Explore the city’s parks, visit diverse museums, dine at great restaurants, plan a wedding at one of the unique venues, and go on free, unique family adventures on your weekend trip to Raleigh, North Carolina. Art lovers can spend a morning at the North Carolina Museum of Art which houses works of art from around the world. Other fun things to do in Raleigh, NC include food tours, pottery classes, and chocolate factory tours. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1. North Carolina Museum of Art
© North Carolina Museum of Art
The North Carolina Museum of Art started out with 74 paintings donated by local businessman Robert F. Phifer and is one of the best things to do in Raleigh.
Today, the museum has an impressive permanent collection that includes major European Renaissance paintings, Egyptian funerary art, sculpture and vases from ancient Greece and Rome, American art and international modern art, pre-Columbian and Oceanic art, and so much more.
More than a dozen oversized art pieces are located in the museum’s park. The establishment also hosts numerous temporary exhibits, lectures, classes, performances and concerts. The museum aims at inspiring teen’s creativity through online courses in Art of Game Design, Art of Fashion, and several other programs through the North Carolina Virtual Public School.
2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, NC, Phone: 919-839-6262
2. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
© North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
There is no better place to get up close and personal with nature’s secrets than among whale skeletons, dinosaurs, a two-story waterfall, or live animals.
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is the largest natural history museum in the Southeast and one of the top Raleigh, North Carolina attractions. The museum showcases a range of permanent collections and regularly changed special exhibits, live shows, and nature films for all ages. The museum’s goal is to offer visitors an opportunity to learn more about nature and science and their place in it.
More than a million people visit the museum’s huge campus every year. The museum’s various rooms can be rented for an unforgettable birthday party any kid would love.
11 West Jones St., Raleigh, North Carolina, Phone: 919-707-9800
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3. North Carolina Museum of History
© North Carolina Museum of History
Opened in 1902, the North Carolina Museum of History features an artifact collection that consists of more than 150,000 items.
The Museum has a large 55,000 square foot gallery that houses permanent and temporary exhibits, a research library, a number of classrooms, and a large, well-equipped 315-seat auditorium. One of the main permanent exhibits is The Story of North Carolina, the largest exhibit ever produced and displayed by this Museum.
Using items of everyday life, the exhibit traces the everyday lives of North Carolina inhabitants, covering more than 14,000 years of history. This multimedia exhibit includes not only fascinating artifacts, but it also displays dioramas, several presentations, and interactive activities. If you are looking for things to do in Raleigh, North Carolina with kids, this is a great place to learn about history.
The Museum also shares its treasures through a number of traveling exhibits. Online exhibition is a part of the distant education program.
5 East Edenton Street, Raleigh, North Carolina, Phone: 919-807-7900
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4. Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours
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Don't miss the opportunity to experience Raleigh’s culinary delights in a truly unique way. Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours' knowledgeable local guides take you on a walking tour of some of the best downtown restaurants and food shops.
The chefs will tempt you with their signature dishes and favorite drinks, all the while sharing a bit of the town’s history and architecture with you. You better bring your appetite.
Public afternoon and evening tours are available on weekends, and private and corporate tours can be organized any time (919-237-2254).
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5. Joel Lane Museum House, Raleigh, NC
© Joel Lane Museum House
The locals call the Joel Lane Museum House “the birthplace of Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina.” Plantation owner Joel Lane built his house in 1769 in, for that time, a rural area of North Carolina.
During his time, Joel Lane’s plantation manor was considered “The Best House for 100 Miles.” It has been faithfully restored and is now an important historic site that takes visitors back to very different times. The House is owned by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of North Carolina.
It hosts frequent events such as lectures, videos, and guided tours, and it can be rented for special occasions. Imagine having a birthday bash in the elegant Museum House gardens!
