Last August we made the trip to Raleigh, North Carolina for my little brother’s wedding. We planned some extra time in our trip to explore and find some fun things to do. We had rehearsal dinner and then the wedding the next day and other than that we had a few days on our own. I’m going to go through some of the things we got around to and some things that are on our list for next time, and some fun things that my brother and sister-in-law have found. My sister-in-law, Rachel, actually grew up there so she knows a lot more than I do after just spending a few days there. We loved the small town feel, but also all the amenities of city living. It is right between the ocean and the mountains too, which is a win-win for my family. Here are our must do’s when we are there!
A definite favorite for the kids! There were so many things to do and explore that we definitely didn’t see it all. There is also a green area right across the street for the kids to play in and you can grab something to eat.
Also this super cute photo wall is out behind the Children’s Museum.
This place is pretty cool and somebody will find something they enjoy. It has big dinosaurs, and not just the skeleton but some that look real. There are also some live animal exhibits, a butterfly room that has a sloth inside, and a big recreated piece of a bee hive. Lots of cool stuff here and it’s right next to the state history museum, and the capital.
An art museum is probably that last place I’d take my wild things, but the outdoor section would be fun for kids. It has an large outdoor area with a trail and a lot of grassy open areas where you can roam around and hang out. It could be good for a picnic or just getting some energy out. There are giant rings that the kids can run through, ponds with lily pads, and a huge statue of a man laying down on the ground. You might even spot some deer or other wildlife.
We might have gotten rained out here, like random down pour right over the park while we were there. They did not have the paddle boats out when we were there and really all that was open was the carousel, which is always fun but we wish we could have done some of the other stuff too. It was still nice to get out and walk around the lake, look at the ducks, and play at the park.
The farmers market is fun to walk around and see all the things people have grown or made. It has the NC Seafood restaurant which is pretty affordable and has fresh NC seafood. The farmers market also has a lot homemade foods such as jams, baked goods, nut mixes, jerky, unique flavored popcorn, etc. Snacks are always a win for my kids, well me too who are we kidding! They will enjoy getting to pick something out and also see how we support our local farmers.
Hiking through nature without having to leave the city! The state park is right by the airport. It is 5.5k acres of hiking, horse trails, campgrounds, and fishing ponds. What a great way to get out a use some energy, go on a nature scavenger hunt, or take the kids fishing.
This is an old mill where you can actually see the water flowing and turning the mill. There is a museum that you can walk through. You can also walk a path that goes around the pond. Depending on the time of year you can see lots of non-venomous water snakes in the water and on the rocks just chilling minding their own business.
Lots of big open spaces with a view of the downtown skyline. During the summer there are sunflower fields in the park. It would be a great place to snap some pictures of the kids or schedule family pictures if you have the time.
If you are wanting to get in some beach time, you could make it a day trip. The coast is only a couple hours from Raleigh. Wilmington would be a cute coastal town to check out or even plan to stay one night there.
They have delicious pizza, and if you have a big crew with you definitely order a Whole Pie, just trust me. Hello 28 inch pizza! The pieces were the size of the kids’ heads! You could get it to-go and take it to a close by park to enjoy one night.
Morgan Street is right downtown in the middle of everything. It’s like a mall food court with a bar inside. Lots of local options and different food types so everyone can get what they want. There’s also a rolled ice cream place here is fun and the kids would think it’s super cool. I would avoid it during peak weekend hours though as it can get very crowded.
We had the rehearsal dinner here one night and it was delicious. It is Lebanese. I had never had that before so I was somewhat afraid I’d starve, but I was very surprised. We played it pretty safe when picking the menu, so you could definitely be more adventurous if you wanted to. For the kids we ran next door to Gravy and grabbed them some pasta. They are owned by the same company and were so sweet and brought our order over to us.
Chargrill has the best burgers in town hands down. This chain started in Raleigh and is only in Raleigh. They don’t have many locations, but the burgers are amazing and you can see them cooked in front of you with flames shooting up and everything.
North Carolina BBQ
North Carolina is famous for its pork barbecue. They use a vinegar based sauce that’s unique and different from any barbecue you’ll get in the rest of the country. Definitely check this out while in town.
Krispy Kreme was founded in Winston-Salem, NC about 30 minutes outside of Raleigh, while it may not be worth it to drive out to Winton-Salem just for donuts, you can always get some while in NC since they started there. They are definitely in my top 2 favorite donuts!
Located at the Farmer’s Market if you’re there and need to grab a bite to eat after, plus it’s pretty affordable. All the seafood is freshly caught off the coast.
Speaking of seafood, if you are a fan of oysters definitely plan your trip around the winter months. They are caught off the coast and in season during the winter.
North Carolina State University has its own creamery on campus. Along with grabbing a sweet treat you can also learn about the dairy industry with videos and exhibits. The University is close to Pullen Park so if you are planning on the park one day you should definitely stop in and grab some ice cream. The Campfire Delight flavor is a family favorite!
Another ice cream option is Goodberry’s frozen custard. You can see them making it fresh in the store and with ingredients you can actually pronounce. They have tons of mix-ins and toppings from candy pieces to fresh fruit. Another delicious way to cool down after a day of exploring.
Picking strawberries at one of the many farms around Raleigh is a great activity.
Beach Music on Thursdays at North Hills. These are free concerts that only happen during the summer. May be a little crowded for kids though. Also Memorial Day weekend is the hot air balloon festival.
There are plenty of pumpkin patches to go see. This is also a great time to check out the parks and nature trails as it cools down and the leaves change colors. If you’re here in October then definitely check out the State fair.
The NC Chinese Lantern Festival is happening in the winter. Think walk of lights but with Chinese Lantern and some Chinese cultural demonstrations and booths set up. We have not personally been there in the winter, but my brother has said it is cool and fun to walk around.
I know that was a long one and there is so much more to see in this little city. If you find yourself in North Carolina make sure you stop in Raleigh and do some exploring. If you are road tripping make sure you go check out some of our favorite easy road trip activities here.