Adventurous parents often haul their kids on backpacking trips, to music concerts and to other adult-oriented events. However, there are things that don't mix well with kids: Kids and booze. Kids and midnight. Kids and French food, unless your kids are French. Kids and fragile art. Kids and fragile antiques.
So when your parents come to town, for one afternoon, send the kids to the babysitter's. Stay up late. Drink, dance, eat hollandaise sauce. Take in some postmodern art and pre-War antiques. Enjoy some adult time with fellow grown-ups—while you can. —Lisa Sorg
Time to eat? The "best" place for dinner may be your own dining room, and in any event, it's outside our calling to say what the best restaurant would be—best in what regard? But we will step up with this thought: Sunday brunch. Whether you go out on the town Saturday night or cook at home, there's much to be said for treating yourself next morning to a tasty meal in a comfortable setting close to home. Thinking about it that way, three of the Triangle's best restaurants come to mind: Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, Irregardless Cafe in Raleigh, and Vin Rouge in Durham.
The first two have much in common. Crook's Corner and Irregardless are bright, venerated places that reflect the personalities of their longtime chef-owners, Bill Smith and Arthur Gordon, respectively. Both places were smoke-free and featured local farm products long before either was the fashion. Both show top-notch art: at Crook's, in an ever-changing gallery; at Irregardless, works by Raleigh painter Kyle Highsmith. And both do a bang-up brunch, which at Crook's includes your classic shrimp-and-grits (and chocolate soufflé cake), and at Irregardless, frittatas. —Bob Geary
When you walk into Vin Rouge and see the high ceilings and the narrow French doors, it's possible to forget the unpromising streetscape you just escaped and imagine you've wandered into a Montmartre bistro. The waiters here are professional but unpretentious, and if it's bright on the patio they might wear sunglasses. If you must show off proper French pronunciation for your parents, there's a decent chance you'll get proper French in return.
Order the crêpes du jour (on a recent Sunday they contained steak tips, scrambled eggs and hollandaise sauce), the utterly divine French onion soup with gruyère, or the eggs Oscar. Bring The New York Times and linger past noon so you can slake your thirst with a kir royale, mimosa or Bloody Mary. —David Fellerath
Duke's public gardens are a peaceful, pretty destination especially good for visiting out-of-towners (and kids, too). Five miles of walking paths wind through a terrace of irises, daffodils and roses; a swampy area where you can listen to the bullfrogs; the Asiatic Arboretum, where you might get lucky and see a bird catch a fish in the koi pond; and a garden of native plants. This is the kind of place where people have their wedding pictures taken, and the newly constructed Doris Duke Center is popular for wedding receptions (as well as educational programs). You have to pay to park, $1 per half hour, but unlike on most of Duke's campus, parking is easy and available. Water fountains and benches abound; bathrooms and a gift shop are there too; and for visitors with mobility issues, a golf cart tour can be arranged in advance for $25. —Fiona Morgan
OK, it's Sunday. You've brunched at Crook's Corner, burned the calories with a hike along the Haw River Trail (and plucked the deer ticks off your pants). Now for a meditative finish to the day: Stop by The Nasher Museum of Art for a postmodern art experience. Beyond the light-filled and airy atrium, you can relax in front of color fields by Mark Rothko, scrutinize intricate mixed-media works by Robert Rauschenberg, and marvel at black-and-white aerial photos of parking lots. I kid you not, the geometry of empty parking lots, with their white lines and entrance/exit arrows, is mesmerizing when viewed from 10,000 feet.
Afterward, relax at the café, which overlooks the ground-level geometry of modern art installed on a rolling, graceful landscape. Dig into a plate of locally grown and organic food, including hearty paninis, soba noodle bowls and salads. And dessert. And wine. Lots of both. It's been a long, invigorating day. You deserve it. —Lisa Sorg
The Blue Bayou Club in historic downtown Hillsborough is the best place in this neck of the woods to hear real, down-home blues. With room for about 100 patrons, the club offers an intimate, throwback experience in the kind of setting that used to dot the highways of the South. (Your folks may have been to one of these juke joints before the places started disappearing.) The Blue Bayou is also the smallest place around to hear national touring bands, and local ones, too, like the Swamp Doctors, Delta Drift and the Buzz Kills. Popular across the Piedmont, the club draws a mixed crowd, especially now that owner Gary Lee has banned smoking on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. But leave the kiddies at home: This joint is 21 and up. Cover charges range from $7 to $25. —Mosi Secret
Yancy's is the best jazz club around—because it's the only jazz club around. The Cajun restaurant-cum-nightclub consistently features some of the Triangle's best straight-ahead jazz, along with poppier bands. Located in the heart of downtown Raleigh on Fayetteville Street, Yancy's attracts an urban professional crowd that comes dressed to impress. The food isn't as good as the music, but Yancy's tops other venues that only occasionally feature live acts. —Mosi Secret
As much as we love our parents, by Day 4, we're ready to dump them somewhere: Not by the railroad tracks or at the nursing home, but a safe place where they can piddle for the afternoon while we catch up on e-mail or take a cat nap.
Head south on U.S. 15-501 to downtown Pittsboro, where they can browse at one of the charming hamlet's many antique shops. North of the historic Chatham County Courthouse, Hillsboro Street is antique row. The three floors at Beggars & Choosers are packed with thousands of pieces of vintage and classic memorabilia, including a toy Viewfinder, a hand-held reel-to-reel tape recorder (tape included, presumably used), books, LPs, metal dollhouses (with sharp edges, they were obviously made pre-Consumer Reports). And if you have parents who goosestep instead of walk, a Nazi flag was recently selling for $75.
Upstairs is stuffed with men's and women's wear from an era when clothes were made in America and actually lasted longer than a year; some of these pieces are pushing 70. Your 'rents can enter a world of 1950s house dresses, spangled gowns, '30s hats, leather chaps, fedoras, men's suits (including a few in colors not found in nature), and costume jewelry that will conjure memories of the sweet, powdered smell of their grandmother.
If furniture is their bag, try Southern Treasures or Old Pittsboro Antiques and Collectibles, up the street. The latter features mahogany dressers, solid-oak dining room tables and china cabinets—and my personal Holy Grail: an Edison phonograph and a Victrola, two brands of the same sound machine, complete with the heavy petroleum slab that passed for vinyl in those days. Also check out the curious selection of ephemera: found photographs from the early 20th century, and two children's scrapbooks from the 1950s. Lovingly curated by their mothers, these collections contain nearly every valentine and birthday card their kids received, plus congratulations cards celebrating their children's births.
After your parents' trip down memory lane (look honey, stuff older than we are!), they can head to the S&T Soda Shoppe for a double chocolate malt and a burger, or over to the General Store Cafe for coffee, a meal and some live music. By that time, you'll be ready to see them again. —Lisa Sorg