Where is Raleigh, North Carolina? (+ how to get there)

If you’ve been asking yourself the question, so where is Raleigh, North Carolina and how do I get there? This post is for you!

Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina

Like most Australians, we traveled a lot before moving to Raleigh in 2004 but had never heard of the city of Raleigh until then. Prior to that, we were living in Dublin, Ireland and we were watching the second season of American Idol. 

One of the finalists that year was Clay Aiken, who happened to grow up in Raleigh. On the show they flashed to a scene of his homecoming at the then called RBC Center, now the PNC Arena (home of the Carolina Hurricanes), and that was the first time Raleigh became known to us. 

Fast forward 12-months from that time and Caroline was hired by a teaching program based in Chapel Hill to teach elementary school in North Carolina, and in 2004 we found ourselves living in Raleigh – it’s amazing how life works some time!

Where is Raleigh located?

Raleigh is located on the East Coast of the USA about halfway between New York City and Florida, in the northeast central region of North Carolina, where the Piedmont and Atlantic Coastal Plain regions meet. 

For directions from your starting point, click on the map.


Founded in 1792, Raleigh is the the Capital of North Carolina and was officially named after the English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh who attempted to establish the first English colony on the shores of the new world in the 1580s.

It is the second largest city in North Carolina after Charlotte, and is the largest city in the area known as Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (the Research Triangle Region).

What County is Raleigh NC in?

Raleigh is the seat of Wake County. All up there are 12 municipalities within Wake County:

  • Apex
  • Cary
  • Fuquay-Varina
  • Garner
  • Holly Springs
  • Knightdale
  • Morrisville
  • Raleigh
  • Rolesville
  • Wake Forest
  • Wendell
  • Zebulon

One of the many things we love about living in Raleigh NC is its central location on the East Coast within a days drive of New York City and Florida (directly below Virginia and above South Carolina).

We love that Interstate 40 (I-40) runs past the outskirts of downtown providing an easy 2-hour drive to the coastal city of Wilmington on the east, and a 4-hour drive to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Asheville in the west – here are 8 cool day trips from Raleigh.

Interesting Facts About Raleigh

  • Nicknamed the “City of Oaks” for its many oak trees which line the streets
  • Population of Raleigh: 469,298 (2019)
  • Population of Wake County: 1,111,761 (2019)
  • There are 11 principal colleges and universities in Raleigh, the main one being North Carolina State University (NCSU)
  • The first historically black university in the South, Shaw University is located in Raleigh.
  • There’s an excellent Greenway system that spans more than 180 miles
  • One of the greatest technological research parks in all of the world, Research Triangle Park (RTP) is located here and features IBM, Cisco, Nortel Networks, Sony Ericsson, and Lenovo to name a few.
  • More than half of the US population lives within a day’s drive or an hour’s flight from Raleigh.

Getting to Raleigh

So how do I get to Raleigh, North Carolina? Getting here is easy. You can arrive by plane, train or automobile.

By Plane

Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) serves the Triangle region which consists of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Located just off of I-40 it is approximately 20-minutes from Downtown Raleigh and roughly halfway between Raleigh and Durham.

Since moving to Raleigh in 2004, there has been a nice increase in the amount of flights to Raleigh and the destinations it serves. RDU consists of two main terminals (1 and 2) and currently operates more than 400 daily flights with 50+ non-stop destinations.

Getting to Raleigh by flying is easy, and we love our mid-size airport compared to the chaos of major cities. 

Typically, checking-in and getting through security is relatively smooth and easy, and RDU consistently ranks among one of the most efficient airports in the US.

Some of the domestic non-stop destinations to and from Raleigh include:

  • Chicago
  • Boston
  • New York City
  • Washington D.C.
  • Dallas
  • Houston
  • Charlotte
  • Cincinnati
  • Orlando
  • Minneapolis
  • Salt Lake City
  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles

Internationally we can fly non-stop to Europe which is exciting for us as Australians living here as typically from Australia, Europe is a LONG-haul.

Fly non-stop to:

  • London (American Airlines)
  • Paris (Delta)
  • Cancun
  • Toronto
  • Montreal

The 10 airlines currently operating out of RDU include the major and budget airlines:

  • Delta 
  • American Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Southwest
  • Jet Blue
  • Frontier
  • Spirit
  • Alaska
  • Allegiant

RDU Ground Transportation

There’s several options for getting from RDU into Raleigh including hotel shuttles, taxis, Uber, Lift, and of course rental cars.

