Research Triangle

Sprawling in the heart of North Carolina's Piedmont, the Research Triangle is a metro area of about two million people. Largely suburban in nature, the Triangle is unique for a metro area in that, rather than having one primary city at its center, the region's focus is split between three cities: Raleigh, the state capital; Durham, a former industrial center, and Chapel Hill, a prominent college town.

The region derives its name from the major research universities in each of the Triangle's three cities as well as the vast office park that sits between these cities and is home to many research and high tech firms. These industries have spurred the rapid economic growth of the region. Visitors will find scenic college campuses, many of the state's cultural institutions, and a diverse population drawn by the Triangle's academic institutions and relatively high standard of living.


The main three cities that make up the "Triangle" are:

In addition, there are a few small towns around the region that have become suburbs of the metro area:

Get in

By plane

Raleigh-Durham International Airport (IATA: RDU) is the main airport for the region, located at the center of the metro area near the Research Triangle Park, just off I-40. RDU has two terminals; Terminal 1 services budget carrier Southwest, while the more modern and architecturally impressive Terminal 2 services American Airlines/American Eagle, Delta, JetBlue, and United. A large rental car facility is located on-site. Public transit bus service is offered by Triangle Transit route #100, which runs between Raleigh and a transit center in the Research Triangle Park.

By car

By train

Amtrak serves the Triangle with three routes: the Piedmont runs twice-daily to Charlotte, a trip of just over three hours, serving Raleigh, Cary, and Durham. The Carolinian runs once a day between Charlotte and the Eastern Seaboard, serving the same stops as the Piedmont, while the once-daily Silver Star stops in Cary and Raleigh on its way between New York City and Florida.

By bus

There are two intercity bus carriers serving the Triangle: Greyhound serves depots in Raleigh and Durham, while Megabus has a stop in Durham on its Charlotte-Washington, D.C. route.

Get around

Given the very spread-out and suburban nature of the Triangle, driving is easily the most convenient way to get around. Interstate 40 is the main east-west corridor that links up the main cities of the Triangle, passing through Raleigh, the Research Triangle Park, and past RDU airport and Chapel Hill. The Durham Freeway (NC 147) links the Research Triangle Park and I-40 to Durham, while US-15/501 connects Durham to Chapel Hill. There are also two loop freeways circling Raleigh and serving many of the suburbs: I-440 circles the central portion of Raleigh proper, while I-540 traverses much of the suburban fringe north of Raleigh before heading south to the Research Triangle Park. South of the RTP, I-540 becomes a state-run toll freeway for the stretch around Cary south to Apex.

Each of the main cities operates a local bus service. Regional service is provided by Triangle Transit, which operates all-day service Monday-Sunday (no service during certain holidays) between Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, operating out of a hub in the Research Triangle Park. Fares cost $2.25 per trip, with $4.50 for a day pass.


With the many universities in the area, it should come as no surprise that college sports are a big deal here. The Duke Blue Devils, the North Carolina Tar Heels, and (to a lesser extent) the NC State Wolfpack all have fiercely loyal fan bases, with immensely popular football and basketball programs. The Carolina-Duke rivalry is particularly fierce, with two of the most well-regarded basketball programs in the country. Non-college sports teams in the area include the popular Durham Bulls minor league baseball team and Raleigh's Carolina Hurricanes NHL hockey team.

There are many excellent performing arts spaces in the Triangle, hosting a lively theater scene. The lion's share of these are located in Durham, which is home to the prominent Durham Performing Arts Center, the historic Carolina Theatre, and a number of small, independent local theaters. Downtown Raleigh is home to the state-run Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, which plays host to the state ballet, opera, and symphony.

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