Looking for Fun Things to do in Raleigh NC?
Raleigh, North Carolina, or “The City of Oaks,” as it is nicknamed for its abundance of oak trees, is North Carolina’s capital and one of the grandest cities in the southeast. This fast-growing metropolis is home to nearly a half million people and boasts some of the state’s best museums, city parks, kids’ activities, and more.
Raleigh was established as the North Carolina state capital in 1792. The city was named after Sir Walter Raleigh, who attempted to create the first English settlement on the shores of Roanoke, North Carolina, in the late 1500s. Raleigh was a planned city as it had not existed until the area was chosen to be the state capital due to its central location in the state.
Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University, one of three major universities that helped create what is known as the Research Triangle. The other schools are the University of North Carolina and Duke University, located in the nearby cities of Chapel Hill and Durham, respectively. This major metropolitan area has a population in excess of 2 million people, with Raleigh playing a major and important part.
Raleigh is noted for being a historical place, and many visit the city for its museums, parks, and neighborhoods. This place is bustling with excitement, adventure, and more that can make it a fabulous place to visit and one that everyone should experience.
Fun Things to Do in Raleigh NC
This guide will help you explore some of the many things to do in Raleigh. We have everything from things you absolutely don’t want to miss to the city’s most popular attractions and much more. Enjoy!
1. North Carolina Museum of Art
Address: 2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607
This beautiful museum was opened in 1956 and was one of the first museums in the country to be formed by state funding. The collection of art has grown over the years, and the building now holds art from over 5,000 years in its 40 different galleries.
The North Carolina Museum of Art holds thousands of works of art and also includes a 164-acre park. There is also an outdoor amphitheater for live performances and a variety of outdoor art installations. The best part? It’s totally free to visit.
2. JC Raulston Arboretum
Address: Ruby McSwain Education Center, 4415 Beryl Rd, Raleigh, NC 27606
The JC Raulston Arboretum is a 10-acre botanical garden, nationally acclaimed for the largest and most diverse collections of landscape plants in the Southeast. Visiting the arboretum is free, though you can purchase a tour of the space where guides will teach you more about each plant within the garden.
3. Marbles Kids Museum
Address: 201 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Marbles Kids Museum is one of the most exciting and unique kids’ museums in the state. The museum, located in downtown Raleigh, creates an environment for kids of all ages to explore new interests, have lots of hands-on interactive play, learn about science, and use art to self-express and share with others.
Marbles also features an IMAX theater, rotating themed exhibits, and holds summer camps and other special events. Kids from the ages of 2-12 will have the most fun here. Tickets must be purchased online in advance.
4. Pullen Park
Address: 520 Ashe Ave, Raleigh, NC 27606
Historic Pullen Park was the first public park in North Carolina, opened in 1887. The 66-acre park has everything you could ask for in a park, including nice walking paths, a pond for swimming and paddle boating, a playground, a community center, an indoor pool, picnic areas, sports fields, bathrooms, and so much more.
Pullen Park is also home to the 5th oldest amusement park in the country and the 16th oldest in the world. The amusement park is full of nostalgia and a great place to take the kids. There is a carousel, kiddie boats, and train rides.
5. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Address: 11 W Jones St, Raleigh, NC 27601
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is yet another historical location in North Carolina. The museum is the oldest established museum in all of North Carolina and the largest science museum in the state as well.
Located in downtown Raleigh, the Natural Science Museum has a little something for everyone and is a must-do on any trip to the city. There are two buildings, each with four floors of exhibits including discovery rooms, dinosaurs, prehistoric North Carolina, snakes, a butterfly room, media rooms, and so much more.
A trip to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences can quickly take over four hours. It is recommended to plan for a whole day at the science museum. The museum is open every Tuesday-Sunday, and admission is free.
6. North Carolina State Public Farmers Market
Address: 1201 Agriculture St, Raleigh, NC 27603
Most towns and cities have pleasant farmers’ markets, but most aren’t as large as the North Carolina State Public Farmers Market. Located right off I-40, this thrilling market is open seven days a week and has a huge selection of products from local farms. Farmers and artisans from all over the state share their produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and lots more!
7. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Gardens
Address: 1215 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Raleigh, NC 27610
This two-acre park was the first public park in the country to be solely dedicated to the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Inside the park is a 12-ton granite water monument as well as a life-sized sculpture of the civil rights leader so those can come and pay their respects, rest, and enjoy some relaxation.
