Free Things to Do in Raleigh, NC

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How to Eat, Drink and Do Raleigh on the House

From museums to live music to unique historical destinations, there's a little something for everyone in Raleigh. And there's good news if you're also traveling on a budget: a lot can be done without spending a dime. Here are a few of the best freebies for your next visit to the North Carolina capital.

North Carolina Museum of Art

The first of three state museums in Raleigh and home to an eclectic mix of exhibitions and public programs, the North Carolina Museum of Art (2110 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh, NC) packs a serious punch when it comes to keeping your family occupied. Take a contemplative stroll through an art collection that spans more than 5,000 years, or visit Museum Park, 164 acres of trails and parkland featuring a dozen monumental works of art. And even if you're not overly inclined to fine art appreciation, you'll also find plenty of family activities, kid-friendly workshops, outdoor concerts and movie screenings. Admission to the museum is free, though some special exhibitions and programs may require a fee.

North Carolina Museum of History

With award-winning exhibitions that explore more than 14,000 years of North Carolina's rich history—including military, sports, arts and more—the North Carolina Museum of History (5 E. Edenton St., Raleigh, NC) is a great way to experience the spirit of the state and its people. Interactive presentations, rotating special exhibits and programming, and a collection of more than 350,000 artifacts will engage family members of all ages. You'll also find a number of family events on the museum's calendar, as well as kid-friendly music performances and craft demonstrations. Admission to the museum and many of its events are free, though a fee may be required for special exhibits.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Touted as the Southeast's largest natural history museum, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (11 W. Jones St., Raleigh, NC) spans two city blocks and seven floors of interactive exhibit spaces, live animal habitats and 3D movie experiences. Watch real scientists perform experiments or wander through a butterfly room that's also home to a two-toed sloth. Watch live veterinarian procedures or explore the aquatic ecosystems that are home to more than 100 species of marine life. General admission is free.

Pullen Park

Situated beside North Carolina State University, Pullen Park (408 Ashe Ave., Raleigh, NC) is the state's first public park and the fifth-oldest operating amusement park in the U.S. Expect plenty of outdoor activity space, including tennis courts, ball fields, picnic shelters, playgrounds and a community center. Families of all sizes will appreciate the Theater in the Park, an internationally acclaimed theatrical program that drew more than 40,000 attendees last year alone. You can also take a spin on the 1911 Gustave A. Dentzel Menagerie Carousel or ride the C.P. Huntington train. Admission to the park is free, though you can expect a small fee for the amusement rides.

North Carolina State Capitol

More than 100,000 visitors visit the North Carolina State Capitol (Capitol Square, 1 E. Edenton St., Raleigh, NC) for tours, holiday events, special ceremonies and educational programs every year. Built in 1840, the building is a National Historic Landmark and one of the most intact examples of a Greek Revival civic building in the country. Originally the location of the governor’s office, cabinet offices, legislative chambers, state library and state geologist’s office, it's been restored to its mid-19th century appearance and is open to the public for self-guided and, in some cases, public guided tours. Admission is free, though donations are accepted.