15+ Unique Day Trips Around Raleigh, North Carolina

Visiting Raleigh is fun because of the places to explore. Raleigh is more exciting because of its central location that allows you to see a lot in a short time.

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What are the best day trips to take around Raleigh?

Raleigh is the capital city of North Carolina. During your day trips, you can visit Durham, Wilmington, Asheboro, Greensboro and Yadkin Valley. Experience the natural and modern influences thanks to the city’s vibrant culture and heritage buildings that fit perfectly in this century.

To experience what the city offers, we embarked on a day trip as a team and marveled at everything we saw. From the greenery, thanks to the parks and trees, to magnificent buildings that sprawl the entire city and its surroundings. We concluded that this is an experience that everyone should try at least once.

Top Day Trips from Raleigh

Raleigh is known for its dedicated effort to keep the trees and greenery intact. These efforts have seen it preserve as many parks as possible, hence the alias `City of Oaks. 

Due to the refreshing environments, forest cover, and well-maintained green spaces with an urban touch, this remains one of the most attractive places to visit in North Carolina.

Naturally, this area attracts numerous performers and tourists who enjoy a mix of a natural and urban feel. 

Away from the capital, you can experience national parks, coastal getaways, and mountains, among other things. The exciting bit is that each place will leave you refreshed with what they offer, no matter how familiar.

If you are more of a settlement explorer who loves discovering hidden towns and gems, then you will love the quaint cities spread across the region. 

Below are a few suggestions of places you could cover on a day trip during your stay here. Some will undoubtedly be those you come back to even after you leave.


This must be a must-visit considering it’s only 30 to 40 minutes from the capital. Known for its peace and tranquility, Durham is home to crucial American history.

Those who enjoy sampling different local cuisines will also feel at home here, not to mention the rich culture you will experience.

Regarding monuments, Durham’s highlight has to be the Bennett Place State Historic Site. This place has a lot of history trapped in monumental structures whose goal is to memorialize the Civil War’s last days.

Archaeologists and lovers of history will undoubtedly feel a strong connection here as they explore the profound and exciting history of the area.

Interestingly, you may catch a re-enactment of the civil war days if you want a more immersive and intense experience. 

These are held throughout the year and will be a highlight for all curious visitors. Art lovers are also not left out here.

The Nasher Museum in Durham is a perfect place to visit if you want to experience a thriving art scene. This museum boasts a collection that exceeds 10,000 pieces, not mentioning the fascinating rotating exhibits.


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Are you a beach lover and likely to enjoy related getaways? If so, then Wilmington should be a top destination from Raleigh.

This port city is a few hours from the capital and is known for its fantastic gems, an example being Wrightsville which is 2 hours from Raleigh.

Moreover, if you get bored with the beach, you can visit the historic district and experience the picturesque Riverwalk. 

This will take you through the beautiful downtown, uniquely lined with galleries, shops, and restaurants to sample and try out. Consider trying out the famous dishes from the restaurants here before heading back to the city.


Are you here with family and wondering where to go during the day? Visit the city of Asheboro from Raleigh and spend your day checking out the magnificent places. There is a lot to do in this city with the entire family.

Start by visiting the North Carolina zoo and check out the over 1600 housed animals. You’ll be amazed at how perfectly the zoo mimicked each animal’s natural habitat. 

You get to see a little of Africa when you experience the lions and even the grizzlies of North America. If you are lucky, you get to see the feeding process.

Away from the zoo, the more adventurous spirited explorers can try out the day-trip hair-raising flight through the trees in the Richland Creek canopy Zipline Tour.

However, note that this is not for the faint-hearted but more suited for the adrenaline junkie who dares to try the unthinkable. The good news is that it is safe and worth trying if you are up for it.

The entire family will enjoy catching the scenery at the magnificent Mendenhall falls. However, it takes guts to venture further, and families that love trying adventurous sports will feel more at ease.


As North Carolina’s third largest city, you can count on finding unique offers here. This gives you a Broadway kind of feel away from New York. You will soon find out why it is hailed as the theater capital of North Carolina the moment you set foot here.

