Poké’in Around Raleigh: Five Downtown Spots for Catching Monsters

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Pokémon Go, arguably the most anticipated mobile game of all time, made its debut last Wednesday and quickly rose to the top of the Android and iPhone charts for most downloaded games.


As a million and a half (we checked) articles have already been written about this mobile game/cultural phenomenon, we won’t spend too much time digging into its mechanics, but in case you’re not familiar, here’s a quick primer:

Pokémon Go is a mobile app game that allows players to catch, train and battle Pokémon (Pocket Monsters) in a bid to “collect ’em all.” It was originally a black & white game for Gameboy that debuted 20 years ago. There are currently said 151 varieties of Pokémon in the new game, the same as in the original. Later sequels had vastly expanded upon this number.

The hook, or what sets Pokémon Go apart from nearly every other mobile game out there, is its augmented reality aspect: in order to catch and train these monsters, players have to physically go out into the real world and digitally “catch” them with Pokéballs.

He's all mine!

James Borden

Bellsprout’s about to get caught!

In addition to catching the little monsters, getting out into the real world allows players to locate so-called Pokéstops to collect in-game power-ups and Trainer Gyms to battle your monsters against those of strangers.

Our favorite joke to date about this aspect of the game: Pokémon Go did more to end childhood obesity in eight hours than Michelle Obama did in eight years. Heh.

On Twitter the other day, Raleigh’s most popular account, @NewRaleigh, made an observation that’s becoming more prescient with each passing day: “Residents of Raleigh are going to learn about their city from a Pokémon app than any news source.”

At around five in the afternoon on Sunday, July 10, there were between 50-60 people in the normally vacant Nash Square adjacent from City Hall: nearly all of them engaged in Pokémon Go. Several hours later, William N. Finely IV founder of the ITB News Network, observed even larger crowds at the same location.

We heard a rumor Finley is putting together the definitive Raleigh Insider’s guide to Pokémon Go; we will absolutely be linking to it once it appears. Personally, we can’t wait.

But is a listicle, so let’s get to it.

Locations are ranked more or less in order of best to worst in terms of available Pokémon, Pokéstops & Trainer Gyms. A quick disclaimer: server issues prevented us from seeing a handful of Pokéspots, and some Pokémon appear to generate randomly and may not be included in the list below.

5. Halifax Mall

Halifax Mall was deserted Sunday afternoon

James Borden

Halifax Mall was deserted Sunday afternoon

The most deserted of the sites we sought out, this vast expanse of greenery surrounded by state government buildings on the northern edge of downtown was completely devoid of Pokémon trainers Sunday afternoon, and didn’t offer much in the way of catchable Pokémon either.

Still, it’s one of downtown Raleigh’s hidden gems, and half the fun of this game is having a reason/excuse to explore every last inch of your city. As such, we initially selected the five sites on this list due to their in-real-life amenities as opposed to the most efficient spots to catch monsters and collect items.

In addition to the splendiferous solitude one can often find at Halifax Mall, it’s also less than a five minute walk to the North Carolina Museum of History and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Pro-tip: That giant globe outside the latter is, of course, a Pokéspot.

The most significant portion of the game’s exploration aspect is the countless number of “Pokéstops,” which offer facts and photos about notable landmarks and locations around the world.

A Pokéstop

James Borden

A Pokéstop

For those of you wondering how these locations are determined: the developer of Pokémon Go had previously released a game titled Ingress, which employs a similar augmented reality gimmick. In that game, these locations were referred to as portals; here’s the Wikipedia description of said portals:

Portals are typically associated with buildings and landmarks of historic or architectural significance — such as sculptures, murals, and other public art, libraries, post offices, memorials, places of worship, public transit hubs, parks and other recreational or tourist spaces, or with business locations. Players may submit requests for the creation of new portals, and the number of portals has increased steadily over the lifetime of the game. The density of portals correlates with player density and thus with population density, so the central areas of cities typically contain the highest concentration of portals.

Despite that bolded line, it appears the database of player-submitted portals is no longer accepting new entries. Here’s a fuller article on those portals as they relate to Pokémon Go.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things we spotted at Halifax Mall:

Eevee at Halfiax Mall

James Borden

Eevee at Halfiax Mall

  • Pokémon: Bulbasaur, Pidgey, Rattata, Eevee, Spearow, Caterpie and Staryu
  • Pokéstops: Antique Water Fountain, Environmental Education Garden, NCDPS Gateway, Airbrush painting of Lake Matanuskeet (located inside one of the government buildings, but “accessible” from outside)
  • Nearest Trainer Gym was located at the NC General Assembly Building at the southern end of the mall. As of Sunday afternoon, it was held by Team Mystic. (The team to which this reporter belongs). Some of the Pokéstops there included the Legislative Fountain and the State Seal.

