Best Museums in Raleigh, North Carolina

20 Best Museums in Raleigh, North Carolina

Julia North Carolina Leave a Comment

Find the best museums in Raleigh, North Carolina ranging from traditional art museums to fire museums, selfie museums, and beyond!

Raleigh, North Carolina is a city brimming with cultural, fun things to do, and fascinating museums. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff, or a sports aficionados, you’ll enjoy the diverse selection of Raleigh museums.

Immerse yourself in the world of masterpieces at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Journey through the state’s past at the North Carolina Museum of History. Marvel at the wonders of the natural world at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. There’s no shortage of things to learn as you navigate your way through Raleigh’s museums.

Let’s dive into the best museums in Raleigh – and make note that many of them are free to visit!

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase.

North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA)

The NCMA is the premier art museum in Raleigh with a vast and diverse collection spanning various artistic periods and cultures. The museum’s permanent collection includes artworks from Europe, America, Africa, and Asia, representing over 5,000 years of artistic history. You can admire classical European paintings, American masterpieces, ancient artifacts, contemporary sculptures, and more.

One of the unique features of the NCMA is its Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park. This expansive outdoor space showcases large-scale art installations and sculptures and offers 4.7 miles of recreational trails. Additionally, the art museum frequently hosts special exhibitions, interactive programs, and events for all ages.

The Museum of Art in Raleigh offers free general admission to its permanent collection, but special exhibitions may require a separate ticket or have additional fees.

Address: 2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607

North Carolina Museum of History

The North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh provides an immersive journey through the state’s past. Its exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including the indigenous peoples of North Carolina, colonial history, the Civil War and Reconstruction era, industrialization, and modern developments.

The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts, documents, photographs, and interactive displays that offer insight into the lives of the people who shaped North Carolina. It also hosts rotating exhibits that delve into specific themes or aspects of the state’s history.

The North Carolina Museum of History is one of the many free museums in Raleigh, NC, making it an accessible and enriching experience for anyone interested in exploring the state’s history.

Address: 5 E Edenton St, Raleigh, NC 27601

North Carolina Museum of History

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

As the largest natural sciences museum in the Southeast, the NC Museum of Natural Sciences is a haven for science and nature lovers and one of the best things to do in downtown Raleigh. The museum’s main building features exhibits on topics like prehistoric creatures, North Carolina’s diverse ecosystems, weather patterns, and the wonders of the deep sea.

The Nature Research Center, an extension of the museum, provides hands-on learning experiences and interactive labs where you can engage in real scientific experiments and research. The museum often hosts special events, live animal encounters, and educational programs so keep an eye out for what’s going on at the museum to catch their special exhibits.

Generally, the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh is free to visit. However, some of the special attractions or experiences may have additional fees. Bonus – check out the large globe on the outside of the building!

Address: 11 W Jones St, Raleigh, NC 27601

Marbles Kids Museum

The Marbles Kids Museum is specifically designed for children, aiming to spark their curiosity and creativity through interactive play-based learning. The museum features numerous exhibits and activities covering areas such as arts, culture, science, technology, and engineering.

Children can explore a mini-city, experiment with water play, engage in imaginative role-playing, and participate in various educational workshops. Marbles also hosts special events, camps, and programs for families throughout the year.

You also won’t want to miss the IMAX Theater at Marbles. It is home to the “only certified giant screen” in Raleigh. Check out what they’re playing and grab some tickets for a great experience for families and kids in Raleigh!

As a specialty museum, the Marbles Kids Museum does have an admission fee for both children and adults. You’ll need to book your tickets in advance. If you’re hoping to be able to visit for free, there are occasionally special events or free community days, so it’s worth checking their website for any updated information.

Address: 201 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27601

Marbles Museum Mural in Raleigh, NC

Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh (CAM Raleigh)

Another popular art museum, CAM Raleigh, is dedicated to showcasing contemporary art in all its forms. This Raleigh art museum exhibits thought-provoking and cutting-edge works from both established and emerging artists. It often features multimedia installations, experimental art, and interactive displays.

CAM Raleigh is a dynamic space, and the exhibits change frequently, offering you a fresh and inspiring experience with each visit. The museum also hosts lectures, workshops, and events that encourage dialogue and engagement with contemporary art.

Previously, CAM Raleigh charged admission, but now due to the generosity of their sponsors and donors, it is one of the many free museums in Raleigh.

Address: 409 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC 27603

The CAM Museum in Raleigh

Gregg Museum of Art & Design

Located on the North Carolina State University campus, the Gregg Museum focuses on art, design, and craft. It showcases an array of contemporary and historical pieces, including textiles, ceramics, photography, and furniture. The museum often hosts exhibitions that explore the intersection of art and design, encouraging you to reflect on the role of design in everyday life.

The Gregg Museum offers free admission. However, donations are encouraged to support the museum’s programs and exhibitions.

