Wake Forest is a town in Franklin and Wake Counties of North Carolina, immediately to the north of the state capital Raleigh. With a population just over 41,000 that primarily commutes to work in the Research Triangle Park, the town is the 9th fastest growing municipality in the state of North Carolina. On first approach, it doesn't look much different from the other satellite cities and towns surrounding the Research Triangle: a sometimes congested central highway passes through shopping centers and restaurants around which are clustered sprawling residential neighborhoods. Gently rolling hills are dotted with green, a reminder of the feature for which the town is named. However, leaving the highway and driving downtown reveals an area frozen at a particular point in time. The town is primarily known for its historic character, but also for outdoor activities in the Falls Lake Recreation Area.
Wake Forest is the original home of Wake Forest University, founded in 1834. The then-college and the fledgling community around it thrived through the 1800s, excepting a period of closure for the Civil War from 1862-1865. The opening of a railroad depot to serve the college in 1874 spurred further economic growth, leading to the incorporation of the town in 1880. In the 1950s, two significant events froze much of the town: the highway moved to the west, and the college moved to a city over 100 miles a way.
Because of this, the former campus area of Wake Forest and its downtown retain much of the character of 1950s Piedmont America. The town has four historic districts, three of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and now works to preserve what history accidentally captured. The Local Historic District, also called "Faculty Avenue", preserves the homes of faculty of the college, dating back to the early 1800s through the time of the campus's relocation. The nationally registered Downtown District features a commercial center built up between 1890 and 1950, with only one building added in 1971 after the college's move. Those with an interest in period architecture and character will find a lot to look at in Wake Forest, although outside of the commercial district few of the buildings are open to entry by the public as most have private occupants.
Wake Forest is approximately 24 miles northwest from Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU IATA). RDU is served by all major U.S. airlines including Southwest, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. These and other airlines provide direct connections to most major hubs, including Atlanta, Washington-Dulles, Baltimore-Washington, Chicago (Midway and O'Hare), New York City (LaGuardia), Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix, and a limited number of international hubs, like London, Paris, and Toronto. Most other major cities in the U.S. are reachable after a single connecting flight.
- The incomplete Interstate 540 runs south of Wake Forest and connects to Raleigh in the west and the small town of Knightdale in the east.
- US 1 runs through Wake Forest.
Go Wake Forest bus service [dead link] offers routes that loop around Wake Forest and also an express connection to Raleigh, with stops at the Triangle Town Center shopping mall, the State Government, and the Moore Square Transit Station.
There is no train service in Wake Forest. The nearest station is in Raleigh.
The immediate downtown area can be walked, but Wake Forest is a sprawling area best traveled by car. If you are visiting the area there are several car rental locations nearby at RDU International Airport.
- 1 The Factory, 1839 South Main Street, Suite 400, ☏ . A multi-use facility, the Factory offers shopping, dining, and many activities, from ice skating at the Polar Ice House to indoor soccer and lacrosse at the MVP Sports Center Soccerplex to skateboarding at the Factory Skateboard Park to tanning at Tan Elegance.
- 2 Wake Forest Historical Museum, 414 N. Main Street, ☏ . Tu-F 9AM-noon & 1:30-4:30PM; closed Sa-M. The museum collects and displays the history of the town and the historic university born there. Free.
- 3 Wake Forest Renaissance Center, 405 S. Brooks St., ☏ (box office), (event information hotline). Cultural arts and event venue with bookable event and meeting space that is the frequent site of exhibits, concerts, plays, recitals, and conferences.
- 4 [dead link] Local Historic District, North Avenue to Oak Avenue, and along North Avenue and East South Avenue. In the area once called "Faculty Avenue," a cluster of historic buildings line a quiet street. The Historic Preservation Society of Wake Forest occasionally offers walking tours of some of these properties, including the popular biennial Christmas Historic Home Tour.
- 1 Falls Lake, 13304 Creedmoor Rd. Falls Lake, a 12,410-acre (50 km²) reservoir located in Durham, Wake, and Granville counties in North Carolina, offers multiple access points for hiking, camping, boating, mountain biking, fishing and swimming in Wake Forest, where the state recreation area is housed. With fees varying by location, there are more than 300 campsites in the park, ranging from RV accommodation to group campsites to individual, self-supplied tents. There are five swim areas. It is part of the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
If golf is your thing, then check out the multiple public and private golf courses within Wake Forest.
