Pullen Park Raleigh: Classic Fun For Kids!

Pullen Park has special memories for us. We would take our eldest daughter, Kalyra, there to play when she was two years old when we moved back to Raleigh for the second time in 2008, and more recently our youngest daughter, Savannah.

Pullen Park entrance, Raleigh
Entering Pullen Park Raleigh

When I think about Raleigh parks, it doesn’t get more historic than this. Pullen Park opened way back in 1887 and was designated the first public park in North Carolina, and it’s the fifth oldest operating amusement park in the United States, and the 16th oldest in the world – pretty cool, huh. 

Raleigh philanthropist Richard Stanhope Pullen donated 80 acres of land in 1887 to the city for use as a public park. Pullen Park has since become an important component of Raleigh life, providing citizens with a variety of recreational opportunities. This is classic Raleigh right here!

The historic Pullen Park carousel, Raleigh, NC
The historic Pullen Park carousel

So if you’re looking for things to do with kids in Raleigh, especially younger kids, this is one of the best things to do in Raleigh for family fun and one of the top Raleigh attractions.

When they say it’s the oldest of the amusement parks in Raleigh, they don’t mean high speed thrill rides, but more gentle rides like the historic carousel, the iconic miniature train, paddle boats, and playgrounds.

Savannah loves this climbing apparatus
Savannah loves this climbing apparatus

As a young kid, Kalyra loved riding that train, being taken for a spin on the lake in the paddle boats, running around the grass area and swinging on the swings and riding down the slides in the playground.

She’s older now, but our youngest still gets a thrill out of all that, and other local families for generations have been finding family fun at Pullen Park.

Where Is Pullen Park?

Pullen Park, Raleigh, NC

Close to downtown Raleigh, the park sits on 66 acres of land just west of downtown, between Western Blvd. and Hillsborough Street, and adjacent to North Carolina State University.

The oldest of the Raleigh parks, it offers recreational opportunities for all members of the family, and besides the amusements, it’s a great place to have a picnic on the large grass area or under one of the picnic shelters (we held Kalyra’s 3rd birthday here).

Plus there are nearby ball fields, 6 tennis courts, an arts center and you can even go for a swim at the Pullen Aquatic Center (Kalyra has had lessons in the Pullen park pool).

How Much Does Pullen Park Cost?

Pullen Park, Raleigh
Beautiful setting on the lake

Pullen Park Raleigh is free to enter, they only charge a small fee to ride the carousel, train and kiddie boats.

Tickets can be purchased for rides at the ticket booth at the entrance to the park, and now in advance online to help cut down on the wait time to get tickets at the park.

  • Ride tickets are $1.50 each, and each ride requires just one ticket per person.
  • Tickets are valid for any day and do not expire!

pullen park amusements

Pullen Park Carousel, Raleigh
Classic Raleigh attraction

The younger kids will get a thrill out of riding the historic Pullen Park Carousel. Recognized as one of the foremost surviving works of the Pennsylvania Carousel Company, it was founded by Gustav A. Dentzel who emigrated from Germany in 1860 and set up a cabinet making shop in Philadelphia.

It dates from about 1900, making it oneof the earliest Dentzels still in operation. Its paramount feature is a menagerie of 52 hand-carved wooden animals, the work of chief carver Salvatore Cernigliaro. Animals include ostriches, cats, rabbits, pigs, a lion, a tiger and a goat. 

The 24-foot diameter carousel is housed in a permanent wooden-beamed shelter of tent-like design, and music originally was produced by a Wurlitzer band organ.

Pullen Park, Raleigh
The carousel is indoors

The Pullen Park Carousel is a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark, and a must-do in Raleigh with kids!

Quick facts:

  • Current operating hours: Thursday – Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Check website for updates.
  • Must be 42 inches tall to ride alone, if under 42 inches a parent/guardian must ride with them and both require a ticket.

