Any parent of a teen will tell you, it’s difficult to entertain them. Mostly, they want to stay in their room listening to music, eating all the food in your house, and texting with their friends.
On the odd occasion they emerge from their dark caverns, you slip into panic mode trying to think of what you can do to bring a smile to their face.
I wouldn’t say Raleigh is filled with endless thrilling things to do for teens with its absence of theme parks, flashing neon lights, beaches, and huge shopping malls you’d find in other bigger more entertaining cities.
It just means you have to think out of the box a little, or just fall upon a few of the well-known favorite activities for teens.
As teens can get bored easily, I recommend choosing short activities, and carving a day out of a few different things.
For example, Kalyra (15) and I recently spent a day together in the Warehouse District mixing it up with a coffee spot, perusing art galleries, and some window shopping. Our only money spent was the cost of the coffees and a beautiful candle from one of the stores.
If you’re headed into Spring break with your teen and are feeling the weight of entertainment responsibility, the following ideas on things to do in Raleigh with teens will help. Leave your suggestions in the comments at the bottom!
- Go Shopping, of course!
- Coffee Dates (or Boba Tea)
- Visit an Art Gallery
- See a Movie
- Play Bowling and Arcades
- Tee off at Drive Shack
- Attend Live Sporting Matches
- Take them to a Raleigh Festival
- Go on a Ghost Walking Tour
- Check out all the Murals
- Visit Halloween Spook Farms
- See a live concert
- Eat around the world
- Participate in a Cooking Class
- See a show at DPAC
- Go Hiking
- Take on a High Ropes Challenge
- GO BMX Biking
- Have a Paintball Fight
- Go Paddling
- Break out of your comfort zone at Xtreme Park Adventures
- Spend a day at Theme Parks near Raleigh
- Escape From the Room
- Take Day trips to the beach
- Adventure Landing
- Play Old-Style at Board Game cafes
- GO Indoor Rock climbing
- Play Video Games at an eSports Cafe
- Visit the Lake beaches
- What about camping?
Go Shopping, of course!
Does any teen not love to shop, especially with your money? Kalyra also enjoys window shopping, so it doesn’t always have to be about the spend. And she’s pretty good at earning her own money to spend. (Still learning the whole saving part!)
As for malls, Kalyra prefers the The Streets at Southpoint in Durham over Crabtree Mall in Raleigh. I enjoy it more as well. It doesn’t feel as stuffy and 80s like vibe, especially with its more modern outdoor area. There’s also thrift stores like Father & Son in the Warehouse District.
She’s also a big music fan and loves shopping for records and we’re fortunate to have some cool record stores in Raleigh where you can shop for old and new vinyl’s and maybe hit up a nearby cafe before, or after.
North Hills is a great shopping district for teens and easy for them to walk to everything. There’s plenty of clothing stores and sporting and apparel stores like REI and Omega Sports, there’s a great local bookstore Kalyra likes, Quail Ridge Books. Kings Bowling is here, there’s the Regal movie cinema, and fun places to eat with teens – take them to brunch here at places like Bartaco (amazing tacos).
She also loves Fenton in Cary and we both can’t wait to see how that evolves. I think it’s a great area for teenagers to hang out with their friends, as it feels quite safe, has a variety of programs on, like ice skating in the winter, weekend markets, live music, and free workout classes. Plus, there is the movie theater and soon to be bowling and arcades. And of course, ice cream.
Make sure you check the teen policies for wherever they go shopping. Southpoint, for example, requires adult supervision for anyone under the age of 17 from 3pm onwards. And they are strict. Kalyra was pulled up at 3:15pm when shopping with her two friends. I was around the corner having a coffee and had to race around to perform my duties.
READ MORE: Places to shop local Downtown Raleigh and Teen shopping afternoon in Downtown Raleigh and we have ideas in our family day out in the Village District.
Coffee Dates (or Boba Tea)
I don’t know how or why, but my girls became obsessed with Starbucks and want to go there all the time. It seems to be a teen thing. While we like the company, we do not like their coffee and always prefer to go local.
We take our girls to local coffee shops for treats. They love iced coffees, chai lattes, hot chocolates, iced tea, and of course Frappuccino’s.
