A Travel Price Comparison for North Carolina Raleigh vs. Wilmington for Families, Couples, Attractions, and Food

Should you visit Raleigh or Wilmington?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Raleigh or Wilmington? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Raleigh

Raleigh is a student-friendly, suburban-style, and friendly city. Since it's a large city, you'll find plenty of things to do. Other reasons to visit include nightlife, food, and museums.

Wilmington

Wilmington is a welcoming, charming, and historic city. Other popular activities here include beaches, shopping, and museums.

Raleigh and Wilmington: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Family-friendly
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with couples
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Scenic old town
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers


Is there more to do in Raleigh or Wilmington?

Travelers will generally find more things to do in Wilmington than Raleigh. While Raleigh is larger than Wilmington, Wilmington has more sights and attractions for tourists. Wilmington is better known for its beaches, historical sights, and shopping, while Raleigh is more popular for its big city activities. Wilmington is more touristy than Raleigh and is popular for its laid back beaches, historical waterfront area, and university setting. Also, Wilmington is famous for the Battleship North Carolina. Raleigh is well known for its many museums and being the home to North Carolina State University.

How is Raleigh different from Wilmington?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Wilmington and Raleigh. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Raleigh or Wilmington?

Raleigh
Wilmington

For an educational experience, head to a museum or a notable sight in either Raleigh or Wilmington.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Raleigh. As the state capital, there are a number of free museums in the area. There are also some kid-friendly options and other activities that are affiliated with the colleges and universities. Popular options include the NC Museum of Natural Sciences (free), the NC Museum of History (free), the NC Museum of Art (free), and Marbles Kids Museum.

Wilmington is a good place to visit if you're interested in museums or other recognizable sights. There are art, history, and science museums around town. The Battleship North Carolina is a popular destination. Science enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science or the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. For art, head to the Cameron Art Museum or Art in Bloom Gallery.


Is the Food Better in Raleigh or Wilmington? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Raleigh
Wilmington

Both Raleigh and Wilmington offer notable local cuisine and restaurants.

There are many up and coming restaurants in the Raleigh area. In addition to the standard chain restaurants, you'll find a number of local eateries with great southern dishes. Try some southern classics like barbecue, pimento cheese, and fried chicken and waffles. There are also good international options including Nepalese, Laotian, and Ethiopian flavors.

There are plenty of up and coming restaurants around Wilmington. Head to the waterfront for local seafood restaurants that offer outdoor seating and fresh caught fish. There are also farm-to-table restaurants and local diners with casual food.

Is Raleigh or Wilmington Better for Nightlife?

Raleigh
Wilmington

Party-goers will find similar levels of energy in Raleigh and Wilmington.

Raleigh has an active nightlife scene for those who seek it out. Head to downtown Raleigh or the areas around NC State University for some of the best nightlife. Trivia nights and happy hours are popular and you'll find breweries popping up in many places.

If you're looking for night time activities Wilmington has a few options to choose from. Live music is popular around town. There are also bars, lounges and dance clubs. When the weather is warm, many places make use of the outdoor setting, which makes for a relaxed and fun evening.

Is Raleigh or Wilmington Better for Beaches?

Raleigh
Wilmington

Wilmington is well known for the beach. However, Raleigh is not a beach destination.

Wilmington is considered a top beach destination. Nearby you'll find Wrightsville Beach, Kure Beach, and Carolina Beach. They have long stretches of sand and great waves. The water is usually warm enough for swimming between the months of April and October. During these peak months parking can be challenging, but during the quieter times, you shouldn't have trouble.

Raleigh is not a beach destination.


Is Raleigh or Wilmington Better for its Old Town?

Raleigh
Wilmington

Wilmington is a popular place for its historic old town charm. However, Raleigh does not have a historic old town.

Wilmington offers a nice historic old town area. The Historic District is along the waterfront and has 18th and 19th century architecture. There are also great restaurants and interesting shops.

Raleigh does not have a historic old town.

Is the Shopping Better in Raleigh or Wilmington?

Raleigh
Wilmington

Wilmington is a popular place for its shopping areas. However, Raleigh is not a noteworthy shopping destination.

Many visitors go to Wilmington to go shopping. Head downtown for the most interesting local shops. You'll find boutiques and souvenir shops where you can pick up art, accessories, or antiques.

Raleigh is not a noteworthy shopping destination.

Is Raleigh or Wilmington Better for Families?

