Update: This post is current as of 2018.

We have a few favorite things to do and places to eat if you’re headed for Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh, called the City of Oaks for a reason, is a very cool destination. In fact, we are headed there this year for the race.

The city is full of restaurants to write home about, high quality museums, shopping in North Hills or Cameron Village, live music venues, and outdoor fun. The main street in downtown Raleigh is Fayetteville. Many of the restaurants are on Open Table, so you can make reservations easily. We hope you get to either come early or stay late to enjoy what the area has to offer.


  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (11 W. Jones St.) – North Carolina’s oldest museum and the largest of its kind in the Southeast. It features dinosaurs, whale skeletons, live animals and so much more. A current special exhibit is An American Adventure where you can take a trip back to Colonial American and work your way through interactive galleries to live life circa 1607. Tickets can be purchased on-line.
what to do in raleigh north carolina

Photo courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

  • Pullen Park(520 Ashe Ave.) – This beautiful park offers fun recreational activities for everyone. It has a great playground for the kids. Take the train around the park and people watch or enjoy the carousel and boat rides. Your pick.
  • North Carolina Museum of Art (2110 Blue Ridge Rd.) – One of the premier art museums in the Southeast. They feature a wide variety of art dating back 5,000 years and boast the nations’ largest museum park, with 164 acres of trails and parkland containing major works of art. Check their schedule for summer movies, outdoor concerts, and special exhibits.
  • William B. Umstead State Park (8801 Glenwood Ave.) – A luxuriously tranquil landscape, with campgrounds and ample trails for natural excursions, such as hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Just in case you didn’t get enough exercise in racing or spectating!
  • City Market – This quaint shopping area is about 3 blocks away from Fayetteville St. and is undergoing a renaissance. It has cobblestone streets that offer a very different feel from the rest of the area, with restaurants, art galleries, and quaint shops. They have a Farmer’s Market and lots of special events, so check the website. On June 3, they are holding the 3rd annual Innovatours, complete with food, music, and cocktails.what to do in raleigh north carolina
  • North Carolina Museum of History (5 E. Edenton St.) – We love to learn about the local history and culture when we travel to races. It’s just part of the experience. Here, you can learn all about NC’s past, including their military history, sports hall of fame, and Watergate. Admission is free and they also have a restaurant on site.
  • Frankie’s Fun Park (11190 Fun Park Drive) – If you feel the urge to get in a go-kart, bumper boat, play a little laser tag, hit a few balls (golf or baseball), this is the place for you and/or the kids. Hours of amusement.


A few restaurants I’ve heard some good things about that aren’t listed below are Crawford and Son, Brewery Bhavana, Fiction Kitchen for to die for vegetarian, and Caffe Luna for italian.

  • An (Cary) – An, which means to dine, features contemporary Asian cuisine with a modern European influence. They use fresh, local seafood and meats. East meets West.
  • Gonza Tacos y Tequilla – Okay, who doesn’t love Mexican Food and tequila. This is a very popular spot with locals for great food and a fun atmosphere for families. It’s got reasonable prices and a covered outdoor seating area.

    where to eat in raleigh north carolina for mexican food

    Nachos anyone? Photo credit Gonza Tacos y Tequilla.

  • Big Daddy’s Burger Bar – When you just have to have a burger and fries, this is the place to go. Great food, good prices, and perfect for families.
  • Poole’s Diner – A retro-chic upscale diner whose menu changes daily based on the season and availability. Big supporter of small local farms. Recommended by friend who lived in Raleigh.
  • The Pit – If you need a dose of North Carolina BBQ, don’t miss The Pit. It’s been in town for over 30 years and has been described as amazing. Also, recommended by two friends.
where to eat in raleigh north carolina

Barbecue at The Pit in Raleigh.

  • Big Ed’s restaurant is the anchor of City Market and offers down-home southern cooking in a casual atmosphere. We’re talking grits and red-eyed gravy! Saturday morning breakfasts are their specialty, with live music.
  • Panciuto (Hillsborough) – Features farm to table (so menu changes often), creative and exquisite Italian dishes. They aim to deliver Italian inspired meals using Southern ingredients. We love their motto – Connecting Bellies to Farms.

Panciuto in Hillsborough.

  • 18 Seaboard (Raleigh) – Inventive American cuisine with a focus on NC ingredients and fresh, in-season food. Gets rave reviews for both food and service.
  • Coquette (Raleigh) – A true French brasserie with lively flavors to savor and relish. People feel like they’re actually eating at a bistro in France.
  • The Tavern at Second Empire – A lively spot for drinking and dining. It’s located in a restored mansion and you have your choice of the restaurant or tavern for dining.
  • Neomonde Raleigh Cafe/Market – A very nice family owned, cafeteria-style deli and restaurant, serving healthy, homemade Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food. There’s also a market so you can pick up things to go.


  • VIP tickets are available for spectators at $63 for kids to $105 and $210 (medal opportunity) for adults.
  • On race morning, there will be shuttle bus service for spectators and athletes from 4 to 5:30 am and again just for spectators from 5:30 to 6:15 am. It runs from in front of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts downtown to T1 at Vista Point. There will also be a service from 4:45 – 6:15 am from the remote lot by Jordan Lake. The return is at 9:45 am after all the athletes have finished the swim.
  • They are recommending that if you should park downtown and take the shuttles. There will be no athlete drop off at the swim start nor any parking there.  There is a remote lot at Jordan Lake available on a first come first serve basis.
  • The race starts at 7 am.
  • The awards ceremony and roll down is at 4 pm at City Plaza/Finish Line.

There is no longer a spectator’s guide, but the 2016 Ironman Spectator Guide  seems current.

SWIM:  The swim is one loop. The best place to watch the swim is from the grassy area between the Swim Start and Swim Finish at Vista Point at Jordan Lake.
BIKE:  The bike is one loop. You can watch athletes as they transition from bike-to-run on the corner of West Lenoir Street & South Salisbury Street.

RUN:  This is a 2-loop course. Anywhere near the Capital Building, Hillsborough Street or City Plaza would be a good spot for viewing.

FINISH: The finish line is at City Plaza in front of the Marriott on Fayetville St.

TRACKING YOUR ATHLETE:  The tracking is ONLY available on race day. Please visit ironman.com and click on ‘Live Coverage’ at the top of the page and select the correct race. Select ‘Athlete Tracker’ and you can search by bib number or last nam

So, there you have it. We hope you find great things to do and enjoy the local cuisine of Raleigh. But, most importantly, have a great race day!