15 Best Museums in Raleigh You Must Visit

Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by Nikki Jain

Explore the best museums in Raleigh for a fascinating journey through art, history, and science. Uncover unique exhibits and enrich your cultural experience.

Known as the "Smithsonian of the South," the city of Raleigh, North Carolina, is home to a vast number of high-quality museums and historic attractions!

From niche museums about Harley Davidson or Dairy Production in North Carolina to more popular topics such as modern art or natural science, there is a museum that will pique the interest of anyone who visits North Carolina’s capital city.

With most of these museums being free to explore, visiting some of the museums in Raleigh is a fantastic way to spend a day or weekend.

Without further ado, let’s explore the best museums in Raleigh!

15 Best Raleigh Museums

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1: City of Raleigh Museum (COR)

City of Raleigh Museum (COR)
City of Raleigh Museum

Raleigh is North Carolina's capital city and is chock full of amazing coffee shops, restaurants, things to do, and history!

If you want to learn about the history of Raleigh itself, this is the museum for you, as its main mission is to preserve the past of this diverse city.

Through the various exhibits at the COR and the 5000+ artifacts, you will learn about Raleigh’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, the people who helped Raleigh become what it is today, and all about the city’s growth and development.

The best part is that this is one of the free museums in Raleigh NC!

Address: 220 Fayetteville St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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2: North Carolina Museum of History

North Carolina Museum of History

Once you've learned more about Raleigh, it's time to move on to learning more about the state as a whole.

The North Carolina Museum of History is just as it sounds - all about sharing the state's past through a vast collection of artifacts, documents, and photographs.

You will also find rotating exhibits on topics such as colonial history, the Civil War, and modern developments in North Carolina.

Like the COR, this is another free museum worth checking out if you're looking to get a well-rounded picture of the history of North Carolina.

Address: 5 E Edenton St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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3: Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh (CAM)

Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh (CAM)

The CAM Raleigh is one of the most popular art museums in Raleigh due to its large collection of contemporary art that changes frequently, making each visit unique and new.

Here, you will find work from established artists as well as those who are breaking into the contemporary art scene.

They also provide various workshops and events to dig deeper into contemporary art. 

While the CAM used to charge admission, this is now another free museum in NC that is worth exploring.

Address: 409 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC 27603

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Also Read: 20 Best Art Museums in the USA

4: North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame

North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame

Sports fans - this is one of the best museums in Raleigh for you! With over 200 pieces of memorabilia and many interactive exhibits and displays, this Museum focuses on honoring the achievements of athletes, coaches, and sports contributors who have impacted sports in the state of North Carolina and made it the success it is today. 

You will gain insight into legends like Michael Jordan, Arnold Palmer, and Kay Yow here.

This museum is inside the North Carolina Museum of History, and admission is free of charge!

Address: 5 E Edenton St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Raleigh

5: Marbles Kids Museum

Marbles Kids Museum
Marbles Kids Museum

If you're looking for a museum that the whole family will enjoy, look no further than Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh.

Specially designed to spark the creativity of kids, this museum has exhibits and activities that will help kids learn more about the arts, culture, science, technology, and engineering.

Inside Marbles, kids can play in a mini-city, check out one of the various themed exhibits, or even attend an event or a camp. It is also home to Raleigh's "only certified giant screen," where kids (and parents!) can watch an IMAX documentary.

You must buy your tickets online and in advance, as tickets sell out regularly. Ticket prices range based on anything you add, but a general admission ticket is around $12.

Address: 201 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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Also Read: Best Children's Museums in the USA

6: North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Nature Research Center at NC Museum of Natural Sciences

This museum is the largest natural sciences museum in the Southeastern United States and is the most visited museum in the entire state.

Whether you are just stopping by Raleigh on the way to a few days in Charlotte or planning to spend more time in the city, it is a do-not-miss for science and nature lovers.

The museum is divided into different buildings with different themes. Inside the main building, you can learn all about prehistoric creations and North Carolina's ecosystem and explore the deep sea.

If you prefer to be more hands-on, the Nature Research Center allows you to engage in experiments and research, as well as attend special programs and animal encounters when available.

This three-level center will enable you to watch Museum research studies in real time and see science happening right around you.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is typically free to visit, but some special events are ticketed.

Address: 11 W Jones St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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Also Read: Best Science Museums in the US

7: Raleigh Fire Museum

Raleigh Fire Museum
Raleigh Fire Museum

Inside a historic fire station, the Raleigh Fire Museum is an ode to the firefighters who have served the city throughout history.

Inside the museum, you can learn about the history of firefighting in Raleigh and experience life as a firefighter by touching fire trucks and even spraying a fire hose. This is a great museum for the whole family to enjoy.

Admission is free, and hours are limited, so check the opening times before you go!

Address: 105 Keeter Center Dr, Raleigh, NC 27601

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8: Gregg Museum of Art & Design

Gregg Museum of Art & Design
Dreamstime/Kelley Albert

If you liked the contemporary art museum, you’ll want to check out the Gregg Museum of Art & Design. Located near North Carolina State University's main campus, this museum focuses on sharing outstanding examples of art, craft, and design.

There are 6 new exhibits every year, making the visit always fresh and new. The museum encourages you to reflect on the role of design in everyday life by sharing modern and historical pieces such as fabric, ceramics, and photography.

