One of the big downtown attractions is the Museum of Natural Sciences. Some of the wildlife facts you will read here make North Carolina pretty significant. For example, the only place in North America that emerald is mined is here, which is actually rarer then gold. We also have the highest density of salamander species then anywhere else on earth.
The museum has four floors of exhibits covering the piedmont, mountains, and the coast. What looks to be the main attraction here is the Acrocanthosaurus skeleton on the third floor. The skeleton and the skull are the most complete ones ever found. The real skull is not in the picture below but housed in a display case right outside. Make sure and see this exhibit next time you are there.
Admission is FREE!
Hours: Mon-Sat: 9 am – 5 pm
Sun: noon – 5 pm
Address: 11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC 27601
The trolleys cruise around downtown every weekend but I get the feeling that most are reluctant to ride because of the lack of info. Well allow me to try and sort the trolley situation out and point you in the right direction. Downtown Raleigh has two different trolleys; the showtime trolley and the historic Raleigh trolley tour.
Jump straight to the city’s website for their breakdown
The showtime trolley is great for those that are pairing up dinner and a show at the performing arts center. This trolley is in a bit of a funk however; the trolley cannot go down Fayetteville St. because of construction. Take a look at the route and see if you can use it during your next weekend excursion.
Historic Raleigh Trolley Tour
The historic tour runs every Saturday and for a small fee, you can ride around downtown while brushing up on your Raleigh history. The narrated tour is about 45 minutes long starting on the hour between 11 am and 2 pm. There are 6 stops along the route for you to board. The city even has a video about the tour.
A couple things I noticed that could make this experience better:
You are asked to flag down the showtime trolley when you want a ride. I think if it stopped at certain destinations no matter what, it would be more inviting and people would actually ride.
There should be space cleared for the trolleys to stop. For example, the picture below shows the City Market stop. Three parking spots use up a great space that could be a trolley stop. Get the cars out of there when trolleys are running and have them pull right up to the curb.
The routes desperately need better signs; more of them also. The signs look small, cheap, and just like all the other parking/traffic signs out there. There is lots of room for creativity here. For example back to my city market picture, the historic trolley stop is on the left and the showtime is on the right. Get rid of them and hang a nice sign from the awning. We could then place a tasteful map nearby, just like the map that is out there of city market (that needs a makeover by the way but that is for another day).
As for the ride itself, I still have not experienced it for myself. Please comment if you have been on one of the trolleys.
I recently threw up a post about a segway shop opening in downtown. After hearing that Triangle Segway had opened their doors I went over to their shop in City Market to see these two-wheeled gizmos in action. Owners Todd and Sandy moved to Raleigh from California and have brought something new to our list of downtown entertainment options. I want to thank them for letting me ride one around. I had never ridden one before but I picked up on it easily and within minutes was doing figure eights in the store.
Segways are the perfect way to explore downtown. You miss a lot when inside a car or bus and walking can get time consuming, plus only the most hardcore walkers could pull off seeing it all in one day. These actually make the ridiculous walking tour doable, which took me four or five walking trips to get all of the pictures. With a segway, I could have knocked it out in an afternoon.
I’m rounding up a crew to go out and do the tour so I’ll post my experience afterwards. If anyone has done it, please comment. Leading the tour is a local resident with, how Sandy put it, “an encyclopedia of knowledge” about the area. If you are in City Market just stop in and give it a try. It will win you over like it did me. Oh right, they also sell these things too. The details:
Tour highlights: Fayetteville St., State Capitol, Governor’s Mansion, Oakwood and Mordecai.
Hours: Tues-Sun 11am and 2pm. Reservations Required.
Price: 2 hour tour for $55 a person
327 Blake St.
Raleigh, NC 27601
We are finally here, the conclusion to the Downtown Raleigh Walking Tour. [UPDATE: broken link] This last leg takes people out of the Blount Street Commons area and down Hillsborough and surrounding streets. The tour also lists some ‘honorable mention’ sites that could deserve a stop on any walking route.
I honestly think that the walking tour needs some work, with multiple versions listed out. Historic homes should have their own route. A brief tour with the most notable 15-20 stops should also be listed alongside the full out route of 60+ stops. I also think that more literature should be easily available about the history of each stop. Some would find it very enjoyable.
