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Family-Friendly Fun in Downtown Raleigh

Ambassador giving mom and child directions


Where to Take Your Kids & Family in Downtown Raleigh

Our city is full of amazing experiences for kids of all ages and families with all budgets. Read up on all you can do with your loved ones. Need help finding parking? We've got you covered on that, too.

Mommy Poppins Recommendations

Popular national mom blog Mommy Poppins recently featured Raleigh on their site, and included 10 downtown spots on their list of things to do with kids. We've copied their recommendations and added a few more below. 

Inside Morgan Street Food Hall

Food Halls

Hours: Varies by Location
Cost: Varies by Vendor

No matter what you're craving, you're sure to find it at the Downtown Raleigh food halls: Transfer Co. Food Hall and Morgan Street Food Hall. Transfer Co. is housed in the historic Carolina Coach Garage and Shops and was recently-renovated. If you’re hungry for breakfast, you’ll find wood-fired bagels and fresh coffee at Benchwarmers Bagels. Looking for lunch? Mama Crow’s offers a menu of locally-sourced salads, top-quality burgers, house-made cheeses, and hand-cut fries.

Located just across town is Morgan Street Food Hall, which made USA Today's "Top 10 New Food Hall" list in 2018. At Morgan Street Food Hall, you'll find more than a dozen vendors, including Oak City Fish & Chips, Cousin’s Maine Lobster, Amitie Macaron, Mama Bird’s Cookies + Cream, and plenty more. These kid-friendly places have ample seating both in and outdoors.

NC Museum of Natural Sciences globe and SECU tower

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Hours: Mon-Sat (9 am-5 pm), Sun (12 noon-5 pm)
Cost: Free, Donations Accepted

Kids will "bug" out at this educational and entertaining emporium, which is the Southeast’s largest natural history museum, complete with its Nature Exploration Center and Nature Research Center. Take in four floors of exhibits, where you can see all sort of bugs, spiders, and snakes. Don't miss the live animal presentations that take place daily. The living conservatory on the fourth floor is home to butterflies, turtles, tarantulas, snakes, and even a two-toed sloth. Pick up a souvenir at the gift shop or grab a snack at the café.



Mordecai Park & Trolley Tour

Hours: Tour Times Vary
Cost: Adults - $7, Senior - $3, Youth - $4. Children 6 and under are free

Learn all about Raleigh's rich history while taking a narrated, 50-minute trolley tour, which starts at Mordecai House, the oldest home in Raleigh on its original foundation. While there, enjoy a tour of the Mordecai House, which dates back to 1785 and is a registered historical landmark and museum, as well as the surrounding outbuildings.

Videri Chocolate Factory

Videri Chocolate Factory

Hours: Mon-Thurs (8 am-8 pm), Fri (8 am-10 pm), Sat (10 am-10 pm), Sun (11 am-5 pm)
Cost: Free Self-Guided Tours & Samples

Want to see how chocolate gets made? Take a free, self-guided tour of Videri’s chocolate factory, which can be completed in 15 minutes. Inside this quaint shop, chocolate lovers of all ages have a chance to see and smell the process of taking small-batch roasted cocoa beans, organic sugar, and organic cocoa butter and transforming it into award-winning chocolate. Visitors will want to check out the drool-worthy offerings at the candy counter. Or, grab a frozen hot chocolate in the cafe. Pre-wrapped chocolate sets make for a delicious souvenir. Videri’s facility is allergy-friendly as its chocolates are free from all tree nuts, and many common legumes, as well as soy, gluten, and egg products. Vegan options are also available. The production team makes chocolate Monday through Friday but the factory is open seven days a week.

Boxcar Bar + Arcade

Hours: Mon-Fri (4 pm-2 am), Sat-Sun (12 pm-2 am)
Cost: Free entry, games start at 1 token or $0.25

Enjoy a little friendly competition inside this lively and spacious arcade and bar that brings together a mix of more than 100 new and classic arcade games for children and parents to enjoy together. From testing your reflexes at air hockey and pinball to recalling the fun games of your day while playing Ms. PacMan and MarioKart, even the grown-ups might feel like a kid again. Games are operated by tokens, which can be purchased from machines inside the arcade. At 9 pm, visitors must be 21 and older to stay, so plan accordingly.

NC Museum of History Textile Exhibit

North Carolina Museum of History

Hours: Mon-Sat (9 am-5 pm), Sun (12 pm-5 pm)
Cost: Free, Donations Accepted

An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the North Carolina History Museum features exhibits that highlight the state’s military history, decorative arts, sports heroes, and more. Families will enjoy the special exhibits, which include Toy Boom, showcasing retro toys. Located on the museum's third floor is the NC Sports Hall of Fame, dedicated to the state's all-star athletes.

Mural at Marbles

Marbles Kids Museum & IMAX Theater

Hours: Mon-Wed (9 am- 5 pm), Thurs (9 am-7 pm), Fri-Sun (9 am-5 pm), IMAX times vary
Cost: $7, Children under 1 are free

Want to make sure your kids are using their marbles? Pay a visit to this interactive Downtown Raleigh museum that will have your little ones connecting, communicating, and creating as they learn through play. Hands-on exhibits and award-winning programs make this a must-see venue for families. The 3D IMAX theater delivers an immersive experience you won't soon forget.

