Planning a voyage to North Carolina? Don’t skip out on experiencing all of the best things to do in Raleigh, NC. Home to interesting museums, superb places to eat & drink, and lush parks, North Carolina’s capital city is one of the most understated travel destinations in the Southeast USA.
Soaking up the top tourist attractions in Raleigh, you’ll traipse through historic landmarks, modern art galleries, and beautiful green spaces teeming with hiking trails. Whether you’re traveling solo, on a romantic getaway, or on a fun-filled family vacation, Raleigh deserves a spot on your itinerary.
Ready to start planning your trip to Raleigh? Kick-start your visit with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Raleigh, NC.
Best places to visit in Raleigh, NC
City of Raleigh Museum (COR Museum)
Need a primer on Raleigh’s history? Set your sights on the City of Raleigh Museum (COR Museum). Located in the historic 1874 Briggs Building on Fayetteville Street in Downtown Raleigh, the museum runs through the city’s entire 200-year history, from its founding to the modern-day. For history buffs, it’s one of the best places to go in Raleigh, NC.
Roaming through the COR Museum, you’ll enjoy exhibits covering everything from Raleigh’s civil rights history to the haunting voices of WWII veterans to the modern local music scene. The exhibitions are constantly rotating and updating. Every visit presents an opportunity to learn something new about this fascinating Southern city.
It’s free to enter the City of Raleigh Museum, with a recommended donation of $5. On your way out, be sure to also stop by the museum’s gift shop and pick up a few unique souvenirs from local Raleigh artisans.
Videri Chocolate Factory
Based in the Warehouse District, Videri Chocolate Factory is not only one of the most popular Raleigh tourist attractions but a great spot to pick up some mouthwatering, chocolatey treats. What’s not to love?
Chocoholics will love embarking on a self-guided tour of Videri Chocolate Factory. From cocoa bean to bar, the tour walks you through the entire process of making their delicious chocolatey treats.
After your tour, head to the onsite chocolate shop to stock up on a few of Videri’s finest chocolate bars, including their divine dark chocolate and sea salt. If you’re visiting in summer, you can also cool down with a frozen hot chocolate on the outdoor patio.
Morgan Street Food Hall
If you’re a foodie visiting Raleigh, you owe it to yourself to visit the Morgan Street Food Hall. With more than 20 culinary concepts and expert vendors, the food hall includes everything from Thai to Maine lobster. For food lovers, it’s one of the top points of interest in Raleigh, NC.
Within the 22,000-square-foot Morgan Street Food Hall, you’ll find local chefs and vendors delighting the senses and the taste buds. Enjoy foods from all around the world and chow down on cooked-to-order snacks, meals, specialty foods, and more. Wash it all down with a craft beer or cocktail on the beautiful outdoor patio.
North Carolina State Capitol
The North Carolina State Capitol is a National Historic Landmark. And once you see it, you’ll understand why. Built in 1840 in a Greek Revival architecture style, this magnificent building was once home to the governor, the General Assembly, and the Supreme Court.
Hop onto a self-guided tour of the North Carolina State Capitol to learn more about the state government and the history of the state and the city of Raleigh. Admission to the capitol building is free.
Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh (CAM)
When it comes to Raleigh sightseeing, the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh (CAM) is one place not to forget to add to your travel plans. With its magnificent collection of exquisite art, this popular art museum is a local favorite and tops the list of where to go in Raleigh for art lovers.
Located in the historic Warehouse District, the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh beckons visitors with its striking modern exterior. Inside the well-lit art gallery, you’ll roam through bold exhibitions capturing fine art from emerging local and national artists.
CAM Raleigh is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 pm to 5 pm. Admission is free. Although the museum itself won’t be open, the CAM also hosts a First Fridays event, featuring food trucks and live music.
Mordecai Historic Park
Located in the heart of downtown, Mordecai Historic Park is one of the city’s most-visited historical points of interest. The historic park includes the Mordecai House, Raleigh’s oldest home; and the birthplace of Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States.