Make sure to visit the Triad stage, a nationally recognized talent haven, and catch the performances put out all year long. Just be sure to get your tickets in advance to avoid heartbreaks.

However, even when you miss the chance at the Triad stage, check out the Barn Dinner Theatre, which is more informal. You can catch fantastic theaters and concert presentations here too.

Yadkin Valley

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If you love wine and enjoy visiting vineyards, you will find this an exquisite destination in NC. Yadkin Valley is known for its rich wine-making history and was started by Sir Walter Raleigh. 

The Yadkin River offers an excellent microclimate that supports growing grapes unique to this region.

You will often see crowds in this area, most people enjoying the freshly made wine. However, there are a host of other activities, including musical performances and hiking, that you can enjoy in Yadkin Valley. 

Travelers can catch all the special musical performances as well as go on hiking escapades.

Smithfield and Selma

Foodies will be celebrating the opportunity to visit a place they can indulge in to their fullest. It is even more interesting because it is an hour away from the capital, Raleigh. 

Barbecue diehard fans and catering enthusiasts will feel more at home here than in any other part of NC.

Visit and walk the stretch between the towns of Smithfield and Selma if you want to sample mouthwatering delicacies. 

This is where you enjoy a whole roasted hog in the true NC fashion. The two small towns each have unique cuisines, and the food served between the two small towns also has a unique charm that will have you visit again for more experience.

Blue Ridge Parkway

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It may come as a surprise that people may fall in love with driving, but it is easy to see why Blue Ridge Parkway takes America’s Favorite Drive title any day. The 469-mile stretch is filled with fabulous landscapes and gorgeous mountainous views.

Blue Ridge Mountain is spectacular, so motorists and cyclists enjoy this route.

Moreover, you can always stop at exquisite picnic points and enjoy a hearty meal from one of the most scenic views. For adrenaline-driven individuals, this region offers more challenging hiking checkpoints.

Check out the Folk Art Center as your trip’s highlight. Sample galleries and catch the demonstration of the arts and crafts. 

You can also visit the museum of North Carolina minerals and learn about the area’s mineral history.

Morehead Planetarium

The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is located in Chapel Hill, a renowned and celebrated university town. Chapel Hill is about 40 minutes from Raleigh, making it worth visiting.

This center was opened in 1949 and currently packs with all sorts of demonstrations, shows, and talks you can imagine. You don’t want to miss this, considering that it remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US.

If you or your children are fascinated by science, this is a must-visit from Raleigh. Expect to catch at least one planetary show since there are 15 such shows and experiences happening all year round.

They touch on different subjects, from celestial navigation to black holes and astronaut training exhibits.

The Biltmore Estate

This massive 8000-acre compound in Asheville is home to the Vanderbilt mansion. You want to catch the largest private home/ estate in the US when in Raleigh. 

The 250 rooms are tastefully decorated with artwork, clothing, and vintage antiques and are partially accessible to visitors who want to explore.

Its exteriors are also breathtaking and quite impressive, starting with the rose garden, the Italian garden, ornate pools, and opulent sculptures, all of which make it worthwhile to wander around leisurely.

Linville Gorge and Falls

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Found in Pisgah National Forest, Linville gorge has been teasingly nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the east. 

This is one of those features of scenery that is impossible to miss. Most people access it through the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Get to enjoy Linville falls through several trailheads, all of which are a few miles from one another. Take in the breathtakingly beautiful and quaint view as the Linville River cascades down the steep rocky walls.

The beautiful oak forest running through is especially spectacular to catch during fall when everything turns to gold.

Photographers and enthusiasts will have a field day capturing the magnificent natural beauty of this area. 

Also, visit the Duggers creek falls, Table Rock Mountain, and Crabtree Falls for more beautiful photos.

Chimney Rock State Park

Do not leave NC without visiting this majestic site. Tourists from all over the country throng this site because of the enormous granite spire standing tall at 315 feet. This marvelous natural creation leaves many in awe of the geological formation.

A few moderate hiking trails go up and down the mountain and through the surrounding woodland. However, the spire wins. 

Those uninterested in hiking need not worry since the mountain has a 26-storey elevator built to make moving up and down the spire easier. You get to enjoy the breathtaking view without breaking a sweat.