8. PNC Arena
Address: 1400 Edwards Mill Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607
The PNC Arena is the largest indoor arena in Raleigh and is home to the Carolina Hurricanes and NC State University Men’s Basketball. Not only can you catch a sporting event here, but the arena also hosts live music, performances, comedy, and more. Over 150 events happen here throughout the year.
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9. Joel Lane Museum House
Address: 160 S St Mary’s St, Raleigh, NC 27603
The Joel Lane Museum House, also known as “Wakefield,” was built in 1769 and is the oldest dwelling in Wake County. The home has since been restored and contains 18th-century artifacts, furniture, paintings, and more. If you are a fan of history or you are looking to learn more about the history of Wake County, this is the perfect place to visit.
10. William B. Umstead State Park
Address: 8801 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27617
William B. Umstead State Park is a large park that is over 5,000 acres and covers land in Raleigh, Cary, and Durham, North Carolina. The entrance to this state park is just 10 miles from downtown Raleigh, making it very accessible and a great adventure out of the city.
William B. Umstead State Park has over 30 miles of hiking trails, a campground with tent sites and lodges, bike trails, picnic areas, fishing, boat rentals, and more. This beautiful stretch of nature is a must-see on any trip to the Raleigh area.
11. Go Ape Zipline & Adventure Park
Address: 3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd, Raleigh, NC 27614
Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park is a popular adventure chain venue full of tree-top adventures, zip-line courses, axe throwing, educational programs, and more. This is a great activity for families to do together and have fun! Kids must be at least 10 to participate.
12. North Carolina Museum of History
Address: 5 E Edenton St, Raleigh, NC 27601
The North Carolina Museum of History is the largest and most visited history museum in the whole state of North Carolina. The grand museum features over 150,000 artifacts from countries all over the world that encompass six centuries.
If you are ever curious about history, this is a magical place to visit. Guests are invited to take a guided tour of the museum or simply explore at their own pace. Events and IMAX presentations are held frequently.
13. Dorothea Dix Park
Address: 1030 Richardson Dr, Raleigh, NC 27603
Dorothea Dix Park is a vast, open park that is great for walking, jogging, having a picnic, or enjoying the field. There is also a dog park area for our furry friends. Activities such as group yoga, guided walking tours, and disc golf all take place at Dorothea Dix Park.
14. Lake Johnson Park
Address: 4601 Avent Ferry Rd, Raleigh, NC 27606
There is no better way to escape the busy city life than to visit the lake. Lake Johnson Park is a large, 500-acre park surrounding Lake Johnson. Here, you have complete access to the lake, including all the fun lake activities (boat rentals are also available).
On top of that, there are over 5 miles of walking trails, paved greenways, a public swimming pool, picnic areas, fishing, and educational programs.
15. Frankie’s of Raleigh
Address: 11190 Fun Park Dr, Raleigh, NC 27617
You’re definitely missing out if you haven’t heard of Frankie’s. Frankie’s of Raleigh is an indoor adventure-packed venue with dozens of thrilling activities. At Frankie’s, you’ll find everything from flight simulators and batting cages to bumper boats, go-karts, arcade games, laser tag, mini-golf, and so much more! There are hours of endless fun to be at Frankie’s of Raleigh.
16. Greystone Recreation Center
Address: 7713 Lead Mine Rd, Raleigh, NC 27615
Greystone Recreation Center is Raleigh’s premier indoor playground. This free recreation center is complete with indoor climbing walls, a rock wall, and rubber jungle gyms. If you are looking for a fun rainy day activity for ages 5-12, then this is a great place to spend a few hours.
17. WRAL Azalea Garden
Address: 2619 Western Blvd, Raleigh, NC 27606
WRAL Gardens has been open to the public since 1959, and from its start, it has always been a place where anyone could visit the tranquility of the gardens. As you walk along the paths, you will see thousands of azaleas beautifying the land.
18. Take a Historic Trolley Tour of the City
Address: 1 Mimosa St, Raleigh, NC 27604
Taking a historic trolley tour of Raleigh is a convenient and fun way to see the city and learn more about the city’s fascinating history. The trolley is styled after the original Raleigh trolley cars from the early 1900s and holds up to 26 passengers. A knowledgeable bus driver and guide will take the trolley through the city while sharing fun and interesting facts about Raleigh.
