Things To Do in Downtown Raleigh

Visitors looking for things to do in downtown Raleigh are in luck – StateView Hotel is close to the best entertainment, shopping, museums that Raleigh has to offer. Find artistic inspiration, taste the local flavors, and stroll through Raleigh’s history within minutes of your room at StateView Hotel. Read on for our list of the best things to do in downtown Raleigh! 

Top Things To Do In Downtown Raleigh

Original Raleigh Rickshaw

These iconic three-wheeled carts are a fun and eco-friendly way to experience downtown Raleigh. The drivers know the city like the back of their hand, so sit back and enjoy the breeze on the way to your next destination. Reserve your ride with the original Raleigh Rickshaw today!

See a Show at Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts

From ballets and orchestras to comedy shows and motivational speakers, the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts offers a stunning range of events for visitors to enjoy. This downtown Raleigh theater keeps a full events calendar, hosting the legendary North Carolina Orchestra, visiting ballet companies, and more. 

Tip: Grab a late lunch on the day of your show to hold you over, then head to a delicious downtown dinner after the show while the rest of the crowd makes a beeline for Raleigh’s bars and breweries. 

An evening spent at the Raleigh Beer Garden is just one of the many fun things to do in downtown Raleigh and one of the best rooftop bars in Raleigh NC.

Raleigh Beer Garden

With close to 400 beers on tap, Raleigh Beer Garden is one of the most unique things to do in downtown Raleigh. The garden holds THREE Guinness World Record titles in two categories, famous for their huge selection of draft brews that come from far and wide in addition to local Raleigh brews. Sours, IPAs, ciders, stouts, and more await at Raleigh Beer Garden! 

Looking for even more beer? Here are our 15 favorite Raleigh breweries.

Historic City Market

The Historic City Market has been a Raleigh landmark since it was established in 1914. The architecture has been beautifully preserved and is now home to a collection of one-of-a-kind Raleigh shops, boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries. 

Check out the City Market Artist Collective for a look into the creative minds of Raleigh, and keep an eye out for wedding parties as you stroll: the City Market is home to beautiful venues suited perfectly for saying I do.

The Optimist Raleigh

The Optimist is a Raleigh coffee shop and “local haunt” dedicated to making folks feel as welcome in their shop as the owners did when they arrived in Raleigh. The atmosphere is doing the job right: one look at the soft light coming in those gorgeous windows makes you want to set up camp and stay a while. Enjoy an assortment of hot and iced tea, handcrafted coffee, delicious bites, and even mimosa flights for those 21 and up! 

Craving even more caffeine? Check out our ultimate guide to the best coffee shops in Raleigh.

See a Show at Red Hat Amphitheater

Red Hat Amphitheater hosts incredible live concerts in downtown Raleigh. With a diverse lineup of shows in 2024 like Orville Peck, A Day to Remember, Bryson Tiller, O.A.R., Two Door Cinema Club and flipturn,  Still Woozy, Goth Babe, and more, plus the proud host of the sold out Chappell Roan Raleigh show, Red Hat is a music lover’s dream and a great place to start if you’re planning a Raleigh trip far enough in advance to score tickets to one of their sought-after shows. 

Videri Chocolate Factory

Treat your sweet tooth to a visit to Videri Chocolate Factory in downtown Raleigh. This artisanal chocolate factory strives to “change the face” of fine, hand-crafted chocolates with their welcoming attitude and willingness to teach about every part of their process. 

Tour the factory to see how the cacao bean turns into a smooth, silky chocolate bar – and then take your pick of flavors like dark milk cocoa crunch with sea salt, signature dark chocolate, sea salt dark chocolate, and more. 

BoxCar Bar + Arcade

Nostalgia meets friendly competition at BoxCar Bar + Arcade in Raleigh. This retro spot is home to an extensive collection of classic arcade games, but that’s not all: there’s also a full liquor bar and an impressive rotating menu of craft brews. 

Unwind and socialize while you relive the golden age of arcade games at BoxCar Bar + Arcade! 

friends enjoying a new and exciting way to eat.

Crank Arm Brewing Company

A nod to the bike racing community of Raleigh, Crank Arm Brewing Company is a craft brewery dedicated to creating awesome craft beers while fostering and encouraging an active lifestyle. All of Crank Arm Brewing’s beers are unfiltered, thanks to their commitment to taking their time on their beers. Sip a Foam Pit Flipper Belgian IPA or a Whitewall Wheat – no matter what you choose, you’ll come away refreshed. 

North Carolina State Capitol

The iconic North Carolina State Capitol Building was built in 1840 following a fire that destroyed the original building. This symbol of North Carolina’s political history and future is a popular place to visit in downtown Raleigh even when the inside isn’t open for tours. The grounds provide a quiet green space in the middle of the city, perfect for stopping for a picnic during a busy day of sight-seeing. 

Marbles Kids Museum

In the heart of downtown Raleigh, Marbles Kids Museum is a dream come true for kids and parents alike. Featuring a range of hands-on exhibits and activities to help kids learn in a fun way while they play in a safe environment, this downtown museum is a great place to visit on a rainy day in Raleigh or when the kids need to get some energy out. Advance tickets are required, so reserve them online in advance before your dates sell out! 

Black Friday Market

Black Friday Market in downtown Raleigh is market exclusively made up of Black artisans, craftsmen, and other local creators. Browse a diverse collection of handmade crafts, skincare, jewelry, clothing, art, and more while you support the local community. The Black Friday Market hosts events, so check before you visit to see if there’s something special going on! 

