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Established in 1788 as the capital of North Carolina, Raleigh was known as a "city of streets without houses." Not so today, as the City of Oaks is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, with a refined epicenter that appeals to everyone from enterprising beer purveyors to art-adoring tourists and avid Wolfpack fans. Teeming with first-rate museums, world-class restaurants, and top-notch textile shops, there are things to do in Raleigh for every type of traveler.
If Raleigh is the heart of North Carolina, then the districts that sprawl from Raleigh’s civic center are the state’s lifeblood. Whether you long to soak up the history of the South Atlantic States or wander an art gallery in an up-and-coming enclave, there's a neighborhood for you.
A mere 20-minute trip from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Downtown Raleigh pulses with more than 165 restaurants and bars serving up everything from classic Southern fare to Italian-style pizza. Oak-lined streets bustle with retail boutiques and the reverberating rhythms of live entertainers spill out of historic music halls.
Moore Square Historic District
Cobblestone streets snake their way around one of two of Raleigh's original city parks in the Moore Square Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More than a commercial center, Moore Square is home to Artspace, where 25 iconoclastic art studios are housed inside a transformed car dealership.
Find yourself surrounded by converted red-brick buildings in a former industrial section of the city and you've likely landed in Raleigh's Warehouse District, an off-the-beaten-track destination for foodies, art-lovers, and everyone in between. Not to be missed is the CAM Raleigh—the city's leading contemporary art and design space.
If entertainment is what you’re after, there are a plethora of things to see in Raleigh. For an upscale evening out, head to the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Inside, watch dancers pirouette about the stage in a performance by the Carolina Ballet, or settle into seats in the Meymandi Concert Hall to hear the renditions of the North Carolina Symphony. If your tastes tend more toward the avant-garde, visit Kings for live music or the Burning Coal Theatre Company, a small theater institute that stages Shakespeare plays and American classics like Inherit the Wind and Enron.
Much more than a point on the Research Triangle—the region anchored by North Carolina State University, Duke University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—Raleigh beckons with a bevy of things to do. Visit the esteemed North Carolina Museum of Art, which dates back to 1956. Learn about the state’s natural history—from prehistoric to present-day—at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. For a walk on the wild side, stroll the Xeric Garden at the JC Raulston Arboretum surrounded by plants from the American Southwest. Or, if seasons allow, catch a Wolfpack game at NC State—just be sure to reserve your tickets well in advance, as home games often sell out.
Some say the best things in life are free. Make sure you explore the following around Raleigh:
North Carolina Museum of History - Filled with exhibits and objects, this place is heaven for inquiring minds.
Artspace - This is a fantastic place to get your culture hit and discover the thriving local arts scene.
Historic Oak View County Park - Make this place one of your first stops for a dash of fun during your escape.
North Carolina General Assembly - Tour this local landmark and take in its design.
Raleigh City Hall - If you like delving into bygone eras, this is one stop you ought not to miss.
Historic City Market - Make room in your to-do list to look at this site of local importance.
Mordecai Historic Park - Grab your picnic blanket, pack some snacks and find a comfortable spot to be at one with nature.
If you're eager to explore the best of this destination, slot these attractions into your schedule:
You'll hardly have time to pull your wallet out of your pocket with so many terrific free things to do: