Blake Walsh

27 Best Things to Do in Wake County, NC

  • Published 2023/11/05

Welcome to the vibrant Wake County, North Carolina.

A kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and tastes is ready to be discovered here.

Numerous towns and cities form an integral part of this lively community, each with its own unique charm.

From the historic allure of Wake Forest to the bustling energy of Raleigh, the capital city, every corner of this county is brimming with stories, adventures, and experiences to be had.

The county’s landscape, as diverse as its inhabitants, presents an intriguing mix of urban richness and rural simplicity, all enveloped in Southern hospitality.

Prepare to embark on a journey through the many captivating experiences that await in Wake County, North Carolina, as this guide unveils the best things to do in this remarkable region.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Alayah Dunlap, Fred Rawlinson, Mackenzie Moore, Lucy Gregory, Margaret Reyes, Frederick Villa and Deborah Jauregui.

Revel in the Wonders of Nature at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Exterior of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Chansak Joe /

I never thought I could practically travel through time and space until I stepped into the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

This museum, nestled in the heart of downtown Raleigh, is a haven of knowledge, exploration, and excitement.

Whether it’s a lazy weekend getaway or a weekday adventure with the kids, this place never ceases to amaze.

Entering the museum, we were greeted by an impressive collection of live insects on the top floor that would delight any amateur entomologist.

As we descended, fascinating snakes like copperheads, cottonmouths, and rat snakes greeted us — all common yet captivating residents of North Carolina.

The dinosaur exhibits, however, were the star of the show — they were a roaring hit, especially with the children.

We ventured into the spider exhibit, but it may not be for everyone.

Instead, indulge yourself in the more captivating displays or immerse yourself in the fascinating 3D film.

It’s incredible to think that such a treasure trove of natural science is absolutely free to the public.

Welcome sign of North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Jay Yuan /

The museum wasn’t crowded during our visit, leaving us to explore at our own pace.

And the convenience does not end there.

Parking was plentiful, even on a weekend, around public areas and along the streets.

For a quick break, the canteen served good sandwiches and other snacks.

But our real treat was the butterfly dome, which was like stepping into a fairytale with several species of butterflies fluttering around.

But nothing quite compares to the thrill of spotting a sloth.

If you’re as lucky as we were, this adorable creature might just make your day.

With endless exhibits to check out and so much to learn, every visit feels like a new adventure.

Interior of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Mark Turner, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Solve Mysteries at Wake Escape

You won’t believe the adventure my friends and I had last weekend!

We decided to try something different, something that’s a bit outside of our usual routine.

So, we headed to Wake Escape, a local escape room that offers unique and mind-boggling challenges.

The four of us decided to tackle the “Ramsey’s Revenge” room, a Pharo Egyptian-themed escape room.

Now, let me tell you, it was nothing short of exhilarating!

The room was so realistically decorated it felt like we had been transported to ancient Egypt.

We were challenged and pushed to our limits but in the best way possible.

Each one of us was able to contribute to the various puzzles and decode the clues without stepping on each other’s toes.

We worked as a team, and it was a perfect way to bond.

Another weekend, some of us went back and tried the EXIT PROTOCOL room.

This time around, there were three of us, and oh boy, was it a blast!

Despite not being able to complete the challenge and metaphorically getting blown up, we were not bored for a single second.

If anything, it only made us more determined to come back and conquer the room next time.

But what really set the experience apart was the amazing staff at Wake Escape.

They were kind personable, and went above and beyond to ensure that we had a great time.

They were a big part of why our visit was so memorable.

Unleash Your Inner Child at Marbles Kids Museum

Exterior of Marbles Kids Museum

Mx. Granger, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

When the weekday blues hit, there’s no better way to shake them off than a jaunt down to my favorite downtown Raleigh hotspot – the Marbles Kids Museum.

With a city-block-sized building filled to the brim with interactive displays, it’s a haven for kids of all ages – and yes, even for adults like me who still nurture their inner child.

The museum is a veritable playground for hands-on, Montessori-style learning.

My neighbor’s sprightly 8-month-old has a ball in the baby area, nimbly navigating the soft obstacles tailored for his age group.

The toddler area, brimming with stuffed animals and crawling-friendly attractions, is a hit too.

Even though he’s too young for most exhibits, the sheer joy he takes in watching older kids and making a splash at the water table is infectious.

But Marbles Kids Museum isn’t just for the tiny tots.

From towering chess set to mammoth-sized Legos and an exercise room teeming with engaging, educational fare, I find myself thoroughly entertained every time I visit.

It’s also a fantastic place to take my friends’ kids – I swear I have as much fun if not more than they do!

If you’re planning a visit, make sure you check out their ticket prices.

They’re generally around $9 on weekdays and $12 on the weekends, and they sometimes run promotions for Bank of America customers.

A Day at the North Carolina Museum of Art

Reflecting pool in front of the North Carolina Museum of Art

zimmytws /

Oh, the joy of living near the North Carolina Museum of Art!