The major rental car companies offer courtesy shuttles to their offices which are located on airport property.

The GoTriangle Route 100 bus provides public bus service from RDU to its Regional Transit Center then to GoRaleigh Station downtown.

Parking at RDU

There are four options for parking at Raleigh-Durham Airport. 

  1. Economy: (lots 3 & 4) $1/hour or $7/day with free shuttle to terminals
  2. Express: $2/hour or $12/day. Shuttle service at vehicle
  3. Central: $2/hr or $15/day. Short walk to terminals
  4. Premier: $3/hr or $22/day. Steps from terminals

Read our complete guide to RDU International Airport

By Car

Getting to Raleigh by car is not a hassle either.

As mentioned above, Interstate 40 (I-40) that runs from Wilmington on the east coast all the way west to California runs past downtown Raleigh and connects with Raleigh’s beltline. I-440

Another major interstate, I-95 that runs north to south from New York to Florida can be reached within 30-minutes of downtown. 

There’s also I-85 that runs north-east into Virgina, and south-west to Charlotte that can be reached within 30-minutes. 

Approximate drive times (non-stop) to Raleigh from other major cities:

  • Charlotte, NC:     2.5 hrs
  • Atlanta, GA:        6 hrs
  • Nashville, TN:     8.5 hrs
  • Washington D.C: 5 hrs
  • New York City:     8 hrs
  • Savannah, GA:   5 hrs
  • Orlando, FL:        9 hrs
  • Cincinnati, OH:    9 hrs

By Train

Raleigh Union Station (RUS) in the city’s downtown Warehouse District opened in 2018 and serves as the new Amtrak passenger station that has the capacity to serve more than 160,000 travelers per year.

It was built not just to accommodate current demand, but in the future will serve passenger rail, commuter rail, buses, taxis, bicycles and other forms of transportation.

  • The Carolinian service from New York City to Charlotte that stops in Raleigh and Cary, once per day northbound and southbound. 
  • The Piedmont service operates between Raleigh and Charlotte 3 times per day in both directions.
  • Amtrak’s Silver Star service runs between NYC and Miami and stops in Raleigh and Cary.

By Bus

Getting to Raleigh by bus is possible via the Greyhound bus service. Address: 2210 Capital Blvd, Raleigh, NC 27604. The only other bus option would be from Durham with Megabus. Address: 515 West Pettigrew Street, Durham, NC.

Uniquely Raleigh Checklist
FREE Printable CHECKLIST for all the best things to do in Raleigh  + updates + insider tips. 
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5 thoughts on “Where is Raleigh, North Carolina? (+ how to get there)”

  1. I love your story and love how you all decided to make Raleigh your home. Please continue the good work and highlight my hometown. Thank you

  2. Having grown up in NC, graduated from NC State, spent 22 years in USAF, another 18 years as a contractor working for the USAF, and finally retiring from Federal Civil Service in 2016; I have returned to NC and Raleigh numerous times. I think your description about what Raleigh and elsewhere in NC does not reveal the very appealing aspects of what would interest anyone who would consider visiting and/or relocating there. For example, Raleigh’s central location makes the beaches and coastal resorts easily accessible. The Outer Banks, Morehead City, Beaufort, Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, Top Sail Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Southport, Oak Island, Sunset Beach, and Calabash are all worth seeing and enjoying. In the coastal region are such places as New Bern, Wilmington, White Lake, and Lake Waccamaw. And as you mentioned, the Appalachian Mountains are within an easy drive from Raleigh. There is also the Great Smokey Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway. The mountain region of NC has many sites deserving descriptions, such as Boone, Asheville, etc. with such special places as Biltmore Estates, the Cherokee area, Bryson City, Helen, and Murphy and surrounding attractions such as white water rafting. Plus, the most western mountain areas of NC are adjacent to the mountains of Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and SC
    There is just so much that I think you have overlooked, glossed over, or don’t know about.

    1. Hi Robert,

      Glad you have returned to NC, you are clearly passionate about the state, as are we. That is just one blog post of many we have published. e.g. Here is a link to our post on 34 things we love about living in Raleigh > https://thisisraleigh.com/living-in-raleigh-nc/

      And read our post on 43 interesting facts about Raleigh > https://thisisraleigh.com/facts-about-raleigh-nc/

      Hope that reveals a bit more of what we love about Raleigh? 🙂

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