13 Best Day Trips From Raleigh, North Carolina - Updated 2023


Museum hopping, food, art and music festivals, ghost hunting, sports, outdoor activities, hiking, and much more can be experienced here in Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina. Name it and Raleigh has it. You can enjoy different types of adventures and activities in Raleigh. Visit museums, state parks, see a natural oasis, and the largest natural habitat zoo. Raleigh won’t disappoint you with its endless offerings, you may even want to stay for a while longer than a weekend trip. Enjoy the diverse atmosphere, friendly locals, and beautiful scenery. And if you’re looking for the best places to stay in Raleigh, there are plenty of options available to you - from cozy cabin rentals to amazing camper rentals. This city has become a must-see for travelers and it is not surprising that Raleigh is consistently in the top three best places to live in North Carolina. So, if you are planning to travel to Raleigh and want to travel further afield, we made a list of the best things to do while you are here. Here are the best day trips from Raleigh, North Carolina. Check them out!

1. Outer Banks (from USD 57.0)

If you’re looking for the best beach day trip from Raleigh, consider visiting Outer Banks. Take a two-hour long tour to see the wild horses at Outer Banks, as you get to know more about the history of the area. See the horses roam free in this beautiful and scenic place. You can also go off-road and ride a four-wheel-drive vehicle and tour the highlights of Outer Banks. You will see Carova Beach, Currituck Beach, and experience the Corolla Outback.

If you are lucky enough, you will also be able to see the dolphins at the beach. This is a must-see for adults and children because the tour is very informative and fun. With so many activities, you can even make it a weekend trip if you wish!

Outer Banks Wild Horse 2-Hour Tour By 4WD in Corolla

Duration: 2 hours

1294 reviews

2. Greensboro (from USD 19.0)

This activity is not for the faint of heart, but if you are a person who loves history and horror, this day trip is for you. The tour is a combination of a creepy tour of haunted places and a trip to the most historical places in Raleigh. You will never get bored because of their amazing and enthusiastic guides.

During the tour, you will be given candles to provide more of an eerie feel. So, if you are a history and paranormal buff, take a chance on this tour and experience being both schooled and spooked.

Carolina History & Haunts Greensboro Historical Ghost Tour

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

41 reviews

3. Chapel Hill

City Target Chapel Hill, NC 1
Source: Photo by Flickr user Mike Kalasnik used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The “Southern Part of Heaven,” is what they call the small town of Chapel Hill. The culture and art scene is growing in this small town, the same as its sports scene. There are many things to see here, including the Morehead Planetarium and the vintage Varsity theatre, built in 1927.

The town also has a lot of cafes and restaurants, making it one of the best spot for foodies. With a population of over 59,000, Chapel Hill is said to be one of the best places to live in North Carolina.

4. Smithfield

Smithfield NC 3rd x Market SW corner 1
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ammodramus used under CC0

The liquor scene is what makes Smithfield standout in North Carolina. So, whether you are a wine hipster or a craft beer enthusiast, this place is for you. Double Barley Brewing, with their witty named ales, such as their Sexy Rexy Red Rye and their Double Dubbel, and Hinnant Vineyards, with their Blanc Du Bois and Pink Muscadine, are two of the most known breweries and vineyards in Smithfield.

The vineyard also offers tastings and tours, while the brewery can host your events. These top beers and wines are fresh and home-grown, made with the finest local ingredients.

5. Selma

Selma, NC
Source: Photo by Flickr user Joel Kramer used under CC BY 2.0

A visit to Selma is a must because it offers unique niche markets and amazing yard sales. Crooked Row Produce is a local market that offers fresh produce such as pumpkins, flowers, jams and more. If you visit around the month of October you can catch a glimpse of the Annual Railroad Days Festival, which is an exhibition of music, food and craft and a unique parade. Keep an eye out for the 100 plus mile yard sale too which takes place annually in Selma. If you are an art aficionado you can drop by the Selma Saturdays at N. Raiford Street.

6. Wilmington

Wilmington, NC
Source: Photo by Flickr user James Willamor used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Wilmington is the perfect spot for couples and it is said that it is the most romantic place to propose. This town, which is facing the river and brimming with flowers, celebrates its own occasion called the Azalea Festival. The town also has dog parks, such as the Empie Dog Park and Kure Beach Dog Park.

If you want a light and easy water adventure, consider visiting the Greenfield and Anne McCray parks for fishing, canoeing, or kayaking. There is also Archie Blue Park and Dream Tree Park, if you just want to walk near the beach.

