The capital of North Carolina, Raleigh is also known as a center of education and technology research. Raleigh-Durham —sometimes called the Triangle — consists of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. It is in this coastal Southeast state that you'll find the Research Triangle Park, a 6,800-acre research and development center created in the 1950s that is home to more than 50 high-tech companies and enterprises including IBM.

Three major universities — North Carolina State University, Duke University in Durham and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — are also located in the area. UNC is the oldest state university in the country, and the town of Chapel Hill's mission from its inception has been to support the college. You'll find this picturesque little town brimming with school spirit and plenty of collegiate activity.

For sports fans, Raleigh-Durham delivers two perennial basketball powerhouses, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Michael Jordan's alma mater). The rivalry between the two is palpable, making sports bars and venues a hub for raucous cheering, celebration and commiseration.

But don't think you'll have to stay in a dorm room or dine at a burger joint — the area is home to the Five-Star Umstead Hotel & Spa and the Four-Star Fearrington House Inn. The Umstead is a contemporary, elegant hotel located in wooded suburban Cary, just outside of Raleigh and boasts a Five-Star restaurant — Herons — and spa. The Fearrington House Inn, with its Five-Star restaurant, offers just the right mix of country style and worldly sophistication to its location on colonial-era farmland.