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Best Free Sites in Raleigh/Durham

By: Cityseeker
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William B. Umstead State Park

Hidden away from the crowded cacophony of the city life, William B. Umstead State Park stretches gloriously across 5579-acres (2257-hectare) crossing the border of Raleigh and spilling onto Cary and Durham. Endowed with tranquil lakes, picturesque pathways and dense drapes of forests, William B. Umstead State Park is a real boon for city-dwellers. An absolute delight for outdoor enthusiasts, numerous trails cut their way through the park's pristine span, offering off-road bicycling opportunities along with hiking and additional trails are also reserved for equestrians. There are numerous picnic spots scattered across the park and there are plenty of and campsites and cabins for those who wish to lodge overnight. A visitor center organizes a series of interactive exhibits, and park rangers regularly scheduled educational programs.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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Lake Lynn Park

Lake Lynn Park is an impressively-equipped city park that offers visitors 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) of trails around a greenway great for walking, cycling, or running. On the grounds there are also batting cages, a playground, four tennis courts, two bocce courts, and a baseball field. The Lake Lynn Community Center on the north side of the park has basketball courts, meeting rooms, a dance studio, and an art room. Lake Lynn Park is a great place to enjoy a stroll, or to take advantage of first-rate outdoor amenities in a serene setting.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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Shelley Lake Park

This park offers two miles of trails with work-out stations along scenic Shelley Lake, open fields, a basketball court, and a playground. The park is also home to the Sertoma Art Center, which hosts visual and performance art workshops, and exhibition and studio space. Take a leisurely walk around the lake and enjoy the natural setting, have a picnic, go fishing, paddle a canoe or rowboat around the lake, or just sit and watch sailboats go by.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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JC Raulston Arboretum

Pull up a bench and revel in nature's beauty in this eight-acre (three-hectare) garden wonderland. This outdoor laboratory for the Department of Horticulture at North Carolina State University is a delight for visitors and locals alike. Sit in the shade of trees from over 50 different countries, wander down the 450-foot (137-meter) long mosaic of the Perennial Garden, or bring a good book and relax in the Reading Garden. The Victorian gazebo in the Klein-Pringle White Garden is a popular choice for local brides and the Japanese and Paradise gardens are must-sees.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Founded in 1934, The Sarah P. Duke Gardens offers 55 acres (22 hectares) of world-class gardens in the center of Duke University. More than five miles (eight kilometers) of pathways lead visitors on walks through four sections of beautifully landscaped terraces, gardens, and arboretums. The Duke Gardens host gardening, photography, and natural history classes, and a summer concert series. A cafe and a visitor center are on the grounds. Walking and trolley tours are given four days a week; reservations are recommended.

Durham, NC, United States
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Duke University Chapel

This chapel built in the center of Duke University in the Collegiate Gothic style was completed in 1932. Its tower soars 210 feet (65 meters) into the sky, and its founder, James B. Duke, felt that its inspirational presence would influence campus music, faith, and learning. Fine ornamentation, stained glass, and four beautifully crafted organs, including a Flentrop, or "Bach's Organ," draw thousands of admirers to the chapel every year. Free, guided tours of the chapel are offered every Sunday after an 11a worship service.

Durham, NC, United States
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Raleigh Rose Garden at Raleigh Little Theatre

The Raleigh Rose Garden displays dozens of varieties of roses, including all new roses presented by the All American Rose Society, on beautifully landscaped grounds just behind the Raleigh Little Theater. An outdoor theater with stone seating hosts theater and music performances from time to time, and a fountain and small stone shelter are the center of small private events and weddings. The roses bloom from late May until early fall in October and November; these times are best for visiting.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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Duke Homestead State Historic Site

This National Historic Landmark has the first homes, farms, and factories where the Duke family grew and processed tobacco, thereby founding the largest tobacco company in world in the 19th Century. In 1931, the farm was purchased by Duke University, and in 1966, the homestead was designated a historic landmark by the National Park Service. It became a North Carolina State Historic Site in 1974. Visitors can see the restored four-room Duke family homestead, with tobacco bars and historical artifacts. The museum offers exhibits about the history of tobacco farming and processing.

Durham, NC, United States
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North Carolina State Capitol

The North Carolina State Capitol building is the former house of the North Carolina legislature and the current home of the state’s governor’s offices. Dominating a central block of downtown Raleigh, the building was completed in 1840 and is built in the Greek Revival style. The North Carolina State Capitol Foundation offers guided tours of the building and a program of lectures, children’s history classes, concerts, and exhibits to the public free of charge.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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North Carolina Executive Mansion

The North Carolina Executive Mansion, a fine structure of brick built in the Queen Anne style, is the official residence of the Governor of North Carolina and his or her family. The mansion is home to historical artifacts and paintings of local note, and has been a Raleigh social, political, and cultural hub since its founding in 1891. Guided tours of the mansion and its gardens are given in the spring and fall on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and holiday open houses are held in December. Admission is free. but tours must be booked in advance.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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Historic Oakwood

A nationally registered historic place, Oakwood is an enchanting neighborhood of restored and carefully maintained Victorian and Antebellum homes. With quiet, tree-lined streets, the neighborhood is ideal for an afternoon walking tour anytime of the year, but at its finest during the annual Christmas Candlelight Tour, and the spring, when its impressive gardens come to life. The neighborhood is located next to Oakwood Park and bordered by East Franklin, East Jones, North Person Streets, and Linden Avenue.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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Historic Yates Mill County Park

Historic Yates Mill County Park is a 174-acre (70 hectares) wildlife refuge and environmental research center with open lands and a small pond offering visitors fishing, hiking, and bird-watching opportunities. Yates Mill is the last operating, water-powered gristmill in North Carolina’s Capital County. Mill tours and corn grinding demonstrations are offered throughout the year, as are seasonal educational and holiday programs. The visitor center sells finished stone-ground cornmeal and vintage postcards as souvenirs.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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