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Over 15 Fun Things to do in Raleigh with Kids

Over 15 Fun Things to do in Raleigh with Kids

I’ll admit to you that Raleigh, North Carolina has never been at the exact top of my bucket list. I had (wrongly) assumed that the southern city was full of only small-town charm, small-ticket adventures, and single-minded constituents. I. was. totally. wrong. about. Raleigh. There are some great things to do in Raleigh with kids!

This charming capitol city packs a huge punch for family travel with cultural events, first-class museums, outdoor adventures, a walk-able core, and budget-saving opportunities around every corner. Check out all the reasons I think your family will fall in love with Raleigh.

But don’t tell anyone, this family-friendly southern capitol city is our little secret.

Explore more of the state! Here are our favorite things to do in North Carolina with kids!

The Best Things to do in Raleigh with Kids

Visit a Free Museum

As the capitol city of North Carolina, Raleigh receives funding to feature the state’s very best displays of history, science, art, and culture, on display for both native Carolinians and visitors to the region.

Numerous free-to-visit museums allow families not only a budget-friendly vacation option, but also the ability to pop in and out of art, history, science, and culture museums without the financial guilt that comes with big budget attractions.

North Carolina Museum of Art

Museum Park North Carolina Art Museum is one of the fun thigns to do in raleigh with kids
Museum Park via Visit Raleigh

We spent a couple hours at the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) and all had a fabulous time. We didn’t feel bad leaving when kids began to stir as there was no financial investment in the activity. The NCMA has an Art Explorers program designed for families. This program includes activities and resources to help families explore the museum together.

The museums collections include European, American, African, ancient, and modern art. After touring inside, kids will love running out all their wiggles in the Museum Park which has a nice display of outdoor sculptures.

North Carolina Museum of History

North Carolina State Museum
Photo via Visit Raleigh

I love a good state museum, and the North Carolina Museum of History is another free museum that does not disappoint. Its exhibits showcase the history of North Carolina from pre-colonial times to the present day including Native American history, colonial life, the Civil War, industrialization, and cultural developments.

They also have a 3D theater that offers immersive experiences related to North Carolina’s history. Kids will want to visit the Discovery Gallrey on the third floow which has a variety of hands-on activities. Keep in mind that the museum is closed on Mondays.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

North Carolina Museumof Natural Sciences
Photo via Visit Raleigh by Karen Swain

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is another free museum you don’t want to miss. This museum has exhibits focused on biology, paleontology, geology, astronomy, and environmental sciences.

This museum has a Living Collection with fish, amphibians reptiles, butterflies, and even a two-toed sloth! Their Arthropod Zoo is filled with all sorts of spiders, centipedes, millipedes, and more.

The SECU Daily Planet Theater hosts live presentations, science demonstrations, and multimedia shows. There are also dinosuars, a paleontology lab, and an exhibit dedicated to the Treasures of North Carolina, incljuding the Venus Flytrap which is native to the state.

Marbles Kids Museum

Marbles Kids Museum
Photo via Visit Raleigh

This museum may not be free, but many Trekaroo families rate it one of the best children’s museums in the country. Marbles Kids Museum is two-stories of fun, complete with a pirate ship, submarine, water play exhibit, and hockey rink with fake ice.

The Toddler Town area has as a fire truck, city bus, farmers market, ambulance, and post office. Children can dress up and put on a performance on stage, or sit with you in a rocking chair and read a book. They also have an IMAX theater.

Admission is just $9 and must be reserved online in advance.

Go Ape Adventures

Go Ape Adventures Raleigh
Photo via Visit Raleigh

A North Carolina adventure wouldn’t be complete without a outdoor exploration, and the Raleigh area boasts some of the state’s most lovely turf to tackle.

For an epic adventure through the forested trees of North Carolina, Go Ape Adventures features zip lining and ropes course thrills for families, even those with young kids.

Go Ape offers adventures for two ages & stages of adventurers: the “Treetop Junior” course, for kids of any age above 3’3″, is F-U-N for littles who might be too timid (or not tall enough) to complete the full course.

The “Treetop Adventure” course, for older kids taller than 4’7″ and older than 10, is quite challenging. The longest zip line on this course is 500 feet and there are dozens of obstacles to conquer.

Jordan Lake

Jordan Lake North Carolina
View from the Eagle Overlook on Jordan Lake by Bobistraveling

Looking for a slower pace? Head to Jordan Lake Recreation Area just west of downtown Raleigh. Kids will love splashing around while you sunbathe on shore, or you can rent a boat and head out on the water.

There are several trails to hike within the state park as well. Be sure to look up when visiting Jordan lake because it is one of the most densely populated bald eagle habitats in North America (we spotted two!).

Mordecai Historic Park

Mordecai Mansion
Mordecai Mansion by Ken Oliver

Mordecai Historic Park is home to the Mordecai Mansion, an antebellum plantation home built in 1785. The home is furnished liek it would have been in the 1800s and tour guides give visitors a glimpse into what plantation life was like.

There are some other historic homes and landmarks that have been moved to the grounds including a civil-war era church, as well as the very humble birthplace of US President Andrew Jackson.

