20 Toddler Activities in Raleigh NC + the Triangle

Amy Hartle

Hello fellow toddler moms & dads! It’s rough out here, huh? Just kidding! But you know what I mean. These little angels are bursting with energy, so keeping them busy is basically a full-time job! Luckily, there are many terrific toddler activities in Raleigh NC and throughout the Triangle to explore. Let’s dive in!

Things to Do in Raleigh With Toddlers and Preschoolers

The Triangle region of North Carolina is incredibly family-friendly, attracting new residents in droves. While there are tons of fun things to do with kids here, toddler parents often are looking for some specific criteria: What are some fun things to do with toddlers in Raleigh? What playgrounds are good for toddlers? Where can I go that my toddler will be safe and have fun and I don’t have to walk a mile from the parking lot?

I’m here to help, friend. I’m a local mom aiming to explore all the best of the Raleigh area’s family fun, and as a toddler Mom, activities for littles has been my top priority. Here is what we’ve discovered so far:

Library Story Time

Image of a colorful section of a children's library, with small tables and chairs, rows of books, and an empty easel in the back

Hands-down, library story time is one of the best Raleigh activities for toddlers. Not only is it free, but there are 23 libraries located in Wake County, plus more in adjoining counties.

Each local library offers various options, like Baby Storytime, Toddler Storytime, and Family Storytime. Some locations also offer a Sensory Storytime.

These short, engaging story times are an excellent way to get out of the house with your toddler and let them sing, play, and learn!

Join a fun Toddler Class

Young kids gather around an outdoor setup with pots and pans, shows a nature class for toddlers called Tinkergarten

Speaking of learning, it’s never too early to start! There are tons of classes that are designed for toddlers and even babies. Many of these are music and story-based, but all options rely on play to help the littles learn and gain new skills.

Toddler classes are also a nice option because you can sign up for a session or ongoing class, giving plenty of opportunities for socialization for both kiddo and parent.

Whether you think your toddler might like ballet, swimming, gymnastics, or an outdoor exploration class, there’s definitely something out there for you.

🍭Read our whole list of toddler and preschool classes around the Triangle!

Character Storytime at Pineapple Sol

A joyful multi-generational family moment at a toddler activity in Cary, NC, with a senior woman smiling at the camera, a child engaging with a toy, and a vibrant character with pink hair and costume spreading cheer.
My mom, and Malcolm (who was pretending the troll wasn’t there!)

Another terrific story time in the area is the weekly Character Storytime at Pineapple Sol in Cary. This takes place on Wednesday mornings from 10am-11am. It is $5 per child. Adults are free, but trust me, you definitely want to buy a latte or something delicious from Pineapple Sol!

This story time is presented by a different character every week. We went for a recent visit to check it out and got to hang out with Poppy the troll! The characters are presented by Fairytale Dreamer, and they do an amazing job!

Indoor Playgrounds for Toddlers

A toddler is captured in a moment of delight while playing with a colorful musical wall, learning about music notes in a fun and interactive indoor activity.
Playing at Notasium in Cary

For indoor toddler activities in Raleigh, indoor playgrounds are my number one pick! These are great on a rainy day, a sizzling summer day, or any time. With a toddler, I think it’s extra helpful having an enclosed, safe space where they can play freely. Plus, most indoor play spaces are filled with soft play equipment and padding.

A few of our favorite and most toddler-friendly indoor playgrounds include Bumble Brews (locations in both Cary and Raleigh), the indoor play area at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, and Piney Town Playhouse in Fuquay-Varina.

A playful and educational setup for children in an indoor play area, featuring a mini-town with a fire station, police station, and market, complete with a toy fire truck and realistic costumes for imaginative toddler activities.
Piney Town Playhouse in Fuquay-Varina

🎠 Be sure to check out our big list of Raleigh area indoor playgrounds. There are over 30 indoor play spaces for a range of age groups.

Visit a farm

Two curious alpacas, one with a cream fleece and the other with a black coat, stand attentively in their natural, fenced habitat among tall pine trees, evoking a serene rural atmosphere.

