Top 7 things to do in Raleigh

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Raleigh blends Southern charm with modern vibes, offering visitors a delightful mix of cultural experiences, outdoor adventures and culinary delights. Nestled in the heart of the Research Triangle, this vibrant city is a treasure trove of attractions that cater to every interest and taste. Whether you’re exploring its historic neighborhoods, indulging in local cuisine or immersing yourself in the arts, Raleigh promises a memorable getaway filled with discovery and relaxation.

A city skyline at sunset, with a mix of modern and older buildings, an unfinished construction site in the foreground, and a train track running through the area.
Photo Credit: Yayimages.

Historic downtown Raleigh

Explore historic downtown Raleigh, where cobblestone streets lead past the iconic North Carolina State Capitol. This area blends history seamlessly with modernity, offering visitors a chance to stroll through boutique-lined avenues and discover charming cafes tucked into historic buildings. Whether you’re intrigued by guided tours delving into Raleigh’s past or prefer to wander at your own pace, the atmosphere of this district promises a captivating glimpse into the city’s vibrant heritage.

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North Carolina Museum of Art

Discover the North Carolina Museum of Art, an oasis nestled amidst lush greenery. Housing a diverse collection that spans from ancient artifacts to contemporary masterpieces, this museum invites art enthusiasts to explore its thought-provoking exhibitions and outdoor sculptures. Wander through the expansive parklands and gardens surrounding the museum, where serene paths lead to unexpected artistic encounters and moments of tranquil reflection.

From the State Fair in the fall to the acorn drop on New Year’s Eve to the blooms at the NC Arboretum in the spring, there’s always something to do in the City of Oaks. I always took visitors to the NC Museum of Art. They have an incredible permanent collection housed in a stunning modern building, and the visiting exhibits are usually fantastic, too. You can also see concerts and movies at the amphitheater or walk on the adjacent greenway that’s bejeweled with sculptures.

Susannah Brinkley Henry, Feast + West

Pullen Park

Experience the nostalgic charm of Pullen Park, a beloved destination that has delighted visitors for generations. As one of the oldest amusement parks in the country, Pullen Park features a historic carousel, inviting pedal boats on Lake Howell and serene picnic spots shaded by towering oak trees. Whether you’re reliving childhood memories on the miniature train or enjoying a leisurely paddle boat ride, Pullen Park offers a timeless escape where every corner brims with whimsical delights for all ages to enjoy.

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Downtown Raleigh food tour

Embark on a Downtown Raleigh Food Tour to savor the city’s vibrant culinary landscape. From sizzling Southern comfort foods to globally inspired dishes, this guided tour promises a gastronomic journey through hidden gems and local eateries. Sample Carolina BBQ infused with rich flavors, indulge in farm-to-table delicacies showcasing fresh local ingredients and sip innovative cocktails crafted with a creative twist. This immersive experience not only tantalizes the taste buds but also provides insights into Raleigh’s evolving food culture, ensuring every bite tells a delicious story of the city’s culinary diversity.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Treat yourself to the wonders of nature and science at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, a beacon of exploration in the Southeast. As the largest museum of its kind in the region, it captivates visitors with interactive exhibits that delve into the realms of dinosaurs, wildlife habitats and North Carolina’s rich biodiversity. Whether you’re uncovering ancient fossils or marveling at the intricacies of local ecosystems, this museum offers an educational adventure that fascinates families and curious minds alike.

William B. Umstead State Park

Escape into the beauty of William B. Umstead State Park, an expansive natural oasis just moments away from bustling downtown Raleigh. Hike along scenic trails that wind through lush forests, cast a line into tranquil lakes teeming with fish or simply unwind amidst the park’s peaceful wooded surroundings. Whether you’re a birdwatcher spotting native species or enjoying a leisurely picnic by the water’s edge, Umstead Park invites outdoor enthusiasts to recharge and reconnect with nature in a tranquil setting.

Photo credit: Yayimages.

Raleigh Beer Garden

Cap off your Raleigh adventure at the Raleigh Beer Garden, home to the world’s largest selection of draft beers. With over 350 beers on tap, including local brews and international favorites, this lively venue invites you to unwind and savor the vibrant nightlife of Raleigh. Enjoy live music, rooftop views and a friendly atmosphere that captures the spirit of the city.

Whether you’re wandering through the charming streets of historic downtown, savoring the flavors of its diverse culinary scene or immersing yourself in the art and nature of its museums and parks, Raleigh promises an unforgettable experience. Embrace the genuine Southern hospitality as you uncover its vibrant neighborhoods and dynamic attractions. 

Shruthi Baskaran-Makanju is a food and travel writer and a global food systems expert based in Seattle. She has lived in or traveled extensively to over 60 countries, and shares stories and recipes inspired by those travels on Rainy City Life.

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