2013 Best Family Places to Visit
Parents know best when it comes to family-friendly places to eat, shop, celebrate and visit in the Triangle, so we asked you to name your favorites. In some cases, top vote-getters were extremely close, so we awarded two. Businesses or places that received an overwhelming number of votes are recognized as Honorable Mentions.
Without further delay, here are your top recommendations for family places to visit in the Triangle:
Fair or Festival
N.C. State Fair and Cary Lazy Daze
The first N.C. State Fair took place in October 1853 and was created by a group of agricultural reform advocates to encourage North Carolina farmers to adopt scientific methods of farming. Today, while agriculture and produce are still emphasized at the fair, a new trend as evolved as vendors try deep-frying new food items each year. In fact, the official blog of the N.C. State Fair Press Office is called "Deep Fried @ the N.C. State Fair." (info.ncagr.com/DeepFried) With more than 50 adult rides and 30 kiddie rides, attendees should be sure to save the deep fried delicacies for after the rides. Fireworks start every night at 9:45 p.m. Purchase tickets before the fair online to save money or visit on the day that you can be admitted for free by donating canned goods. Located at 1025 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh; ncstatefair.org.
Since 1977, Cary Lazy Daze has brought residents and visitors together in a celebration of summer and community to enjoy arts and crafts, live music and food. The event's 35-year streak was disrupted in 2011 when Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina on the day of the festival, but it has since continued and gained momentum and popularity. Kid's World allows children of all ages to make crafts to take home. This year's festival will feature Thumbprint Theatre, which will emphasize the use of hands as children make thumbprint actors and object rubbings. Located in downtown Cary; townofcary.org (search for Lazy Daze).
Museum of Life and Science
A top attraction in North Carolina, the museum is situated on 84 acres and features a world-renowned butterfly conservatory, an animal sanctuary for rescued lemurs, black bears and red wolves as well as a hikeable "Dinosaur Trail." Exhibits are both indoors and outdoors and include over 60 species of live animals in exhibits such as the "Farmhouse." Science center exhibits are interactive and kids can complete experiments in The Lab! Located at 433 W Murray Ave., Durham; lifeandscience.org.
Honorable mention: Marbles Kids Museum
Located at 201 E. Hargett St., Raleigh; marbleskidsmuseum.org. (Learn more below.)
Rainy Day Activity
Marbles Kids Museum
The wall that wraps around Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh is filled with more than one million marbles that light up at night. Marbles' exhibits allow kids to learn how to budget money, paint, sculpt and play while learning about health and physical activity. An Imax theater screens 3D Hollywood blockbusters as well as 3D documentaries made exclusively for Marbles Kids Museum such as Under the Sea and Flight of the Butterflies. Check out Marbles' website for exciting events such as visiting artists, chefs and scientists that lead interactive classes. Located at 201 E Hargett St., Raleigh; marbleskidsmuseum.org.
Family Sports Event
Durham Bulls Game
The Durham Bulls Youth Athletic League provides recreational baseball free-of-charge to kids ages 5-12 in the City of Durham. The Durham Bulls were founded in 1902 and were originally the Durham Tobacconists. The Bulls received international attention and fame following the release of the film Bull Durham in 1988, starring Kevin Costner. Kids run the bases on Sunday games and Wool E. Bull makes an appearance at every game. Located at 409 Blackwell St., Durham; milb.com.
Honorable mention: Carolina Hurricanes Game
The Carolina Hurricanes were originally the Hartford Whalers, and relocated to North Carolina in 1997 under the name Carolina Hurricanes. The Kids 'N Community Foundation brings the Hurricanes players into the community, donating more than $500,000 to children's charities and scholarship programs last season. Located at 1400 Edwards Mill Rd., Raleigh; hurricanes.nhl.com.
Place to Take Visitors
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Sarah P. Duke, the wife of one of Duke's founders, gave $20,000 to fund the cultivation of 55 acres to the west of Duke's campus in 1935. She tirelessly worked to plant more than 40,000 irises, 25,000 daffodils and 10,000 small bulbs. Heavy rains and floods destroyed the garden, and when Duke died in 1936, the gardens were destroyed. Her daughter constructed a new garden on higher ground as a monument to her mother, which laid the foundation for what is now the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Located at 420 Anderson St., Durham; hr.duke.edu/dukegardens.
Honorable mention: Pullen Park
Located at 520 Ashe Ave., Raleigh; raleighnc.gov (search for Pullen Park).
Free Activity or Place
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
For the first time in nine years, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh was the No. 1 "Most Visited" site in North Carolina, based on the results of the 2012 survey of museums and historic attractions, released in March by Carolina Publishing Associates, which compiles the data. Previously, Asheville's Biltmore Estate topped the list. This summer's roving exhibit will be "Dinosaurs in Motion." View 14 life-size dinosaur sculptures, inspired by real fossils that visitors can move with pulleys and controls. Located at 11 W. Jones St., Raleigh; naturalsciences.org. Note: Free parks around the Triangle are other popular free destinations.
North Carolina Zoo
The site for the North Carolina Zoo was deliberately placed 75 miles west of Raleigh, 25 miles south of Greensboro and 75 miles northeast of Charlotte to ensure its location in the center of the state in Asheboro. 2012 brought in the highest number of zoo visitors in the past 15 years, spurred by a highly popular dinosaur exhibit and high volume of animal births, including a baby giraffe and two infant gorillas. Located at 4401 Zoo Pkwy., Asheboro; nczoo.org.