Raleigh Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Raleigh

Dubbed the "City of Oaks" for their abundance, Raleigh - the capital of North Carolina - is known mostly for its universities, technology and scholarly institutions surrounding the city, forming the so-called Research Triangle. The city's cultural resources, however, are just as plentiful and include a number of historical buildings, museums, art venues and architectural sights. To explore this side of Raleigh, follow this orientation walk.
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Raleigh Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Raleigh Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Raleigh (See other walking tours in Raleigh)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: karenv
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Raleigh Convention Center (Shimmer Wall)
  • Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
  • Estey Hall
  • Pope House Museum
  • Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel
  • Raleigh City Museum
  • Raleigh Water Tower
  • North Carolina State Capitol
  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
  • North Carolina Executive Mansion
  • Heck-Andrews House
  • Mordecai House
1
Raleigh Convention Center (Shimmer Wall)

1) Raleigh Convention Center (Shimmer Wall)

The Raleigh Convention Center is a convention and exhibition facility in downtown that opened in September 2008. Located at the end of Fayetteville Street, the three-level 500,000-square-foot building contains a 150,000-square-foot exhibit hall, twenty meeting rooms and a 32,000-square-foot ballroom. Extensive acoustics work was performed to not only provide sound isolation between adjacent activities within the center, but also to control noise output to the surrounding community.

The west-facing wall of the new convention center boasts a large public art piece called the 'Shimmer Wall' that contains metal plates in the form of an oak tree backed by LED lights. The oak tree represents Raleigh's nickname, the 'City of Oaks'. The Shimmer Wall is a very impressive piece of art, measuring 210 feet wide and 44 feet tall that flutter and shimmer in the wind. The Shimmer Wall is well worth a visit if you are in downtown Raleigh.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts

2) Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts (must see)

Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts is the main venue for the performing arts in Raleigh. The center consists of: Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, Meymandi Concert Hall, A. J. Fletcher Opera Theater, Kennedy Theater, Lichtin Plaza. Raleigh Memorial Auditorium opened in 1932 to replace the city's original 1912 City Auditorium, which was burned in 1930.

Situated downtown at the southern end of Fayetteville Street, the Greek Revival structure is an architectural complement to the North Carolina State Capitol. Following minor improvements in 1963 and 1977, the auditorium was renovated extensively in 1990, with the notable addition of an external modern glass concourse and lobby. The venue seats 2,277 and most often hosts large musical theater productions.

Meymandi Concert Hall seats 1,700 in the classic shoebox configuration. It is the home of the North Carolina Symphony. Named for the mother of Raleigh physician and philanthropist Dr. Assad Meymandi, the facility has excellent acoustics. Fletcher Opera Theater seats 600. The theater is named in honor of Alfred Johnston Fletcher (1887-1979), a pioneer of television broadcasting in Raleigh. Seating 150, the Kennedy Theater offers a 40x60-foot black-box space for nontraditional performances and experimental theater. It is named for longtime Raleigh theater patron K.D. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Sara Lynn. Lichtin Plaza is the 2-acre lawn fronting the Progress Energy Center.The plaza is named for Harold Lichtin, a prominent regional commercial real estate developer.
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Estey Hall

3) Estey Hall

Estey Hall is a historic building on the campus of Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was the first building constructed for the higher education of African-American women in the United States. Built in 1873, Estey Hall is the oldest surviving building at Shaw, which is the oldest historically black college in the South and was the first institution of higher learning established for freedmen after the Civil War.

When Shaw first opened, women were not allowed to attend the school. After a few years the school became coeducational, creating a need for a women's facility. School administrators chose G. S. H. Appleget, architect of large homes in Raleigh including the Heck-Andrews House, to design the new building. The result was a four-story brick building with a cross-gable roof topped off with a frame cupola. In 1882, the three-story south annex was added. Estey Hall contained the home economics, music, art, and religion classes.

Estey Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and is a Raleigh Historic Landmark.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Pope House Museum

4) Pope House Museum

The Pope House Museum, built in 1901, is a restored home once owned by Dr. M.T. Pope, a prominent African-American citizen of Raleigh. Pope installed the latest technology in his home, including combination gas and electric fixtures, a kitchen with running water, a full bathroom on the second floor, coal burning heating stoves, and a telephone. He also installed a call bell system, with buttons in each room and an annunciator in the back hall. Pope began to see patients in the house during the 1920s and 1930s, when his health began to fail. The small area at the rear of the back hall, adjacent to the kitchen, was configured to include a small hand sink and built-in cabinet for instruments.

