3 Must-Visit North Carolina Mountain Towns

These mountain towns offer budget-friendly family fun


Published:

The view across the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Craggy Pinnacle Trail at Craggy Gardens is majestic.

Photos by Simply Awesome Trips/Amy Ragsdale

(page 1 of 3)

Need a change of scenery from the hustle and bustle of life? Want the kids to unplug from their devices so you can connect as a family this summer? Take a scenic hike, kayak down a river, pitch a tent or explore the local shops in these three inviting western North Carolina mountain towns.


Asheville

Asheville is an artsy, architecturally appealing town with acclaimed restaurants and a craft brewery on nearly every block. It’s also surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, which offer family-friendly hiking trails and the French Broad River — perfect for a lazy day of tubing. Stay downtown within walking distance of everything, or stay closer to Biltmore Estate, just 5 miles south of downtown. You can also search for that perfect antique at the renowned Tobacco Barn, just a few miles south of the downtown area.

Where to Stay

If you’d like to be able to walk to restaurants, shops and other attractions downtown and not have to deal with the hassle of parking, most major hotel chains — Marriott, Hilton, Crowne Plaza, Omni — operate in the area, along with a few boutique hotels like the Aloft Asheville Downtown, Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville, Hotel Indigo and Haywood Park Hotel.

Just a little over a mile south of the downtown area, you can stay at one of Biltmore Estate’s renowned hotels: The Inn on Biltmore Estate, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate or the Cottage on Biltmore Estate. The Omni Grove Park Inn is 2.5 miles north of downtown and offers a memorable boutique experience as well.

If you’d rather rough it, check out Lake Powhatan Recreation Area and Campground in Pisgah National Forest, 12 miles southwest of downtown Asheville. Make reservations in advance on the U.S. Forest Service website at fs.fed.us.

Where to Play

Craggy Gardens is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 364. A less-than-1-mile hike puts you at the summit in no time and offers big rewards with 360-degree views. The trailhead is located 20 miles from downtown Asheville.

Enjoy a float trip down the gentle, slow-moving French Broad River while you’re in the area. Rent a kayak, pack snacks and enjoy a lazy day along a 7-mile river trip that passes by the shoreline of the Biltmore Estate. The Asheville Outdoor Center, located 5 miles southwest of downtown, provides everything you need for a self-guided trip and will send a staff member to pick you up at the end of your two- to three-hour adventure.

Before you go, purchase candy treats and a water toy for the kids at Mast General Store, located on Biltmore Avenue in downtown Asheville.

Where to Eat

Recently named one of the hottest food cities in America by restaurant review website Zagat, Asheville has no shortage of family-friendly, local restaurants and breweries. Satisfy your Southern cravings with barbecue and banana pudding at Buxton Hall, a converted roller-skating rink on Banks Avenue. Early Girl Eatery on Wall Street is great for breakfast bites and can accommodate food allergies. Wicked Weed Brewing Pub makes for a good afternoon stop and offers a full menu, a wide selection of beer on tap and patio seating for watching passersby on Biltmore Avenue. White Duck Taco Shop, also on Biltmore Avenue, offers more than just basic tacos. Choose from the Duck Taco With Molé, Thai Peanut Chicken and Crispy Chicken BLT, plus many other unique combinations.

Pizza lovers can get their fix at Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company's original location on Merrimon Avenue. Kids of all ages will love the dine-in movie theater ($3 per person) and arcade, which features classic games and pinball machines.

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Calendar

August 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

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Enjoy live entertainment, hands-on projects and gallery hunts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Celebrate the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle with vendors, food trucks, free food samples and live music.

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Armory
220 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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This back-to-school celebration features indoor and outdoor eating areas, kids' activities, music and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn at Southpoint
7007 Fayetteville Rd.
Durham, NC  27713
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Website »

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Enjoy a back-to-school event featuring a food truck rodeo, inside and outside eating areas, kids' activities and more. Take a non-perishable food item for Back Pack Buddies, an Inter-Faith...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn at Southpoint
7007 Fayetteville Rd.
Durham, NC  27713
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Sponsor: Spectacular Magazine
Telephone: 919-916-1640
Contact Name: Phyllis Coley
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The Arc of the Triangle, Allegiant Air and The Arc of the North Carolina will co-host a Wings for Autism® event at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in partnership with the Transportation...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh-Durham International Airport
2400 John Brantley Blvd.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Telephone: 919-942-5119 x117
Website »

