17 Hidden Gems for Triangle Families to Discover


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Take a walk on Hillsborough’s Riverwalk and discover the magic of “A Sight to Behold,” a unique stick sculpture designed by Patrick Dougherty.

Triangle families are fortunate to have many of the state’s finest museums, kid-friendly parks and attractions in such close proximity. But there are some best-kept secrets even locals don’t know about. Here are our top picks for lesser-known attractions serving up family fun in the Triangle.


Apex

Experience one of the Triangle’s most popular disc golf courses at Apex Nature Park, as well as outdoor movies and concerts in the park’s amphitheater. Nearby athletic fields, sand volleyball courts, shelters, playground equipment, and large and small dog parks make this a popular destination for everyone in the family. 2600 Evans Rd., Apex.

Cary

The Children’s Nature Trail at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, a 140-acre natural area, opened in 2015. Visitors can enjoy a variety of play elements such as a log tunnel, log balance beam, ceramic creatures and more. 2616 Kildaire Farm Rd., Cary.

Sears Farm Road Park features a playground, paved trails and uniquely landscaped areas. It’s the perfect spot for a family picnic. The highlight of this park is a giant sculpture little ones can climb. 5077 Sears Farm Rd., Cary.

Chapel Hill

Lavender Oaks Farm, which opens in spring 2017 and operates seasonally, is an organic lavender farm on 45 acres. Tours are available by appointment only. 3833 Millard Whitley Rd., Chapel Hill.

Durham

The Duke Lemur Center on Duke University’s campus houses the largest population of lemurs outside of Madagascar. Tours and special programming help fund conservation efforts. Visit the  website for public and premium tour information. 3705 Erwin Rd., Durham.


Photo courtesy of the Duke Lemur Center

Hillsborough

Take a walk on Hillsborough’s Riverwalk and discover the magic of “A Sight to Behold,” a unique stick sculpture designed by local artist Patrick Dougherty. Kids love the structure because it conjures images from fairy tales and their imagination. Is it a castle for a woodland creature or an elven village? River Park entrance, 140 E. Margaret Lane, Hillsborough.

Maple View Farm offers delicious hormone- and antibiotic-free ice cream at its Hillsborough country store. It’s a great spot to enjoy scenic farmland views and a sweet treat for the kids. 6900 Rocky Ridge Rd., Hillsborough.

Morrisville

If you have a little one who loves planes, a visit to the RDU Observation Park makes for a perfect afternoon outing. The park offers a fantastic view of the airport’s 10,000-foot runway. Kids can also listen to pilot and control tower communications. Near the air traffic control center near W. International Dr., Morrisville.

New Hill

Enjoy a one-hour train excursion in an open passenger car on the New Hope Valley Railway. Explore the rail yard, exhibits and gift shop. Tickets are $7-$10. 3900 Bonsal Rd., New Hill.

Pittsboro

Carolina Tiger Rescue offers tours to see lions, tigers, cougars and more. Tickets are $11-$18. 1940 Hanks Chapel Rd., Pittsboro.

Celebrity Dairy, just 13 miles west of Pittsboro in Siler City, offers open barn weekends throughout the year for visitors. Spring is the best time to visit the 300-acre farm to admire the newly arrived “kids” — baby goats. Check the website for dates and special events. 144 Celebrity Dairy Way, Siler City.

Schedule a free tour at Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge in Pittsboro. The 20-acre animal sanctuary is home to rescued chickens, turkeys, goats and sheep. 7236 State Route 87 N., Pittsboro.

Raleigh

See how chocolate sweets are made at Videri Chocolate Factory, which offers free, self-guided tours throughout the week. End your visit with a stop in the Chocolate Shop. 327 W. Davie St., Sweet 100, Raleigh.


Photo courtesy of Videri Chocolate Factory

 

Enjoy a narrated tour of historic downtown Raleigh aboard the Raleigh Trolley. Tickets are $4-$10. Kids 6 and younger are free. 1 Mimosa St., Mordecai History Park, Raleigh.

Sassafras All Children’s Playground, designed for children of all abilities, features swings, slides, a pair of 50-foot zip lines and basketball court with adjustable hoop height. 3808 Edwards Mill Rd., Raleigh.

Free public tours are available the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Raleigh Fire Museum. Kids will love the firefighting memorabilia covering 150 years. Keeter Training Center, 105 Keeter Center Dr., Raleigh.

At the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park, you’ll find the outdoor exhibit “Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky,” a round building made of stone and wood with a small door. An opening in the roof allows the building to act as a camera obscura. 2110 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh.

Myra Wright is the web editor of Carolina Parent and Piedmont Parent. She frequently writes about North Carolina travel.

 

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June 2017

Bee populations are in decline in North America. Learn how to attract pollinators to your very own pollinator hotel. Discover why pollinator hotels are important and how to create pollinator...

Cost: $30 (Tuition + Materials)

Where:
The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: The Scrap Exchange
Telephone: 191-921-31278
Contact Name: Anna Graves
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Watch a brief slideshow and explore the inner workings of the mill. All ages. Online registration encouraged.

