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Day Trips from The Triangle

As the temperatures start to rise, many residents of the Raleigh-Durham metro area start to travel in search of a short trip to recharge. With Raleigh being located in the central part of North Carolina, the Triangle is only a short drive to many great locations to relax and unwind.  Here are some suggestions for day trips that are less than a three-hour drive from downtown Raleigh. 


2-hour drive from downtown Raleigh

Known as a popular beach getaway for many Triangle locals, Wilmington is also a historic city with tons of attractions and things to do.  If you need a break from one of the many nearby beaches, (Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach, or Kure Beach for example), consider visiting Battleship North Carolina, the Bellamy Mansion, Riverwalk, one of the several other historical sites or museums, a brewery or a great seafood restaurant. 

Photo Credit James Willamor, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.
Photo Credit James Willamor, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Yadkin Valley Wine Country

2.5-hour drive from downtown Raleigh

Are you a wine aficionado? Yadkin Valley Wine Country has four wine trails, a total of over 20 wineries in the immediate area. As tobacco production wanes, vines for winemaking are taking the place of tobacco plants and growing the North Carolina wine industry significantly. Many of the wineries also serve food and often have live music or other events. 

“Ragapple Lassie Vineyards” by Southern Foodways Alliance, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The North Carolina Zoo

90-minute drive from downtown Raleigh

Looking for a great family-friendly day trip? Take a trip to Asheboro and spend the day at the North Carolina Zoo. The zoo, the world’s largest natural habitat zoo, is designed to recreate the natural habitat found in the wild, which means the animals have plenty of space to roam. The zoo is home to over 1800 animals. Bring your walking shoes and strollers or wagons for the kids, as the park is massive and takes an entire day to cover. 


90-minute drive from downtown Raleigh

Built largely by the RJ Reynolds family, a day trip to Winston-Salem is great for the history buff and foodie alike. Stroll through the Historic Bethabara Park, where the Moravians built the first European settlement in the North Carolina Piedmont area. You can also see their influence on the city in Old Salem, with a collection of shops carrying Moravian goods. Take a step back in time by touring the Reynolda House, the former residence of the Reynolds family, the most well-known name in the tobacco industry.  Make sure you visit the recently rejuvenated downtown district, which includes breweries, amazing new restaurants and occasionally live music and block parties. Winston-Salem is the home of Wake Forest University, and visitors are able to tour the beautiful campus while in town. 

Photo Credit Indy Beetle, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Raven Rock State Park

1-hour drive from downtown Raleigh

Located in Lillington, Raven Rock State Park is a popular destination for hikers. This park is known for its spectacular views of the Cape Fear River.  The trail system is amazing, including numerous hiking and mountain biking trails. This is a great park for nature lovers who want to bring their dogs along. Camping sites are also available for anyone looking for an overnight adventure. 

“Raven Rock State Park Cape Fear River” by Gerry Dincher, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Pilot Mountain State Park

2-hour drive from downtown Raleigh

You cannot miss Pilot Mountain, especially driving on I-77 North. This state park is centered around Bug Pinnacle, the knob-shaped mountain that dominates the skyline of Surry County. Climb to the peak of this stunning geologic wonder either by foot or by horse. This ark also welcomes rock climbers and rappellers on the steep inclines. 

Photo Credit Andrew McKenzie, licensed under CC BY-ND 3.0

Richmond, VA

2.5-hour drive from downtown Raleigh

It may be difficult to spend only a day in Richmond since there are so many things to do.  Spend some time touring the historic sites, such as Maymont, the Virginia State Capitol and Hollywood Cemetery, or drop into one of the several area museums. Enjoy views of the James River either via foot or bike on one of the various trails. Richmond is a great place for anyone who is an outdoor enthusiast, with opportunities to hike, ride and kayak. 

One of the greatest benefits of living in the Triangle is the close proximity to so many great destinations within a short drive of home.  Warmer weather inspires people to travel more to destinations nearby, and the above list gives some of the best places to take a break from day-to-day life.

“Richmond Skyline” by Jim, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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