, and RTI International.

Other notable companies in the area include Microsoft, NVIDIA, Mastech, Biogen, and software solutions company Red Hat.

The three major research universities are also top employers: Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Working from home in the Triangle

As an area that has experienced firsthand the benefits of community in research and industrial development, it should come as no surprise that cities in the Triangle invest in innovative, coworking spaces that provide opportunities for networking and development to entrepreneurs, startups, and freelancers.

You’ll find locations for national coworking brands like Industrious (from $347/month) and WeWork ($375/month) in Raleigh and Durham, as well as local spaces like American Underground, located on the American Tobacco Campus where historic buildings and factories have been transformed into a business district by the city of Durham.

American Underground memberships start at $129/month and include mailboxes, access to communal workspaces and call rooms, and locally brewed coffee.

Another option located in Carrboro is Perch, which offers yoga classes and outdoor seating with memberships starting at $150/month. Research Triangle Park also offers its own coworking space, Frontier, for work stations and offices at flexible rates.

For your home office wireless internet needs, you’ll want to choose between Spectrum, AT&T, HughesNet, and CenturyLink. AT&T and Spectrum are the most affordable, with plans starting at $39.99/month.

The RTP headquarters
The RTP headquarters

Cost of Living

The cost of living throughout the cities and suburbs in the Triangle is slightly higher than the national average, but local tax incentives and zoning laws help to keep costs relatively low considering the demand for housing in the area.

The average cost of a two-bedroom home is $238,897, and the rent per month for a two-bedroom apartment averages at $1,479.

Utilities, groceries, and transportation costs all run close to the national average.

Healthcare costs are higher than the national average but lower than in other areas of North Carolina. It’s worth noting that because of the presence of premier hospitals and medical research centers in RTP, the Triangle area offers some of the best healthcare in the country.

Sales tax in the RTP area varies depending on the city but averages at 7.5%, which is just above the national average of 7.12%.

North Carolina has a state-wide income tax of 5.25%, and property tax is lower than other states at 0.77%.

Transportation & Commute

RTP’s surrounding areas are served by GoTriangle, which provides regional bus transportation throughout the area and between the major cities of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, and Apex.

While cities are currently expanding public transit options for residents, cars are used by most for commuting and travel and are by far the easiest way to access the area.

Cities in the Triangle area are served by Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), which is located northwest of downtown Raleigh.

RDU is a hub for Delta Airlines and provides nonstop flights to other major destinations in the U.S., along with international destinations such as London, Montréal, and Cancún. Primary airlines besides Delta include American Airlines, Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines.

Best neighborhoods in and around the Triangle

Best neighborhoods for families with kids

  • Chapel Hill: For a historic city with a small-town feel and vibrant energy from a nearby university campus, check out Chapel Hill.

    Founded in 1871, Chapel Hill has beautiful parks, top-ranked schools, and an affordable median home price of $359,222. Located southwest of Durham, the city is a 23-minute drive to Research Triangle Park and a 40-minute drive to Raleigh.
  • Morrisville: Consistently ranked as one of the best suburbs in the Triangle, Morrisville is located south of Durham and west of Raleigh and is a great option for young families.

    Only 13 minutes from Research Triangle Park by car, Morrisville has a great community and access to the park and water at Lake Crabtree.

    The median home price in Morrisville is $362,865.
  • Cary: Southeast of Morrisville you’ll find Cary, one of the safest cities in the Triangle area. Cary has excellent schools and a median home price of $339,078.

    The city has quick access to shopping amenities and to local businesses and restaurants.

    Cary is a 17-minute drive from Research Triangle Park.
Downtown Chapel Hill
Downtown Chapel Hill

Best neighborhoods for young professionals

  • Raleigh: For an energetic lifestyle with access to the sites and events of the city, check out Raleigh.

    The city has an affordable median home price of $300,124 and has up-and-coming neighborhoods and trendy restaurants and bars for weekend and evening entertainment.

    Raleigh is a 30-minute drive both west of RTP and northwest of Durham.
  • Durham: While it’s smaller and younger than Raleigh, Durham is another great place for city living at an affordable cost.

    Downtown is only a 12-minute drive from Research Triangle Park, and the median home price is surprisingly low: $224,274.

    Along with local breweries and restaurants, the city has miles of walking paths and parks for outdoor adventure.
  • Carrboro: 30 minutes west of Research Triangle Park is Carrboro, an up-and-coming suburb tucked out of the way of the urban sprawl of Raleigh and Durham.

    You’ll find vegetarian restaurants and eclectic coffee shops along with bike trails and parks in Carrboro, and while the median home price is higher than in other areas at $376,843, the relaxed community with quick city access is worth it.

Higher Education

It goes without saying that higher education in the Triangle is some of the best in the country.

Duke University is a consistently high-ranked school with top programs in bioscience, computer science, and economics.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the first public college in the nation, and today its top majors include social and biomedical sciences and business.

Durham, North Carolina State University’s top programs are computer and information science, business, and engineering.

Crime in the Triangle

Crime around Research Triangle Park depends largely on which city is closest.

Suburban areas and college towns like Chapel Hill have consistently low crime rates, but you’ll find higher crime rates in some northern neighborhoods of Raleigh and in selected southeastern parts of the Durham metro.

As always, it’s important to exercise caution when in any major city. Check out crime data of specific neighborhoods in the Triangle’s cities to learn more about crime rates in each area.

Are you considering RTP as your next home?

With Research Triangle Park as an epicenter for research, business, and education, the Triangle is an energetic area for both flourishing innovation and growing local communities.

It’s a great place both for the young professional looking for the social lifestyle of downtown and for families who want good schools and activities for all ages.

Whether it’s in cities like Durham and Raleigh or in quaint small towns like Chapel Hill, you’ll find friendly communities and plenty of opportunities for fun and adventure.

Here at Nextburb, we’re committed to providing you with the facts you need to know about any area you’re considering as a future home.

Discover the best places to live in the United States to find out more about neighborhoods to live in, school ratings, crime data, and real estate options.

We’ll provide you with recommendations based on your lifestyle and budget preferences to help you discover where you want to go.

Bunn Lake, one of many beautiful lakes in the Triangle
Bunn Lake is one of the many beautiful lakes in the Triangle

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