You might think it’s all about the classic and contemporary art pieces housed inside their splendid buildings – and of course, they are a sight to behold.

But for me, as someone who’s had the privilege to visit this place numerous times, the NCMA offers so much more than just indoor exhibits.

My favorite part of North Carolina Museum of Art is their outdoor monument park and amphitheater.

It’s a combination of an art exhibit and a nature reserve.

Imagine rolling hills studded with artwork, where you can set up a picnic, fly kites, or just lay back and appreciate the scenery.

The landscape is manicured but kept in its natural state, filled with wildflowers and native grasses that provide a haven for bees and other insects.

It’s a verdant, living masterpiece that stays lush and green all summer long.

Gyre rings at the North Carolina Museum of Art

zimmytws /

The park isn’t just a feast for the eyes; it’s also a sanctuary for the city’s wildlife.

Don’t be surprised to see rabbits and birds milling about, nibbling on the wild clover dotting the fields.

They’ve also got a handy creek tucked away in the woods, perfect for thirsty dogs to take a sip from or frolic in.

Yes, you read that right – the NCMA is dog-friendly!

If the weather isn’t cooperating, the museum’s buildings, both the towering glass metal structure and the charming old brown one, offer a wealth of art to explore.

With a collection spanning 5,000 years, there’s something for everyone, from rare ancient pieces to innovative modern works.

Sketching supplies are often available for visitors who feel inspired to create their own masterpieces.

And to top it all off, admission is absolutely free. It’s the best deal in town, in my opinion.

Tree sculpture at the North Carolina Museum of Art

zimmytws /

Stroll down Memory Lane at Wake Forest Historical Museum

It’s a perfectly ordinary day when I decide to immerse myself in the pages of time at the Wake Forest Historical Museum.

Nestled in a classic 19th-century mansion, this museum is nothing short of a gold mine for history enthusiasts like me.

Here, you can discover a plethora of knowledge and artifacts that weave the story of our town’s origin.

Walking through Wake Forest Historical Museum feels like stepping back in time, with every exhibit offering a new lesson to learn.

From the intriguing tales associated with the town’s founder to the rich history preserved within the mansion’s walls, it’s a place that captivates the imaginations of children and adults alike.

What makes the experience even more memorable is the welcoming and friendly museum staff.

Always at hand to assist visitors, they patiently answer questions and share interesting anecdotes about the exhibits.

Their kindness turns every visit into a delightful experience.

Just outside the museum, a serene garden beckons you.

The sound of a fountain surrounded by benches fills the air with tranquility.

It’s a perfect spot for reassessing your plan of the day or simply soaking in the ambiance after a walk through the historical downtown Wake Forest area.

Another recent addition that caught my eye was the Free Little Library.

A miniature replica of the museum building, it’s a charming testament to the town’s commitment to knowledge and education.

Every time I visit this museum, I feel as if I have discovered a hidden gem all over again.

While the staff continues to make updates and arrangements, the charm of the past remains beautifully intact.

Soak in the Greenery of JC Raulston Arboretum

A tree at JC Raulston Arboretum

Tracy Immordino /

Sometimes, the hustle and bustle of city life can get overwhelming, and that is when I find myself longing for a serene escape.

Just a few miles away from my residence, I have my favorite retreat – the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University.

It’s not just a park; it’s like a slice of paradise nestled in the heart of the city.

Welcomed by the vibrant colors of blossoming flowers and the calming melodies of birds, I instantly feel a sense of tranquility wash over me.

It’s a 10-acre expanse of lush greenery where paths weave through collections of beautifully curated gardens.

From the stark beauty of the white garden to the exotic allure of the tropical gardens, each one is a testament to the incredible diversity of plant life.

Agave plant at JC Raulston Arboretum

Tracy Immordino /

Enjoying a picnic under the shade of towering trees, watching children delight in the children’s garden, or simply strolling through the rose garden, I often lose track of time.

The beautiful Japanese garden is another favorite spot of mine, where the sight of the meticulously arranged plants and stones brings a sense of peace.

JC Raulston Arboretum is accessible to everyone, and it’s heartening to see wheelchair-accessible gardens.

There’s nothing quite like the joy of sharing the beauty of nature with a loved one.

However, a word of caution – don’t forget your bug spray!

I’ve seen a few trips cut short by pesky mosquitoes, particularly for the little ones.

Ornamental pepper plant at JC Raulston Arboretum

Tracy Immordino /

Step back in Time at Raleigh’s History at the Pope House Museum

Exterior of the Pope House Museum

Wileydoc /

I’ve walked down the bustling streets of Raleigh countless times, yet it was only recently that I discovered an incredible piece of history nestled in one of the city’s busiest neighborhoods — the Pope House Museum.

It’s not every day you stumble upon a treasure that was the former home of a prominent African-American resident, and it was all the more captivating with its original furnishings intact and the availability of enthusiastic guided tours.

The tour was a free event I found on EventBrite, and it turned out to be beyond worthwhile.

