Family Vacations

Memories created on summer vacations can stick with you forever. Our 10Best list can help ensure that those memories are related to the fun things done and great places visited. Pullen Park located in the Downtown area is highly recommended by 10Best users, as a place to visit when in Raleigh with the family.

9 North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
The Southeast's largest natural history museum offers four floors of exhibits, live animals. The massive "Mountains to the Sea" exhibit, a recreation of North Carolina's terrain and ecosystems, features native plants and a 20-foot waterfall. Other highlights include an Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur skeleton (the only one in the world on display), and Willo, the only dinosaur discovered with a fossilized heart. The hands-on Discovery Room, Exploration Stations, Living Conservatory (buzzing with live butterflies and hummingbirds), and Fossil Lab are open to the public daily — call for specific times. (919-733-7450, 877-462-8724)

8 Pullen Park
Raleigh's Theatre in the Park and Aquatic Center are both located in downtown Pullen Park. For over 100 years, this park has offered a wide range of recreational activities for the entire family. Boat rental, picnic areas, and tennis courts are among the many opportunities provided for good, wholesome fun. On a lazy afternoon, the peaceful park also provides a great setting for quick afternoon nap. (919-831-6468, 919-831-6197)

7 Lake Wheeler Park
You'll find Lake Wheeler due south of downtown Raleigh, past the NCSU Farms. This idyllic recreational lake offers some of the best fishing in the area (you must have a license!). A day spent at Lake Wheeler Park is a popular afternoon destination for those in the Raleigh area. Boat traffic and water-skiing are allowed on the lake, and the park office also rents out johnboats and canoes. (919-662-5704, 919-662-5712)

6 City Market
This attractive district in downtown Raleigh features cobblestone streets and revitalized storefronts housing art, antique and specialty shops. Be sure to stop by the produce market for locally grown fruits and veggies. (919-821-8023)

5 Falls Lake State Recreation Area
Located just a few miles north of downtown Raleigh, this man-made recreational lake offers a variety of opportunities for a relaxing afternoon away from the traffic and noise of downtown Durham and Raleigh. Special attractions here include swimming areas, hiking trails, and fishing and picnic sights. Shinleaf, located off Highway-98, is the closest designated recreational area to Raleigh, and Rolling Leaf, also located off Highway-98, is closest to Durham. Camping permitted — call for details. (919-676-1027)

4 Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve and Stevens Nature Center
Hemlock Bluffs and the Stevens Nature Center provide guests with unique opportunities to learn more about wildlife, conservation, and natural history. The center hosts several educational programs throughout the year, including chances to prowl Hemlock Bluffs to learn about rocks and minerals in the park, to go on insect safaris, and to search out different types of salamanders. Nighttime owl-spotting tours are also available for those who enjoy nocturnal activities. Prices to participate in excursions and programs vary. (919-387-5980)

3 William B. Umstead State Park
Next to the Raleigh-Durham airport, you'll find this 5381-acre park featuring hiking, biking, horse-back riding trails, camping, fishing and boat rentals. There are two sections, the Reedy Creek section which can be accessed from Harrison Avenue in Cary and the Crabtree section which is easily accessed from Highway 70 in Raleigh. The best time to visit is in the spring when the rhododendrons are in full bloom. Camping permitted — call for details. (919-571-4170)

2 State Farmers Market
In addition to numerous stands selling regional produce, this 75-acre market features indoor and outdoor restaurants, plant and garden shops, craft and gift shops. The meat and cheese center boasts delicacies such as ostrich, chevon, duck, bison, Farmstead cheeses and eggs. (919-733-7417)

1 Jordan Lake State Recreation Area
Jordan Lake, located southwest of Durham and Chapel Hill, offers more than 13,000 acres of recreational shoreline. The lake boasts nine different recreational areas, including a bald eagle observation platform just off Highway 751 South and another at the Crosswinds Recreational area near Wilsonville on US Highway 64. Camping permitted — call for details. (919-362-0586)

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Maps and Directions

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
Pullen Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Outdoor Activities, Parks
Neighborhood: Downtown
Lake Wheeler Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Outdoor Activities, Parks, Water Sports
Neighborhood: Fuquay-Varina
City Market 10Best List Arrow
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
William B. Umstead State Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Parks
Neighborhood: Raleigh
State Farmers Market 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
Jordan Lake State Recreation Area 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Outdoor Activities, Parks
Neighborhood: CARY
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