Once a sleepy bedroom community, Cary, N.C., is experiencing a renaissance. Local officials and entrepreneurs have invested millions over the last few years and launched a number of cool new downtown projects, including a hotel, dog-friendly brew pubs, restaurants and cultural facilities. And it’s all just about a two-hour drive from Charlotte.
Situated in the heart of downtown, The Mayton Inn is a new three-story, 45-room boutique hotel with a laid-back bar, restaurant, spa and fitness center. The Georgian-style hotel combines funky art deco design touches with a classic, luxurious flair, especially in the lobby, which has swanky gold couches and mirrored shelves with colorful glass sculptures. Throughout the hotel you’ll find bold color patterns and elegant furniture pieces that were custom designed and fabricated in High Point. All the rooms feature a white-noise sound-masking system and tablets loaded with games, Netflix, social media sites and touch-screen room service and spa options. Address: 301 S Academy St.
The Academy Street Bistro is about a five-minute walk from The Mayton Inn and offers a mouth-watering selection of farm-to-fork selections. Marylynn Fitzgerald and her brother-in-law, executive chef Michael Fitzgerald, opened the restaurant in 2013. Michael previously worked as a chef in New York City for more than 20 years and prepares a number of signature dishes, including braised beef short ribs, bucatini with duck bolognese, and jumbo lump crab cakes. Be sure to grab a seat on the covered patio for great views of the bustling downtown area. The restaurant is located in Ashworth Village, which has an eclectic lineup of art galleries, clothing boutiques, a bakery and wine shop. Address: 200 S Academy St.
A great place to catch a cool indie flick, play or comedy show is The Cary Theater. This 180-seat cultural venue is located inside the town’s first indoor movie theater, which was built in 1946 and later served as home to everything from an auto parts store to a recording studio. Two years ago the town of Cary completed a $6.1 million renovation of the 7,000-square-foot property, including an expanded lobby, spiral staircase and stylish marquee that’s a replica of original theater sign.
While there, you might just run into David Bradley, a local musician and self-described “fossilized hippie” who was the subject of a recent art show at the Lucky Tree Gallery and Café in nearby Raleigh. Address: 122 E. Chatham St.
Pharmacy Bottle + Beverage is a popular pub located at the former Mitchell’s Pharmacy building, which operated from 1950-1990. The new hangout has a huge selection of beers and cool touches like sliding 7-by-15 storefront windows, cement floors, and white subway tile behind the bar where there are 16 taps. Address: 120 E Chatham St.
At Bond Brothers Beer Company, Whit Baker, co-owner, certified cicerone brewmaster and former high school chemistry teacher, makes a variety of craft brews, including stouts, IPAs, saisons and sours. The 9,000-square-foot space has 14 beers on tap, an outside beer garden, regular food truck rallies, along with weekly guided brewery tours. Address: 202 E Cedar St.
Located just outside downtown Cary is Fortnight Brewing Company. Stuart Arnold and his wife, both originally from Sheffield, England, opened this craft brewery and pub in 2013. They specialize in English-inspired ales, including porters and ESBs. They also offer a blonde ale, coffee amber and an IPA that is a fusion of English and American IPA styles. Designed to feel like an English pub, Fortnight has comfy leather couches, chandelier lighting, and a big screen TV, which is usually broadcasting a soccer game. Address: 1006 SW Maynard Road
Lionel Vatinet, a 2015 James Beard Foundation semifinalist for “Outstanding Baker,” has helped make La Farm Bakery one of Cary’s most popular destinations. After Vatinet and his wife Missy spent years traveling the globe, they opened this authentic French bakery known for delectable treats such as croque madame and country French bread. La Farm announced recently plans to open a second, larger location in the downtown area with an open-air kitchen that will allow patrons to watch artisan bakers mix, shape, and bake breads by hand. Address: 4248 NW Cary Pkwy.