- 2 Brevofield Golf Links, 13601 Camp Kanata Rd, ☏ . Open to the public year round with 18-hole and 9-hole options.
- 3 Heritage Golf Course, 1250 Heritage Club Avenue, ☏ . 18-holes in a semi-private club with public access
- 4 Paschal Golf Club, 555 Stadium Drive, ☏ . 9-hole course established in 1907 in historic Wake Forest
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
- 1 Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q, 12504 Capital Blvd, ☏ . Su-Th 10AM - 10PM, F Sa 10AM to 11PM. A chain born in the nearby city of Smithfield, this vintage-themed fast food restaurant serves very authentic North Carolina pulled pork barbecue with a vinegar-based sauce as well as traditional Southern fried chicken. Deep fried hush puppies and sweet iced tea complete the package. There is not much on offer here, though, for vegetarians or those seeking healthier fare.
- 2 Sonic Drive-In, 1925 S Main St, ☏ . M-Th 7AM-midnight; F Sa 7AM-1AM, Su 8AM-midnight. An American drive-in fast-food restaurant chain based in Oklahoma, Sonic offers burgers, hot dogs and related fares including a wide variety of shakes and flavored ice drinks. Food is served to diners in their cars.
- 3 Backfins Crab House, 1009 Stadium Dr. Unit 100, ☏ . Su noon - 8PM, M-Th noon - 9PM, F Sa noon to 10PM. Backfins Crab House is a low-key seafood place in Wake Forest known for excellent food and sometimes slow service.
- 4 Brigs at the Forest, 11685 Northpark Dr, ☏ . Daily 7AM - 2:30PM. A local institution with five locations through the Research Triangle, Brigs serves upscale breakfast and lunch, with options ranging from shrimp and grits (a Southern classic) to homemade crab cakes with a horseradish-parsley Hollandaise sauce to blue-berry stuffed French toast and beyond. Their fare can pack the calories, but they do offer sensible selections as well.
- 5 Carolina Ale House, 11685 Northpark Dr, ☏ . daily 11AM - 2AM. Born in the Carolinas, the Carolina Ale House now spreads its sports bars across 6 states. This location offers the usual steak, burgers, chicken and similar food with lots of oversized televisions displaying sports and a full bar menu.
- 6 Mellow Mushroom, 2125 S Main St, ☏ . Su-W 11AM - 9PM, Th 11AM -10PM, F Sa 11AM to 10:30PM. Georgia-born pizza chain serving a variety of customizable, hand-made pies.
1 White Street Brewing Co., 218 S White Street. M-Th 4-10PM, F Sa noon-midnight, Su noon-10PM. The White Street Brewing Co., founded in Wake Forest in 2012, has a taproom downtown pouring their original brews seven days a week. In addition, they sell kegs and cases.
While some of the larger cities in the Research Triangle boast more accommodation options, there are a few hotels in Wake Forest.
- 1 Candlewood Suites, 12050 Retail Drive, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. An all-suite hotel offering extended stay, Candlewood Suites Wake Forest hosts an evening reception on Tuesdays and Thursdays. ~$100 per night.
- 2 Hampton Inn Raleigh/Town of Wake Forest, 12318 Wake Union Church Road, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Smoke-free hotel with free wi-fi in rooms offers a free hot breakfast and is within walking distance of one of the more popular breakfast and lunch hotels in Wake Forest. Hotel has a salt water pool, usable seasonally when weather permits. ~$115 per night.
- 3 Lions Gate B&B, 238 N Main St,, ☏ . Check-in: 3-7PM, check-out: 11AM. Home built in 1901 is within walking distance of downtown Wake Forest. Smoke-free. Breakfast is offered from 9-10AM each morning. Rooms are traditional with en suite bathrooms. Free wi-fi is offered. ~$120 per night.
- Raleigh, the state capital, is about a 20 minute drive away and home to the state museums of art, history, and science, the state symphony and ballet, and the campus of the North Carolina State University.
- Chapel Hill, about 35 miles from Wake Forest, is home to the University of North Carolina (UNC-CH). Chapel Hill has many good restaurants and bars on Franklin Street, adjacent to the UNC campus.
- Durham, about 22 miles away, is the home of Duke University. Durham has many trendy cafes, bars, theaters, art locations and four star restaurants.