The 8 Coolest Places to Explore in the Triangle

From lemurs and bees to steam engines and scientific research centers, these Triangle treasures offer diverse experiences for all interests and ages.

Get a flavor for the Triangle's diversity by visiting some of its unique places, which reflect the residents' tastes and interests — from art to research to conservation.

New Hope Valley Railway

Chug back into the past by catching a train at the New Hope Valley Railway in Bonsal, 30 minutes southwest of downtown Raleigh. Travel through woods and over a trestle during a one-hour round-trip ride, rolling across track that once transported timber, cotton, corn and tobacco statewide. Visitors can learn about railroad history and visit the outdoor North Carolina Railroad Museum. Visit for more information.

New Hope Valley Railroad
New Hope Valley Railroad in Bonsal, North Carolina. (Courtesy New Hope Valley Railroad)


Duke Lemur Center

Learn about conservation at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, home to the world's largest and most diverse collection of lemurs outside of Madagascar, where their habitat is being destroyed or overtaken by humans. Lemurs are the most endangered mammals on the planet, but the center is working to change that trajectory. Although its focus is research and biological conservation, the center welcomes visitors year-round for guided tours to observe 10 species of these creatures. Learn more about setting up a tour at

Bayer's Bee Care Center

Bayer CropScience's North American Bee Care Center, which opened last year in Research Triangle Park, is a hub for cutting-edge research on honeybees. The $3.4 million facility brings together entomologists, apiarists, graduate researchers and other experts to improve bee health while offering tours to anyone interested in learning about bees up close in a safe environment. The tour features interactive stations, videos and a honey-tasting bar. A high point — except during the winter — is watching a beekeeper find a queen bee and locate honey. Sign up for tours at

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Head to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the largest museum of its kind in the Southeast, for four floors of interactive exhibits and live animals in downtown Raleigh. The museum's newest wing, the Nature Research Center, features labs where scientists conduct research while visitors watch through floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Visitors can hear from scientists about topics ranging from bugs and snakes to celestial bodies. The center's SECU Daily Planet multimedia space presents live programming and breaking science news on a 40-by-40-foot, high-definition screen. 

Duke Gardens

Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a 55-acre complex of public botanical gardens that first opened in April 1939, blooms beautifully for all to see on the campus of Duke University in Durham. The early gardens are considered the greatest work of Ellen Biddle Shipman, a pioneer in American landscape design. The Italianate-style terraces of the "Historic Gardens" have since been joined by the H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, the W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum and the Doris Duke Center Gardens. 


American Tobacco Campus

Step onto the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham to see the fruits of the New South rising from the old. Where abandoned tobacco warehouses once stood decaying, crowds now flock to shops, restaurants and live entertainment. While the complex retains its historic Lucky Strike tower, elements such as rushing channels of water and beautiful landscaping give it new life and sounds. Catch a free outdoor concert during summer or pass through on your way to the nearby Durham Performing Arts Center or Durham Bulls Athletic Park. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Park

Visit the North Carolina Museum of Art Park in Raleigh to see a landscape of unusual outdoor art while getting a workout by bike or on foot. The park features unusual works — some of colossal size, others that invite play. From gigantic legs lying on the ground to monumental ring sculptures to a shelter that takes pictures of the sky on its floor, the art reflects the work of creative minds. 

Historic Krispy Kreme and Krispy Kreme Challenge

Satisfy your sweet tooth the way Triangle residents have done for 75-plus years with a visit to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, which was founded in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1937, and also hosts a popular run every February known as the Krispy Kreme Challenge

You can always pick up a dozen in most area supermarkets, but nothing beats watching—and smelling—Krispy Kreme Original Glazed donuts roll out of the oven at the stores in downtown Raleigh and downtown Durham.