Raleigh, NC: A Budget Vacation Paradise

raleigh budget vacation
Hello, Budget Diet friends, from sunny Raleigh, North Carolina.

Y’all probably know about Raleigh’s southern hospitality, sweet tea and Carolina BBQ, but did you know we’ve been dubbed Smithsonian of the South? That’s right! Besides great southern friendliness and food, Raleigh is home to some amazing museums — all of them free! A family vacation to Raleigh is about as budget friendly as a vacation can get. Please allow me to convince you!

Raleigh is the “Smithsonian of the South.”

The city is home to a variety of live performing arts events, including the Hopscotch Music Festival and the World of Bluegrass FanFest. The city is served by eleven different theater groups, including the Carolina Ballet, North Carolina Opera, North Carolina Symphony, North Carolina Theatre and Raleigh Little Theater. You’re bound to find a great performance to enjoy when you’re here.

Raleigh is home to four major museums. The NC Museum of Art, the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and the NC Museum of History offer free admission year-round. (See, I told you it’s budget friendly!) The NC Museum of Natural Sciences recently opened its Nature Research Center, where real research is conducted — something older kids enjoy. Each museum hosts traveling exhibits families are sure to enjoy. The fourth museum, Marbles Kids Museum encourages learning through play and is home to the city’s IMAX theater.

Music, theater and museums — all right here in the city. But there’s more.

Raleigh offers green space for adventure and fun.

With more than 4,000 acres of green space and more than 1,300 acres of water, the Raleigh area is a great place to spend time outdoors. The region offers canoeing, sailing, nature hikes and golf. The nearby town of Rolesville offers scuba diving at the Fantasy Lake Scuba Park, the largest scuba diving park on the east coast! (True! It surprised me too.) Admission to most parks is free, though some activities do charge a fee.

One of our favorites is Pullen Park, where families can walk the trails, play frisbee or pedal boat on the lake. The park recently completed a major renovation and all playground areas are universally accessible. We have explored a few of the 54 miles on the Greenway Trail System too, and enjoy exploring the city this way.

The Raleigh CVB and local hotels offer great vacation deals.

Whatever your interest, local hotels, restaurants, sports and/or attractions have created some great deals to maximize your budget! Some specials include hotel discounts for guests coming to watch the Railhawks or Hurricanes play. Others include free or discounted tickets to special exhibits or Marbles Kids Museum. Some include free dining or discounts to local, non-chain restaurants. The Raleigh Convention and Visitor Bureau site provides links to the current deals.

I hope I’ve convinced you to check out this wonderful region sometime — soon! If you can’t get to Raleigh, maybe a city closer to you has something great to offer. To discover great vacation deals within driving distance, do what I did to learn about Raleigh:

  • Visit the city or county’s convention and visitor bureau (Google the city name followed by CVB — such as Raleigh CVB)
  • Most CVBs have a visitors page that offers an overview of the region. Use this to discover aspects of the city you might not have known before (like my discovery of Rolesville’s Scuba Park). Make a list of those that interest you.
  • Check for deals and specials on the CVB site. Raleigh makes it easy with a “Deals” tab, but you can also search the words “discount” or “special offer” on the site to see what’s available.
  • Request a coupon book if the city offers one (Orlando, Florida has a great coupon book), but plan ahead. It can take 2-4 weeks for one to arrive.
  • If you have questions, ask! Every CVB site I’ve visited has a “request more information” or “contact us” form. The CVB exists to encourage your visit. They want to make it easy for you to travel to their city!


Have I convinced “all y’all” to visit Raleigh sometime soon? Just remember to visit the CVB site first!


Today’s post was written by Karen Dawkins at Family Travels on a Budget. Besides planning great value vacations for her family, she enjoys cooking, playing games and walking her dog, Daisy. Karen’s vacation ideas have been featured in Woman’s Day Magazine and the Homeschool Handbook as well as on several different websites. Read more of her great ideas on her website


photo courtesy of GRCVB/visitRaleigh.com

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