The Pope House Museum is a hallowed ground of African-American history in Raleigh, and spending a day there was like taking a deep dive into the past.

The tour guide was an absolute delight!

His smile was infectious, and his passion for sharing the details of the Pope House and the Pope family story was palpable.

His detailed narration about how Manassa Thomas Pope, one of Raleigh’s most influential African-American citizens of his time, became the first Doctor of NC was as entertaining as it was enlightening.

Walking through the house was like traveling back in time.

I was particularly amazed by the beautiful furniture, the fine china, the tasteful decor, and the vast book collections.

These elements offered a profound glimpse into what the Pope family’s life was like.

The Pope House Museum felt like an immediate history lesson about Raleigh, a city where I’ve lived for years.

It felt like I was discovering an untold story about my hometown, one that would otherwise have been lost in the annals of time.

It was a humbling experience, learning about the social factors of the last century and their effects on neighborhoods then and now.

It was an intriguing realization of how the personal history of Dr. Pope and his family intersected with the broader history of the city and the nation.

Feed Animals at Historic Oak View County Park

Every time I feel the need for a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle or when I simply long for the comforting embrace of nature, the Historic Oak View County Park is my go-to place.

Its charm lies in the antique 19th-century farmstead that serves as a rural history museum.

These folksy exhibits of country life offer a heartwarming journey into the past, making the park a unique blend of education and fun.

Historic Oak View County Park is open all week, making it an idyllic spot for a peaceful Sunday stroll.

Each of its buildings is open to the public, and the children absolutely adore the little play area in the Farm History Center.

But it’s not just about the kids; the James Creek Trail is nothing short of a paradise for adults.

The trail, shaded by towering pine trees, offers a refreshing respite from the scorching summer Sun.

Now, if you’re a fan of animals like me, you’d love to meet the friendly goats there.

Remember to pack apples and carrots, though, as they don’t have food dispensaries there.

Although, do keep in mind that the chickens are off-limits for feeding.

One of the park’s best-kept secrets is the trails opposite the farm.

Two different trails wind through a lush forest, with bridges, hills, and even hidden “waterfalls.” It’s like stepping into a different world.

Just be sure to pay attention while on the longer trail; it’s quite an adventure!

Soak in the Serenity of Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve Park

Hikers at the Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve Park

Wileydoc /

Did you know that magic is real? You can find it at the Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve Park.

Here, you can explore a vast 157.6-acre park, immersed in nature’s own concert, with the humming of birds and rustling of leaves playing the symphony.

On one of the many weekends that I spend here, I love indulging in long, leisurely walks along the trails.

They are well-marked, making it impossible to get lost while enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Do you know what’s even better? It’s never crowded.

The tranquility here is unparalleled – just you, the rustling leaves, chirping birds, and, if you’re lucky, a couple of deer that might cross your path.

The office here is not just an office.

The waters of Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve Park

Wileydoc /

It’s like a mini museum with exhibits that take you on a journey through the park’s history.

I remember the time when a staff member shared the fascinating history of the pea prairie with me.

It was a story well-told and left me inspired to create a little pea prairie in my own backyard.

What really warms my heart about Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve Park, is their commitment to the well-being of wildlife.

They take in injured Eastern box turtles and work tirelessly to rehabilitate them.

It’s the kind of love and respect for nature that we need more of in the world today.

Walk through the Charming WRAL Azalea Garden

Flora at WRAL Azalea Garden

Wileydoc /

There’s a kind of serenity that sets in whenever I stroll through the peaceful, manicured paths of the WRAL Azalea Garden.

Nestled right here in our own city, this hidden gem of a garden never fails to provide a calming respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

My most recent visit was in early June.

Now, you might think that June isn’t the best time to visit an Azalea garden, and you might be right if you’re only interested in Azaleas.

But trust me, this garden isn’t just about Azaleas.

Sure, they weren’t in bloom, but there was still so much to discover.

The other plants, like hydrangeas, were beautifully in bloom, and they were absolutely stunning.

Plus, it’s always interesting to spot a rare plant that blooms only once in its lifetime.

One of the things I love about WRAL Azalea Garden is that it’s always alive with activity.

Wooden bench at WRAL Azalea Garden

Wileydoc /

On this visit, I noticed that a wedding had taken place earlier, and there were also some folks taking graduation photos.

It’s such a beautiful backdrop for capturing those special moments!

Walking around, I was reminded of why I so appreciate the garden: it’s not just about the plants, it’s also about the other elements that create a wonderful, peaceful atmosphere.

The winding paths, the shaded benches, the fountains, the bird feeders, and even the art pieces scattered among the plants – they all contribute to the garden’s charm.

Another thing that really stood out to me on this visit was the variety of birds within the gardens.

It was like a symphony of chirping, singing, and twittering. And then there was the calming sound of the wind chimes blowing in the breeze. Blissful!

And let’s not forget the accessibility.

With plenty of parking and open to the public, it’s such a convenient spot for a quick, enjoyable activity.

