How to Spend 24 Hours in Raleigh, North Carolina (Updated 2024)


The skyline of Raleigh, North Carolina
In this visitor submit, Craig Makepeace (co-founder and writer of shares tips on how to spend 24 hours in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I’ve referred to as Raleigh, North Carolina, house for over 10 years. As one of many South’s most vibrant and eclectic burgs, this state capital could be one of many fastest-growing midsize cities within the US. It usually tops the “best places to live and work in the US,” however it nonetheless presents small-town attraction and Southern hospitality. My spouse and I made a decision to lift our youngsters right here due to this combine.

Nicknamed “the City of Oaks” for the sheer variety of majestic oak timber that line the streets, in addition to providing ample inexperienced areas and trails, Raleigh is house to wonderful museums, a thriving restaurant scene, countless craft breweries, enjoyable festivals and occasions, and college-town vibes!

Many guests cease in Raleigh as a part of a street journey or for work and thus don’t at all times have numerous time to completely discover it. However, even in case you simply have someday, you may nonetheless see lots.

Below is my private information to the perfect issues to do in someday.


Breakfast: Big Ed’s City Market

The interior of Big Ed's restaurant, with lots of diners sitting at tables and antiques hanging from the ceiling in Raleigh, North Carolina
There’s no higher Southern breakfast and introduction to Raleigh than at Big Ed’s in historic City Market, serving beneficiant parts of Southern consolation meals since 1958.

Here you’ll take pleasure in a laid-back vibe below a set of funky antiques hanging from the ceiling, together with heat Southern hospitality and meals like Grandma used to make. Especially common are their big pancakes, native nation ham, fried rooster, aged rib-eye steak and eggs, sliced pork loin, fried catfish, fluffy biscuits, and double-brewed candy tea. This is the native expertise you’re searching for.

Alternate breakfast choices embody The Mecca, Raleigh’s oldest restaurant, based by Greek immigrants in 1930; and the State Farmers’ Market Restaurant, one other common place for locals to get a rustic breakfast and Southern eating expertise!

Morning exercise: Museums

A mom and daughter stand in front of a dinosaur skeleton at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, North Carolina
After filling up on a hearty meal, soak up a museum. Raleigh has some wonderful ones, and due to the standard and variety of free museums it has, town has typically been known as “the Smithsonian of the South.”

The incredible Museum of Natural Sciences is North Carolina’s most visited museum. There are over 4 flooring of displays to discover, together with reside animals, walk-through dioramas, microbes, meteorites, and 3D motion pictures, plus a terrific everlasting assortment of dinosaur and whale skeletons.

If historical past is your factor, throughout the road is the North Carolina Museum of History. Founded in 1902, it welcomes greater than 400,000 guests a yr to see its 150,000 artifacts from over 14,000 years of historical past.

Art lovers ought to head to the free North Carolina Museum of Art, house to greater than a dozen stunning gallery areas showcasing artwork from world wide. You can discover by yourself, take an enticing tour, or see some performing arts. Don’t miss taking a stroll by the 164-acre Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park, whose path system by pure areas options greater than a dozen commissioned artistic endeavors.

Lunch: The Pit Authentic BBQ

An overhead view of two heaping plates of BBQ with Southern style sides in Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina is a giant barbecue state, and having fun with a plate is one thing they take very significantly within the state capital. It’s a kind of “welcome to the South” moments all meat eaters ought to expertise.

In Raleigh, they primarily do Eastern-style barbecue, wherein the entire hog is slow-cooked over sizzling coals; the meat is then pulled, given a bit chop, and dressed with a vinegar-based sauce. Typically, it’s served as a sandwich or a plated dish, with all the normal Southern sides you may deal with.

The Pit Authentic BBQ is among the hottest such spots in Raleigh. As the title suggests, it proudly serves genuine whole-hog, pit-cooked, Eastern-style barbecue. Located within the Warehouse District, it’s well-known for child again ribs and whole-hog chopped barbecue. And for sides, try the Brunswick stew, heirloom cabbage collards, and fried inexperienced tomatoes.

Famous in NC, Sam Jones BBQ in downtown is one other wonderful possibility. It smokes complete hogs on-site every single day and is common for its chopped barbecue, fried rooster, ribs, and baked flat cornbread. It additionally serves one in every of my favourite sandwiches in Raleigh, the smoked turkey!