Raleigh
Wilmington

Wilmington is well known for its family-friendly activities. Also, Raleigh is still popular, but not quite as popular for its kid-friendly activities.

Wilmington is known to be a very family-friendly place to visit. Near town you'll find several beaches - Wrightsville Beach, Kure Beach, and Carolina Beach. They're all family-friendly and perfect for a day's activity. The city also has the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, the Children's Museum of Wilmington, and the Wilmington Railroad Museum. For a rainy day there are also indoor play areas and entertainment centers.

Raleigh offers lots of family activities. For such a small city, Raleigh has a number of unique kid-friendly activities like the popular Pullen Park and Marbles Kids' Museum. Pullen Park has small rides and a playground that are perfect for young kids. There's also the NC Museum of Natural History which is free and fun to explore with kids.


Is Raleigh or Wilmington Better for Couples?

Raleigh
Wilmington

Wilmington is well known for couples. However, Raleigh is not particularly known for romance.

Couples visit Wilmington frequently as it offers plenty of romantic activities. The beaches are great for a relaxing day of swimming and sunbathing. In the evening head into town and enjoy one of the local seafood restaurants on the waterfront. You'll also find great shopping and historical sights in the area.

Raleigh is not the best destination for a couple to visit. While it's often overlooked by couples who want a weekend away, there are a number of museums and some nice restaurants to explore.

Is Raleigh or Wilmington Better for Students?

Raleigh
Wilmington

Raleigh is great for its student-friendly activities. Also, Wilmington is not as popular, but is still a nice city for students.

Raleigh is a great city to visit as a student. The city has a diverse student population with many nearby universities and colleges.

Wilmington is a good city to visit for students. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington is a popular school that brings many students to town.

Is Raleigh or Wilmington Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Raleigh
Wilmington

Wilmington is a city with a few options for its public transit. However, Raleigh is not particularly known for times when you don't have a car.

Public transit is generally limited in Wilmington. There are public buses around town, but for practical reasons, you'll want to have your own vehicle.

Public transit is quite limited in Raleigh. The city's public transportation options are limited to a few bus lines that are mostly used by students.


Is Raleigh or Wilmington a more walkable city?

Raleigh
Wilmington

Wilmington is a popular place for its ease of walking around. However, Raleigh is not particularly known for its walkability.

Wilmington is a somewhat walkable city. The Historic District is best explored on foot. You can also get around Wrightsville Beach on foot, but traveling between these places requires a car.

Raleigh is generally not a very walkable city. The city is somewhat walkable in the downtown area, but everywhere else you'll need a car.

For even more information, also check out Is Raleigh Worth Visiting? and Is Wilmington Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Wilmington or Raleigh?

How long in Raleigh or Wilmington?

In either Raleigh or Wilmington, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. Most visitors tend to spend more time in Wilmington than Raleigh because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 2-3 days is a good amount of time for Raleigh, and 2-5 days is enough time in Wilmington.

Families should spend more time in Wilmington than Raleigh. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Wilmington, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Wilmington than Raleigh. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Wilmington that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Wilmington than Raleigh if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Wilmington.


  • How many days in Raleigh or Wilmington? Ideal Length of Stay
    Raleigh 2-3 
    Wilmington 2-5

One day in Raleigh or Wilmington?

With museums and nightlife around the southern city of Raleigh, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

In Wilmington, you'll find nightlife and food. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. This city offers something for everyone. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

A weekend in Raleigh or Wilmington?

With nightlife and food around the destination of Raleigh, there's plenty to do. It offers something for everyone. Many people spend a weekend here. In a weekend, you should have a good grasp of this city.

In Wilmington, you'll find food and shopping. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. A weekend here is typical. Most people come for the beaches. A weekend is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Wilmington has to offer.


Five days in Raleigh or Wilmington?

Raleigh, a popular city, is full of activities for travelers. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Wilmington is a great place to explore. It is common to spend five days here. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. Five days is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Wilmington has to offer. Anyone can find something fun to do here.

A week in Raleigh or Wilmington?

Raleigh is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Wilmington. Many people enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting Wilmington. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Los Angeles, The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from New York City, The Best 2-Week Tours from New York City, and The Best 2-Week Tours from Anchorage.