Visitors Center at 160 South Saint Mary’s Street, Raleigh, North Carolina, Phone: 919-833-3431
More places to visit: Best Things to Do in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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Stanbury is a hip, modern neighborhood restaurant located in a charming old building in the Mordecai neighborhood not far from downtown. The décor and ambience are sure to make you feel welcome; upon entering you’ll see wooden tables, a large bar, and a bustling open kitchen where all the magic happens.
The main restaurant room is often packed with happy customers: word about Stanbury’s outstanding food has gotten out. The menu changes daily and features dishes made with fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients.
You’ll notice that the chefs have taken an adventurous approach to American classics. Stanbury is famous for its imaginative cocktails, but the bar is also well stocked with a good selection of wines and beer. The restaurant also has an outdoor patio for al fresco dining.
938 N Blount St, Raleigh, North Carolina, Phone: 919-977-4321
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7.Videri Chocolate Factory Tours
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At Videri Chocolate Factory, you can get some of the best chocolate in North Carolina. The factory operates from the historic Raleigh Depot building, which still has most of its industrial charm – you can see the exposed brick and ductwork.
You will also be able to watch the entire chocolate making process. Stop by the shop where you can stock up on chocolate for later or you can relax on their lovely outdoor patio. If you are looking for things to do in Raleigh to satisfy your sweet tooth, this is a great place to visit. The factory is the brainchild of three true chocolate lovers – Sam and Starr Ratto and Chris Heavener. They are committed to fair trade and purchase their cocoa beans and sugar from farms in Central and South America.
The resulting chocolate is organic, pure, and free of any additives or chemicals. Try Blueberry and Dark Chocolate or the Strawberry Anise Ganache. After a trip to Videri, you will never see chocolate in the same way.
327 W. Davie Street, Sweet 100, Raleigh, North Carolina, Phone: 919-755-5053
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8. JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, NC
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Strolling through the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University is a delight for all your senses. Whether you are enjoying the shade in the Asian Valley or breathing in the sweet of aroma of annual and perennial blooms in the Color Trails garden, you will wish to have more time to explore.
JC Raulston Arboretum features one of the most diverse and largest collections of plants adapted for landscaping in the Southeast. The Garden has also been recognized as one of the best teaching gardens in the Southeast.
In fact, many of the gardens are designed and maintained by students and volunteers. Garden also hosts symposia, lectures, family events, summer camps, and other events for the entire family.
NC State University Campus Box 7522, Raleigh, North Carolina, Phone: 919-515-3132
9. Sassool, Raleigh, North Carolina
Sassool is an authentic Mediterranean and Lebanese cafeteria-like eatery and market where you can pick up a quick piece of pita on the go, or you can relax and really enjoy the rich flavors at one of their outdoor tables.
An attached Mediterranean grocery sells authentic spices, dried fruits, seeds, and nuts. And, of course, they have fresh pitas, breads, and desserts like baklava that will have you coming back for more. If you are looking for romantic date night ideas in Raleigh, this is a great place to visit. If you aren’t familiar with Lebanese cuisine, try a sampler platter.
You’ll get a taste of hot grilled kabobs with labneh and kalamata olives in a hot whole-wheat pita, everything bursting with flavor. Sassool serves many vegetable dishes, and is heavenly for vegetarians.
9650 Strickland Rd, Raleigh, North Carolina, Phone: 919-847-2700
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10.Raleigh Farmers Market
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Raleigh Farmers Market is not to be missed. You will find everything here: fresh seasonal produce from all over the country, cheeses, meats, baked goodies, crafts, picture frames, candies, soaps, lotions, and, of course, N.C. wines.
There are 75 beautiful acres to explore, and about 225,000 square feet are covered and climate controlled.
There are also several restaurants where you can eat, rest, and replenish energy.
You won’t want to miss some of the special events organized at the Farmers Market, including Watermelon Day on July 30, Weekend Gardener Show in August, Sweet Potato Day in September, and so many others. Check their calendar, because something new is happening all the time.
