Pullen Park in Raleigh (Everything You Need to Know About NC’s First Public Amusement Park)

Last Updated on July 29, 2021

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If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.

Pullen Park is a wonderful amusement park near Dorothea Dix Park and NC State University in Raleigh. The 66-acre public space is where people have been coming for years to ride the carousel, the train, and enjoy more amusements.

North Carolina‘s first public park is perfect for any family, especially those with younger kids. Pullen Park is also a fantastic spot for anyone searching for some fresh air in our capital city.

Thanks to its rich history and fun things to do for all ages, we think a trip to Pullen Park will make everyone happy. No matter how old you are, a train ride or stroll around Lake Howell is certain to put a smile on your face.

We want you to know everything about Raleigh’s best amusement park and have organized our Pullen Park guide like this:

  • Pullen Park History
  • Before You Visit: Pullen Park Tips
  • The Best Things to Do at Pullen Park
  • Things to Do Nearby

You can skip ahead to a specific section or keep reading for some Pullen Park history!

This post is part of our series on Raleigh and more of our favorite places to visit in Central North Carolina.

Pullen Park History

Pullen Park

Pullen Park was established in 1887 as the first public park in the state. The Raleigh park spans over 66 acres, with its own lake, amusement park, plenty of space for sports and running around, and shelters visitors can rent for their own private events.

It is the first public park in North Carolina, the 5th oldest operating amusement park in the US, and the 16th oldest in the entire world. 

Before You Visit: Pullen Park Tips

Kids at Pullen Park

Pullen Park is typically open from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm each day.

For the rides and other amusements, hours vary depending on the season and may close early due to darkness or inclement weather. Make sure to check the City of Raleigh’s website or social media before going.

Many of the attractions (carousel, train, etc.) require tickets, which you can buy for $1.50 per person and attraction. Tickets can be bought online or at the ticket box when cashiers are available.

Ticket sales close 15 minutes before rides close. To save time, buy tickets online ahead of your trip. We’ve found it easier to buy tickets at home first before arriving!

Things to Do at Pullen Park

Pullen Park has an array of amusement activities that make for an exciting day trip. Here are all the fun things to do once you step inside.

Playgrounds

Playgrounds at Pullen Park

We’ll get to the carousel and train shortly, but I think the unsung heroes are the assortment of playgrounds at Pullen Park. They allow kids of all ages to play in areas fitting to their age group.

There are four specific play areas at Pullen Park: Preschool Playground, Sand Play, School Age Climb and Slide, and the Swing Area.

The Preschool Playground is best for toddlers and kids ages 2 to 5 years old. It’s enclosed by a fence and vegetation and includes three slides, one preschool full-basket seat swing, one accessible molded bucket swing, one see-saw, stepping stones, and two shade structures.

Sand Play is made for ages 2 to 12 years old and includes the following: two sand diggers, one accessible sand digger, two shade structures, a playhouse, music-making equipment and stage, and one accessible spring platform.

Play structure at Pullen Park

The School-Age Climb and Slide is best suited for kids ages 5 to 12 years old. It includes two universally accessible slides, six climbing structures, one see-saw, and one shade structure.

The Swing Area, which is suitable for all ages, includes 10 traditional belt swings, one preschool full-bucket seat swing, one accessible molded bucket swing, and one tire swing.

Train Rides

Pullen Park Train

The Pullen Park Train is a near-replica of the Collis P Huntington miniature train, but one-third the original size.

The train is suitable for the entire family and allows you to take a ride around the entire perimeter of Pullen Park. The train station entrance sits between the swings and the playgrounds.

Before or after your train ride, you can bring the kids to explore the Caboose, situated right across the train station entrance.

You and your kids will love this train, but also check out the Holiday Express if you can grab tickets. This event is one of the fastest to sell out each year!

Kiddie Boats

boats at Pullen Park

The Kiddie Boats sit next to the train station entrance. It’s a good way for younger kids to “ride a boat” in the safety of a controlled environment.

Pullen Park carasol

Past the plaza, visitors will find the Gustave A Dentzel Carousel, built in 1911. This carousel is a Pullen Park staple and is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kids can pick their favorite horse and enjoy their time once the ride starts. However, they must be at least 42” for them to ride by themselves.

Lake Howell

Pullen Park boats

On the other side of the park is Lake Howell, where you can go for a pedal boat ride. The pedal boats can fit up to four people and go for a half-hour at a time.

You can also view the TV Land Andy & Opie Statue, located near the boathouse. Check out the Children’s Amphitheater as well to see if an event is going on! 

The Pullen Aquatic Center

The Pullen Aquatic Center is a premier swimming venue that offers a variety of pool areas as well as water exercise classes. The pool is divided into five sections: long course, lap swim, open rec swim, teach pool, and diving boards.

The teaching pool is a nice warm water pool used for therapy, swim lessons, recreational swimming, and scheduled classes. The diving board area provides both a low and high dive for use.

The water exercise classes include shallow and deep water options, ranging in intensity levels 1 to 5. The classes are available for single class purchase or an 8-class pass.

These water exercise classes add additional resistance that you can’t get with exercise on land. They also enhance your well-being, sleeping patterns, and injury recovery time, and much more.

During the summer, the Pullen Aquatic Center is open Monday to Saturday, generally between 5:30 am to 8:00 pm. Make sure to check the hours for individual pool areas as times may vary.

Arts Center

There is also an arts center at Pullen Park, and we look forward to exploring it more after its renovations are complete.

Ready to Visit Pullen Park?

Take a ride on the Pullen Park train, go for a spin on the carousel, let the kids enjoy some fun on the kiddie boat ride, and take a pedal boat out on Lake Howell. No matter what you do first, we know you’re going to enjoy your time at Raleigh’s favorite family-friendly amusement park.

It’s absolutely one of our favorite things to do with our kid in Raleigh! We’d love to know if it’s yours, too.

Please let us know what you think of Pullen Park, and if you haven’t visited yet, you can share your first experiences with us here or in our Facebook Group!

Things to Do Nearby

Pullen Park Raleigh NC

Pullen Park is in a sweet spot near Dorothea Dix Park and is just a few minutes away from downtown Raleigh and NC State. If you’re riding the Art to Heart Trail from the NC Museum of Art, Pullen Park is one stop along the way.

Other fun attractions include Marbles Kid Museum, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and some more of our favorite museums in Raleigh! They’re all within a short drive of Pullen Park.

If you ever get hungry, one of the city’s amazing restaurants is more than likely nearby.

More Things to Do in Raleigh

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