Fall semester is right around the corner and if you’ll be attending college in Raleigh, you’re in for a great time. Raleigh is a bustling town that boasts the feel of a big city but with a touch of Southern charm. Raleigh even landed itself on WalletHub’s list of best college towns thanks to its “wallet friendliness,” academic opportunities, and social environment—and rightly so!
The capital of North Carolina is known for being one of the most affordable college towns in the U.S., and with 12 different schools in the area, the city is home to an endless number of fun things to do for college students. From visiting a cloud chamber (you read that right) to the infamous mural you must snap at least one selfie in front of, if you’re a student living in Raleigh, get ready to add these to your college bucket list.
1. Stroll Through Sunflowers at Dorothea Dix Park
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after doing 20 (that’s right, TWENTY) photo sessions in the past 2 weeks, I finally got my own sunflower pic 🌻 now please excuse me while i continue to spend all day & night editing all these photos so i can enjoy my beach vacation this week! 😴 pls send coffee & new eyeballs 😵
Need a little sunshine in your life? Head to Dorothea Dix Park, the largest city park in Raleigh! The 308-acre park hosts events year-round, but some student-favorites are the weekly group exercise classes and movie nights, both of which are completely free. This is the perfect activity for you if you’re running out of date ideas! If events aren’t your thing, students love coming here to walk or jog or for impromptu park hangs (hello, squad picnics).
One of the best things to do at Dorothea Dix Park, though, is to stroll through the five acres of sunflowers. The sunflowers typically start blooming in July and make for the most enviable Instagram backdrop you could imagine.
2. Have the Ultimate Game Night at Boxcar Bar + Arcade
It’s always a good sign when a business has ‘bar’ and ‘arcade’ in its name, right? Whether you’re a gaming novice or can play Fortnite in your sleep, Boxcar Bar + Arcade is one of Raleigh’s most fun spots for college students. This is also the perfect spot to live out your How I Met Your Mother fantasies by hanging out with your buddies, as some would describe this bar as legen…wait for it…dary!
Located in Raleigh’s downtown Warehouse District, Boxcar Bar + Arcade is home to hundreds of arcade-style games, including more than 70 classic and modern arcade cabinets, a dozen pinball machines, and over 175 console games. Those 21 and up can enjoy a full liquor bar with 24 constantly rotating American craft drafts (all offered at student-friendly prices). But don’t worry if you aren’t of drinking age yet. You can still play all the amazing games here!
Flex your gaming skills at Boxcar Bar + Arcade’s weekly free tournaments, enjoy live music on the covered patio, or just head on down whenever you want to relax with your friends at an affordable dive. Be sure to bookmark the events calendar to see what drink specials and other fun stuff they’ve got lined up.
3. Shop Under the Twinkling Lights at the Raleigh Night Market
Looking for fun things students can do in Raleigh that are a little more mellow? Look no further than the Raleigh Night Market. Located in historic City Market, the Raleigh Night Market showcases locally made goods from a variety of vendors, all nestled under beautiful, twinkling lights along the cobblestone streets. In addition to locally made goods, you’ll find live music and a stacked offering of food and drink options. The market is currently open from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. once per month, so be sure to check out their official calendar so you can save the date! Everyone should indulge in some good old retail therapy from time to time, right?
4. Visit One of the Best Brunch Spots in Raleigh
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If you’re into local fare (or just great food in general), you’ll have no shortage of amazing food options throughout Raleigh. One of our favorites, though, is the Irregardless Café.
Irregardless Café offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but college students especially enjoy brunch here. The farm-to-table café serves mouthwatering brunch options like a wild mushroom and goat cheese omelet, smoked beef brisket potato hash, and award-winning banana walnut pancakes. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, they offer plenty of options like a seitan Rueben, black bean burger wrap, and garden tofu scramble. This is the spot you’ll want to bring all your friends on Sunday morning after a Saturday night out on the town. Pro tip: head to their website and sign up for their emails. You’ll get a complimentary bottle of wine on your birthday when you do!
5. Visit the Cloud Chamber at North Carolina Museum of Art
No, this isn’t a scene out of Lord of the Rings, it’s the Cloud Chamber at the North Carolina Museum of Art. What is it you ask? The Cloud Chamber is a hut made of stone blocks that resembles an igloo…and it does something really cool. Enter through the door and you’ll find a light-tight chamber that only allows illumination through a small hole in the roof, which acts as a camera obscura. The result is a medieval optics trick that projects a mirror image of the area outside inside. When you’re inside the Cloud Chamber, it looks as if there are trees, a blue sky, and clouds projected across the white cement walls (how cool is that?!). The Cloud Chamber is truly a one-of-a-kind experience, and one of the most fun things to do in Raleigh for college students, so be sure to visit at least once and literally experience what Cloud 9 feels like!
