13 Fun Things to Do in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill Over Winter Break

Make the most of the winter break with these special events, shows and places with your family


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Photo courtesy of North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival

Schools are out, family is in town... now what?! We have 13 ideas for seasonal fun over winter break to keep the troops entertained.

1.  Holiday Performances

PHOTO COURTESY OF ROB ORAZI

 

Enjoy a live family-friendly performance such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical” through Dec. 24 in Raleigh and Carolina Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” through Dec. 30 in Durham. Browse our roundup of December shows for details on a range of holiday shows for all ages. 


2. Ice Skating

Photo courtesy of AboutLife/Shutterstock.com

 

The Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area has several ice skating rinks, most of which offer figure skating lessons, hockey leagues and plenty of time for folks to just skate around freestyle for fun. Although there are no outdoor ice skating options this season, check out:


3. Santa Visits

Photo courtesy of Lauren Bell Isaacs

 

Take your little ones to visit Santa at local malls through Dec. 24. Browse our roundup to find out the jolly old elf’s schedule. 


4. Volunteer at Triangle Nonprofits

PHOTO COURTESY OF DURHAM, PARKS AND RECREATION

 

Give back by volunteering with your kids. Local nonprofits, such as the Food Bank, are always looking for volunteers. Browse our roundup of local nonprofits to find lots of places where your family can help. Call ahead to ensure the volunteer opportunities listed are still available before you head out.


5. Seasonal Nature Programs

Photo courtesy of Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

 

Escape to a local park with your family to learn about nature and make seasonal crafts. Search our daily calendar for programs for children, including Art in the Park: Super Snowflakes Dec. 27-30, an event during which families can celebrate the beauty of the winter season by making paper snowflakes at Historic Yates Mill County Park. At Natural Creations on Dec. 29, learn to identify winter trees and take photos of your favorites for an amateur photography contest at Blue Jay Point County Park. Both events are free.


6. The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience

IMAGE COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.

 

When a doubting young boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe. Catch The Polar Express at the Marbles IMAX Theatre through Dec. 24.


7. Museum Exhibits

Image courtesy of North carolina Museum of Natural Sciences/Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

 

Catch fascinating museum exhibits, like "Beyond Curie: A Celebration of Women in Science," at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences through Dec. 31. This exhibit features 40 women scientists, mathematicians and engineers who have made incredible advances in their fields, but never earned the recognition they deserve. "The Beyond: Georgia O'Keeffe + Contemporary Art" at the North Carolina Museum of Art brings together a significant group of O’Keeffe’s works as the centerpiece of an exploration of her continued force as a touchstone for contemporary art. Be sure to call ahead to find out when museums are open. Browse our roundup of museum exhibits to find one that will suit your family.

 

8. Must-See Holiday Light Shows Across North Carolina

PHOTO COURTESY OF BILL STICE

 

'Tis the season for dazzling light displays. These annual sparkling and twinkling displays are a great way to celebrate festive fun with the family. Here are our top picks of holiday light shows across the state to help bring out your family’s holiday spirit. Locally, Booth Amphitheatre is transformed into a dazzling walk-through display with larger-than-life lanterns at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Cary until Jan. 13, 2019. Enjoy holiday treats and beverages from venue stands.


9. See Snowflakes in Raleigh

PHOTO COURTESY OF GLENWOOD SOUTH NEIGHBORHOOD COLLABORATIVE

 

Want to see snowflakes in downtown Raleigh — regardless of the weather forecast? Seventy volunteers from Glenwood South and Activate Good hung nearly 1,300 crocheted snowflakes on the trees along Glenwood Avenue between Peace and Hillsborough streets. With more than 15 businesses along the street already displaying oversized crocheted flakes in their windows and on their front porches, the neighborhood is sure to match the winter weather.


10. Track Santa

PHOTO COURTESY OF DUCU59US/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

 

Show your kids how they can track Santa on Dec. 24 and enjoy online holiday games well ahead of Christmas Eve. Learn more about the NORAD Tracks Santa website.


11. Celebrate Kwanzaa

Photo courtesy of Ailisa/Shutterstock.com

 

Kwanzaa is a celebration for all people, focusing on family, friends and the fruits of the earth. It's celebrated from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, with each of the seven days focusing on one of seven core values, or Nguzo Saba. A candle is lit on each day, and on the last day, gifts are exchanged. In the Triangle, three free Kwanzaa celebrations are happening featuring performances, arts and crafts, drumming, candle lighting and more.


