From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, as well as the state’s second-largest city. Affectionately referred to as “the City of Oaks”, thanks to its large number of stunning oak trees, the region has been named as one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, and it isn’t hard to see why.
With its famous Research Triangle Park status (the largest research park in the country), as well as its numerous historical museums, picturesque parks, thriving visual and performing arts scenes, and award-winning dining locations, Raleigh never disappoints.
Even those who have lived in the city for a decade would agree they haven’t experienced all that Raleigh has to offer, while for those new to the region – well, they’ve got a lot to look forward to as well.
Ready to discover the best of Raleigh, North Carolina? Let’s get started!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Looking to leave the bustling city behind in favor of Mother Nature? Luckily for you, Raleigh has numerous state parks and recreation areas nearby, all offering fun activities and the tranquillity of the great outdoors.
Located near the heart of the city is the William B. Umstead State Park, which is surrounded by three scenic lakes. Enjoy water activities such as canoeing, row boating, and fishing, or make use of the extensive network of hiking and multi-use trails. If you want to make a trip out of your visit, there are camping facilities on-site, as well as picnic areas for those wanting to sit back and take in the scenery.
For another stunning state park located just outside of the city center, Jordan Lake State Recreation Area is worth a visit. Among this undeveloped, 14,000-acre reservoir, you’ll find more than 1,000 campsites, seven swimming beaches, numerous boat ramps, nearly 14 miles of hiking trails, and more.
Known for its impressive rock formations, including Raven Rock, this state park is just under an hour’s drive from Raleigh, making it the perfect place to spend a day or afternoon among nature. Raven Rock State Park offers numerous trails for hiking, biking, and horse riding, as well as canoeing, fishing, and picnicking.
Around a half-hour-drive north from the city center is the Falls Lake State Recreation Area, which is a favorite among locals and travelers alike. Along with its beautiful, lakeside setting, the area is known for the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail, which winds through parts of the recreation area and is a centerpiece of a network of hiking trails. Other activities include swimming, boating, camping, fishing, and more.
Around 40-minutes north-west of Raleigh is the Eno River State Park, which features 3,900 acres of woodlands for hiking and camping, as well as the Eno River, where guests can enjoy activities such as canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
Another idyllic place to surround yourself with Mother Nature while in the region is the Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area. It’s around a 45-minute drive from the city and offers three miles of trails taking guests through riverside forests, past colored wildflowers, and to bluffs with spectacular views. Additionally, you can enjoy fishing, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and ranger-led programs.
If you’re still looking to explore more of Raleigh by foot, then perhaps a hike in or outside of the city is in order? These two trails don’t just offer magnificent views and natural scenery, but are also the two most popular walks within the area.
This 27.5-mile paved, uninterrupted greenway stretches from Falls Lake in North Raleigh to the Wake County line in southeast Raleigh. It takes walkers past famous historical sites, across boardwalks and suspension bridges, and across wetlands. Within just minutes of your walk, you will already be able to see why this greenway is considered the best in the region.
Voted one of the most popular trails within Raleigh, the Company Mill Loop is located within the William B. Umstead State Park and is rated as moderate. This 9.0 kilometer heavily trafficked loop trail takes you past a beautiful lake, across an iron bridge, and along a tranquil creek.
Stomach rumbling? Whether you’re craving a casual spot for lunch or the luxury of fine dining, Raleigh is filled to the brim with eateries worth noting. Here are our favorites!
At Bida Manda, you can enjoy the diverse food traditions and culture of Laos. If you’ve never experienced the delightful food of Laos before, it can be likened to a “flavorful marriage of Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese cooking, refined by French technique.” Enjoy favorites such as the green papaya salad, duck larb, or slow-cooked house coconut curry.
Here are two phrases you might not often hear in the same sentence: sushi and burger bar. At The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, you can enjoy the best of both worlds, with this place being heralded as “a cutting-edge fusion of sandwiches made with sushi stuff, and sushi crafted with burger stuff.” While the food is an obvious winner, you’ll also enjoy the unique décor, including everything from original pop art to larger-than-life fish tanks featuring actual cowfish.
For your hit of fried chicken and seasonal Southern sides in the heart of downtown Raleigh, look no further than Beasley's Chicken + Honey. Their fried chicken with honey is the obvious favorite, but you can also enjoy other scrumptious meals such as pork shoulder meatloaf, crispy Carolina catfish, and so much more.
For some of the best vegetarian food Raleigh has to offer, you need to stop by The Fiction Kitchen. With its exclusively vegan and vegetarian menu, you can enjoy delights such as cornmeal-fried mushrooms, peanut noodle bowl, crispy fried mock “chicken” and waffles, ganache truffle pie, and plenty more.
Locals love the 42nd Street Oyster Bar because it has been a Southern seafood tradition in Raleigh since 1931. It’s now North Carolina’s premier destination for the freshest seafood, sourcing local products and the best drinks on offer within the region. It’s certainly something to add to your to-do list.