Although the Pope House remains in the neighborhood, the area around it has dramatically changed. Older homes and businesses were replaced with office buildings, parking lots and newer homes. The most evident change was the construction of the Raleigh Convention Center directly across the street from the house. Today, the house is in the shadows of skyscrapers that were built in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Pope House was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 22, 1999. The following month the trustees of the Pope Charitable Foundation decided to begin the process of turning the house into a museum. One month later, The Pope House Museum Foundation was incorporated as a non-profit organization. The extensive family papers were sorted and catalogued, and donated to the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Opening hours: Saturday: 10 am - 3 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel

5) Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel

The Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel is the oldest surviving hotel building in Raleigh. Constructed between 1923 and 1924 on Fayetteville Street and named after Sir Walter Raleigh, the hotel was nicknamed North Carolina’s “third house of government,” due to its location and being a focal point for state political activity until the 1960s. The Sir Walter Raleigh is typical of hotels of the 1920s. It is a 10-story imposing L-shaped building primarily made of brick, with classical stone ornamentation at the street and roof levels. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 11, 1978.

The hotel received its first guests in January 1924 and at the time, the Sir Walter was the largest building in the southern portion of Raleigh's business district. The hotel became the unofficial headquarters of the North Carolina Democratic Party, at the time the dominant political force in the state. By 1925, the Sir Walter was home to over 80 percent of the state legislature. In addition to legislators, the hotel was home to lobbyists, aides, jurors, newspapermen, businessmen and other influential individuals over the next three decades.

The Great Depression forced the building’s owners into bankruptcy in 1934. The hotel was leased to the North State Hotel Company in 1935 and fully renovated. After the company added 50 rooms in 1938, the hotel became the largest in the state and gave the Sir Walter a reputation as one of North Carolina’s top convention hotels.

By 1975, as downtown Raleigh decayed and demand for hotel rooms plummeted, the majority of the building had been converted to offices for the North Carolina Department of Transportation and other businesses. The building was sold to Goldsboro developer David Weil in 1978 and converted into the Sir Walter Apartments, housing 140 apartments for seniors. It was sold in 2017 to an Ohio-based developer who plans to restore it, possibly returning it to use as a hotel, offices or apartments.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Raleigh City Museum

6) Raleigh City Museum (must see)

Raleigh City Museum is a great for learning the history and highlights of the city. The different displays are very informative and educational. Everything here is well organized and curated. The museum has free admission and is definitely worth the trip to check it out.

The Raleigh City Museum is a local history museum located in the historic Briggs Hardware Building on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh and has a number of exhibits and programs that are free to the public. The Raleigh City Museum grew out of the dream of Raleigh historian Beth Crabtree and after her death, the vision and perseverance of Mary Cates. It was in 1990 that Mary Cates began bringing together a group of advocates for a Raleigh City Museum.

In 1991 widespread support was shown for the museum and initial steps were taken toward making the dream a reality. In 1993 the museum opened its first exhibit in the Borden Building in Fred Fletcher Park. In 1998 the museum moved to the first floor of the newly restored Briggs Hardware Building on Fayetteville Street in the heart of downtown Raleigh. It has continued to serve at that location ever since.

The museum is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and interpreting the history of Raleigh, North Carolina's capital city. The museum offers a variety of exhibits and educational programs on various aspects of the history of the city. It also maintains an extensive collection of Raleigh photographs and artifacts as a part of its service to the city.

Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 9am-4pm; Sunday: 1pm-4pm; Closed Monday;
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Raleigh Water Tower

7) Raleigh Water Tower

The Raleigh Water Tower is a historic building that was the first water tower built in Raleigh. Constructed in 1887, the City of Raleigh relied on the tower for 37 years until it was decommissioned in 1924. The Raleigh Water Tower was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and is a Raleigh Historic Landmark.

Before construction of the tower, most water in Raleigh came from private wells and cisterns. In the 1880s a municipal system was developed to address concerns of water quality. Water from Walnut Creek was drawn by a private company and was carried from a dam by pipes to a nearby pumping station. Water was forced by steam pumps through sand filters, and either into a reservoir on site or through pipes to the water tower downtown. A 100,000 gallon water tank sat on top of the octagonal tower.

By the beginning of the 20th century the water system was supplying the entire city, however, the increasing population of Raleigh created a need for more water supply. In 1913, the city bought the facility and built a larger dam upstream, removing the one built in 1887. By 1924 the water tower had been abandoned and its tank removed. Raleigh architect William Henley Deitrick purchased the facility in 1938 and converted the aging tower into an office building. Since then the building has been used as offices by various companies.
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
North Carolina State Capitol

8) North Carolina State Capitol (must see)

The North Carolina State Capitol is the former seat of the legislature of the U.S. state of North Carolina which housed all of the state's government until 1888. The Supreme Court and State Library moved into a separate building in 1888, and the General Assembly moved into the State Legislative Building in 1963. Today, the governor and their immediate staff occupy offices on the first floor of the Capitol.

