The city of Raleigh, North Carolina, has consistently ranked among the ten best places to raise a family in the country. With numerous museums, festivals, sports, and outdoor spaces, Raleigh is an excellent destination for your next family vacation. These 21 things to do with kids in Raleigh will get you started.
Things To Do With Kids in Raleigh
Located in the heart of North Carolina, Raleigh is a growing city with numerous breweries, delicious restaurants, and trendy shops. The city offers the perfect mix of modern amenities, historic sites, and lush natural spaces. There's much to see and do in Raleigh, but you'll stay for the southern hospitality.
1. Pullen Park
Pullen Park is the 5th oldest operating amusement park in the US and has provided family fun since 1887. The 66.4-acre park has plenty of open green spaces, playgrounds, sports courts, and fields. It also offers amusement attractions like pedal boats, the C.P. Huntington miniature train, kiddie boats, and the original 1911 Gustave A. Dentzel Carousel.
2. North Carolina Museum of Natural Science
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is located in downtown Raleigh and boasts four floors of exhibits in both its Nature Exploration Center and Nature Research Center. Guests will enjoy interactive exhibits, hands-on learning, live animals, and educational films throughout the museum.
The museum is also home to a state-of-the-art research center that allows visitors to watch scientists work and engage in educational experiences. Admission to the museum is free. However, purchased tickets are required for special exhibits and 3D films.
3. North Carolina Museum of History
With over 150,000 artifacts from six centuries, the North Carolina Museum of History should be your first stop to learn about the state. The museum features artifacts such as ancient tools used in 12,000 to 10,000 B.C.E., items recovered from Blackbeard’s ship, and the recreation of a 1920s drugstore. Don’t miss the NC Sports Hall of Fame featuring Richard Petty’s stock car.
4. Marbles Kids Museum
Marbles Kids Museum is notably Raleigh's most popular activity for kids. With over a dozen different themed exhibits, your kids will spend hours exploring and playing at Marbles. Guests can also enjoy educational films or new theatrical releases at the IMAX theater.
5. Prairie Ridge Ecostation
Prairie Ridge Ecostation is part of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and allows visitors to explore the Carolina Piedmont. The Ecostation offers programs throughout the week for kids and families. Kids will also enjoy exploring the Nature Playspace, a space for nature-based play.
6. Historic Oak View
Historic Oak View County Park is a 27-acre park that gives visitors a look at farm life in the 19th century. The park features historic farm buildings, a farm history center, trails, gardens, and live animals. Located in the Farm History Center is the Farmer’s Corner, an interactive play-based exhibit that gives children the opportunity to explore farm life. The Farm History Center also offers Adventure Backpacks and self-guided activity kits for kids.
7. North Carolina Museum of Art
The North Carolina Museum of Art and the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park offer numerous family-friendly activities. Like free weekend family tours, Park Packs filled with kid-friendly activities, outdoor movies, 4.7 miles of recreational trails featuring art installations, and a park scavenger hunt.
8. JC Raulston Arboretum
This 10-acre garden in the heart of Raleigh has the Southeast's largest and most diverse collection of landscape plants. Managed by North Carolina State University, the arboretum offers guided I Spy! Tours for children, along with a selection of other children’s programs.
9. Umstead State Park
The William B. Umstead State Park is a 5,600-acre park that offers a network of hiking and biking trails, lakes for fishing, boat rentals, campgrounds, and birdwatching. If your family enjoys the outdoors and hiking, Umstead is the place to visit. Make sure you visit the chainsaw art, a 25-ft fallen oak tree located off the Graylyn Multi-Use Trail.
10. Sassafras All Children’s Playground
The Sassafras All-Children's Playground at Laurel Hill Park is an inclusive playground for children of all physical capabilities. The 3.5-acre park offers climbing structures, ramps, and zip lines.
11. Joel Lane Museum House
Built in 1769, the Joel Lane house gives visitors a glimpse into life during the 18th century and the Revolutionary War. The museum is located in the heart of downtown Raleigh. The Joel Lane Museum House offers guided tours several days a week.
12. Walnut Creek Wetlands
Learn about the North Carolina wetlands at the Walnut Creek Wetlands Nature Center. The nature center offers free activities, displays, explorer backpacks, and scavenger hunts for kids. You can also check out binoculars, boots, nets, and field guides for your wetland exploration.
13. Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve
This 157-acre park along Falls Lake was donated to the Raleigh Parks Department by Raleigh’s first female obstetrician Dr. Annie Louise Wilkerson. Visitors will enjoy exploring the multiple hiking trails, the former home of Dr. Wilkerson, a nature play area, and a park office that hosts educational opportunities. Guests can check out explorer backpacks, binoculars, and other gear at the park office.
14. John Chavis Memorial Park
Established in 1937, the John Chavis Memorial Park is part of the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places. In 2021, after extensive renovations, the park reopened, featuring a two-story community center, splash pad, playground, and the restored Historic Allan Herschell Carousel. The park also has a track and athletic field and connects to the Capital Area Greenway Trail.
15. Historic Yates Mill Park
The Historic Yate Mill County Park is located in the southwest part of Wake County and features 174 acres of gardens, trails, and historic buildings. Once an operating water-powered grist mill, the park is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Guests can stop by the A.E. Finely Center for Education and Research to explore the exhibits and artifacts and learn the mill's history. Guided tours of the mill are available for a small fee.
16. Mordecai History Park and Raleigh Trolley
The Mordecai House is the oldest home in Raleigh, still at its original location. The visitor center features artifacts from the historic site. Guided tours of the building are available for a small fee. Book a Historic Raleigh Trolley Tour when planning your Mordecai Park tour. The trolley tour lasts approximately an hour and explores historic sites and landmarks throughout downtown Raleigh.
17. Videri Chocolate Factory
Videri Chocolate Factory in downtown Raleigh offers self-guided and guided factory tours. The guided tours include a 30-minute look into their bean-to-bar process and a bonbon for each participant after the tour. Tickets for guided tours can be purchased in advance online. After your tour, pick up some delicious treats from their store and cafe.
18. Boxcar Bar + Arcade
Enjoy classic arcade games with your family at the Boxcar Bar + Arcade. In downtown Raleigh, Boxcar has hundreds of arcade games, including classics like Pac-Man and pinball and modern console games like Mario Kart. Boxcar also has a full liquor bar and rotating draft selections. Note that visitors under 21 are not permitted after specified hours in the late evening; check their website for more details.
19. North Carolina State Farmers Market
Open daily, the North Carolina State Farmers Market features fresh produce, plants, and specialty items from farms across the state. Your family will enjoy browsing the market's vast selection of products in the open-air market and market shops. Enjoy lunch with fresh seafood at the N.C. Seafood Restaurant.
20. Triangle Rock Club
Adventurous families will love the Triangle Rock Club, an indoor rock climbing, fitness, and yoga facility. Day passes are available and include access to bouldering and auto-belay climbing. Top-rope belay and lead belay climbing are also available to certified climbers. Triangle Rock Club has a multitude of youth programs available throughout the year.
21. North Carolina State Capitol Tour
Visit the North Carolina Capitol Building to learn more about the history of the state and state government. Since June 1840, One East Edenton Street has been the state capitol building. Self-guided tours are available during regular operating hours. Free guided tours are available on Saturdays and last about 30-40 minutes.