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Raleigh, North Carolina, beckons visitors with its unique blend of Southern charm, vibrant culture, and thriving innovation. Nestled in the heart of the Research Triangle, Raleigh offers a captivating mix of history, modernity, and natural beauty. History buffs can explore historic sites like the State Capitol and Mordecai Historic Park, while art enthusiasts can revel in the North Carolina Museum of Art’s impressive collections.

Foodies will delight in the burgeoning culinary scene, boasting farm-to-table restaurants and food festivals celebrating local flavors. For outdoor enthusiasts, Raleigh’s extensive green spaces, like Pullen Park and Umstead State Park, offer hiking, biking, and picnicking opportunities. As a hub for technology and education, Raleigh also hosts renowned universities, fostering a dynamic atmosphere of innovation and creativity. Whether you seek cultural immersion, outdoor adventure, or intellectual stimulation, Raleigh promises an enriching and memorable travel experience.

14. Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts

the duke energy center for the performing arts building exterior

The Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts is an iconic venue to visit near Raleigh, North Carolina. It offers a variety of day and evening events that can be enjoyed by all ages, such as live music, theater, comedy, and dance performances. Local restaurants, hotels, and other attractions nearby add to the overall experience, as well as historic sites in the area. In particular, visitors may want to check out the North Carolina Museum of Art and Dorthea Dix Park. Nearby businesses that receive high reviews for their close proximity to the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts include the Raleigh Marriott City Center, Rockford Restaurant & Tavern, and the National Hockey League Team Store.

The Neuse River Greenway Trail is an amazing activity near Raleigh, North Carolina. This trail is an amazing system that allows visitors to bird-watch, jog, bike, and explore North Carolina’s natural beauty. It begins at Falls Lake Dam and ends in Clayton, providing an accessible and convenient way to experience North Carolina’s lush, historic landscapes. Along the way, visitors will encounter old mill ruins, restored cotton fields, and stunning panoramas reminiscent of times gone by.

Near the Neuse River Greenway Trail, visitors can check out the National Wildlife Visitor Center in Raleigh and see the variety of bird species and other animals along the trail. In Clayton, visitors have the opportunity to explore the scenic town, which features antique stores, unique boutiques, and a vibrant art scene. In addition, visitors can also take a tour of the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge, located just west of town.

For those looking for food, The Federal in Raleigh is a favorite spot. Offering dishes inspired by the foods of the Southern United States, guests enjoy the unique flavors served up in this culinary hot spot. In Clayton, the River Rock Cafe offers up delicious local favorites like delicious barbeque and southern-style comfort food. With fresh ingredients and fun flavors, visitors can fuel up before and after their adventures on the Neuse River Greenway Trail.

13. Mordecai Historic Park

the yellow exterior of the mordecai house under a tall tree

(Mark Turner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Mordecai Historic Park is an activity near Raleigh, North Carolina that is full of history and culture. Located along the beautiful grounds of Raleigh and Wake Forest, the park is full of stunning colonial-era homes, and a stunningly landscaped garden, surrounded by incredible and intertwined trees. Take a stroll through the history of the place and enjoy historical educational displays throughout.

In addition, the park features a recreational park that includes an outdoor basketball court and multi-purpose field, as well as a picnic area with benches and tables. Enjoy a day in the sun with a group of friends or family, and don’t forget to visit the popular Mordecai General Store and Tavern, as well as other businesses located nearby like Big Ed’s City Market, The Q Shack, and Gonza Tacos Y Tequila, all of which receive high reviews from locals and visitors alike.

12. William B. Umstead State Park

a view of the lake and colorful fall trees at the william b umstead state park

William B. Umstead State Park is situated near Raleigh, North Carolina, and attracts visitors from all over the state and beyond. The 5,579-acre park offers plenty of outdoor attractions and activities, including hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding. There are also many picnic spots and scenic spots for wildlife viewing. Nature programs and guided hikes are available, as well as access to 12 miles of shoreline along the park’s four lakes. The park’s history is also fascinating, having been the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp during the Great Depression.

