Discover Raleigh with your student
4415 Beryl Road
5 minute drive
Free; special programs may have fees
Collect a map and brochure for a self-guided tour at the Visitor Center and then lose yourself happily in the gardens and grounds of the JC Raulston Arboretum, located two miles west of the main NC State campus. The collections are particularly ravishing during spring — when the Magnolia trees bloom — and summer, when the Rose and Color Trial Gardens are at their peak. But this living laboratory captivates every season of the year. There is a Contemplation Garden, a Xeric Garden, even a Winter Garden. Special programs at the Arboretum include Photography Walks, Plantsmen’s Tours (seasonally themed and led by the curator), Yoga in the Gardens (summer), and guided tours on Sundays from March through October.
201 East Davie Street
8 minute drive
Free (donations appreciated and there is a charge for classes including Art Happy Hour)
This non-profit visual arts center exists to encourage community participation in the creative process. Check the website for a schedule of talks, events and demos held in conjunction with current exhibitions, or just drop in to see art being made and interact with the artists in residence. Artspace is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday and is part of Raleigh’s First Friday gallery and museum walk (retailers and restaurants also participate in First Friday, making it a great evening to spend downtown).
Oakwood Avenue and North Bloodworth Street
12 minute drive
Step back in time with a stroll through Historic Oakwood, Raleigh’s only intact 19th century neighborhood and its first local historic district (it is also on the National Register of Historic Places). Before you set out, download the free walking tour brochure on the website, with its charming sketches and descriptions of the houses and their historic occupants. The of homes on the treeshaded streets display a whimsical variety of architectural styles (neoclassical, Italianate,Second Empire, Queen Anne). Opportunities to see inside some of the homes and gardens occur one weekend each in December, when tickets are available for Candelight Tours, and April for Garden Tours with Tea.
11 West Jones Street
10 minute drive
What began with the state geologist and commissioner of agriculture combining their personal collections in 1879 is now the largest museum of its kind in the Southeast. Even from the outside the museum will knock your socks off — its newest wing, the Nature Research Center, is dominated by a giant replica of the Earth (inside of which is a 3-story theatre, the Daily Planet). In addition to the expected dinosaurs and dioramas, you’ll enjoy the museum’s living collections: reptiles and amphibians, fresh and saltwater aquatic ecosystems teeming with fish and invertebrates, and an “Arthropod Zoo” (i.e., bugs). Walk through the “Living Conservatory” — a Central American tropical dry forest inhabited by living plants and animals where you might encounter a sloth… or a tarantula.
327 West Davie Street
9 minute drive
Free to look, smell and sample
Sometimes (all the time?), you just need chocolate. The Videri Chocolate Factory invites you to witness the creation of their gourmet handcrafted chocolates — as the chocolatiers describe it, the journey “From Bean to Bliss.” It all happens under one roof in a factory housed in the historic Raleigh Depot building. The public is welcome to come right down to the factory floor for a self-guided tour, after which you are sure to be in the mood to purchase a little something in the retail space which features vegan and organic chocolates, gift baskets, special seasonal offerings, and coffee and chocolate beverages which can then be carried out to Videri’s BYOB patio, a perfect hangout spot.
Discover Durham with your student
401 Chapel Drive, 420 Anderson Street
Spend a contemplative hour or two exploring these university gems. Built in 1930 of multi-hued volcanic stone, the neo-gothic Chapel is the location of Convocations and Commencements as well as weekly worship events for the many faith groups represented at Duke. Just a short walk or drive from the Chapel, enter the Gardens (open from 8 a.m. to dusk daily). As you stroll the paths (five miles worth, if you want to cover it all), highlights include a native plant display, carnivorous plant collection, and a koi pond with Victoria water lilies (the leaves grow up to seven feet across). There is a café, gift shop and visitor center as well. You may glimpse a bride — it hasn’t escaped the notice of commitment-minded alums that Chapel + Gardens = the perfect Blue Devil wedding venue (the Gardens make a great backdrop for a family photo, too).
905 West Main Street
5 minute drive
Historic red brick tobacco warehouses flanking an open-air courtyard in downtown Durham have been transformed into charming Brightleaf Square — the perfect spot to shop, dine and people watch. There is live music every other Friday evening in the summer, and other special events worth looking out for.