People walking along WRAL Azalea Garden

Wileydoc /

Unearth the Artistic Beauty at Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park

Crisp air, vibrant colors, an array of sculptures, and the soulful voice of Gladys Knight echoing in the background – that’s just another day in my life whenever I visit the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park.

There’s a sense of calm and tranquility that you feel when you enter this park.

It’s a part of my year that I look forward to – the annual ‘paper hand puppet intervention’ show at the amphitheater.

As the final act of the show begins, you can hear the gasps of amazement from the children and adults alike.

It’s an event that has yet to disappoint.

With every step you take, you’ll find yourself more enamored with the park.

It’s not just the grandeur of the large sculptures scattered throughout the park that will captivate you but also the stunning flower fields that are a riot of colors and fragrances.

The greenway and bike-friendly paths make it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts like me. The abundance of free parking and easy accessibility are just added bonuses.

Whether I want to lose myself in a book, enjoy a picnic, or play fetch with my dog, this park has it all.

It’s an all-encompassing destination that perfectly blends nature, art, and leisure.

And being located next to the Museum of Art, it adds an intellectual and cultural dimension to every visit.

It’s my go-to place when I want to unwind and spend some quality time with my family – a true hidden gem in every sense.

Pay Honors to Veterans at the Memorial Belltower

Exterior of the Memorial Belltower

Bryan Pollard /

Ever had one of those days when you just needed a peaceful retreat amidst the urban hustle? That’s what the Memorial Belltower at NC State offers.

Nestled in the heart of the university, it’s a place brimming with history and serenity.

Upon my many visits, I’ve come to appreciate the majesty of the tower, standing tall against the sky.

The stone itself carries the stories of Raleigh area military veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War One.

I often find myself standing in front of the tower, contemplating their bravery.

Memorial Belltower is surrounded by a beautifully manicured landscape speckled with vibrant flowers.

It’s a sight to behold, especially during the spring when everything is in full bloom.

Top half of the the Memorial Belltower

PT Hamilton /

My favorite thing to do is to take a leisure stroll around the campus, letting the sight of the tower looming in the distance guide me.

One can’t talk about the bell tower without mentioning the spectacular view it offers.

It’s way more picturesque than anything you’ll find at UNC.

Plus, there are typically events happening underneath the tower, adding to the lively atmosphere.

And when the sun goes down, the tower lights up, transforming into a beacon of light against the inky black sky.

The Memorial Belltower is more than just a monument; it’s a symbol of our community and a testament to our shared history.

I consider myself fortunate to have such a landmark in my locality, a place that holds so much meaning and beauty.

Practice Photography at Historic Yates Mill County Park

Scenic view of the Historic Yates Mill County Park

Paul Brady Photography /

Every time I need a break from the hustle and bustle of my daily life, I find solace at the Historic Yates Mill County Park.

The word ‘refreshing’ doesn’t do justice to the serenity this place has to offer.

With its picturesque gristmill from the 18th century and a diverse array of wildlife, it’s like stepping into a postcard from the past.

One of my favorite spots in the park is a small isolated dock located at the end of the boardwalk near the rocking chairs.

Nestling down in this corner, I lose track of time, spending hours there just appreciating the magnificent view of the mill and the serene pond it overlooks.

The tranquility that this spot brings, especially at dusk, is something that words can’t express.

Exploring the park is like witnessing a history lesson unfolding in front of your eyes.

The historic gristmill, the central feature of the park, is a marvel to behold.

The walking trail that surrounds it is an adventure in itself.

Waters of the Historic Yates Mill County Park

Jay Yuan /

As you wander around the mill, you’re greeted with the sight of various wildlife.

From spotting deer to identifying different birds and even coming across the occasional snake, it truly is an animal lover’s paradise.

The Historic Yates Mill County Park is more than just a wildlife refuge; it’s also an agricultural history site.

The sense of history that permeates the park is something you won’t find in any book or classroom.

Besides the mill, you can explore the log cabin and overlook and even take a picnic on the benches scattered throughout the park.

It’s a widely maintained and accessible park with ample space for parking and restrooms, and maps are available at the entrance.

The park is also a haven for photographers.

The varying landscapes offer plenty of opportunities for exceptional shots.

However, there’s a board that mentions professional photographers need to obtain permission before shooting.

Whitetail doe at the Historic Yates Mill County Park

samray /

Go Fishing on Island at Blue Jay Point

There’s a splendid serenity that exists at the Island at Blue Jay Point, a gem tucked away in the hustle and bustle of city life.

Every evening, I make my way down the sandy sections of Blue Jay Point to drop a line.

It’s a bit of a downhill trek from the parking lot, but the journey is always worth it.

The park isn’t just about fishing, though.

Near the parking lot, there’s a playground that’s often filled with the joyful laughter of children, plus picnic tables that are perfect for a family lunch.

And let’s not forget the clean bathrooms – a life-saver on those long days out in the sun.