Visitors looking for more of an adventure can visit Lake Johnson Park, Reedy Creek Park, and Falls Lake State Recreation Area, all located within short distances of William B. Umstead State Park. Nearby restaurants and cafes include The Pit Authentic Barbecue and Moonlight Pizza & Subs, both of which receive high reviews. Visitors are sure to find plenty of things to do and enjoy at William B. Umstead State Park.

11. Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

a sundial at the morehead planetarium and science center

The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, located near Raleigh, North Carolina, is a great activity for those interested in science, astronomy and space exploration. The center is open daily and offers a variety of exhibits, programs and experiences, such as stargazing nights and robotics camps. Visitors can also explore the Cold War era operations center, take part in interactive displays and even sneak a peek at the theaters.

Near the Planetarium, there are plenty of places to eat and explore. Relax in nearby Pullen Park or visit the Athens Drive Community Center, both popular nearby attractions. If you’re after a bite to eat, the Raleigh Beer Garden and the Milk Bar are two popular spots. If you’re looking for something special, the North Street Oyster Bar and Helios Brewhouse are two establishments that are highly reviewed. While in the area, you can also take a wander down the Raleigh Historic District, a serene area with lots of well-preserved structures and buildings.

10. Pullen Park

a mother and two sons walk under the entrance sign to pullen park

Pullen Park is a family-friendly destination near Raleigh, North Carolina. It has playgrounds, picnic and swimming facilities, and a historic carousel. With 66.5 acres to explore, there’s something for everyone and the warm climate makes it the ideal spot to visit year-round. Visitors may enjoy horse and pedal boat rides, explore the lush gardens, ride on the miniature train, or take a ride on the classic carousel. The park also features several athletic facilities, including volleyball, basketball, and tennis courts, as well as a baseball field.

Families may also explore the surrounding trails and waterways, stopping by the lake for fishing and canoeing. For food, guests can stop by the The Duck Deli, located on the north side of the park, which is renowned for its burgers and sandwiches. Other nearby eateries include City Market, a popular neighborhood chain throughout Raleigh, and Crossroads Grill, a charming diner with endless comfort food options.

9. Brewery Bhavana

patrons fill brewery bhavana's brightly light bar room in raleigh north carolina

(The Washington Post/The Washington Post/GettyImage)

Brewery Bhavana is a great activity near Raleigh, North Carolina. It offers an amazing array of craft beer and a variety of food, with dim sum and wood fired pizza being especially popular. Brewery Bhavana is housed in a former 1920s Chinese laundry and it preserves the original architecture and atmosphere, so it definitely has a cool, historical feel. The brewery is also attached to a modern, full-service flower shop, making it an ideal location for drinks and dinner. There are plenty of great options around Brewery Bhavana as well.

For an evening on the town, there are plenty bar and/or restaurants nearby, such as Babylon Hookah Bar, The Architect Bar & Social House, and Buku Global Street Food, all of which receive great reviews. For a slower evening by yourself or with friends, there are plenty of parks and outdoor spaces to explore in the area, such as Pullen Park and Neuse River Trail. Brewery Bhavana is located in an ideal spot, whether you’re looking for a casual night out or a leisurely evening alone.

8. JC Raulston Arboretum

a view of the colorado river from a road near moab utah(image via Facebook)

Raulston Arboretum is a botanical garden located near the overlooks of the Neuse River in Raleigh, North Carolina. It is home to an incredible range of shrubs, trees, and flowering plants, which provide a stunning display of colors throughout the year. The paths winding through the grounds make for a great place to take a peaceful stroll and gain some insight into botanical history. The Arboretum also offers educational programs, including lectures and workshops, which provide a great opportunity to learn more about botany and horticulture.

