21 Fun Things to Do in Raleigh, NC | 2024 (with Photos)

Ana Dimic

Ana Dimic - Travel Writer

Last Updated: January 4, 2024

Hey there! My name is Ana and I'm thrilled to share with you 21 exciting activities and hidden gems in Raleigh, NC. Through my personal experiences, I've curated a list of must-see places and engaging things to do that will make your trip to Raleigh unforgettable. Enjoy your adventure to the fullest by planning ahead and have a fantastic time!

Fun Things to Do in Raleigh, North Carolina

Nestled in the heart of North Carolina, Raleigh, also known as the "City of Oaks," is a vibrant city teeming with rich history, diverse art, and an unrivaled culinary scene.

With a myriad of things to do, from visiting the North Carolina State Capitol to hiking the Neuse River trail in Umstead State Park, Raleigh, NC offers an unforgettable experience.

In this guide, we delve into the city's most captivating attractions, from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to the historic Yates Mill County Park, and beyond.

Let's embark on an exploration of Raleigh, NC - a city that beautifully melds its rich past and vibrant present.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Top Choice Hotel

The Umstead Hotel and Spa

Our Top Choice Restaurant

Bida Manda

Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

The Architect Bar & Social House

Best Time to Visit

Spring and fall are the best times to visit

Average Temperature

Mild climate, ranging from hot summers to cool winters.

Transportation Options

Buses, taxis, rideshares, bikes, scooters, walking, driving, carpool.

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

Raleigh, located in the United States, offers a charming blend of history and modern attractions. Explore the city's vibrant downtown, filled with eclectic shops, restaurants, and lively entertainment venues, all surrounded by a welcoming Southern atmosphere.

Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Raleigh by visiting its historic landmarks, such as the North Carolina State Capitol, a grand neoclassical building that stands as a symbol of the state's history, or indulge in a quiet stroll through the breathtaking exhibits at the North Carolina Museum of Art, showcasing an impressive collection of fine art. With its beautiful parks and green spaces, like the stunning Pullen Park, you can also take a leisurely walk or enjoy a tranquil picnic amidst the city's natural beauty. Raleigh truly has something for everyone, making it a perfect destination for a memorable and personal travel experience.

What You'll Need to Bring

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Weather-appropriate clothing and accessories
  • Travel documents (passport, ID, etc.)
  • Money (cash and cards)
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Travel guide/map
  • Camera or smartphone for capturing memories
  • Snacks and water bottle
  • Personal toiletries and medications
  • Backpack or day bag for carrying essentials
  • Adapters or converters for electronic devices
  • Travel insurance information

What Not to Miss

  1. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
  2. William B. Umstead State Park
  3. Pullen Park
  4. North Carolina Museum of Art
  5. Historic Oakwood Cemetery
  6. Neuse River Trail
  7. Marbles Kids Museum
  8. State Capitol Building
  9. Raleigh Farmers Market
  10. JC Raulston Arboretum

What to Avoid

  1. Avoid rush hour traffic, especially on major highways.
  2. Avoid leaving valuables unattended in your car.
  3. Avoid walking alone at night in unfamiliar or poorly lit areas.
  4. Avoid excessive drinking and be mindful of your alcohol consumption.
  5. Avoid engaging in illegal activities or breaking any local laws.
  6. Avoid crowded tourist traps and explore lesser-known neighborhoods.
  7. Avoid relying solely on public transportation, as it may not always be efficient or reliable.
  8. Avoid ignoring weather warnings or advisories, especially during hurricane season.
  9. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; opt for credit cards or digital payment methods instead.
  10. Avoid overpacking and try to travel light for convenience and ease of mobility.

1. Start Your Day at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Immerse yourself in the wonders of science at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the Southeast's largest natural history museum.

Conveniently located in downtown Raleigh, this educational exhibit promises to be an enriching experience for all ages.

The museum boasts a Nature Research Center, a Nature Exploration Center, and a unique three-story Daily Planet Theater featuring a permanent collection of exhibits that bring science to life.

Wander through fascinating displays of European paintings, Egyptian funerary art, and diverse collections of American art.

Step into the immersive world of the largest natural history museum in Raleigh, NC, and explore a mesmerizing array of permanent collections from the comfort of the Museum's IMAX theater.

A visit to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and its permanent collection is not just a thing to do in Raleigh, but a journey through time, offering an opportunity to learn, explore, and marvel at the wonders of the natural world.

And if you like this museum, you will love the North Carolina Museum of Art and the other art museums the city has to offer.