12. Family-Friendly New Year's Eve Celebrations

PHOTO COURTESY OF ARTSPLOSURE/FIRST NIGHT RALEIGH

 

Here in the Triangle, your family can ring in 2019 at one of several family-friendly options — from an acorn drop in downtown Raleigh to a scientific celebration of the night sky in Chapel Hill. Check out First Night Raleigh's hands-on global workshops at the daytime Children’s Celebration, a Noon Year's Eve at Marbles Kids Museum or science activities, planetarium shows, Science LIVE! performances and more at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s Night Lights


13. State Parks' First Day Hikes

PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTH CAROLINA STATE PARKS

 

Start the New Year on the right foot with a North Carolina New Year’s tradition of family adventure, exercise and reconnection by taking a First Day Hike on Jan. 1. This popular tradition began at Eno River State Park more than 40 years ago, an annual event that now draws more than 800 visitors! Ranging from short “leg-stretchers” to several-mile rambles, most of the hikes feature educational programs led by rangers along the way. Check out our list of local State Parks First Day Hike options in the Triangle. Please note that some events require pre-registration and have a limited number of spots. 

 

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Triangle Places for Family Fun in Winter

The Triangle offers lots of play escapes where kids can create and learn — and many outings are free.
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Calendar

January 2019

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
Website »

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💕It's time to consign at Cary's BIGGEST Consignment sale - Voted BEST in the Triangle and Top 10 in the Nation! ✳️Register now at KidsEveryWEAR.com ✳️Read our website's consignor...

Cost: free

Where:
Cary Towne Center
1105 Walnut St
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Kids EveryWEAR Consignment Sale
Contact Name: Gail Walker
Website »

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Spend the afternoon helping to maintain and beautify the nature center. Ages 16 and older.

Cost: Free

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

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The Hillsborough Classic Film Society hosts a series of classic, foreign, and independent film screenings once a month on alternating third and fourth Sundays, excluding holidays. Each screening is...

Cost: 0

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

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Celebrate community heroes on MLK Day at Marbles. From 10am-2pm, meet real community heroes like a paramedic, teacher and police officer. Be a hero by packing food for Backpack Buddies to...

Cost: $7 ages 1 and older

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Rale, NC
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Website »

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Spend the afternoon helping to maintain and beautify the area around Good Hope Farm in honor of MLK Jr. Day of Service. All ages. Volunteers age 15 and younger must be supervised by an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Good Hope Farm
1580 Morrisville Carpenter Rd.
Cary, NC
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Website »

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Winter can be a fun season if you are dressed properly for outdoor activities. Bundle up and come out for some nature exploration outdoors and indoor crafts. For ages 7-12 (kids drop off program)....

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

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Triangle families are invited to celebrate MLK Day with a family-friendly birthday party for Dr. King with interactive activities, crafts, performances, service projects, and birthday cake in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northgate Mall
1058 W Club Blvd, Northgate Mall, I-85 Exit 176
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: MomsRising
Telephone: 919-696-0142
Contact Name: Beth Messersmith
Website »

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Take part in a dental bash, specially created for kids on MLK Day. Enjoy a magician, face painter and lots of arts and crafts. Parents can also learn how to help their child...

Cost: Free

Where:
Leesville Dental Studio
13220 Strickland Rd, Suite 166
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Telephone: 919-238-7729
Website »

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Book Harvest hosts the Dream Big Book Drive, a community-wide celebration of diversity, literacy and books for all children. Donate new or gently used children’s book, volunteer to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Book Harvest
Telephone: (252) 497-BOOK
Contact Name: Daniele Berman
Website »

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Head out to Lake Crabtree to celebrate "Squirrel Appreciation Day" and learn all about our most commonly seen mammal. Spy on the always entertaining grey squirrels that abound in the...

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
Website »

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Did you know that the gray squirrel is North Carolina's state mammal and that field research on them took place historically at Yates Mill Pond? Join us on "Squirrel Appreciation Day” as we...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Ages 11-17 create old-fashioned taffy and hard candy using ingredients like caramel, marshmallow and chocolate. Register online. Choose course #120978.

Cost: $18/resident, $23/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Website »

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Expand your knowledge of our local flora and fauna by exploring a different area of the park each month. Join park staff as they "nerd out" over amphibians, birds, insects, spiders and...

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
Website »

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Meet other families in your community in a recreation setting. The play room will be reserved for parents and their young children. Sports and recreation equipment will be available...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

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Discover the joy of cooking with storybook characters. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online. Choose course #120080.

Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Website »

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Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. Choose course #121605.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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

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Enjoy the family-friendly movie and a slice or two of pizza. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/person, $2 for ages 2 and younger

Where:
The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Website »

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Enjoy the family-friendly movie and a slice or two of pizza. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/person, $2 for ages 2 and younger

Where:
The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Website »

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Ages 11 and older with special needs learn fun facts about sports, music, movies and more. Register online. Choose course #121059.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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Parents learn meaningful coping strategies to benefit themselves and their child. Register online. Choose course #121424.

Cost: $11/resident, $15/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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Join us to read Jan Brett’s classic “The Mitten,” a whimsical story about a young boy, his white mittens, and the woodland creatures he encounters. Learn some knitting history and make your...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Join us to read Jan Brett’s classic “The Mitten,” a whimsical story about a young boy, his white mittens, and the woodland creatures he encounters. Learn some knitting history and make your...

Cost: Free

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

More information

Youth ages 8-13 find out how not to be fooled by Fool’s Gold. Learn how geologists test minerals by using properties like hardness, streak, color, luster, and acid reactivity, then...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

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Enjoy single rider snow tubing at Bond Park. Ages 5 and older. See website for 45-minute sessions. Registration required online for all sessions.

Cost: $19/person

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
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Website »

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Hibernation, brumation, and estivation, oh my! Hibernation isn’t the only type of dormancy behavior and winter isn’t the only time of year animals might reduce their activity. Learn about these...

Cost: Free

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

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Last Fridays of the month, middle and high schoolers are invited to meet and chat about what they’ve read over snacks with the Teen Advisory Board. At each meeting, participants will vote on...

Cost: 0

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

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Enjoy popcorn with a family-friendly movie while being comfy in your pajamas. Refreshments provided.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Explore Harry Potter's world with a magical craft, potions, trivia, wands and more. Ages 7-11. Register online with course #120889.

Cost: $18/resident, $23/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
150 Metro Park Dr.
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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Enjoy fun, games, friendship and more every Friday.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

This class is a chance for adventurous women to get together for a fun-filled workshop where we explore the basics of aerial silks. No need for a background in aerial yoga, this is a workshop...

Cost: $25

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
Website »

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Go Fort and build! Pitch your tent then curl up with a good book. Bring your blankets and a flashlight. We’ll provide the s'mores!

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

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Enjoy single rider snow tubing at Bond Park. Ages 5 and older. See website for 45-minute sessions. Ages 5 and younger can take part in a parent-child snow tubing session on Saturday from...

Cost: $19/person

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Teens learn tips to improve their ACT scores. Register online. 

Cost: $129.99

Where:
Wake Technical Community College – Southern Campus
9101 Fayetteville Rd
Raleigh, NC
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Sponsor: Doorway to College Foundation
Contact Name: Kelsey Foster
Website »

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Enjoy performances, authentic Chinese food and family-friendly activities. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Dorton Arena, North Carolina State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

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Celebrate African-American history and culture with more than 75 musicians, storytellers, hip-hop dancers, chefs, historians, playwrights, authors, artists, re-enactors, a farmers market and more....

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Take part in an all-ages benefit event for Jordan Prince in cooperation with the Athlete Recovery Fund and Sk8 Cary.  There will be a jam from 12pm - 6pm at Sk8 Cary and after-party /...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sk8 Cary
2040 NW Maynard Rd
Cary , NC
View map »


Sponsor: Athlete Recovery Fund - Sk8 Cary
Telephone: 919-802-6828
Contact Name: Erin Laskowich
Website »

More information

All ages with caregiver learn abut local birds and build a bird box to provide shelter an nesting for backyard birds. Register online. Choose course #121591.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Learn how to successfully navigate the college search, selection and application process. Ages 12 and older with parent. Register online with course #119878.

Cost: $7/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

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The Teen Advisory Board invites you to meet up with other gamers to mingle, snack, and test your skills for prizes! Guests are welcome to bring their own controllers/fightsticks. To register visit...

Cost: 0

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Join us for a fun-filled evening learning about owls. We’ll learn what makes these raptors special and what sounds different species of owls make. We’ll dissect an owl pellet and go call to the...

Cost: $4

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood

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Saturday, January 26 & Sunday, January 27, 2019 Saturday: 9:00am–5:00pm Sunday: noon–5:00pm The Museum partners with NASA and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the big picture —...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Saturday, January 26 & Sunday, January 27, 2019 Saturday: 9:00am–5:00pm Sunday: noon–5:00pm The Museum partners with NASA and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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