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10 of the Best Museums in Raleigh, NC (Downtown and Beyond)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on May 13, 2024.

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As residents of the area, we’ve been frequenting the best museums in Raleigh for years. Many fellow lovers of North Carolina (like you) either live in our capital city or visit in search of things to do; we thought it’d be helpful to share our favorite fun, interactive, and educational spaces in Oak City.

Fill your mind and wander the exhibits inside these Raleigh museums, with some found downtown and others scattered elsewhere in the city. Either way, we guarantee you’ll learn something new after visiting these wonderful places!

Read More: 17 Great Things to Do with Kids in Raleigh

Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the Raleigh area and are wondering, “What are the best museums near me?” we think this NC travel guide will help you out!

Museums in Raleigh, North Carolina

We’ve listed these amazing Raleigh museums in alphabetical order.

  • City of Raleigh Museum
  • Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh (CAM)
  • Marbles Kids Museum
  • North Carolina Museum of Art
  • North Carolina Museum of History
  • NC Sports Hall of Fame
  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
  • Pope House Museum
  • Randleigh Dairy Heritage Museum
  • Ray Price Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum
map of places to see in North Carolina
Map created using Google Maps.

If you’d like to plan your trip to these museums visually, you can use our North Carolina Travel Map.

Read More: Central North Carolina Map (with 300+ Great Places Listed)

City of Raleigh Museum

Address: 220 Fayetteville St, NC
Admission: FREE (Recommended donation of $5)

a small exhibit in the City of Raleigh Museum

The City of Raleigh Museum is working hard to preserve and promote Raleigh’s past. The museum collects and cares for artifacts, curates exhibits and provides educational programming to highlight and interpret the city of Raleigh’s history and heritage.

Enjoy their current exhibits, with recent examples focused on the Women’s Suffrage Movement and another on the history of Dix Hill, one of Raleigh’s newest parks. 

Read More: 15+ Important Tips to Enjoy the NC State Fair

Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh (CAM)

Address: 409 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC
Admission: FREE

a couple of human sculpures at the Museums in Raleigh

Before it housed one of the best art museums in Raleigh NC, the building started off as a produce warehouse, where inventory was always flowing in and out. Today, Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh (CAM) offers an interesting mix of educational programs to go with its non-traditional exhibitions by living artists.

The museum takes inspiration from the city around it and is all about continual progress and always moving forward. Guests can peruse exhibits, with previous examples including a focus on 1990s NBA basketball and other interesting themes.

Marbles Kids Museum

Address: 201 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC
Admission: $9/person (Members & Children under age one play free)

Marbles is one of our favorite museums in Raleigh for birthday parties!

Marbles Kids Museum is located in the heart of downtown Raleigh and offers themed exhibits, summer camps, IMAX documentaries, and feature movies and special events year-round.

Families can enjoy two floors, plus outside exhibits such as Toddlers Hollow, Putting Zoo, Stemosphere, and Ideaworks.

Send your kid to summer camp or take advantage of the new offer for weekly or single-day Virtual School Help for those taking part in asynchronous learning!

Movies and IMAX are offered multiple times a week, as well as birthday parties for the kids who can’t get enough of Marbles! 

Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)

North Carolina Museum of Art

Address: 2110 Blue Ridge Dr, Raleigh, NC
Admission: FREE

a minimalist exhibit of ancient marble statues at the North Carolina Museum of Art

The North Carolina Museum of Art is unique and interactive where visitors can create their own experience each time they visit the museum. This Raleigh museum offers rotating and special exhibits, events, and other fun programs.

Take part in their film club every month or a fun scavenger hunt set up around the museum and museum park. Summer camps are offered to members, and free concert live streams are available through the end of spring.

a group of flower arrangements among  six beautiful paintings

Visit when they have new exhibits, such as “Art in Bloom” coming in June. Each trip is bound to be memorable, with a number of engaging tours, performing arts, and family workshops. 

We also love visiting the NCMA for the Ann and Jim Goodnight Park outside. Some permanent and rotating exhibits out there join a variety of nature trails. The Art to Heart Trail starts here and connects you to a variety of Raleigh attractions, including NC State, Dorothea Dix Park, and Pullen Park.

