With awesome outdoor adventures, family-friendly activities, delicious restaurants, and museums galore!
There’s something for everyone in this North Carolina city. Here are 17+ amazing things to do in Raleigh NC that will make your trip here an unforgettable one.
OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN RALEIGH
Raleigh isn’t called the City of Oaks for nothing! This city of Raleigh has plenty of outdoor fun for everyone on your crew. Here are some of our favorite outdoor adventures in Raleigh.
VISIT HEMLOCK BLUFFS NATURE PRESERVE
Located just outside of Raleigh in Cary, NC, you’ll find the 140-acre Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve.
Here you’ll find almost 3 miles of shaded hiking trails through the trees — including a group of Hemlocks — that lead you to small overlooks along the way. The fall color here is especially beautiful.
The preserve is also home to the Stevens Nature Center that has interactive and educational exhibits on display. Admission is FREE.
HIKE A SECTION OF THE MOUNTAINS-TO-SEA TRAIL
Hike parts of North Carolina’s longest hiking trail — the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST).
There are two great places to hike short parts of this 1,000-mile trail that stretches from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Outer Banks. You can start at Blue Jay Point County Park or Wilkerson Nature Preserve where you can connect with the MST.
Either entry point is a great way to get a taste of this epic NC trail, with easy terrain and unique wildlife.
EXPLORE TRAILS AT WILLIAM B. UMSTEAD STATE PARK
If you love trails, you’ll love all the hiking, biking, equestrian, and running trails at William B. Umstead State Park.
Trailheads on both sides of the park—accessible from Interstate 40 and US 70—surround three man-made lakes. The largest is Big Lake, offering canoe and rowboat rentals. There’s also fishing here, and plenty of plants and wildlife to see — and all just 15 minutes from downtown Raleigh.
VISIT HISTORIC YATES MILL COUNTY PARK
Step back in time and visit the Historic Yates Mill! The mill is the centerpiece of the 574-acre park and wildlife refuge — an it’s incredibly beautiful.
In addition to taking a tour of the mill, at Historic Yates Mill County Park, you can walk trails, watch migrating waterfowl and other wildlife on the 20-acre pond, fish from designated areas, and enjoy a peaceful visit with nature.
The park facilities include a visitor center, a museum focused on milling, and the area’s natural history. Because it’s a wildlife refuge, pets are not permitted. Admission is FREE, but the mill tour fee: is $3-$5 (all proceeds directly support the mill’s ongoing maintenance and operations).
BIKE THE NEUSE RIVER GREENWAY TRAIL
The Neuse River Greenway Trail is a 27.5-mile paved trail that bikers will adore.
Enjoy beautiful views of the Neuse River, ride over winding boardwalks over wetlands, and pass by historical sites. The Neuse River Trail is a segment of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which we mentioned above. There are also canoeing, kayaking, and fishing opportunities.
THINGS TO DO IN RALEIGH NC WITH LITTLE ONES
Raleigh has plenty of fun things for the littlest members of your group — and we promise…you’ll have a good time too.
SPEND THE DAY AT PULLEN PARK
A trip to Raleigh is just not complete without a visit to Pullen Park — one of the oldest amusement parks in the world!
Established in 1887 as North Carolina’s first public park (and the 5th oldest in the United States!), Pullen is full of fun activities that everyone in your family will adore. Take a spin on the carousel that was built in 1911, take a pedal boat out on Lake Howell, enjoy the tennis courts and sports fields, and make sure to catch a performance at The Theatre in the Park (Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre).
They also have an Arts Center, an Aquatic Center, and plenty of fun playgrounds. And don’t leave without riding the C.P. Huntington miniature train, a one-third size, near-replica of the famous locomotive of the same name.
VISIT THE MARBLE KIDS MUSEUM
Kids ages 10 and under will absolutely adore the Marble Kids Museum.
Marbles believes that play is how children learn best! Located in the heart of downtown Raleigh, Marbles has dozens of themed exhibits, summer camps, IMAX documentaries, and feature movies, and special events year-round. The exhibits here are meant to build children’s imaginations — and they learn through self-led exploration.
