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


Published:

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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July 2019

More than 1,300 makers from around the globe will gather to learn, share, and celebrate lathe-turned work. And with this year’s record-breaking turnout, it will be the largest woodturning...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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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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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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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Cary’s popular food truck rally also features music from local performers.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Cary
, NC  27511


Website »

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Enjoy food trucks and live music in Downtown Park.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Park
319 S. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Enjoy an evening of jazz music, improvisation and collage inspired by the art of Romare Bearden with music from the Raleigh Jazz Orchestra. Romare Bearden was born in Charlotte, NC and drew...

Cost: Free

Where:
Borden Building and Grounds
820 Clay Street
Raleigh, NC  27605
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Sponsor: Historic Resources and Museum Programs
Telephone: 919-996-4364
Contact Name: Borden Building at Fletcher Park
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Ages 11-17 make comfort foods inspired by the South. Register online. Choose course #124743.

Cost: $44/resident, $57/nonresident

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


Website »

More information

Drop by the cybrary for storytime with a librarian. Activity Room 4. Preschool and kindergarten ages. No registration necessary. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Cybrary
100 N Greensboro St
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-918-7387
Contact Name: Cybrary
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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The world famous Glenn Miller Orchestra brings timeless classics like In the Mood, Moonlight Serenade, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Pennsylvania 6-5000, String of Pearls and Tuxedo Junction back to the...

Cost: $50-$70/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
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Enjoy storytime with Amy Godfrey. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Locopops Dessert Cafe
2618 Hillsborough St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

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Preschoolers (ages 3-5 with accompanying adult) meet a real turtle and hike to see others.  Play turtle games and bring home a rock 'turtle' in a terrarium you design. Preregister online using...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Marti Kane
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
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In The Wild with Dan The Animal Man Dan brings his wild animals to Clinton, NC, followed by a free community cookout, Wednesday, July 17. 1017 Sunset Avenue, Clinton, NC 28328 (Between Pizza...

Cost: Free

Where:
Immanuel
1017 Sunset Ave
Clinton, NC  28328
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Telephone: 910-592-3854
Contact Name: Will Matthews
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Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy yoga and breathing exercises. Register online. Choose course #125023.

Cost: $9/resident, $11/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

More information

Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Bring your own poles or borrow one of ours through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are provided. All...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

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Kids ages 6-9 discover the creatures that live in the pond and streams at the Preserve.  The focus will be hands-on outdoor investigation and the study of living things in their habitat. ...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Marti Kane
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Parent and child ages 2-5 water plants in the native wildflower gardens. Register online. Choose course #124907.

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs learn the basics of archery. Register online. Choose course #124599.

Cost: $15/resident, $20/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

TreeRunner Raleigh’s Adventure Park Glow Night returns in July with an adventurous Safari theme! Join the TreeRunner staff and dress up in safari-themed attire. Reserve your spot early...

Cost: General Admission

Where:
TreeRunner Raleigh
12804 Norwood Rd
Raleigh, NC  27613
View map »


Sponsor: N/A
Telephone: 919-410-7347
Contact Name: Jami Sowers

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Ages 14-17 learn basic cooking skills and use a recipe to create a delicious dish. Register online.

Cost: $40

Where:
The Poe Center for Health Education
224 Sunnybrook Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs stroll through the woods. Register online. Choose course #124384.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

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


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online. Choose course #124971.

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

Enjoy a party and summer movie under the stars. Purchase advance tickets online. 

Cost: $7/nonmember. Free for members and ages 6 and younger.

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Support local artists as they perform in Wake Forest.

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Renaissance Centre for the Arts
405 Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Support local artists as they perform in Wake Forest.

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Renaissance Centre for the Arts
405 Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

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Shop for local handmade arts and crafts from local vendors. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

"In every flower, every stem, every leaf, a world to discover that's beyond belief!" In the Dr. Suess story, Horton the elephant finds a tiny world on a clover flower. Just like "whos", insects...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

North Carolina's food history and heritage take center stage for the day with barbecue and pie competitions, live music, arts and crafts vendors, kids' games, living history reenactors,...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

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


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

More information

Preschoolers (ages 3-5 accompanied by an adult) meet a real turtle and hike to see others.  Play turtle games and bring home a rock 'turtle' in a terrarium you design. Preregister online using...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Marti Kane
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with kids programs, a bungee jump station, demos, food trucks and much more.  p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 13.0px...

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 E. Edenton Street
Raleigh, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a fun, festive and family-friendly event featuring a replica of the space suit worn by Neil Armstrong (step inside! perfect for photo ops!), educational activities, complimentary refreshments...

Cost: Free

Where:
Morgan Imports
113 S. Gregson St.
Durham, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

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


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

More information

Create your own apron and bake your own individual cake. Register online. Choose course #124900.

Cost: $35/resident, $45/nonresident

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


Website »

More information

Enjoy a summer movie under the stars to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Purchase advance tickets online. 

Cost: $7/nonmember. Free for members and ages 6 and younger.

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

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