This piece is part of our RALtoday Q+A series. Know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.
Born and raised in the City of Oaks, writer and film actor Alli Hurley is a well-seasoned Raleighite. “I’ve seen a lot of growth and a lot of really good changes that have come to the city [over the past 20+ years],” she told RALtoday. In October 2020, she set out to write her first book, “100 Things to Do in Raleigh Before You Die.”
We asked Alli 10 questions about her writing process + book (which officially launched on Sat., May 7). Keep reading for a sneak peak of her ultimate Raleigh bucket list.
Describe your perfect day in Raleigh.
I’d go to Blue Jay Point for a walk, then I’d go to Fount. I’d have an afternoon picnic at Dix Park (during sunflower season) + visit NOFO for a little shopping. Then I think it would be perfect to go to the Raleigh Little Theatre and its rose garden.
You can only choose one local restaurant menu to bring with you to a deserted island — which one is it and why?
Sola. They have so much that’s beyond coffee + it’s so fresh. It would cover a lot of meals and you would have a lot of different lattes to choose from, which sounds like a good thing to me on an island.
What inspired you to write this book?
This book series [100 Things to Do Before You Die] is in a lot of major cities, but Raleigh didn’t have one. Raleigh is such a robust community. It just feels so friendly all the time, no matter where you go.
I wanted to write a book that doesn’t seem too touristy. I want [the book] to feel like a companion guide — like your friend is telling you these things to do.
How did you choose what to include?
I think that all of the places I included have something very quintessentially Raleigh about them. They’re really friendly, novel, and inclusive. I wanted the book to feel fun and exciting and new. But I also wanted it to appeal to people who have been here their whole lives.
I want people to know that there’s so much more than what’s in the book. Just because it’s not in the book doesn’t mean I don’t love it. My hope is that people might use this as a place to start but that they’ll expand outward and make Raleigh their own.
What was your writing process like?
I sent a survey to some trusted friends and family and asked what their perfect day in Raleigh would be. I also reached out to the Raleigh Visitors Bureau, which gave me an idea of the actual landmass to cover. Once I started to narrow down places, I visited them and interviewed people. I went anonymously to many places to have a sort of “pure” experience.
Have you done all 100 things?
Yes — and some of them are things I grew up doing. I’m looking at it like, “OK, the places are changing so I can keep going and it doesn’t count that my bucket list ‘ended.’”
What memories stand out to you while working on the book?
I was paddleboarding on Falls Lake and I fell overboard.
I went to Lucette Grace to sample just a few things and I ended up spending $30 on pastries. The same thing happened with all the food spots. (I was also pregnant when I wrote the book, so working on the food section was so hard. I was drooling the entire time.)
Alli’s daughter, Murphy Jane, turned five months old last week. She often appears on Alli’s TikTok.
What are the top 3 must-dos in your book?
Angus Barn — it’s a Raleigh staple and Van, the owner, is one of the kindest, most gracious people I have ever met. She does an amazing job.
The State Fair. I’d recommend going as many times as you can.
The NC Museum of Art. You can visit the museum itself, go to a concert, have a picnic, see an outdoor movie, ride on the bike trails, or go for a walk. You could spend the whole day there.
What’s something new in Raleigh that you’ve heard of that you’re excited about?
I’ve been hearing a lot about creators moving to Raleigh. I’m really encouraged that leaders in content creation are coming here and I’m excited to see where that goes. Raleigh has a huge potential for entertainment.
What’s something that every Raleighite should know about?
Raleigh is like a person that you meet and you immediately like them, but as you get to know them more, they only become funnier or they only become kinder. They’re just very unassumingly awesome and continue to grow on you.