Things to Do Around Raleigh and Durham

What started as a way to attract modern industries to North Carolina, has resulted in a region that boasts a booming—and educated—population.

The thriving Research Triangle Park was established between Raleigh and Durham by two North Carolina businessmen in the mid-1950s as a way to prevent “brain-draining” the area of graduates from Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The park, known as "RTP," now accommodates more than 100 companies and 41,000-plus employees who contribute to the region’s culture and economic development.

Add to that a geographical location equidistant to the mountains and coast, and mild but contrasting seasons, and you get a utopic metropolitan area that, not surprisingly, has achieved recognition as one of the country’s most family-friendly places to live.

Across the Triangle, from Wake Forest to Fuquay-Varina, you’ll discover history, culture, cuisine and nightlife. In Raleigh, visit the larger-than-life North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and stop by the State Farmers Market to sample fresh, seasonal North Carolina produce. Take in a Durham Bulls Baseball game or an outdoor concert on the revitalized American Tobacco Historic District campus. Apex, recognized by Money magazine as the 2015 No. 1 “Best Place to Live” in America, offers a quaint and historic downtown district brimming with boutiques and cafes. 

Other towns like Chapel Hill, Cary, Holly Springs, Wake Forest, Fuquay-Varina and Zebulon claim a unique brand of culture and entertainment as well. You’ll find restaurants, shops and activities that suit every age. While we can’t possibly list all the area has to offer here, get to know the region with this list of fun things to do around the Triangle.

American Tobacco Historic District

Downtown Durham’s entertainment district flourishes throughout revitalized warehouses that once accommodated The American Tobacco Company, which was created during the 1890s.

University Tours

Whether you have a future college student or just want to relive your glory days, touring one of the Triangle’s acclaimed universities is time well spent.

William B. Umstead State Park

Twenty miles of hiking trails and 13 miles of bridle trails greet visitors to William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh, which expands across 5,599 acres. Take a short stroll with younger children or embark on a more extensive hike into the woods with older kids who are up for the challenge.

Durham Bulls Athletic Park

Situated in the heart of the American Tobacco District, with its restaurants and entertainment, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park offers a fun outing for both grown-ups and kids.

Duke Homestead

Washington Duke, the patriarch of the family that created American Tobacco Company and endowed Duke University, began his empire at Duke Homestead.

Marbles Kids Museum

Creative play drives Marbles Kids Museum’s popularity with both locals and visitors. Designed for ages 10 and younger, the museum’s offerings have been growing rapidly and are fun and imaginative.

Duke Gardens

Duke Gardens offers visitors four primary sections that expand across 55 acres of fertile land. These gardens have flourished since the mid-1930s on Duke University's historic campus.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Sit in the center of the Earth to hear a scientist talk. Visit with the “Terror of the South,” the only real Acrocanthosaurus skeleton on display in the world. View beautiful gems and minerals, living snakes and bugs.

Duke Lemur Center

Get a close up look at lemurs, the most endangered mammals on the planet. Although the center's focus is research and biological conservation, it welcomes visitors year-round for guided tours to observe 10 species of these fascinating creatures.

Pullen Park

The fifth-oldest operating amusement park in the U.S., Pullen Park is a fun place for all ages and a scenic spot to wander through with lots of flowering trees in the spring and summer. Take younger kids to ride the Gustave A. Dentzel Carousel, built in 1911 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

North Carolina Museum of Art

The North Carolina Museum of Art features a permanent collection of 139 works of European and American art purchased in 1947, thanks to a $1 million appropriation by the North Carolina General Assembly. This made North Carolina the first state in the nation to purchase art using public funds.

Museum of Life and Science in Durham

With two stories of indoor, hands-on exhibits and a 74-acre outdoor campus, this museum offers kids a range of interactive experiences. Design flying structures in “Launch Lab.” Walk in a rainforest surrounded by butterflies. Explore cloud formations at "Into the Mist." Take an old-time train ride through the nature park.

Ipreo Raleigh Winterfest

Two months out of the year in downtown Raleigh, visitors can experience the Ipreo Raleigh Winterfest celebration, which features wintry activities and an outdoor skating rink made with natural ice.

Brightleaf Square

A unique mix of restaurants and shops housed within two historic tobacco warehouses in downtown Durham. The two renovated warehouses now hold restaurants, shops and offices. There is also seasonal events and concerts held in the public courtyard