Old world charm surrounds you as you walk along stone pathways between stucco buildings draped in hanging floral baskets and wrought iron. You peer into shop windows, admiring floral arrangements and delectable chocolates. The smell of wood-fired pizza mingles with other inviting aromas nudging you to grab a bite, to be enjoyed al fresco, under Edison lights and whimsical flags. Nearby, a fountain bubbles, a soft undertone to the casual conversations of passersby.
France or North Carolina?
You might be in a small town in the French countryside, but you’re not. This is Lafayette Village in Raleigh, North Carolina. You wouldn’t know to look at it, but this shopping, dining and entertainment district was just built in 2010. The developer, inspired by the atmosphere at Disney’s Epcot, wanted to bring something totally different to the city.
We think the plan succeeded — spectacularly.
For locals, Lafayette Village is a welcome addition to this part of North Raleigh. Located at Falls of the Neuse Road and Honeycutt, just south of I-540, this six-acre entertainment district is home to several restaurants and shops, each locally owned. Shopping and dining here is also a way to support the people who live nearby!
When we moved to Raleigh a few months ago, we were delighted to discover this little gem, just ten minutes from home. When we need gifts, we head to Lafayette Village for unique finds we just can’t get at the local mall. And for dinner with friends, this is our favorite meeting place.
Shopping at Lafayette Village
One reason we love shopping here, though there are many, is that the shops offer experiences, not just goods. At The Chocolate Boutique, date nights get sweeter with chocolate making classes that include samples and a box of indulgent sweets to take home. And at the Savory Spice Shop, you can create your own custom spice blend — talk about unique gifts!
There are many other shops at Lafayette Village, from flowers to beer, from monogram gifts to men’s and women’s fashion and accessories. Each small shop its own unique vibe, with gifts for everyone on your list — maybe even yourself!
Dining at Lafayette Village
The only hard part about visiting Lafayette Village is deciding where to eat. Each restaurant has a clear culinary mission. They offer outdoor dining, where furry family can join you, just like you’d expect of a European cafe.
We have loved every meal we’ve had, so to help you out, here are some tried and true recommendations:
- At Zanyu Asian Noodles, my daughter’s favorite, try the Pork Belly Confit Miso Ramen with ramen noodles, caramelized pork belly, miso dashi, ajitsuke egg, scallions, tofu and nori. The dish is perfectly balanced and satisfying. No wonder it’s the most popular item on the menu.
- At Farina Neighborhood Italian, my favorite, we recommend enjoying dinner served family style. Two of our favorites, because we couldn’t choose just one, are the braised short ribs and the Pizza Pancetta Bianco with gorgonzola, fig preserves, saba, arugula, mozzarella and pancetta.
Special Events at Lafayette Village
Beyond shopping and dining, Lafayette Village hosts special events on the Village Green year-round. The two most popular events are Oktoberfest and the Lighting of the Christmas Tree.
Oktoberfest, held the last Saturday in September, is a German inspired beer festival with more than 20 fall style beers and food to enjoy. Live music, wiener dog races and more add to the fun.
The Lighting of the Christmas Tree happens in mid-November and features everything you might expect from a small-town tree lighting. Local children’s choirs perform holiday favorites and St. Nick himself will make an appearance for the official tree lighting. Of course, the local shops will be all decked out for the holidays with great gift ideas to kick off the holiday shopping season.
Visiting Lafayette Village
Lafayette Village is located in the north Raleigh area, on Falls of Neuse Road just south of I-540. You know you’ve arrived when you see the Eiffel Tower.
When you visit, take photos and be sure to tag Lafayette Village (#LafayetteVillage) on social media!
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Read more posts by Karen Dawkins of Family Travels on a Budget:
Things to Do with Kids in Columbia, SC