Discover a wonderland for lifelong learners
There’s a pretty good reason why Raleigh, N.C., has earned the nickname the “Smithsonian of the South.”
Only here can you admire the Southeast’s largest collection of Rodin sculptures in a beautiful space filled with natural light at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Wind your way through North Carolina’s piney woods in the engineer’s seat of a vintage diesel locomotive at the North Carolina Railway Museum & New Hope Valley Railway. Gaze up in wonder at one of the most impressive whale skeleton collections in the nation at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, then head right across the street to the North Carolina Museum of History. Or, step aboard a thrilling pirate ship with the kids to explore the mysteries of our vast oceans at Marbles Kids Museum.
Led by a bevy of local, creative innovators such as Gab Smith, Sally Edwards and Emlyn Koster, Ph.D., the many museums and exhibits here in the Raleigh area offer visitors these exciting cultural experiences and much, much more. And, a limited budget shouldn’t keep you from taking it all in, because every major museum in Raleigh has free admission. Who doesn’t love free?!
The year of the museum
This year marks 200 years of museums in Raleigh with the opening of The North Carolina Museum in 1818, according to historic records at the City of Raleigh Museum (COR Museum). The North-Carolina Star marked the occasion with a brief announcement in its August 28 issue that read, “This establishment is now open for the reception of visitors. Amittance [sic], 25 cents: tickets for the year, five dollars.”
Our museums have progressed light years from these humble beginnings. To help you navigate the wealth of diverse museums in the area, we’ve put together the ultimate guide with advice on how to get the most out your trips.
What will ignite your imagination?
In addition to leading in most quality-of-life rankings, Raleigh has been the focus of national attention for its abundance of high-caliber museums.
It continues to attract stunning exhibits from around the world. Much of that recognition is a direct result of passionate, community support for the arts and culture driven by local, creative minds.
Use this definitive guide to learn about Raleigh area museums with unforgettable experiences that will broaden your vision of the world.
Explore the museums
Emlyn Koster, Ph.D.
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Dr. Emlyn Koster's journey is rooted in geology, and his path eventually led him to Raleigh. Impressed by the city’s museum culture and natural beauty, he accepted the job of museum director and has been integral in creating an accessible, enriching visitor experience.