Island at Blue Jay Point also features large soccer fields where I’ve spent numerous weekends cheering on local teams.

There’s something about the spirit of communal sports that gets me every time.

Oh, and there’s a lodge too. Although I’ve never been inside, I’ve heard fantastic tales about it from my fellow park-goers.

One particularly unforgettable experience was when I visited Fortnite Island, which is part of Blue Jay Point.

Unleash the Kid in You at Pullen Park

Paddling on Pullen Park's lake

gurezende /

With every weekend comes an opportunity to break away from the mundane and dive into some fun and relaxation.

For me, that escape often happens right here in Raleigh, at the glorious Pullen Park.

It’s actually the 5th-oldest amusement park in the U.S., complete with a carousel, mini-train, paddle boats, and playgrounds. Trust me, it’s a gem that never loses its sparkle.

Every time I step into the park, it’s like stepping into a world of joy and adventure.

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a kid at heart.

The rides are an absolute delight, and the best part is that they’re so affordable!

We’re talking about $2 to $4 per ride.

Whether it’s the weekend crowd or the quietude of a weekday, the park always offers an enjoyable experience.

What I love the most about Pullen Park is the carousel.

There’s something about those meticulously carved horses that speaks to the child in me.

But the fun doesn’t stop there.

Building of Pullen Park's carousel

KAD Photo /

The mini-train ride that goes around the park is a must-try.

It gives you a comprehensive view of the park in all its bustling glory.

On an especially hot day, I recommend saving your energy for the paddle boats.

It’s a 30-minute ride, but the truth is, the sun and fun will have you ready to hop off in half the time.

The park is compact and easy to navigate – a stroll here will not exhaust you.

Pullen Park is not just about rides, though.

It’s about the lush greenery, the variety of trees, and the clean, well-maintained paths.

The beautiful landscaping always leaves me in awe.

And, of course, the playgrounds – each uniquely designed for different age groups.

It’s a perfect weekend getaway right in the heart of Raleigh.

Arched bridge at Pullen Park

gurezende /

Exploring the Natural Beauty of Falls Lake State Recreation Area

Nature trail at Falls Lake State Recreation Area

DiscoA340, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Falls Lake State Recreation Area is a place I find myself returning to time and time again.

It’s such a peaceful, picturesque spot, offering everything from serene beaches to thrilling mountain biking trails.

With multiple locations around the lake to enjoy, it’s hard to get bored.

From the playgrounds for the kids to the myriad barbecue spots dotting the area, it’s always a weekend well spent.

The park’s cleanliness is something I always admire and applaud – kudos to the park management!

Every visit feels different depending on which trail I decide to tread.

The varied walking paths lead to beautiful discoveries of fishing spots, swimming areas, and even a beach.

If you get a chance, I would highly recommend taking to the water and experiencing the lake from a kayak.

It’s a phenomenal experience.

The available facilities also make the outdoor experience comfortable.

Restrooms are always clean, and the availability of showers is a plus.

Plus, each campsite – yes, overnight stays are an option – has its own fire pit!

One of my personal favorite areas is the Beaver Dam area.

It’s quieter and more relaxed, perfect for a picnic or just to sit and enjoy the tranquility.

However, if it’s a beach view you’re after, you can’t beat Sandling Beach.

And make sure to stop by the park office for maps and information – the staff are always helpful.

Finally, the deck at Falls Lake State Recreation Area is the crown jewel of the park.

It offers an uninterrupted view of the lake, and it’s where I find myself at the end of every visit, taking in the stunning scenery.

It’s what draws me back to Falls Lake State Recreation Area again and again.

Spot the Wildlife at William B. Umstead State Park

Cabins at William B. Umstead State Park

Zhong Chen /

There’s nothing quite like the first light of dawn breaking through the canopy of trees at William B. Umstead State Park.

Living near this 5,579-acre wonder, I’ve spent countless sunrises walking the bridle trails or setting up camp near one of the three man-made fishing lakes.

The park, with its myriad hiking options, is a breath of fresh air hidden amidst the hustle and bustle of city life.

If you want to experience nature at its purest, try hiking the Loblolly Trail like I did last weekend.

It took me about three hours – a leisurely pace, allowing me to truly absorb the beauty around me.

It was a journey filled with scenic forested areas, the dance of pollinators, the sight of herons, and a playful turtle who thought he was invisible.

In the hushed silence, I even caught a glimpse of a female Ovenbird meticulously scouring the forest floor – a sight to behold!

Nature trail at William B. Umstead State Park

Tracy Immordino /

The trails at Umstead are like a labyrinth, running into each other, providing an element of excitement and challenge.

Follow the color codes on the trees to find your way around.

One moment, you’re in the midst of a dense forest; the next, you’re standing in front of an artistic masterpiece carved into a tree trunk.

And don’t worry about losing your way – the friendly park rangers are always around to lend a hand.

What’s remarkable about William B. Umstead State Park is how clean it remains despite the footfall.

It’s untouched and pristine, and as a frequent visitor, I like to do my part in keeping it that way.