Mordecai Historic Park sits upon 3.2 acres of land, occupying what was once the largest plantation in Wake County. Besides Mordecai House, the park comprises several outbuildings including a historic barn, plantation office, law office, the Allen Kitchen, and St. Mark’s Chapel.
Tours of Mordecai Historic Park are offered Tuesdays through Saturdays. If you’re visiting on a Saturday, you can combine your visit with a Historic Raleigh Trolley tour that’ll whisk you past all of the city’s most famous historical sites.
North Carolina Museum of History
Looking to celebrate North Carolina’s illustrious history? Save time in your Raleigh trip to peruse the North Carolina Museum of History. Located in Bicennential Plaza, the museum features more than 150,000 artifacts, spanning 14,000 years of history.
The North Carolina Museum of History holds a mix of temporary and permanent exhibits. Visit its most popular exhibition, The Story of North Carolina, for a look at the state’s history through interactive exhibits, multimedia, and even two life-sized historic homes.
Elsewhere in the museum, you’ll scope out unique treasures like a replica of the 1903 Wright Brothers flyer, booty from Blackbeard’s flagship, and stone tools dating back as early as 12,000 B.C.E.
While you’re at the North Carolina Museum of History, sports fans will also want to check out the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. The section contains an impressive collection of sports memorabilia, including a stock car that belonged to famed NASCAR driver Richard Petty.
North Carolina Museum of Art
Listed as one of the top 25 museums in the United States, the North Carolina Museum of Art is one of the top places to see in Raleigh, NC, for art aficionados. The famed art museum spreads between two buildings, one featuring its permanent collection and the other hosting a rotation of temporary exhibits.
Pop into the West Building to marvel at the museum’s permanent collection, featuring artwork dating back to antiquity. The art galleries here span the entire globe, including works from Europe, The Americas, Africa, and Egypt. Highlights include everything from Italian Renaissance paintings to photos from contemporary American artists.
In the East Building of the North Carolina Museum of Art, you can admire a slate of interesting temporary exhibits. Past favorites include Art Deco cars dating back to the 1930s and 1940s, Da Vinci’s notebooks, and a collection of original works from famed American landscape photographer Ansel Adams.
JC Raulston Arboretum
Looking to experience North Carolina nature at its finest? Beeline for the JC Raulston Arboretum. Housed at North Carolina State University, these beautiful botanical gardens encompass nearly 2,000 square feet of gorgeous plants, shrubs, and many other types of greenery.
Wander through the themed gardens to marvel at more than 6,000 different types of plants from around the world. If you happen to visit the JC Raulston Arboretum on a Sunday, join in on one of its free volunteer-led tours of the gardens.
The JC Raulston Arboretum is open seven days a week between 8 am and 8 pm. Admission to the gardens is free.
Pope House Museum
For another dose of Raleigh history, try to squeeze in a visit to the impeccable Pope House Museum. Located on South Wilmington Street in downtown, the historic home dates back to 1901. It was built by Dr. Manassa Thomas Pope, a prominent local African-American icon who defiantly ran for mayor during the Jim Crow Era.
Today, the Pope House Museum houses the family’s original furnishing along with over 3,000 artifacts, some dating as far back as the 1860s. The collection helps to shed light on the life of one of the city’s most preeminent African-American families in the early-2oth century.
Highlights of the museum include Dr. Pope’s doctor’s bag, dating back to his time in the all-Black volunteer unit during the Spanish-American War; his father’s freedman papers; and his voter’s registration card.
The Pope House Museum is open on Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm, with free one-hour tours embarking on the hour.
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
The largest natural history museum in the Southeast, The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is a haven for the inquisitive mind. At the Smithsonian-affiliated museum, you’ll explore the four floors filled with exhibits covering natural history from every angle.
Start your North Carolina Museum of the Natural Sciences visit in the Nature Research Center. Check out the dazzling SECU Daily Planet, a massive 70-foot-wide globe that soars three stories high and hosts a movie theater. Once you’ve taken in a show, explore the center’s ocean life exhibits, including its 10,000-gallon aquarium.