There are STEM learning stations here for different age groups, and plenty of outdoor and indoor learning spaces.
ZIP THROUGH THE TREES
Ready to zip line and conquer obstacle courses in the trees? Then you’re ready to visit Go Ape!
All ages can participate in the 1-hour Treetop Journey, which involves navigating suspended bridges, obstacles and ziplines. It’s the perfect introduction to aerial adventuring for little ones.
Looking for something more? Ages 10+ can try the 2-3 hour Treetop Adventure or the shortened version (90 minutes) called the Treetop Discovery. Both offer 50-foot high tree-to-tree crossings and super-long zip lines.
Note: gloves are required. You may bring your own or purchase from Go Ape.
ADVENTUROUS EXPERIENCES IN RALEIGH NC
Ready for a little adventure in your life? Try some of these fun experiences in Raleigh.
LEARN TO ROCK CLIMB
Triangle Rock Club is an indoor climbing gym that’s perfect for a day of adventuring.
Adults and kids can get all day rock climbing passes or take a beginner class if you’ve never done it before.
They offer four different climbing options: bouldering, auto-belayed climbing, top-rope climbing, and lead climbing. Bouldering and auto-belayed climbing do not require special certification. To top-rope belay and to lead belay, participants must pass a certification test.
HIT GOLF BALLS AT DRIVE SHACK
Outdoors but with air conditioning?! Yes, please! Gather a group of friends and rent one of 96 golf bays at Drive Shack — a 260-foot long driving range. But this just isn’t any golf range. This one combines physical targets with virtual games!
The Raleigh location also has a restaurant, a rooftop bar, and over 300 TVs. A perfect way to spend a night out in Raleigh.
Get ready to race around the track at Rush Hour Karting — an indoor go-karting facility, located just outside of Raleigh in Garner.
And these go karts go fast — some reach speeds of up to 40MPH! Race around hairpin turns on their 1/3-mile track. Afterwards, grab a beer from their restaurant, or extend the excitement with a visit to their rock climbing wall, or axe throwing facility.
MUSEUMS IN RALEIGH NC WORTH A VISIT
Raleigh is home to some incredible museums and art galleries that you absolutely must make the time to visit.
NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF ART
The North Carolina Museum of Art in one of the best visual arts museums in the south. You’ll find art galleries, special exhibits, an outdoor park with art, trails, and a live music venue.
With a permanent collection that spans 5,000 years of history — there is a lot of art to see here.
The art collection found here features more than 4,200 objects, and consists of European paintings from the Renaissance to the 19th century, Egyptian funerary art, sculpture and vase painting from Greece, Italy, and Rome, American and ancient American art, African art, Jewish ceremonial objects, and more.
The 164-acre Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park features more than two dozen monumental works of art. The artists worked with the museum during the restoration of the landscape, and worked to integrate the art into its natural systems.
The NC Museum of Art is FREE.
NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF HISTORY
Learn everything you need to know about the state of North Carolina with a visit to the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh.
This museum is located right across from the North Carolina State Capitol and welcomes more than 450,000 visitors a year.
Here you’ll find information about the state’s history — including info on the Wright Brothers’ famous first flight. Visit the replica 1920s drugstore, see toys from the 50s and 60s, and visit the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame while you’re there. Admission is FREE for everyone.
NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCES
Ready to visit the most visited museum in North Carolina?! Then head on over to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. If you love natural history museums, you’ll love this place!
This museum in central Raleigh is the largest institution of its kind in the Southeastern United States. And there’s a reason it’s the most visited in the state — this museum is amazing, and all ages will have a blast here.
Have you ever touched the bones of a Right Whale? Or come face to face with a Cretaceous carnivore? Or Sat in the center of the Earth to hear a scientist talk? You can do all that and more in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences exhibits.
The downtown Raleigh location includes the Nature Exploration Center and Nature Research Center, filled with dioramas, theaters, and interactive experiences that everyone will love.
