Often referred to as the "Smithsonian of the South," Raleigh, N.C., is home to three state museums and is the center of the state government. Visit these attractions for a unique tour of the capital city area.
Tour the North Carolina State Capitol (free) and learn the story of the sculpture of George Washington wearing a Roman toga; ask to hear about the ghost stories and the legend of the secret rooms.
Visit the North Carolina Executive Mansion (free) and get a sneak peek at how a governor lives. The mansion has been home to 26 governors and their families since 1891. Or head over to Mordecai Historic Park, home to some of N.C.'s most extraordinary treasures, including the Mordecai House and the birthplace of Andrew Johnson--17th president of the United States.
History buffs will love the North Carolina Museum of History (free). Stop by the "North Carolina and the Civil War" exhibit to see an extensive collection of authentic artifacts. Don't miss the gift shop full of locally made crafts and souvenirs!
Tour the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (free), the Southeast's largest natural history museum. Here you will see the world's only Acrocanthosaurus and "Willo," the first dinosaur ever discovered with a heart, plus crawling critters from butterflies to tarantulas.
For lunch, hop on downtown Raleigh’s R-LINE circulator (free) to get to one of the many great downtown dining spots including The Pit on Davie St., winner of numerous Food Network and BBQ challenges... don't forget to save room for dessert there!
After lunch, tour the newly redesigned North Carolina Museum of Art (free) and enjoy an art collection with an estimated worth of over one billion dollars, art that portrays more than 5,000 years of artistic achievements and includes one of the largest collections of Jewish artifacts in the U.S. The museum also boasts the country’s largest outdoor Art Park. Each year the museum hosts major exhibitions from around the world; past exhibitions include works by Auguste Rodin, Ansel Adams, Matisse, Picasso and more. Don't forget to stop by the gift shop!
For an elegant evening, try an evening at the theatre. Start with dinner at one of downtown Raleigh's fine restaurants, like Caffe Luna, Solas or Second Empire. Then it's off to the theatre! Enjoy a performance at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, home to the North Carolina Theatre, North Carolina Symphony, Carolina Ballet and North Carolina Opera.
Or, if you’re here during the first Friday of the month, you may choose to discover your creative side by exploring some of the many art galleries that dot downtown Raleigh’s City Market, Fayetteville Street and Glenwood South districts. Not sure where to start or aren’t in the mood for too much walking? Artspace (free), which houses more than 23 working artists’ studios, is a great way to experience Raleigh’s local flavor.