4. The Warehouse District

Raleigh's Warehouse District

James Borden

Raleigh’s Warehouse District

We spotted about 15 or so fellow Pokémon Go-ers out in the Warehouse District, home to a number of treasured Raleigh institutions including The Pit BBQ restaurant, Boxcar Bar + Arcade, the Videri Chocolate Factory and, most importantly, the headquarters for the Raleigh Trolley Pub.

Located in the southern, central part of downtown Raleigh, the Warehouse District was until somewhat recently a largely empty and desolate place home mostly to nightclubs and other such businesses. It now boasts a wide variety of dining, retail and cultural offerings, including North Carolina’s Contemporary Art Museum.

The pickings — both in terms of Pokémon and Pokéspots — were a bit slim, but we can’t emphasize enough the exploration/social aspect of this game. The Warehouse District is a great place to hang out.

It even gives players the opportunity to take a break from their mobile game by playing some classic arcade games. Talk about your ideal palette cleanser. Plus, it’s fun seeing other people playing, and it’s even more fun talking to them about it. I’m about as anti-social as it gets, and I was having a blast.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things we spotted in the Warehouse District:

  • Pokémon: Rattata, Eevee, Weedle, Zubat, Bulbasaur, Pidgey, Zenonat, Caterpie
  • Pokéstops: Crank Arm Brewing, Crank Arm Artwork, The Raleigh Depot
  • Nearest Trainer Gym: The Dark Mural

3. Moore Square

Moore Square

James Borden / Raleigh Public Record

Moore Square

About as close to the center of Downtown Raleigh as you can get, Moore Square sits between City Market, the Marbles Museum and a variety of restaurants along Blount Street.

A few years back, there was a fight between City officials and a variety of charitable organizations that used Moore Square as a gathering point to feed breakfast to Raleigh’s homeless population. The issue came to a boiling point following a number of complaints from nearby residents and business owners, who complained both of the mess these breakfasts left behind, and the kind of crowds they attracted.

Three years later, Moore Square is poised for a significant upgrade that will include everything from water features and children’s play areas to a cafe and restrooms. Although the feeding programs have been moved to nearby indoor locations, the park itself remains one of the largest gathering places for Raleigh’s homeless. As such, there were few fellow Pokémon Go-ers there Sunday afternoon, save for a trio who immediately recognized this reporter as a fellow traveler, calling out to ask which team I was on.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things we spotted in Moore Square:

  • Pokémon: Rattata, Eevee, Weedle, Pidgey, Poliwhirl, Caterpie,
  • Pokéstops: The Moore Square Acorn, Marbles Museum, Walkway Between Marble Museum, Vintage Church
  • Nearest Gym: Located in the park at the Open Circle sculpture

2. Fayetteville Street

Fayetteville Street

James Borden

Fayetteville Street

Like the aforementioned Warehouse District, Fayetteville Street has seen significant redevelopment over the last few years, largely due to its conversion from a pedestrian mall back into an active street.

Fayetteville is known as the “Great Main Street” of downtown Raleigh and offers a wide range of dining and drinking options, some of which, like Paddy O’Beers, are Pokéstops. Fayetteville Street is also where the majority of the downtown festivals — from Brewgaloo to the Fourth of July — are held. We don’t recommend trying to catch Pokémon during any of those, as the odds of knocking into someone are almost 100 percent.

Fayetteville Street’s sometimes-derided sidewalk seating setups/outdoor patios offer players a great spot to hang out, catch Pokémon, have a drink and, in the case of Paddy O’Beers, receive the Pokéstop rewards every five minutes — the length of time required for the stops to reset.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things we saw on Fayetteville Street:

Exeggcute snuck into my car while I was gone

James Borden

Exeggcute snuck into my car this morning

  • Pokémon: Exeggcute, Poliwhirl, Pidgey, Zubat, Eevee, Weedle, Spearow, Pidgeotto, Bellsprout
  • Pokéstops: Bagwell Plaza, Cow Statue, Royster’s Candy Store Plaque, Artistic Wall on Fayetteville, Basket in Space Sculpture, US Post Office, Wake County Courthouse, Former Raleigh Banking & Trust, Light Towers at the Marriott, My Big Red Sculptures, Miss Smith Medal of Freedom Plaque, North Carolina Symbols Artwork, Metal Leaf Sculpture
  • Nearest Trainer Gym: Fayetteville has the good fortune of being bookended by two Pokemon hot spots: Capitol Square and the Duke Energy Center, both of which offer a wide range of Pokestops and their own gyms

1. Nash Square

Nash Square was packed full of Poke-heads

James Borden

Nash Square was packed full of Poké-heads

The normally quiet Nash Square park located across from City Hall on Hargett Street was packed Sunday afternoon: a rough estimate puts between 50-70 people there around 5 p.m. The vast, vast majority of these folks were Pokémon Go players; apparently a few of them had set up lures, which attract Pokemon to a certain location.