On Living History Days  the park comes alive with interactive activities (like making era-appropriate toys to take home, etc…), costumed characters that interact with children, as well as other fun opportunities that vary from event to event including snacks, food offerings, animal encounters, and more.

Umstead State Park

things to do in Raleigh with kids include visiting Umstead state park

Umstead State Park is conveniently located between Raleigh, Cary, and Durham, making it easily accessible for residents and visitors in the Historic Triangle area. It is home to There are over 22 miles of hiking trails and 13 miles of multi-use trails for biking and horseback riding.

Lake Crabtree is a popular place to go fishing, but only non-motorized boats are allowed so you can enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. Boat rentals are available seasonally.

Rent Bikes and Tour the Neuse River Greenway Trail

Neuse Rivre Greenway Trail
Photo via Visit Raleigh

The Neuse River Greenway Trail part of North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail whic runs across North Carolina from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. It is 27.5 miles of paved trail, making it perfect for biking.

Highlights include winding boardwalk areas and suspension bridges crossing over wetlands. The northern half is flat but the southern half does have some rolling hills. Triangle Bike Rentals offers free pickup and delivery of bikes as well as restaurant stops suggestions along the route.

Pullen Park

Pullen Park
Photo by Susie Tremmel

Pullen Park features everything families could want for a day outdoors. It is the oldest park in North Carolina and one of the oldest amuseument parks in the United States.

Take the train around the property, ride the antique carousel, paddle boats on the small lake, or play on the playgrounds. There is also an aquatic center with an Olympic-sized pool and playgrounds for preschool and older kids. Trust me, your family will want to stay here!

Red Hat Ampitheater

Red hat amphitheater
Photo via Visit Raleigh

Another great perk of the capitol city of Raleigh is its absolutely charming historic downtown that hosts unique events and opportunities year-round.

From the old and new capitol building to kid-friendly ghost tours to the outdoor Red Hat Amphitheater for concerts, downtown shopping from local artisans, events, green spaces, and walkable core, your family can definitely walk Raleigh’s downtown and discover something new with each turn. During our visit to Raleigh, we were privvy to a Kidz Bop Concert at the lovely Red Hat Amphitheater

Boxcar Barcade

Over 15 Fun Things to do in Raleigh with Kids 2
Photo via Boxcar Barcade

Take a step back in time with your kiddos and head to Raleigh’s own Boxcar Barcade (Bar + Arcade), a unique mix of a full-service bar and old-fashioned arcade. Before 8:30pm, the arcade is open to families and kids of any age.

The majority of the arcade games onsite are amazingly old-school and you’ll love showing off your skills on games like Frogger, Centipede, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Ms. Pacman, Mortal Kombat, Q-Bert, and Galaga. What’s even better? These games are just $.25 meaning having fun doesn’t have to break the bank.

Explore the Foodie Scene in Raleigh

Pulled Pork The PIt
Pulled Pork from The Pit via Visit Raleigh

The foodie scene is alive and well in Raleigh. Top chefs and entrepreneurs are moving into the downtown en mass, and your taste buds get to revel in the goodness while you visit. For Carolina BBQ, which is a can’t-miss while in town, head to The Pit where you’ll find whole hog roasted pig and other BBQ musts.

Need a perk me up? Here are the best coffee shops in Raleigh.

Across the street, your kids can step inside a childhood dream at Videri Chocolate Factory. Here you can watch chocolates being made, sample the best flavors, and even try a cup of “sipping chocolate,” which is basically the best thing ever made by man.

Chicken and waffles calling your name? Try Beasley’s Chicken & Honey downtown where your kids can sample this and other Southern staples.

Big Ed’s City Market has been a part of Raleigh for nearly 50 years. Kids in our group wanted to try to eat three hotcakes to win a T-shirt but our no-nonsense waitress let them know that they wouldn’t even be able to eat a half. You can definitely share a plate here.

If you are searching for something quick, easy, and actually good for you to boot, check out B. Good downtown where they serve organic, locally-sourced meals in a fast-casual setting.

lucette Grace Macarons
Lucette Grace Macarons

Take advantage of Raleigh’s French roots at Lucette Grace downtown. The adorable shop serves up a variety of pastries, coffees, and delicious treats, but the technicolor macarons are a must!

Where to Stay in Raleigh with Kids

Sheraton Raleigh

When visiting Raleigh, you’ll have plenty of lodging options, but don’t miss the opportunity to stay downtown within walking distance of museums, landmarks, fabulous food, shopping, and local events.

We stayed at the Sheraton Raleigh, housed in a beautiful historic building that more than pre-dates our family but is perfectly upgraded with modern amenities, onsite restaurant, indoor pool, gym, and coffee bar. The ultra-soft bedding and eco-friendly features were truly fabulous.

Disclosure: My family was hosted by Visit Raleigh on a group press trip to explore all that the city has to offer for families. I was not required to state any particular view; all opinions are my own. If you are looking for more family-friendly Raleigh activities or recommendations, be sure to check out the tips & tricks on their site.

Katie Bodell