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Kid-friendly weekend trips from Raleigh

Explore the most enchanting and kid-friendly destinations near Raleigh, perfect for creating memorable family weekends.

December 13, 2023
 min read
Last updated:
Feb 6
A view of the Raleigh skyline.

Raleigh, North Carolina, nestled in the heart of the state, is a wonderful starting point for families looking to embark on weekend adventures that are both fun and educational. The surrounding areas offer a variety of experiences that cater to the interests of children and adults alike, ensuring that every trip is a delightful blend of learning and leisure. Here's a list of top attractions around Raleigh that promise to make your family weekends unforgettable.

Marbles Kids Museum

Marbles Kids Museum, a cornerstone of downtown Raleigh, is more than just a museum. It's a world of wonder and excitement for children of all ages. With exhibits like "Splash," where kids learn about water and its properties, and "Around Town," a mini-city where they can explore different professions, the museum is designed to stimulate young minds. Special events, like IMAX screenings and educational workshops, add to the experience. The museum's commitment to interactive, imaginative play makes it a top pick for families looking for an engaging and fun learning environment.

North Carolina Zoo

The North Carolina Zoo, set in the scenic Uwharrie Mountains in Asheboro, offers an extraordinary adventure for wildlife enthusiasts. Spanning over 2,600 acres, it's home to over 1,800 animals from more than 250 species. The zoo's unique design replicates natural habitats, from African grasslands to North American Arctic tundra, giving children a glimpse into diverse ecosystems. Educational programs like animal encounters and behind-the-scenes tours provide an in-depth understanding of wildlife conservation. The zoo's vast landscapes also include beautiful garden spaces, picnic areas, and playgrounds, making it a perfect spot for a family day out.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

At the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill, the universe is at your fingertips. This center, one of the oldest and largest planetariums in the United States, has served as a training ground for NASA astronauts. Its state-of-the-art facilities offer dazzling planetarium shows that take audiences on a journey through the cosmos. The center's interactive exhibits, like the Science Stage and the fulldome theater, make complex scientific concepts accessible and engaging for children. Educational programs, including summer camps and science clubs, provide additional opportunities for hands-on learning, making it a stellar destination for young minds.

Kerr Lake State Recreation Area

Kerr Lake State Recreation Area in Henderson is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. This vast park, encompassing over 50,000 acres and 850 miles of shoreline, offers a plethora of activities for families. Whether it's camping under the stars, fishing for bass in the lake, or hiking through scenic trails, there's something for everyone. The park also features several playgrounds and sandy beaches, ideal for a day of relaxation and fun. Educational programs about local wildlife and conservation efforts add to the experience, making Kerr Lake a fantastic destination for families seeking adventure and nature education.

Pullen Park

Pullen Park in Raleigh, the fifth oldest operating amusement park in the U.S. and the first public park in North Carolina, is a historic gem that continues to delight families. Its attractions include the famous Gustave A. Dentzel Carousel, a miniature train ride that winds through the park, and pedal boats on the park's lake. The park's playgrounds and open green spaces are perfect for picnics and outdoor games. Seasonal events, like holiday light displays and arts performances, add to the park's charm. Pullen Park's blend of historic attractions and modern amenities make it an ideal spot for family fun.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh is a haven for curious minds. As the largest natural history museum in the Southeast, it offers an impressive array of exhibits that span from prehistoric dinosaurs to current ecological systems. The museum's interactive approach includes hands-on labs, live animal exhibits, and 3D movies, making science accessible and exciting. The Discovery Room, particularly popular with younger children, allows for tactile learning experiences. Regular special events, like Science Saturdays and Meet the Animals, provide additional educational opportunities, making every visit both fun and informative.


Carowinds, located on the border between North Carolina and South Carolina near Charlotte, is a thrilling amusement park that promises an exhilarating day out for the whole family. With over 60 rides, including exhilarating roller coasters and kid-friendly attractions, there's something for every thrill seeker. The park also features live entertainment, seasonal events like the Great Pumpkin Fest, and a water park for cooling off in the summer. Carowinds' commitment to providing a fun and safe environment makes it a favorite among families looking for an action-packed day of adventure and joy.

Discovery Place Science

Discovery Place Science in Charlotte is a world-class science museum that ignites wonder and curiosity in children. The museum's interactive exhibits cover a wide range of topics from physics to biology, encouraging hands-on exploration. Unique features like a real rainforest, an aquarium, and a state-of-the-art digital planetarium offer immersive experiences. Regularly scheduled programs, such as science demonstrations and lab workshops, enhance the learning experience. Discovery Place Science's commitment to making science fun and accessible ensures that every visit is a new adventure in learning for families.

Historic Yates Mill County Park

Historic Yates Mill County Park in Raleigh offers a blend of history, science, and natural beauty. The centerpiece of the park is Yates Mill, Wake County’s last operable agricultural mill. The fully restored mill and its picturesque surroundings provide a glimpse into 18th-century milling techniques. The park's 174 acres include hiking trails, boardwalks, and a visitor center with interactive exhibits about the mill's history and local ecosystem. Educational programs, like corn grinding demonstrations and nature tours, offer families a unique opportunity to connect with local heritage and the natural world.

The Children's Museum of Wilmington

The Children's Museum of Wilmington, a short drive to the coast, offers an enchanting world for kids to explore, learn, and play. This museum focuses on interactive learning through play, with exhibits covering a wide range of themes from art and science to health and nutrition. Features like the Teddy Bear Hospital, where kids can learn about medical procedures in a fun way, and the Art Studio, which encourages creativity, make every visit a new learning experience. The museum's welcoming atmosphere and variety of hands-on exhibits ensure that children leave with new knowledge, skills, and a love for learning.

Each of these destinations near Raleigh offers something special for families. Whether you're looking to inspire, educate, or simply have fun, these spots are sure to provide memorable experiences for your children and strengthen the family bond. So pack your bags, gather the kids, and set off on an adventure that's just a drive away from Raleigh!

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