Known as the “City of Oaks,” Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, a city rich in history and emerging in cultural significance. About 440,000 people call Raleigh home with another 1.3 million living in the combined Raleigh-Durham area. The city’s rapid growth has only enhanced the area, known for its excellent schools, mild weather, and very good job market. If you are planning a visit to Raleigh, the following are chief among the many fun things to do.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Due north of the capitol building is the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. It represents the largest natural history museum of its kind in the southeast and was recently expanded and updated.

Admission to the museum is free with access to optional special exhibitions requiring a fee. The museum is composed of a main building and a connected nature research center, offering four floors of education and fun including a nature art gallery, museum store, a discovery room, curiosity classrooms offering live animal exhibits, a living conservatory, and a 3D theater and auditorium.

The museum sponsors numerous events throughout the year including an Astronomy Day in January, a Reptile & Amphibian Day in March, a BugFest in Sept., and a Fossil Fair in Nov.

North Carolina Museum of History

Right next door to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is the North Carolina Museum of History. The history museum also has free admission, charging for access to special exhibits only.

By its name, the history museum’s focus is solely on North Carolina with emphasis on local and regional history and heritage. It also collects and preserves artifacts and other historical materials related to the state’s role nationally and internationally. The museum features educational programs and exhibits, and is also home to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

North Carolina State University

Wolfpack pride describes North Carolina State University, part of the University of North Carolina system of universities. Founded in 1887, NC State serves more than 35,000 undergraduate and graduate students on its sprawling urban campus.

Besides offering a variety of world class academic programs, NC State is prized for its athletic programs including mens’s and women’s basketball playing at the PNC Arena, and Wolfpack football at Carter-Finley Stadium. The Hunt Library is chief among the university’s libraries and has been recognized internationally for its architectural and technological integration. Interactive computing, multimedia creation, and large-scale visualization are its main features with a video game lab, 3D printing, and a BookBot storage and retrieval system also of note.

Carolina Ballet

Being the capital city has its cultural advantages. Besides its museums, historical sites, and educational facilities, the city is home to the North Carolina Symphony and the Carolina Ballet. The ballet has about 35 dancers and performs at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

Launched as a professional dance organization in 1977, the Carolina Ballet has launched more than 80 world premiere ballets and has entertained in Chicago and New York. The ballet has also performed in Hungary, China, and also dances in Durham. In addition to its rotating schedule of performances, the Carolina Ballet performs the Nutcracker annually.

Other Raleigh Attractions

Shops and businesses line Fayetteville Street, the main venue that extends from the Capitol Building to the Duke Energy Center. The city also features several neighborhoods of note including Oakwood, a historic district featuring homes from the late 1800s to the early 1920s. Stone Henge, Brier Creek, Five Points, and North Hills are also neighborhoods of distinction.

The area is served by the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisville, and can be reached by Interstate 40 and State Highway 1. Nearby communities of interest include Cary, Durham, Chapel Hill, Apex, and more than one hour south, Fayetteville.