Sneak Away

BY Karen Fuller

When the weather turns colder look to the northwest for weekends away that cater to romantics adventure seekers and entertainment aficionados. One of our favorite mini-vacation spots is located only two hours away in Raleigh where culture sports and nature are bundled into a busy but beautiful hub.
To really make the most of the trip we recommend a luxurious home basea relaxing jumping-off point in a hotel that offers peaceful serenity beautiful appointments and impeccable servicesomeplace that really feels like a vacation. Treat yourself to The Umstead. With an atmosphere that says rest and relax and a location that says go and do it offers the perfect formula for a weekend getaway.

Day 1 | Friday

Check in to The Umstead by late afternoon and plan to spend the first day exploring the hotel and grounds and marvel at the views. The entire retreat was designed to harmonize nature and art.
If the weather invites you plan a leisurely stroll on the pretty nature trail that encircles a three-acre lake. Indoors dont miss the extensive art collection exhibited throughout the common spaces and the hotels in-house gallery. The hotel owns roughly 95 pieces of art showcased throughout the property. You cant miss the beautiful glass sculpture in the lobby a Dale Chihuly original custom-made for The Umstead.
Next stop the spa.
Oozing relaxation and offering many delights the Umstead spa offers the Couples Retreat which includes a bath for two in the hydrotherapy tub followed by a double 50-minute Swedish massage. If its a singular experience you seek try the hot stone massage where warm stones and Swedish technique merge to bring about the ultimate state of calm.
Friday night we suggest you stay put and lavish yourself in the lap of luxury. Dine in at the hotelyoull be happy you did.  Herons the Umsteads restaurant just received its first Five Diamond award from AAA. Chef de cuisine Steven Greene presents artful dishes that are almost too beautiful to eat but far too delicious not to devour. The menu changes with the seasons and is crafted around fruits vegetables and herbs grown from a dedicated farm nearby. Breakfast lunch and dinner venues are offered in the cozy intimate dining room or al fresco on the terrace.

Day 2 | Saturday
After breakfast head to the North Carolina Museum of Art for Rembrandt in America an absolute must see. The NCMA is the only East Coast show host for the exhibition that runs through January 22. The exhibition represents the largest collection of Rembrandt paintings ever presented in America. Forty-seven works of art will be displayed. Due to swells of popularity this show may be crowded or it may even sell out. Book now then set a leisurely pace and enjoy the journey. Admission is $18 and an audio tour is available for an extra $5 (definitely worth it).
Afterward youll be hungry.
The museum has its own restaurant Iris a sophisticated full-service bistro featuring contemporary American cuisine with regional and international flavors. Iris is a distinctly modern setting located in the museums new wing.
If you cant get a seat at Iris and considering youre already on the outskirts of Cary a drive into historic downtown to grab a bite at the Serendipity Gourmet Deli is not out of the question. Serendipity is a cute quaint and also sometimes crowded deli but the atmosphere is genuine and the food is yummy. The well-priced lunch menu includes fresh salads specialty sandwiches and homemade desserts.
You may want to head back to The Umstead for a breather before a rousing Saturday night out that begins with a gourmet meal followed by ice hockey Carolina Hurricanes style. For starters we suggest a trip downtown to the Second Empire Tavern.
Second Empire is a restaurant and tavern located in the historic Dodd-Hinsdale House. The tavern is a cozy spot with good energy and warm wood exposed brick glass and brass that inspire an easy lively casual dinner with service you would expect at a fancier place. The menu includes a lighter take on traditional tavern fare and its atmosphere matches the upscale mood of the weekend while setting just the right tone before hitting the rinks.
Think youre not a hockey fan? We challenge you to say that after attending a game. The NHL Carolina Hurricanes put on an exciting show every time. Saturday night games start at 7:00 and youll want to get there early to find seats buy foam fingers and secure your game time snacks. The Hurricanes have home games on December 3 and 23 and January 6 14 and 21.

Day 3 | Sunday
For departure day we have one last note about The Umstead: they partner with Clean the World to donate any leftover products to people less fortunate so say goodbye to your unused toiletries in good conscience. Other green initiatives include extensive recycling use of hybrid vehicle shuttle services and a docking system for guests electric cars.
Todays adventure includes connecting with nature a casual lunch and the drive back home. So if you didnt enjoy breakfast at the hotel yesterday today offers a good chance to do so. Then dress casually and check out. But its not time to leave Raleigh just yet.
Drive to the neighboring William B. Umstead State Park for an old-fashioned stroll or strenuous hike depending on your mood and the shoes you brought along. The park has more than 5 000 acres along Crabtree and Reedy creeks. Meander along the bike walking and horse-riding trails admire water and woodsy views and savor the tranquility.
Just one more stop before you jump on I-40lunch.
Let this last meal in Raleigh be a casual affair with a stop at the Irregardless Caf. The caf offers an inventive selection of soups salads and sandwiches for lunch with daily specials and a host of vegetarian vegan and gluten-free selections. The atmosphere here is quaint but sophisticated and very welcoming. Youll leave town with a full belly and a smile.

Nutty for New Years
If you plan this weekend around New Years Eve head to the Acorn Drop instead of the Hurricanes game and go to dinner at the Second Empire Restaurant instead of its tavern (dont forget to make reservations). The Acorn Drop is the culmination of the annual First Night Raleigh celebration. For 21 years First Night Raleighs street party with a parade live music and performances food and souvenirs rings in the New Year. At 7:00 (for children) and again at midnight a 1 200-pound steel and copper acorn descends for revelers. Make it your first!

If you go…
Be sure to call ahead to confirm that the things you want to do will be available when you want to do them. Heres a helpful guide to the places we recommended in this article:

The Umstead Hotel & Spa
100 Woodland Pond Drive Cary

Herons Restaurant
100 Woodland Pond Drive Cary

North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Road Raleigh

North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Road Raleigh

Serendipity Gourmet Deli
118 S. Academy Street Cary

Second Empire Restaurant
and Tavern
330 Hillsboro Street Raleigh

Carolina Hurricanes
RBC Center 1400 Edwards Mill Road Raleigh
For info and tickets:

Acorn Drop
First Night Raleigh
Visit for details as they unfold.

William B. Umstead State Park
8801 Glenwood Avenue Raleigh

Irregardless Caf
901 West Morgan Street Raleigh