Raleigh boasts a rich cultural background and makes learning about it a breeze with tons of museums. From art and science to history and culture, the best museums in Raleigh offer immersive experiences and exhibits for visitors of all ages. Raleigh’s best museums offer captivating journeys into the art, history, and nature of the North Carolina state capital. Read on for StateView’s list of the best Raleigh museums!
Museums in Raleigh NC
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences | 11 W. Jones Street
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is North Carolina’s most visited museum, racking up over 1 million visitors annually. It’s a popular destination for a reason! This Raleigh museum aims to educate visitors about the natural world and inspire its conservation through classes and interactive exhibits.
The museum is divided into two collections: the Nature Exploration Center and the Nature Research Center. The Nature Exploration Center’s four-story building features wildlife and geology exhibits that boast exciting live animal displays and fossil showcases. Inside the Nature Research Center, visitors can watch museum scientists study the natural world in real-time. The museum also has two cafes, a gift shop, and a 3D theater.
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. General admission to the museum is free, but there are additional charges for special exhibits and films at the WRAL 3D Theater.
North Carolina Museum of Art | 2110 Blue Ridge Road
The North Carolina Museum of Art is one of the best and first Raleigh museums. The museum’s collections cover over 5,000 years of art, history, and culture of North Carolina artists and others. Public funds were used to purchase art and build a gallery for the first time ever in the United States in 1947 – and that initial purchase of 139 art pieces has expanded into the mind blowing collection available at the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Outside the walls of the museum, visitors can stroll the 164-acre Museum Park. Dedicated to fostering a welcoming sense of community, this garden features both permanent and rotating art installations that complement their natural surroundings. The garden also holds an outdoor amphitheater that hosts live music and other entertainment.
Admission to the People’s Collection in the East and West buildings is free. Museum Park entrance is also free, with the exception of paid tickets required for special exhibitions and programs like concerts, film screenings, performances, and classes. Admission is also required during the annual spring fundraiser Art in Bloom each March. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. Museum Park is open daily from dawn to dusk, including holidays.
North Carolina Museum of History | 5 E. Edenton Street
Step back in time to explore the history and heritage of the state at the North Carolina Museum of History. From the first English settlement in the New World to the first African American woman to receive a B.A. degree in the United States, North Carolina’s history is rich, diverse, and extensive – and collected for you to see at one of the best museums in Raleigh.
Exhibits rotate regularly and the museum sometimes hosts traveling exhibitions. Africa to Carolina allows visitors to explore the Middle Passage, laws concerning enslaved people, and the methods those enslaved folks used as resistance. Signs of the Times covers the history of protest in North Carolina – the people who protest, what they fight for and how, and the way protests have shaped our society. Check out the Exhibits tab for the most up-to-date list of exhibitions.
The North Carolina Museum of History is open daily, Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday from noon to 5 pm. Admission to the North Carolina Museum of History is completely free.
Marbles Kids Museum | 201 E. Hargett Street
Kids and adults will have a blast exploring the educational and interactive exhibits at Marbles Kids Museum – the best kids museum in Raleigh. The museum spans two floors and features outside exhibits as well. On the first floor, check out Toddler’s Hollow, where kids under 3 are encouraged to explore a woodland recreation at their own pace. Older kids will love the Splash! exhibit, and everybody gets a kick out of Stepnotes, the staircase that plays like a piano with your steps. The first floor is also home to Raleigh’s only giant screen movie experience, the IMAX theater.
The second floor houses Ecosphere, River Playway, Imagifab, and more exhibits to explore. Marbles even hosts Sensory Friendly Playtime days, leaving the lights up and sounds down for kids with sensory disorders.
Advance tickets are required at Marbles Kids Museum, as tickets frequently sell out. Advance tickets are $2 less than day-of reservations – don’t wait! Tickets are free for Marbles Members and half price from 3 pm to 7 pm Tuesday through Friday. Marbles Kids Museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, with extended hours of 10 am to 7 pm on Thursdays.
Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) Raleigh | 409 W. Martin Street
The Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) Raleigh is one of Raleigh’s best museums. Located in the Warehouse District of downtown Raleigh, CAM is a non-collecting museum featuring art, installations, and exhibitions by living artists exclusively.
Contemporary art is considered culture at CAM. It’s more than just a painting on a wall. To CAM, art is food, fashion, music, videos, installations, technology, and so much more. The Contemporary Art Museum ensures that local students are involved in growing its eclectic culture. Area middle school students act as docents during exhibition openings, teaching visitors about the artists, their piece of art on display, and their creative process.
Current artists on display at CAM Raleigh are Beverly McIver, Byron D. King, Aliyah Bonnette, Stella Rosalie Rosen, ISABEL LU, Ransome, and creators from the NC State School of Design. CAM Raleigh is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is free.
Free Museums in Raleigh
North Carolina Museum of Natural History | 11 W. Jones Street
Admission to the North Carolina Museum of Natural History is free. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, closed on Mondays and some holidays.
Museum memberships and donor generosity allow the North Carolina Museum of Natural History to continue offering education and programming that foster the exploration of the natural world – you can become a member or donate here!
North Carolina Museum of History | 5 E. Edenton Street
Admission to the North Carolina Museum of History is free – the “cherry on top” for one reviewer who visited the museum. The museum is open daily, Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 12 pm to 5 pm. The North Carolina Museum of History is closed on New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
City of Raleigh Museum | 220 Fayetteville Street
The City of Raleigh Museum is dedicated to preserving Raleigh’s past for future generations. The museum collects artifacts to curate exhibits and provide educational programming about the city’s rich and diverse history.
Admission to the City of Raleigh Museum is free. A suggested donation of $5 for adult visitors can be placed in the donation box in the gift shop. The City of Raleigh Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm, Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm, and First Fridays from 6 pm to 9 pm.
The Gregg Museum of Art + Design | 1903 Hillsborough St.
Located on the NC State University campus, the Gregg Museum of Art + Design is unlike any other in the area. This museum houses more than 35,000 pieces in its permanent collection, and regularly rotates exhibits to keep visitors coming back to Raleigh for more.
Admission to the Gregg is free. The Gregg Museum of Art + Design is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, with occasional extended hours of 10 am to 8 pm on Thursdays for public programming.
Pope House Museum | 511 S. Wilmington Street
Explore a piece of Raleigh’s history at the Pope House Museum. Originally built in 1901, the house of Dr. Manassa Thomas Pope stands as a reminder of the life and legacy of the only African-American man to run for mayor in a Southern capital during the Jim Crow Era.
The Pope House Museum is the only of its kind in North Carolina, still home to original furniture and artifacts from the Pope family’s daily life – like Dr. Pope’s father’s freedman papers and Dr. Pope’s original doctor’s bag from the Spanish-American war.
Admission to the Pope House Museum is free. Donations are accepted and encouraged. The Pope House Museum also takes donations of time! Find out how to volunteer at the Pope House, one of Raleigh’s best museums, here.
If our list of museums in Raleigh NC has sparked your excitement, pack your bags and book your stay at the StateView Hotel today. Our on-site restaurant, beautiful outdoor pool deck, and extensive in-room amenities are the perfect complements to any North Carolina getaway. We look forward to hearing all about your favorite museum visit during your next stay at our Raleigh hotel.