1201 Agriculture St., Raleigh, North Carolina, Phone: 919-733-7417
11. Tazza Kitchen Cameron Village
© Tazza Kitchen Cameron Village
Tazza Kitchen is a modern, stylish and spacious restaurant where patrons are greeted with delicious aroma of sizzling meat, garlic, and wood fire.
A lively and friendly atmosphere with casual bistro-style seating makes you feel right at home. The food and wines are superb, and the prices are reasonable. The menu showcases dishes inspired by the cuisine of Italy and Baja California and the ingredients are sourced from well-known farmers and food artisans, many of whom are local.
Chefs Justin Burchill and Jared Dalby create many dishes using wood-fired cooking. Entrees are accompanies by small-production wines and unique local brews. The chefs are highly environmentally conscious and utilize hormone and antibiotic-free meat and poultry, as well as sustainably harvested seafood.
432 Woodburn Road, Raleigh, North Carolina, Phone: 919-835-9463
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© CAM Raleigh/Facebook
The Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh is a private contemporary multimedia art gallery in Raleigh, North Carolina. The gallery does not have a permanent collection; rather, its goal is to seek contemporary artists and present their best works through constantly changing well-curated exhibits that are fresh and representative of what is going on in the city’s art world. The museum works with North Carolina State University’s College of Design and occupies 20,000 square feet of space in a downtown 1910 repurposed warehouse. Some of the most notable exhibitions organized at the museum showed works by Angel Otero, Jonathan Horowitz, and Marilyn Minter.
409 West Martin Street, Raleigh, NC 27603, Phone: 919-261-5920
13.Morgan Street Food Hall
© Morgan Street Food Hall
Morgan Street Food Hall is a trendy new food and venor hall in Raleigh's Warehouse District, opened to the public in August of 2018. The food hall offers 20,000 square feet of shared dining area, allowing diners to choose from nearly 20 hip and inventive independent food stalls serving up a variety of international cuisines. Dining options include comfort food restaurant Iyla's Southern Kitchen, Indian joint Curry in a Hurry, Cuban cookery Maku's Empanadas, and Thai-style rolled ice cream parlor Raleigh Rolls. Unique beverages are also served at stalls such as Boba Brew, which imports authentic bubble teas. In addition to restaurants, a number of vendors sell pantry and home goods, including Huntington Provision Co., Mike D's BBQ, Fancy Berries, and the Five Points Baking Company.
411 W Morgan St, Raleigh, NC 27603, Phone: 919-307-4481
14.Go Ape Treetop Adventure
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The Go Ape! Treetop Adventure Course will probably take you out of your comfort zone, get your adrenaline pumping, and it might even make your muscles sore by the end of the trip, but you will spend 2-3 fantastic hours you will never forget.
It is a truly unique outdoor experience that will allow you to see the Blue Jay Point Country Park the way squirrels do – from high up in the air.
Before the adventure can begin, you’ll get half an hour of safety briefing before strapping up in a harness and going on the thrill ride of your life.
The course offers not only a canopy tour, but climbing rope ladders, 2 Tarzan swings, crossings the Log Swing, Double Stirrups, Spider’s Web, Apple Picker’s Ladder, and 5 zip lines.
The course is open, and considered safe, to adventurers of all ages, from school kids to retirees. Group courses are also available (Phone: 800-971-8271).
You do not have to be a pottery master to make your own mug or a heartfelt, homemade gift. At Klaystation pottery studio, you can choose from among hundreds of pre-fired earthen ware and all the tools of the trade: paints, brushes, idea books, sponges, or whatever else you might need to create that masterpiece you knew you had in you.
They will glaze your work of art, fire it for you in their kiln, and you can pick it up in about a week when it’s ready. Klaystation is great place to bring kids on a rainy day, or you can organize a birthday party that they will never forget.