Address: 1903 Hillsborough St, Raleigh, NC 27607

City of Raleigh Museum (COR Museum)

The City of Raleigh Museum offers an in-depth look at the history of Raleigh itself. It features exhibits and artifacts that highlight the city’s growth, development, and key events throughout its history.

It’s one of my favorite Raleigh museums as this is where can learn about Raleigh’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, its architecture, and the people who shaped the city’s identity. As a local, I find it gave me more context about the city and how it came to the be Raleigh we know and love today.

Admission to the City of Raleigh Museum is free, providing an accessible way to explore the history of Raleigh.

Address: 220 Fayetteville St, Raleigh, NC 27601

COR Museum in Raleigh

Pope House Museum

The historic site of the Pope House Museum was once the residence of Dr. Manassa Thomas Pope, a prominent African American doctor and community leader in early 20th-century Raleigh. This museum provides a glimpse into the life of Dr. Pope, his family, and the African American community during that time. It is an essential site for understanding African American heritage and contributions in the city.

The Pope House Museum is free to visit.

Address: 511 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601

Historic Yates Mill County Park

While not a museum per se, the Historic Yates Mill County Park offers you the chance to explore a meticulously restored gristmill dating back to the 18th century. The mill provides insight into the milling process and its importance in the area’s history. Plan to be outside if you visit this Raleigh museum as it is almost entirely outdoors.

This 174-acre park also offers picturesque walking trails and educational programs related to the mill and its surroundings making it the perfect destination for a morning or afternoon out. Mix a bit of learning with a bit of exercise!

The park itself is free to visit, including access to the grounds and the mill’s exterior. If you wish to visit the inside of the mill, you will need to book a tour, which has a small fee. You can register online for a tour.

Address: 4620 Lake Wheeler Rd, Raleigh, NC 27603

Mordecai Historic Park

Mordecai Historic Park is a fascinating historic site that opens the oldest residence in Raleigh to the public. The Mordecai House dates back to the 18th century and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and other historic buildings.

At the Mordecai House, you can join a guided tour to delve into the history of the Mordecai family, the house’s architectural significance, and its connections to key events in North Carolina’s past.

Exploring the Mordecai House’s exterior and the park’s grounds are free of charge. To visit the inside you’ll need to buy a ticket to join a guided tour.

Address: 1 Mimosa St, Raleigh, NC 27604

Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum

Located on the second floor of one of the largest Harley dealerships in the United States, the world’s only Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum is a niche museum dedicated to the adrenaline-pumping sport of Harley Davidson drag racing.

This unique museum showcases the history and achievements of legendary riders, their motorcycles, and the equipment that have made this form of racing an exciting and popular part of motorcycle culture. You can explore vintage bikes, racing memorabilia, and engaging exhibits that illustrate the evolution of the sport over the years.

The recently-expanded showroom also serves as the cherished home of the late, world-famous drag racing champion Ray Price. The museum is open and free of charge during store hours.

Address: 1126 S Saunders St, Raleigh, NC 27603

Randleigh Dairy Heritage Museum

The Randleigh Dairy Heritage Museum is a perfect destination for those interested in the agricultural heritage of Raleigh. The museum sheds light on the historical significance of dairy farming in the region and its impact on the local community.

Here you can immerse yourself in exhibits featuring antique dairy equipment, photographs capturing farm life, and artifacts related to the dairy industry. The museum serves as a window into the past, highlighting the importance of agriculture and dairy farming in shaping Raleigh’s cultural and economic development.

You’ll also learn how they raise their cows, how the cows produce milk, and how that milk is used to make products like the local delicacy Howling Cow ice cream.

To ensure safety and maintain health protocols, all visits to the museum and farm must be scheduled in advance through guided tours. As of now, the museum and farm exclusively accommodate scheduled tours for organized groups of 10 or more, guaranteeing a memorable and well-organized visit. Find out all about scheduling a tour here.

Address: 301 Dairy Ln, Raleigh, NC 27603

Original Selfie Museum

The Original Selfie Museum in Raleigh is a creative space that celebrates the modern phenomenon of the selfie. It offers a series of interactive exhibits and eye-catching installations designed specifically for taking selfies.

With a wide array of colorful backdrops, 3D illusions, and artistic settings, the museum provides endless photo opportunities that inspire creativity and playfulness. The Original Selfie Museum is a fun and engaging experience for all ages but typically appeals most to selfie and social media enthusiasts. Get ready to take your picture!

One of the more expensive museums in Raleigh, you’ll want to check for tickets before you go.

Address: 208 Fayetteville St, Raleigh, NC 27601

Raleigh Fire Museum

The Raleigh Fire Museum pays homage to the courageous firefighters who have served the Raleigh community over the years. Housed in a historic fire station, the museum preserves and showcases vintage fire apparatus, equipment, and memorabilia.

Through its exhibits, you can learn about the history of firefighting in Raleigh and the evolution of fire services and techniques. The museum’s displays honor the bravery and dedication of firefighters, as well as their role in safeguarding the city’s residents and property. Best of all, you can touch a fire truck and spray a fire hose making it one of the best museums in Raleigh for kids!