6. Get Your Climb on at Triangle Rock Club
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We’re still accepting volunteers for the USAC Regionals Competition on Dec. 8 and 9 at our Raleigh location! Volunteer roles include, but are not limited to: working the sign-in table, spotting, and judging. Morning and afternoon volunteer shifts available. Receive a $25 gift card for each volunteer shift! For more details and to register, email Programs Manager Allie Nguyen at [email protected]
Looking to finally start completing your fitness new years resolution that you made five years ago? The Triangle Rock Club has got you covered. This facility for indoor rock climbing is not only worth the workout but it’s also visually stunning. Whether you’re a seasoned climber or looking to try something new, Triangle Rock Club’s facilities offer incredible experiences for everyone. Students flock to this climbing gym for discounted college night passes, which are offered Monday through Thursdays, 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.
7. Catch a Play at Raleigh Little Theater
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Summer fun traditionally means trips to the beach or a local park, working on your tan while enjoying a picnic with family and friends. ☀️ But there’s plenty of fun to be had in the dark as well. Grab your popcorn and let’s go to the movies! 🍿 Raleigh Little Theater is an outdoor venue showing family-friendly movies this summer. Catch FREE movies on Thursday evenings from July 11th through August 8th, with food 🌮 and alcoholic beverages 🥂 available. 📸: @rlt1936
Do you have a soft spot for theater? Whether you catch a play, musical, or another live performance, Raleigh Little Theater will not disappoint. Something really cool about Raleigh Little Theater is that it is one of the nation’s longest-running community theatres. Open since 1936, Raleigh Little Theater has events almost daily, including comedies, dramas, musicals, and more. The theater also hosts ‘Movie in the Garden’ each Thursday night throughout July and August in the Stephenson Amphitheater. Best of all? The movies are free! Gather your squad, grab a blanket, and enjoy a movie in the summer air.
8. Treasure Hunt at the Raleigh Flea Market
If thrifting is your jam, add the Raleigh Flea Market to your list of must-visit places in Raleigh. Open since 1971, the Raleigh Flea Market is a longtime favorite amongst treasure hunters, drawing a cool 2.4 million visitors each year. With more than 600 vendors selling everything from Afghan wall hangings, bicycles, and comic books to pottery, records, and tents, if you’re looking for something…it’s probably here! And since this may be your first time living in your own place, we can’t think of a better spot to find unique (and affordable) décor for your new home. Bring out your inner Shopaholic and indulge in the most epic shopping spree of all time!
9. Grab a Drink at the Raleigh Beer Garden (and Order This Epic Charcuterie Board)
Our list of fun things to do in Raleigh for college students wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention this beer garden! The Raleigh Beer Garden offers the world’s largest draft beer selection in a single restaurant, with more than 350 beers on tap (seriously, it holds a Guinness World Record).
Located downtown in the Glenwood South district, the Raleigh Beer Garden has plenty of outdoor space, including a rooftop garden with ample seating, making it the perfect warm-weather hangout. And this beer garden does more than just beer—the full dining menu includes everything from handcrafted pizzas to epic cheese and charcuterie boards.
10. Snap a Photo in Front of the ‘All Are Welcome’ Mural
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What makes Raleigh, N.C., a special place? The people. Artists, athletes, creative-class innovators, business and tech workers, students and educators. People from all walks of life, with different backgrounds and futures, have made Raleigh an incredible place to visit, coming together to create and share enriching experiences. This mural from artist @lukebuch rings true. All are welcome. #allarewelcomehere #visitRaleigh
Raleigh is full of great artwork and murals from local artists, but one of our favorites is the ‘All Are Welcome’ mural by Luke Buchanan. We love this beautiful piece because it represents what Raleigh is all about. Whether you’re a local or international student studying in the U.S. for the first time, everyone is welcome here.
Located in downtown Raleigh by Poole’s Diner and the Red Hat Amphitheater, it’s not unlikely to see at least one person posing in front of the colorful script. It’s also no surprise that it’s one of the most Instagrammable spots in the city, so make sure you and your friends get at least one picture in front of the mural before you graduate!
Have You Found Your Student Housing in Raleigh?
Now that you know 10 of the most fun things to do in Raleigh for college students, have you locked down where you’ll be living? If you’re still looking for an apartment near NCSU or another one of Raleigh’s schools, Unilodgers makes your search easy. Whether you’ll be living solo or living with a roommate, we offer a variety of student housing options with enviable amenities all near Raleigh’s leading schools.
Unilodgers is the world’s leading platform to book student accommodations and serves over 1.1 million students from over 166 countries every year. We provide students exclusive offers on student housing options and make it easy to book the accommodation that’s the best fit for you.