Are you planning a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina? If your answer is “yes” or “no and why should I” then this carousel stop is for you. Let’s dive into the top things to do in Raleigh!
While at first glance this post strikes atypical for me, because Raleigh doesn’t have any abandoned amusement parks, active theme parks, soul collecting circus troupes, etc; this post is indeed born of theme park origins.
Taking a quick blip to Orlando, FL (theme park mecca) and more specifically, Universal Studios Orlando, the reason this Raleigh travel guide exists is found. Enter in the sole purpose of this North Carolina trip: Cowfish.
Anyone who knows Universal, knows Cowfish, knows that you will make the drive to the nearest location and that is what brings on this row here. Cowfish and a then consequential whim of a mini getaway to go with it.
Where is Raleigh?
Raleigh is the lovely state capital of the Old North. It is located in the heart of North Carolina, smack dab center, in Wake county. And, it’s also known as the City of Oaks for the numerous oak trees that line the city streets.
Foodies, there are so many great restaurants in Raleigh for the culinary scene! I couldn’t put a dent on them all, but here are a few highlights of the best eateries. You and your taste buds won’t regret them.
As previously mentioned, Cowfish is what spurred our mini vacation in Raleigh. Because burgushi absolutely warrants a three hour drive to the nearest Cowfish.
On the menu are beloved fanfare such as burgers, sushi, milkshakes and such. But a specialty combo is the signature dish they’re known for. Burgushi. You’ll find sushi comprised of cheeseburger ingredients or sushi stuffed with pulled pork and coleslaw. Cowfish may very well be the only restaurant to pull off an odd food combination so tastefully!
Scope out Cowfish on their website.
Though this may sound like it would serve Southern food like a Cracker Barrel, Gravy’s is actually an Italian restaurant… and one that puts Olive Garden to shame! I honestly can’t name better Italian food than Gravy’s. The flavor in everything was rich and sheer perfection. Alfredo is never going to taste the same anywhere else and for that, I truly lament.
Please don’t miss out on this hidden gem! Learn more about Gravy’s here.
Chuy’s is a wonderfully eclectic decorated dine serving Tex-Mex fare and a sprawling outdoor eating area. Its location is in the thick of all the action, so if you’re seated outside then you’re in for a great view of entertainment and recreation. The food is great, drinks are a buzz, and scenery top notch. To boot, there’s a lovely dessert shop conveniently located next door.
Get a taste of Chuy’s online.
Raleigh is a great spot for fun things to do! Of the many options, I pulled some from our trip highlights and others from their unique offerings. Let’s dive in.
Kings is an entertainment mecca featuring gaming, bowling, dining, and a wide variety of live entertainment including music, theater, circus, and comedy. It’s a three-story enterprise that starts with a cocktail hideaway on the basement level, a renowned restaurant on the ground level, and the entertainment floor on the second level. It’s definitely a great hotspot to spend a weekend night!
Catch more of Kings on their website.
Fun enough, the Raleigh Arts Museum doubles as a free thing to do as well. The museum is a multi-level, multi-building gallery that’s ranked as one of the top art museums in the country (for good reason). One building hosts a permanent collection of art while the other features a rotating exhibit collection. Both are filled with European, American, African, Egyptian, and Jewish works from eras of old to modern day and range from photographs to giant sculptures. It’s a feast for the eyes.
Learn more about the Arts Museum here.
The North Carolina Railway Museum & New Hope Valley Railway is a goldmine experience for locomotive enthusiasts and the average Joe. It is rich in exhibits, vintage trains, and historic memorabilia and also offers an hour long train ride through the woods. They also run special events where you can sit in the engineer’s seat for the ride or partake in a Brew n Choos where local beers and wines are served alongside music. The Railway Museum also doubles as a free thing to do in Raleigh.
Explore the Railway Museum online.
You don’t always have to fork over money in order to have a good time in the City of Oaks. As evidenced above and now below, you’ll find Raleigh offers a number of free experiences (especially museums).
An offering for the historians, the North Carolina Museum of History is a free admission attraction boasting over 150,000 artifacts spanning six different centuries. You can explore a preserved slave quarters house or a full-sized replica of the Wright brothers’ plane. The museum also hosts events celebrating country music and African American culture amongst other offerings.
Check out more about the History Museum here.
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is a fun interactive experience that you don’t want to overlook. There are both fossils you can touch, aquariums you can explore, and gemstones to uncover. It’s beyond a simple gaze at a display case sort of museum. There’s even a living conservatory, aka the butterfly room you can visit.
Read more about the Science Museum on their website.
RDU Observation Park
If you like airplanes but only when you’re not on them, then this stop is for you! The Observation Park is a lovely multi story viewing area where you can watch planes take off and land, listen to the air traffic control in real time, and learn about the various types of aircraft over the years. It’s an activity enjoyable for aviation connoisseurs and the “average joe” alike. And, it’s a hallmark experience for the state whose tagline is “First In Flight.”
Learn more about the park here.
Visiting Raleigh made for a great trip beyond the Cowfish allure that initially gave me tunnel vision. It offers a lot of quality things to do for foodies, fun, and free–with many experiences overlapping in those three categories. It is definitely worth a visit if the Old North is on your radar for a getaway!
What are your recommendations for foodies, fun, and free things to do in Raleigh?
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Thanks for reading!