We shot a Periscope video of the park situation; it’s kind of erratic and repetitive (people were joining and leaving the stream at a rapid clip, so I walked around the park several times) but if you’re interested, here’s a link.

While we’ve always appreciated Nash Square for offering a similar sense of the serenity found at Halifax Mall, it’s curious whether Pokémon Go will have a significant, long-term impact on attendance at the park. We imagine the proprietors of the soon-to-open Whiskey Kitchen were seeing plenty of dollar signs as they watched hundreds of people pour in and out of the adjacent park all day.

Whatever the future may hold for Nash Square, being in a small park with more than 50 people, all of whom are immersed in an augmented version of reality, is certainly a surreal experience. We’d recommend stopping by, even if you’re not into the game. But if you’re not, what are you doing still reading this?

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things we saw at Nash Square:


James Borden

Electabuzz hanging out at Nash Square.

  • Pokémon: Electabuzz, Pidgey, Eevee, Rattata, Pidgeotto, Pidgey, Paras, Weedle, Raticate
  • Pokéstops: Bagwell Plaza, Cow Statue, Royster’s Candy Store Plaque, Artistic Wall on Fayetteville, Basket in Space Sculpture, US Post Office, Wake County Courthouse, Former Raleigh Banking & Trust, Light Towers at the Marriott, My Big Red Sculptures, Miss Smith Medal of Freedom Plaque, North Carolina Symbols Artwork, Metal Leaf Sculpture
  • Nearest Trainer Gym: Fayetteville has the good fortune of being bookended by two Pokémon hot spots: Capitol Square and the Duke Energy Center, both of which offer a wide range of Pokéstops and their own gyms





**BONUS Location: State Fairgrounds**

The State Fairgrounds

James Borden

The State Fairgrounds

What would an article about video games be without a hidden secret bonus area included as a reward for making it all the way through?

As much fun as it is to walk around downtown Raleigh with an iPhone planted firmly in front of your face, our personal favorite spot that we happened upon this weekend was none other than the State Fairgrounds out on Hillsborough Street.

Technically it’s not downtown, but we’d seen something on Twitter about catching monsters out there and couldn’t help stopping by. While the Fair itself won’t be starting until October, the grounds are home every weekend to a flea market and a wide range of conventions: there were three of those this weekend alone. One was a Survivalist’s convention, whose attendees offered no help whatsoever when asked how to keep poor Bulbasair alive long enough to get off his special attack.

It was also the first place we stopped, and experienced the fun of the shared experience that is this game.

Having just reached the requisite level for gym battles, we ran into a fellow Team Mystic member by the Trainer Gym at the Waterfall. He was kind enough to give us several pointers, and let us watch the confusing gym battle, which he dominated. Our Pokémon were not yet strong enough to join the fight. Winning and holding gyms grants players in-game currency.

Many brave Pokemon gave their energy defending this place

James Borde

Many brave Pokémon gave their energy defending this place

What was interesting about the Fairgrounds was how spread out the Pokéstops were: we wandered all the way from the J.S. Dorton Arena (South Entrance facing the parking lot, if you’re headed out there) to the Old Mill on the lake and the Mrs. Burrell Monster on the back lot. As Mrs. Monster was located inside a locked garden, a fairgrounds employee and fellow traveler told us where to go to access the stop. Mrs. Monster’s husband served as the location of one of the Fairground’s three (3!!) Trainer Gyms.

As with Fayetteville Street during event weekends, we hope our fellow Poké-players will temper their urge to catch ’em all when the State Fair is in session, because it’s near-impossible to walk through those crowds as it is; we can’t imagine what it would be like if half that crowd was essentially operating in an augmented reality.

Although Nash Square had the highest density of players, there were no shortage of players out at the Fairgrounds; due to the fact that many of the Pokéstops were located in currently unused or unoccupied parts of the grounds, it was easy to spot the other players.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things we saw at the State Fairgrounds:

Bulbasaur at the State Fairgrounds!!

James Borden

Bulbasaur at the State Fairgrounds!!

