One of the amazing qualities of a city like Raleigh, North Carolina, which is surrounded by three major universities – Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State – is that there are plenty of brainy places to visit. Raleigh itself has more than a dozen museums that you can visit on your trip to the Research Triangle.
You can start downtown with Artspace, an art-accessibility studio. The point of Artspace is to show people who may not understand art how it is made. The theater-style museum shows 30 artists at work. People can stop by and check out the artists and watch for works in the making.
The next stop should be Exploris. This interactive museum is the key that Raleigh is a progressive-minded city. Exploris allows you to “meet” people of other cultures in an effort to expand cultural knowledge. There are an IMAX theater, a closet of items that show the chain of human connection, plays for the entire family, hands-on activities, and news reels from around the world. This museum’s mission makes it one of the nation’s most unique museums.
When Dr. Manassa Thomas Pope built his home in 1901, he had no way to know that it would become a museum center in one of the nation’s technological centers. Pope was an African American doctor, a rarity to say the least for the early twentieth century. His home, called the Pope House, stands today as a monument to the strides people like Dr. Pope made and shows how an affluent African American family in the South lived in the early 1900s.
The Raleigh City Museum also is a must-do on the tour of museums in the Raleigh area. You will find that the city’s museum, opened in 1993, is a wonderful archive for recording more than two centuries of the city’s past. This museum sits on the Fayette Street Mall and is open Tuesday through Saturday.
If the kids will be joining you for your trip to Raleigh, then stop by the Playscape Children’s Museum while you are in town. Intended for babies from six months through elementary school kids at seven years of age, Playscape has a guided session every hour for children. One parent must accompany the kids, but everyone is sure to have fun in this interactive museum.
If history is more your interest and you do not mind traveling a bit outside Raleigh proper, you can try Cary’s Page-Walker Arts and History Center or Apex’s N.C. Railroad Museum for a bit of learning while you are visiting. The Arts and History Center revolves around a mid-1800s hotel that catered to railcar guests. Once the center of activity for the Chatham & Seaboard Railroad, the Page-Walker hotel now serves as a cultural center with the Cary Heritage Museum. The Page-Walker Center has live performances based on history and culture as well as tours and even classes.
The Railroad Museum is a bit more self-guided than some of the other museums, but that should not stop you from visiting. You can stop by to look at memorabilia from North Carolina’s Railroad Collection anytime, and there are staff members there on certain days. If you have to be in town on the first Sunday of the month from May to November, you will be able to hop a one-hour ride on an old-fashioned train.
Mordecai House, located in the historic section of Raleigh, is another possibility for history-lovers, and it provides a number of attractions in one area. Mordecai House itself is an old plantation, and the preserved house in the big house, or main structure of the plantation. The surrounding buildings include a glimpse of Raleigh in the 1800s, helping along by historic preservation. You also can visit the birthplace of Andrew Jackson in this area.
As you can tell, Raleigh, North Carolina has an enormous capacity for hosting people who want to learn and have fun while they are visiting the city. There are museums for people who are interested in history, art, and for children, making Raleigh a very museum-friendly town. Surrounded by three large universities, this area of the country is great for a vacation for the nerd inside you. There is plenty to fill your mind on a museum-based trip to Raleigh, North Carolina.
By Julia Mercer