Tour Your Town: Apex

Before visiting a new city, we consult websites and guidebooks, ask friends and neighbors, draft itineraries and note the off-the-beaten-path places we don’t want to miss. We try to plan as much into our days as possible on the road, yet around home we hardly venture outside our set of favorite places to discover all the fun, culture, shopping and dining possibilities in our own towns.

Cary Magazine compiled a day of activities in Downtown Apex, combining some standby favorites with a few places that might have had a spot on your “to do … someday” list — and deserve to be seen.

Your first stop of the day will be the newly renovated building at 400 N. Salem St. Carden Farms, which opened in early May, offers lots of opportunities to appreciate the little things, from locally grown food to handmade soap. Husband and wife team Carol and Dennis Willis deemed their Franklin County farm Carden as a blend of their names, and they share the farm’s splendor with customers. Fall offerings include decorative elements like gourds, pumpkins and hay bales, and Christmas trees arriving with the season.

Seasonal produce is available, and Carden participates in the Goodness Grows in North Carolina program, fostering a relationship with the growers. “We try to inform the public about the produce and where it’s coming from,” Dennis said, citing an example of teaching customers what to do with eight different types of squash. Carol makes by hand a bevy of soaps, including exotic scents like Atlantic Ocean Mist, Evening in Madrid, Autumn Spice and many others.

Next, walk through a little piece of town history and take in some art at the same time. The Halle Cultural Arts Center at 237 N. Salem St. was originally the Apex Town Hall, complete with jail cells and the mayor’s office. Now, though, it’s an event space, show venue and art gallery in one. From Sept. 23 to Oct. 28, the 4Fe + 3O2 -> 2Fe2O3, or Oxidation -> Rust, juried exhibition and sale will be on display.

Keep that artistic vibe rolling by strolling over to Studio 123 to watch award-winning artists Janet Harrell and Susan Hecht work their magic on canvas. Harrell, whose work is self-described as “characterized by energetic brush strokes and lush color,” and Hecht, who has made art her pastime after a first career in advertising, are happy to have passersby stop in to observe and appreciate their work.

You’ll likely have worked your appetite up by this point, so meander over to 100 N. Salem St. to hit up the perennial favorite Anna’s Pizzeria. We won’t recommend what to get, because anything you choose will be a standout thanks to made-from-scratch selections and super fresh ingredients.

Work off a few of those calories by heading upstairs to a little-known spot at 219. N. Salem St., Suite 203. Make It Your Own is the workspace and boutique of owner Julie Majkowski. Her truly one-of-a-kind purses, hats and other items will make you the talk of the town. She also schedules make-and-take card stamping workshops and sewing lessons by appointment. Majkowski keeps flexible hours, so if she’s not in the shop, visit to see samples of her work available for sale.

On your way out, pick up a jolt at Common Grounds Coffee Shop immediately downstairs. Favorites include lattes, several flavors of cheesecake (which you shouldn’t look at if you don’t want to be convinced), peanut butter bars, ice cream, pastries and much more.

For the next bit, your schedule is up to you. It wouldn’t be possible for us to include all the great retail opportunities available in the downtown area, so let your interests lead you. The Rusty Bucket has something in store for you if you have a country-styled home — and even if you don’t, sit outside and enjoy a quick game of checkers. Active types will love Tobacco Road Outdoors, while fashion-forward might prefer Flaunt or Nativa boutiques.

Love a good brew? The Beer Dispensary, with more than 400 craft varieties, is a must-see (or a great place to drop off your husband while you check out the designer consignment selection at My Girlfriend’s Closet). If you’re expecting, Green Pea Baby makes shopping “simple, affordable and fun” by carrying products recommended by a testing panel and strong reviews. We could go on, but we’d rather let you explore on your own.

Wind down your day with good eats and tasty drinks at Peak City Grill, 126 N. Salem St. Unique bites like heirloom tomato and melon gazpacho or goat cheese gnocchi are offered alongside salads, steaks and other comfort food favorites like shrimp and grits. A selection of entrees are available as small plates if you want to save room for dessert.

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