The surrounding area of Raleigh is a great place to explore and there are plenty of wonderful food, drink and accommodation options for those visiting the area. For a coffee, Maywood Cafe & Bakery is highly recommended and for casual pizza dining, Faire Restaurant is a great option. For a nicer dinner, the Gristmill restaurant is a great choice. No matter what you decide to do, Raulston Arboretum is an activity that is sure to delight and provide long-lasting memories.

7. North Carolina Museum of History

the exterior of the north carolina museum of history in raleigh(Jmturner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The North Carolina Museum of History is a great activity for visitors near Raleigh, North Carolina. Located in downtown Raleigh, visitors have the opportunity to explore the many collections of history and culture at this museum. With over 200 years of history up for exploration, the Museum of History offers interactive experiences that bring the past to life. Exhibits cover the lives and stories of the people and events that shaped the state, including artifacts and works of art that speak volumes. With these interactive and educational resources, visitors can also explore one of the largest Civil War collections outside of The Smithsonian.

Nearby, visitors can find several highly rated restaurants, including Raleigh Times Bar and their award-winning wings. For nightlife, there is the nearby London Bridge Pub where guests can take in a sports game or two on one the TVs. Additionally, visitors taking in the sights of Raleigh can likely pick up a souvenir from one of the many local shops. For fun during the day, the area is also home to Pullen Park, with its historic carousel, boat rides, and miniature train. This area of Raleigh offers an array of fun and educational experiences taking place in the heart of North Carolina’s history.

6. Marbles Kids Museum

a man casting a fishing line while fly fishing near moab utah(image via Facebook)

Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, North Carolina is a fun and interactive experience for kids of all ages. The museum offers interactive exhibits that let children explore science, technology, and art through hands-on activities. Kids can explore the museum and its numerous galleries which include the Art Express, Science Studio, and the Tinkering Garage. Kids can also explore the outdoor science museum with the Dinosaur Trail and Big Back Yard exhibits. The museum also hosts a plethora of exciting events throughout the year such as the Summer Camp Fair and Creativity Festival.

Near this location is the Cary Arts Center, which offers a wide variety of art classes in a professional setting. Additionally, scientists and historians may be interested in visiting the nearby Museum of Life and Science and the North Carolina Museum of History. For those with a sweet tooth, a great option is Sugary Creek Confectionery, located in Downtown Raleigh, which offers a range of sweet treats. For a quick bite to eat, The Pit Authentic Barbecue and Raleigh Times are two popular options for both locals and visitors.

5. North Carolina State Capitol Building

bikers travel across mountainous desert terrain near moab utah(image via Facebook)

The North Carolina State Capitol building is a beautiful historical landmark and activity situated in downtown Raleigh, NC. The exterior boasts a Neo-Classical style of architecture, whilst the interior contains museum-quality artifacts that document the history of the state. Visitors have the option of taking an educational guided tour to better understand the history of the building.

An ideal activity to combine with visiting the Capitol building is to explore the surrounding downtown area of Raleigh. There is a range of amazing restaurants, shops, and bars nearby, such as Centro Mexican, 1st Place Sports Bar, and Trophy Brewing Company. Visitors should also take advantage of the free outdoor activities offered in this area, such as the beautiful CAM Raleigh Visual Arts Center and North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. No visit to downtown Raleigh is complete without a visit to any of the city’s many parks and gardens, including historic Murphey School Park, the enormous Pullen Park, and Meymandi Concert Park.

4. Raleigh Farmers Market

a group of people whitewater rafting along the colorado river(image via Facebook)

The Raleigh Farmers Market is an activity near Raleigh, North Carolina, that is great for exploring local food and products. This bustling farmers market includes a variety of locally sourced products gathered from farms and gardens off NC’s highways and back roads. Visitors can shop for fresh fruits and vegetables, plants, herbs, trees and flowers, local fresh-made honey, jams, jellies, pickled vegetables, gift baskets, and much more. In addition, local vendors showcase their locally made arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, pottery, and handcrafted leather goods. It is not uncommon to find performers playing music, offering outdoor dining and seating options, and setting up art galleries.