19. Blue Jay Point County Park
Address: 3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd, Raleigh, NC 27614
Blue Jay Point County Park is found in the northern part of Wake County bordering Falls Lake. The 236-acre park has everything from an educational center to great hiking trails, walking paths, a playground, lake activities, ball fields, picnic areas, and a dog park.
20. Contemporary Art Museum
Address: 409 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC 27603
Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum, or CAM, is an art museum with only rotating art exhibits. Everything on display is a rotating exhibit that features local multimedia artists.
21. Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve
Address: 5229 Awls Haven Dr, Raleigh, NC 27614
Annie Louise Wilkerson Park is a 157-acre educational preserve that is open to the public year-round. The park is situated along Falls Lake and has many activities, including a hands-on nature learning center, fields, hiking, picnic areas, gardens, exhibits, and more.
22. Moore Square Park
Address: 201 S Blount St, Raleigh, NC 27601
A four-acre downtown urban park that has been around since 1792. Moore Square Park has always been a place for the community to gather and for entertainment to flourish.
23. Lake Wheeler Park
Address: 6404 Lake Wheeler Rd, Raleigh, NC 27603
Lake Wheeler is a 650-acre lake that is Raleigh’s primary water source. A lovely park surrounds the lake and includes miles of hiking trails, a playground, picnic pavilions, and a boat launch. Boat rentals are available within the park.
24. Capital Area Greenway
Address: 6008 Mial Plantation Rd, Raleigh, NC 27610
The Capital Area Greenway is a system of public recreational trails for walking and biking that encompasses over 100 miles of paved greenway allowing residents and visitors an opportunity to explore different neighborhoods and major attractions throughout the city.
25. Adventure Landing
Address: 3311 Capital Blvd, Raleigh, NC 27604
There is fun to be had for all ages at Adventure Landing! It is the ultimate recreation center with mini-golf, laser tag, an arcade, batting cages, and go-karts to get the whole family involved in the action.
26. See a Show at Raleigh Little Theatre
Address: 301 Pogue St, Raleigh, NC 27607
The Raleigh Little Theatre has been providing entertainment since 1936 and has grown so much over the years to what it is today. The theater provides excellent youth and adult acting classes and puts on a fun variety of performances and shows throughout the year.
27. Morgan Street Food Hall
Address: 411 W Morgan St, Raleigh, NC 27603
The Morgan Street Food Hall in downtown Raleigh is a bustling place with a variety of local eateries, cafes, and food retailers. There are over 20 different food vendors offering everything from bagels and coffee, to sushi and lobster, to cupcakes and drinks, all which can be enjoyed in their shared seating space. There’s something for everyone in this fun and vibrant space.
28. Historic Yates Mill County Park
Address: 4620 Lake Wheeler Rd, Raleigh, NC 27603
Just five miles from downtown Raleigh is the Historic Yates Mill County Park. The park is 174 acres and includes a fully restored 1756 gristmill beside a working dam.
Three main hiking trails travel the length of the park, and there are also many relaxing picnic areas to enjoy by the mill.
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29. Shopping in Historic Downtown Raleigh
Downtown Raleigh is a vibrant stretch of the city that combines history and modern growth. It is a very walkable downtown that has plenty to see and do. Here are some shops you should definitely consider checking out.
✅ Deco Raleigh
Deco Raleigh is a popular consumer store with high ceilings, large windows, and many products. The colorful store is filled with locally made trinkets, jewelry, clothes, art, and more.
✅ The Flourish Market
The Flourish Market is a women-run clothing shop that features over 60 brands, all made in the US.
✅ Raleigh Denim Workshop
Raleigh Denim Workshop specializes in high-quality denim to provide the best jeans and apparel for men, women, and children. Visit their shop to see what they have or inquire about custom-fit jeans.
✅ Escazu Chocolates
Escazu is the ultimate chocolate shop that has been serving Raleigh since 2008. They have handmade, micro-batch chocolates, original ice cream flavors, a hot chocolate bar, and drinks.
Dog lovers and fur babies will love this store! Unleashed is a locally owned, independent pet store with all the best items for your pets.
✅ Father & Son’s Antiques
Father & Son’s Antiques is Raleigh’s first mid-century antique shop. They buy and sell all kinds of antiques, including clothing, furniture, paintings, trinkets, and more.
✅ Weaver Street Market
Weaver Street Market is a community-owned and locally operated natural & organic food store. They have a wonderful selection of organic produce, snacks, freshly made foods (including weekly specials), and all your other grocery needs.