So, remember to pick up after yourself and bring water and some trail snacks to keep your energy up.

Sycamore creek at William B. Umstead State Park

Billy McDonald /

Have a Blast at Adventure Landing

Let me tell you about my favorite way to spend a day off in Raleigh – it’s at Adventure Landing, where the fun never stops!

This place has been a constant in my life since my childhood days, and now, I’m making memories here with my own children.

The staff at Adventure Landing is always attentive and pleasant, ensuring our day out is filled with nothing but joy.

The price for all this amusement is quite reasonable, and there’s always ample parking, which is a plus for a busy parent like me!

The main attractions may show signs of their age, but that only adds to the charm.

The mini-golf course, despite being a bit worn, is still so much fun for my kids.

It’s like a nostalgia trip for me and a new adventure for them every time we go.

One thing that I appreciate as a parent is the updated arcade system.

You load up a card with funds, and it keeps track of all the games played and tickets earned.

It’s so much easier to manage than loose tokens and tickets lying around!

Apart from the arcade and mini-golf, there’s laser tag, go-karts, and even a batting cage!

Just like the Oasis Fun Center back in Shasta County, California, where I used to go as a kid.

You’re free to take your time and enjoy everything at your own pace.

The place is usually quiet on weekdays but gets busier during the weekends, adding an extra spark of energy.

What’s a day out without some snacks, right?

Their food and beverages are pretty good, too.

The popcorn slushes are a highlight for my kids and me, even if they’re just a consolation prize for my losses at the go-kart races with my kids.

Adventure Landing provides a complete package for a day full of fun, games, and quality family time.

It’s definitely a place we’ll continue to visit and create more memories.

Have a Picnic at Shelley Lake Park

The waters of Shelley Lake Park

samray /

Every time I step into the calm of Shelley Lake Park, I feel my worries melting away.

The park, nestled in north Raleigh, North Carolina, is my regular refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life.

On a typical visit, I usually embark on a 1.5-2-mile walk or run around the picturesque Shelley Lake.

The path is flanked by wooded trails, which not only provide a respite from the sun but are also home to a variety of wildlife.

It’s not uncommon to spot squirrels scampering around or a deer grazing in the distance.

The earthen dam also offers a breathtaking view of the sky and the lake, with the water reflecting the vibrant hues of the setting sun.

Over the years, I have also discovered that Shelley Lake Park is a treasure trove for photography enthusiasts, especially those interested in capturing wildlife.

The best time to be there is between sunrise and 11 am when the park is a riot of activity.

Deer at Shelley Lake Park

samray /

I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing some truly unique wildlife spectacles and capturing them through my lens.

The park is also equipped with a playground for kids, making it an ideal spot for family outings.

And if anyone wishes to spend a leisurely afternoon, there are several picnic tables and ample grassy areas to spread out a blanket.

The parking situation is also quite good, eliminating any fuss over finding a spot.

Plus, it’s free of cost, making it a regular feature in my weekend plans.

The people here at Shelley Lake are always polite and friendly, adding to the overall warm and welcoming ambiance of the place.

Moreover, the park also houses a craft center, making it a hotspot for those who enjoy arts and crafts.

Trail at Shelley Lake Park

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Have a Picnic at Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve

The magic begins as soon as you step foot onto the lush green expanse of the Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve.

There’s something incredibly peaceful about the wide-open vistas that stretch out before you, the sky a lovely blue canvas above.

This place has quickly become my go-to for some much-needed tranquility amidst the hustle and bustle of city life.

Picnic baskets are a common sight here, with families spread out on blankets, basking in the soft sun and cool breeze.

On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself joining in impromptu games of frisbee or just lazily watching cyclists zoom by.

For the more adventurous, there’s some interesting history to the land that adds an extra layer of intrigue to your visit.

But the true jewel of the preserve is the woodsy trails that meander through the trees.

They offer a refreshing escape, a portal into a different realm of quiet, calm and vibrant wildlife.

I love going for a gentle jog along these trails or just a slow stroll in the late afternoon.

It’s not uncommon to encounter some of the local wildlife – I’ve spotted snakes, birds, and even a deer once!

Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve is also a real treat for photographers.

I’ve spent countless hours here with my camera, capturing the beauty of the landscape and the unique moments that unfold here.

The kiddos enjoy it, too; from biking to running around in the field, it’s a great place to let them burn off some energy.

Speaking of kiddos, if you have a little one in a wheelchair like one of my friends does, you might find that the lower meadow area could be better equipped for accessibility.

However, the Neuse River Greenway is a fantastic alternative that is wheelchair-friendly and offers stunning views of the river.

Just a little heads up for those visiting with their four-legged friends, please be mindful of picking up after your pet.

Some folks seem to forget that this isn’t a free-range dumping area, and it can sometimes put a damper on the otherwise lovely experience.