Which place is cheaper, Wilmington or Raleigh?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Raleigh is $189, while the average daily cost in Wilmington is $204. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Raleigh and Wilmington in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Raleigh $104
    Wilmington $120
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Raleigh $208
    Wilmington $240
Compare Hotels in Raleigh and Wilmington

Looking for a hotel in Raleigh or Wilmington? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Raleigh


Hotels in Wilmington


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Raleigh Hotel Prices and Wilmington Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Raleigh $37
    Wilmington $47

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Raleigh

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Raleigh:

  • Raleigh-Durham Airport (RDU) to Durham - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $125
  • Raleigh-Durham Airport (RDU) to Raleigh - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $119
  • Raleigh-Durham Airport (RDU) to Durham - Arrival Private Transfer: $63
  • Durham to Raleigh-Durham Airport (RDU) - Departure Private Transfer: $63
  • Raleigh-Durham Airport (RDU) to Raleigh Arrival Private Transfer: $60
  • Raleigh to Raleigh-Durham Airport (RDU) - Departure Private Transfer: $59

Is it cheaper to fly into Raleigh or Wilmington?

Prices for flights to both Wilmington and Raleigh change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Raleigh $57
    Wilmington $56
Typical Food Prices in Raleigh

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for food and meal costs in Raleigh:


  • The Pit Authentic BBQ (for 3)
    $84

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Raleigh

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Raleigh.

  • Private Cooking Class in Durham with an Expert Home Cook: $104

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Raleigh $37
    Wilmington $17

Tours and Activities in Raleigh

Here are a few actual costs in Raleigh for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Create Your Own Lipstick or Lip Gloss Class Experience in Raleigh: $60
  • Guided Walking Historian Tour in Downtown Durham: $16
  • Murder Mystery Detective Experience Chapel Hill, NC: $15
  • Private Pedicab Tour of Downtown Raleigh: $65
  • Raleigh African American History Tour: $16
  • Raleigh Downtown: Historic Walking Tours: $13
  • Raleigh Ghost and Urban Legend Tour: $16
  • Raleigh Ghosts and Ghouls Hauntings Tour: $26
  • Raleigh Ghosts and Ghouls Hauntings Tour: $33
  • Raleigh Guided E-Bike Tour: Burgers, Brews, and History too: $107
  • Raleigh Guided E-Bike Tour: Tacos, Taps, and Local Facts: $107
  • Raleigh Guided E-bike Tour: Ghosts, Mystery, Local History: $76

Tours and Activities in Wilmington

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Wilmington.

  • Scavenger Hunt Adventure Self-Guided City Game: $10
  • Wilmington Pirate Walking Tour: $20
  • Scavenger Hunt Adventure in Wilmington by Zombie Scavengers: $20
  • Eagles Island 50 minute Narrated Boat Cruise: $21
  • History and Architecture Walking Tour : $25
  • Wilmington History and Architecture Tour: $25
  • Ghosts of the Port City Haunted Walking Tour: $26
  • Craft Beer and History Crawl Shared Experience in Wilmington: $30
  • Wilmington Ghosts: Phantoms of Pirates and Patriots Tour: $33
  • Black Water Adventure Cruise: $33
  • Trolley Pub Public Tour: $49
  • Island Hopper Cruise in Wrightsville Beach: $50

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Raleigh $27
    Wilmington $39

Sample the Local Flavors in Wilmington

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Wilmington:

  • 2-Hour Wilmington E-Bike Bar Crawl: $50
  • 2-Hour Wilmington E-Bike Bar Crawl: $55


When comparing the travel costs between Raleigh and Wilmington, we can see that Wilmington is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in North America, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Raleigh Expensive? and Is Wilmington Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Raleigh or Wilmington?

Raleigh has a larger population, and is about 3 times larger than the population of Wilmington. When comparing the sizes of Raleigh and Wilmington, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.


When is the best time to visit Raleigh or Wilmington?

Both places have a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. As both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Raleigh or Wilmington in the Summer?

Both Wilmington and Raleigh during the summer are popular places to visit. Many travelers come to Raleigh for the city activities and the family-friendly experiences. Also, many visitors come to Wilmington in the summer for the beaches and the family-friendly experiences.

In the summer, Raleigh is around the same temperature as Wilmington. Typically, the summer temperatures in Raleigh in July average around 79°F (26°C), and Wilmington averages at about 81°F (27°C).

In Wilmington, it's very sunny this time of the year. It's quite sunny in Raleigh. In the summer, Raleigh often gets less sunshine than Wilmington. Raleigh gets 259 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Wilmington receives 283 hours of full sun.

Wilmington gets a good bit of rain this time of year. It rains a lot this time of the year in Raleigh. Raleigh usually gets less rain in July than Wilmington. Raleigh gets 5.1 inches (129 mm) of rain, while Wilmington receives 8.1 inches (207 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Raleigh 79°F (26°C) 
    Wilmington 81°F (27°C)

Should I visit Raleigh or Wilmington in the Autumn?