Things to Do near Raleigh NC
While there is a lot to do inside the city, it’s nice to get out for the day to explore the area. Here are a couple of places you should check out.
✅ Falls Lake State Recreation Area
Address: 13300 Creedmoor Rd, Wake Forest, NC 27587
Falls Lakes State Recreation Area is just 30 minutes outside of Raleigh and is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. The 5,000-acre park includes lake access, over 25 miles of hiking trails, 14 miles of biking trails, and over 300 campsites, including tent and RV sites, and has areas where you can enjoy all your favorite lake activities. There are multiple boat rental places in the area, so you can get out and enjoy the water.
✅ Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve
Address: 2616 Kildaire Farm Rd, Cary, NC 27518
Just 20 minutes from downtown Raleigh is the wonderful Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. The 140-acre park has a very unique and fascinating collection of flora and wildlife, including the marvelous hemlock trees. The nature preserve is a beautiful place to enjoy a walk or stop and have a picnic.
Annual Events in Raleigh NC
Many community-building annual events take place in Raleigh all year long. Here are some you don’t want to miss!
✅ Art in Bloom (March 13-17, 2024)
Address: North Carolina Museum of Art
Art in Bloom is an annual five-day fundraising event that takes place in the North Carolina Museum of Art. As the spring season kicks off, the museum will be lined with beautiful floral pieces of art in a variety of different artistic ways.
✅ Dreamville Festival (TBD Spring of 2024)
Address: Dorothea Dix Park
The Dreamville Festival is an outdoor music festival that is held annually in the Spring. This festival is curated by hip-hop artist J. Cole and is a proud black-owned event. Since its start in 2019, Dreamville has become one of the largest annual events in North Carolina and brings thousands of guests to experience the music.
R&B and hip-hop artists that have performed at the festival include J. Cole, SZA, EarthGang, Big Sean, Nelly, Usher, and JID, with many more to come.
✅ Out! Raleigh Pride Fest (TBD June 2024)
Address: Fayetteville St District (downtown Raleigh)
Out! An entire day of family-friendly LGBTQ pride celebration. This annual street festival is dedicated to spreading knowledge, sharing love and happiness, and having fun in a safe environment. There will be live speakers, live music, vendors, performances, food trucks, games, and a kids’ zone.
✅ Festival for the Eno (TBD July 2024)
Address: West Point on the Eno Park, 5101 N Roxboro St, Durham, NC
For 44 years, Enofest has been gathering thousands of people to the banks of the Eno River to sing, dance, eat good food, and have a good time. The mission of the festival was to teach folks about natural resource conservation and raise funds to protect the Eno River Basin.
This family-friendly festival has lots of live music, an amazing craft show with art by local artists, and a wonderful variety of food trucks and vendors.
✅ Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ Festival (August 2-3, 2024)
Address: Koka Booth Amphitheatre, 8003 Regency Pkwy, Cary, NC
Located in Cary, NC, this festival is a fan favorite among locals and one you probably won’t want to miss. This festival features an amazing BBQ, lots of beer and bourbon, bluegrass music, grilling, and a good time.
Join the festivities with the famous Shrine of Swine, a whole hog roast, and the opportunity to try over 60 varieties of beers and 40 different bourbons. Tickets
✅ CaribMask Carnival (August 17, 2024)
Address: Downtown Raleigh
CaribMask Carnival is a day set to celebrate the Afro-Caribbean Culture in Raleigh. This family-friendly event will have tons of live music, exciting costumes and outfits, parades, street performances, street vendors with amazing Caribbean cuisine, games, and more.
✅ Packapalooza (TBD August 2024)
Address: Hillsborough St, Raleigh, NC
Packapalooza is an annual block party and street festival that draws in over 80,000 people each year. This free event will have over 300 vendors lining the streets with food, music, games, drinks, and arts & crafts. This is an event you don’t want to miss!
✅ African American Cultural Celebration (TBD September 2024)
Address: 5 E. Edenton St, Raleigh, NC 27601 (downtown Raleigh)
For the past 14 years, the African American Cultural Festival has been gathering to celebrate African-American culture through music, dance, food, and community. The historic downtown streets of Raleigh will be filled with joyous activities for two days in September.
There will be lots of live music, food trucks, vendors, an art gallery walk, a creative station with face painting, children’s books, crafts, and more.