North Carolina Museum of History

Address: 5 E Edenton St, Raleigh, NC
Admission: FREE
NC Museum of History Closure Begins in 2024

a sign for Woolworth's Luncheonette at the North Carolina Museum of History

The North Carolina Museum of History is a Smithsonian affiliate with visitors coming in from all over the country.

our daughter looking at "The Story of North Carolina" exhibit

They offer many changing exhibits, and our favorite remains “The Story of North Carolina.” This one takes you from NC’s prehistory through today while detailing all of the state’s twists and turns, including the Civil War, the Civil Rights Struggle, and more.

The NC Museum of History offers an array of events and programs to continue the learning experience for both adults and kids. Online exhibits are also offered through their website. 

NC Sports Hall of Fame

Address: 5 E Edenton St., Raleigh, NC
Admission: FREE

Inside the NC Sports Hall of Fame

Of all the museums in Raleigh, North Carolina we feature, this one and the NC Museum of History are the only ones that share a building.

The NC Sports Hall of Fame is located on the third floor of the Museum of History building. Inside, you’ll find tributes to legends from auto racing, basketball, baseball, and more sports.

Read More: Minor League Baseball in NC (15+ Interesting Teams to Watch)

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Address: 11 W Jones St, Raleigh, NC
Admission: FREE

a group of individuals through a window a the NC Museum of Natural Sciences

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is not only the state’s most visited museum, but it’s also the largest of its kind in the Southeastern United States. The seven floors of this Raleigh Museum span two city blocks, and the building is full of interactive and explorative exhibits, both permanent and featured.

Three levels of laboratories and exhibits also reside in the Nature Preserve Center here. Of all the museums in Raleigh, this is the only one that offers the rare opportunity to watch researchers study the natural world in real time.

The Natural Sciences Museum also hosts virtual trivia, lunchtime events, and classroom-type events.

Read More: 20+ Amazing Children’s Museums in North Carolina for All

Pope House Museum

Address: 511 S Wilmington St, Raleigh NC
Admission: FREE

The Pope House Museum is another one of the best downtown Raleigh museums, just a few blocks from the Capitol building. It is the only African-American house museum in the state of North Carolina and showcases a glimpse into the life of Dr. Manassa Thomas Pope.

Dr. Pope was the only African-American man to run for mayor of a Southern capital in the middle of the Jim Crow era. They offer guided tours that showcase original artifacts, as well as a variety of hands-on educational programs.

Read More: 25+ Important Places to Visit and Learn About Black History in North Carolina

Randleigh Dairy Heritage Museum

Address: 301 Dairy Ln, Raleigh, NC
Admission: $15/person

We keep saying these museums in Raleigh are unique, and this one is another case. The Randleigh Dairy Heritage Museum is part of NC State University’s Dairy Farm.

It’s located only a few miles from downtown Raleigh near Yates Mill, and you can visit for a guided tour. During this agritourism experience, you can learn how milk goes from farm to table.

It’s interactive and allows for guests to see how a typical North Carolina dairy farm works, including how they raise their cows, produce the milk, and make milk products. The museum also honors the Kenan family, whose support helped create the museum.

The Jersey cows on the farm are direct descendants of Kenan’s family stock. Don’t forget to grab some Howling Cow ice cream before you leave!

Currently, the Museum is only offering tours to organized groups of 10 or more, organized in advance.

Ray Price Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum

Address: 1126 S. Saunders St, Raleigh, NC
Admission: FREE

The Ray Price Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum sits downtown, above one of the largest Harley Davidson dealerships in the United States. It is also the only Harley Davidson drag racing museum in the world and home to the late, world-famous drag racer Ray Price.

This Raleigh museum takes a trip down memory lane and showcases many drag races, some that may have become famous and others that didn’t (but still had fun doing it). Some of the drag racers showcased include Jay Turner, Bill and Aaron Furr, and Jim McClure.

Ready to Explore These Awesome Museums in Raleigh?

You might’ve already known that there are more than a few museums in Raleigh North Carolina to explore. But did you expect to see so many distinct and diverse places to visit?

Whether you are searching for art, history, or agriculture, this city is packed with places to interactively display our state’s culture and background!

Have you visited any of these museums in Raleigh? Which are your favorites? In case you haven’t made it here yet, we’d love to know which ones you plan to visit first!

Let us know in the comments section or by email. Don’t forget to share your Raleigh adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

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