Jake Cain is an entrepreneur and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. He spends his free time driving around the country in his late 90’s conversion van, affectionately known as the “Monster Van” with his wife and 3 boys.
Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, a coastal state with loads of Southern charm and heritage.
Known as the City of Oaks, the streets of this city are lined with ancient towering oak trees, providing lovely curb appeal.
The second-largest city in North Carolina, it is voted as one of the top three places to live in the state. It’s not surprising that this is a common tourist destination.
Conveniently located, there are plenty of places you can spend the day while still being able to return home to Raleigh before your bedtime. Here are ten great day trips from Raleigh.
Ashboro is a great family destination. There are plenty of things to do.
A popular destination for tourists and locals alike is the North Carolina Zoo. Don’t miss out on your chance to view 1600 different animals, including African lions and Grizzlies.
For some treetop fun, visit Rickland Creek Canopy Zipline. There are fourteen different stations to try—one stretching over 1,400 feet long.
View Mendenhall Falls and attempt three different sky bridge obstacles. All under the watchful eye of a tour guide who helps you through the 90-minute session.
If you’re looking for an indoor activity, get your history fix at the North Carolina Aviation Museum. View artifacts from World War II to the present, including equipment, uniforms, and vehicles.
For the beer enthusiasts, book a tour of the Four Saints Brewing Company. This site is pet and kid-friendly, so bring the whole family along for a picnic as you try the local brews.
Only an hour away from Raleigh, you can find the town of Durham. With an eclectic variety of things to do, you’re sure to want to come back for more than one visit.
If you enjoy walking major battlefields, stop by Bennett Place State Historic Site, considered the largest surrender of the Civil War. Try to schedule your visit during one of the re-enactments.
For the art connoisseur, plan a visit to the Nasher Museum of Art, located on the campus of Duke University. With over 10,000 pieces, you’re sure to spend a lot of time looking around.
Enjoy Broadway musicals, but never get the chance to make it to New York? Durham Performing Arts Center often hosts Broadways, in addition to other events. It’s a cultural must-see.
If you want to spend time in nature, we highly recommend the American Tobacco Trail, a 22-mile rails-to-trails path for you to walk or bike. It covers multiple cities in North Carolina.
Sports fans can catch a professional minor league baseball game at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Support your local economy while cheering on a fan favorite. Go Bulls!
About 80 miles from Raleigh, you can visit another popular tourist area, Greensboro, North Carolina. Immerse yourself in culture, history, and science. With a bit of the spooky added in.
Carolina History and Haunts Historical Ghost Tour is a must-do for anyone with a love of the paranormal. Join a 90 minute guided candlelight tour of historical sites and learn of local lore.
To expand your knowledge, make a trip out of visiting the Greensboro Science Center, complete with a zoological park. View an aquarium with penguins, sharks, and even a stingray touch tank.
While at the Science center, check out the fossilized dinosaurs. Spend time loving on animals at the petting zoo. And participate in Skywild, an adventure through the trees.
Get your exercise and learn about history by spending the day at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. The site of one of our country’s most important battles – the American Revolution.
This self-guided walking tour covers a 2.25-mile loop, with multiple walking paths through the woods. There are 28 important monuments to see. You can also bike in certain areas or drive.
If you love sampling new restaurants, Chapel Hill is the place for you. Affectionately labeled American’s Foodiest Small Town, Chapel Hill has dozens of different places for you to try.
Farm to table is a big part of Chapel Hill’s culture, and it’s reflected in the food. Whether you’re in the mood for Asian fusion, progressive American, or pit-cook BBQ, there’s a restaurant for you.
For a taste of history, go for a burger at Sutton’s Drug Store. Order a coffee at Carolina Coffee Shop. And that evening, explore the brewery scene, touring five breweries in a two-mile strip.
Want to join a tour so you can make sure you see all the right stuff? Boy has Chapel Hill got that covered. You can find tours for just about any interests. Some of our favorites are:
- Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours (visit restaurants, meet chefs)
- Walking Tour of Chapel Hill
- Alliance for Historic Hillsborough (history tour)
Check out the Ackland Art Museum, where you can view the state’s most extensive collection of Asian Art. There are also European masterpieces. In total, over 18,000 art pieces are available to view.
Make it a family adventure by stopping at Kidzu Children’s Museum for some hands-on fun and learning. Don’t worry, parents. You’re allowed to play too! Embrace your inner child.
Wilmington is a coastal town that is the living embodiment of southern charm. And there’s so much to do; you might never want to leave. We certainly wouldn’t blame you for staying.
Wilmington is the home to a massive historic district. There are over 800 buildings registered. Browse on your own or book a guided walking tour to learn of the history back to the 1700s.
Visit in April for a chance to attend the North Carolina Azalea Festival, the largest of its kind in North Carolina. Celebrate Spring and Wilmington with food, entertainment, galas, and more.
If you want to enjoy the beauty of nature, head over to Airlie Gardens. You can explore 67 acres of walking paths, formal gardens, sculptures, and even historic sites. Perfect for photos.
Spend some time meandering down Riverwalk, where you can browse the local shops. Stop to grab a bite to eat at one of the popular restaurants. Finish with a walkthrough Port City Marina.
The Battleship North Carolina has been transformed into a self-guided tour of a real World War II museum. Learn about history while exploring a vast ship. The tour usually takes two hours.
You can’t visit Wilmington without stopping at Carolina Beach Boardwalk. Voted in the Top 10 boardwalks in the country, it’s a must-see, from the food to the shopping.
There’s even an amusement park right on the beach. You can frequently find free live music shows. Play at the arcade while snacking on unhealthy sweet treats. It’s even more fun at night!
