If you’re looking for a mixture of a metropolis and Southern charm, Raleigh, North Carolina is the place to go! But, there are many amazing day trips from Raleigh, too!
If you’re going to spend a couple of days in Raleigh, though, it’s definitely worth checking out everything that the nearby area has to offer on a few of these Raleigh day trips!
There’s plenty to do within driving distance, including checking out museums, gardens, beaches, restaurants, wineries, and so much more!
This guide contains some of the best day trips from Raleigh as well as a few great weekend getaway options!
The destinations range from small towns to other large cities (and more)!
Did we miss any awesome places to visit near Raleigh? Let us know your tips in the comments.
Best Day Trips From Raleigh (+ Weekend Trips)
1. Wilmington, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 129.4 miles
Driving Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Located approximately 2 hours away from Raleigh is Wilmington, one of the most popular cities in North Carolina.
The port city is located on the coast of North Carolina, making it an especially popular destination for anyone who loves waterfront activities.
Here, you can check out the vibrant riverfront, the three island beaches, and the scenic Riverwalk.
The city also has a National Register Historic District with over 230 blocks of sites to see.
You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride throughout the city or listen to any of the live music shows on the waterfront.
There are also plenty of hotels and restaurants for dining and staying.
Some other Wilmington activities include museums, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach, guided walking tours, Segway tours, and trying out local seafood.
2. Great Dismal Swamp, NC/VA
Distance from Raleigh: 164 miles
Driving Time: 2 hours, 51 minutes
Located between the northeastern part of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, the Great Dismal Swamp is known for being home to dense forests and 25-foot deep swamps spread over 750 square miles of area.
Its also known for being home to Maroon colonies’ archaeological artifacts and Lake Drummond, one of the few natural lakes in Virginia.
The Great Dismal Swamp was given its name in 1728 by William Byrd who was surveying the area as a part of his observation.
Today, you can head there to enjoy its many trails (such as the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail) and kayaking on Lake Drummond.
The wildlife is also superabundant in the area and you can find animals like the white-tailed deer, red foxes, black bears (I saw one there!), bobcats, river otters, and more.
The swamp spans both Virginia and North Carolina and has a few entrances where you can park (or start your hiking/biking adventure).
3. Winston-Salem, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 103.4 miles
Driving Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Winston-Salem is another stunning destination in North Carolina located a little less than 2 hours away from Raleigh.
It was named one of the South’s Best Cities on the Rise in 2021.
You can try out any of the nine breweries in downtown to get a taste for Southern beer as well as checking out any of the chic boutiques, grand historic estates, museums, culture, and more right within the city center.
Winston Salem also features delicious cuisine to check out. In addition, you could hike the Long Branch Trail or any of the other hiking trails throughout the city’s neighboring state parks.
4. New Bern, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 115.8 miles
Driving Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
You may also want to go on a fun road trip from Raleigh to New Bern, NC, which will be around a 2-hour drive.
New Bern is a town with a lot of history as it was the first capital of North Carolina.
One of the most popular destinations in the town is the Tryon Palace, which was originally where the royal governor resided.
Then, it became the place where the state legislature convened. Now, it functions as a museum, where guests can learn more about the state’s history.
New Bern was also the site of a Civil War battle, so history lovers can check out the site.
In addition, the town was the birthplace of Pepsi Cola, so you can get a taste of some authentic Pepsi during your visit to this NC town!
5. Corolla, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 228.5 miles
Driving Time: 3 hours, 52 minutes
Corolla is an ideal beach resort town to stay in during your visit to North Carolina.
Located in the Outer Banks, you will be able to get away from the hustle and bustle of your daily life while enjoying all kinds of waterfront activities.
Whether you enjoy spending time on the beach with your family or want to spend the day at the spa, you will certainly find an activity that suits you during your visit to Corolla.
It features plenty of restaurants and shops to check out, as well as beach cottages and oceanfront vacation homes to stay in.
You can also check out the Corolla wild horses, the Whalehead in Historic Corolla, and the Currituck Beach Lighthouse during your visit.
Be sure to also check out the town of Duck right down the road!
6. Greensboro, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 76.8 miles
Driving Time: 1 hour, 14 minutes
Greensboro, also known as the Gate City, you can check out over 135 attractions, more than 500 restaurants, and experience all kinds of fun.
No matter what your interests are, you will certainly find something to do in the Gate City.