51. Bailey-Bunn House (1922)
52. Raleigh and Gaston/Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Building (c. 1862)
53. North Carolina School for the Blind and Deaf Dormitory (1898)
54. Edenton Street United Methodist Church (1958)
55. Dr. Andrew Watson Goodwin House (1903)
56. Sacred Heart Cathedral (1924)
57. All Saints Chapel of the Church of the Good Shepherd (1875)
58. Raleigh Water Tower (1887)
59. Raleigh Police Headquarters and Municipal Building (1960/1983)
60. Nash Square (1792)
61. Dodd-Hinsdale House (1879)
62. St. Paul A.M.E. Church (1910)
63. Elmwood (c. 1813)
64. Tucker Carriage House (Late 19th Century)
The walking tour continues in the Blount St. area around the future Blount Street Commons. BSC may cause some of these houses to move so the walking tour will have to be updated later. Actually, I think the walking tour needs major work with more interactive features online, history, and lots of pictures/media. (RalCon idea?????) This is the second to last set of pictures so we’re nearing the end. Enjoy!
41. Merrimon House/Wynne Hall (1876)
42. Peace College Main Building (c. 1860)
43. Dr. Hubert Benbury Haywood House (1916)
44. Leonidas L. Polk House (1881)
45. Gray-Fish-Richardson House (1881)
46. Capehart House (1898)
47. Lee House (1899)
48. Murphey School (1916)
49. Tucker House (1915)
50. Hawkins-Hartness House (c. 1882)
The walking tour starts to take us out of the core downtown district and past some of the more historic homes of Raleigh. The Blount Street Commons project will greatly affect this area of the tour with parking lots being ripped up and developed and houses renovated or even moved.
31. First Baptist Church (1859)
32. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (2000)
33. State Legislative Building (1963)
34. Executive Mansion (1891)
35. Andrews-London House (1918)
36. Heck-Andrews House (1870)
37. Henry Clay Oak (marker)
38. Andrews-Duncan House (1874)
39. Higgs-Coble-Helms House (1878)
40. Lewis-Smith House (1855)
Here is the third set of 10 pictures from the Downtown Raleigh Walking Tour. You can really tell how different the pictures look in the winter then if taken in the summer. When the trees have their leaves, they block most of the sites and it is hard to get the whole building into the frame. Most of these pictures were also taken by my much smaller camera, with no zoom by the way, so the picture quality is modest. The newer ones that I am taking now are with a much better camera. The State Bank was a tough one because it had trees in the way, plus its in a difficult location.
I may wait a month or so for the leaves to fall before I continue taking pictures of the walking tour. I think I prefer the pictures to be without any leaves obstructing the view. What do you prefer?
21. Horton-Beckham-Bretsch House (c. 1890)
22. White-Holman House, “White Hall” (c. 1799)
23. Montgomery House (1906)
24. Haywood Hall (c. 1799)
25. State Bank of North Carolina (1833)
26. Christ Episcopal Church (1854)
27. Richard B. Haywood House (1854)
28. North Carolina Museum of History (1994)
29. Agriculture Building (1923)
30. Labor Building (1888)
Here are the next 10 stops on the downtown walking tour. The Moore Square and Helig-Levine pics are more recent. I had put HL off due to construction this past winter. Also, the park looks better in the summer then in January.
Should the convention center really be included in the downtown walking tour? The RCC is a great example of Raleigh’s revitalization and it could be argued that it is leading the way for a new downtown in the near future. But the convention center is just too new, with no real history yet. I think it should be taken off. Anyone have any thoughts?
11. Raleigh Convention and Conference Center (under construction)
12. Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts & Memorial Auditorium
13. Shaw University (founded 1865)
14. Rogers-Bagley-Daniels-Pegues House (c. 1855)
15. City Market (1914)
16. Moore Square (est. 1792)
17. Tabernacle Baptist Church (1881-1909)
18. Exploris (1999, Now Marbles Museum)
19. Montague Building (1912)
20. Heilig-Levine Building (c. 1870, Under Renovation)