✅ Hopscotch Music Festival (TBD 2024)
Address: Downtown Raleigh
The Hopscotch Music Festival is an exciting two-day, family-friendly event in Raleigh that has been running for the last 13 years in a row. This festival has been titled one of America’s can’t-miss independent music events.
The 2023 lineup included Pavement, Denzel Curry, King Krule, Japanese Breakfast, Dinosaur Jr, and many more. Stay tuned for the 2024 lineup, which is expected to include hundreds of bands/performers.
✅ IBMA Bluegrass Live! (September 27-28, 2024)
Address: Downtown Raleigh
IBMA Bluegrass is the largest urban bluegrass festival in the world! Big names in Bluegrass provide free music for all who wish to attend. Fayetteville Street will be closed down for the festival. There will be six stages, street vendors, other live artistic performances, an art market, an exhibit hall, and so much more.
✅ NC State Fair (October 17-27, 2024)
Address: 4285 Trinity Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607
Since 1853, the North Carolina State Fair has been the event of the year and attracts millions of visitors annually. After all, this is the number one largest event in the entire state. For 11 days, there will be fair games, rides, food, vendors, livestock shows, and more. It is one of the most exciting state fairs you’ll ever attend.
✅ NC International Festival (TBD November 2024)
Address: North Carolina State Fairgrounds
The NC International Festival is a three-day event that celebrates cultures from around the world. More than 30 ethnic groups participate through music, song, dance, cuisine, and clothes to share their cultures with the public.
✅ Raleigh Christmas Parade (November 18, 2023)
Address: Downtown Raleigh
Come celebrate downtown with the largest Christmas parade between DC and Atlanta starting at 9:30 a.m. The parade travels approximately 1.4 miles through downtown. You’ll also find lots of other fun events happening around the area as well, including the opening of The Rink at Red Hat Amphitheater.
✅ First Night Raleigh (December 31, 2023)
Address: Downtown Raleigh
First Night Raleigh is Raleigh’s exciting New Year’s celebration that has been happening for the past 25 years. This is an all-day event that will have over 100 performances, including music, dance, theater, and comedy. There will be tons of kids’ activities, a 90-foot tall Ferris wheel, fireworks, and, of course, the anticipated countdown to midnight, where the giant acorn drops from the sky at midnight. It’s the Raleigh way!
Where To Stay in Raleigh NC
📍Chico Condo Downtown Raleigh – The quaint but cozy apartment in downtown Raleigh is a wonderful option when you are looking for budget-friendly places to stay on your vacation. The apartment has two bedrooms and sleeps up to four guests, making it great for family and friends. It is fully decorated, very clean, and has a fantastic location with many shops, restaurants, and Raleigh attractions, all within walking distance.
📍The Stateview Hotel – The Stateview Hotel is a luxury hotel located in the heart of Raleigh. The modernly decorated rooms are perfect for anyone’s stay in the city. Accommodations at the hotel include an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, a garden, a beautiful backyard, a restaurant/bar, and a continental breakfast. With an unbeatable location, friendly staff, and luxury comfort, anyone will love their stay at the Stateview Hotel.
📍The Casso, Raleigh, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel – Indulge in the ultimate celebrity experience at The Casso, Raleigh, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel. This 5-star hotel offers world-class service and exceptional amenities, ensuring a memorable stay. Located just 0.7 miles from the state capitol building, it provides convenient access to the city’s attractions. During your stay, explore the nearby popular attractions, such as the Museum of Natural Sciences and the North Carolina Museum of History. These cultural landmarks are within easy reach, allowing you to immerse yourself in the rich history and heritage of the area.
Raleigh NC: FAQs
📌 What is Raleigh most famous for?
Raleigh is most known for having some of the state’s best museums, many of which are completely free. The city is often referred to as the “Smithsonian of the South.” Raleigh has become very popular over the years for being an extremely affordable city with lots of things to do.
📌 What is unique about Raleigh, NC?
Raleigh is the only state capital that was planned and established specifically to be the seat of the state government.
📌How far is Raleigh from the beach?
Raleigh is 130 miles, or a little over two hours away from Wrightsville Beach, a town on the coast of North Carolina.
📌Is Raleigh a walkable city?
Raleigh has the highest-ranking walking score in North Carolina and is a very walkable city.
Raleigh, North Carolina, is certainly a city you don’t want to miss. The whole family will thank you for planning a trip to Raleigh after you all get to experience its wonderful attractions. From free museums to adventure centers, art exhibits, and exciting annual events, there is always something going on in the fabulous City of Oaks.
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