Moore Square

In the center of downtown Raleigh, Moore Square offers a quiet haven for locals and visitors alike. The historic square is home to expertly maintained gardens, comfortable benches, and shady spots thanks to majestic oak trees. This is a gorgeous spot to visit any time, but Moore Square hosts events and concerts throughout the year that add even more value to the space. 

Seasonal Festivals

Downtown Raleigh has seasonal festivals galore. From the New Year’s Eve Acorn Drop in January to Artsplosure to the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival, there’s always something going on in downtown Raleigh. Showcasing both local and international talent, each festival is an opportunity to explore new sights and sounds or immerse yourself in your favorites. 

Free Things To Do In Raleigh

If you’re pinching pennies, some of the best things to do in Raleigh are free. Check out our favorites below, or visit our full list of free things to do in Raleigh here.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

The largest natural history museum in the Southeast is the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, located in downtown Raleigh. Racking up over 1 million annual visitors, this Raleigh museum seeks to educate visitors about the natural world and inspire its conservation through interactive exhibits, classes, and productions. Admission to the North Carolina Museum is free! 

Interested in exploring more museums in the City of Oaks? Check out our guide to the best museums in Raleigh, NC

North Carolina Museum of Art

One of Raleigh’s best and first museums, the North Carolina Museum of Art houses a diverse collection spanning over 5,000 years of North Carolina history, art, and culture. The museum itself is a piece of history: this is the very first museum in the United States that was opened using public funds. 

In addition to the museum, visitors can stroll through 164-acre Museum Park. Museum Park features both permanent and rotating art installations created to complement their natural surroundings. 

Admission to the North Carolina Museum of Art and Museum Park is completely free. Tickets are required for special events, like fundraisers and film screenings. 

gardens at the NC Museum of Art

City of Raleigh Museum

Follow the city of Raleigh’s journey from humble beginnings to its current status as North Carolina’s capital at the City of Raleigh Museum. Explore exhibits that detail Raleigh’s history from the Civil War and industrial growth to cultural moments and community happenings. The museum houses interactive exhibits and historical artifacts, providing captivating snapshots of Raleigh’s evolution through time. 

CAM Raleigh

CAM Raleigh showcases a range of works by established and emerging artists, providing a diverse and thought-provoking experience for museum visitors. Explore one of the best free museums in Raleigh and find captivating exhibits that push artistic and societal boundaries, cutting-edge contemporary pieces, and creative inspiration. 

Admission to CAM Raleigh is free. 

Mordecai Historic Park

Site of the oldest home in Raleigh still in its original location, Mordecai Historic Park in downtown Raleigh is a free educational complex that preserves and educates visitors about the property’s history. Tour the Mordecai Historic Park, which includes the Mordecai House and its outbuildings, to see some of the most well-preserved pieces of North Carolina history available to the public. 

Visit the Acorn

Looking for something free to do in downtown Raleigh? Don’t miss the beloved and iconic Acorn! This sculpture, designed by David Benson, is a symbol of Raleigh that is truly a sight to see. At 10 feet tall and 250-lbs., the Acorn makes a great photo opportunity any time of year – but plays an especially important role in Raleigh’s New Year’s Eve celebration, the Acorn Drop. 

Art to Heart Corridor

Surround yourself with Raleigh’s artistic energy on the Art to Heart Corridor. As you travel the corridor, you’ll find an impressive collection of public art installations that serve to celebrate Raleigh’s diverse and talented artistic community. Murals, sculptures, and more tell unique visual stories and add more interest to an already gorgeous landscape. 

Raleigh Municipal Rose Garden

Featuring 60 varieties of roses with over 1,000 blooms, the Raleigh Municipal Rose Garden is a stunning stop on any Raleigh trip itinerary. Admission to this rose garden in downtown Raleigh is free, though events and productions at the outdoor theater in the garden are usually ticketed or pay-what-you-can. The roses in the downtown Raleigh rose garden typically bloom from late May through the fall, so don’t miss seeing them during your trip!  

JC Raulston Arboretum

See over 6,000 different plants from around the world at JC Raulston Arboretum near downtown Raleigh. With a focus on research-based education and sustainability practices, this arboretum has been able to successfully maintain this stunning green space with multiple themed gardens, extensive plant collections, and more. Perfect for a low-key and relaxed day in Raleigh, the JC Raulston Arboretum makes a great stop on your vacation that doesn’t require getting out your wallet – admission is free. 

Pullen Park - one of the top things to do in Downtown Raleigh

Pullen Park

From boat trips and train rides to the carousel and outdoor cafe and all the fun in between, Pullen Park is a can’t-miss destination in downtown Raleigh. Whether you want to indulge nostalgia on the pedal boats or lounge on the lush green grass with a picnic, Pullen Park in downtown Raleigh has something for everyone on your trip to Raleigh. 

Moore Square

From movie nights to the ideal lawn space for relaxing, Moore Square is a family-friendly and free place to visit in downtown Raleigh. With a long history of use as a gathering place for the city, visitors and locals still flock to the square for community events like concerts and movie nights, plus walking, picnicking, and other outdoor activities during the day. 

Need A Place To Stay While Visiting Downtown Raleigh, NC?

From the nostalgic charm of the rickshaw to art that is defining the future, downtown Raleigh has plenty to see and do for visitors of all ages. Plus, when you stay at The StateView Hotel, you can spend more time exploring thanks to the hotel’s close proximity to the most popular things to do in Downtown Raleigh. Book your stay at our Raleigh hotel today.