Although Raleigh is a beautiful and fun, kid friendly city that we seriously adore visiting, it’s also so much fun to explore the cities surrounding Raleigh. I want to share with you some great day trips from Raleigh that are perfect for family travelers.
The reason that these cities in particular make such good day trips from Raleigh is that they have a good number of points of interest that are appealing to adults and ones that are appealing to children, and some that are appealing to both as well. As well as unique and interesting restaurants that you can’t find just anywhere.
Please keep in mind that when it comes to drive times, they are just estimates. They can change depending on your start and end points, traffic, etc.
Let’s get started!
8 Perfect Day Trips From Raleigh With Kids
Raleigh – Durham: 30 minutes
If you like to spend a lot of time outdoors when you travel, then Durham is one of the best day trips from Raleigh that you can take! Get and up close view of lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center, take a hike Falls Lake State Recreation Area, or kayak down the Eno River.
One of the coolest things to do in Durham with kids is the Museum Of Life And Science. You can walk among black bears, red wolves, and hundreds of tropical butterflies in their 84-acre center.
When it comes to food, OH MY GOODNESS
Durham is a treasure trove. I don’t even know where to start!
Let’s start with the best part.. the sweets! If you’re looking for something sweet, head to Sugar Koi. You’ve probably seen the iconic soft sugar koi fish shaped cones before. They serve their creamy ice creams in these cones and they are DELSIH!
Craving something Spanish? Head to Mateo Bon De Tapas.
Maybe you’re more of a Mexican food fiend. In which case I recommend stopping at Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas!
If you are looking to try a true southern delight, head to Dames Chicken and Waffles!
Raleigh – Chapel Hill: 40 minutes
Start your day trip to Chapel Hill by spending some time in nature! Walk through the Coker Arboretum or the North Carolina Botanical Garden at the University of North Carolina.
For the adults an/or art lovers in your travel party, head to Ackland Art Museum. It’s free for everyone and the museum has dedicated themselves to providing a welcoming space for both adults and children.
Next, stop at Kidzu. It’s an interactive children’s museum and play space for infants up to tweens. It’s truly so much fun for kids and they even have an indoor rock wall!
Chow down on mouth watering Turkish food at Talullas. Or get your grub on with some delicious Greek cuisine at Kiplos Greek Taverna. If you aren’t in the mood for foreign cuisine, head on over to Al’s Burger Shack. Try their “mookie” burger, bacon-onion jam with blue marble cheese, and roasted garlic aioli on NC pasture-raised, no antibiotic, no hormone burger!
Before you head back to Raleigh, stop for dessert at the Blue Spoon Micro-creamery. This is a must visit sweet shop in North Carolina because of their unique flavors. They have brown sugar banana, green tea, and strawberry balsamic, just to name a few!
Raleigh – Fayetteville: 1 hour
Love adventure? If so, Fayetteville will be ones of your best options for day trips from Raleigh. Fayetteville is the home of ZipQuest – Waterfall & Treetop Adventure. For anyone 8 years old or older is allowed to participate at ZipQuest. Walk between tree tops on rope bridge over Carver’s Creek and zip line over Carver’s Falls!
If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground you can take part in interactive play with your kids at Fayetteville’s Fascinate-U children’s Museum or head over to Cape Fear Botanical Garden to enjoy their showcase of over 2,000 varieties of plant life.
Most of the best restaurants in Fayetteville can be found downtown. Your first choice should be The Blue Moon Cafe! They have a great wine selection, SERIOUSLY delicious food, and you can eat outside on the patio and have a gorgeous view of downtown. A good downtown option for beer lovers is Gaston Brewing Company on Hay Street!
Raleigh – Charlotte: 2 hours 35 minutes
Quite possibly the fan favorites of all the awesome day trips from Raleigh is the city of Charlotte.
Charlotte is a diverse city in all ways. The attractions, the people, the food options. Seriously, Charlotte is the best. However, it is kinda expensive. As a budget traveller I usually avoid cities like Charlotte. Although it’s a wealthy city, there’s enough variety and budget friendly options that any type of traveler would be happy to visit!
For adventure seekers, you will love Carowinds theme park and the U.S. National Whitewater Center. If you’re like me and more of a history lover and museum buff, Charlotte has a ton of options. I’d start with the Mint Museum Uptown and the Historic Latte Plantation.
If you are lucky enough to have pleasant weather while you are in Charlotte, you can go for a walk at the McDowell Nature Preserve or the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens.
And finally, for the kiddos.
Young kids are usually by cars, animals, trains, planes, etc. If your kids are the same, then YOU ARE IN LUCK. The NASCAR Hall of Fame, Carolinas Aviation Museum, and the Carolina Raptor Center are all located in Charlotte.
If you’re traveling with toddlers you may like to visit SEA LIFE Centre Charlotte. It’s an aquarium inside a shopping mall and is a toddler favorite. Then there’s Discover Place Science. It’s a hands-on museum and IMAX theatre that’s perfect for a rainy or hot southern day in Charlotte.
There’s an overwhelming amount of food options in Charlotte. Don’t waste your time searching for a place to eat while you’re in town; choose one of these delicious and kid friendly spots!
The city has a lot of upscale options, but since this post is for travelers like myself who are on the go with kids in tow… I’m going to exclude them from this post. Because, toddlers.