Kalyra somehow developed a love for Boba tea, so we often take her to a boba tea places for tea and conversations.
Visit an Art Gallery
As my teen has gotten older, I’ve noticed she’s developed an interest in art galleries. It was her suggestion to visit the MET on our recent teen trip to New York City.
She doesn’t complain when we say we’re going to the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh, and I love watching her interact with the pieces and what she takes photos of. It’s always a good sign that she’s engaged, and I get to see what her tastes are.
I was surprised at the MET how she avoided modern art, instead choosing the more vintage European art to appreciate.
See a Movie
A movie at the cinema and a bucket of popcorn is sure to please a teen. Make it the kind of movie where humans eat each other. True fact. A counselor recently told us that the reason teens love horror movies so much is the way their brains are at that age, the feelings a horror movie evokes in them is similar to a horizontal folk dancing pleasure!
It doesn’t do that to adults, which is why I’m hiding behind my hands the entire time counting down the minutes until the movie is over.
Choose a movie theater with comfy seats, and even better for a teen – as they love to be waited on hand and foot – is the theater where you can have food delivered to your seats.
The Alamo in Raleigh is one of the legendary ones, and the new Paragon theaters in Fenton, Cary have it as a luxe box feature.
Play Bowling and Arcades
Our teen does not like bowling – much like her gutter ball magnet momma. But I know many other teens enjoy it. It can be a fun, easy activity for teenagers. Especially if they also have arcade games, or are connected to a Mall where the group of friends can hang out before or after.
As any Gen X Parent will tell you, arcade games are a lot of fun for teens, especially if Pac- Man is involved. Check out:
- Kings in North Hills
Read more in our 48 hour guide to North Hills
Tee off at Drive Shack
Similar to bowling is Drive Shack, which I find way more enjoyable. Our teen is still not a great fan, but our tween sure is.
Drive Shack is a three-story interactive golf driving range that combines physical targets to aim for with augmented reality and virtual games. I’m sure it will be a swinging hit for most teens in Raleigh!
Attend Live Sporting Matches
Raleigh is surrounded by great college sports, and a thrilling professional ice hockey team. There are many opportunities year-round to enjoy a live sporting match with your teens. Even better if they can bring a friend along with them.
I know live sporting matches can be expensive – hello Carolina Hurricanes – but you can look to other more affordable games instead.
We love seeing the women’s soccer matches at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. It’s only $10 for college games and $20 for the professionals. The women are just as fast and skillful as the men.
And we often go to see the NC State Women’s basketball at famed Reynolds Coliseum, which is exciting, fun and affordable.
Cary Tennis Park can have big tournaments on some times and there are other college sports like baseball that can be just as fun as the uber popular (and pricey) basketball and football.
Take them to a Raleigh Festival
From art shows to vintage shopping, cosplay, and live music, Raleigh has a festival to suit all interests, ages, and budgets. Follow the lead of your teen and take them to a festival or event that caters to their interests.
Our girls love Artsplosure, Spring Daze in Cary, the Krispy Kreme Challenge, and of course the NC State Fair.
Go on a Ghost Walking Tour
Kalyra loves ghost walking tours, and we try to incorporate them when we travel. In fact, she enjoys a lot of the walking tours we do and loved our cupcake walking tour of Greenwich Village in NYC!
There aren’t a lot of options in Raleigh for walking tours, but there is this Raleigh Ghosts and Ghouls walking tour which may be a hit for teenagers who love to get their SPOOK on.
Uncover the lurking ghosts and spirits of Raleigh on a guided paranormal walking tour. Stand as close as you dare to the Heck-Andrews House and listen to chilling tales of this city’s dark history.
Check out all the Murals
The Raleigh art scene continues to grow and is evident via all the cool murals and public art that are on display, especially in the downtown Raleigh area.
They make for fun photo ops with teens and tweens, so spend an hour or so wandering or driving around taking some creative photos showing off the vibrant and creative side of Raleigh. The Raleigh Murals Project has a map of locations. NOTE: if sharing your mural photos on social media, please credit the artist where possible.