10511 Shadowlawn Drive #113, Raleigh, North Carolina, Phone: 919-848-8079
16.The Green Light
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The Green Light in downtown Raleigh is a bar within a bar that Architectural Digest voted one of the country’s best speakeasies. To go have a drink in this funky place, you have to know where to look. Its entrance is hidden behind a bookcase in the Architect Bar in downtown Raleigh, and up a narrow set of stairs. Once you are there, you will find yourself in a quirky place with walls covered in reclaimed wood, serving the arguably best cocktails in town. The bar reflects the character of the 1922 building in which it is located, cozy, stylish, and unique, with dim lights, great music, superb cocktails, and a lineup of craft beers.
108 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27601, Phone: 919-833-4949
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King's Bowl is one of Raleigh's premiere entertainment complexes, offering 32,000 square feet of bowling and gaming space for visitors of all ages to enjoy. The facility is anchored around 18 standard ten-pin bowling lanes, which are available for individual or league use or private rental throughout the week. Six billiard tables are also offered, along with ping-pong, air hockey, shuffleboard, and foosball tables and fun interactive games such as hoops and bubble hockey. 30 giant-screen high-definition televisions showcase all the week's major sporting events, including five HD projector screens available for private special event use. A full-service restaurant and sports bar serves up award-winning entrees throughout the day, ranging from creative chicken wings and street tacos to customizable pizzas and entrees prepared with vegetarian Impossible burger crumbles. A curated draft beer menu is available for guests over 21. Visitors should note that children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by adults at all times and that the facility is 21+ after 10:00pm nightly.
141 Park at N Hills St, Raleigh, NC 27609, Phone: 919-600-5700
18.Second Empire, Raleigh, North Carolina
© Second Empire
Whether you are having lunch or dinner at the Second Empire, you’ll want to dress your best, because dining in this 121-year-old meticulously renovated building is a rather elegant affair.
Crystal chandeliers are scattered across the ceiling, the room features an ornate fireplace, and the tables are set with damask tablecloths and fine silverware. The food is just as enticing. Chef Daniel Schurr carefully prepares and serves incredible delicacies that match the refined elegance of the surroundings.
The extensive wine list will delight wine lovers, and you certainly won’t have trouble finding just the right vintage for your meal. If you prefer eating in a more relaxed atmosphere, visit the cozy brick-lined Tavern, which is located in the same renovated building. The menu is lighter but all the dishes are of an equally high quality.
The Tavern always has a large assortment of beers on tap. You also might want to try one of the bartender’s famous martinis.
330 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, North Carolina, Phone: 919-829-3663
More weekend and day trips: Best Family Vacation Ideas in North Carolina and Romantic Weekend Getaways in North Carolina.
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19.Mordecai Historic Park
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Mordecai Historic Park was established in 1785, and at the time, it was the site of the biggest plantation in Wake County.
The park resides on 3.2 acres in the center of downtown Raleigh. The Mordecai House is a celebrated town landmark and is famously known as the birthplace of America’s 17th President Andrew Johnson.
It is today the oldest house in Raleigh still standing in its original location. One of its popular attractions is the 19th century kitchen garden that has been faithfully recreated based on letters and memoirs left by Ellen Mordecai.
Historic Raleigh Trolley Tours that operate every Saturday begin and end at Mordecai Historic Park and run for about one hour.
