A Guide to Museums Reopening in Raleigh, N.C.
Wednesday, September 09, 2020, 12pm by visitRaleigh
There’s a pretty good reason why Raleigh, N.C., has earned the nickname the “Smithsonian of the South.”
For more than 200 years, museums in Raleigh have preserved history, put state-of-the-art exhibits on display and helped visitors uncover new stories, old secrets and forgotten tales.
Due to COVID-19, museums in Raleigh and across the state have been closed since March. But behind closed doors they've been making preparations to safely welcome back so many friendly faces when the time was right (and that time is now!).
Below you'll find out which museums in the Raleigh area are ready to open—with capacity limited to 50%—and what to expect upon visiting. Please keep in mind that all museums are operating with enhanced cleaning measures, required face masks, updated hours of operation and other social-distancing practices.
Raleigh, N.C.'s welcome mat is always out for you.
See more safe dining and things to do, plus local travel safety info, here.
Note: We ask that you travel confidently, and please explore responsibly—wear a mask, wash your hands, wait six feet apart from others and leave no trace. If you're traveling to Raleigh, N.C., you may want to check out this list of Count On Me NC-certified hotels and restaurants. Count On Me NC is a public health initiative that specifically trains hospitality businesses to help keep both guests and staff safe from COVID-19. The program also asks guests to pledge that they'll do their part to follow safety guidelines as well.
One of the premier visual arts museums of the South—and one of the most cherished indoor and outdoor spaces in Raleigh—is ready to welcome back visitors.
Galleries at the North Carolina Museum of Art reopen on Wed., Sept. 9, with updated hours and increased health and safety practices. To access the galleries, visitors must reserve a free, timed ticket in order to limit total capacity inside. Tickets can be reserved here and will also be available at both museum buildings.
In addition to exploring the museum's free galleries, four special exhibitions will open to the public on Sept. 9 (running through Jan. 3., 2021). One paid ticket gets visitors access to N.C. painters, the beauty of Senegalese jewelry and site-specific installations by New York artist Leonardo Drew.
The 164-acre museum park continues to welcome visitors from dawn to dusk each day, with nearly 100,000 monthly visitors enjoying a blooming sunflower field, spacious areas for socially-distanced meet-ups and art pieces by local, national and international artists this spring and summer.
The museum restaurant, Iris, will remain closed at this time.
- Hours: Wed.-Sun., 10am-5pm; the museum park remains open daily from dawn to dusk
- Tickets: Free tickets to the galleries are required for entry; special exhibition tickets are available ($20.38 including taxes and fees)
An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the North Carolina Museum of History features more than 14,000 years of Old North State history, from the state's earliest inhabitants through the 20th century. The museum also houses the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. Permanent museum collections, special exhibits and the Sports Hall of Fame will reopen to visitors on Thurs., Sept. 10.
Adjusted hours of operation will be as follows: Tues.-Sat., 9am-11am, for immune-compromised and senior citizens, and 11am-5pm for the general public; Sun., noon-5pm, for the general public.
Exhibits on display currently include Toy Boom! Toys from the 1950s & ’60s, featuring vintage playthings in abundance—from Easy-Bake Oven to Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots; "You Have to Start a Thing," exploring how Tar Heel women and men fought for—and against—woman suffrage in the decades leading up to 1920; and The Story of North Carolina, the largest exhibit ever produced at the museum which traces life in N.C. over the last 14,000 years.
Entry to the museum and all exhibits is free.
- Hours: Tues.-Sat., 9am-11am, for immune-compromised and senior citizens, and 11am-5pm for general public; Sun., noon-5pm, for general public
- Tickets: Tickets are not required for entry, but capacity is limited
The state's most visited museum—drawing nearly one million visitors to downtown Raleigh each year—is one that teaches visitors about the natural world. Reopening Tues., Sept. 22, the free-to-visit North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences offers more than 25 permanent exhibitions, including looks at N.C.'s Mountain, Piedmont and Coastal Plain region habitats and wildlife along with discoveries found in the sea and underground.
Free, timed-entry tickets will be required as the museum will be opening at a limited capacity to start. Guests should reserve their tickets in advance online.
The Daily Planet Café—an on-site restaurant at the museum—will also reopen on Sept. 22, with special efforts in place to protect the health and safety of patrons. Indoor and outdoor patio seating will be set up with social distancing in place, and the café is also offering online ordering with curbside pickup.
- Hours: Tues.-Sun., 10am-4pm
- Tickets: Free timed tickets are required for entry and can be reserved online
At this innovative and wildly-popular children’s museum in downtown Raleigh, kids are encouraged to use their marbles—hence the name!
Marbles Kids Museum will open with a members-only weekend, Sept. 11-13, and then to the general public on Wed., Sept. 16.
Catering to ages 10 and under, Marbles delivers purposeful play in a big way, allowing children to imagine, discover and learn in dozens of interactive exhibits (kids can go on a jungle safari, get behind a camera and be a reporter, dress up as a forest creature or board a pirate ship, plus a lot more!). The museum is expected to be fully open, but some exhibits may temporarily close throughout the day for cleaning and sanitization.
Timed entry tickets must be reserved prior to admission, with Marbles expecting to allow approximately 30% of their visitor capacity at any given time. Tickets will be available to museum members beginning Sept. 8 at 10am and to the general public beginning Sept. 9 at 10am. General admission for non-members is $9.
The Marbles IMAX theatre will remain closed for the time being. Note that all visitors ages 5 and up will be required to wear a mask.
- Hours: Wed.-Sun., 10am-5pm; open weekends at 9am for members only
- Tickets: Timed entry tickets must be reserved in advance. General admission is $9.
Opening to the public on Sat., Sept. 12, the COR Museum examines and interprets the history and heritage of the City of Oaks with the goal of “persevering Raleigh’s past for its future.” Located in the historic 1874 Briggs Building on downtown Raleigh's Fayetteville St., the museum opened in 1993 when city residents created the first exhibits. Today, the museum attracts numerous visitors with a collection of more than 5,000 historical items while also offering special exhibits that change periodically throughout the year.
To celebrate the reopening, the museum is offering a new exhibit celebrating the life and legacy of influential music promoter Joseph Winters. Joseph Winters: The Music Maker explores the life of one of the city’s earliest African American policemen who also played a significant role in bringing musical legends including James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles to perform on stage in Raleigh (the exhibit will run through Feb. 2021). Admission to the museum is free.
- Hours: Tues.-Sat., 9am-4pm; Sun., 1-4pm; closed on Mon.
- Tickets: No tickets required, admission is free; capacity is limited to 50%
City of Raleigh parks, museums and historic sites
The City of Raleigh will reopen facilities on Mon., Sept. 14, expected to include the attractions below. Please confirm with individual sites before making plans.
Other museums and historic sites
More museums and historic sites will be announcing opening dates soon. As soon is information is available, we'll keep this page updated with dates for the following (plus others):
- CAM Raleigh, Sept. 24
- Gregg Museum of Art & Design, Sept. 23
- North Carolina State Capitol
- North Carolina Railway Museum & New Hope Valley Railway
Planning a trip? Whether driving or flying, exploring the outdoors or tasting the area's best food and drinks, we look forward to soon welcoming you to Raleigh, N.C. From transportation to lodging, dining and attractions, your health and safety are top priority for the hospitality industry. No matter how you travel, or what you do, you can travel confidently. Click here for the latest updates on COVID-19 and openings in the Raleigh area.
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