Fans of the prehistoric will love scooting over to the museum’s Nature Exploration Center. The wing is most famed for its massive Acrocanthosaurus skeleton, the only of its kind in the world; and its 1.5-million-year-old giant sloth remains.
Not sure what to do in Raleigh on a family vacation? Head over to Pullen Park in West Raleigh. Established in 1887, Pullen Park was the first public park in North Carolina and one of the oldest amusement parks in the United States.
With its range of rides & attractions, Pullen Park offers some of the best things to do in Raleigh, NC, for families. Take a ride on the Gustave A. Dentzel Carousel, built in 1911; or chug along on the park’s miniature train. If you’re visiting in summer, summon the kids to the lake for a relaxing paddleboat ride on the park’s central lake.
Kids will also love expending a little energy in the park’s playground, offering several different play zones with a variety of fun activities.
Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park
Part of the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park is an outdoor park designed for cycling, jogging, or walking. With plenty of paved trails to enjoy, many connecting to the Capital Area Greenway System, this park offers a one-of-a-kind Raleigh sightseeing adventure.
Covering a total of 164 acres, Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park will coax out both the art and nature lover in you. Walk along its beautiful trails, stopping along the way to marvel at more than a dozen commissioned public art installations inspired by the natural world.
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One of the top Raleigh points of interest, Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park is free to visit and open daily from sunrise to sundown.
Raleigh Beer Garden
Get a little thirsty on your Raleigh adventure? Sink down some suds at the Raleigh Beer Garden. Located in the Glenwood South entertainment district, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill bar: The Raleigh Beer Garden holds the Guinness World Record record for the most beers on tap, with over 360 varieties.
If you’re visiting in summer, carve out time in your day in Raleigh to chill out on the lovely rooftop garden. Pair your unique craft beers with their delicious dining menu, including tasty items like handcrafted pizzas, charcuterie, and cheese plates.
Historic Yates Mill County Park
Celebrate North Carolina’s agricultural heritage with a dash of nature at Historic Yates Mill County Park. Spanning 174 acres, this historical park centers around its namesake Historic Yates Mill, the last gristmill in Wake County. For both history buffs and nature lovers, it’s one of the top things to see in Raleigh, NC.
Start your visit to Historic Yates Mill County Park with a tour of the mill. Dating back to the 18th-century, the water-powered mill has since been fully restored and is fully operational. On a tour, you’ll get to experience the mill’s inner workings, including how its continuous process milling system improved flour output.
After checking out the mill, take to the park’s hiking trails to immerse yourself in nature. For a family-friendly jaunt, cruise along the Mill Pond Trail, a 0.8-mile trail circling around the 20-acre central pond. Or for a deeper dip into the woods, opt for the most strenuous 0.8-mile High Ridge Trail or the 2-mile Steep Hill Creek Trail through the wetlands.
Marbles Kids Museum
If we were to describe the Marbles Kids Museum in one word, it would be “hands-on.” This bright, colorful Raleigh museum catches kids’ attention before they even get to the door; once inside, it’s the perfect place to “use their marbles.” It’s no wonder that it’s one of the top tourist attractions in Raleigh for families!
Some of the exciting hands-on exhibits at Marbles Kids Museum include embarking on a jungle safari, running a pet store, tending to a garden, boarding a pirate ship, and even shooting pucks on an ice hockey rink. Every single exhibit positions the child as the star of the show.
Although the exhibitions here are a ton of fun, they’re also super educational. It’s the perfect museum to help stimulate younger kids’ minds and keep them occupied on any trip to Raleigh, NC.
Dorothea Dix Park
Need a breather from the city center? Sprawl out at Dorothea Dix Park. Located just 2.5 miles southwest of downtown, the park covers a massive 308 acres, spread out among tree groves, open fields, and rolling meadows with sweeping skyline views.
Not only is Dorothea Dix Park the largest city park in Raleigh, but it’s the perfect destination whether you’re looking to have a picnic, walk your dog, or enjoy some outdoor activities.
Open every day from dawn until dusk, Dorothea Dix Park offers activities such as tai chi, yoga, a Civil War historical hike, birdwatching, preschool nature programs, art classes, and even guided walking tours.