The Miniature Train

The Pullen Park train
Toot toot

What kid doesn’t enjoy a miniature train ride? This is a one-third size near-replica of the famous locomotive, C.P. Huntington and it’s one of the top Raleigh attractions for kids. 

Housed in the park’s station, which extends through the tunnel at the front of the park, the trains one lap journey of Pullen Park runs parallel to Western Boulevard, around the picturesque Pullen Park lake, and then through the woods that back up to the NC State campus.

The Pullen Park train

Quick facts:

  • Current Pullen Park Train Hours: Saturday – Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Check the website for updates.
  • One ticket per person.
  • Must be 42 inches tall to ride alone, if under 42 inches a parent/guardian must ride with them and both require a ticket.
  • The train closes around sunset each night.

Pedal Boats

Pullen Park Pedal boats
Family fun

Getting out on Lake Howell (the lake within Pullen Park) on a pedal boat is classic family fun! It’s a bit of a workout on the legs, but a fun way to spend 30-minutes with your kids and get a new perspective of the park. 

Unfortunately at time of writing (May, 2021) the pedal boats are closed for the season due to the ongoing pandemic! In normal times, hours vary during the season.

Pullen Park pedal boats

The pedal cruisers require four tickets for a half hour boat rental and up to 4 people can fit in a boat.

Playgrounds

Pullen Park playground, Raleigh

There are various playgrounds and equipment for kids to play on for differing ages and abilities. 

  • Swing Area: (All ages) 10 traditional belt swings, 1 preschool full-bucket seat swing, 1 accessible molded bucket swing, and 1 tire swing.
  • School Age Climb and Slide: (5-12 years old) 2 universally accessible slides, 6 climbing opportunities, 1 see-saw, and 1 shade structure.
  • Sand Play: (2-12 years old) 2 sand diggers, 1 accessible sand digger, 2 shade structures, 1 playhouse, Music making equipment and stage, and 1 accessible spring platform.
  • Preschool Playground: (2-5 years old) Enclosed by a positive barrier of fence and vegetation, 3 slides,1 preschool full-bucket seat swing,1 accessible molded bucket swing, 1 see-saw, stepping stones, and 2 shade structures

Pullen Park Cafe

Pullen Park, Cafe, Raleigh

If you don’t bring your own snacks or picnic lunch, then the Pullen Cafe is an outdoor cafe located within the park near the amusement area and main entrance to the park. 

It offers local and organic foods made in-house using fresh ingredients and supporting local farmers.

Cafe Hours:

  • Sunday -Thursday 11:00am – 5:30pm
  • Friday – Saturday 11.00am – 6:00pm

Note: Pullen Park also rents a variety of outdoor shelters so you can grill out. Email: [email protected] or 919-996-6468.

Pullen Park shelters
One of the shelters

Or, how about trying one of the fantastic Raleigh restaurants or coffee shops we love in nearby downtown Raleigh.

FAQ’s

Can You Bring Dogs to Pullen Park?

Yes, leashed dogs are allowed in most areas of Pullen Park.

Can You Ride Bikes at Pullen Park?

No. Bike riding is not allowed as the park can get too congested. There are bike racks by the main parking lot on Ashe Ave. 

How Long Do You Need at Pullen Park?

The Pullen Park Caboose - authentic train car from the Norfolk Southern Railway
The Pullen Park Caboose – authentic train car from the Norfolk Southern Railway

You can spend anything from one hour to half a day here. It really depends on how many rides your kids enjoy, how long they want to play at the playgrounds, whether you have a picnic or grill out, and how busy the park is (weekends can get busy) in the warmer months.

Besides the attractions, there’s several pathways you can take a lovely stroll along and take in the stunning oak trees, and one around the lake which we like to do that goes over the bridges.

pullen park raleigh 18

And the gardens are lovely at certain times of the year too!

pullen park raleigh 19

When you visit Raleigh with kids, or live in Raleigh like us, don’t miss Pullen Park Raleigh! 

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