I like to think that having 4 kids has given me a bit of knowledge and insight into things that kids like to do. Our family loves to explore our city whenever we get a free moment and we are very fortunate that Raleigh has so many fun activities for children of all ages. We are particularly fond of all of the free or inexpensive activities so you will see a lot of those listed here.
I will be sharing some of the more popular places because they are always a hit with the kids and then a few lesser known spots. Hopefully, you will find a few fun places to explore weather you are just visiting Raleigh or a long time resident looking for something new to do.
Marbles Kids Museum
Hours: Monday-Sunday 9am-5pm
Admission: Children & Adults – $7, Under 1 – Free
Location: 201 East Hargett Street Raleigh, NC
Let’s just go ahead and start with the obvious. Marbles Kids Museum is always a hit with the kids and is the first place my kids ask to go. Even though they raised their admission prices this year it is still very reasonable in comparison to many other children’s museums. I also, think Marbles is the best children’s museum I’ve been to, and we’ve visited quite a few.
NC Museum of Natural Science
Hours: Monday—Saturday: 9am—5pm Sunday, noon—5pm
Admission: FREE (special exhibits charge admission)
Location: 11 West Jones Street Raleigh, NC 27601
The NC Museum of Natural Science is another one of our top places to visit. It’s free and offers hours of exploration and play. There are hands-on exhibits, animals, story time, meet the animals and working labs where you can watch scientists work and so much more. They over fun 3D documentary movies for a low cost and usually have a special limited time exhibit on display (admission is usually charged for special exhibits). The Discovery Room is a great place for younger children to get hands one experiences with science, just make sure you check the website for their hours.
NC Museum of History
Hours: Monday–Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday: Noon to 5:00 p.m.
Admission: FREE (Except for Special Exhibits)
Location: 5 East Edenton Street Raleigh, North Carolina 27601
The NC Museum of History is located adjacent to the NC Museum of Natural Science, so you could spend the entire day visiting museums if you want. I will say that the NC Museum of History isn’t as exciting for smaller children but most school age children will enjoy all of the fun exhibits at the museum. There are also several special events like story time for toddlers and larger festivals throughout the year.
Prairie Ridge EcoStation
Hours: Monday–Saturday: 9am–4:30pm Sunday: noon–4:30pm
Location: 1671 Gold Star Drive Raleigh, NC 27607
The Prairie Ridge EcoStation is part of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences that is 45 acres of Piedmont prairie, forest, ponds, a stream and sustainable building features integrated with a wildlife-friendly landscape. The favorite kid-friendly feature of Praire Ridge is the Nature Playspace. The playspace is integrated with nature so children can climb over logs and boulders, roll in the grass, make mud pies, observe nature, and dig for fossils. They also offer Nature Story times and other fun learning events for kids and adults.
Historic Oak View
Hours: Monday–Saturday: 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday: 1–5 p.m.
Location: 4028 Carya Drive Raleigh, NC 27610
Historic Oak View is part of the Wake County Parks system and is a historic farmstead with a mission to interpret North Carolina’s agricultural heritage and rural history via educational programs, special events and exhibits. They have a fun indoor farm play area, goats, chickens, Adventure backpacks for child appropriate self guided interactive tours. There are also several hiking trails nearby and plenty of open space to run and explore.
Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve
Office Hours: Tuesday- Saturday: 10:00 am – dusk Sunday: 1:00 pm – dusk
Location: 5229 Awls Haven Drive Raleigh, NC 27614
Dr. Annie Louise Wilkerson was a renowned Raleigh doctor with many pioneering achievements in her 53-year career in medicine and she donated her 157 acres to the City of Raleigh to be used a Nature Preserve. The Wilkerson Nature Preserve Park has numerous hiking trails, a nature playspace and park office with a hands-on explorations for kids. They also offer explorer backpacks, kites, fort building kits and more for children.
Walnut Creek Wetlands Park
Hours: Tuesday- Saturday: 10:00 am – dusk Sunday: 1:00 pm – dusk
Location: 950 Peterson Street Raleigh, NC 27610
The Walnut Creek Wetlands isn’t huge but it packs in a lot of nature fun. The Walnut Creek Wetlands Park does and excellent job teaching people about the importance of the wetlands, native plants and animals. In the park office is a nature center with a lot of hands on activities for children as well as a few animals you can visit.
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Admission: FREE (Rides $1.50/ticket)
Location: 408 Ashe Ave. Raleigh, NC 27606
Another one of favorite destinations is Pullen Park, since 1887 this 66+ acre park has been a recreation area for Raleigh residents and visitors. It is the 5th oldest operating theme park in the United States. The park underwent a 2 year remodel and reopened 2011 but still maintains it’s main attractions like the train, carousel and kiddie boats. There is a large playground, cafe, lake with paddle boats, picnic shelters, walking trails and more.
Three Bears Acres
Hours: Change according to the season, check website
Admission: Adults $8, Children $15 (Children 2 and under are free)
-Toddler Thursday $12 (children ages 3-5yrs) with one parent free with paying child
Location: 711 Beaver Dam Road Creedmoor NC 27522
Just a short drive north of Raleigh is Three Bears Acres, 50 acres of outdoor fun for everyone. Activies includ a giant tree house, toboggan, mud kitchen, jump pillow, obstacle course, Big Bear Pond Paddle boats, Splash Pad and more. This is a great place where kids can run, yell and get dirty.
There are too many parks to list individually but Raleigh has over 200 parks and that’s not including all of the surrounding towns that also have amazing parks. We have visited dozens of Raleigh parks and always find new places to explore and enjoy.
These are just a few of our favorites that are either free or relatively inexpensive. There are a lot of other fun places like Coconut Charlie’s Bump’n Bounce, Galaxy Fun Park, Snickerdoodles, Adventure Landing, Defy Gravity, Frankies Fun Park, Treasure Quest Mining and many more….