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The Arc of the Triangle, Allegiant Air and The Arc of the North Carolina will co-host a Wings for Autism® event at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in partnership with the Transportation...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh-Durham International Airport
2400 John Brantley Blvd.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Telephone: 919-942-5119 x117
Website »

More information

The Arc of the Triangle, Allegiant Air and The Arc of the North Carolina will co-host a Wings for Autism event at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in partnership with the Transportation...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh-Durham International Airport
2400 John Brantley Blvd.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Telephone: 919-942-5119 x117
Website »

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Discover how farmers preserved their food in the days before refrigeration. Learn about drying, pickling, canning and other techniques. All ages.  ages. Registration not...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Tour the farm, spend time with farmers who care about the environment and meet friendly animals. Tickets must be purchased online; the farm is not open for drop-ins.

Cost: $10/person

Where:
Hux Family Farm
1923 Shaw Rd.
Durham, NC  27704
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Learn about the importance of trees through games and hands-on activities. Make paper and  discover the goods that we get from trees. All ages with adult. Registration required...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

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Sunday, August 19, 2:00–3:00 p.m. Want to do more to help out your community park? Do you like history, the environment, agriculture and/or the arts? Consider volunteering at Yates Mill! Join us...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675

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Enjoy live entertainment, hands-on projects and gallery hunts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Study the vital role that wetland ecosystems play. Net macroinvertebrates, learn how to identify them and discuss their value in the aquatic environment. Wander through some of Lake...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 191-946-03355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Enjoy activities inspired by the boo, "Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf," by Judy Sierra. Ages 4-9. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Hillsborough Library
137 West Margaret Ln.
Inside McDougle Middle School
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Library
Telephone: 191-924-52525
Contact Name: Beth Hawkins
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Enjoy live entertainment, hands-on projects and gallery hunts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

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Read the story by Eric Carle, and practice counting and observing similarities and differences.  A short walk to look for crickets and other insects. Ages 18 months-3 years with adult....

Cost: $2/child

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Weekly basic skills cooking class for children aged 5-10 at Whole Foods North Raleigh.  This free class meets each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and is offered by registering in advance...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Low-cost microcontrollers, such as the Arduino, have revolutionized the way we connect the real and virtual worlds. Learn Arduino programming and create projects using sensors...

Cost: Free

Where:
Parata Systems
106 Roche Dr.
Durham, NC  27703
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Sponsor: TechGirlz
Contact Name: Jenna May
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Kids spend a night out in nature making memories and new friends in an old-fashioned, camp-style program. Ages 8-12. Registration required.

Cost: $15/resident, $19/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Enjoy live entertainment, hands-on projects and gallery hunts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Read a story about cows, compare cow breeds, and learn about life on a dairy farm. Explore how milk is made into butter, cheese and other yummy products. Wrap up with an ice cream social and taste...

Cost: $7/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Contact Name: Rebecca Cope
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about the exciting process that changes caterpillars into butterflies. Visit the butterfly garden while searching for butterflies and caterpillars!. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $4/child

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Website »

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Enjoy live entertainment, hands-on projects and gallery hunts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy live entertainment, hands-on projects and gallery hunts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Walk through the Cretaceous period, the Jurassic Period and the Triassic period and experience what it was like to be among living dinosaurs. See life-size replicas of adult and baby dinosaurs, dig...

Cost: $20-$34

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Personality Festival is a Roxboro tradition. Enjoy amusements rides along Main Street, food vendors, singers, dancers, craft and merchandise vendors, local businesses and more. Little Miss...

Cost: Free

Where:
Uptown Roxboro
211 N. Main St.
Roxboro, NC  27573
View map »


Sponsor: Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 336-599-8333
Contact Name: Melissa
Website »

More information

Kids spend a night out in nature making memories and new friends in an old-fashioned, camp-style program. Ages 8-12. Register online. Choose course #117241

Cost: $15/resident, $19/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Take the family for a night of jigs, reels and anything Celtic. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Carrboro Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate the end of the "dog days of summer" by joining a park naturalist for an evening hike around the millpond. Learn tips for observing wildlife and find out ways to identify the...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-400-3288
Contact Name: Rebecca Cope
Website »

More information

Take a moonlit stroll down the Trail to the Beaver Creek bridge and back, listening and looking for nocturnal animals. Linger on the bridge to enjoy the wonderful sounds of nature and play some fun...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-2117
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Morehead Planetarium presents a night of West African storytelling and stargazing at Historic Stagville. Learn about the oral tradition that might have been preserved by enslaved families. After...