  • Pokémon: Tangela, Eevee, Bulbasaur, Spearow, Krabby, Venonat, Rattata, Pidgey, Spearow, Weedle, Exeggcute,
  • Pokéstops: NC State Fair Bull Way, NCHC Horse, J.S. Dorton Arena (south entrance), NC State Fairgrounds Grandstand, Sam Rand Grandstand, NC Initials Flowerbed, FFA Giant Chicken, Gov. James Holshouser Building, Linconville A.M.E. Church, Jim Graham Building Dedication Plaque. Heritage Forge, Mill at NC State Fair, NC State Fair Lighthouse, Mantis sculpture, L.R. Harrill Center, Mrs. Burrell Monster, NC State Water Tower, Kerr Scott Dedication Plaque, Granite Quarry Statue Monument,
  • Gyms: Historical Marker for the State Fairgrounds, The Waterfall, the Barrell Monster
The desolate lighthouse at the State Fairgrounds

James Borden

The desolate lighthouse at the State Fairgrounds

Note: unless we receive a massive influx of hate mail, we plan to follow today’s post up with profiles on five Raleigh shopping centers and five Raleigh parks where you can work on catching ’em all. Look for those Wednesday and Friday of this week. Just as we’re still learning the ins and outs of Pokémon Go, we’re still figuring out the best way to format/present these articles, so your feedback is welcome and encouraged. 

Although none of these are intended as definitive guides, we will attempt to eventually put together a list of the five *best* spots around the city, but because we insist on original reporting & not just reposting and taking the word of a stranger who shared their tips on Reddit, Gamefaqs or elsewhere, that one may take some time to put together.

Mrs. Burrel Monster

James Borden

Mrs. Burrell Monster

14 thoughts on “Poké’in Around Raleigh: Five Downtown Spots for Catching Monsters

  1. Ha! You all should have walked down to the rescue mission and help sever food to the homeless.

  2. City Market is also a great place. There are several Pokestops, including the blue sculture on Skyhouse (across from Woody’s,) the mural near Artspace/Zydeco and the window mural in the alley between the market and the parking lot.

  3. Thanks for such a comprehensive overview of the game and the best spots to play it!

  4. It’s not downtown but there’s a huge variety of Pokemon at Lake Johnson, I’ve made two laps in two days netting about 55-59 Pokemon a lap. I’ve only hunted there and I’ve collected 29 species. The best Pokemon (and what seems to be the most common) at the lake is Magmar. I’ve also picked up Pensir, Kubone, Psyduck, Staryu, Tentacool, Goldeen, Meowth Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Venonat, etc. Theres also lots of Magikarp which you need A LOT of to evolve a Gyarados. I’ve seen Slowpoke and Horsea on the map but haven’t encountered them yet.

  5. Pullen Park is pretty well crawling with Jynx, and the NCSU campus has lots of pokestops as well, plus ample dining options along Hillsborough street.

  6. Thanks for the replies all! Glad you enjoyed Part I of the series. Part II is up now, and while I certainly didn’t have as much luck as Celestrael did out at Lake Johnson, it was a veritable gold mine for Pokémon of all varieties. But I did get me a Magmar

    Jes: I should have included City Market with Moore Square, so I’m glad you mentioned it. Definitely a great spot, and I’ve seen lures placed there pretty consistently.

    Also, the list of “available” Pokémon should definitely be taken as incomplete for each site, as I’ve added several more rare ones from Nash Square since this post, including Kakuna and Seadra.


  7. NCMA (North Carolina Art Museum) also has a huge number of poke’stops, with extensive grass-type pokemon, and some water type pokemon around the ponds. Great workout walking around, and plenty of enthusiasts who are all clearly there to play the game. Was great to see parents out there with kids… if nothing else, this is getting kids up off the couch, and running around!

  8. Casassie,

    Good catch, that should have been Weedle. In my defense, Weevil is the name of a real bug, and Weedle is a bug-type Pokemon. Also, he looks like a caterpillar, so in my head I was probably thinking Weev=weave, as in, he weaves silk. Sorry for the confusion!


  9. With the success of the Durham Bulls Park opening as a fundraiser, I’d like to see if a big venue in Raleigh can do the same as a fundraiser for our non-profit. Where are good locations to pursue?

  10. If Visiting NASH SQUARE you will Notice the North Carolina Fallen Firefighter Monument. This is a VERY SACRED place to a lot of people. This is to Honor and Memorialize our fellow Firefighters that Died in the line of Duty. It is a Place Family can go and Remember the Loved one they lost. It does make us proud to know people take the time to visit the site. However we ask that Everyone show Respect at the site and DO NOT climb on or place Anything on the Monument or anything inside the Monument Site.

  11. Please add Chavis Heights Park. It’s a spawning nest for Electabuzz. I walked around for 15 minutes and caught 5 of them. There are lots of there species there also like Abra, ghastly (at night), doduo, Paris, execute, ferrow, and lots of others pokemon too.

  12. When you need to refill on items, you can catch the R-Line circulator bus which takes about 30 minutes to loop around downtown. There are dozens of Pokestops along the route, and the bus travels slowly enough that you can spin most of them. The R-Line doesn’t allow riders to stay on for more than a single round trip at a time, so pick a place to hop off (Moore Square, Convention Center, etc.) and battle a local gym for the 15-30 minutes it takes for the next circulator bus to come by. You can download an app called ‘TransLoc’ to track the position of the R-Line and other buses.