Admission is free, but donations are strongly encouraged to help support the museum.

Address: 1903 Hillsborough St, Raleigh, NC 27607

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9: North Carolina Museum of Art

North Carolina Museum of Art

The go-to art museum in Raleigh and one of the best downtown Raleigh Museums, the North Carolina Museum of Art, aims to share the transformative power of art.

Their galleries span more than 5,000 years, and their permanent collection includes art from all over the world, such as Europe, America, Asia, and Africa. They also have revolving exhibits that change over the year.

A unique feature of the NCMA is the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park, which is a large outdoor space that allows you to choose your adventure from stepping into a cloud chamber or strolling through its 4.7 miles of trails.

The Museum Park also showcases large-scale sculptures and art installations.

Like many of the best museums in Raleigh North Carolina, admission to the NCMA is free of charge.

Address: 2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607

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10: Joel Lane Museum House

Joel Lane Museum House
Dreamstime/Lei Xu

This 18th-century house-turned-museum offers a glimpse into North Carolina’s colonial past. This house belonged to Joel Lane, often called the “Father of Raleigh” for his role in establishing the city. 

Inside, you will find 18th-century artifacts and furnishings and be able to understand the beginnings of Raleigh from the colonial era through the Revolutionary War and into the first years of a new nation.

This museum is not open to individual walkthroughs, and you must view it through a tour that starts at the Visitors Center at 160 South Saint Mary's Street.

Tours occur on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm and 1 pm. On Saturday, tours are at 1 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm. Pricing ranges from $4-$8 with kids under 6 being free.

Address: 160 S St Mary's St, Raleigh, NC 27603

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11: Original Selfie Museum

Original Selfie Museum
Original Selfie Museum

Looking for something unique, or do you just want to take a great selfie to remember your visit to Raleigh? Look no further than the Original Selfie Museum! This museum is a colorful space celebrating the modern trend of taking selfies.

You will find colorful backdrops, 3D illusions, and endless photo opportunities that make it great for all ages. This is the one to take your Instagram photos at!

This is one of the more expensive museums in Raleigh, and you should pre-book your tickets. Tickets run around $30 per person.

Address: 208 Fayetteville St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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12: Randleigh Dairy Heritage Museum

Randleigh Dairy Heritage Museum
NC State Howling Cow Ice Cream

One of the more unique museums in downtown Raleigh, the Randleigh Dairy Heritage Museum has a focus on sharing how wholesome milk gets from the farm to your table.

In this interactive museum, you can discover how a typical North Carolina Dairy farm operates from how cows are raised, how milk is produced, and how dairy products are made.

You can explore exhibits with antique dairy equipment, photos, and artifacts related to the dairy industry. The local favorite, Howling Cow ice cream is made here right on site.

For safety, visits are now scheduled in advance, and groups of 10 or more are required with a ticket cost of $10 per person.

Address: 301 Dairy Ln, Raleigh, NC 27603

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13: Mordecai Historic Park

Mordecai Historic Park
Mordecai Historic Park

The Mordecai house is the oldest residence in Raleigh and is now open to the public. The house is surrounded by gardens and other historic buildings that you can explore to learn more about the houses significant to key events in North Carolina’s history.

If you want to explore outside the house, it is free of charge. To view the inside, you must go on a guided tour, and pricing ranges from $4-$7 per person.

Address: 1 Mimosa St, Raleigh, NC 27604

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14: Ray Price Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum

Ray Price Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum
Ray Price Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum

Adrenaline junkies - this one is for you! This museum is the only Harley Drag Racing Museum housed on the second floor of one of the largest Harley dealerships in the USA.

Inside the museum, you will learn about the achievements of legendary riders and not-so-legendary riders, along with exploring vintage bikes and racing memorabilia.

The museum is open during the dealership hours and is free to visit.

Address: 1126 S Saunders St, Raleigh, NC 27603

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15: Pope House Museum

Pope House Museum
Pope House Museum

This home, built in 1901, was once home to a prominent African-American Raleigh resident, Dr. Manassa Thomas Pope.

Dr. Pope was a prominent figure in the community, and visiting this museum with its 3000+ artifacts will help you understand the African-American history in Raleigh.

The Pope House Museum is free to visit.

Address: 511 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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FAQs about Raleigh Museums

Why is Raleigh known as the Smithsonian of the South?

Raleigh is known as the "Smithsonian of the South" due to its many high-quality free museums.

Are Raleigh Museums Free?

Most Raleigh museums are free, making exploring them one of the best things to do in Raleigh, NC.

What is Raleigh best known for?

Aside from being known for its vast collection of museums, Raleigh is also called the “City of Oaks” for its number of large Oak trees.

Wrap-Up - Best Museums in Raleigh

Raleigh and the state of North Carolina have a diverse and exciting history showcased through the large variety of Museums in the state's Capital.

Whether you enjoy history, art, science, or something in between, the city of Oaks is sure to have a museum that adults and children alike will love spending the day in.

And, with most museums being free to visit, it’s a great way to get cultured without breaking the bank! Don’t forget to stop for some Legendary North Carlina BBQ for lunch because all that learning is bound to make you hungry.

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