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How to Visit The NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on May 27, 2024.

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There are some truly wonderful museums in Raleigh, but the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is one of the best we’ve had the chance to visit!

It’s free to the public and located in the heart of downtown, which is great if you’re hoping to find more things to do in Raleigh before or after your visit.

The exhibits at this Raleigh Science Museum are engaging for minds of all ages, and they offer a nice mix of top-notch programs, which allowed our daughter and us to join in the fun!

Inside this guide, we’ll offer an overview of the museum, ticketing information, the best exhibits, and why we loved visiting the NC Museum of Natural Sciences!

entrance to the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences

Here’s how we’ve organized things:

  • Quick Guide (Address, Contact Info, and Admission Info)
  • NC Museum of Natural Sciences Background
  • Ticket Info
  • Exhibits (The Nature Exploration Center and the Nature Research Center)
  • Virtual Programs and Community Outreach
  • More Things to Do in Raleigh (Suggestions and Related Posts)

Read More: 40 of the Most Amazing Museums in North Carolina (for ALL Ages!)

Essential Info

Address: 11 West Jones St, Raleigh, NC
Phone Number: 919-707-9800
Official Website

Ticket Info

Note: Pricing, operating hours, or menus may change after publication.

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can visit the NC Science Museum’s website to see updated hours for specific areas of the museum and museum closures. 

Luckily, you don’t have to reserve tickets ahead of time anymore, but there is still a capacity limit each day, so we recommend getting there early!

About the NC Museum of Natural Sciences (Background Info)

An exhibit inside the NC Museum of Natural Sciences

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences dates back to 1879, which is when the state’s agricultural and geological collections merged to create what is now one of the largest museums of its kind in the Southeast.

It is also the state’s most visited museum, with over 1 million visitors annually.

Another remarkable fact about the Natural Science Museum in Raleigh is that they collaborate on exhibits with other institutions across NC. They also support other museums through their North Carolina Science Museums Grant Program.

Read More: Central North Carolina (and 100+ Amazing Places to Visit)

NC Museum of Natural Sciences Exhibits

a volunteer at the museum giving a demonstration to a group of children

The museum is divided into two buildings: the older Nature Exploration Center and the newer Nature Research Center. These two buildings span two city blocks and are joined by a pedestrian bridge accessible from the museum’s second and third floors.

See live animals and insects, life-size skeletons including a giant whale, engaging interactive exhibits, and a butterfly house.

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

The Nature Exploration Center

an interesting exhibit in the Nature Exploration Center

Permanent exhibits in the NC Museum of Natural Sciences’ Nature Exploration Center building include:

  • Natural Treasures of North Carolina: This exhibit explores current and extinct things native to NC.
  • Coastal North Carolina and Coastal North Carolina Overlook: learn about NC’s coastal habitats and see one of the most impressive whale skeleton collections in the US.
  • Mountains to the Sea: this area is filled with dioramas of life-like exhibits.
  • Nature’s Explorers: learn more about the museum’s past and future.

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

Carl and out daughter learning about the various species living in North Carolina
  • Underground North Carolina: view beautiful gems and minerals.
  • Discovery Room: designed for younger visitors, allowing them to get up and close with natural science.
  • Terror of the South: say hello to the Acrocanthosaurus, a giant dinosaur.
  • Prehistoric North Carolina: explore and learn all about prehistoric times in North Carolina.
  • Tropical Connections: this area showcases species such as tree boas and poison dart frogs and promotes biodiversity.
  • Mountain Cove: Look at the plants and animals that typically hide under cover of darkness or camouflage.
visitors looking through the Snakes exhibit at the Museum of Natural Sciences
  • Snakes of North Carolina: come look at some of the 40 snake species native to NC.
  • Arthropod Zoo: exhibit filled with living insects and large models.
  • The Living Conservatory (Butterfly Room): this replica of a tropical dry forest habitat is home to many butterflies and a two-toed sloth, among other creatures.

Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do In North Carolina (Your NC Bucket List)

The Nature Research Center

The Nature Research Center building is newer but offers many opportunities to immerse yourself in science.