If pork barbecue will not be your factor however you continue to desire a Southern eating expertise, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey is a well-liked lunch restaurant by famed chef Ashley Christensen that makes a speciality of fried rooster and sandwiches.

Afternoon exercise: Umstead State Park

A man walks down a leafy trail in Umstead State Park in Raleigh, North Carolina
Time to stroll off lunch! Just a 15-minute drive from downtown is among the hottest locations in Raleigh, and one in every of North Carolina’s most visited state parks: William B. Umstead State Park, which is well accessible from Interstate 40 and US-70. Its greater than 5,000 acres of forest encompass three man-made lakes and include over 22 miles of trails, starting from simple to average. If you’re keen on nature trails, biking, operating, picnicking, canoeing, and even horseback using, put Umstead in your itinerary.

A fantastic introductory path is the two.8-mile Sal’s Branch Trail loop, which is usually shaded and flat, with tall timber and a lake view. If you’re up for a woodland stroll, the Sycamore Trail is a 7.2-mile loop and the longest path. Another common path is the six-mile Company Mill Trail loop.

Alternatively, Lake Johnson, only a 10-minute drive from downtown, is my favourite of the lakes in Raleigh. The three-mile paved greenway loop across the western aspect is common with NC State college students and locals. There’s a 700-foot-long boardwalk throughout the middle of the lake, a boathouse, a small seashore space, and picnic shelters.

Pre-dinner drinks: Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

A group of people sit at a table at Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing with the skyline of Raleigh, North Carolina in the background
The greatest view of the Raleigh skyline will be had from Wye Hill and its excellent outside patio. Take all of it in whereas having fun with refreshing craft beers and distinctive cocktails. There’s a superb small-plate menu too!

Whiskey lovers can head to the gorgeous open house and hip venue Whiskey Kitchen, that includes a repurposed industrial vibe wherein to take pleasure in any of over 300 whiskies, plus craft cocktails, beer, and wine. Speaking of wine, Vita Vite Art Gallery + Wine Bar doubles as an artwork gallery and presents an incredible choice of wine in a cultured and relaxed environment.

Dinner: Stanbury

The exterior of Stanbury restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina
Stanbury might be essentially the most distinctive eating expertise in Raleigh and one I can’t cease speaking about. It has excellent meals, an exquisite ambiance in a unusual, rustic venue, and superb service! The menu, which modifications every day, options trendy delicacies (together with the perfect steak I’ve had in Raleigh), plus craft cocktails.

Bida Manda is hands-down the perfect of the Asian eating places in Raleigh. Its probably my favourite Southeast Asian restaurant in North Carolina, if not the US. It is famend for its genuine Laotian delicacies, together with ample vegetarian and gluten-free choices.

Looking for Mexican meals in Raleigh? Gringo A Go Go is a former fuel station and now one of many extra common downtown eating places, given its colourful outside patio space and genuine Mexican meals. The menu is a tribute to the household’s Central Mexican heritage, with recipes handed down from the Guadalajara highlands.

After-dinner drinks: Watts & Ward

A couple having drinks underneath a
Watts & Ward is my favourite (underground) bar in Raleigh, a craft cocktail place infused with the spirit of the Twenties. Think leather-based seating, cozy nooks, rustic tables, dim lighting, and bookshelves stuffed with historical past. It presents an ingenious cocktail menu and low-key jazz occasions.

But when you’ve got dinner at Stanbury, close by is my different favourite cocktail bar, William and Company, or Willco to the locals. This cozy neighborhood cocktail bar on the sting of historic Oakwood serves up recent and distinctive craft cocktails created by top-notch bartenders.

If you benefit from the idea of a dessert bar — a spot the place you will get bourbon together with your pie or champagne together with your cake — then think about Bittersweet, the place I like to go for an espresso martini and Irish espresso.


If you solely have 24 hours in Raleigh, this one-day itinerary is what I recommend for first-time guests who wish to get an actual really feel for the City of Oaks — its tradition, historical past, foods and drinks scene, and sense of Southern group. (Of course, I recommend you keep longer, as there are many cool issues to do in Raleigh, together with superior festivals and sporting occasions.)

Craig Makepeace is the co-founder and writer of, a web site devoted to sharing all the perfect issues to do in Raleigh. Originally from Australia, he first moved to Raleigh in 2004 and fell in love with town of oaks. He’s a journey addict, sports activities fanatic, seashore lover, and passionate craft beer drinker. You can observe him on Instagram at @ThisIsRaleigh.

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