While it is one of the many free museums in Raleigh, it does have limited hours. Make sure to check when it’s open before you visit.

Address: 105 Keeter Center Dr, Raleigh, NC 27601

Joel Lane Museum House

The Joel Lane Museum House is an important historic site that offers a glimpse into North Carolina’s colonial past. The house, built in the 18th century, belonged to Joel Lane, who was a prominent figure often referred to as the “Father of Raleigh” for his role in the establishment of the city’s capital.

The museum features a beautifully restored house, showcasing period furnishings and artifacts, providing insights into the lifestyle and history of early settlers in North Carolina. Guided tours offer an opportunity to step back in time and appreciate the rich heritage of the region.

To visit the Joel Lane Museum, you’ll want to book tickets in advance.

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

Page-Walker Arts & History Center

The Page-Walker Arts & History Center is a historic building that has been transformed into a lively community space for arts and history lovers. Originally constructed as a hotel for travelers in the late 19th century, the building now serves as a hub for cultural events, art exhibitions, and educational programs.

The center features the Cary Heritage Museum, art galleries, and the Anne B. Kratzer Educational Gardens. These exhibits highlight the local history and culture of Cary, engaging you in the town’s development and unique identity.

Visiting the Page-Walker Center is typically free to visit, although it does sometimes close down for private events.

Address: 119 Ambassador Loop, Cary, NC 27513

Little House Museum and Gallery

The Little House Museum and Gallery is a small museum located in Rolesville, NC that focuses on the rich history of the town. While it is not large, tours of this museum are a wealth of information about the local community.

They’ll take you through two distinctive gallery rooms that celebrate the artistic process in both antique and contemporary art and craft. Then you’ll continue into two history rooms that offer a fascinating journey through local history. These thoughtfully curated exhibits showcase a collection of artifacts, documents, period furnishings, captivating images, and items of local interest.

In addition to its historical exhibits, the museum occasionally hosts art exhibitions and cultural events. To find out more about visiting the Little House Museum and Gallery, check their website for the latest hours of operation. All tours come with a suggested donation fee to help offset their costs.

Address: 201 N Main St, Rolesville, NC 27571

North Carolina Railway Museum & New Hope Valley Railway

The North Carolina Railway Museum and its associated New Hope Valley Railway, also affectionally referred to as the “Triangle’s Train”, offers a nostalgic journey into the world of trains and railroads. The museum features exhibits on the history of railways in North Carolina, showcasing vintage train cars, equipment, and railway memorabilia.

The main highlight of a visit to the Railway Museum is the opportunity to ride on restored trains. The train trips are an hour-long with a round-trip journey covering 4 miles of historic track. It will take you through picturesque piney woods from Bonsal to New Hill and back. This is another top museum in Raleigh for children. They love it!

Check out the days train rides are offered. These are also the only days the museum is open. You can purchase ride tickets ahead of time online or upon arrival, if tickets are still available.

Address: 3900 Bonsal Rd, New Hill, NC 27562

North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame

Situated within the NC Museum of History, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame honors the outstanding achievements of athletes, coaches, and sports contributors who have made significant contributions to the world of sports in North Carolina. This museum features over 200 memorabilia pieces, interactive exhibits, and displays celebrating the state’s rich sporting legacy.

Among the esteemed athletes featured are legendary icons such as Michael Jordan, Arnold Palmer, Dale Earnhardt, and Kay Yow, among others. Through the inspiring stories of these inducted individuals and teams, you can gain insight into North Carolina’s diverse and successful sports history.

Best of all? It’s free to visit.

Address: 5 E. Edenton Street, Raleigh, NC 27601

The Fuquay-Varina Museums Complex

The Fuquay-Varina Museums Complex is actually a collection of six museums: The First Fuquay Post Office, the “Squire” Ballentine Schoolhouse, the Centennial Museum, the Tobacco Barn, the Johnson Playhouse, and the Norfolk Southern Caboose #375. These museums showcase the history and culture of Fuquay-Varina, a neighboring town to Raleigh.

Here you can learn about the town’s agricultural past, explore exhibits on local heritage, and gain a deeper appreciation for the development of Fuquay-Varina into a thriving community – all for free!

Address: 131 S Fuquay Ave, Fuquay-Varina, NC 27526

Explore More of Raleigh

All of these museums and historic sites contribute to Raleigh’s cultural richness and provide valuable educational and engaging experiences for all ages and interests. Each museum adds a unique perspective to the city’s history, art, and culture, making Raleigh an exciting destination for both locals and tourists.

Are you impressed with the number and variety of museums in Raleigh? I know I was! Which one is of most interest to you? Let me know in the comments!

Want to find out more of what to do in Raleigh, North Carolina? Check out these helpful posts!

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Best Museums to Visit in Raleigh, North Carolina
Best Museums to Visit in Raleigh, NC
Best Museums in Raleigh, NC

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