Outer Banks

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While it is true that you may need a few days to explore the 200 miles of outer banks Islands satisfactorily, these still make an excellent plan for a day trip.

These islands have stunning beauty, and the charming towns are ever so inviting. As for activities, you will be spoilt for choice and can choose to learn about the colonies’ history or take scenic drives.

Speaking of drives, try the gorgeous Outer Bank Scenic Byway, which delivers some of the most unforgettable sunsets.

This is a fantastic place to have romantic escapades. It makes a perfect getaway from time to time if you frequent Raleigh.

On your way, the Outer Banks History Center is worth visiting. 

If you go further, you’ll come across Roanoke Island, where you can visit the living history museum and learn more about the lost colony that once resided there.

Grandfather Mountain

The grandfather mountain is where the Mile High Swinging Bridge is located. Visiting this place allows you to check things at a 360-degree angle and marvel at human achievement since the bridge is an ingenious creation and proof of human excellence.

The spectacular bridge connects two peaks of grandfather mountain and makes a great scene for taking photos. 

Those with no fear of heights will enjoy being suspended above the ground. It is a perfect destination for hiking lovers since there are a variety of hikes ranging from challenging to leisurely, all offering panoramic views.

Cape Hatteras

This Cape is close to the Outer Banks area and is known for being a coastal preservation area. It is a natural stretch of the coast filled with fantastic beaches and wildlife.

Cape Hatteras is ideal if you want a perfect destination filled with nature away from the city.

Enjoy watching turtles and seals and even attempt to scale historic lighthouses if you are confident. The bottom line is that this Cape has something to offer travelers and visitors both in summer and winter.


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You can get to Charlotte from Raleigh in 2 and a half hours. Visit if you want to uncover and discover new things and experiences.

Try mouth watering delicacies in the different restaurants and check out the museums and sports fields.

It makes a perfect day trip from Raleigh because it works for everyone since it is a cosmopolitan city. 

It works perfectly for solo travelers and families alike.

Battleship North Carolina

This makes another exciting road trip destination from Raleigh. Situated in Wilmington, the battleship is moored at the Cape Fear River and is the perfect day trip choice for people interested in learning about the country’s military expertise.

You also get to learn about the country’s historical accomplishments and the technological expertise/ advancement of the human mind.

As one of the initial battleships ever to be commissioned to the American fleet in World War 2, the USS North Carolina still exists today. 

It stands proudly as a monument worth visiting. Most visitors that tour this ship get to navigate the bowels and experience being close to intimidating weapons, primarily guns, on the ship’s deck.

While on board the ship, you also learn about a time in history when peace was elusive and war reigned. 

This is a lifetime experience that you are not likely to get anywhere else in the world.

Winston Salem

You can plan a trip to Winston-Salem from Raleigh in one hour and 50 minutes. The charming city is home to some of the best historical attractions. 

Some top interests include breweries, cobblestone streets, museums, electric shops, restaurants, and art galleries.

Get to learn about the exciting history of the region. German Protestants and the Monrovians settled in 1750. Salem is quiet and original, while Winston is more vibrant. 

Winston-Salem city, also known as Camel city, was built on the proceeds of tobacco.

Airlie Gardens

Another place you should consider visiting is the Airlie gardens, which are 2 hours from Raleigh. This is a creation of 1884 that started as a series of formal gardens. 

Get to see the 500-year-old Airlie oak tree, which is magnificent with the beautiful draping of Spanish moss.

There are also unique walkways, trails, beautifully arranged gardens, and historic structures. Check the schedule if you want to go on one of the birdie hikes throughout the year. 

You can combine this trip with the one to Wrightsville Beach since they are a few minutes apart. Finish the journey with an overnight stop at Wilmington for a night’s adventure.

With so many day trip destinations from Raleigh, find ways to maximize your trip to NC. Get an itinerary that works.

Key Takeaways

  •  Choose a day trip from Raleigh based on your interests and preferences.
  • There are numerous options for day trips from Raleigh, NC.
  • Combining several destinations in the same direction for day trips from Raleigh.