1 Mimosa St, Raleigh, North Carolina, Phone: 919-996-4364
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20 Best Things to Do in Raleigh, North Carolina
- North Carolina Museum of Art, Photo: North Carolina Museum of Art
- North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Photo: North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
- North Carolina Museum of History, Photo: North Carolina Museum of History
- Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Apart Foto - Fotolia.com
- Joel Lane Museum House, Raleigh, NC, Photo: Joel Lane Museum House
- Stanbury, Photo: Stanbury
- Videri Chocolate Factory Tours, Photo: Courtesy of dima - Fotolia.com
- JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, NC, Photo: Courtesy of ricschmitz - Fotolia.com
- Sassool, Raleigh, North Carolina, Photo: Sassool
- Raleigh Farmers Market , Photo: Courtesy of ejkrouse - Fotolia.com
- Tazza Kitchen Cameron Village, Photo: Tazza Kitchen Cameron Village
- CAM Raleigh, Photo: CAM Raleigh/Facebook
- Morgan Street Food Hall, Photo: Morgan Street Food Hall
- Go Ape Treetop Adventure, Photo: Courtesy of auremar - Fotolia.com
- Klaystation, Photo: Klaystation
- The Green Light, Photo: Courtesy of Evgeniy Kalinovskiy - Fotolia.com
- King's Bowl, Photo: paulvelgos/stock.adobe.com
- Second Empire, Raleigh, North Carolina, Photo: Second Empire
- Mordecai Historic Park, Photo: Courtesy of lspi 138 - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: North Carolina Museum of Art
The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina is an impressive collection of buildings that house an equally impressive collection of art work, all built upon an impressive history of grass roots organization and government and municipal cooperation. One could take a day long walk through the museum’s expansive collection of artwork from around the world and leave suitably impressed. But the unique history of the organization deserves its own recognition, and its success is valuable resource for the citizens and visitors of North Carolina and the surrounding areas.
Way back in 1924, the North Carolina State Art Society was formed with a mission to create a movement toward establishing an art museum in the North Carolina. Local businessman Robert F. Phifer donated about 75 paintings and funding in 1928 and within a year the first temporary art installations were set up in the Raleigh Agriculture Building.
Famous philanthropist Samuel H. Kress anonymously funded a challenge grant in 1947 for the purchase of a collection of art work, which led to the state legislature appropriating $1 million in a move that made national headlines and resulting from a contentious legislative session during which a proponent of the funding bill, Representative John Kerr, was famously quoted as saying, “Mr. Speaker, I know I am facing a hostile audience, but man cannot live by bread alone.”
The million-dollar legislative appropriation was ultimately used to purchase 139 paintings and sculptures from European and American artists. Samuel Kress’s foundation added to the collection with a matching $1 million donation and 70 works of art comprised mainly of pieces dating back to the Italian Renaissance. The gift proved to be one of the largest and most preeminent donations in the nation and established the North Carolina Museum of Art’s reputation as among the most elite in the world.
In the spring of 1956, the North Carolina Museum of Art opened in a new space, the renovated warehouse on Morgan Street that formerly housed the State Highway Division building in the capital city of Raleigh. Nicknamed the “Miracle on Morgan Street” by the local news outlets, the museum was the first in the United States to be established using funding from the state legislature.
Within a decade the North Carolina Museum of Art had outgrown the Morgan Street building, and sought one that was properly equipped to attend to the temperature needs of the antiquated artwork. In 1967 the state legislature created a commission to select a new location and oversee construction of a new building. The commission chose an antebellum era location on Blue Ridge Road.
The new site was designed by Edward Dureell Stone and focused on the square as a central unit, basing the spaces off of permutations of the square form. The new building finally opened to the public in 1983.
In the year 2000, the North Carolina Museum of Art began to create a vision for a new building that embraced sustainable principles and design, and over the course of the following two years the West Building was conceived. The new building was an impressive structure incorporating glass walls around its 127,000 square feet of exhibition space and embracing green technologies such as rain water catchment and runoff control, climate controlled galleries and spaces, energy efficient systems, and sustainable and environmentally sound landscaping choices.
The North Carolina Museum of Art offers guests a look at artwork from the breadth of the human experience, from all over the expanse of human history and geography.
The permanent collection contains a major holding of works of art that include pieces from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. Works in the collection include examples from the Italian Renaissance, Greek and Roman sculptures and vase paintings and Egyptian funerary art. The museum houses selections of American art from over the last three centuries as well as contemporary art from around the world. International artworks include pieces from ancient American, pre-Columbian, African, and Oceanic and Jewish cultural objects.
