Best Things to do in Downtown Raleigh
Planning a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina? Downtown Raleigh is one of the most vibrant areas to visit, and a must when visiting the North Carolina Capital. With tons of things happening in the city of oaks, it can be hard to decide where to start. So, here are some of the best things to do in Downtown Raleigh.
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The Dillon in Downtown Raleigh
This is one of the coolest places in Raleigh, and it is totally free to visit! The Dillon is a hidden gem in Raleigh that provides the ultimate skyline views!
You can even bring your own food and drinks for a one-of-a-kind picnic on the roof overlooking the views.
To access the Dillon, you will need to go to the Barcelona Wine bars patio. From there, take the elevator up to the ninth floor, walk through the public lobby and be amazed at the Raleigh skyline!
The roof deck has plenty of space and seating for perfect city views and relaxation. For anybody that loves looking for Instagrammable places, this is a must-visit!
Address: 401 W Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27603
Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10 AM – 6 PM; Sunday: 1 PM – 5 PM
Raleigh Rose Garden
Another one of the best things to do in Downtown Raleigh is visiting the Raleigh Rose Garden.
This is a beautiful serene little garden situated behind the Raleigh little theatre. Think of it as an oasis right inside the city.
The Raleigh Rose Garden offers displays of up to 60 rose beds, perennials, and trees all throughout the year! This is a great place to go for a bit of nature.
One of the best times to see the roses is in May when they start to bloom. You can view them up until around mid-November when it starts to get cold.
Visiting this garden is completely free. You will have to find street parking to visit.
Address: 301 Pogue St, Raleigh, NC 27607
Hours: Everyday: 6 AM – 8 PM
Visiting downtown Raleigh with the family? Consider adding the quaint Pullen Park to your Raleigh bucket list.
Pullen Park opened in 1887 and is considered the 5th oldest operating amusement park in the United States and the 16th in the entire world!
The actual amusement rides are nothing too spectacular, but the park consists of 66.4 acres and has a pond, gardens, and a jungle gym for the kids.
The three amusement rides include the carousel, kiddie and pedal boats, and a train ride. Tickets are $2 per person to go on the rides.
Even if you don’t have kids, this park is great for a quick visit. They have a picturesque pond you can take a stroll around, and if you’re visiting Raleigh with your children, there are fun things for them to enjoy.
Address: 520 Ashe Ave, Raleigh, NC 27606
Hours: Dawn until Dusk
One of the best things to do in downtown Raleigh for art lovers is located at Artspace.
Artspace has a multitude of exhibitions that feature over 35 artists that are both National and local for you to enjoy!
They also offers classes to teens and adults that teach you how to create pottery, handmade totes, and more!
You can also check their website for any upcoming events from month to month.
Address: 201 E Davie St Raleigh NC 27601
Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 11 AM – 7 PM; Sunday – 11 AM – 4 PM
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Looking for something to do in downtown Raleigh at night? Consider checking out Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts!
Here you can enjoy traditional on-stage plays like Grease, ballet performances, and even festive Christmas shows!
During the holidays in Raleigh, they also put up a lovely Christmas tree and fun decorations to enjoy for free.
They offer multiple shows per month, so you just need to find the best show for you. To visit, you will need to book your tickets in advance on their official website.
Address: 2 E South St, Raleigh, NC 27601, United States
Hours: Based on show time
Tour The North Carolina State Capitol
If you’re interested in the history of North Carolina, look no further than the North Carolina State Capitol.
You can book a self-guided or public tour of the North Carolina State Capitol to learn about the great history of this wonderful city!
These tours run every day except for Sunday, and they are free to do!
Fun Fact: Did you know this has been the active capitol building of North Carolina since it opened in the year 1840?
Hours: Monday – Friday 9 AM – 5 PM; Saturday 10 AM – 5 PM
Address: One East Edenton Street, Raleigh, N.C.
Dorothea Dix Park
My all-time favorite park in downtown Raleigh goes to Dorothea Dix Park.
Aside from offering great skyline views of downtown Raleigh, this 308-acre park is full of a somewhat dark history.