  • SECU Daily Planet: this three-story-tall theater plays clips that show the Earth in great detail.
  • Investigating Right Whales: Meet Stumpy, a whale struck by a ship that enacted change in Right Whale protected habitats.
  • Exploring the Deep Sea: take a ride in the submersible to explore different sea life and see researchers hard at work.
  • Our Changing Ocean: this 10,000-gallon aquarium exhibit replicates the rugged bottom habitat off the NC coast.
  • Naturalist Center: Look at its extensive collection of bones, fossils, and other specimens.
walkway leading into the Naturalist Center of the museum
  • Diversity of Life: learn about how scientists are exploring diversity.
  • Window on Animal Health: watch highly-trained vets perform checkups on museum animals.
  • Researching Weather: Look at weather scanners from different parts of the country and past weather activity.
  • Natural World Investigate Lab: partake in hands-on scientific lab experiments.
  • Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries: this exhibit highlights microscopic specimens from the Ediacaran period.
a large nature exhibit with a variety of plant species, pine trees, and small animals
  • Postcards from Space: explore different meteorites and how they are classified.
  • Planet Micro: here, you’ll walk through larger-than-life microbe models.
  • MicroWorld Investigate Lab: this hands-on lab allows you to discover nature on a microscopic level.
  • Unraveling DNA: learn about DNA barcoding and how much DNA you share with other species.
  • Visual World Investigate Lab: here, scientists translate raw data into something they can understand.
  • Dueling Dinosaurs: showcases the most complete fossils of a T. Rex and Triceratops ever found, the two of them locked together at the time of their death. This exhibit has a state-of-the-art interactive display and the ability to witness the fossils up close as researchers study them.

In addition to permanent exhibits, there are always a few special exhibits at the Raleigh NC Natural Science Museum, so you’ll always learn something new, even if you’re a returning visitor.

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

Group Programs

visitors exploring the museum on the other side of the enclosed exhibit

The NC Museum of Natural Sciences offers a variety of interactive programs for small groups ranging from 8 to 30 people. These programs are flexible and can be taught at various locations, including, but not limited to, schools, camps, and libraries.

The presentations are also adjustable to all ages and abilities. Small group programs to choose from include the following:

  • Story Time
  • Growing Up in the Animal World
  • Meet the Animals
  • Animal Tracks and Signs
  • Ant Picnic, Birds of a Feather
  • Fossils and Prehistoric Life
  • Music and the Brain
  • Rocks and Minerals
  • Tools of the (Scientific) Trade

Read More: NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores (5 Important Tips to Enjoy!)

Virtual Programs

There are two virtual program options for those who would like to learn more but aren’t able to come in. The first option is the Virtual Group Program, which gives students worldwide the opportunity to hear from a Museum instructor.

The instructor tailors the video presentation to the current curriculum and can include live animals, activities, and other specimens.

The second option is an Individual Virtual Program where parents can sign their children up for interactive lessons. 

More virtual programs and events can be found here.

Ready to Visit the NC Museum of Natural Sciences?

The NC Museum of Natural Sciences has long been our go-to place in Raleigh, especially on rainy days, hot summer and cold winter days, and any other time we can’t get outside.

Based on all it offers, we don’t think that will change soon. We consider it one of the best things to do with kids in Raleigh, and the fact that it’s a free attraction is why we’ll keep returning to this amazing science museum.

Have you ever visited the NC Museum of Natural Sciences? We’d love to know what you thought of it. Let us know in the comments or by email.

Don’t forget to share your adventures from the Raleigh Museum of Science in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

More Things to Do in Raleigh

Because the Raleigh Museum of Science is right in the heart of downtown, there are plenty of other fun and free things to do nearby! We love pairing this museum with the North Carolina Museum of History (it’s right next door!)

Marbles Kids Museum requires admission but is only a short walk away if you visit with children. It can certainly provide a full day of fun.

We also recommend checking out our list of Raleigh restaurants and Raleigh breweries for when you get hungry!

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