17 Best Things to Do in Raleigh, NC
Raleigh is a bustling city in Wake County, North Carolina.
It was established in 1792 and has since served as the state’s capital.
In the 18th century, the city emerged as a center of education, serving as home to several colleges and educational institutions.
The city became a retail center by the 20th century, spurring suburban development and a thriving entertainment and culture scene.
Its vibrant downtown is a center of exciting activities, showcasing the city’s arts and culture, shopping, and dining scenes.
Known as the City of Oaks, it is also home to beautiful parks, lush green spaces, and nature spots, offering plenty of outdoor recreation.
To help you plan your vacation, here are the best things to do in Raleigh, North Carolina:
Explore the Art Collections at the North Carolina Museum of Art
Visit the North Carolina Museum of Art and admire the state’s art collections.
Started in the 1950s, the museum features galleries and a 164-acre museum park, which is home to the iconic Gyre rings and dozens of other works inspired by nature.
At the galleries, see the collection of European paintings coming from the Renaissance to the 19th century.
You could also stroll and view contemporary art from various international artists at the west building.
After touring, grab a bite at their café or the welcome center.
You can find the North Carolina Museum of Art along Blue Ridge Road.
Spend a Day at Pullen Park
Take the family on a day of leisure at the scenic Pullen Park, the state’s first public park.
Opened in 1887, this 66-acre park along Ashe Avenue features amusements, a cafe, picnic shelters, and athletic fields, among others.
Go on a classic carousel ride with your kids.
Hop on a pedal boat and enjoy the lovely scenery in Lake Howell.
There are also plenty of play areas with various equipment for kids.
Pullen Park is also one of the oldest operating amusement parks in the country and worldwide.
Dine at the Angus Barn Steakhouse
Whether you’re in the city celebrating a milestone or just in for some leisure, dine in and indulge in perfectly grilled steaks at Angus Barn Steakhouse.
Serving inhouse-aged steaks since 1960, this fine dining restaurant, with its rustic elegance, is a Raleigh icon.
Taste some of their choice cuts with their selection of sauces and toppings.
Aside from steak, they also serve other American specialty dishes such as seafood and ribs.
Pair your steak with award-winning wine from their cellar, known for its excellent wine list.
Don’t forget to try their chocolate chess pie, a Raleigh favorite.
You can find Angus Barn Steakhouse along Glenwood Avenue.
Bike along the Neuse River Greenway Trail
View the beauty of the Neuse River when you go on the Neuse River Greenway Trail.
Traversing the river, this greenway features over 27 miles of paved trail surrounded by beautiful greenery.
Take your bike and enjoy a scenic ride along woodlands, boardwalk areas, and wetlands.
The trail also offers plenty of activities on the water, such as fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.
The Neuse River Greenway Trail can be accessed via several points, including Buffaloe Road, Trailhead Lane, Abington Lane, and Anderson Point Drive.
See Diverse Plants at the JC Raulston Arboretum
Visit the JC Raulston Arboretum and explore its outstanding plant collections.
Started in 1975, this botanical garden at the North Carolina State University features several garden spaces showcasing over 6,000 varieties of trees, plants, and flowers.
Stroll along dwarf loblolly pines, a collection unique to this facility.
See nearly a thousand diverse plants show off their colors and textures at the Perennial Border.
When visiting in winter, you could see various off-season plants thriving in the gardens, such as Japanese flowering apricot and winter iris.
It also hosts various activities throughout the year, such as lighting exhibitions and leaf hunts.
You can find the JC Raulston Arboretum along Beryl Road.
Experience the North Carolina State Fair
If you happen to visit the city in October, be sure to check out the happenings at the North Carolina State Fair.
Started in 1853, the fair boasts an exciting 11-day celebration featuring amusements, various entertainment, food vendors, and agricultural exhibitions.
Sample some of the latest local food trends while enjoying the festive atmosphere.
Catch the fantastic fireworks display at night.
The North Carolina State Fair is the state’s largest yearly event, attracting nearly a million visitors.
It is held at the fairgrounds complex along Trinity Road.
Have a Pint at Lynnwood Brewing Concern
Taste award-winning local beer at Lynnwood Brewing Concern.
This beloved local brewery crafts a growing lineup of over 15 year-round offerings and seasonal brews.
Enjoy a flight and the vibe in its beautiful taproom.
You can also have your pint and unwind in their lovely outdoor space.
Pair your beer with some bites from the food trucks.
If you want to taste more of their brews, you could also take a growler to enjoy back home.
Lynnwood Brewing Concern is located along E. Whitaker Mill Road.
Explore the Shops at the Village District
Take a sightseeing break and explore the Village District's local shops.
Since 1949, this popular shopping area in the city has featured six blocks of unique shops and local businesses.
Shop for clothes, jewelry and accessories, and home décor.
Find some interesting vintage and antique pieces.
Check out some of the local merchants for souvenirs to take home.
There are also cafes around the district where you can grab a quick bite or sample some local treats.
You can find the Village District along Clark Avenue.
Hike at the Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve Park
Spend a relaxing day at the Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve Park, the city’s first designated nature preserve.