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
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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he Durham Bulls host a Touch A Truck event in conjunction with local public safety agencies. The event will precede the team’s game that evening at 5:05 p.m. Blackwell Street,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Blackwell St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Children with disabilities discover what's happening in nature on a stroll through Hemlock Bluffs. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #104850.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Take the family for a drop-in creative workshop for kids ages 5-10. Free with admission.

Cost: Free with admission. Free for ages 15 and younger

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Learn how to help your baby excel in motor development. This class focuses on standing/walking and offers a variety of ways to help your baby master motor development. Register online.

Cost: $15

Where:
Baby + Co
226 Ashville Ave.
Cary, NC  27518
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Ages 5-12 learn about healthy fruits and vegetables, kitchen and food safety, and enjoy a healthy snack. Meet in the bakery side of the cafe. Email sherry.thrasher@wholefoods.com to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods North Raleigh
8710 Six Forks Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Telephone: 919-354-0350
Contact Name: Sherry Thrasher

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Ages 3-6 enjoy fun games and drills. Call to RSVP.  

Cost: $5/child

Where:
Fitness4Life
6701 Glenwood Ave.
Suite 103
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Sponsor: Fitness4Life
Telephone: 919-787-2250
Contact Name: George Whitten
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Learn about rocks and soil by digging in the dirt. Find hidden rock treasures, make a mud painting, and plant a seed to take home and grow. Dress to get dirty. Ages 3-5 with an accompanying adult....

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 Nature Preserve
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Join others for an easy-paced walk along the greenway accompanied by a naturalist. Registration encouraged. Choose course #203541.

Cost: Free

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Listen to nature-themed books and enjoy hands-on explorations in the garden. Ages 3-5 with caregiver. Register online.

Cost: $3/child

Where:
North Carolina Botanical Garden
100 Old Mason Farm Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
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Sponsor: North Carolia Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3370
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
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Ages 6-8 investigate the habitats and behaviors of some of the mammals that call the nature preserve “home.”  Dressed for outdoor fun.  Register online....

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
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Parents of children ages 3-18 months learn how to prepare quick and easy meals for their little one, learn about weaning and when to transition into the next nutritional step....

Cost: Free

Where:
Guidepost Montessori at Spruce Tree
12600 Spruce Tree Way
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: Guidepost Montessori at Spruce Tree
Telephone: (919) 825-1771
Contact Name: Holly Vincitorio
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Attend a private pop-up event with Songs for Seeds at SnickerDoodles. Enjoy a concert plus 30-minutes of private use of play space for all attendees. Ages infant-6. Call to...

Cost: $15 per child and $10 for each additional sibling

Where:
SnickerDoodles
3721 Lynn Road, #112
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Sponsor: songs for seeds
Telephone: 984.219.2022
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Learn about beetles with a craft, games, stories and a guided walk through the wetland. Ages 2-6. Register online. Choose course #203552. 

Cost: $3

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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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
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/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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Hear the Grammy-winning band based in the North Carolina mountains take to the stage with the North Carolina Symphony.  Purchase tickets online. Kids 12 and younger admitted free on...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC
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Join bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends. Discover different types of birds and their habitats.​ Meet at the Waterwise Garden.

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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The 38th Annual Festival for the Eno features over 65 music performances, a juried craft show, interactive arts, environmental and backyard farming demonstrations, a wide variety of local food...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
West Point on the Eno
5101 N Roxboro Road
Durham, NC  27712
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Summerfest Celebration features an autograph session, inflatables, games, free giveaways, guest speakers from the Hurricanes, appearances by Stormy and the Pepsi Storm Squad, discounted...

Cost: Free

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Enjoy storytime with a community farm member, a book swap via Little Free Library, and free play in a natural playground.   

Cost: Free

Where:
The Community Farm at Camp Chestnut Ridge
2902 Mount Willing Rd.
Efland, NC  27243
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Contact Name: Sandy Straw
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Celebrate the wonderful world of exotic animals and reptiles. Enjoy live specimens, presentations, raffles, vendors and much more. Purchase tickets online.  

Cost: $12 ages 13 and older, $5 ages 5-12.

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds, Kerr Scott Building
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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In this new book from acclaimed author Ryan T. Higgins, all Rupert the Mouse wants is to star in a beautiful, wordless picture book. He has plenty of ideas about what makes a great book, but his...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble Cary
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Telephone: 919-467-3866
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American Dance Festival favorite Pilobolus returns. "On the Nature of Things" explores the birth of desire and its intertwined connection to shame and revenge....

Cost: $16/person

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian Street
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: American Dance Festival
Telephone: 919-684-6402
Contact Name: Mollie O'Reilly
Website »

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Explore the historic nature of Leigh Farm Park with a friendly guide. Venture inside the historic farmhouse while being captivated by tales about life at Leigh Farm throughout the years.

Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Durham Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 919-560-1116
Contact Name: Natalya Buckel
Website »

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Hear the music of U2 performed by the North Carolina Symphony. Purchase tickets online. Kids 12 and younger admitted free on the lawn. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC
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