On a beautiful day, there’s nothing more fun than visiting the farm with kids! There are lots of local farms spread around the Triangle, so you can spend the day visiting with animals, tackling farm chores, or learning about how food grows.

Some of these farms offer classes, while others do more of an open play admission. We’re still putting together our list of farms in the area, but a few we have loved so far include My Little Farmer in Durham, Naylor Family Farm in Fuquay-Varina, and Spring Haven Farm in Chapel Hill.

Head to Marbles Children’s Museum

A toddler is engrossed in exploring a whimsical painted tree door in a play area, with the intriguing message 'Hiding is as important as being found' above, sparking curiosity and imagination in a child-friendly environment

Marbles Children’s Museum is one of the Raleigh family bucket list items. This is a museum created entirely for children! and it is an awesome place to check out with kids. Toddlers can have a great time in

many of the areas, as well, but my favorite so far when my son was just beginning to walk was their Toddler’s Hollow. It is designed like an enchanted forest, complete with bright red mushrooms, and I just think it’s the cutest, and so perfect for young toddlers.

Another must-do is “Splash!” where littles can check out a 3-story pirate ship or engage in water play in a 65-foot long water table!

If you do visit Marbles, be aware that weekend get quite busy here, as do rainy days. Weekdays are always the best time to try and avoid crowds. If you think you might go often, consider purchasing a membership so you can have time to check out all 15 exhibits!

Play at a toddler-friendly Triangle playground

A young child runs towards colorful playground equipment on a sunny day, with bright blue tunnels and a train-themed play structure inviting active outdoor play in a community park.
Brier Creek Park – A terrific toddler-friendly playground in RTP/Morrisville

Playgrounds are always a good idea! There are dozens spread throughout the Triangle, but I’m dedicated to finding the most toddler-friendly playgrounds! So far, the standouts have been Sassafras All Children’s Playground in Raleigh, Kids Together Playground in Cary, and Indian Creek Greenway in Morrisville.

Read our whole to best toddler-friendly Triangle playgrounds!

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

If you’re like us, you’re always trying to save money as a family. Kids are expensive, am I right?! So we are always on the hunt for free things to do with kids in Raleigh. One of those that tops the list is the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. This free-to-visit museum is the oldest in the state, and offers lots of fascinating exhibits. Both kids and adults love this museum.

If you have a dinosaur-obsessed toddler, this is the place to bring them, with a collection of awesome skeletons they’ll talk about for days!

Prairie Ridge Ecostation

Part of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Prairie Ridge Ecostation is an outdoor educational center. There are a number of programs and events every week for families including Nature Creators and Nature Stories, both geared towards young children. These programs are free, and definitely worth checking out!

Pullen Park

A heartwarming selfie of a woman and a baby sharing a joyful moment on a carousel ride, with the baby gripping the golden pole and both wearing bright, happy smiles

Pullen Park, in my opinion, is one of the classic spots in Raleigh to take a child. It’s one of the oldest amusement parks in the United States, but with a carousel, train, and paddle boats in the summer, it’s the old-fashioned kind of amusement.

Truly, this is a beautiful park, and the rides are very affordable. When you’re done enjoying the carousel, head over to the playground or stroll around the lake. This is also a beautiful spot to have a picnic, whether you set up a blanket on the grass or sit under one of their covered shelters.

North Carolina Museum of Art

You might not think the words “art museum” and “toddler” belong in the same sentence, but perhaps you haven’t heard of NCMA! This is a Raleigh museum that is free to visit. In addition to the museum itself, there is the 164-acre Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park to explore.

Here you’ll find temporary and permanent outdoor art installations, miles of trails, and even some amazing musical swings to enjoy.

Indoors, there are numerous family-friendly events, ranging from story times to weekend kid-friendly museum tours.

Open Play at Gymnastics Centers

An inviting indoor children's play area named 'The Butterfly Gym' offers a variety of equipment for active play, including a climbing net, balance beams, and colorful mats, all designed to encourage physical development and fun.

Similar to indoor playgrounds, several gymnastics centers around the Triangle offer open play for young kids. These are either free or have a small cost associated.

