When searching for a Raleigh point of interest, families and solo travelers will all find exciting ways to spend their time in Raleigh, however long they are staying. Check out the list of our favorite tourist attractions in Raleigh, and let us know what you think!
Do you love to be outdoors, enjoying nature? Or maybe you prefer to spend an afternoon meandering through a museum? A foodie with a penchant for drool-worthy bites and buzzy local craft brews? Perhaps you love shopping. Are you looking for engaging and educational activities for kids of all sizes?
There is a Raleigh point of interest for everyone. Some of the best tourist attractions in Raleigh, NC are also what make it such a great place to live, so whether you’ve lived here your whole life or are just in town for a weekend, Raleigh has something for everyone. These are our recommendations for our top eight best-rated Raleigh points of interest for history buffs, art lovers, outdoorsy types, kids, and more.
History Buffs Love Raleigh
There is no shortage of Raleigh points of interest for those who prefer to spend an afternoon soaking up the local history, with one of the largest historical protected districts in the southeast and plenty of museums across the city.
- The North Carolina Museum of History
This massive history museum is one of the main tourist attractions in Raleigh, NC, and for a good reason! It aims to tell the complete story of North Carolina’s long and varied history with its “Story of North Carolina,” a 20,000 square foot permanent exhibit that brings visitors back 14,000 years.
The museum covers Native American history of the region, the arrival of European settlers to the Carolinas, and the state’s role in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It also details the African American history of the state, from the early days of American slavery through the Civil Rights movement and beyond. Other exhibits include the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, and notable displays like the life-size replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane, the Wright Flyer, and two full-size historic homes make for a fascinating and immersive visit.
- Yates Mill
This county park boasts the last remaining water-powered grist mill of Wake County. Costumed millers grind corn, and the mill offers programs and exhibits on the region’s agricultural heritage. Located within the park in Yates Mill, the surrounding area contains a 174-acre wildlife refuge and research center and several miles of tranquil wooded trails, so there is plenty to see and do.
- Mordecai Historic Park
The Mordecai House, built in 1785, is the oldest house in the city that still rests on its original foundation. The Mordecai Historic Park contains several historic buildings, including the Mordecai house and Andrew Johnson’s birthplace. Other facilities include St. Mark’s Chapel, Badger Iredell Law Office, and the Allen Kitchen, among others, and guided tours are available.
Looking for more historical tourist attractions in Raleigh, NC? Here are some other great historical sites worth visiting:
- City Museum
- Oakwood Historic Neighborhood
- The Pope House Museum
Raleigh is for Art Lovers
If you’re an art-lover looking for some of the best tourist places in NC, Raleigh should be one of your first stops. Though often overshadowed by its artsy neighbor, Asheville, Raleigh is home to significant art museums and exhibits, plus a vibrant performing arts scene.
- North Carolina Museum of Art
Raleighites love the North Carolina Museum of Art for its impressive collection of art and artifacts from across the globe, including the Renaissance, ancient Greece and Rome, ancient Egypt, and pre-Columbian and early America. The museum also holds the distinction of being one of only two American museums with a permanent collection of Jewish art, the Judaic Art Gallery, which “spans three centuries and four continents.” It also contains a gallery of African art and artifacts spanning sixteen centuries and a gallery that showcases work by young artists from pre-school to college. In addition, guests can enjoy films, lectures, workshops, and events year-round and will love exploring the museum grounds with sculptures, beautiful gardens, and a tranquil reflecting pool.
- Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
This performing arts center contains several performance venues. The Meymandi Concert Hall is home to the North Carolina Symphony, and the Fletcher Opera Theater houses the Carolina Ballet. The Kennedy theater also shows experimental theater, and the Lichtin Plaza is an outdoor space that hosts festivals and private events.
If you’re looking for another artistic Raleigh point of interest, here are some more ideas:
- The Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh (CAM Raleigh)
- Pullen Park Theater in the Park
- The International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass each September
Experience Nature in Raleigh, NC
The gorgeous parks and nature areas are some of the best tourist places in NC Raleigh has to offer. For those who love peeking at flowers, hiking, biking, running, walking, fishing, or kid-friendly fun like boat rides and playgrounds, the thousands of acres and miles of trails dedicated to outdoor activity in this city will be a true delight.
- Pullen Park
Pullen Park is a gathering space for Raleigh citizens and visitors alike, and it’s no surprise that this has become a main Raleigh point of interest. The 66-acre park opened in 1887 and was North Carolina’s first public park. It also holds the distinction of being the fifth-longest operating amusement park in the USA. Amusements include a carousel (with $1 rides!), miniature train, and pedal boats, making this a fun destination for visitors of all ages. It also has playgrounds, a café, an aquatic center, tennis courts, and sports fields. Don’t forget to pose with the Andy and Opie statue paying homage to The Andy Griffith Show. With all these events and activities available, plus plenty of paths and green spaces for walking, biking, running, playing, and lounging, it’s not hard to see why it’s one of the main tourist attractions in Raleigh, NC, that also entices residents regularly.
- JC Raulston Arboretum
For a tranquil and beautiful day out, we recommend the Raulston Arboretum. It contains one of the largest and most diverse plant collections in the southeastern US so that plant enthusiasts will feel inspired and delighted. Carefully crafted, these gardens are full of plants known for their suitability to North Carolina conditions. As a result, there are always flowers in bloom throughout each season.
Other great outdoor opportunities in Raleigh include:
- Neuse River Trail
- William B. Umstead State Park
- Clemmons Educational Forest
Kids Have Fun in Raleigh, Too!
Raleigh is a great family-friendly city and has a lot to offer children of all ages. The museums often have interactive, children-friendly exhibits, and the parks were crafted and designed with families in mind. There is no shortage of exciting and educational activities for those looking for the best tourist places in NC Raleigh.
- Marbles Kids Museum
When traveling to Raleigh with small children, the Marbles Kids Museum needs to be on your itinerary. This museum has hands-on, interactive exhibits appropriate for multiple age groups, including toddler-safe play spaces. Let your children explore music, water games, design, art, STEM, and learn about money, electricity, horticulture! Educational, engaging, and fun, this is one of the best tourist places in NC Raleigh has to offer for families with small children.
- Other family-friendly destinations include:
- Frankie’s Fun Park
- Go Ape!
Raleigh Has Much to Offer
Though there are many tourist attractions in Raleigh, NC isn’t limited to historical sites, nature walks, and museums. The city also has a lot to offer visitors whose tastes lean more towards shopping, eating, drinking, and relaxing. There is no shortage of great ways to spend your time in Raleigh. Have you been to Raleigh? What attractions would make your list? Drop a comment below and let us know!