Opened in 2006, this 157-acre park is dedicated to nature and wildlife education.
With nature trails, play areas, and gardens, the park offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
Hike along through the oak-hickory forest, where you can pick up a brochure and identify trees along the way.
Or explore the serene pond loop trail around the meadows.
The park also offers various programs, such as astronomy nights, nature play, and bird watching.
The Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve Park is located along Awls Haven Drive.
Go on a Zipline at TreeRunner Adventure Park Raleigh
Head to TreeRunner Adventure Park Raleigh for some aerial adventure.
This outdoor adventure park features eight challenging and exciting courses to try.
Get an adrenaline rush as you zipline along the trees, cross suspended bridges, and do the rope courses.
If you have kids in tow, the park also has spaces for junior adventurers.
You can find TreeRunner Adventure Park Raleigh along Norwood Road.
Watch a Christmas Carol at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
If you’re visiting in winter, don’t miss out on the holiday performance at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
Established in 1932, this beautiful art center is the city’s premier arts venue, hosting various performances throughout the year.
It stages the Theater in the Park’s A Christmas Carol, a musical comedy adaptation of Charles Dicken’s classic Christmas story.
Catch the show and experience the holiday season’s beloved theater production in the city.
This holiday production has been staged annually since 1974, picking up recognition throughout the years.
If you’re in the city at other times of the year, you could also watch other productions at the center as they present several Broadway shows throughout the year.
The Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts is located along East South Street.
Visit the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Visiting the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is like stepping into a time machine.
This state museum traces its history to 1879 and is now one of the largest museums of its kind in the country.
Learn about the state’s geology, rich natural habitats, and wildlife through the exhibits at the museum’s Nature Exploration Center.
Marvel at an impressive blue whale skeleton and a million-year-old giant ground sloth specimen.
At its Nature Research Center, explore the 10,000-gallon aquarium exhibit, where you can see angelfish, ladyfish, pufferfish, and other inhabitants of the North Carolina coast.
Don’t forget to stop by the museum store, where you can pick up some cool souvenirs.
You can find the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences along West Jones Street.
Camp at the William B. Umstead State Park
Go on a peaceful weekend nature retreat and camp at the William B. Umstead State Park.
With over 30 miles of trails, lakes, and tributaries, the park offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
The park’s Crabtree Creek section offers various campsites and facilities.
You can pitch a tent or have a rustic camp night at the primitive cabins.
Or bring your sleeping bags and stay overnight at the Maple Hill Lodge.
Access to camping facilities at the William B. Umstead State Park is via Glenwood Avenue.
Have Fun at Adventure Landing
Enjoy a day with your family at Adventure Landing.
This amusement center features fun family attractions.
Go for action at the challenging go-kart track or the laser tag battle arena.
Enjoy a round at one of their 18-hole miniature golf courses.
Spend hours playing at their expansive arcade.
After your game time, have some pizza, nachos, and ice cream.
Adventure Landing is located along Capital Boulevard.
Visit the Historic Yates Mill County Park
Enjoy the beautiful scenery and serene atmosphere at the Historic Yates Mill County Park.
This 174-acre park is a wildlife refuge and a historic site, home to the Historic Yates Mill.
Now the only remaining water-powered gristmill in Wake County, the mill had once been a center of life in the county, serving as a gathering area for its residents for over 200 years.
You can take a guided tour of the mill and take a leisurely walk by the mill’s pond.
You can also explore over 3 miles of trails and the interpretive exhibits along it.
The Historic Yates Mill County Park is located along Lake Wheeler Road.
Tour the Joel Lane Museum House
Get a glimpse of the beginnings of the city and North Carolina when you visit the Joel Lane Museum House, the oldest existing house in Raleigh and in Wake County.
Joel Lane, considered a founding father of the county and the city, owned the house built in 1769.
The house had hosted many significant events in the 18th century and served as the center of an expansive plantation.
Costumed docents will guide you on tour as you hear stories from the colonial era until the nation’s beginning years.
In 1970, the house was registered in the National Register of Historic Places.
You can find the Joel Lane Museum House along South Saint Mary's Street.
Take the Kids to the Marbles Kids Museum
Spend a day of play and learning with your little ones at the Marbles Kids Museum.
Opened in 2007, this museum encourages learning through play with its dozens of themed exhibits, camps, and fun activities.
Let your kids explore the mini-community town, where they can pretend to bake, lead the trains, or be a firefighter.
If you’re bringing your little ones, the museum also has play spaces for children under three years old.
At night the scenery is beautiful, as the museum lights up its beautiful walls filled with more than a million marbles.
It also hosts several camps throughout the year, such as summer and spring break camps.
You can find the Marbles Kids Museum along East Hargett Street.
Raleigh is an exciting city, offering convenient access to plenty of urban activities and nature experiences.
With vibrant arts and culture institutions, historical and heritage sites, serene nature spots, and urban attractions, a fun and memorable vacation awaits you at North Carolina’s capital.
Plan your trip now and experience some of the best things to do in Raleigh, North Carolina.