Two-Day Tour of Raleigh, N.C.
Start at the Raleigh, N.C., Visitor Information Center (free, 500 Fayetteville St.), where you can learn about tours and current events as well as pick up maps, brochures or other helpful information. Then stroll up to the North Carolina Museum of History (free), with exhibits devoted to the Civil War, sports heroes, folk life and more. Across the pedestrian plaza is the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (free), the largest museum of its kind in the Southeast. In its main wing, it offers four floors of exhibits, complete with a two-story waterfall and the Living Conservatory buzzing with hummingbirds and butterflies. Plus its Nature Research Center wing opened in 2012, explaining in interactive ways how we know all we do about nature.
Enjoy lunch at the Nature Research Center's Daily Planet Cafe, or visit another nearby restaurant. Cross the street from the museums to to tour the North Carolina State Capitol building (free) and learn about the history and legends associated with this important and symbolic building. A short walk down Fayetteville St. takes you to the City of Raleigh Museum (COR Museum), housed in an 1874 building that was the city's first "skyscraper" and features exhibits that focus solely on the history of Raleigh. End the afternoon with a tour of one of downtown's historic homes, such as the North Carolina Executive Mansion, completed in 1891 (free). Other options include the 18th-century Joel Lane Museum House, immediately west of downtown; Haywood Hall, just to the east of the Capitol (free); Mordecai Historic Park, immediately north of downtown; or take a self-guided walking or driving tour of the Victorian-era Historic Oakwood district and neighborhood.
For a variety of top-notch dinner options, take the R-LINE (free) downtown circulator bus over to the Glenwood South district of downtown Raleigh. Check the home schedules for the area's professional sports teams to see if the Carolina Hurricanes (NHL hockey), Carolina Mudcats (Single-A baseball) or North Carolina FC (men’s soccer) are in town!
Begin by driving to the State Farmers Market (free), where you'll find 75 acres of indoor and outdoor specialty shops offering the freshest fruits and vegetables around, plus irresistible homemade baked goods, sauces, N.C. wines and crafts. Before strolling around the market, start your day off with a fresh, home-cooked breakfast at the State Farmer's Market Restaurant with a menu sourced from produce found from just across the street. Drive west to the North Carolina Museum of Art (free), with works by American artists as well as collections of African, Oceanic and New World art, Egyptian, Greek and Roman galleries, 20th-century art and more. Be sure to explore the Museum Park (free). Encompassing 164 acres of fields, woodlands and creeks, the park presents a unique setting for outdoor works of art and amphitheatre performances, and be sure not the miss the Cloud Chamber.
Drive to downtown Raleigh and have lunch in Moore Square District. After lunch, stroll along the cobblestone streets of City Market and browse the specialty shops. Tour Artspace (free), where artists work in open-to-the-public studios. Next, walk through Moore Square itself, one of four parks designated in 1792 when the city of Raleigh was planned. Continue across the square to Marbles Kids Museum, an interactive museum that encourages people of all ages to learn how the world works and understand the part each person plays. Make time to see a film at the adjacent IMAX theatre! Visitors with children also may choose to end the afternoon with a trip to Pullen Park and its 1911 carousel, Andy & Opie TVLand statue, train ride, playground and more.
Treat yourself to an elegant evening with dinner followed by a performance at the world-class Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, or enjoy live music at one of downtown Raleigh’s many great venues, such as Red Hat Amphitheater.