Raleigh NC is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. and offers that metropolis feel with a Southern charm. Raleigh NC offers such a unique mix of modern and historic, you will find no shortage of attractions to fill your time. Whether you have just moved here, are visiting, or are a lifer, here are 21 things to do in Raleigh NC, no matter the time of year.
Cultural Things To Do in Raleigh NC
The NC Museum of Natural Sciences is located in downtown Raleigh, and is fun for all ages. You and the family can go for the day on a self-guided tour and explore the exhibits, including sharks, storms, dinosaurs, and live animals. The museum can also be rented for parties, meetings, or wedding receptions. They a have events happening all year round, so check out their events calendar for more things to do in Raleigh NC.
The NC Museum of History is also located in downtown Raleigh and has exhibits year round. The Legend of Blackbeard, NC Sports Hall of Fame, and The Story of North Carolina are just a few, and they host several traveling exhibits. We have found it is not as exciting for small children, but older children and adults will enjoy the Discovery Gallery and other exhibits.
The NC Museum of Art is located on Blue Ridge Road, just a short drive from Crabtree Mall. It offers a collection of art from all over the world including an impressive permanent displays of Jewish art. The property is also home of the Museum Park, a 164 acre walkable landscape studded two dozen pieces of monumental art. After that, you can relax at their East Cafe or Sip Coffee Bar and Cafe.
Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh is a great way to tire out the kiddos while they learn about the world around us. They can experience make-believe camping, learn about first responders, art, science, engineering, and more. There are multiple exhibits for all ages and the kids won’t even realize they’re learning. Our favorite things to do are the STEMosphere and Moneypalooza! As an adult, there are places to sit everywhere so you can take a load off and watch the kiddos explore on their own or you can play alongside them.
The Carolina Ballet performs at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. The experience of the ballet is a gift to yourself and a reminder to enjoy the beautiful things in life. Those interested in supporting the ballet may buy individual tickets for shows or indulge in a subscription. The School of Ballet has training for beginners to pre-professionals from ages 6-18 for the young artist in your life.
Recreational Things To Do in Raleigh NC
The Triangle Rock Club offers climbing for beginners to advanced, birthday parties, fitness and yoga, and after school programs, track out, and camps. It’s a fun place for all ages at a great price! First time visitors can climb all day for only $15 for adults and $10 for kids 11 and under. You can experience something new for the day or be committed to get into shape as an individual, couple, or family.
7. Drive Shack
Drive Shack is just down the street from the NC State Fairgrounds and it’s a great place to bond with friends, blow off some steam, or throw a party. The best part (for us) is that you don’t have to know how to swing a club. The interactive games make it so all levels can play together and have a great time. Whether you golf or not, everyone can agree on the rooftop bar, full menu, full service, and hundreds of televisions. It’s not just a driving range, it’s an experience.
Frankie’s Fun Park, just north of the RDU airport, has so many things to do for the kids (and the kid in all of us). Mini golf, arcade, go karts, bumper cars and boats, batting cages, amusement rides, ropes course, and laser tag are just the beginning. Squeeze in some quick child-like fun or make a whole day out of it. Grab some food at the Frankie’s Cafe for a quick bite, or relax at Frankie’s Chill Lounge where you can have a drink, get some grub, and watch the game.
Raleigh has so many awesome adult athletic programs. There’s basketball, kickball, beach volleyball, softball, and so much more. Get your friends or coworkers together and have a ball! Sign up for their newsletter and be up to date with future team sports.
If you are looking for a group to learn new skills, advance your skills, or just have some cool people to hang with, try their outdoor recreation programs. This spring they have biking and kayaking and sign up for their newsletter to keep up to date with all the upcoming activities.
Shopping and Dining Things To Do in Raleigh NC
10. The Raleigh Market and Ole Time Barbecue
The Raleigh Market is located by the fairgrounds and open to the public every weekend, all year round. It is rated as one of the best flea markets in the country. Parking and admission are both free. The market is outdoors, rain or shine and perfect for anyone who is interested in vintage, odd, or handcrafted items, art, fresh foods, or unusual finds. Pickers, thrifters, decorators, DIY’ers, and looky-loos can all find something enticing. Check out their list of vendors.
After you’re done wheeling and dealing, stop by Ole Time Barbecue down the road. It may not look like much, but good country cooking can come in unassuming packages. This 30-year-old Raleigh establishment proclaims that Ole Time Barbecue is “a great place to get porked”!
Lafayette Village is located in Northeast Raleigh, just off I-540. This shopping center is home to one of our very favorite events, Wine Walk for Charity, the third Thursday of each month spring through fall. Ten dollars gets you a glass and a self-guided tour around Lafayette Village with wine tastings at each destination. Even without wine, the boutiques, restaurants, and specialty food and drink shops are amazing. Some of our favorites are Stuf ‘N Such, Southern Craft Butchers, Olive Wagon, and Vinos Finos Wine and Tapas. The architecture of the village brings a relaxed and casual feel to your dining or shopping experience.
