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5 Raleigh area hidden gems to visit

One hidden gem you might not have seen even if you’ve visited NCMA Museum Park dozens of times.

We know the Raleigh area is an amazing place to live. At the intersection of must-see experiences and can’t-believe-it’s-here locales is this list.

Inspired by your feedback on local exploration, we’ve compiled this list of five Raleigh area hidden gems.

JC Raulston Arboretum

💎 Why it’s a hidden gem: While the NC State garden is nationally known, its location two miles west of the main campus inspires a deliberate trip that’s still close to most of Raleigh.

💬 What you said: Reader Lynne T. recommended this spot because “Beyond the beauty of nature, this gem is free!”

📍 Location: 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh

What to experience: Visit the large collection of plants adapted for use in Southeastern landscapes, with special attention given to plants adapted for our local Piedmont North Carolina climate, and beyond.

Start at the Wilder Visitor Center and pick up a map or ask questions. Get inspired with drought-tolerant plants in the Xeric and Scree gardens or get an elevated view from the A. E. Finley Rooftop Terrace.

The Asian Valley Garden will introduce you to new species of plants while the Conifers Garden shows the range of conifers (think trees with pinecones).

Park Pictures at NCMA’s Museum Park

💎 Why it’s a hidden gem: You may visit the NC Museum of Art’s Museum Park dozens of times and not know this installation.

📍 Location: The NCMA address is 2110 Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh. It’s also accessible from the Capital Area Greenway, and this particular series runs along the Reedy Creek Trail section of the park. [map]

What to experience: Three billboards alternate with different artists’ work printed on vinyl banners.

This installation, Untitled by Moataz Nassar, represents ‘the beauty of contradiction, [things] separate yet connected.’

Artists can submit their ideas for consideration in the next installation before Oct. 1 here.

Another another hidden gem along the Woodland Trail is currently closed for renovations. The Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky, a small cottage-looking installation. For now, you can view a video:

Saint Agnes Hospital

Photo courtesy of @leslieshoots

💎 Why it’s a hidden gem: Saint Agnes Hospital is a monument to local Black history and excellence.

The hospital provided care to Black patients and trained Black nurses for 65 years. Known for its quality standards, it drew patients from across the Southeast.

Saint Agnes Hospital, which operated from 1896 -1961, served anyone who showed up at their door, regardless of economic situation or race, would be served. 

📍 Location: 1315 Oakwood Ave., Saint Augustine’s University, Raleigh

What to experience: While you can’t go inside, the exterior of the building is visible from outside the gates.

READ MORE: 8 places to see Black history in Raleigh

Escazú Chocolates

💎 Why it’s a hidden gem: Raleigh is known for its food scene, and award-winning Escazú Chocolates is a small batch bean-to-bar operation tucked in a neighborhood near the heart of Downtown Raleigh.

📍 Location: 936 North Blount Street, Raleigh.

What to experience: The chocolate (of course), but also the stories and a global craft made local.

Seasonal specials, like ice cream confections in the summer, are always a good bet, too.

The shop recently re-opened after renovations.

Crude Bitters’ The Bittery

💎 Why it’s a hidden gem: Crude Bitters is a nationally-known cocktail bitters company — yet this Raleigh-based business is accessible to locals in a small pink building in Downtown Raleigh.

📍 Location: 501 East Davie Street, Raleigh

What to experience: Take a class to learn craft cocktail making from the experts. A few classes are coming up in September for Negroni week, or check their classes list here. Participants must be fully vaccinated and 21+.

💬 What else would you add to this list? Email editor@raleighconvergence.com.
🌳 READ MORE: 5 Wake County outdoor activities to explore

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Author: raleighconvergence

Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen is the editor of Raleigh Convergence.

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