First up is Lupie’s Cafe. This restaurant is so laid back and has cross over vibes, somewhere between hipster and old country store. It’s made this list because it serves up old-school southern comfort food that you should experience while in North Carolina.
Lupie’s is also a good budget option as well. I ordered a a vegetarian platter that was 5 veggie dishes that came with a large piece of cornbread and it was only 7 bucks!
If you love Mediterranean food, Zeitouni Mediterranean Grill is a must. And what would a trip to North Carolina be without trying some famous Carolina barbecue? Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q is a great family friendly AND budget friendly option.
For something sweet, I can’t recommend Amelie’s French Cafe and Bakery enough. We got the hot chocolate, chocolate croissants, and apple tarts. I’m dying to go back. They were all so good!
Raleigh – Winston Salem: 1 hour 40 minutes
Keeping your kids happy in Winston-Salem is easy. You can have a blast with your kiddos at the hands-on science center and nature park, Kaleideum North as well as the water themed park and family entertainment park, Adventure Landing.
If you like to visit museums while you travel, Winston-Salem is probably one of the best day trips form Raleigh for you. Winston-Salem is home to the Museum of Anthropology. You can about global cultures and see ancient artifacts right in Winston-Salem. I would also feel like I wasn’t doing my job if I didn’t recommend the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art.
Get some fresh air while you’re in the city at Paul J Ciener Botanical Garden or in the beautiful gardens of a former estate, at the Reynolda Gardens.
When it’s time to eat, try some famous Carolina barbecue at Slappy’s. Finish with something sweet from Black Mountain Chocolate. This is also a great place to buy a few things to bring home with your from your trip to Winston-Salem.
Raleigh – Greensboro: 1 hour 15 minutes
Get your museum fix at the what are, in my opinion, the best two museums in Greensboro, The Weatherspoon Art Museum and The Greensboro History Museum. And if you like to spend more time outdoors, I’d consider visiting Barber Park or the Gateway Gardens!
Greensboro is a super family friendly destination in North Carolina and is one of the best day trips from Raleigh for those traveling with kids. I recommend visiting the aquarium, zoo, and interactive museum called Greensboro Science Center. Let your kids play at the Greensboro Children’s Museum, or even better, visit Celebration Station, the indoor and outdoor amusement park.
Gourmet tacos, burgers, and beer.. oh my! They all three await you at Crafted The Art of the Taco in Greensboro. And a trip to North Carolina wouldn’t be complete without chompin’ down on some chicken n’ waffles. Grab you a plate, at Dame’s Chicken and Waffles!
Before you head back to Raleigh, stop by Sweet Meg’s Bakery for a margarita cupcake
or a churro cupcake
or a honey bun cupcake..
or chocolate mint…
they have it all!
Raleigh – Rocky Mount: 1 hour
For family travelers, the #1 thing to do in Rocky Mount is The Imperial Centre for the Arts & Sciences. Although it’s fun for all ages, younger kids may still prefer the Rocky Mount Children’s Museum and Science Center instead.
Once you’re done entertaining the kids, see something that you yourself will enjoy. If you’re a history lover that is. The Stonewall Manor is a 19th century plantation house that is gorgeous and a just such a fantastic place to learn about the history of Rocky Mount.
As I travel more and more, I’ve started judging restaurants on how good their chicken sandwich is. I have no clue why. Maybe just because I’m somewhat of a picky eater and love me a good chicken sandwich. And no where does it better than the American south!
If you’re interested in grabbing a delicious chicken sandwich while you’re in Rocky Mount, LouReda’s An American Table is where it’s at.
If you’re visiting Rocky Mount in the summer time, stop by Webby’s Shaved Ice to cool down!
Raleigh – Hendersonville: 4 hours 5 minutes
Just wait. It’s worth it!
I know that when you considering which one of these day trips from Raleigh to take with your kids, a city that is four hours away wouldn’t be at the top of your list. Especially if you are traveling with a baby or toddler and you have to stop every couple hours for feedings, diaper changes, potty breaks, etc. BUT with the attractions that Hendersonville has to offer family travelers, it will soon become one of the you favorite day trips from Raleigh!
Kids will love the Elijah Mountain Gem Mine where you can mine for your own gem stones. Toddlers and younger kids will have a blast at the Hands On! Children’s Museum as well as the Aquarium and Shark Lab.
Hendersonville is also a great place to spend time outdoors. If you like hiking and breath-taking views, Glassy Mountain and Jump Off Rock are for you. Or if you aren’t interest in doing any hiking, but still want to spend some time outdoors, head to the beautiful Bullington Gardens.
An awesome family activity in Hendersonville is to visit the Sky Top Orchard. Picking apples is such an awesome way spend time together, doing something that everyone in the family can enjoy and benefit from.
Did someone say Bavaria?
Taste delicious German cuisine for dinner at Haus Heidelberg German Restaurant. Another great option is Dandelion. Is a budget friendly restaurant where victims of violence are given on-the-job training.
When it comes to sweet shops, Hendersonville has you covered! For macaron lovers, head to Gateaux Cakes and Pastries. If a box of mind blowing donuts is more your speed, look no further than the McFarlan Bake Shop!
So, tell me. Will you be taking any of these day trips from Raleigh? Have you already? I’d love to hear from you!
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