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23 Free Things to Do In Raleigh, NC

In & Outdoor Free
Raleigh, NC

Whether you're living in Raleigh or visiting North Carolina's Capital City, there are many things to do in and around town without busting your budget. Check out this hearty list of 23 destinations that are free and fun for families to visit without ever having to open up your wallet.

  1. Stimulate the minds of your entire family with a visit to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. North Carolina's largest and most popular museum is always free to visit and explore. Take your little one to the Discovery Room exhibit, where they can touch fossils, look at a beehive, play with puppets and more. Enjoy the Nature Exploration Center and museum's amazing interactive experiences, including several science labs.
  2. Admire the stunning Greek revival style architecture of the North Carolina State Capitol Building. Home to North Carolina’s seat of government for more than 170 years, this National Landmark is open for guided and self guided tours of the building and its grounds. Main features of the building include a gorgeous domed rotunda and beautiful state Senate and House chambers which have been meticulously restored to their 1840 appearance.
  3. Visit the Victorian style North Carolina Executive Mansion that is home to the governor of North Carolina. Schedule a guided tour of the magnificent mansion, view art, architecture and intricate furnishings throughout the building. Peruse the portraits of past governors, and admire the plentitude of stunning well maintained gardens. Children can frolic in the quaint woodland play area which is home to play structures and immersed in nature.
  4. Take time to smell the roses at the Raleigh Municipal Rose Garden. This historic garden features over 1,200 roses of 60 different varieties that are in full bloom from late May until early Autumn. Be sure to bring your camera for great photo opportunities.
  5. Enjoy a free walking tour of the breathtaking gardens and 55 acres of beauty at Sarah P. Duke Gardens. This walking tour lasts approximately an hour and a half where a knowledgable guide will introduce you to stunning garden displays, garden architecture, native plant gardens, vegetable gardens, and Duke Gardens’ history. Trolley tours are also available, yet for the most well rounded tour of the grounds, the on foot tour is most recommended.
  6. Take a fun quick trip to the explore the City of Raleigh Museum. Learn about the history of the Capital area. Interesting artifacts, and antiques make history lessons come alive at this quaint and charming local museum.
  7. Visit and take a guided tour of the former residences on one of the most elite families in Raleigh at the Haywood Hall House and Gardens. Discover what life was like as the capital city was being created and enjoy the magnificent gardens and grounds that adorn the historic property. Guided Tours are offered on Second and Fourth Thursdays of the month 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and on First Sundays of each month from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m.
  8. Set off on an adventure with the little ones at Sassafras All Children’s Playground at Laurel Hills Park. Shoot hoops at the basketball court with adjustable hoop height, glide through the air with excitement on a pair of 50-foot-long zip-lines, maneuver great slides, climb the elevated playspace and soar on the swings.
  9. Hop on the American Tobacco Trail and get your fitness on as you walk or ride your way through miles of trails formerly used as trail railways. Clear your mind and get back in touch with nature as you get some exercise in a beautiful natural pine tree lined setting that is riddled with wildlife.
  10. Pullen Park offers several free playgrounds and open space for outdoor adventures. Watch the ducks in the pond, have a picnic, or just stroll and enjoy. The park is also home to some additional very low priced attractions such as the beautifully restored authentic carousel, kiddie boats, and a small train ride.
  11. Settle in for a picnic after a free one hour guided tour of the Coker Arboretum. Interact with a knowledgeable guide, learn about the more than 500 varieties of trees, plant life and hear interesting stories. Plants and seedlings sprout and bloom in every season of the year at the arboretum, but are a particular highlight in the Spring months.
  12. Schedule a tour at the North Carolina State University Solar House/N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center. This STEM outreach program offers hands on engineering activities, as well as general information about the house and how to build and use clean energy. Learn all there is to know about clean energy technologies and how to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign sources of energy.
  13. Rev up your engines with a visit to the Ray Price Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum. The second floor of the Ray Price Harley-Davidson dealership in Raleigh is dedicated to the legends of the sport of racing. This hidden treasure is full of racing bikes, trophies, racing gear and other motorcycle memorabilia that document the life and racing career of Ray Price and many others. Watch intently at the race track below that is part of the dealership.
  14. Immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the peaceful rhythm of the environment at William B. Umstead State Park. Take in some fishing at one of the three manmade lakes, enjoy a picnic underneath the canopy of the shady pines, peruse the exhibit hall and learn more about the natural and cultural history of the land where the Park stands. Don't forget to hit the trails with a bicycle, walk, or even horseback ride through the serene forest.
  15. Check out the timeline exhibit and explore other artifacts and exhibits that bring the local town of Cary's history to life at the Cary Heritage Museum at the Page Walker Art and History Center. This small community museum highlights important events, historic artwork and memorabilia that is significant to area.
  16. Also, at the Page Walker Arts and History Center, enjoy gallery exhibitions, walking tours of Downtown Cary, various community programs and events. Admire the historic architecture and furnishings of this restored railroad hotel which dates back to the 1800s.
  17. Take a tour through history and inspire the next generation of sports legends in your family at the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame Museum. Learn about over 350 inductees and the impact that sports has had throughout the state of North Carolina. Celebrate the excellence and extraordinary achievement of a wide variety of athletes and take the time to view personal items donated by the inductees, while you check out the statistics and accomplishments of each legend.
  18. Spend a relaxing afternoon at the Historic Yates Mill County Park. Enjoy one of their tour offerings, some of which include a Corn Grinding Tour, Mill Open House Tour, or a Mill Heritage Tour. Note that some tours may require a small fee to embark on, so check the visitor's center for details. Afterward, spend some leisure time enjoying the serene surrounding park. Take in the sights of the birds and other wildlife at this wildlife refuge, explore the trails, visit the museum, enjoy a picnic lunch, or cast out a line and wait for the fish to bite.
  19. Peruse the 10 magical acres of nature's beauty at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum at N.C. State University The Arboretum. Stroll around and enjoy the sounds, smells, color and splendor of the gardens. The Arboretum is maintained by the University and is open every day of the year from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM (April through October) and 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (November through March). Take advantage of free walking tours, classes, lectures and a variety of events offered throughout the year.
  20. Take the whole family to the North Carolina Museum of History for a fun-filled day full of local history. Explore the two floors filled with a well chronicled history of North Carolina. Enjoy a variety of interesting exhibits, including a furnished portion of a pioneer house along bronze statues and settings, an expansive sports hall of fame, and several rotating exhibits.
  21. Deepen your understanding of what life was like in the 1800's with a guided tour of the Stagville Historic Site. View the simple plantation house, slave quarters and barns on the property and learn about the rich history of the south from a knowledgeable docent. This was one of the largest land grants in The Carolinas, housing hundreds of slaves and their families.
  22. Let the kids let off some steam and at the Greystone Recreation Center located in Greystone Village Shopping Center. Visit the indoor recreation center in Raleigh that features and indoor playground full of climbing structures and a rock climbing wall. Stay cool and dry while letting the kids get lots of exercise while having lots of fun.
  23. Step on a real Civil War battlefield and learn all about the largest battle ever fought in North Carolina on the Bentonville Battlefield. Check out the Visitor Center and roadside exhibits and take an audio tour of the historic site, which was the scene of the last major Confederate offensive of the Civil War.
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