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The Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill triad, sometimes referred to as the Research Triangle, is a multifaceted commercial center and capital city. Raleigh, and the rapidly growing suburban community of Cary just west, form the eastern corner of the triangle.
Taken together, the Triangle is the educational, intellectual, and high-tech center of North Carolina and a large area of the South. Highlights include a solid, growing economic base; high degree of livability; and impressive amenities mostly related to local universities. Raleigh’s main role is as a capital city, with the jobs and cultural interest that typically accompany that role. The city itself is plain and relatively uninteresting as capital cities go, with nondescript government buildings, a few historic sites, and nicer residential areas near the N.C. State campus to the southwest towards Cary.
The immense 6,800-acre Research Triangle Park, the area’s economic crown jewel, contains major corporate offices and extensive research facilities. The Research Triangle Park isn’t the only game in town – Cary itself has an extensive base of light manufacturing and new-economy businesses. Although the area is well kept and growth between the cities is fairly well managed, sprawl is an ever-present issue, and commutes from the Raleigh and Cary areas to the Research Triangle are crowded.
The area as a whole and Cary in particular have experienced phenomenal growth. A large community from the Northeast has settled in the area, attracted by relatively low living and housing costs, climate, and laid-back lifestyle. More recently, a large number have migrated north from Florida in response to recent hurricanes. While costs are very attractive compared to the coasts, they are relatively high for North Carolina and most of the south.
Raleigh and Cary are located in a transitional zone between the Coastal Plain and the Piedmont Plateau. The surrounding terrain is gently rolling and heavily wooded. The central location between the mountains and coast brings favorable climate with the exception of some summer heat. The mountains form a partial barrier to cold-air masses, resulting in few winter days with temperatures below 20 degrees. During summer, tropical air is present over eastern and central sections of North Carolina, producing warm temperatures and high humidity. Rainfall is well distributed year-round with most occurring in summers as thunderstorms, some of which can be intense. The area is far enough inland to reduce the effects of coastal storms. While snow and sleet usually occur each year, excessive accumulations are rare.