The Raleigh Farmers Market is a great opportunity to experience the magnificence of North Carolina, with its rich food culture and historical elements that include repurposed tobacco warehouses, memorials, and museums. Visitors can enjoy the market while still enjoying the nearby attractions such as the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Moore Square Park and Market, or Big Buddhas Bodega. Whether individuals are looking for a unique shopping experience or a great meal, the Raleigh Farmers Market offers something for everyone.

3. Joel Lane Museum House

the exterior of the joel Lane Museum House in raleigh, north carolina(image via Joel Lane Museum House)

The Joel Lane Museum House is a historic museum house located in the capital city area of Raleigh, North Carolina. This museum offers visitors a look into the history and lifestyle of the area’s colonial settlers. The house and gardens at the museum depict the lifestyle and details of the rural and urban life in the area from the late 18th to the early 19th century. With a variety of rooms to explore, from the 18th-century kitchen and the museum’s replica Victorian kitchen to a private collection of 18th-century furniture and a parlor, visitors to the museum have the chance to gain insights into the past.

Visitors can also take advantage of the museum’s educational programs, guided audio tours, and host school, civic, and corporate events. Nearby to the museum, visitors can explore the shops and boutiques at Lafayette Village and take advantage of the exceptional dining options in downtown Raleigh. Recommendations include visiting Carroll’s Kitchen, which is a popular spot for brunch, or Crank Arm Brewing, a local brewery and bar with great beer, food, and outdoor space. North Carolina’s outdoor scene awaits visitors just minutes away, with those looking to explore trails, mountains, and waterfalls able to access Falls Lake, Umstead State Park, and Blue Jay Point County Park all within a short drive.

2. North Carolina Museum of Art

a man rappels down a mountainside into a canyon(image via Facebook)

The North Carolina Museum of Art, located in the heart of Raleigh, is a cultural haven and an ideal activity for locals and visitors alike. The museum itself celebrates art from around the world, running exhibits, hosting events, and providing education resources. There’s something to enjoy at the museum no matter your interests. For those most interested in history, the museum has an impressive selection of artifacts, including artwork created by Native American Tribes centuries ago, as well as Greek and Roman art. 

The fun here isn’t limited to the museum itself – the museum grounds are host to 164 acres of green space with trails for running and biking, featuring sculptures and interactive media art. Nearby, the landscaped, and often Instagram-worthy, Sarah P Duke Gardens provides peaceful, beautiful views of nature, while the more urban, outdoor museum park is fun for all ages. 

The many restaurants and cafes in and around the North Carolina Museum of Art district are worth mentioning – Bida Manda offering a unique Laotian dining experience, The Fiction Kitchen providing vegan and vegetarian fare, and Videri Chocolate Factory serving up handmade truffles and artisan treats. All of these establishments are highly rated and popular among locals. 

No matter what you’re interested in, the North Carolina Museum of Art is one of the top destinations in Raleigh and a great way to explore the culture of North Carolina.

1. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

the exterior of the museum of natural sciences in raleigh(Jmturner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, conveniently located in Raleigh, is an amazing activity for visitors of every age. Visitors can explore the permanent exhibits, take part in interactive labs, or discover the region’s natural history in the Nature Exploration Center. The museum also hosts special exhibitions, temporary displays, and a wide variety of educational opportunities. The museum offers a variety of field trips, classes, and groups that cater to the interests of each age group. By visiting the museum, visitors can also learn about the region’s history and its unique natural environment. If visitors are looking for food near the museum, there are several popular nearby restaurants, including Morgan Street Food Hall, 18 Seaboard, and Second Empire Restaurant. Since Raleigh is known for its craft breweries along the Raleigh Beer Trail, visitors may be interested in visiting area breweries such as Oak & Dagger Public House, Big Boss Brewing Company, and more. Finally, visitors can also enjoy a ride around downtown Raleigh on the free R-Line buses and explore the various shops and restaurants in the downtown area.


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Summary

As you can see, Raleigh has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from nearby Raleigh, North Carolina.

These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.

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