In the summer, the Wet ‘N Wild Emerald Pointe is one of the town’s most popular sites with its waterpark. There are over 38 rides at this family-friendly attraction, making it the perfect spot to spend the entire weekend.
You can also check out the campgrounds, bars, nightlife, shopping, and Southern barbecue spots in lovely Greensboro!
Be sure to also check out the official website for different events taking place throughout the year to plan your trip.
7. Yadkin Valley, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 179.1 miles
Driving Time: 2 hours, 50 minutes
If you enjoy the outdoors, be sure to check out North Carolina Wine Country in Yadkin Valley.
There are plenty of different wineries and wine tours in the town, and the town is home to some of the most popular wineries in the state.
You should especially try the Surry County Wine Trail, which features 20 vineyards.
There are also stunning places to stay in Yadkin Valley, including A Mighty Oak Bed and Breakfast and A Mountain Escapade Cabin.
Yadkin Valley is also known for its stunning and delicious restaurants, as well as the state parks, four rivers, hiking trails, and zipline tours.
8. Pilot Mountain State Park, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 128.6 miles
Driving Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Located 20 miles from Winston-Salem, Pilot Mountain State Park is a spectacular spot for anyone who loves spending time in nature and the outdoors.
You can check out any of the hiking trails that lead around the base of the mountain, along the stunning rivers, and up the mountain.
There are also some places for rock climbing and rappelling, as well as tent and trailer camping.
If you want to spend the night along the river, there are also two paddle-in campsites.
Pilot Mountain State Park features two of North Carolina’s state trails, too. You can also see the Big Pinnacle, Piedmont, and the Sauratown and Blue Ridge Mountains from the summit area.
You can go on guided hikes, backpack trips, fishing, picnicking, swimming, and boating, too.
9. Hanging Rock State Park, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 123.8 miles
Driving Time: 2 hours, 9 minutes
Hanging Rock State Park was initially established as part of a Civilian Conservation Corps project in the 1930s, but then it transformed into a spot that everyone who enjoys the outdoors will surely adore.
With 73-site campgrounds, 20 miles of hiking trails, 8.4 miles of biking trails, and more, you will have more than enough to do during your visit to Hanging Rock.
The trails range in difficulty, so anyone from beginners to experts will find a trail they like.
In addition, the park offers picnic grounds, swimming in the stocked lake, canoe rentals, and hikes along streams and waterfalls.
You can also check out the rock climbing spots and vacation cabins if you want to stay a while.
The park also has a museum that features the history of the Sauratown Mountains.
10. Durham, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 24.5 miles
Driving Time: 29 minutes
Durham is another small town in North Carolina that you should make a point to visit. Home to Duke University, Durham is the perfect spot for history buffs.
Whether you’re considering Duke as a potential university, you want to watch some college sports, or you want to check out the monuments in town, Durham is an ideal place for a weekend trip.
You can check out the Bennett Place State Historic Site, featuring monuments and structures about the Civil War.
The town is also home to a number of historical reenactments throughout the year.
Finally, don’t forget to visit the Nasher Museum, which is home to over 10,000 pieces and rotating exhibits.
11. Falls Lake State Recreation Area, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 22.9 miles
Driving Time: 43 minutes
For those who enjoy outdoor adventures and sports, be sure to consider a day trip to the Falls Lake State Recreation Area near Wake, Durham, and Granville counties.
Here, you’ll find plenty to do that will help you to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
There is no lack of hiking and biking trails here, and the trails range in difficulty from easy and suitable for all ages to much more challenging.
If you’re up for a challenge, you can hike along the Falls Lake Trail, which spans for 50 miles and runs along the shore.
You can also enjoy the beautiful lake and partake in activities such as fishing, boating, swimming, and more.
12. Brumley Forest Nature Preserve, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 35.5 miles
Driving Time: 38 minutes
Located near Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, the Brumley Forest Nature Preserve is yet another fun day trip to take to get in touch with nature.
What makes the preserve special is that it features more than 15 miles of trails for hiking and biking and it is an epic place to visit during the fall!
The northern portion is better for hiking, whereas the southern portion is more popular among bikers.
Be aware, though, that a lot of the trails are a bit challenging, so be sure to wear your best hiking shoes!
The views of nature are absolutely stunning, so the challenging hikes are certainly rewarding!
13. Asheville, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 247.4 miles
Driving Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes
Asheville is one of the most beautiful cities in North Carolina and certainly one that should be on your travel bucket list.
