Last Updated on September 8, 2021
Last Updated on September 8, 2021
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.
A bustling city with incredible restaurants, innovative breweries, and awesome museums, there are plenty of things to do with kids in Raleigh, too! Enrich and engage your kids with educational and interactive exhibits, explore the outdoors, or have some indoor family fun.
Whatever you’re looking to do, Raleigh is a fantastic city for families! In this article, we’ll list some Raleigh museums, kid-friendly hiking, additional outdoor activities, as well as other fun things to do with kids in Raleigh.
This post is part of our series on the best things to do in North Carolina, especially in Raleigh and elsewhere in the center of our state! If you’re searching for unique places to stay, check out these cool Airbnbs in Raleigh!
Museums in Raleigh
Here are a few of the city’s best museums, which happen to double as great things to do with kids in Raleigh.
North Carolina Museum of Art
Art museums aren’t typically thought of as great kid-friendly activities, but at the North Carolina Museum of Art, you can definitely bring the kids! From their fun outdoor movie series to the colorful and engaging exhibits, there are so many reasons why kids love the NCMA.
Walking the trails at the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park is one of our favorite things to do with kids in Raleigh. The outdoor sculptures are inviting for kids of all ages, and it’s a great way to be outside and learning at the same time!
You can also bring your bike and ride some of the trails here, which also form part of Raleigh’s Art to Heart Trail. It runs from the NC Museum of Art through many of Raleigh’s best-known attractions.
Marbles Kids Museum
Looking for hours of fun? Marbles Kids Museum is in the middle of downtown and arguably one of the best things to do with kids in Raleigh! An admission fee is required, but it is a good price for an entire day of fun.
There are exhibits and activities for everyone, with hands-on interactive exhibits and 3D IMAX theater that make learning come to life for older kids and play areas for the younger ones!
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
The NC Museum of Natural Sciences is our number one favorite free thing to do in Raleigh! Multiple floors guide you through the history and ecosystems of North Carolina, with real fish tanks, a collection of snakes, and more!
The exhibits are engaging and perfect for children of all ages. It’s hard to believe that this is a free museum because it truly is an outstanding experience! Don’t forget to come back for the amazing events they host as well.
North Carolina Museum of History
Right next to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is the North Carolina Museum of History. With permanent exhibits, as well as rotating ones, we always find something new to do and learn here.
Also inside is the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, which gives tributes to icons like Michael Jordan, Richard Petty, and many more famous athletes from this state.
There are also quite a few exhibits dedicated to Black history in North Carolina, which is an important reason to visit throughout the year.
Outdoors with Kids in Raleigh
Umstead State Park
Getting outside is a must for us! At Umstead State Park, there’s a variety of kid-friendly trails. We recommend searching for the chainsaw art on the Multi-Use Trail!
The chainsaw art is a 25-foot fallen oak tree that has since become home to carvings of wolves, owls, and more!
It can be difficult to find, but we list directions here. The MUT is flat and easy for children of all ages!
All of this keeps Umstead near the top of our favorite state parks.
Dorothea Dix Park
The largest park in Raleigh, Dorothea Dix Park is a great place to get outdoors with kids! The 308-acre park features rolling hills and open spaces that overlook the skyline.
One of our favorite things to do at Dorothea Dix is to pack a picnic and fly a kite on a windy day. Be sure to visit in the summer when their beautiful sunflowers are in full bloom!
For more about Dorothea Dix Park, check out our interview with Kate Pearce for NC Travel Chat!
Pullen Park has been a staple for kids’ activities in Raleigh since 1887. With playgrounds, wide green spaces, a mini train, and the original 1911 carousel, Pullen Park is also one of the world’s oldest operating amusement parks!
If you are looking for fun things to do with kids in Raleigh, Pullen Park is one of our first picks!
During many parts of the year, we’ll find ourselves at Shelley Lake Park at least once a week. The paved trail loops 2.2 miles around the lake, providing a refreshing mix of shade and sun.
The biggest appeal of Shelley Lake for our kiddo is the bridge where many ducks and turtles congregate. We always bring a snack, sit on the bridge, and count the turtles as they swim by!
Shelley Lake also features among our favorite hiking trails in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill!
RDU Observation Park
Do you have an airplane loving kiddo? Then the RDU Observation Park is for you! Overlooking the 10,000-foot runway near Raleigh-Durham International Airport’s Air Traffic Control Tower, kids can watch as the planes take off and land.
There’s also a sandbox to play in while in-between flights. Bring your own toys and enjoy the excitement of flight!
Sassafras All Children’s Playground
While there are plenty of playgrounds in Raleigh, we think that the Sassafras All Children’s Playground at Laurel Hills Park is one of the best. The 3.5-acre playground is inclusive for children of all ages and abilities, featuring zip lines, climbing structures, and playground equipment that guarantees a fun day!
We’ve made Page Farms an annual tradition during the fall to look for pumpkins, but Page Farms offers family fun in the spring and summer, too. Join them for strawberry picking in the spring, blackberries in the summer, and pumpkin picking in late summer/early fall, and say hello to the farm animals!
Prairie Ridge Ecostation
If you are looking for something with outdoor play in Raleigh, then Prairie Ridge Ecostation is the place to be! An extension of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the Ecostation has an outdoor classroom, plant garden, and programs for nature-based exploration.
Free and open daily, this is one of the best things to do with kids in Raleigh!
More Things to Do with Kids in Raleigh
Boxcar Bar + Arcade
Located in Downtown Raleigh, Boxcar Bar + Arcade is a great place to bring kids! With plenty of room and hundreds of games, this arcade mixes new and classic games for children and parents alike. From air hockey to MarioKart, great memories are made with the push of a little competition.
Note that only visitors 21 or older are allowed after 9:00 pm.
Frankie’s Fun Park
We aren’t ashamed to say that we first visited Frankie’s Fun Park when I was 40 weeks pregnant, so *technically* we were there with a child! Frankie’s is a fun-plex of arcade games, mini-golf, go-karts, laser tag, and batting cages, perfect for a day of adventure and action.
Parking is ample and easy and you can truly spend the whole day playing and eating from their indoor restaurant!
TreeRunner Ropes Course
Have a kid who loves to climb? Then you need to check out TreeRunner Ropes Course! This aerial adventure park has over 70 obstacles, ropes courses, and zip lines at a variety of difficulty levels.
Accessible for children as young as 4 years old, spend some time with your kids up in the trees!
United Skates of America
Kick it old school with some classic roller skating at United Skates of America, a place so large that it can accommodate up to 500 skaters! Teach your younger kids to rollerblade here or let your older kids show off their skating skills.
If you are looking for a deal, then make sure to come for $2 Mondays.
Greystone Recreation Center
In the heat of summer or on a rainy day, it’s always hard to find fun things to do with kids in Raleigh. Greystone Recreation Center is the answer to that struggle!
The first of its kind in the city, the playground features 9,600 square feet of indoor play space, a rock climbing wall, and even classrooms. The best part–it’s all free!
What are Your Favorite Things to Do with Kids in Raleigh?
There are plenty of free and fun things to do with kids in Raleigh! Enjoy the outdoors at Umstead State Park, climb the walls at Greystone Recreation Center, or spend a day playing at Marbles Museum.
We hope you enjoy spending time as a family in Raleigh, whether you explore the outdoors or have a fun go-kart competition!
If you’re based in the area or visit our Capital City often, we’d love to know about your favorite things to do with kids in Raleigh, too. Let us know here in the comments section and keep the conversation going!