Cycle through at Neuse River Trail

Fence around Neuse River Trail

Wileydoc /

If you’re in Raleigh, North Carolina, you’d know that life is never complete without a stroll or a bike ride down the sprawling 27.5-mile-long Neuse River Trail.

It’s my go-to spot for an early morning jog or a leisurely evening stroll.

The trail is a runner’s and biker’s paradise, stretching alongside the mesmerizing Neuse River, traversing the lush woodlands and vibrant wetlands.

Every one of its 34 miles is a delight, with the path being beautifully paved and maintained.

But it’s not only about the high-quality biking and hiking trail that the Neuse River Trail offers.

It’s also about the stunning views that make every step and every pedal worth it.

Spaced out along the path, you’ll find rest benches, perfect for a quick breather while soaking in the tranquility of the environment or watching the river flow by.

Bicycle ride along Neuse River Trail

Wileydoc /

One of the things I always look forward to is the charming wildlife sightings.

Some days, it’s a graceful deer frolicking in the distance; other days, it’s ducks paddling peacefully in the river.

There’s always something to marvel at.

When the North Carolina sun gets a bit too intense, the trail offers a respite with its abundant tree cover.

You can find shade most of the way, making the journey a lot more pleasant.

The clear and plentiful signage along the way also means you can easily track your progress every quarter mile.

Go Kayaking at the Outdoors at Lake Crabtree County Park

Kayaking at Lake Crabtree County Park

Wileydoc /

Whenever I need to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, I always find myself drawn to Lake Crabtree County Park.

The park is nestled just a short drive away from downtown Raleigh, and it’s my personal haven for outdoor activities and serenity.

One of my favorite things to do at the park is to trek along the 16 miles of hiking and biking trails.

It’s the perfect way to get some exercise while also taking in the scenic views of the lake and the surrounding wildlife.

On any given day, you might spot a heron perched by the water’s edge, a family of geese strolling along, or even a turtle sunbathing on a log.

The diversity of the trails, from the pavement path to the more rugged parts, never ceases to keep me on my toes.

Another highlight of Lake Crabtree County Park is the boating and fishing.

Kayaking across the calm waters of the lake during the golden hour, just as the sun is setting, is truly a sight to behold.

The park even offers free boat rentals, whether you prefer a canoe, a kayak, or even a stand-up paddleboard.

Of course, you’re always welcome to bring your own paddle craft if you have one.

Aside from the trails and the lake, the park also boasts a large lawn area perfect for picnics, flying kites, or throwing frisbees.

And let’s not forget about the sand volleyball courts.

There’s just something fun and exhilarating about diving for a ball with your feet in the sand and the clear, blue sky above.

My Adventures at Beaverdam Lake State Recreation Area

Whenever I need a break from my daily grind, I find myself gravitating towards the tranquility of Beaverdam Lake State Recreation Area.

It’s just the right blend of calm and adventure that helps me rejuvenate.

With the first light of the day, I usually get my kayak and head towards the lake.

Beaverdam Lake is a delight for lovers of kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding.

The absence of gas-powered boats means you don’t have to worry about wakes disturbing your serene journey through the water.

There’s a ton of parking available, and I’ve never had to fret about finding a spot. I usually park my car near the water to unload my kayak.

If you need a break and want to enjoy a picnic, there’s a large picnic area you can rent out at Beaverdam Lake State Recreation Area.

It comes equipped with grills, public bathrooms, and even a small swimming area with free life jackets.

You’re sure to spot a bald eagle or two during your visit.

I often use my electric motor-powered boat when I want to get a little closer to them.

It’s a wonderful experience to be amidst nature, much like the solitude that Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau often spoke of in their writings.

During the summer, there is a fee per car, but the experience is definitely worth it.

The last time I checked, the fee was $7 per car.

Whether you’re into exploring nature by foot, bike, wheelchair, or boat, this place is a haven for nature lovers who love their peace and quiet.

I can’t recommend it enough!

Take in the Awe-Inspiring Views from Boylan Bridge

The view from Boylan Bridge

Jay Yuan /

You know, there’s something quite magical about the Boylan Bridge.

I’ve been crossing it for years, ever since it was rebuilt in the ’80s.

It’s witnessed so much of my city’s history ever since its first wooden version was erected in the 1800s.

Each time I cross, I’m reminded of how far we’ve come.

Boylan Bridge is more than just a path from one side of Raleigh to the other.

It’s a vantage point offering the best view of our city’s skyline.

During the day, you can see the entire expanse, the buildings reaching up to meet the sky.

But it’s in the evenings when the view is truly breathtaking.

The setting sun paints the sky in hues of orange and pink, and the city lights start twinkling one by one.

It’s the kind of spectacle you’d want to share with a loved one or maybe even alone, lost in your thoughts.

The sight of the trains passing by underneath, over a dozen every day, adds a unique charm to the experience.

It’s also the perfect spot when you need some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle.

There’s a certain tranquility here that can’t be found anywhere else in the city.

I remember making a long overdue phone call to a family member here once, the skyline serving as a calm backdrop.

The only downside?