Visit Halloween Spook Farms
While we’re on a ghastly topic, if you’re planning for things to do for Halloween with your teens, you’ll definitely want to plan for a visit to a nearby Fear Farm. We have a list of them in our Halloween guide to Raleigh.
I took Kalyra and her friend to the Haunted Forest Panic Point at Youngsville last Halloween and they loved it!
See a live concert
Like festivals, there is sure to be a visiting singer or musician your teen will love. Like her mom, my teen says, “all I want to do is see live music.” We saw Billie Eilish at PNC Arena in 2020, and again in Charlotte in 2022. And in May this year, we are all going to see Taylor Swift in Philadelphia!
I believe in the saying, “Without music, life will be a mistake.” I know how much joy it brings you, so we take our girls to see live music as much as we can. I’d rather spend my money on a memory making experience than an expensive pair of shoes.
Eat around the world
This is for the teenagers who love to travel, or are fascinated by other cultures. Raleigh has a growing number of restaurants and eateries filled with delicious cuisines from around the world.
We’re currently planning a 4-week European summer vacation and you can be sure we’re gaining inspiration by devouring bowls of pasta and chocolate profiteroles.
Light a spark of curiosity and sense of wonder in your teen. Introduce them to other cultures via food and allow dreaming of adventures in far off lands to begin.
Some of our favorite travels via food in Raleigh:
- Croquette in North Hills for French Cuisine (see you soon Paris!)
- Vivace in North Hills for Italian (see our North Hills restaurant suggestions)
- Gringo a Go Go for Central Mexican inspired food.
- Taverna Agora for taste of Greece.
- Try some of these Raleigh ice cream shops for gelatos and all kinds of treats.
- Vic’s Italian for, Italian.
Participate in a Cooking Class
While we’re onto food, if your teen has interests in creating delicious food, there are several places they can participate in teen cooking classes across the Triangle. We plan on doing a 3-course dinner cooking class with a family at our farm stay in Tuscany this summer.
- Wyntons World in Cary has teen cooking classes Our tween did a cupcake cooking class here and loved it!
- Flour Power has locations in Cary and North Hills and offer teen cooking classes. They also offer FLOUR emPOWER Leadership Development program for teens! Love it
See a show at DPAC
Kalyra and Savannah love going to the theater. We’ve seen three shows on Broadway in New York and several at our very own Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC).
DPAC is the Triangle’s version of Broadway with a wide range of theater shows each year, and they get many visiting Broadway shows each year. We’ve seen Les Misérables and Frozen, and both were fantastic. Tickets do sell fast so be at the ready!
I can’t figure out if our teen grumbles when we mention hiking because she’s a teen, or because we hiked almost every day on our 10-month RV trip of the USA and she is simply OVER IT.
What I’ve found from years of hiking with our girls is they complain every single time, BUT, after about 20 minutes in the nature effect takes over and they start to relax, chat to each other, and even laugh.
So, we nudge them gently to go. Nah. Let’s face it, we bribe them with Starbucks or ice cream after it. I’m willing to do that as I know how regular hikes in nature will positively set them up for the future. It will subconsciously teach them they always have a place to go to disconnect and recalibrate when life gets a little too overwhelming and confusing.
They used to hug trees with me on the trails, but the teen brain will no longer allow it.
READ MORE: 25 Best Trails in Raleigh for Hiking, Biking or running
Take on a High Ropes Challenge
Our girls have been scaling trees and zipping between them since they were young! Now that they’ve reached tween and teen ages, they can adventure onto more challenging high tree obstacle courses.
This is another teen activity that will build confidence and strength while offering a lot of fun, especially with some adventurous friends.
Go Ape (near Falls Lake) has tree top obstacle courses and ziplines to suit all age and comfort levels. We have a review post on Go Ape Raleigh (near Falls Lake)
Tree Runner Adventure Park in North Raleigh has over 100 exciting obstacles and zip lines, five difficulty levels, seven different aerial courses, and five different Junior Park trails
Click play below to see the fun in action in our Go Ape Video
GO BMX Biking
Since my girls heard about my spectacular crash alpine mountain biking in Austria, I don’t think they’ll be zipping around on BMX bikes any time soon. But that doesn’t mean your adventurous teen won’t!