They also host educational programs, virtual programs, and have visiting exhibits. This museum is what, “Make learning fun!” is all about. Admission is FREE!
JOEL LANE MUSEUM HOUSE
At the Joel Lane Museum House, you’ll take a step back in time to explore the beginnings of Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, and the United States. This museum takes you from the colonial era, through the Revolutionary War, into the first years as a new nation.
Guided tours begin at the Visitors Center with costumed docents so it will really feel you’ve been transported to the past. Children under 6 are FREE.
POPE HOUSE MUSEUM
As the only African-American house museum in the state of North Carolina, the Pope House offers a glimpse into the life of one of Raleigh’s most intriguing citizens, Dr. Manassa Thomas Pope, who was the only African-American man to run for mayor of a Southern capital in the midst of the Jim Crow Era. The house contains over 3,000 artifacts, and gives insight into the life of the Pope family.
The Pope House is open on Saturdays and Sundays, and guided tours are offered by appointment. Admission is FREE.
WHERE TO EAT IN RALEIGH NC
There’s no shortage of great places to eat in Raleigh. Here are some of our favorite places to find amazing food.
MORGAN STREET AND TRANSFER CO. FOOD HALLS
Not quite sure what you want to eat? Raleigh has the answer, and it comes in the form of two different food halls!
Head on over to Morgan Street Food Hall or Transfer Co. Food Hall and choose from some really great eateries! These food halls have many restaurants to choose from, and you and your crew are guaranteed to find exactly what you’re looking for. The deal is — you order from different restaurants and eateries, and then eat in one shared dining area. They also feature patio seating.
At Morgan Street, you’ll find everything from bagels and crepes and lobster and tacos, to rolled ice cream, and even a fry bar! And at Transfer Co., you’ll find empanadas, wood-fired bagels, fresh made pasta, an amazing cookie shop and more.
These food halls not only have amazing food — but a great atmosphere too.
THE WAREHOUSE DISTRICT
Head on over to the Warehouse District in downtown Raleigh and check out some of the amazing restaurants that call this walkable neighborhood home.
Here are some of the best:
- Authentic Carolina-style barbeque at The Pit.
- Delicious beers at Crank Arm Brewing.
- Vegetarian and vegan cuisine at Fiction Kitchen.
- Southern deliciousness at Whiskey Kitchen.
- Shared meals at Humble Pie.
- Stop by Videri Chocolate Factory for dessert!
WHERE TO STAY IN RALEIGH NC
There are plenty of great places to stay in Raleigh! Whether you’re looking for a hotel, or a place to park your RV, we’ve got some great choices for you.
HOTELS IN RALEIGH
Best Near the Capitol: The StateView Hotel is located only 3 miles from the North Carolina Capitol building, the Museum of Natural Sciences, and the North Carolina Museum of History. It features a restaurant, a bar and lounge, an outdoor pool, and free parking.
Best Near the Airport: The Embassy Suites Raleigh – Brier Creek offers free shuttle services to/from the Raleigh-Durham International Airport — making it a great place to stay if you’re flying in. The hotel features an indoor heated pool, and an on-site restaurant. Brier Creek Commons, which offers shopping, dining and entertainment, is just 1,300 feet away.
Best Near Marble Kids Museum: The Raleigh Hyatt House – Raleigh North Hills is 1.5 mi from the Marble Kids Museum and features a seasonal outdoor pool, restaurant, and full hot breakfast. Free WiFi is provided.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO NORTH CAROLINA
- NORTH CAROLINA VACATION
- UNIQUE NC RENTALS: 29 Unique North Carolina Rentals For Your Next Getaway
- NC RESORTS: 24 Resorts In North Carolina That Will Have You Packing Your Bags Tonight
- NC DAY TRIPS: 23+ Incredible Day Trips In NC For Every Style Of Traveler
- ASHEVILLE WITH KIDS: 9 Amazing and Fun Things to Do in Asheville With Kids
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