Finding parking can be a bit tricky, so you might need to park a bit further away and enjoy a little walk. Trust me, though, it’s worth it.

Wander around Downtown Raleigh

Aerial view of Downtown Raleigh

Kevin Ruck /

Every evening, I lace up my sneakers and head off for my daily walk, unwinding in the heart of my city.

There’s something so soothing about the beautiful blend of modern and historic architecture, all nestled within the clean, well-maintained environment of Downtown Raleigh.

The heart of our city comes alive in the Museum of Natural Sciences.

It’s an impressive institution where every visit feels like a new adventure.

When I step outside, the majesty of Raleigh only continues.

I find myself strolling along the “Royal Mile,” a well-loved route that starts at the Legislative Building.

Passing by the plaza ensconced between the city’s museums, you can feel the cultural resonance.

The grandeur of the Capitol Building is a sight to behold, especially as the afternoon sun casts long shadows.

The journey doesn’t stop there; Fayetteville Street leads me right to the Plaza.

This Plaza is a special place for us Raleigh folks.

It used to host a motion sensor fountain, a playground of sorts for both children and adults.

While the fountain is no longer there, the memory of it adds a touch of nostalgia to the vibrant surroundings.

The walk ends at the Memorial Auditorium, a place where I’ve created countless memories.

It’s the perfect endpoint for such an invigorating route, a final reminder of the city’s love for art and culture.

And then there are the colors.

Oh, the colors!

The bright hues of Downtown Raleigh seem to paint the sky at sunset, turning my simple evening stroll into something truly magical.

It’s a daily reminder of why I love living here.

Have a Blast at Frankie’s of Raleigh

You haven’t truly experienced the thrill of Raleigh until you’ve spent a day at Frankie’s of Raleigh!

Nestled in the heart of the city, it’s the perfect spot for some quality family time or just a fun day out with friends. Here’s a glimpse into my most recent outing there.

Last Sunday, the weather was absolutely perfect – sunny and breezy.

So, my family and I decided it was the perfect day to visit Frankie’s of Raleigh.

We kick-started our day with a round of go-karts.

The adrenaline rush was just the thing to set the mood for the rest of the day.

Next, we moved on to the mini-golf course.

Despite the competitive streak running in our family, the beautifully decorated course was more of a visual treat than a battlefield.

It was like a mini getaway amidst verdant settings.

As we were moving to our next activity, the skies opened up.

But the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits as we quickly moved indoors for some arcade gaming.

The arcade section was a riot of colors with games of all sorts.

My three-year-old niece was particularly enthralled by the racing games.

Even the grownups in our group couldn’t resist a quick game or two.

The physical ball games were also quite popular among us.

However, the highlight of our indoor adventure was the flight simulators.

Experiencing the thrill of flight while being firmly rooted to the ground was a surreal experience.

However, a word of caution – if you’re planning to visit during peak hours, be prepared for a bit of a wait.

Also, I hope they start sanitizing the machines more frequently, especially the ones where you have to wear goggles.

Nonetheless, a little waiting only added to the anticipation, and the fun we had made it totally worth it!

Immerse Yourself in History at the Joel Lane Museum House

Exterior of the Joel Lane Museum House


Every now and then, I take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and take a historical journey right here in Raleigh at the Joel Lane Museum House.

This place is not your typical museum – it’s an extraordinary journey back in time to the era of the Revolutionary War.

As I step into the manor of Colonel Joel Lane, a notable figure in the Revolutionary War and a signatory of the U.S. Constitution, I find myself immersed in a world of history and intrigue.

The house itself is a lesson in architecture and lifestyle from the 18th century.

The garden is a peaceful oasis, filled with plants from the Revolutionary era, offering a serene contrast to the tumultuous times the house has witnessed.

The tour guides here are something special.

With an uncanny knack for weaving stories, they walk you through every nook and cranny of the house with passion and dedication.

Marker of the Joel Lane Museum House


Their vivid narratives make the old walls of the house come alive with tales of the past.

What I love the most is that the tours aren’t just informative; they’re engaging and hands-on, making the experience enjoyable for everyone, including kids.

My children, for instance, still speak fondly of the time they got to churn butter in the kitchen – a rare experience in today’s digital age!

Don’t forget to drop by the little gift shop before you leave.

It’s stocked with fascinating trinkets that make for great souvenirs or gifts. You’re bound to find a few surprises here.

The Joel Lane Museum House is more than just a museum; it’s a hidden gem in Raleigh, where history is not just observed but truly experienced.

Final Thoughts

Having lived in Wake County, North Carolina, for the majority of my life, I can confidently say that this area holds a unique blend of cultural richness, natural beauty, and endless adventure.

It’s an incredible place where you can appreciate art at the North Carolina Museum of Art and then lose yourself in the serenity of William B. Umstead State Park, all on the same day.

Wake County is a place of diverse experiences and opportunities. Its unique blend of nature, culture, and history makes it a remarkable place to visit and an even better place to call home.

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