7 Museums Worth Visiting in Raleigh, North Carolina (2022)
Museums are the life of any trip or outing. Facilities like these introduce travelers to local culture, art, and history and sum up the larger pictures and events of any city in one single place. Similarly, the museums in Raleigh bring every past and present grandness of the city as well as state (North Carolina) under a few roofs. Also known as the Smithsonian of the South, Raleigh is home to a range of high-quality, popular yet free-to-visit museums. They are fun, interactive, educational, and have something for visitors of all age groups.
Many of the museums in the city are situated in the downtown Raleigh region. And since they are walkable from each other, checking all of them one after another is a treat for explorers. From housing and some of North Carolina’s most popular museums to the ones that talk about Raleigh as a city, museums here are truly many. Not only that, but Raleigh is also home to some of North Carolina’s vibrant art scene that showcases both international as well as home-grown talent.
Museums Worth Visiting in Raleigh, North Carolina
For a complete overview of the Best Museums in Raleigh, have a look down below:
1. North Carolina Museum of Natural Science
A Popular Museum in downtown Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science, is a must-visit when in the city. It is the largest of its kind museum in the entire Southeastern United States and is also the oldest established and operating museum in North Carolina. Its downtown facility operates inside a tall building, including four floors of exhibits in its Nature Exploration Center and Nature Research Center, along with a café and a gift shop. Every single floor is home to different entities, including walk-through dioramas, special exhibits, hands-on science education, live animals, accessible scientists, and much more. The museum is also home to a 70-foot-diameter globe with a three-story theater and a giant live-performing screen inside. A not-to-miss element here is “Acro,” the Acrocanthosaurus, a huge dinosaur skeleton that will blow your mind.
2. CAM Raleigh
CAM, or the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, is a free-to-visit facility located at 409 W Martin Street. It is a striking, non-collecting contemporary art museum with smart, modern, and some unexpected art gems. Initially, it started off as a warehouse but gradually, with an interesting mix of art and educational programs, CAM transformed into a well-known facility. Though the museum does not feature any permanent collection, it keeps offering art exhibitions by regional, national, and international artists. Every single exhibition that becomes a part of CAM Raleigh is unique and thought-provoking. Its expansive, light-filled gallery space and the content you will observe here will definitely help you in evolving and transform as an individual.
3. Marble Kids Museum
One of the top-rated museums in Raleigh, the Marble Kids Museum, is located in the downtown region of the city. This fun and educational non-profit organization features themed exhibits, IMAX documentaries, special annual events like summer camps, informative movies (in North Carolina’s 3D-capable IMAX theater), and much more. These two levels of the kid-focused museum even include several outdoor exhibits, for instance, Ideaworks, Putting Zoo, Stemosphere, and Toddlers Hollow. If your kids are taking part in asynchronous learning, you as a parent can also allow them to participate in weekly or single-day Virtual School Help. Marble Kids Museum also facilitates themed birthday parties. Remember, you can’t afford to miss the wall that wraps around the museum and is filled with more than one million marbles. And the best part is, these marbles light up once the day turns out dark.
4. COR City of Raleigh Museum
Residents and travelers who are keen on learning about Raleigh’s past must add the COR City of Raleigh Museum to their itinerary. The museum is located in downtown Raleigh on Fayetteville Street and is housed inside a historic former hardware store. COR preserves and presents the history of Raleigh while envisioning its future as well. The collection here includes holds artifacts, curates exhibits, and organizes several educational programs that preach about Raleigh’s interesting past. Some of the powerful and provoking exhibits here include Journey Towards Civil Rights, Our War: Voices of Raleigh’s World War II Veterans, and Raleigh Then, Raleigh Now, Raleigh Next. COR City of Raleigh Museum offers free admissions though donations are often appreciated.
5. North Carolina Museum of Art
Operating since 1956, the North Carolina Museum of Art is one of the first major museum collections in the United States. This stunning museum facility encompasses a collection of 40 galleries that consist of artwork spanning from more than 5,000 years of artistic work, past to present. Apart from its gigantic permanent exhibits, the art museum also features several rotating and special exhibits along with other events and engaging programs. Visitors can admire the still art, enjoy the performing art, go for a self-paced exploration or take an engaging museum tour. The museum also operates a film club every month and is also famous for its fun scavenger hunt setup. Besides what’s inside, visitors must also check out the 164-acre park and trail system that goes through Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park. Walking and biking here are some must-to-do activities.
6. North Carolina Museum of History
A Haven for history enthusiasts, the North Carolina Museum of History is another popular museum to visit when in Raleigh. Located in downtown Raleigh, this fantastic museum is home to over 150,000 artifacts from more than 14,000 years of North Carolina history. From Native American inhabitants to what happened in the 20th century, the North Carolina Museum of History will display it all for you. Its permanent collection is home to notable artifacts, including Civil War flags and weapons, a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, recovered items from the Queen Anne’s Revenge, a lunch counter from a 1960 Salisbury, N.C, and much more. Besides artifactual beauty, the museum is also home to multimedia presentations, dioramas, interactive features, several uniquely recreated environments, and two full-size historic houses. For entertaining and engaging kids, the museum also features a History Corner, a kids’ page, and more fun and interactive options. North Carolina Museum of History hosts museum enthusiasts from all over the United States.
7. Pope House Museum
The last on our list is Pope House Museum, the only African-American house museum in North Carolina. This Raleigh Museum has been operating since 1901 and registers itself in the National Register of Historic Places. It was once owned by Dr. Manassa Thomas Pope, a prominent African-American citizen, and a visit inside will open a glimpse of his life in Raleigh. Pope House Museum is just a few blocks away from the capitol building right in the middle of downtown Raleigh. The museum operates Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m., and tours here are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Inside the museum are over 3000 original artifacts from the Pope family, which are undoubtedly a delight to see. From the pope’s original doctor’s bag of the Spanish-American war to his voter registration card and father’s freedman papers, the collection here is simply excellent. Though admissions and tours here are free, donations are highly appreciated.