Raleigh has a bicycle motocross track in Lions Park at Capital City BMX.
In Holly Springs, you’ll find the largest action sports facility IN THE WORLD! Daniel Dhers Action Sports Complex is 37,000 sq. ft of indoor and outdoor riding terrain. Facility includes beginner area, pump tracks, foam pit, resi quarters and viewing areas created by pro BMX rider Daniel Dhers!
Have a Paintball Fight
Savannah, (our tween) just experienced paintball for the first time for a friend’s party. Having done it myself years ago for a friend’s 30th, I know how much fun paintball can be, but also how much it can hurt.
They offer various levels, and thankfully, Savannah did the less intense version for younger kids. She absolutely loved it and is ready to go again.
I’m pretty certain the teenager in your family will love this activity, especially with their friends. If you’re looking for a birthday party idea for teenagers in Raleigh, this could be it.
- Savannah went to Black River Paintball in Angier.
- Xtreme Park Adventure in Durham has paintball
- as does Gotcha Paintball in North Raleigh
Our teen refuses to kayak or paddle board unless bribed with something beyond a dragon fruit refresher.
But, for most teens, I think it’s a valuable way to spend a few hours. Whether it’s in a kayak or a paddle board it can bring a teenager the solitude and calm they seek or a burst of energy and adventure they need.
The best place for a paddle boarding adventure is the cypress swamp conditions at Robertson Millpond Preserve. Lake Johnson and Lake Raleigh are great for paddling, and we’re yet to try the Neuse River – but have heard good things.
Break out of your comfort zone at Xtreme Park Adventures
It’s not just rock climbing and paintball that Xtreme Park Adventures has, but a wide variety of sports and attractions teens will love at their 50-acre field in Durham.
Activities include laser tag, airsoft, a zip line course, ropes course, haunted house, ATV adventures and escape rooms.
Pushing a teen outside their comfort zone is always a good idea! At their age they seem to have less fear and are m
Spend a day at Theme Parks near Raleigh
Typically, teens love theme parks. Did you know we have two theme parks within a 2.5 hours’ drive from Raleigh?
Wet ‘N Wild is only an hour away in Greensboro and is a fantastic way to cool off in the summer. Choose your thrill level from daredevil giant drop slides to lazy floats on the river. Read our full guide here.
North Carolina’s biggest and most famous theme park, Carowinds is located two and half hours away in Charlotte. It actually straddles the South Carolina border.
Carowinds has a great variety of rides teens will love including 14 roller coasters, two of which make the 10 tallest coasters in the world. There is also a water park.
We know plenty of people who visit just for the day from Raleigh, but we recommend staying the night at the Springhill Suites by Marriott, the official hotel of Carowinds Amusement Park, if your budget allows so the day is not too exhausting. Read our guide to Carowinds here.
Escape From the Room
I know you wish they would escape from their rooms for just an hour! Fool them into thinking it’s a fun thing to do by practicing in an actual Escape Room.
Escape rooms are a fantastic activity of older kids, especially teens. It’s a fun way for families to bond as they work together as a team to solve the mystery and escape from the room before the clock runs down.
Escape Rooms we have enjoyed in Wake County so far include:
- The Mad Scientist was our latest Escape Room at Whole Brain Escape in Apex. It was quite an eclectic and challenging one that we sadly did not escape from in time – but came close.
- Room 5280 on Glenwood Ave was our first Escape Room experience. They have 4 escape rooms in a cute heritage cottage on the hill!
- The Tower Escape – high on my bucket list is to escape from the National Historic site, First Water Tower of Raleigh.
And for those times that you do want to stay home, but still entertain your kids, consider Hunt a Killer, which is similar to an Escape Room in that you work together to solve clues and catch the murderer. Kalyra and I had a very enjoyable afternoon playing this one day.
Take Day trips to the beach
It’s hard to beat a day at the beach for people of all ages. You can always find something to do whether it’s surfing lessons, swimming, throwing a ball around, or simply lying in the sand reading a book. Even better if they can bring a friend with them so they can walk off together, get some ice cream, browse the nearby shops etc.