The North Carolina Museum of Art’s African collection, started in the seventies, includes wood, metal and textile items from the Benin Kingdom, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Chokwe and Luba peoples of central Africa.
American works in the museum’s permanent collection include colonial portraits from renowned portraitist John Singleton Copley all the way through selections from American Impressionism.
The museum collects ancient American works with a special focus on three geographic and cultural locations, particularly Mesoamerica, Central America and the Andes, and examining the social and cultural legacies of the Maya.
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The North Carolina Museum of Art houses a collection of Egyptian artifacts that cover the important eras of its history, spanning time from the predynastic era all the way to the Roman period. With an emphasis on funerary works, the thirty-eight works in the museum’s collection include canopic jars, sevant statues and even painted coffins.
The bulk of the museum’s collection is comprised of European paintings and sculpture. Regarded as one of the premiere collections of such work in the United States. While much of the collection is notable paintings, the museum also houses over thirty bronze works by Auguste Rodin.
Famous European and American artists are represented in a number of the galleries, and include Anthony van Dyck, Thomas Gainsborough, Eugene Boudin, Camille Pissarro, and Claude Monet. Highlights form Italian works from the 16th through 18th centuries include works from Titian and Raphael.
The NCMA’s European collection extends into the famous Northern European artists of the Flemish and Dutch schools. Artists in the collection include Jan Steen, Jan Brueghel the Elder, and Peter Paul Rubens.
The museum’s modern art collection includes a variety of works that range from German modernists like Franz Kline and American artists including Alberto Giacometti.
The North Carolina Museum of Art’s Jewish art collection is one of only two such exhibits in the nation, and includes ceremonial and devotional works form Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Oriental traditions of Judaism.
The museum expansive and encyclopedic collection includes contemporary works that cover the gamut of new media, including photographs, video, and installation.
The 164-acre Museum Park is the largest in the United States and is an environmentally conscious landscape that aims to merge art with the natural environment. A variety of natural land features including streams, forests and fields act as the venue for over a dozen site-specific art installations. Two miles of trails connects the works and the land around them.
The North Carolina Museum of Art contains a Museum Store that allows visitors to take a piece of the art world home with them. The store offers art books, exhibition catalogues, and unique design pieces as well as toys and educational materials for children and young learners to get involved with.
The museum’s full-service restaurant, Iris, offers guests a chance to refuel with dishes that celebrate American cuisine with a local and regional flair. Chef Andy and Jennifer Hicks take pride in using locally sourced ingredients that offer complex and international flavors.
The North Carolina Museum of Art has a bevy of programming opportunites for the public to get engaged. It maintains a full calendar of events that cover a range of media and topics, including a monthly book club, a variety of educational lectures, studios and online courses, summer camps and festivals.
The NCMA’s outdoor movie festival incorporates a cutting edge digital projection system and uses both 35mm and digital formats. Films offered include award winning movies and family oriented films.
The North Carolina Museum of Art is easily accessible from all of the major highways and expressways in the area. From Wade Avenue, simply take the exit for Blue Ridge Road until you reach the museum. If taking the 440, exit east onto Lake Boone Trail and follow that until you reach Blue Ridge Road. Take a left on the Blue Ridge and then follow it south until you reach the museum. The museum offer free onsite parking for all guests, on the right side after entering the museum drive. All parking is ADA compliant and fully wheelchair accessible.
A number of hotels are located nearby, including Homewood Suites, the Marriott Fairfield Inn and Suites, Courtyard, Residence Inn, Hyatt Place Raleigh West, and the Umstead Hotel and Spa.
The North Carolina Museum of Art is available to accommodate rental events for a variety of sizes. The museum’s restaurant Iris provides catering services for all events and the museum also offers rental and floral services, musical bookings and audio visual coordination. Museum spaces range from lobbies and galleries, to conference rooms, auditoriums, boardrooms, atriums, patios and halls.
2110 Blue Ridge Road,
Raleigh, NC 27607 Phone: Phone: 919-839-6262
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