The autumn attracts plenty of travelers to both Raleigh and Wilmington. Many visitors come to Raleigh in the autumn for the city's sights and attractions. Also, most visitors come to Wilmington for the shopping scene during these months.

In October, Raleigh is generally cooler than Wilmington. Daily temperatures in Raleigh average around 61°F (16°C), and Wilmington fluctuates around 65°F (18°C).

People are often attracted to the plentiful sunshine in Wilmington this time of the year. In Raleigh, it's very sunny this time of the year. Raleigh usually receives around the same amount of sunshine as Wilmington during autumn. Raleigh gets 211 hours of sunny skies, while Wilmington receives 227 hours of full sun in the autumn.

In October, Raleigh usually receives around the same amount of rain as Wilmington. Raleigh gets 2.8 inches (71 mm) of rain, while Wilmington receives 2.7 inches (68 mm) of rain each month for the autumn.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Raleigh 61°F (16°C) 
    Wilmington 65°F (18°C)

Should I visit Raleigh or Wilmington in the Winter?

The winter brings many poeple to Raleigh as well as Wilmington. Most visitors come to Raleigh for the museums and the cuisine during these months. Also, the winter months attract visitors to Wilmington because of the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine.

Raleigh can be very cold during winter. Raleigh is much colder than Wilmington in the winter. The daily temperature in Raleigh averages around 40°F (5°C) in January, and Wilmington fluctuates around 45°F (7°C).

In the winter, Raleigh often gets less sunshine than Wilmington. Raleigh gets 162 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Wilmington receives 180 hours of full sun.

Raleigh usually gets less rain in January than Wilmington. Raleigh gets 3.2 inches (82 mm) of rain, while Wilmington receives 3.9 inches (98 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Raleigh 40°F (5°C) 
    Wilmington 45°F (7°C)

Should I visit Raleigh or Wilmington in the Spring?

Both Wilmington and Raleigh are popular destinations to visit in the spring with plenty of activities. The spring months attract visitors to Raleigh because of the activities around the city. Also, the beaches are the main draw to Wilmington this time of year.

In the spring, Raleigh is around the same temperature as Wilmington. Typically, the spring temperatures in Raleigh in April average around 60°F (16°C), and Wilmington averages at about 63°F (17°C).

It's quite sunny in Wilmington. The sun comes out a lot this time of the year in Raleigh. Raleigh usually receives less sunshine than Wilmington during spring. Raleigh gets 251 hours of sunny skies, while Wilmington receives 278 hours of full sun in the spring.

In April, Raleigh usually receives around the same amount of rain as Wilmington. Raleigh gets 3.1 inches (78 mm) of rain, while Wilmington receives 2.9 inches (73 mm) of rain each month for the spring.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Raleigh 60°F (16°C) 
    Wilmington 63°F (17°C)

Typical Weather for Wilmington and Raleigh

Raleigh Wilmington
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 40°F (5°C) 3.2 inches (82 mm) 45°F (7°C) 3.9 inches (98 mm)
Feb 43°F (6°C) 3.3 inches (84 mm) 47°F (9°C) 3.7 inches (94 mm)
Mar 52°F (11°C) 3.4 inches (87 mm) 55°F (13°C) 3.9 inches (99 mm)
Apr 60°F (16°C) 3.1 inches (78 mm) 63°F (17°C) 2.9 inches (73 mm)
May 68°F (20°C) 3.3 inches (84 mm) 70°F (21°C) 4.4 inches (113 mm)
Jun 76°F (24°C) 3.7 inches (93 mm) 77°F (25°C) 6 inches (152 mm)
Jul 79°F (26°C) 5.1 inches (129 mm) 81°F (27°C) 8.1 inches (207 mm)
Aug 78°F (26°C) 4.9 inches (125 mm) 80°F (27°C) 6.9 inches (176 mm)
Sep 73°F (23°C) 3.8 inches (96 mm) 75°F (24°C) 5 inches (128 mm)
Oct 61°F (16°C) 2.8 inches (71 mm) 65°F (18°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm)
Nov 53°F (11°C) 2.8 inches (72 mm) 56°F (14°C) 3.1 inches (79 mm)
Dec 44°F (7°C) 3.1 inches (78 mm) 49°F (9°C) 3.6 inches (92 mm)