4409 Bennett Memorial Road
7 minute drive
Experience a powerful piece of American history at Bennett Place, a reconstruction of the humble farmhouse where Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and Union General William T. Sherman met in April 1865 to sign the largest troop surrender of the Civil War. Living history events take place at the site regularly. Guided tours are offered on the hour, or you may tour on your own. The grounds include a smokehouse, gardens, gift shop with books and souvenirs, the Unity Monument, nature trails and picnic areas.
3705 Erwin Road
6 minute drive
Prices vary according to tour
The world’s largest and most diverse collection of lemurs outside of Madagascar can be experienced at the Duke Lemur Center, dedicated to research, conservation and public outreach. The Center is open daily, but you must make a reservation to visit, so see the website in order to choose the tour that’s right for you. If you can, visit between January and July when the infant lemurs are being born! No reservation is needed to stop by the gift shop, where purchases (including sales of lemur-painted art; yes, you read that correctly) benefit the Center.
6101 Cole Mill Road
15 minute drive
The 4,200 scenic acres of Eno River State Park in northwest Durham were once home to several Native American tribes. Now part of North Carolina’s wonderful state park system, it is a peaceful place to hike, paddle, fish or camp. The park is open daily, but hours vary seasonally, so check the website before your visit. Interpretive programs include Saturday morning bird walks. Bring a picnic, and your binoculars — in addition to birds, you may spot beaver, turtles and deer.
Discover Chapel Hill with your student
100 Old Mason Farm Road
There is so much to enjoy at the North Carolina Botanical Garden — the historic Coker Arboretum, an enticing variety of display gardens (herbs, ferns, flowering plants, carnivorous plants and more), and the Garden Shop where you can browse and buy gifts, books, potted plants and even seeds. Stretch your legs on the Piedmont Nature Trails or take a longer walk in the shady woods of adjacent Battle Park. Be careful, though, or you might lose yourself here for an entire day.
101 South Columbia Street
Free ($5 for yoga and Tai Chi)
The Ackland Art Museum is another university treasure. Open Wednesday–Sunday, the Museum houses impressive collections of prints, drawings and photographs; Asian art; European masterworks; and North Carolina pottery. With a dozen or more special exhibitions annually, there is always something new to discover at the Ackland. Looking for an even more in-depth experience? Check the website to find talks, tours and programs including Drawing in the Galleries (free, no reservation required) and Yoga or Tai Chi in the Galleries (reserve a spot online).
301 West Main Street, Carrboro
10 minute drive
The communities of Chapel Hill and Carrboro flow seamlessly into one another so it couldn’t be easier to meander over to the Farmers’ Market on the Carrboro Town Commons. This is as local and fresh as it gets — the 75+ vendors at the Carrboro Market actually run the market and are present each and every Saturday morning (plus Wednesday afternoons April through November). The wonderful vegetables, fruit, foods and artisan creations (wood and metal work, textiles, pottery and more) are all produced within 50 miles of the Market.
450 and 300 Skipper Bowles Drive
You will have fun at the Carolina Basketball Museum even if you’re not a diehard fan of basketball in general and the Tar Heels and Michael Jordan in particular. Videos, artifacts and interactive presentations bring the history of Carolina basketball (including 20 Final Four appearances) to life. The Dean E. Smith Center or “Dean Dome,” named for the beloved former coach, is where the Tar Heels play and right next door — you can’t go onto the court to practice your layup, but you can take a peek from the concourse level.
211 Pittsboro Street
Ready to relax and enjoy a bit of sweet southern hospitality? The Carolina Inn, right on the UNC campus, makes that as easy as pie. You do not need to be a guest at the Inn to enjoy a gracious (and delicious) formal tea service, offered Thursday through Sunday afternoons (advance reservations required). Fridays on the Front Porch take place April through October — the public is invited to celebrate the start of the weekend with free live music and food trucks (no cover charge or reservations required). From the Inn, it’s just a block or two to historic Franklin Street, Chapel Hill’s favorite shopping, dining and nightlife destination.