2. Take a Tour of the North Carolina State Capitol, a National Historic Landmark

North Carolina State Capitol

Step back in time by visiting the North Carolina State Capitol, a national historic landmark and one of the most treasured historic sites in downtown Raleigh.

This splendid Capitol building, nestled in the heart of North Carolina's capital city, stands as a symbol of Raleigh's rich history and architectural grandeur.

As you explore its opulent chambers, you can learn about the Jim Crow era and gain insights into the workings of the state's government.

Visitors are welcome to explore the Capitol's visitor center, where educational programs illuminate the building's significant role in shaping the state.

Discover the things to do in Raleigh, NC, at the State Capitol, to uncover the historical tapestry of this vibrant city.

3. Treat Your Taste Buds at Morgan Street Food Hall

Morgan Street Food Hall

Indulge in a culinary adventure at Morgan Street Food Hall, a unique food destination in Raleigh, North Carolina.

This bustling food hall, located in downtown Raleigh, is a must-visit for foodies, offering an eclectic mix of gourmet eateries and artisanal food stalls.

From delectable southern cuisine to global fare, there's something to satiate every palate. As part of your visit to Raleigh, NC, stop by the food hall and savor the vibrant flavors of local and international culinary delights.

Whether it's a quick lunch, a leisurely dinner, or a sweet treat, Morgan Street Food Hall offers a culinary experience like no other, making it a must-visit destination when exploring the city's food scene.

4. Visit the Joel Lane Museum House, The Oldest Home in Downtown Raleigh

Joel Lane Museum House

Step into the past at the Joel Lane Museum House, the oldest home in downtown Raleigh, Wake County. This historic landmark offers a glimpse into Raleigh's history during the 18th century.

One of the best things to do in Raleigh is to take a guided tour of the house that will illuminate the past for all who visit. In addition, explore the surrounding gardens and visit the museum store for unique souvenirs.

The house, once owned by Joel Lane, often known as the "Father of Raleigh," offers educational programs that highlight the city's history and the lifestyles of its early inhabitants.

Visiting the Joel Lane Museum House isn't just a thing to do in Raleigh, NC; it's a journey through time.

5. Explore the Pope House Museum, the Only African American House Museum

Pope House Museum

Immerse yourself in Raleigh's rich African American history at the Pope House Museum. Once the residence of Dr. Manassa Thomas Pope, an influential African American figure in Raleigh, this historic house museum offers a unique insight into the life and times of the Jim Crow era.

Explore the house's authentic interiors, peruse personal artifacts, and learn about Dr. Pope's fight for civil rights and his impact on the city. This Raleigh museum is a vital aspect of the city's history.

Located in downtown Raleigh, NC, the Pope House Museum is not only a historic landmark but also a testament to the city's diverse cultural heritage, making it a must-see on your Raleigh visit.

6. Step Into the World of Modern Art at the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh

Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh

When looking for things to do in Raleigh, try to immerse yourself in the vibrant world of modern art at the Contemporary Art Museum.

This dynamic museum, located in downtown Raleigh, NC, showcases a diverse range of contemporary art, encouraging exploration and promoting understanding of the relevance and transformative power of art in our world.

With an ever-changing array of exhibitions, the museum provides fresh, original perspectives and provokes thoughtful conversations.

From photography and digital media to sculpture and performance art, the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh is a cultural hub that captivates art enthusiasts and novices alike.

7. Take Your Children to Marbles Kids Museum for Educational Exhibits

 Marbles Kids Museum

Give your children a day filled with learning and fun at Marbles Kids Museum. This innovative Raleigh museum is designed to inspire imagination, discovery, and learning through play.

With interactive exhibits that encourage exploration and educational programs that spark curiosity, Marbles Kids Museum provides an enriching experience for children of all ages.

From the hands-on exhibits to the theater, it's a place where kids can learn, explore, and play in an environment created just for them.

8. Visit Pullen Park, the Oldest Amusement Park in NC

Pullen Park

Discover the charm of Pullen Park, the oldest amusement park in North Carolina. Nestled near downtown Raleigh, NC, this beloved park is a treasure trove of fun activities and attractions.

From riding the historic carousel and taking a leisurely ride on the miniature train to paddle-boating on Lake Howell, Pullen Park offers a myriad of activities for visitors of all ages.

With its lush landscapes, beautiful trails, and fun-filled attractions, Pullen Park is a perfect spot for a family outing.

9. Step Into the Past at the North Carolina Executive Mansion, A Historic Site in Raleigh, NC

North Carolina Executive Mansion

Experience a slice of North Carolina's history at the North Carolina Executive Mansion.