Initially, these lands were home to several tribes of Indigenous people. Then for around 150 years, it was part of the Spring Hill Plantation, which was worked by enslaved African Americans. Then, it became the site of North Carolina’s first mental health facility.
Dix Park is popular throughout the whole year, and for a good reason!
During the springtime, the daffodils are beautiful and look amazing underneath the Raleigh skyline!
In the summer, they have one of the best sunflower fields in North Carolina! The park is often used for picnics and the occasional events.
It also offers a playground and picnic table area for the whole family to enjoy.
It is a genuinely positive atmosphere and very dog-friendly. They even include a dog run for you to bring your furry friends!
Hours: Open daily from dawn to dusk.
Fayetteville Street is a vibrant street full of character! This street has an abundance of restaurants, bars, and galleries for you to enjoy!
If you’re visiting Raleigh alone, this could be the perfect place to meet locals as well as other travelers.
If I were to be asked what the main street in downtown Raleigh is, this would be it.
From one end, you can see the Capitol, and from the other, the Performing Arts Center.
Historic City Market
The Historic City Market is easily one of the best things to do in downtown Raleigh. This charming area has a variety of specialty shops along the cobblestone streets for you to enjoy!
It is also a great place to stop by to grab a bite to eat in one of the many cafés and restaurants to choose from, including the famous “Big Ed’s” for a great southern breakfast.
These shops are mostly run by locals, which gives you a more personal touch as well as being able to help support the local businesses.
During the evening, you can expect to find different bars that provide unique cocktails for you to try!
There are even events that take place in the area, so make sure to check the website for your visit!
Fun Fact: City Market dates back to 1914, and was a place farmers would meet up each week with their families.
Address: 306 Parham St c, Raleigh, NC 27601
WRAL Azalea Garden
The WRAL Azalea Garden is what I would consider another hidden gem located in downtown Raleigh, and one of the best things to do to escape the city for a little.
This small garden is absolutely beautiful year-round, and totally worth a visit if you have a car.
One of my favorite times to visit is during the azalea season. During this time, you will also see some beautiful tulips in NC.
Moreover, the garden is free to visit, a wonderful place for birdwatching, taking photos, or even going for a stroll with your furry friend.
Address: 2619 Western Blvd, Raleigh, NC 27606
North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame
If you’re a sports fan, then adding the North Carolina Hall of Fame is another fun thing to do in downtown Raleigh!
Carolina has had some of the greatest athletes in history, and this hall of fame features them in an amazing way! It has historical artifacts that sports fans would love to see.
This includes items from Dale Earnhardt and Arnold Palmer, as well as updated displays for Michael Jordan, the Carolina Hurricanes, and much more.
Visiting the museum is free, and It’s a great place to get a real Tar Heel experience!
Hours: Monday through Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday: Noon to 5 p.m
Address: 5 E. Edenton Street Raleigh, NC 27601
Legends of Harley Drag Racing
For any Harley-Davidson enthusiast, this place is for you! The museum is located on the second floor of the Harley-Davidson dealership.
During a visit, you can browse all of the different Harley-Davidson vehicles throughout the years.
This is the only Harley-Davidson drag racing museum in the world, and believe it or not, admission is free!
Address: 1126 S Saunders St, Raleigh
Hours: Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 8 AM – 6 PM; Saturday 8 AM – 4 PM; Sunday 12 PM – 4 PM
City of Raleigh Museum
If you’re the type who likes to learn more about the history of the places that you visit, then the City of Raleigh Museum is just that!
The mission of this museum is to understand present-day Raleigh by getting to know its past!
Located inside a former historic hardware store, this museum is home to thousands of historical objects and artifacts that explain the history of North Carolina and how it came to be the lively city that it is today!
Address: 220 Fayetteville St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 9 AM – 4 PM; Sunday: 1 PM – 4 PM
Goodnights Comedy Club
Built in 1983, this comedy club is a cool way to spend your evening! They always have a variety of comedians and performances for you to watch that feature National and local talent!
Famous comedians such as Dave Attell and Anthony Jeselnik have and still do perform here.
Definitely check the calendar for when you’ll be in town, and you may even be able to catch a big act!
The atmosphere is always fun and upbeat.