One of the city’s main attractions is the Biltmore Estate featuring the Vanderbilt Mansion, the largest private home in the US.
You can also visit the North Carolina Arboretum, home to a botanical garden, along with “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Asheville is also every foodie’s utopia, featuring everything from food tours to vegan restaurants, local farms, and the winery at Biltmore. Be sure to also visit some nearby waterfalls!
In short, there’s no lack of activities to do during your trip to Asheville!
14. Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 206 miles
Driving Time: 3 hours, 9 minutes
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most beautiful natural areas in North Carolina (and definitely one of the most unique).
Spanning over 154,000 acres, it is home to many wild animals like red wolves, the American alligator, wood ducks, snakes, and more. It also has the highest concentration of black bears on the east coast!
Not only will you find a lot of wildlife inside of the refuge, but you will also have plenty of activities to experience the park at your own leisure.
There are many trails, places to kayak, fishing opportunities, and more. It is also a great spot for birdwatching.
The National Wildlife Refuge was designated as such in 1984. Nearby, you will also find the Roanoke Sound, William B. Umstead Memorial Bridge, Croatan Sound, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and more.
To visit Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, it is best to start at the visitor center and work your way into the area. You can also book a kayaking tour!
15. Linville Gorge & Falls, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 217.7 miles
Driving Time: 3 hours, 42 minutes
Located in Pisgah National Forest, it’s no wonder why Linville Gorge & Falls is often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East.”
Outdoor adventurers will enjoy a day trip here without a doubt. With gorgeous landscapes and trails, you should certainly make it a point to visit the spot.
You can get there via the Blue Ridge Parkway and it is a great day trip from Asheville.
The main attraction here is Linville Falls, which can be reached via the trailheads that are only a few miles each.
The waterfall is absolutely gorgeous and provides unforgettable views, featuring steep rock walls and oak forests.
It is especially beautiful in the fall with the foliage. You can also go on hikes to Duggers Creek Falls, Crabtree Falls, and Table Rock Mountain.
16. Outer Banks, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 218.8 miles
Driving Time: 3 hours, 29 minutes
What is a trip to North Carolina without visiting the Outer Banks? While we mentioned Corolla above (which is part of the OBX), it is hard not to recommend a weekend trip from Raleigh to anywhere along the islands!
Enjoy some fun in the sun with the family while splashing in the waves, sinking your toes in the sand, and checking out the shops and restaurants along the boardwalk.
You can also drive along the Outer Banks Scenic Byway for some stunning views of the sunset.
If you’re interested in the history of the area, be sure to check out the Outer Banks History Center.
Located nearby is Roanoke Island, the site of the lost colony that remains a mystery to this day.
17. Grandfather Mountain, NC
Distance from Raleigh: 210.1 miles
Driving Time: 3 hours, 40 minutes
Last but not least, a day trip to Grandfather Mountain can prove to be a worthwhile adventure for you and your family.
Grandfather Mountain is most well-known for its main attraction, Mile High Swinging Bridge, perfect for all thrill seekers who aren’t afraid of heights to cross.
If you’re brave enough to cross the swinging bridge, you’ll be gifted with 360-degree panoramic views of the stunning mountains.
Many people take gorgeous photographs along the bridge, too, making it the perfect opportunity for photographers to test their skills.
Hiking is another popular activity here, with the trails ranging in difficulty from easy to challenging.
Where to Stay in Raleigh
If youʻre looking for some great accommodation options in Raleigh, these are some top picks!
- The Casso Raleigh (pets allowed!)
- Guest House Raleigh (8 guest room boutique inn)
- Heights House Hotel (boutique hotel; handicap-accessible)
- Residence Inn by Marriott Raleigh
- Aloft Raleigh
Did we miss any of the best day trips from Raleigh? Let us know your favorite Raleigh day trips in the comments!
More North Carolina Travel Guides
- Things to do in Raleigh
- Things to do in the Outer Banks
- Things to do in New Bern
- Things to do in Asheville
- Things to do in Greensboro
- Things to do in Winston-Salem
- Things to do in Wilmington
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Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she has lived all around the world (including Germany, Finland, Norway, etc) but her heart always finds its way back to Virginia. This blog is to help encourage travelers to explore the great state of VA… and its wonderful neighbors! Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s Travel, the New York Times, and more. She has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries… and wholeheartedly believes that Brunswick Stew is probably the greatest food to ever exist.