Wondering “what’s next?” Well, when it comes to Raleigh’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
If you and your family are looking for a way to pass the day, look no further than these fantastic activities.
Located in downtown Raleigh, the Marbles Kids Museum is the perfect play for kids to learn, play, and grow. Here, they can enjoy innovative hands-on exhibits, award-winning programs and larger-than-life movies. It’s sure to keep even the littlest of your family members entertained for hours on end.
A trip to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is sure to delight everyone I nyour family – young or old. It’s North Carolina’s most visited museum and is home to one of the State’s most iconic landmarks, the SECU Daily Planet. Enjoy exhibits, events, education, animals, and so much more.
What should you do in Raleigh once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
In early 2020, Rolling Stone named Raleigh one of “the best music scenes right now”. With the city being home to most of the live music in North Carolina, you just can’t pass up a chance to watch a live show one night, whether it’s after a long day at work or a delicious meal at one of the restaurants nearby.
Niall Hanley’s Raleigh Beer Garden has the world's largest beer selection, making it a must-visit place for any beer fan. If beer isn’t quite your thing though, don’t worry, as this place also features a full dining menu including everything from handcrafted pizzas, to burgers and platters, as well as a rooftop “garden” to enjoy a cool breeze in summer.
Looking to save a dollar or two during your Raleigh excursion? There are plenty of activities and attractions that can be visited on a budget, helping you to get the most out of your time spent in the city.
At just $10 per person, you can play some of the best mini golf in all of Raleigh. At Frankie’s there are also plenty of other activities to enjoy, whether it’s rides, arcade games, go-karts, bumper boats, and more. It’s the ultimate playground for kids and adults!
One of the top attractions within the region is the Historic Yates Mill County Park, which features an operable grain mill established around 1756, as well as a 174-acre park with outdoor recreational activities. Admission to the attraction is completely free, however locals recommend partaking in one or many of the guided Mill tours, with most ranging in price from just $3-$5 per person.
If you’re looking to make the most out of your time spent in Raleigh, then look no further than these recommended activities. Oh, and did we mention they’re completely free?
From its lively, engaging tours, performing arts, and family workshops, to quiet spaces of contemplation – the North Carolina Museum of Art is certainly something to add to your list. It features the nation’s largest museum park (164 acres) and is considered to be one of the leading art museums in the American South, with its 40+ galleries and collections spanning over 5,000 years of artistic work. Admission is free, but there is a charge for some special exhibitions and programs, such as concerts, films, classes, and performances.
This 10-acre arboretum and botanical garden is nationally acclaimed and contains one of the largest and most diverse collections of landscape plants adapted for landscape use. It’s part of the North Carolina State University and is open to the public with free admission. Stop by to surround yourself with nature and enjoy flora from over 50 countries worldwide.
By now, you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Raleigh has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
With the motto, “where nature, art, and wellness unite”, you know you’re in for a treat at the Umstead Hotel and Spa. It’s consistently voted as one of the best, if not the best, spa in Raleigh and offers a range of body treatments, massage therapies, and facials, all in a luxurious location.
Looking for the spa that was voted Raleigh’s “best massage spa”? Look no further than White Dahlia, which offers a long list of massage types, massage add-ons, and facial treatments. So, whether you’re seeking a prenatal, deep tissue, Swedish, or hot stone massage (among many others), there’s certainly the right treatment for you.
If rejuvenation for you is less about deep relaxation and more about sweating it out, then you’re in luck. Raleigh is home to some of the highest-rated yoga studios and gyms within the region.
Interested in taking a class at Raleigh’s only infrared heated hot yoga and hot barre studio? YoBa Studio aims to provide a space to “get you out of your head and into your heart”. A one-class pass starts at just $18 and could be the perfect way to end your action-packed day in this city.
Perhaps you’d prefer to “build your best body” with strength training and nutrition coaching?Capital Strength & Conditioning is the go-to destination for personal training in Raleigh, as locals love their no-nonsense approach towards personalized strength training, nutrition, and body recomposition.
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Raleigh without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this large city, but consider these day trips next time you fancy a new adventure.
What’s everyone’s favorite beach town in North Carolina? Wrightsville Beach of course! This sandy barrier island is only 4-miles long and 1,000 – 5,000 feet wide, featuring the Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the intracoastal waterway on the other. It’s just a 2-hour drive from Raleigh, so sit back, sip on a handcrafted cocktail, and enjoy the sunset.
There’s nothing like having a European inspired town not far from your doorstep! New Bern is named after Bern in Switzerland and is less than a 2-hour drive from Raleigh. With its riverfront setting, it was the first state capital of North Carolina, as well as the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola, and setting for the Notebook (also written by New Bern resident, Nicholas Sparks). Be sure to visit the Governor’s Palace, as well as the on-site History Center.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Raleigh that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Raleigh? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.