I’ll be honest: I didn’t have high expectations about things to do in Raleigh, North Carolina. But I was pleasantly surprised! I went to Raleigh to visit family in early October, so the weather was perfect for most of the trip, with occasional rainy days.
Raleigh, NC has a lot of spots for kids, but there are also many fun things to do in Raleigh, NC for adults. I’m rounding up 10 things to do in the art, literary, historical, and food scenes. I’ve also included a packed 3-day itinerary to help you plan your trip.
Ready? Let’s go!
Museums to visit in Raleigh, NC
I quickly learned that Raleigh is museum central! Here are four of my top Raleigh, NC, museum recommendations if you enjoy art.
Contemporary Art Museum (CAM Raleigh)
Image source: Annalisa Hamlett
The CAM is a free museum open Thursday to Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM. It’s an accessible museum with lots of beautiful exhibitions and programs. The art here is so vibrant and beautiful and it’s small enough that you can see most of it in 30 minutes to an hour.
There’s usually nice music and good ice cream, and the staff is really friendly. I recommend skipping the $3 parking fee and just dropping by in an Uber if you can. There are great wall-to-wall displays, but it’s a smaller museum.
North Carolina Museum of Art (NOMA)
I loved the NOMA. I went with a friend, and the museum is huge (we spent almost three hours and didn’t see everything). It’s open from 10 AM to 5 PM every day except Mondays and Tuesdays.
The art here is truly gorgeous, and the museum is free to the public. There were paintings, sculptures, woodwork, and even video in some sections with a lot of historical context provided. They allow you to take pictures, as long as you won’t be using them for any commercial purposes.
I loved the gift shop and the collection of greeting cards and souvenirs available there, so if you want to pick up some gifts, this is worth a (sometimes pricey) look.
North Carolina Museum of Natural Science
This is a stunning museum with so much science-y stuff, including dinosaur fossils, bugs, and even a “moon room.” It’s free to enter but also offers some paid exhibitions (the dinosaur one is about $10).
It’s very kid friendly, so expect to see some cute littles – but it’s also a great experience for adults. The staff are friendly and the building is accessible with elevators, escalators, and clean bathrooms.
North Carolina Museum of History
Image source: Cory Holt
If you’re a history buff, this is a great museum to learn about the history of North Carolina. There are a lot of exhibits from varying time periods. You’ll see how Native Americans made canoes in the past, old-time houses, and even recreated scenes from diners in the 70s and 80s.
Other places to go
Okay, so maybe museums aren’t your thing. In that case, here are some non-museum activities to try in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Videri Chocolate Factory
This is a cool chocolate factory that serves coffee, chocolate, and ice cream. It also offers free self-guided tours to see how chocolate is made from bean to bar and learn the history of Videri. Keep in mind though, that the decadent chocolate is on the pricier side, with a bar costing around $9 – worth it!
Image source: Tiffany G.
They offer free samples, and there’s outside seating. You’ll need to pay for parking if you can’t find space on the street.
Pullen Park is a historic park with rides, a serene lake, and two picnic areas. Entry is free but you’ll need to pay $2 for each ride.
Image source: Brent D.
There’s a cafe on the premises with good food and you can bring your own food for a fun picnic. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a paddleboat out on the lake.
Image source: Sarah C.
This is such a peaceful, green location with mostly available parking (some days it’s absolutely packed).
When all else fails, head over to Boxcar Arcade for some fun games and a drink with friends. It’s a great way to blow off steam and can be a low-pressure way to spend the afternoon or evening after lunch.
Source: Brian D
Just a note that this place is pet friendly, so you may see and hear some dogs, which can be a drag for some visitors.
Where to eat in Raleigh, NC
One of Raleigh’s strongest points is the food scene. I loved everything I ate while I was there. You can see my full list of places to eat in Raleigh, but here’s a preview:
Morgan Street Food Hall
The food halls in Raleigh are chock-full of good stuff. Every stall smelled divine, and there was a wide array of food, from tacos to rotis to pizzas and just good old burgers.
We sat outside (because it was teeming with people) and I had a great burger.
Two Roosters Ice Cream
This is a beloved local spot with many unique ice cream flavors. They now also serve a “flight” which is several ice cream flavors served – one per scoop in an egg crate. It’s great because you can try a range of flavors at once.
If you’re in the mood for a quick coffee, tea, or cocktail, this is a beautiful place to visit. The decor is very modern and their tea collections are fantastic. I’m a tea girl and their oolong was the first I’d had that wasn’t bitter. The barista had great tips for steeping tea and getting the best taste.
I also loved this matcha cookie and the general ambiance. They have some other quick bites besides cookies, like sandwiches, salads, donuts, and granola.
A 3-Day Raleigh, NC Itinerary
Now that you’re armed with a list of cool things for adults to do in Raleigh, NC, let’s wrap things up with a quick 3-day itinerary.
Three days is pretty short to see all of Raleigh (I spent 7 days), but if you’re planning a quick getaway and hoping to stay downtown, this should you keep you plenty busy.
Day 1: Eat breakfast at Big Ed’s, take an Uber to NOMA, and then grab lunch at Gravy. Finish up with a stroll around Downtown Raleigh.
Day 2: Grab breakfast at Morning Times, then head to Pullen Park for a stroll. Grab a bite at Morgan Street Food Hall and pop into the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to wrap up the day.
Day 3: Start the day at Videri Chocolate Factory. Do the tour, eat a chocolate croissant with some coffee (and maybe some ice cream?). Play some games at the Boxcar Arcade and eat your last Raleigh meal at the Oak Steakhouse.
There you have ‘em! 10 great things to do in Raleigh, NC, for adults – whether you’re a foodie, history buff, or just love some wholesome fun. Raleigh is a cute city with plenty of Southern metropolitan charm. Enjoy the greenery, friendly locals, and great food – and take plenty of strolls!