When you’re looking to get out of town for the day, here are the 15 best day trips from Raleigh.
The pretty city of Raleigh is a great place to live and visit. For residents and visitors alike, there are also a wealth of great day trip options from the capital city of North Carolina. If you want to spend sometime in Raleigh before leaving out for your day trips, don’t forget to check out our list of best things to do in Raleigh.
Located a mere 25 miles away, Durham is one of the easiest and best day trips from Raleigh. Durham is home to Duke University and popular attractions on campus include the Nasher Museum of Art, the Sara P. Duke Gardens and the Duke University Chapel.
Art fans can grab a mural passport and go in search of more than 30 murals throughout the city, or catch a live performance at the Durham Performing Arts Center. At both the Golden Belt and the American Tobacco Campus, former factories have been repurposed to hold galleries, restaurants, recreation and entertainment facilities.
A guided food tour is a good option to sample the local flavors. Historic sites include the Civil War site, Bennett Place and the Stagville site. For families with kids, great options include the Museum of Life & Science and the Duke Lemur Center.
2. Chapel Hill
Located only 28 away from Raleigh, Chapel Hill is home to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the oldest public university in the country.
Highlights on campus include the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, the North Carolina Collection and the Carolina Basketball Museum. Art fans can look for the more than 30 murals around town, or pay a visit to the Ackland Art Museum.
There are plenty of live performances year-round. Nature lovers should visit the Coker Arboretum or the North Carolina Botanical Garden. For shopping and food, head to the historic Carr Mill Mall or Weaver Market.
Farm-to-table cuisine is big here so be sure to try some before you leave. And for a bit of beauty and pampering, book at session at the Aveda Institute.
Located in central North Carolina and only around 75 miles west of Raleigh, Asheboro is a small town with plenty to do, especially for families with kids.
A top attraction is the North Carolina Zoo, the largest natural habitat zoo in the country. Kids will also enjoy meeting farm animals at Sunny Slopes Farm. Learn about aviation history at the North Carolina Aviation Museum, motorcycle history at the American Classic Motorcycle Museum, or about the motorcar racing history at the Petty Museum.
To enjoy the outdoors, head to North Asheboro Park, where amenities included trails, a playground, pool, disc golf and athletic fields. For a thrilling experience, soar through the air with Richard Creek Canopy Zipline Tour. For pretty scenery, drive along the Uwharrie Scenic Road from Asheboro.
Located around 130 miles southeast, Wilmington, North Carolina is one of the best day trips from Raleigh for visitors looking to enjoy the beach and the ocean.
The lively port city has many beaches to choose from, including the popular Wrightsville Beach. Enjoy fun water play at the Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park. Or set sail on a sunset cruise. There’s a charming district to explore, as well as a pretty Riverwalk, where you can find many great restaurants, galleries and shops.
There are also several historic homes that have been turned into museums, including the Bellamy Mansion. Explore World War II naval combat history with a visit to the Battleship North Carolina. Other interesting museums include the Wilmington Railroad Museum, the Cape Fear Museum and the Cameron Art Museum.
5. Smithfield and Selma
Located around 30 miles southeast, Smithfield and Selma are one of the best day trips from Raleigh for foodies. Both Smithfield and Selma are known for their barbecue, and you can find many restaurants on the road linking the two towns.
Popular restaurants include White Swan BBQ, Holt Lake Bar-B-Que & Seafood and Stepheson’s Bar-B-Q. There’s more to these towns than just barbecue. Browse for antiques at the Selma Antique District, which offers more than 100,000 square feet of shops.
To shop for more than just antiques, head to the Caroline Premium Outlets, which include more than 80 retail shops. Visit the Ava Gardner Museum to learn about the legendary actress. Enjoy a stroll along the Neuse River Walk or enjoy the water by kayaking or fishing in the river itself. Or hit the links and play a few rounds of golf at several golf clubs in the area.
Located around 75 miles northwest, Greensboro is one of the best day trips from Raleigh for anyone interested in the Civil Rights Movement. It was here that the movement gained momentum and you can learn more at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum.
Explore more history at the Greensboro History Museum, which is also located close to several historic buildings. Nature lovers will enjoy the Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden, the Greensboro Arboretum and the Bog Garden. Families with kids should plan to spend some time at the Greensboro Children’s Museum or the Greensboro Science Center.
Greensboro is also the best place in the region to enjoy a Broadway Show. Catch a performance at the renowned Triad Stage or Barn Dinner Theatre.
Located around 65 miles south of Raleigh, Fayetteville is known for its deep connection with the military, not surprising given its close proximity to Fort Bragg.
Learn more about military history at the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum, the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, the Light Infantry Armor and Museum and the Averasboro Battlefield and Museum. There are also nine historic districts in town to explore.
To enjoy the beauty of nature, head to the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, the Fayetteville Rose Garden or the J. Bayard Clark Park and Nature Center. Enjoy the outdoors by strolling along the Cape Fear River Trail or ride along the Cape Fear Mountain Bike Trail.