Cost: Free. Donations welcome.

Where:
Stagville State Historic Site
5828 Old Oxford Hwy.
Durham, NC  27712
View map »


Telephone: 191-962-00120
Contact Name: Vera Cecelski
Website »

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Camp Gladiator takes over the Durham Bulls Athletic Park featuring fun workouts designed for all fitness levels. Enjoy local vendors, music, food, gear and tons of giveaways....

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Bulls Athletic Park
409 Blackwell St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Camp Gladiator
Telephone: 919-538-7606
Contact Name: Marisa Park
Website »

More information

Walk through the Cretaceous period, the Jurassic Period and the Triassic period and experience what it was like to be among living dinosaurs. See life-size replicas of adult and baby dinosaurs, dig...

Cost: $20-$34

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a unique weekend celebrating the history of Tweetsie Railroad, the ET&WNC Railroad and mountain culture.

Cost: $0-$45

Where:
Tweetsie Railroad
300 Tweetsie Railroad Ln.
Blowing Rock, NC  28605
View map »


Sponsor: Tweetsie Railroad
Telephone: 180-052-65740
Website »

More information

Hundreds of artisans from across the Southeast, festival foods, demonstrations, a kids' play area and live music highlight the town's signature arts and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Stretch your way into creative and silly poses. Share fun memories from the summer, like building sand castles, spitting watermelon seeds, and diving into the swimming pool with our friends,...

Cost: $20 -$25

Where:
Funny Girl Farm
504 Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Telephone: 984-377-3113
Website »

More information

The Salvation Army of Wake County’s 7th annual Most Amazing Race Raleigh will take place Saturday, August 25 at popular locations throughout downtown Raleigh. The scavenger-hunt-like race is...

Cost: Teams must raise $300 to participate

Where:
The Salvation Army of Wake County Corps Community Center
902 Wake Forest Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Website »

More information

Celebrate North Carolina farming culture and history at Duke Homestead. Don't miss the looping contest and Hornworm Race. This event features live music, local arts and crafts vendors, hands-on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy backpacks and school supplies while they last. Sponsored by Word of Truth St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church and Carolina Pines Community Center.

Cost: Free

Where:
Carolina Pines Community Center
2305 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Sponsor: Word of Truth St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church & Carolina Pines Comm Center
Telephone: (919) 831-6435
Contact Name: Tonya Henderson

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Enjoy live entertainment, hands-on projects and gallery hunts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Personality Festival is a Roxboro tradition. Enjoy amusements rides along Main Street, food vendors, singers, dancers, craft and merchandise vendors, local businesses and more. Little Miss...

Cost: Free

Where:
Uptown Roxboro
211 N. Main St.
Roxboro, NC  27573
View map »


Sponsor: Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 336-599-8333
Contact Name: Melissa
Website »

More information

Children's booksellers read their favorite picture books. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

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The first Holly Springs Children's Business Fair allows children in Holly Springs and surrounding communities to showcase their entrepreneurial skills by launching their own business. Children...

Cost: Free

Where:
Holly Springs Towne Center
NC55 & New Hill Rd.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Infinity Educators, LLC
Telephone: 919-694-1908
Contact Name: Charlene Y. Dunn
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

View the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history and aspects of its preservation. All ages. Registration encouraged online; tickets available inside...

Cost: $5/adult, $3/ ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Join staff for a morning in the gardens. Take a peek at a mini pond, composting area, pollinator garden and children’s garden. Ages 5 and older with family. Register online. 

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy giveaways, live entertainment, food, inflatables and more. Dog-friendly event.

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Pine Plaza
US 64
Apex, NC  27523
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Pine Plaza
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster

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Enjoy live music. Take a blanket or lawn chairs. Pets and alcohol not permitted.

Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Nature Park Amphitheatre
2600 Evans Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The Halle Cultural Arts Center
Telephone: (919) 249-1120
Website »

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