What’s a visit to Willmington without a trip to the beach? A waste, that’s what. Spend time exploring Kure Beach before you leave. Let the kids play at Ocean Front Park.
Cast a line at the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic Coast. Explore Fort Fisher State Historic Site to view the largest land-sea battle during the Civil War.
Less than an hour outside of Raleigh lies a small town called Pittsboro. Full of small-town charm, you’re sure to feel right at home.
Visit the Pittsboro Historic District to view 59 acres of historic sites, including 92 buildings, 39 outbuildings, three cemeteries, and a civil war monument.
Pittsboro is famous for its large selection of antique shops. The most popular would be Payne’s Antique Stained Glass, where you can view thousands of different pieces of stained glass.
For upscale shopping, head to Ferrington Village. Once an 18th-century farm, the restored facilities are used for businesses, including a market, gourmet restaurant, and a luxury inn.
If you’ve ever wanted to try mead, look no further than Starrlight Mead. Take a tour of the brewery and taste test eight different meads for just $7. You even get to keep the mug.
Be sure you grab a bottle of mead (honeyed wine) to take home, along with a jar of local North Carolina honey, which is used in all the meads made at Starrlight.
Chatham Mill is a historic brick mill that has also been converted into multiple businesses. Along the grounds include Starrlight Mead, as well as a marketplace and a farmer’s market.
If you’re into mountain biking, head to Harris-Lake Park. There are trails for beginners and intermediate riders. As well as two loops for the hardcore, including long jumps and hills.
You can also visit the Briar Chapel, which is a mixed-use area that has six miles of single-use track. There’s even a pond if you want to try a little fishing. Sorry, but no swimming allowed.
If you enjoy touring wineries, Yadkin Valley is a place you don’t want to miss. Located less than two hours from Raleigh, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s wine heaven.
There are over 35 wineries and vineyards within the boundaries of Yadkin Valley. It would be hard to see them all in one day. But at least you’ve got an excuse to keep coming back.
Come during the annual Wine Festival and Pumpkin Festival for family fun. Or sample wines every May at the Yadkin Valley Wine Festival. More than 25 wineries are in attendance.
For foodies, participate in the Surry Sonker Trail, which is a tour of five different places throughout the valley where you can sample sonkers – cobblers (no two are the same).
The stops are:
- Rockford General Store in Rockford
- Skull Camp Smokehouse in Elkin
- Southern on Main in Elkin
- Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies in Mount Airy
- Anchored Bakery in Mount Airy
Located inside Yadkin Valley, Elkin has plenty to offer visitors looking to kill a day or even a whole weekend. Voted the Best Little Town in North Carolina, this quaint town has it all.
If you want to tour the various wineries but you’re worried about driving, Elkin Vine Line provides a solution. These tours run loops around different wineries, on the hour every weekend.
Jump on and off at your own pace. The Central Red Line takes you to five Surry County wineries. The South Green Line will visit wineries in neighboring counties as well as Surry.
Elkin is also known for being very pet-friendly. Multiple establishments allow you to bring your furred family members along, including parks, restaurants, and even wineries.
Grab your dog and head to Grassy Creek Trail. Follow the 1 ½ mile trail to Grassy Creek Vineyard and Winery. Here, you can sample the wares in the Red Barn Tasting Room while your pet sips H2O.
The Grassy Creek Trail will also lead you to view a 60-foot waterfall. If you connect to Isaacs Trailhead off of the Grassy Creek Trail, you’ll wind up at the spot where three paths meet.
Elkin is the only place in the state where three different sanctioned paths cross each other. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail runs right down Main Street and intercepts Yadkin River Blue Water Trail and Overmountain Victory Trail.
Once you’re through hiking, check out Angry Troll Brewing for craft brews and delicious food, including pub burgers and wood-fired pizza.
If you want to explore nature, take a trip to Pilot Mountain State Park, located in Surry and Yadkin Counties. Pilot Mountain stands more than 2,000 feet tall and is a historic landmark.
This park is separated into two sides, Mountain and Yadkin River. A 6.5-mile trail connects it. You can hike, rock climb, rappel, horseback ride, and canoe, all in the same area.
The Mountainside is more popular, and this is where the parking lot is located, as well as the park office. If you want to view the peak, you’ll go here.
There’s also nine hiking trails, a horseback riding trail, rock climbing, and rappelling. There are guided tours available on Pilot Mountain.
On the Yadkin Riverside, there are five hiking trails, a horseback riding trail, and a canoe launch. If you want more of a challenge, this is the spot to go.
Last, but certainly not least, on our list is Mount Airy. You might know it better as Mayberry, the perfect town on the famous television show Andy Griffith.
That’s right. Mayberry is real! Mount Airy is the birthplace of Andy Griffith and inspired his beloved comedy series. You can even visit memorable landmarks from the show:
- Floyd’s Barber Shop
- Opie’s Candy Store
- Grab a bite to eat at The Snappy Lunch
You can even take a tour of popular Mayberry places. Just head over to Walley’s Service Station and ask for the Squad Car Tour. You’ll ride around in antique police cruisers.
Stroll down Main Street to take in the various shops. There’s even a working soda fountain, for those of you who have never experienced the delight.
If you enjoy craft beers, you won’t want to skip out on visiting White Elephant Beer Company. Check out Beer and Banjos or attend weekly Trivia Night while sipping local brewed IPAs.
Take a tour of the first legal distillery since Prohibition at Mayberry Spirits. Learn the history of moonshine, as well as how it’s made now. Then sample three whiskeys and two mixed drinks.
Raleigh has plenty of things going for it. It’s clear why it’s such a popular destination. But there’s also plenty to see outside of Raleigh city limits.
We’ve given you ten great options for day trips from Raleigh. What are you waiting for? Go have fun!
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