8. Yadkin Valley
Located around 130 miles west, Yadkin Valley is one of the best day trips from Raleigh for wine lovers. Yadkin Valley is North Carolina’s premier wine growing destination, and home to more than 30 wineries and vineyards.
You can spend the day finding your favorite vintage but there’s more to the area than just wine. The Alpha & Omega Corn Maze offers mazes, hayrides, pony rides, a petting zoo and other fun entertainment, sure to be a hit with kids.
Enjoy the natural setting of Yadkin Memorial Park or enjoy water sports on the Yadkin River or Lake Hampton. Or get artsy and cultured at the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center, or follow the Yadkin Quilt Trail. Hot air balloon rides are also available if you want to soar above it all.
The town of Winston-Salem is located around 100 miles west of Raleigh. At the Historic Bethabara Park, you can step back in time and visit a 1753 Moravian village. For history and art, visit the Reynolds House.
The Downtown Arts District is filled with galleries and working art studios. For great views of the city, head to Quarry Park. For families with kids, a visit to Kaleideum Downtown (formerly the Children’s Museum) is a must. Follow that up with a tour of the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Factory. For more adult flavors, there are several breweries in town, including Foothills Brewery, Small Batch Beer Co. and Wise Man Brewing.
There are also plenty of great restaurants so you’re sure to find something to your taste. Join a guided food tour to get an insider’s view on the best local flavors.
Charlotte is a wonderful destination for a day trip from Raleigh. Located around 150 miles southwest of Raleigh, there’s plenty to do and see in the Queen City.
A guided tour makes it easy to see some of the top highlights of Charlotte in just a few hours. Art lovers should head to the Levine Center for the Arts in Uptown, which includes three art museums and a theater. Historic sites are plentiful here, and include the Old Settlers’ Cemetery and the Historic Latta Plantation.
Options to enjoy nature and the outdoors include , Discovery Place Nature, the Botanical Gardens and the US National Whitewater Center. Racing fans will want to pay a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame or catch a race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. There’s also plenty of great shopping and fine dining to be had here for those with different interests.
Located around 120 miles southeast of Raleigh, Jacksonville sits along the New River, not too far from the coast. There are a number of pretty beaches nearby, including within Hammocks Beach State Park.
Jacksonville is also the home of the Marine’s Camp Lejeune, and played an interesting role in the Civil War. Learn more at the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center, then head to the Lejeune Memorial Garden to honor fallen soldiers.
For a bit of history and architecture, go on a tour with a costumed guided interpreter at Tryon Palace. The complex includes several historic homes and a beautiful garden. Families with kids should spend some time at the Lynnwood Park Zoo or the North Carolina Aquarium – Pine Knoll Shores.
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Located around 30 miles north of Raleigh, the town of Benson has a rich history of producing moonshine, or illicit liquors.
A must while visiting the town is to sample the local flavors, which you can do along the Beer, Wine and Shine Trail, featuring seven different breweries, wineries and distilleries. Pick fresh fruits or meet farm animals at Smith’s Nursery and Strawberry Farm.
Learn all about the town and the surrounding region at the Benson Museum of Local History or the Meadow Museum. Browse for antiques, collectibles and souvenirs in Downtown Benson or enjoy a beach and water sports at Tucker Lake. For more thrills, enjoy a hot air balloon ride or watch some motor vehicles racing at GALOT Motorsports Park.
Located around 105 miles west of Raleigh, Lexington is known as the Barbecue Capital of the World. Lexington barbecue has its own unique style, and features a red sauce made from vinegar, tomatoes and spices.
There are more than 15 different barbecue restaurants in Lexington where you can sample their distinct style. Lexington is also known for its wine, so be sure to try some wine as well while you’re here. And if you have a sweet tooth, you will need to include a stop at the Candy Factory.
You can check out art and furniture at the Bob Timberlake Gallery & Museum, or enjoy the outdoors and history at Boone’s Cave Park. Learn about history at the Davidson County Historic Museum, or follow the Civil War Trail Markers or the Daniel Boone Heritage Canoe Trail.
14. Roanoke Island
At 190 miles east of Raleigh, Roanoke Island is a long day trip, but doable for those looking for history and natural beauty. The island was the site of the first attempted settlement by the English in 1585, which mysteriously disappeared.
Learn more about the settlement and Roanoke history at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. There are several interesting museums on the island, including Roanoke Island Festival Park, the North Carolina Maritime Museum and the Pea Island Cookhouse Museum.
Animal lovers won’t miss the North Carolina Aquarium or the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Other sites of interest include the Elizabethan Gardens and the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse.
15. Hanging Rock State Park
Enjoy a day in the great outdoors at Hanging Rock State Park, located around 120 miles northwest of Raleigh. The park offers miles of great hiking and mountain biking trails.
Rock climbing is also big here, and many routes can be found along the 2-mile stretch of Cook’s Wall and Moore’s Wall. Just be sure to grab a permit before you head out to climb, as they are required here.
There’s also a lake, where you can fish for bass, sunfish and catfish. Tubing, paddling, canoeing and kayaking are also popular activities on the lake. You can also look for waterfalls or go horseback riding. For an extra rush of adrenaline, you can also go ziplining nearby.