When it comes to family fun, Raleigh has a lot to offer. So much so, that sometimes it’s precisely the abundance of options that makes it tricky to plan for a fun and relaxing day out. Well, today, I have an itinerary that is slightly off the beaten path, but it still does a top-notch job of delivering fun for the whole family without the usual hassles of crowds and parking!
My family and I have ventured on this adventure, in whole or in part, countless of times. We are yet to get bored with them mainly because of three reasons:
- These are big open places that allow for kids to be free.
- Most of them have a robust calendar of events to keep us engaged whenever we visit.
- They are beautiful and fun even for parents! It also helps that admission to most of these places is usually free year-round!
Let’s get started!
- What you’re wearing: Jeans and walking shoes
- Themes: Family fun, wide-open spaces, nature, art, international foodie
- Best for: Families with children that want to run around and explore, (awesome for moody tweens and teens addicted to screens that need unstructured time outside)
- Duration: 3 to 5 hours
Where You’re Going
- 1st Stop: Rose Garden + Amphitheater at the Raleigh Little Theatre
- Lunch: David’s Dumpling and Noodle Bar
- 2nd Stop: Gregg Museum
- 3rd Stop: J.C. Raulston Arboretum
- A Sweet Treat: Neomonde Bakery
Amphitheater and Rose Garden at Raleigh Little Theatre
Start your day by thanking the Romans for their love of entertainment at The Amphitheater and Rose Garden at Raleigh Little Theatre. It is one of those hidden gems in Raleigh that will most definitely take your breath away. Most people don’t even know it exists! Right near the hustle and bustle of Cameron Village, this open-air theater, surrounded by lush trees and rose bushes, feels right out of a storybook!
The Rose Garden
My kids usually start off by jumping around on the terraces and eventually making it to the open stage to act out all their fantasies of dragons, ninjas, and dancers. The trip usually ends with several games of hide-and-seek in the beautiful rose garden behind. Parents, this place is as much a treat for the adults as it is for the kids. The peace and quiet are restorative, and it doesn’t hurt that it always smells like roses!
Bonus Tip: During summer evenings, they have an outdoor movie series that begs for a family picnic, so make sure to check out their calendar of events.
David’s Dumpling and Noodle Bar
All that running around at Raleigh Little Theatre is sure to get you talking about lunch, and the place to get your fix is David’s Dumpling and Noodle Bar. Just a short drive from the amphitheater, David’s Dumpling will take you from Rome to Pan-Asia in a matter of minutes! I like this place because the food is mind-blowingly good (for adults and kids) and the staff and space amazingly kid friendly! Our top three things to get off the menu include Malaysian Chicken Curry with Indian Roti, Lo Mein Egg Noodles, and of course the dumplings. Reservations are recommended but not necessary. Parking is free for customers in a designated lot behind the restaurant.
Gregg Museum of Art and Design
Next up is another great destination that often gets lost in the list of bigger museums here in Raleigh. Located on Hillsborough Street, the North Carolina State University’s Gregg Museum of Art and Design is free and open to the public. It just went through a major facelift inside and out. The big open space outside as well as the robust art collection and exhibits inside make this a great hit with the kids without overwhelming them.
Bonus Tip: Ask the reception desk for the art tote for the kids. It usually includes papers.
J.C. Raulston Arboretum
Lastly, I have for you the J.C. Raulston Arboretum. Located on Beryl Road, the arboretum is North Carolina State University’s teaching and research space that is open to the public. Spread out over 10 acres, the arboretum consists of several different garden types including a Japanese garden, monocot garden, a conifer garden, rose garden, rooftop garden, white garden, and many more.
With large expanses of lawn, it makes for a perfect place for kids to run around as they explore the vegetation around them. It is stroller friendly and provides plenty of shady areas in the summertime. Their list of children’s programs is quite remarkable, including an Easter Egg hunt which is a hit with our family each time!
Bonus Tip: If you can attend their one-hour guided docent tours that start at 2:00 pm on Saturdays. The tours are free with a suggested donation of $5 per person.
A Sweet Treat
It seems wrong to end a family-friendly list without offering a suggestion to treat yourself before heading home from J.C. Raulston Arboretum! Amiright? So once you are ready to call it a day at the arboretum, just head on to Neomonde bakery and cafe also located on Beryl Street. Take delight in the usual Mediterranean delicacies like baklava, or choose from other European desserts.
Bonus Tip: Don’t feel like cooking once home? The cafe also makes for a perfect place to eat your family dinner or take it to go.
From Rome to Pan-Asia to the Mediterranean, I hope this itinerary makes for fun conversations and lasting memories after a full day spent exploring these wonderful spaces right here in Raleigh. Make sure to go home and look up the calendar of events at each of these places and sign up for a show or a tour soon! Best of all, I hope I have convinced you to take a break from your usual circuit of museums and parks and venture into new territory in this wonderful city of ours. The kids are sure to love it, but I am confident that the adults will love it too! Happy exploring!