Main Claire's Itchy Feet logo

Things to Do in Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh is the capital city of North Carolina in the United States and downtown, you’ll find the historic center of this colorful and fun city. It may appear quiet, but there is a ton to do and see when you’re visiting. Nicknamed the “city of oaks,” the streets of downtown are lined with oak trees, welcoming you to come and explore. There are also tons of shops, museums, restaurants, and bars for you to visit. Here are some of the top things to do and see on your next visit to downtown Raleigh, North Carolina

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

1. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

You can visit two centers in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh. The Nature Exploration Center has exhibits that range from dinosaur fossils to what type of insects are native to North Carolina. You can also visit the dry tropical forest conservatory or watch educational programming at the 3D theater. At the Nature Research Center, you can learn about the research that goes into the Museum of Natural Sciences, such as the labs that study meteorites and DNA strands.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences | Downtown Raleigh | Things to do in North Carolina

2. Stop by the CAM Raleigh 

What was once a warehouse in Downtown Raleigh, in the aptly named Warehouse District, is now the Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum rotates through exhibits, so it is always worth a visit when you’re in town. In the past, they have had exhibits like basketball sculptures and portraits of President Obama. They focus on displays from local artists that are up and coming, as well as nationally acclaimed artists. The goal of each exhibit is to elicit a conversation and be transformative.

3. Visit the Videri Chocolate Factory 

Located on Davies Street, another fun activity would be to visit the Videri Chocolate Factory. In the factory, you can see from viewing windows how cocoa beans go from raw beans to yummy chocolate that you can take home as a sweet treat. You’ll see them roasted, ground, and mixed with other ingredients before heading to the ovens. There is a coffee bar inside where you can sample Videri chocolates and fun coffee concoctions. The gift shop is also a great place to bring home souvenirs for your friends back home or yourself!

4. Grab a Drink at the Raleigh Beer Garden 

The Raleigh Beer Garden has more than 350 beers on tap, specializing in North Carolina-brewed craft beers. It also has a very unique beer garden—it is their rooftop! Which gives guests views of the downtown skyline. Located in the Glenwood South district, this is a great place to stop in before or after a show or to catch up with friends.

Beer Garden in Downtown Raleigh | Things to do in North Carolina

5. Stop by Raleigh Times Bar 

The Raleigh Times Bar is inside a historic building that once housed, and now has displays of, the Raleigh Times newspaper. You can read news stories of yesteryears as you sip on imported beers and enjoy a plate of their signature meal, catfish and chips. It is a really special bar and mini-museum to visit. If you head to the rooftop terrace, you will see the Raleigh skyline and all of the beauty of the city.

6. Take a Walk in The Historic Oakwood Neighborhood 

It is always special when a city preserves a neighborhood in time so locals and visitors can see the grand buildings and architecture of the past. Walking in the Historic Oakwood Neighborhood is a great way to spend a warm afternoon. The houses and mansions are all restored and preserved from the 19th century. During the spring, the neighborhood hosts the Garden Tour and Tea. Visitors are invited into the homes and gardens on tours and can enjoy Victorian teatime.

7. Go For a Walk in Pullen Park 

Pullen Park was the first established public park in North Carolina, it was established in 1887. It is also home to one of the oldest operating amusement parks in the United States and the world. You can spend a whole day here, riding on the carousel, renting a pedal boat, taking a dip in the lake, and so much more. It is a great space for children and adults to get outside and have a lot of fun!

Pullen Park in Downtown Raleigh | Things to do in North Carolina

8. Grab a Bite to Eat Mulino Italian Kitchen + Bar 

Eating at Mulino Italian Kitchen + Bar will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Italy. The menu is simple but perfected, and everything can be paired with the perfect bottle of wine. They want to teach patrons about the art, history, and science of what is on the menu as well, so expect to learn the culinary history of what you will be enjoying that night.

9. Pick Up a Pizza at Poole’side Pies 

Founded by Ashley Christensen, whom the James Beard Foundation named as America’s best chef in 2019, Poole’side Pies is a Neapolitan pizza shop set in a swimming pool-themed space—and you will fall in love with it all. This isn’t Christensen’s only Raleigh restaurant, and the North Carolina native is making a major splash with her newest venture. Not only do they have amazing pizza, but desserts made with local Videri chocolates, pasta dishes, and an impressive drink menu.

10. City of Raleigh Museum 

Located in the heart of downtown in a former hardware store, the City of Raleigh Museum is your go-to place to learn all about this fun little city. You can learn about the past and history, and what is to come in the future for Raleigh. There are permanent and rotating exhibits, showcasing artifacts and offering tours. It is a free museum and all are always welcome.

Wrapping Up

You are guaranteed to have a blast on your next trip to Downtown Raleigh. You will enjoy some great food and drinks, learn about the history of the state of North Carolina, and fall in love with the quaint, historic feeling of downtown. Raleigh is a great location for a trip with friends and family any time of year! Happy travels!

Do You Need a Place to Stay In Downtown Raleigh?

Check out these options:

Best Western Plus Raleigh Crabtree Valley Hotel

Hampton Inn & Suites – Raleigh Downtown

The StateView Hotel, Autograph Collection

Check out more destinations in the United States: The Solo Girl’s Guide to Vegas, Austin Texas Travel Guide, 12 amazing things to do in Death Valley, and Everything you need to know about Ubehebe Crater.

Author’s Bio:

Inspired Lifestyle Blog is a travel blog founded by Ali Redmond, a travel enthusiast located in Colorado. As someone who has grown up traveling and continues to travel as much as possible, she loves sharing her best tips and tricks with her audience on everything she’s learned along the way to help make their travel plans easier and stress-free!

North Carolina