Raleigh is one of the vertices of the Research Triangle of North Carolina, the other two being Chapel Hill and Durham. The trio owns this title from the research universities situated in each of these cities: NCSU in Raleigh, UNCC in Chapel Hill and Duke in Durham.

From amongst this triad, the capital of North Carolina stands out to be a growing urban area inviting more corporates to open offices and more travelers to explore around.

Out of the several cheap things to do in Raleigh, I have curated a list of top 4 totally free things you can do in any season of the year. But this list is extra special for that inner nerd of yours. Ready for some educated exploring? Let’s take a look!

NC State Capitol

If there’s a place to start a day of exploration in Raleigh, it is right in the heart of the downtown at the NC State Capitol.

The site has been restored to its original Greek Revival style from 1840. It features the old house and senate chambers, each one of them rising two stories high. At the center of the Capitol lies a magnificent rotunda displaying a fine statue of George Washington exactly beneath it.

The building is surrounded by 14 statues and memorials, each one of them honoring several important people from the past of North Carolina. For individuals with a shared interest in architecture and history, the State Capitol tour will be immensely insightful. T hese tours are offered on each Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on a walk-in basis.

NC History Museum

Right across the street from the Capitol is the North Carolina History Museum that can make you time-travel through 14000 years of NC history with a collection of 150000 artifacts. To educate the visitors, the museum employs a variety of exhibits including but not limited to interactive displays, 3D models, presentations and created environments.

History-buffs with a keen interest in wars will enjoy the information about all the wars in NC history. The most notable war display is the one where you can learn about the role of North Carolina in the World War I.

Museum of Natural Sciences

You might be wondering by now if Raleigh is all about political history. No, it is also home to an advanced natural history museum, the Museum of Natural Sciences.

This most visited museum of NC exhibits an array of collections and labs in two distinct buildings, Nature Exploration Center and Nature Research Center, connected by a bridge. You can easily spend half a day here exploring and learning about animals, plants, fossils, micro-organisms, water bodies, space, weather and much more.

Look out for the seasonal exhibitions on their website. They may have a small fee but they can be really interesting like the one I experienced, Mazes and Brain Games.

NCSU Campus

I have an inclination towards visiting beautiful university campuses. If you’re like me, you will enjoy a drive and walk around the 2090 acres sized North Carolina State University.

The vibrant campus of the Wolfpackers has historic halls, buildings and structures like the Bell Tower, and also boasts modern and artistic areas such as the Tally Student Union and the Gregg Museum, all of which can be seen for free.

The 115-feet tall Bell Tower serves as an inspirational landmark to the students of the campus by paying a tribute to the alumni who lost their lives in the WWI. Exploring the Tally Student Union from inside is simply amazing as each nook and corner of the building has some kind of modern architecture and embellishments that delight you.

During the walking tour, don’t forget to pass through the ever-changing Freedom Expression Tunnel built below a rail track connecting the North and Central parts of the campus.

Photo Credit: John Dyer

Other Worthy Mentions

Of course, not all of the free things to do in Raleigh could make it to the top 4 list but there are some worthy places that you should visit if you have time.

  • Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park: Paved trails displaying interesting large-sized art pieces throughout a 164-acre park.
  • Historic City Market: Cobblestone streets with art galleries, boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants and a lively scene on a weekend evening.
  • Raleigh Beer Garden: Technically this is not a free attraction. But if you don’t buy a drink while your friends do, ain’t that free for you? Eyeball at the 366 beer taps that made this spot set the world record of most beer taps in 2015.

One last pro tip before you go! Take a selfie with the wall painting at the intersection of McDowell and W Cabarrus Street behind Poole's before you leave town.

Whichever kind of geek you are, politic, history, architecture, or science, these Raleigh attractions are a great way to have fun and learn something at the same time, all for free, don't you agree?