The building was built following the destruction by fire of the first North Carolina State House in 1831, and today houses the offices of the Governor of North Carolina. It is located on Union Square at One East Edenton Street in Raleigh. The cornerstone of the Greek Revival building was laid with Masonic honors by the Grand Master of North Carolina Masons Simmons Jones Baker on July 4, 1833. Construction was completed in 1840.

The Capitol remains largely unaltered from its 1840 state. Only three rooms have been significantly altered through remodeling: the two committee rooms in the east and west wings of the second floor, which were divided horizontally to provide space for restrooms, and the office in the east wing of the first floor, part of which had to be cut away to permit space for an elevator to be installed in 1951. The Capitol was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973.
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

9) North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (must see)

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS) is located in Raleigh, North Carolina as the oldest established museum in North Carolina and the largest museum of its kind in the Southeastern United States. With about 1.2 million visitors annually, as of 2013 it was the state's most popular museum or historic destination among visitors.

The North Carolina State Museum was created in 1879, by combining two existing state-owned collections of geologic and agricultural specimens. The museum was originally housed in the Briggs building on Fayetteville Street. The museum's collections, outreach and education programs, and status grew over the next 60 years. The collection now contains more than 1.7 million specimens of amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish, mammals, invertebrates, invertebrate and vertebrate fossils, plants, geology, and meteorites. No matter what your age, there is something in this museum to enjoy.

The admission is free. Opening hours: Monday–Saturday: 9am–5pm; Sunday: noon–5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
North Carolina Executive Mansion

10) North Carolina Executive Mansion (must see)

The North Carolina Executive Mansion is the official residence of the Governor of North Carolina and his or her family. Building began in the year 1883 and it was designed by noted architects Samuel Sloan and A.G. Bauer. It is an example of Queen Anne style architecture. The bricks for the house were made from Wake County clay and molded by prison labor. Many of these bricks, particularly in the sidewalks surrounding the house, still bear the inscribed names of the men who made them.

Since its initial construction in 1882, few major changes have been made to the building's exterior. Porches on the north and east sides have been enclosed to expand kitchen and security facilities. During her tenure as first lady, Jeanelle C. Moore (wife of Dan K. Moore) began a campaign for public awareness of the mansion's historic and cultural significance. In 1970, the mansion was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Sight description based on wikipedia
11
Heck-Andrews House

11) Heck-Andrews House

The Heck-Andrews House, located on North Blount Street, was finished in 1870 and was one of the first houses in Raleigh to be constructed after the American Civil War. It was created by G.S.H. Appleget for Mrs.Mattie Heck, the wife of Colonel Jonathan McGee Heck. The architectural design is of French influence and is called Second Empire that became popular after 1865. The house has a dramatic central tower capped with a convex mansard roof with a balustrade. The central part of the house is enclosed with a concave mansard roof with patterned slate.

The house was owned by the Heck family until 1916 and was sold to A.B. Andrews. In 1948, Andrews heir sold the house to Julia Russell. The North Carolina government bought the house in 1987 planning to refurbish the structure. The exterior refurbishment was completed, however the State sold the house to the North Carolina Association of Realtors in January 2016 who plan on using it as an office building.

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
Sight description based on wikipedia
12
Mordecai House

12) Mordecai House (must see)

The Mordecai House, built in 1785, is a registered historical landmark and museum in Raleigh that is the centerpiece of Mordecai Historic Park, right outside the Historic Oakwood neighborhood. It is the oldest residence in Raleigh on its original foundation.The oldest portion of the house was built by Joel Lane for his son, Henry.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, portions of land owned by the Mordecai family helped Raleigh's expansion as a city. In 1867, George Washington Mordecai donated land east of the city to establish a Confederate cemetery and another plot became Wake County's first Hebrew Cemetery. The adjacent Oakwood Cemetery, chartered in 1869, eventually lent its name to the large suburb that developed in the adjoining wooded land, earlier known as Mordecai Grove. In 1974, Oakwood became the first neighborhood in Raleigh to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Property owned by the Mordecai family continued until 1967, when the house and its surrounding block were put on the market. Local preservationists protested and the city purchased the property, turning it over to the Raleigh Historic Sites Commission to supervise and develop as a historic park. Mordecai Square Historic Park is now managed by the City of Raleigh's Parks and Recreation Department. The Mordecai House is a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Raleigh, North Carolina

Create Your Own Walk in Raleigh

Create Your Own Walk in Raleigh

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
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Top Religious Sites

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Raleigh's Downtown Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 Km or 2.7 Miles