One thing to know is that Goodnights Comedy Club is an 18 and older venue.
Also, all sales are final so make sure you can definitely go before buying your tickets.
Address: 511 Woodburn Rd, Raleigh, NC 27605
North Carolina Museum of History
The North Carolina Museum of History encompasses the heritage of North Carolina’s past and how it has shaped the present and future of this great state.
From native tribes and European settlers to the more recent history of North Carolina, this museum has it all!
Some exhibits available are The Story of North Carolina, 1920s Drugstore, North Carolina A to Z, and many more! Learn about the state where the first flight was born and how North Carolina came to be known as the Tar Heel state.
It is a fun visit for the whole family, and the best part, admission is FREE!
Address: 5 E Edenton St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Hours: Monday – Saturday 9 AM – 5 PM; Sunday 12 PM – 5 PM
North Carolina Museum of Natural Science
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Science is likely the most recognizable museum in all of downtown Raleigh for its giant globe.
This museum has several floors to explore and is considered one of the best things to do in Downtown Raleigh, especially with kids.
From dinosaurs to wildlife, they have a wide array of animal history from the great state of North Carolina.
Always make sure to check the website at the time of visiting to see what they have going on!
Address: 11 W Jones St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM
The CAM Museum
Another great museum to visit for creative minds is the CAM Raleigh museum. Here you can find contemporary art prices to browse! The exhibits here are unique and are a fun opportunity for you to discover new artists.
The museum’s mission is to support bold, non-traditional exhibits, for you to enjoy. Additionally, the museum is completely free to visit! It is also located in the Warehouse District, which is a cool area.
Address: 409 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC 27603
Hours: Friday to Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM
Marbles Kids Museum
If you’re visiting Raleigh with children, you have to take a trip to the Marbles Kids Museum. This museum is for young children to explore and interact with others, and they run sensory activities for your child to enjoy!
There are many interactive exhibits as well as fun activities for a wide array of children to enjoy.
You will need to book your tickets in advance on their official website.
If you love colorful murals, they also have a really unique mural on the side of their building!
Address: 201 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Bike or Walk Art to Heart Corridor
If you’re looking for an area to take a leisurely walk or bike ride, then going along the Art to Heart Corridor is really fun and provides you with some great scenic views!
This walking path is almost 6 miles long, starting from Fayetteville Street, and heads towards the North Carolina Museum of Art, with many attractions to see along the way!
See an Event at Red Hat Amphitheater
One of the most exciting places in Raleigh is the Red Hat Amphitheater, as they are often hosting something amazing!
During Christmas time, you can enjoy their ice skating rink, and in summer, they have different famous music artists that perform!
Check out the Red Hat Amphitheater website event calendar to see if there is anything you may be interested in, whether it is a concert or just going ice skating during the winter months.
Address: 500 South McDowell Street Raleigh, NC 27601
Walk Down Glenwood South or People Watch
Another walkway that is lovely is the Glenwood South road. Whether you take a casual stroll and browse the vintage shops or book a yoga class here, there are a variety of things to do!
There are many restaurants to check out during the day and plenty of nightlife to check out once the sun goes down! This area is very popular among NC State College students as well.
Check out the Fun Downtown Raleigh Murals
Exploring some of the downtown Raleigh murals is another one of the best things to do to explore the city. Some of the best murals to enjoy are:
- Sparkles the Bobcat
- The Marbles Mural
- All are Welcome Raleigh
- Raleigh Founded
You can find more photo-worthy Raleigh Murals here!
Hang Out at Moore Square
After a long day, you may find yourself in the mood to relax and enjoy the sounds of Raleigh. This square is in the heart of downtown Raleigh and has become a place of gathering for many locals to enjoy.
Events are hosted here on occasion so if you are passing by, take a second look to see if there is something going on in the square that you may enjoy.
You will find Moore Square right across from the Historic City Market. They also have a small dog run and a place to get food.
Best Places for Food and Drinks in Downtown Raleigh
While exploring downtown Raleigh, you are likely to get hungry. Here are some of the most popular places to visit for food and drink around downtown Raleigh.