This stunning Victorian-style mansion, also known as the "Governor's Mansion," is not only the official residence of the Governor of North Carolina but also a historic site filled with antique furnishings and artifacts.

Take a guided tour to marvel at the mansion's architectural beauty, learn about its history, and gain insight into the lives of the state's past governors.

10. Stroll Down the Neuse River Greenway Trail

Neuse River Greenway Trail

When looking for things to do in Raleigh, you should embrace the outdoors and soak in the scenic beauty of Raleigh on the Neuse River Trail.

This picturesque trail stretches for over 27 miles, offering walkers, runners, and cyclists panoramic views of the Neuse River, lush forests, and wildlife.

Whether you're looking for an invigorating hike, a leisurely walk, or a peaceful spot for a picnic, the Greenway Trail provides an escape into nature in the heart of the city.

11. Explore the Sites of Mordecai Historic Park

Mordecai Historic Park

Step back in time and explore the rich history of Raleigh at the Mordecai Historic Park. This park is home to the oldest house in Raleigh, the Mordecai House, and several other historic buildings.

As you wander through the park, you can learn about the history of the city, see a variety of historic structures, and even take a guided tour. The park's educational exhibits and sites make it a must-visit for history buffs.

12. Hop on the Historic Raleigh Trolley Tours

Raleigh Trolley Tours

Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and rich heritage of Raleigh, North Carolina by embarking on the Historic Raleigh Trolley Tours, a unique and engaging thing to do in Raleigh.

These guided tours provide an unparalleled view of the city's past, starting from notable landmarks such as the North Carolina State Capitol and the Pope House Museum, carrying you through the educational exhibits of the city's museums like the North Carolina Museum of Art and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

The tour also highlights the beautiful green spaces of Raleigh, NC. You'll see the Umstead State Park, a popular spot for hiking trails, and the Yates Mill County Park, an iconic public park that houses the historic Yates Mill.

For families, a glimpse of the Marbles Kids Museum would be enticing with its interactive exhibits designed to inspire learning through play. So, if you're looking for fun things to do and places to visit in Raleigh, NC, the Trolley Tours offer a comprehensive and enjoyable overview of what the city has to offer.

13. Grab Some Local Produce at the Raleigh Farmers Market

Raleigh Farmers Market

Experience the flavors of Raleigh at the Raleigh Farmers Market. This bustling market is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, offering a wide variety of fresh, locally-sourced produce, artisan foods, and handmade crafts.

From fresh fruits and vegetables to homemade jams, cheeses, and baked goods, the Raleigh Farmers Market is a feast for the senses. It's a great place to pick up a unique souvenir or enjoy a delicious, farm-fresh meal.

14. Experience Raleigh's Culinary Scene on a Carolina Gourmet Food Tour

Carolina Gourmet Food Tour

Embark on a culinary adventure in Raleigh, North Carolina with a Carolina Gourmet Food Tour. Among the many fun things to do in Raleigh, these guided food tours offer a delectable way to explore the city's best food halls and restaurants.

From the bustling Morgan Street Food Hall to the unique gastronomical experiences in downtown Raleigh, this tour takes you on a gastronomic journey through the city's culinary landscape.

Explore the city's parks like the Umstead State Park and Yates Mill County Park, where you can enjoy picnic-style local foods amid scenic trails.

The Carolina Gourmet Food Tours don't just offer a taste of Raleigh's food scene, but it also serves as a lesson in the city's culinary history.

Wrap up your tour with a visit to the Raleigh Beer Garden, a testament to the city's thriving craft beer scene.

From local delicacies to international cuisines, the Carolina Gourmet Food Tour provides a unique and tasty experience of Raleigh, NC, making it a must-visit for foodies and culture enthusiasts alike.

15. Explore the campus of North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University

Get a feel for college life and explore the beautiful campus of North Carolina State University (NCSU). This prestigious university, located in the heart of Raleigh, is renowned for its vibrant campus life and academic excellence.

Whether you're interested in exploring the exhibits at the university's museums, attending a sporting event, or simply strolling through the scenic campus, a visit to North Carolina State University offers a glimpse into the academic heart of Raleigh, NC.

16. Take a Hike at Umstead State Park

Umstead State Park

Escape to the tranquility of nature at Umstead State Park in Raleigh, NC. This vast, lush park offers a myriad of outdoor activities to enjoy. With miles of scenic trails, it's a haven for hikers, bikers, and nature enthusiasts.

Take a leisurely walk, embark on a challenging hike, or simply enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The park's serene setting makes it an ideal spot for picnicking or bird-watching.

