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Best Museums in Raleigh/Durham

By: Cityseeker
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North Carolina Museum of Art

One of the leading art museums of the American South, the North Carolina Museum of Art opened in 1956 as the first in the nation established with public state funds. More than 40 galleries here are home to a permanent collection of paintings, artifacts, and sculptures spanning the history of art from antiquity to the present day. Visitors can see paintings of the European Renaissance, Egyptian funerary artifacts, and contemporary international works of art, among others. An amphitheater hosts outdoor performances, and a museum park features more than a dozen major site-specific works surrounded by forests and fields.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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Nasher Museum of Art

The Nasher Museum is dedicated to presenting contemporary art from around the world, and showcasing art made by historically underrepresented groups. Founded in 2005 on the campus of Duke University, the museum boasts a permanent collection of more than 10,000 works, with strong holdings in medieval, pre-Colombian, classical, and modern and international contemporary art. Free guided tours are made available to groups of ten or less two days a week.

Durham, NC, United States
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Museum of Life & Science

The North Carolina Museum of Life & Science offers a number of interactive educational exhibits suitable for children and adults. Visitors can walk through a tornado, turn their movements into sound sculptures, and make contact with one of the largest butterfly conservatories on the American East Coast. The museum also features bear, red wolf, and lemur sanctuaries, and a forested tree house learning environment, which gives views of a landscaped forest from 20 feet (six meters) off the ground.

Durham, NC, United States
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Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh

The Contemporary Art Museum is a temple to contemporary art and design housed in a re-purposed warehouse in downtown Raleigh. The museum has no permanent collection of its own, but strives to showcase the work of emerging artists and designers with new perspectives and in fresh contexts. In addition to cutting-edge exhibitions, the museum offers middle and high school students educational and creative programs, including panels, docent partnerships, and summer access to studio space. Weekly guided tours of current exhibitions are included with general admission.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Explore the natural wonders of North Carolina, from the depths of its ocean to its rocky mountains. Complete with a 20-foot (6-meter) waterfall, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science has much to offer. See North Carolina as it was, in a re-creation of six prehistoric habitats. This is home to the only Acorcanthosaurus skeleton discovered in the world, and Willo, the first dinosaur found with a fossilized heart. The Discovery Room is full of interactive exhibits. Looking for that perfect gift? The Nature Gallery has original nature-themed artwork available. There is a restaurant on site. General admission is free of charge. There is a cover charge for special exhibits. Children under 13 years must be accompanied by an adult. The Discovery Room, Naturalist Center, and Living Conservatory remain closed on Mondays.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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North Carolina Museum of History

Founded in 1902, this museum is committed to exploring and preserving North Carolina's historical heritage. Among the permanent exhibits here are the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, a history of the state’s role in the creation of funk music, and the expansive Story of North Carolina, a major exhibit tracing life in the state from the time of its first inhabitants through the 20th Century. The museum hosts a variety of temporary exhibits, and a large collection of regional costumes and furnishings.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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City of Raleigh Museum

The City of Raleigh Museum celebrates the history and legacy of Raleigh, from the days of its first inhabitants to those of a 21st-century capitol. The museum was founded in 1993 with initiatives from local historians, and is guided by a mission to store historical artifacts, preserve the city’s past, and urge visitors to contemplate the city’s legacy and future. Visitors can explore the history of Raleigh through 200 years of artifacts and images, including testimonials of Raleigh’s World War II veterans, a history of Raleigh in maps, and an exhibit dedicated to Morgan Latta, a former slave who gained his freedom and established a Raleigh industrial school.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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Marbles Kids Museum

Marbles Kids Museum is a modern, vibrant center of play-based learning designed for children 10 years old and younger. The museum is one of Raleigh’s top family destinations, and has a program of dozens of interactive exhibits, IMAX educational and feature film screenings, and special events. Children can explore the ins and outs of gardening and solar power, learn about healthy money habits, build simple machines, and interact with science, technology, engineering, and math learning stations. Groups of ten or more visitors are encouraged to make reservations ahead of time.

Raleigh, NC, United States
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