Looking for things to do in Raleigh, NC?

If you have never visited Raleigh before, or if you live here and just haven’t known where the good places to visit are, you are in for a treat!

This often-overlooked city is a haven of cultural experiences, great food and beverages, beautiful green space, hiking trails, and gardens. Though summer is the busiest time of the year with dozens of free festivals, there is something to do at any time of year in Raleigh.

Here are the top 13 things to do in Raleigh that you can’t miss no matter when you visit.

1. Hit Up An Art Museum

father and daughter visiting an art museum

The North Carolina Museum of Art is an amazing place to visit and was ranked as one of the top 25 museums in the country by Insider. There is something from almost every era here, from contemporary photography to art exhibits from ancient Egypt, Greece, and more.

You’ll also find regular educational exhibits at the art museum, making it a great place to bring kids. If you time your visit right, you might even find a traveling exhibit from famed artists like Leonardo da Vinci or Ansel Adams.

2. Visit The North Carolina State Fair

The North Carolina State Fair happens annually every October in Raleigh. You’ll find family activities, great food, and amazing educational exhibits going on throughout the month. The fair features everything from live music to livestock exhibits, art competitions, and food stands.

The North Carolina State Fair is the biggest event in the state, drawing hundreds of thousands of people every year. With countless attractions, it isn’t hard to see why so many people enjoy this fair!

3. Hit The Trail For Some Hiking

You might not expect it in one of the largest cities in North Carolina, but Raleigh is a prime place for hiking. There are many hiking trails and nature preserves around the city, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

If you love hiking, make sure you hit up the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve or the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. These green spaces are a great place to experience the beautiful wilds of the Carolinas, including unique plant and animal life (the wildlife refuge is our favorite).

4. See The Views At a Local Garden

visit a local garden as things to do in raleigh

Hiking trails aren’t the only green space in Raleigh. The city is also home to some of the best gardens in the state, including the Juniper Level Botanical Garden and the Raleigh Municipal Rose Garden.

The Raleigh Municipal Rose Garden features 1,200 roses, including 60 distinct varieties. It is also home to an outdoor theater, where there are frequent performances including Shakespeare in the Park. Meanwhile, the Juniper Level Botanical Garden is an educational destination with 23,000 plants sourced from around the globe.

5. Visit The James B. Hunt Jr. Library

You might not think there is anything special about a library, but Raleigh’s James B. Hunt Library will prove you wrong. This location is widely known as the Library of the Future, thanks to its rich resources for technological and scientific research.

The library is located on the campus of North Carolina State University and features not only unique material but one-of-a-kind architecture, art, and other attractions.

6. Eat At Some Of The Best Restaurants In The State

Raleigh might not be widely known as a foodie paradise, but it is a hidden gem of local eateries and even gourmet food. You’ll find everything here, from upscale steakhouses to cultural treats and Southern comfort food.

You can try South American arepas at Guasaca or get your hands on some one-of-a-kind Laotian-Southern fusion at Heirloom Brew Shop. Depending on when you visit, you might be able to visit the Raleigh beer garden! There’s essentially no end to the dinner options in Raleigh, which means you’ll have a treat ahead of you every day of your visit.

7. Visit A State Park

The William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh attracts thousands of visitors every year. This stunning state park features three lakes where visitors can go kayaking, canoeing, or swimming, as well as many miles of trails for hiking or biking.

There are plenty of campgrounds as well, which are open throughout the summer. You can even rent the lodge for a group if you are planning a long stay or simply enjoy the beautiful natural setting for the day.

8. Go To The Marble Kids Museum

The Marbles Kids Museum is located right in downtown Raleigh. This learning and discovery museum gives kids the chance to learn through imaginative play that they’ve never experienced before. You’ll find tons of unique exhibits Marbles Kids Museum, including townscapes, life-size chess, and much more.

9. Visit One Of The City’s Many Breweries

visit a brewery

Raleigh is a haven for breweries. You’ll find places serving local wines and beers around the city. There is something for everyone here, from upscale eateries serving beer on tap to casual bars that are perfect for a casual meal. There are even breweries that allow you to bring your pets along!

Here are a few of our favorites:

10. Go To Pullen Park

Pullen Park is the fifth oldest amusement park in the United States. Established in 1887, this 66-acre park provides rides as well as many family-friendly activities. Here, you can ride a carousel, pedal boats, a train, or even see a play.

11. Visit The Museum Of Natural Sciences

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is located in downtown Raleigh. Here you can find changing exhibits, including live animals, a living conservatory, and educational 3D movies in the museum’s movie theater.

12. Take A Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour

Throughout the year, you can join Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours. These let you taste the very best in local food, with special dishes that represent the ultimate in North Carolina cuisine. Depending on the time of year, you can also find walking tours.

13. Learn Some Local History At A Historical Site

state capitol in raleigh

There are many historic sites in and around Raleigh. One of these is Mordecai Historic Park, the oldest standing house in downtown Raleigh. This includes many sites and artifacts from life in the 18th and 19th centuries. If you’re in the area, you could also visit the North Carolina State Capitol which is a well known national historic landmark you have to see at least once.

If you plan to visit Raleigh, we hope you find the time to visit a few of these tourist attractions and local favorites! Regardless of what time of year, you will find many activities in one of the oldest and richest cities in the country. If you already live in Raleigh but just haven’t known where the best places are, you are in luck because there are so many wonderful places in your backyard.