Established in the year 1792 to serve as the state capital, Raleigh is a charming city that is often overlooked due to its surrounding prominent cities. However, the capital of North Carolina has a lot to offer to all kinds of travelers. Art enthusiasts would love to witness the many masterpieces at the North Carolina Museum of Art, which opened in 1956. Science and history buffs would have a great time at places such as the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the State Capitol Building (a National Historic Landmark), and the Mordecai House. Last but not the least, nature and outdoor lovers would appreciate visiting the city parks and green spaces such as the JC Raulston Arboretum (located within the State University grounds) and Pullen Park.
Along with discovering this interesting city, you can also take some time out to explore the following weekend destinations from Raleigh:
Durham, North Carolina
Durham, NC is known to be one of the best walkable, bike-friendly, dog-friendly cities in the country that is home to several big-town features in a small city space. A town once rooted in the tobacco industry, Durham now houses many fascinating attractions including the Duke University which has Duke Chapel, Nasher Museum of Art, and Sarah P. Duke Garden on site. However, the most prominent place to start your Durham journey is probably at the CCB Square where you can get a photo with “Major” – the iconic Bronze Bull Sculpture which is a symbol for the city since the 1800s.
Best Time to Visit: The most suggested time to visit Durham, North Carolina is during the fall and spring season, when the humidity is low, and the landscape is exploding with color.
How to Reach: There are multiple ways to commute between the two cities – trains, buses, taxis, and cars. If you don’t want to drive down there, taking the train is the next best alternative as it takes only half an hour and costs between $22 to $35 in bus fare.
Asheboro, North Carolina
Located in the heart of North Carolina, Asheboro is an easy weekend trip from the capital city of Raleigh and is known to be home to some of the most fascinating places to visit. Whether you’re exploring one of the 100 something Seagrove “The Handmade Pottery Capital of the United States” potters or wanting to know more about the state’s legendary racecar driver, Richard Petty, there are several things to do here. Did you know that Uwharrie National Forest, spread across 51,000 acres, is home to the Uwharrie Mountains which are regarded to be the oldest of its kind in the nation?
Best Time to Visit: The months of September, October, and May are considered the most recommended times to visit the city of Asheboro.
How to Reach: The fastest way to travel to Asheboro from Raleigh is to take your car. It will take an hour and a half this way and cost only $7 to $10 in fuel. Alternatively, you can take the train to Greensboro and catch a bus to Asheboro from Greensboro Depot. This method, however, would take around three and a half hours and cost between $30 to $40.
Wilmington, North Carolina
Perhaps not as popular as its sister cities of Savannah and Charleston, Wilmington is home to several historic landmarks. Historic plantations and homes such as the Bellamy House and Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens are not to be missed. Wilmington’s most noticeable attraction, however, is the enormous Battleship North Carolina, a warship from WWII-era that is open to tour. Airlie Gardens, dating back to 1886, is brimming with camellias, azaleas, and of course, the 400-year-old Airlie Oak. History buffs would love to know that Downtown Wilmington comprises the NC’s largest National Register Historic District, consisting of hundreds of structures from the 19th and early 20th century.
Best Time to Visit: Keeping in mind the budget and the climate, March to May and September to November are the most preferred times to visit Wilmington, North Carolina.
How to Reach: The most convenient way to travel from Raleigh to Wilmington, North Carolina is to take a Greyhound bus from Raleigh and then to 16th Street. This takes slightly over four hours and costs between $23 to $31.
Smithfield and Selma
Smithfield, a not-so-big town in the state of North Carolina, promises to shower you with so many activities and attractions that you would want to visit a second time. The town is known to be the center of festivals, concerts, famous museums, and brilliant shopping avenues in the state. Carolina Pottery is a favorite home store to buy pottery items for both locals and tourists in the town. The iconic Smithfield cinema is a favorite among locals and visitors alike and is the perfect place to catch a movie at one of the 10 wall-to-wall screens. Selma, on the other hand, is the perfect place to shop for new and antique items, learn the local history at Max G. Creech Selma Historical Museum, and hop on a train at the Selma Historic Union Station.
Best Time to Visit: You could visit the towns of Smithfield and Selma throughout the year, but if you would want to avoid heavy rainfall, don’t come here in Autumn.
How to Reach: Since these are two separate towns which are within proximity to each other, you can either drive or take a taxi straight to Smithfield or you could take a half-hour train ride from Raleigh Union Station to Selma and then take a taxi to Smithfield which will take under 10 minutes. The entire journey would cost between $38 to $51.
Blue Ridge, North Carolina
Home to one of the most remarkable and frequented mountains in the United States of America, the Blue Ridge Mountains encompass several quaint, picturesque small towns and offer a lot of natural features and activities around the area. One of the most popular ways to explore the region is to take a scenic drive around the Blue Ridge Parkway into Virginia, however, Linn Cove Viaduct, a concrete bridge that looks like it’s suspended in the air, is the most remarkable attractions here. Start your adventure by discovering the displays and the 22-foot interactive map at the Visitors Center. After, venture north across the Tanbark Ridge Tunnel to get to the Graybeard Mountain overlook. Take a break in Little Switzerland and walk down to the half-mile Grassy Creek Waterfall Trail that takes you to a 30-foot waterfall. On your way back, make a stopover at Craggy Gardens and witness a mesmerizing sunset over the Black Mountain Range.
Best Time to Visit: Spring to Fall are the best seasons to not only visit Blue Ridge but take a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you wish to enjoy the colors of fall, October and early November are your best bet.
How to Reach: Most means of transportation between the two cities take multiple transfers and over 8 to 10 hours. To avoid that, you can either drive down there which will take four and a half hours, and cost between $25 to $35. Alternatively, if you have the budget, take a flight from Raleigh to Asheville and then get a taxi from here to Blue Ridge. The entire journey will take around four hours as well but cost between $230 to $450.
Biltmore Estate, Asheville
Regarded as the largest home in the United States of America, Biltmore Estate cannot be missed during your weekend visit to Asheville. One of the most iconic attractions in the country, the estate played a major role in shaping the future of this mountain city. The estate attracts all kinds of visitors, including history buffs, art lovers, hikers, foodies, as well as solo and family travelers. The best way to start your day is to take an audio tour of the Biltmore house and head over to the Biltmore Gardens. Grab lunch at Stable Café located next to the gardens and make your way to Biltmore Winery Tour. Get to Antler Hill Village and indulge in shopping, drinking some more wine, and eating some ice cream. Take a stroll at the lagoon and unwind yourself before you end your day.
Best Time to Visit: The months of April to May and October to December are the best times to visit the fascinating estate, however, avoid visiting during the weekends, especially Saturdays, if you are not a big fan of the crowds.
How to Reach: To get to Biltmore Estate, you must first get a direct bus from Raleigh to Asheville which takes around 7 hours and costs between $35 to $50. From here, you can take buses or taxis to get to the estate.
The stunning capital of North Carolina is dotted with diversions to tempt all kinds of visitors. Though not considered one of the “highlighted” American cities, Raleigh offers an intriguing combination of art, nature, history, culture, entertainment, and much more. If you in the mood for exploring some amazing places and indulging in a handful of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, don’t miss out on these top weekend destinations from Raleigh.