The Pit Authentic BBQ Restaurant
If you’re craving BBQ’d food, look no further than The Pit Authentic BBQ restaurant, where they serve a variety of free-range pork, Texas-style brisket, and a menu full of BBQ dishes! Menu
Address: 328 W Davie St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 11 AM – 10 PM; Friday to Saturday: 11 AM – 11 PM
Videri Chocolate Factory
The clue is in the name, but the Videri Chocolate Factory is filled with SO much chocolate for you to taste! You can either choose to purchase the chocolate or speak with the employees about the fascinating history of the factory.
Additionally, you can attend private events that they host; just be sure to check the website before you visit.
In case you were worried, Videri Chocolate Factory is nut-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and egg free, so now you have no excuses!
Oh, did I mention it is free to visit? However, I can’t promise you won’t walk out without buying something.
Address: 327 W. Davie Street Sweet 100 Raleigh, NC 27601
Raleigh Times Bar
The Raleigh Times Bar is a classic newspaper history-themed bar full of Belgian beers & American grub! They do not accept reservations, so you will have to stop by on the day to check for availability. Menu
Address: 14 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27601, United States
Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 11 AM – 10 PM; Saturday to Friday: 11 AM – 1 AM
Raleigh Beer Garden
If you’re looking for a rustic experience, then the Raleigh Beer Garden is the place to go! As a three-time Guinness world record holder for having the largest selection of beer on tap. This bar is a must-visit and offers over 386+ beers for you to try! Now that’s a lot of beer!
Additionally, they are dog-friendly. If you like beer, this is easily one of the best things to do in Downtown Raleigh! Menu
Address: 614 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27603, United States
Hours: Weekdays: 11 AM to 2 AM; Saturday to Sunday: 10 AM to 2 AM
Transfer Co. Food Hall
Described as a place where ‘different communities can connect through food,’ this market has a whole variety of food options for you to choose from, and it is a great opportunity to try multicultural dishes.
From burritos, burgers, and even ice-cream sandwiches, there is something for everyone at this food hall! See the vendors.
Address: 500 E Davie St, Raleigh, NC 27601, United States
Hours: The hours differ for each day, so it is best to check online first.
Morgan Street Food Hall
If you are visiting Raleigh with a large group of people and nobody can agree on food options, then look no further than the Morgan Street Food Hall!
With many different restaurants for you to choose food from, there is a shared seating area where you can all meet and enjoy your food together!
They also have an axe-throwing area if you really want to cut out the fat after your meal! See the vendors.
Address: 411 W Morgan St, Raleigh, NC 27603
Hours: Friday to Saturday: 9 AM – 12 AM; Sunday to Thursday: 9 AM – 10 PM
Get a Bite at Big Eds
If you’re looking for the traditional taste of a southern American breakfast, friendly customer service, and a positive atmosphere, you should grab something to eat at Big Ed’s.
Choose from a variety of delicious drinks and specialty menu items for a filling breakfast or lunch! They really make you feel at home!
On the weekends, you can anticipate a line. Menu
Address: 220 Wolfe Street, Raleigh, NC 27601
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 8 AM – 2 PM
Hang out at Boxcar Bar + Arcade
Boxcar Bar + Arcade is famously known as one of the best bars in downtown Raleigh. This bar combines 70+ classic and modern arcade machines!
The drinks at the bar are affordable, and the atmosphere is really upbeat and positive.
Address: 330 W Davie St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Hours: Weekdays: 4 PM – 1 AM
Weekends: 12 PM – 12 AM
Additional Note-Worthy Food Places in Downtown Raleigh
If you are a foodie, Raleigh, NC, really is the place to be! I will likely create a whole separate post covering the best food places to try when visiting downtown Raleigh, but here are a couple of other famous places, that can’t not be on this list!
- Brewery Bhavana – Menu
- Beasley’s Chicken + Honey – Menu
- Taverna Agora Greek Kitchen & Bar – Menu
- Morning Times – Menu
- Trophy Brewing & Pizza – Menu
Best Things to do in downtown Raleigh Wrap-up
This concludes some of the best things to do in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina! I hope you have the best time visiting the Oak City, and exploring all the fun things, there is to do!