A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

A hallmark of growing up in North Carolina is loading into a bright yellow bus and taking a school field trip to a museum, the Capitol, historic sites, and more.

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

A hallmark of growing up in North Carolina is loading into a bright yellow bus and taking a school field trip to a museum, the Capitol, historic sites, and more.

A hallmark of growing up in North Carolina is loading into a bright yellow bus and taking a school field trip to a museum, the Capitol, historic sites, and more. But why should kids get to have all the fun? On a recent drive along U.S. Highway 64, Our State’s associate editor shared a grown-up field trip experience with her husband and newborn son — and discovered that the sense of wonder sparked in our capital city knows no age limit.

Acrocanthosaurus skeleton displayed in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

“Acro” the Acrocanthosaurus — the only such skeleton on display in the world — rules the museum from a place of honor. Photography courtesy of VisitNC.com

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Uncover North Carolina’s flora, fauna, and fossils at the oldest museum in the state. Discover breathtaking displays, including a full Acrocanthosaurus skeleton (the only one of its kind in the world), a megalodon shark jaw (and teeth!), whale skeletons “swimming” high overhead, and more throughout the four-floor museum. These life-size exhibits inspire a larger-than-life appreciation for the state we call home.

11 West Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 707-9800

Winter heath and Japanese flowering apricot grow in the JC Raulston Arboretum

The JC Raulston Arboretum collects plants that have adapted to conditions in the United States’ Southeastern growing seasons, including winter heath and Japanese flowering apricot. photograph by Charles Harris

JC Raulston Arboretum

This botanical garden on the campus of NC State University features more than 6,000 varieties of diverse landscape plants that thrive in the Piedmont. Visitors can explore through more than a dozen gardens, passing by purple-leaf Japanese maples in the Japanese Garden, an English-style rose garden, hardy desert plants like towering yucca in the Scree Garden, and even a beautiful winter garden that reaches peak beauty in the coldest and darkest months of the year.

4415 Beryl Road
Raleigh, NC 27606
(919) 515-3132

The Marcellus Parker House on Oakwood Avenue in downtown Raleigh.

This grand house on Oakwood Avenue, built in 1879 for cotton broker Marcellus Parker, features arched windows, a Second Empire-style tower, and a mansard roof. photograph by Charles Harris

Historic Oakwood Neighborhood

Beautifully maintained 19th-century homes framed by leafy trees make this downtown Raleigh neighborhood a destination. You can drive through it, or, if the weather is nice, park your car and explore on foot. Initially established right after the Civil War, the neighborhood has been present throughout much of Raleigh’s history. As you stroll along the sidewalks, admire stately Queen Anne and Neoclassical Revival-style homes alongside slightly more modern Craftsman bungalows. If you happen to be in the area during December, don’t miss Oakwood’s renowned Christmas Candlelight Tour.

Historic Oakwood
Raleigh, NC 27606

Pullen Park

This 66-acre park bridges Raleigh’s Boylan Heights neighborhood with NC State University’s campus. As the fifth-oldest amusement park in the nation and the first public park in North Carolina, Pullen Park draws visitors with opportunities to ride the miniature train or take a spin on one of 52 hand-carved animals on the circa-1900 Dentzel Carousel. You can cruise across Lake Howell in a pedal boat or let the kids run wild on the playground. If you prefer a more low-key visit, take your time strolling the paths that lead through the park, and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy under one of the shaded shelters.

520 Ashe Street
Raleigh, NC 27606
(919) 996-6468

North Carolina Executive Mansion

Thirty North Carolina governors and their families have called this red-brick Victorian mansion home since 1891. And in a state where hospitality is a core value, the house is also known as the “people’s house” because it welcomes thousands of North Carolinians each year who come to tour the historic property and gardens. Make reservations at least two weeks in advance to enjoy a guided tour of the mansion led by docents; one of the most popular times to visit is during the holidays when the home is decorated in timeless Christmas splendor.

200 North Blount Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 715-3962

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This story was published on Mar 12, 2024

Hannah Lee Leidy

Hannah Lee is a born-and-raised North Carolinian and the digital editor for Our State magazine. Her contributions have appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, Epicurious, Culture, and the Local Palate. When not parenting her Bernese mountain pup named Ava, she's visiting the nearest cheese counter.