12. Village District (formerly Cameron Village)
Village District has shopping and pampering for a full day of things to do in Raleigh NC. There are numerous dining options. We recommend Rise Biscuits and Donuts for breakfast, The Flying Biscuit Cafe for lunch, and So-Ca for dinner. Shopping includes everything from antiques to clothes and handbags to interior decorating and more. It’s also a great place if you need some pampering. Take your pick of shops for massage, waxing, blow outs, hair care, and spa treatments.
13. North Hills
North Hills can be found just off I-440 in North Raleigh. They offer great places to shop, including Marta’s luxury women’s clothing, Main & Taylor Shoe Salon shoes and handbags, and Vineyard Vines for feel good clothing for men, women, and kids such as Good Life and performance gear. North Hills dining literally has something for everyone. Their bakeries, taverns, fine dining, and casual restaurants have something for any mood you may be in. North Hills doesn’t stop there. There are events all year round from markets to holiday events and live music. Check out their website and Facebook page so you don’t miss out on all the fun things to do.
City Market is situated in downtown Raleigh. This historic site has permanent restaurants and specialty shops with outdoor seating on the cobblestone street, but they also have regularly scheduled vendor markets, live music, games, and food trucks. In the spring they will have their Raleigh Night Market again. There’s nothing like taking an evening stroll and perusing the booths under the street lights. Check out their facebook page so you can be up to date on all the great activities at City Market.
Nature and Outdoorsy Things to Do in Raleigh NC
The arboretum is located near the State Fairgrounds. This nationally acclaimed garden has plants that are specifically created for North Carolina’s climate for exceptional landscaping. The parking and admission are FREE (our favorite price), but donations are encouraged. View this map for the different gardens they have on display.
The arboretum also has community events, as well as plant sales throughout the year. They also offer pruning, foraging, landscaping, propagation, and growing classes, workshops, and series. Right now they have Garden Story Walks for the kids that are FREE and super engaging.
Umstead in Northwest Raleigh has paths for hikers, runners, bikers, fishers, and equestrians. This large park surrounds three lakes, where you can rent canoes and rowboats or bring your own. Picnic shelters are available for rent if you have a large gathering or throw an outdoor party. You can reserve a campsite or facility on their website. Tent camping options are available for the individual or for large groups that want to rent a camp with group amenities. The events calendar contains activities for all NC state parks, so be sure to look for Umstead Park. Their upcoming events can be found on their homepage.
This 174-acre park is in southwest Wake County has gardens, hiking and walking trails, fishing and educational programs. The programs include educational nature activities for all ages. They range from free educational hikes to native plant to animal tracking. They also offer camps for the kids. There are many opportunities for learning, exercise, and adventure at Yates Mill County Park.
Lake Johnson, located in southwest Raleigh just off I-40, is 500 acres of outdoor activities. Amenities include fishing (with rod and reel loans too), hammock posts, wildlife viewing, a QR code Fit Trail, paved Greenway, and natural surface trails. Their events include lectures, bird watching, yoga, activities for the kids,and more. The Thomas G. Crowder Woodland Center offers beautiful facility rental space, loaner backpacks, and programs and classes for all ages. Water activities can be had on the lake or at the Lake Johnson Pool.
North of downtown Raleigh is Shelley Lake Trail is a 2.2 mile loop that is available year round. The view of Shelley Lake is beautiful in the spring and fall. Dogs and bikes are able to be on the trail also and it’s for all skill levels, including wheelchair friendly.
The Sertoma Arts Center, also located in the park, near the trail, offeres classes and workshops. There is everything from photography, to painting to jewelry, and more. Check them out after your walk around the lake.
20. The Walnut Creek Greenway, Crabtree Creek Trail, Rocky Branch Trail, and House Creek Greenway Loop
This huge loop is available year round and is a whopping 30.8 miles. It loops around Raleigh and is perfect for all skill levels. It passes some lovely pit stops, such as Pullen Park, Mount Hope Cemetery, Meredith College campus, and numerous parks. It utilizes some of the most popular Greenway Trails for biking, running, and dog walking. It’s a hike that can be done is sections or a full day run/walk. Wildlife can be seen throughout the trail.
This trail is located in the eastern part of Raleigh. It’s 27.5 mile paved trails are scenic with its view of the Neuse River, historic sights, and wetlands. The Neuse River Greenway Trail is part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that stretches from the Outer Banks to the Great Smokey Mountains. The best starting point is at Falls Lake Dam.
Here are some of the many things to do in Raleigh NC year-round, for tourists and residents alike. If you are thinking of moving to the Raleigh area, check out our blog post here.