The ones I currently know about are:

Swim Lessons for Littles

It’s never too early to learn to swim! If you’re in search of toddler-friendly things to do in the Triangle, swim lessons might be a great option. There are several local schools and programs, and nearly all of them offer classes as early as 4 or 6 months. You can find these listed in the Swim Lessons section of our Toddler Classes guide.

Admire the flowers at Duke Gardens

Families enjoy a sunny day outdoors with kids near a serene pond fringed by a weeping willow at Duke Gardens in Durham NC, perfect for a relaxing outing with young children

The Sarah P. Duke Gardens is a 55-acre botanical garden open 365 days per year. While Duke Gardens is free to visit, if you’re arriving by car, you will need to pay for parking. Currently, parking is $2 per hour.

This is a gorgeous natural setting to explore with kiddos of any age. In the early spring, you may catch the stunning cherry blossoms overhanging the long garden entranceway. It is really special.

Go on a toddler friendly hike

A peaceful trail winds through a tall pine forest, with shadows stretching across the path and people in the distance enjoying a sunny day outdoors, ideal for hiking and nature walks.

Speaking of getting outdoors, why not consider a toddler-friendly hike? There are lots of options for this in the area, whether you’d prefer a paved path such as a greenway so you can bring your child in a stroller, or you want to let your toddler do a bit of walking and climbing.

For stroller-friendly walks, consider checking out Lake Johnson Park, the River Walk in Hillsborough, Umstead State Park, and Bond Park.

For easy, toddler-approved “hikes,” some options include Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Secret Creek Trail at Durant Nature Preserve, and Oak Rock Trail at Umstead State Park.

StoryWalk ®

Here’s a fun way to combine nature and reading: A StoryWalk ®! These are a program offered in some local parks where guests can walk a trail and enjoy one page of a children’s story displayed along the trail. Toddlers love running to search for the next page, and you get a nice walk in as well. Win-win.

Barnes and Noble

I have always found the children’s section at Barnes and Noble to be a great place to spend some time. Mom or dad, you can grab yourself a coffee from the Barnes and Noble cafe, and then relax while you and your tot check out books, toys, and the cute, carpeted play area. There are often train tables here, too, giving little ones something unique to play with.

Barnes and Noble locations also offer storytimes, typically on Saturdays. Check with the closest location for the most up-to-date information.

Museum of Life + Science

An interactive children's museum exhibit features an intricate wall-mounted ball track and engaging floor activities, stimulating learning and play with a blend of kinetic elements and colorful designs

The Museum of Life and Science in Durham is one of my favorite suggestions for things to do with toddlers in the Triangle. The museum is huge, and has enough activities to last you all day and then some. The indoor play space for young kids is sometimes all you need. My son loves this section, particularly the exhibit with balls rolling along tracks. There’s even a section here reserved for kids just learning to walk, so even pre-toddlers can have a good time here.

Outside there’s even more to explore, including the butterfly garden, riding the train, visiting the animals at the barnyard, and a walking trail complete with dinosaurs!

🦕 Read our post on the Life + Science Museum here.

Go berry picking or visit a pumpkin patch

A toddler in a brown shirt with a dinosaur print sits among scattered pumpkins on a hay-covered field, gently touching a pumpkin, with cornstalks towering in the background

When the season is right, these can be great activities for toddlers. What is better than picking sweet berries in the spring/summer or selecting that perfect pumpkin in the fall? There is an abundance of farms spread throughout the Triangle to enjoy these seasonal activities, but one of our very favorites for the autumn is Naylor Farm in Fuquay-Varina. They have an awesome pumpkin patch, farm animals to meet, a huge playground, a spooky hay ride, and more.

Check out the indoor mall play areas

Last, but not least are a couple hidden gems for toddlers near Raleigh. Did you know that a couple of the local malls offer fun play areas for little ones? These are right in the middle of the shopping malls, with locations nearby at both Triangle Town Center in Raleigh and The Streets at Southpoint in Durham. As a bonus, after the kids are tuckered out, toss them in the stroller and go shopping!