17. Visit the Videri Chocolate Factory

Videri Chocolate Factory

If you are looking for fun things to do in Raleigh or you would like a sweet treat, visit the Videri Chocolate Factory in downtown Raleigh, NC. This artisan chocolate factory offers a glimpse into the chocolate-making process, from bean to bar.

Take a free self-guided tour of the factory, or a paid staff-led tour, then indulge in a tasting of handcrafted chocolates. The Videri Chocolate Factory is a must-visit for chocolate lovers visiting Raleigh.

18. Pay Your Respects at the Historic Oakwood Cemetery

Oakwood Cemetery

Immerse yourself in Raleigh's history at the Historic Oakwood Cemetery. This beautiful, serene site is the final resting place of many notable figures from Raleigh's past.

Grab a walking tour map at the Historic Oakwood Cemetery visitor center and wander the cemetery's peaceful paths. You can admire the historic monuments and learn about the city's rich history. The cemetery is a poignant reminder of Raleigh's heritage.

19. Explore the Scenic Trails of the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

Take in the natural beauty of Raleigh at the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. This peaceful preserve is home to a rare stand of Eastern Hemlock trees and other unique plant species.

You can wander the preserve's scenic trails, discover its diverse wildlife, and enjoy the stunning views. Whether you're a nature lover or just enjoy a peaceful walk, the nature preserve is a must-visit.

20. Visit the Historic Yates Mill County Park

Yates Mill County Park

Step back in time to Yates Mill County Park and Wildlife Refuge. This historic site in Raleigh, NC is home to a fully restored gristmill that dates back to around 1756.

Explore the park's historic mill and learn about the mill's history at the visitors' center, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the park.

The park also offers educational programs, hiking trails, and picnic facilities, making it a great place for a fun-filled day out in Raleigh.

21. End Your Day at Frankie's Fun Park with Bumper Boats and Virtual Reality Games

Frankie's Fun Park

Cap off your day of Raleigh exploration with a fun-filled visit to Frankie's Fun Park. This entertainment hub in Raleigh, North Carolina offers an array of exciting activities for the whole family.

Engage in a friendly competition on the bumper boats, a classic amusement park activity that never goes out of style. Immerse yourself in virtual reality games, where you can experience a whole new level of interactive fun.

Whether you're a kid or a kid at heart, Frankie's Fun Park is the perfect place to end your day in Raleigh. From thrilling rides to engaging arcade games, it truly offers something for everyone.

As the sun sets on your day in the capital, create lasting memories with laughter, excitement, and a spirit of adventure at Frankie's.

FAQs Regarding Things To Do in Raleigh, North Carolina

Now we are going to cover some of the most frequently asked questions people have when looking into things to do in Raleigh, North Carolina.

What is Raleigh famous for?

Raleigh, North Carolina is famous for being a vibrant center of arts, culture, and history. The city is home to the North Carolina Museum of Art, the largest of its kind in the Southeast, and the historic North Carolina State Capitol.

How do you have fun in Raleigh, Wake County?

Having fun in Raleigh is easy with its diverse offerings of attractions and activities. Visit the Yates Mill and nearby wildlife refuge, explore the summer camps at Marbles with your kids, and reflect in the North Carolina Museum of Art. You can also enjoy laser tag games, rope courses, and bumper cars at Pullen Park.

Is it worth visiting Raleigh, NC?

Raleigh is worth visiting. From its rich history showcased in various museums, to the diverse culinary scene in food halls, and the lively arts center, there's something for everyone. The NC State University campus also offers a unique educational experience. The city's parks, particularly the historic Yates Mill County Park, provide scenic spots for relaxation.

Is Raleigh or Charlotte Better for visiting?

Whether Raleigh or Charlotte is better for visiting depends on your interests. Raleigh, with its museums like the North Carolina Museum, interactive and educational exhibits, Stevens Nature Center, and the state parks like Umstead, is great for history and nature lovers.

There are many fun things to do in Charlotte NC. However, both cities offer a taste of North Carolina's vibrant culture and hospitality, making them both worth a visit.

Summing up: 21 Fun Things to Do in Raleigh

As you can see, there are many things to do in Raleigh, from the North Carolina Raleigh Museum to the city's culinary delights, Raleigh provides a tapestry of experiences that are as diverse as they are intriguing.

Grab a drink at the Raleigh Beer Garden after exploring the North Carolina Museum of Art, learn about southern cuisine with Carolina Gourmet Food Tours, and have a blast at Marble Kids Museum.

There's no question that Raleigh, NC is a city worth exploring. So, what are you waiting for? Come and visit Raleigh today and experience firsthand the unique charm of North Carolina's capital city.