The Tower Escapes

Hours: Times Vary
Cost: $28 per person

Love riddles? Don't let the kids miss the chance to puzzle your way out of this water tower. That's right, hidden inside this historic landmark in Downtown Raleigh is an escape room. Work as a team to put your thinking skills to the test and escape in less than 60 minutes. While there is age minimum, challenges are geared toward those 12 years and older.

North Carolina Executive Mansion

Executive Mansion

Hours: Seasonal tours available
Cost: Free

During the holiday season and at various times throughout the year, a festive open house at the Governor's Mansion invites visitors to tour the home, which dates back to 1883. Admire the decorations while enjoying seasonal musical entertainment by local performing groups. The first floor of the mansion is decorated with North Carolina-grown Christmas trees, floral and mixed evergreen arrangements, and ornate mantle displays.

Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts

Hours: Performances Vary, Box Office Hours: Mon-Fri (9 am-5:30 pm)
Cost: Varies

Home of the North Carolina Symphony, Carolina Ballet, and NC Theatre, this venue boasts fantastic acoustics. Family-friendly performances are offered throughout the year.


DRA Recommendations

While the places above are all great spots, we've got a few more recommendations for you to check out while spending time in downtown with your family, in no particular order.

Read With Me bookshop book wall

Read With Me | A Children's Book & Art Shop

Hours: Mon (11 am-4 pm), Tues-Fri (10 am-5:30 pm), Sat (11 am-4 pm)
Cost: Free events throughout each month

Read With Me is a children’s bookstore, workshop, and local art gallery in Downtown Raleigh. They have a thoughtful and engaging selection of contemporary, diverse, and high-quality children’s books for readers aged 0-17. In their Creativity Corner, you or your child can develop writing and illustration skills and make book-themed crafts. You can also join in their storytimes throughout each month to connect with other families.


Child drawing at Kid Lab

Kid Lab

Hours: Classes vary throughout each week
Cost: Pay-What-You-Can

Kid Lab, located inside Read With Me, believes every kid needs a safe space where they can tinker with materials, play-test budding ideas, and dream big! They also believe in education equity and arts access for all, regardless of means, so it's their mission to facilitate experiences that give children and their caregivers opportunities to play, learn, and create together. Through providing open-ended materials (like sticks, clay, paint, cloth, wood), Kid Lab guides kids through learning and using them in order to foster imagination!

Moore Square

Hours: Daily (6 am-11 pm)
Cost: Free

Families playing at Moore Square

Recently renovated city park Moore Square offers four acres of fun for families with green space in the heart of downtown, Square Burger to eat at, restrooms, play area, interactive water feature, visitor's center, and more. The City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources programs Moore Square year-round with family-friendly activities that are mostly free for participants.

John Chavis Memorial Park and Community Center

Hours: Mon-Sun (Dawn-Dusk); Carousel Fri-Sat (11 am-5 pm) Sun, (1 pm-5 pm)
Cost: Free, $1 for Carousel

Currently under renovation but open throughout, Chavis Park was named for early 19th-century free black preacher and teacher of all races John Chavis (ca. 1762-1838). The 37-acre City of Raleigh park was opened as a recreational spot for the city’s African-American residents during segregation. It was dedicated in 1938, and the circa-1923 carousel still can be ridden.

Festival at Dix Park

Dorothea Dix Park

Hours: Daily (Dawn-Dusk)
Cost: Free

Dix Park is the site of one of the most exciting new park projects in America. The 308-acre site blends historic architecture and rich landscapes into a unique destination in the heart of Raleigh, North Carolina. Today, all of the green space is open for the public to enjoy - seven days a week, sunrise to sunset. Bring your family for a picnic in the fields or participate in the many free or affordable programs and events happening at the park every week.

City of Raleigh Museum facade

City of Raleigh Museum

Hours: Tues-Sat (9 am-4 pm), Sun (1 pm-4 pm)
Cost: Free, $5 Suggested Donation for Adults

Featuring exhibits that change periodically and focus on the history of the city, the museum is housed in the 1874 Briggs Building, which retains many of its original features, including the tin ceiling in the museum gallery.

CAM Raleigh (Contemporary Art Museum)

Hours: Thurs-Fri (12 pm-6 pm), Sat-Sun (12 pm-5 pm), Tues-Wed (By Appointment)
Cost: Free

No Damsel art outside CAM Raleigh

CAM Raleigh is the non-collecting contemporary art museum that provides an environment for transformation through educational programs, cultural experiences, and bold, non-traditional exhibitions by living artists. They host family days the first Saturday of each month with make-and-take art projects, music, snacks, and more. It's a great way to get your kids interested in art.

Art Buzz Kids at Wine & Design

Hours: Classes vary by week
Cost: $25

Art Buzz Kids is the family-friendly version of Wine & Design's classic painting class on the 3rd floor of Union Station. These events will spark your child's creativity and imagination in a fun, interactive setting. They provide everything to help your child take home a masterpiece.

Additionally, our Downtown Events Calendar now has a "Family-Friendly" sorting option, so you can see other events going on throughout downtown that are kid-appropriate. 

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