7. Asheboro

Shady gnome & a bridge to somewhere.
Source: Photo by Flickr user Donald Lee Pardue used under CC BY 2.0

This place is said to be the “Heart of Carolina” and it is also the home to the state’s biggest natural habitat zoo – the North Carolina Zoo. Instead of cages, the animals live in spaces similar to their natural habitat. The zoo is huge, so expect a lot of walking and it is perfect for kids.

The zoo is also the home to the 89-hectare (219.9-acre) Sunny Slopes Farm, which provides interactive and informative activities for their guests. You can also try a hayride, which will take you to the top of a mountain to see the beauty of Asheboro.

8. Durham

Durham, NC
Source: Photo by Flickr user James Willamor used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Even Vogue Magazine said that Durham is the hippest city in North Carolina, for so many reasons. From the food scene, park trails, and beer gardens, name it and Durham has it! Walk in the 22-hectare (54.4-acre) Sarah P. Duke Garden or go cycling along the American Tobacco Trail. Discover the trails of the Horton Grove Nature Preserve, Al Buehler Trail, and Duke Forest.

You can even do yoga with the goats at Hux Family Farm. There are many unique and interesting things to do in Durham. From music festivals and farm-to-table festivals, they have it all.

9. Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain peaks from Half Moon Overlook, Oct 2016
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Thomson200 used under CC0

A visit to Grandfather Mountain is considered one of the best mountain day trips from Raleigh. At 5,946 feet tall (1,812 meters), Grandfather Mountain has always been North Carolina’s icon. It is the perfect place if you’re an extreme backpacker or hiker. The terrain is hard and the weather is harsh, but you cannot deny the beauty of the mountain standing tall above the clouds.

The organization that advocates the protection of the mountain offers other activities here, such as touring the wildlife habitats, birdwatching, a mile-high swinging bridge walk, interpretive talks, and up-close animal encounters. You will surely love Grandfather Mountain if you are an animal and nature lover who likes a bit of adventure.

10. Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina, USA
Source: Photo by Flickr user Domenico Convertini used under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’re interested in outdoor day trips from Raleigh, pay a visit to Chimney Rock State Park. It offers you a combination of best views and hiking trails. Check out this part of Carolina if you are up for some outdoor adventures. There are several trails in this state park and the hiking level ranges from easy and moderate to strenuous and difficult, depending on your experience and preparation.

There are also trails that are kid-friendly. Other family-oriented activities and attractions here include the Animal Discovery Den, rock climbing, Lake Lure, and the Hickory Nut Gorge, among others.

11. Yadkin Valley

Vineyard #1
Source: Photo by Flickr user Southern Foodways... used under CC BY 2.0

About three hours by car from Raleigh, Yadkin Valley is home to some beautiful vineyards as well as an abundance of interesting outdoor activities. With its wonderful landscape, it is easy to find an adventure here that will provide you with breathtaking views and a great time. If you are one to appreciate wine and all its unique flavors, join some tours that will take you to different local wineries, such as Shelton Vineyards and Elkin Creek Vineyards. You can savor both wine and the scenery at these vineyards. You can also go hiking to see some lovely waterfalls and mountains during your visit to Yadkin Valley.

12. Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway
Source: Pixabay

If you like driving on scenic roads, you should definitely pass through Blue Ridge Parkway for a breathtaking view and an amazing time. Just three hours away from Raleigh, you will see unbelievable colors on many different types of trees, like maples, birches, and more along the way. Witness some awesome waterfalls, spectacular foliage and breathtaking mountain views on your trip. Through this beautiful road, you can also head to other nearby destinations to view some local artwork or visit wineries, like Chateau Morrisette, which is only 300 feet (91.4 meters) from the parkway.

13. Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user 24dupontchevy used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Around four hours’ drive from Raleigh, Biltmore Estate makes for a great day trip option. The grand Biltmore Estate, with over 250 rooms, gives you a chance to experience real luxury. Explore a wide range of activities that are available to you and your family during your visit to this attraction. See the 8000-acre (3237.5-hectare) backyard overlooking the beautiful scenery of mountains and trees. Try some handcrafted wines created in their very own winery. Appreciate the breathtaking colors of the flowers in their large garden. You can even go hiking or biking along their trails for a truly refreshing experience.

Visit Raleigh

A full day is not enough to explore all of the best things to do alone in Raleigh, North Carolina, and its surrounding attractions and towns. There are so many ways to spend a day in the city if you’re not exploring nearby places of interest. Choose from any of the above-mentioned adventures and day trips to enjoy your brief stay.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Maui Hermitanio is a Manila-based content writer. She is most interested in writing about international cuisines, popular food stops, and destinations with beaches and outdoor sceneries. She has...Read more

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