Our favorite, Wrightsville Beach is about a two-hour drive and perfect for a day trip. Here is a one-day itinerary here. Or, if you want to stay overnight, consider the Blockade Runner, one of our favorite beach hotels! Carolina Beach is also a favorite beach of ours.
Adventure Landing in North Raleigh is fun for teens and adults of all ages with attractions like Go Karts, Miniature Golf, Laser Tag, Gaming Arcade, Batting Cages. Popular for groups and birthday parties. Various admission passes are on offer.
The teenage years are perfect to help your child understand the importance of contribution. There are so many opportunities in Raleigh for your teen to volunteer their time in service to the community.
Kalyra has to do a certain number of volunteer hours each year in order to graduate from her school. She does most of her hours through school-based volunteer opportunities, but she has volunteered at Raleigh City Farm on their Weeding Wednesday, and for Christmas gift wrapping through Nog Run Club.
Here are some other organizations we love in Raleigh:
- A Place at the Table Raleigh, must be 15 and over.
- Designed for Joy Volunteers under 16 must have a parent guardian present.
- The Green Chair Project accepts volunteers 13+; 13-15 year olds must be accompanied by an adult
- No Woman No Girl accepts volunteers.
Play Old-Style at Board Game cafes
To up the entertainment level on your coffees, head to a board game café. They usually charge a fee which enables you to sit and play their board games, while enjoying a coffee, a meal, or maybe some alcoholic drinks for the parents.
As frequent travelers, who love cafes and restaurants, we have spent many times enjoying a coffee break filled with board games that have entertained the kids.
It’s only recently I’ve noticed the trend of cafes entirely dedicated to the art of board games (I think they’re trending on par with pickleball). From the obscure to the well-known you’ll find a huge variety of board games from around the world to learn and play together.
Depending on your child’s interests, it could be a great way for them to spend a few hours, either with you or friends, to bring back the art of connection outside of screens.
- Gamers Geekery and Tavern is in Cary
- Meeples Brew is in Cary and Apex
- The Kitchen Table at Relish Board game
GO Indoor Rock climbing
Rock climbing is a valuable activity for kids of all ages to build confidence, strength, and courage. It’s a fun way for a group of teens to hang out for a couple of hours. Even better if they can learn how to belay and support each other.
The Triangle Rock Club is our go to for indoor rock climbing and they have various locations and course levels for all ages and skill levels. And Xtreme Park Adventure in Durham has indoor and outdoor rock climbing.
Play Video Games at an eSports Cafe
While we’re talking games, for teens interested in gaming they can spend a few hours at an eSports café playing against friends or other people in the eSport arena.
Considering Raleigh is frequently named as one of the best places in the country for entrepreneurs and tech jobs, then allowing your teen to practice some eSports for a few hours could be a worthwhile investment.
Triangle Esports Academy in Cary is a gaming center that focuses on the fun of playing games, the educational value of STEM, and important character-building qualities like sportsmanship, critical thinking, and integrity. You can listen to our podcast interview with founder, Caleb Smith.
There are also several events in Raleigh each year that involve gaming of some sort like the Playthrough Gaming Convention and GalaxyCon Raleigh. We share them in our monthly events posts and our weekly update on things happen
Visit the Lake beaches
While Raleigh has several lakes within its borders, there are very few that allow swimming. Just outside the border in Chatham County is Jordan Lake State Recreation Area.
There are plenty of places for swimming, and water activities. Most popular are Seaforth Beach and Ebenezer Beach. We’ve taken our portable BBQ before, which only made the day better.
Falls Lake is the next closest. Although a friend of ours who owns a company that cleans polluted waterways advises us not to swim in Falls Lake. Here are 15 great lakes near Raleigh.
What about camping?
This is all dependent on your teen’s personality, but I think a camping trip is always good for the teen’s soul. Anything to get them in closer touch with nature and off their devices! There are many great camping spots quite close to Raleigh so it can be a quick, easy, and cheap getaway.
We love to go camping at Kerr Lake and last summer we camped at Lake Gaston, which I also enjoyed. There were a few amenities at the campground there like mini golf that can entertain a teen. Jordan Lake also has many tent sites!
Comment: Help a neighbor! What can you add to this list of teen activities in Raleigh?