Planning a trip to Raleigh for business, a romantic getaway, or a family vacation? One of the places you will definitely want to check out while in town is the Downtown Raleigh area. It provides a cool city-like atmosphere while maintaining its historic roots and feel.
We’ve put together a list of our favorite things to do in Downtown Raleigh that is sure to leave you counting down the days until your trip to the City of Oaks.
Things To Do In Downtown Raleigh
Crank Arm Rickshaw Ride
If you’re looking to have a really unique downtown experience, take a ride on a rickshaw! Crank Arm Rickshaw offers city and historic tours through the streets of downtown Raleigh. While you ride in your open-air rickshaw your driver will show you around, give you the details on all the city has to offer and even point out the best places to eat and shop.
Do you have a whole crew coming into town or planning a big event? Crank Arm also offers transportation for bar crawls, bachelor/bachelorette parties, weddings, birthday parties and other special events! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, rates, and booking your tour.
Raleigh Beer Garden
The Raleigh Beer Garden boasts the world’s largest selection of draft beer and currently holds the Guinness World Record at more than 350! The natural environment features once-living trees weaving in and out of tables filled with birdhouses and more for all to enjoy.
Mingle indoors, outside in their garden, or on their rooftop patio while you choose from a variety of IPAs, Pale Ales, Blondes, Ciders and more. They also have a full dining menu with great options to choose from like pizza, sandwiches and bar bites. Be sure to also check out their event calendar. The Raleigh Beer Garden regularly hosts holiday parties, yoga classes, corn hole tournaments and more. Open daily from 11:00-2:00 a.m.; reservations are available.
Looking for more breweries in town? Here are our 15 favorite Raleigh breweries.
Historic City Market
For some of the best shopping and dining in downtown Raleigh, the Historic City Market is the spot to be. Located in the heart of downtown you can enjoy specialty shops and mouth-watering local restaurants all in one place. A few of our favorites include Royale, Bella Vita, and Market Hall.
The Raleigh Historic City Market first opened in October of 1914, becoming the spot to purchase local produce, fresh meats and blossoming flowers. The market was finally recognized by the National Register of Historical Places in 1980. Today, the market provides shopping, entertainment and local fare for locals and visitors to enjoy. The Historic City Market is open year-round; be sure to check out what events they are hosting during your stay!
Ready to shop ‘til you drop during your Raleigh vacation? We have a list of the best shopping in Raleigh, NC including indoor shopping malls, outdoor shopping centers and downtown specialty stores.
Looking for a local spot with great drinks, live music and outdoor seating? Here are our top 10 picks for the best of Raleigh’s nightlife in 2021.
The Optimist Raleigh
In need of your morning cup-of-joe or an afternoon pick-me-up? Stop by The Optimist coffee shop in downtown Raleigh. Local couple Andrew and Robyn opened their shop in 2020 with an optimistic outlook. Despite the dark cloud that hung over last year, their business has blossomed as locals and visitors praise the delicious coffee and scrumptious treats served by a kind and welcoming staff.
The Optimist proudly serves locally-sourced goods from B&W Coffee Roasters, Michael’s English Muffins, Layered Croissanterie and Lyrix Elixirs. Their decor is relaxed yet modern, and they have a pet-friendly patio plus a convenient walk-up window. The Optimist is open Monday through Wednesday, from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Sunday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Craving even more delicious, local coffee? We have created the ultimate guide to the best coffee shops in Raleigh.
Free Things To Do In Raleigh
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
If you’re looking for a museum experience unlike any other, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences should be on your bucket list! The building alone is a sight to see with its domed globe popping out from the main entrance, named the Daily Planet.
Here you can explore prehistoric times, tropical creatures, dinosaur bones, space and more. The museum also features two cafes, a gift shop and a 3D theater. The best part? General admission into the museum is free, however there are additional charges for special exhibits and films at the WRAL 3D Theater. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
North Carolina Museum of Art
The North Carolina Museum of Art has a lot to offer its visitors, from modern, classic and cultural works of art to an outdoor park dotted with art installations. There is even an outdoor amphitheater in the park where summer movies, concerts and performances take place.
The North Carolina Museum of Art also hosts events and showcases special exhibitions throughout the year like the annual Art in Bloom event, a virtual demonstration of modern florals in watercolor and the free virtual NCMA Film Club, hosted monthly. Admission is free into this exciting museum with timed-entry tickets required. You can visit Tuesday-Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Interested in exploring more museums in the City of Oaks? Check out our guide to the best museums in Raleigh, NC.
Videri Chocolate Factory
Who doesn’t love chocolate? Videri is a local chocolate factory with a “bean to bar” mentality. Every ingredient is carefully selected to produce the highest quality, hand-crafted chocolate. Their shop sells everything from hot chocolate mix and bonbons to candy bars and cocoa tea. Videri’s newest delicious addition to the menu is soft-serve ice cream in chocolate, vanilla and swirl.
The chocolate factory is currently closed to the public and unable to offer their free self-guided tours. Once the re-opening is announced on Instagram, don’t miss your chance to see their chocolatiers pulling caramel, molding chocolate bars and roasting cocoa beans.
For now, chocolate-lovers are invited to purchase their favorite chocolate items online or schedule a private in-person shopping time. You are also invited to visit Videri’s Walk-Up window, which serves coffee, hot chocolate, soft serve ice cream and their full line of chocolate goodies and merchandise. Videri’s is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Sunday, from noon to 6:00 p.m.
Need A Place To Stay While Visiting Downtown Raleigh, NC?
Check Out The StateView Hotel
We may be biased but, one of the perfect places to stay in Raleigh is our beautiful StateView Hotel. We offer comfortable and convenient amenities with a breathtaking view of Lake Raleigh. Take a dip in our salt-water pool, grab a bite to eat from Flask & Beaker (our on-site Raleigh restaurant), or just sleep late in your king-sized suite with a view. Whatever you choose, you’re sure to feel pampered! Check out our available rooms while planning your next trip to Raleigh.
Looking for more things to do during your stay? We’ve put together a comprehensive list of Raleigh outdoor activities that will keep you busy from sunup to sundown.