5 Ideas for a Family Playdate in the Triangle
Children pose in front of a mural in North Hills.
When you have a day wide open for family fun, you’ll find plenty of options in the Triangle. Check out these ideas for creating a day of wonder with your family — right here in your own backyard.
North Carolina Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh
The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh continues to grow and provide new treasures your family can discover together. Before you tour the museum collection, start the day by hiking any of the 3 miles of trails in the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park. The Blue Loop consists of a paved, 1-mile trail perfect for strollers. Fly kites or play Frisbee on the Ellipse lawn before settling down for a picnic. After lunch, explore the museum’s permanent collection.
Expert tip: Pick up a copy of the Making Faces activity guide, a free resource for kids that introduces museum characters and encourages budding artists to draw their own portraits.
North Hills, 4158 Main at North Hills St., Raleigh
Raleigh’s rapidly growing mini-metropolis is so much more than a shopping center. Start at North Hills Park, just off Currituck Drive, which has a baseball field, tennis courts, a greenway connection and a playground with bathrooms. For lunch, drive less than a mile to North Hills’ outdoor shopping center, where you’ll find a plethora of kid-friendly eateries. Shop at the newly relocated and redesigned Quail Ridge Books independent bookstore and Learning Express Toys, then finish the day with a movie at Regal North Hills, bowling, or a free outdoor concert or movie at the amphitheater during the warmer months — all within walking distance. Shuttles are also available for those who have difficulty walking.
Expert tip: Trade the toy from the North Hills Chick-fil-A kids meals for free ice cream! (This is a nationwide Chick-fil-A policy so try this at your local Chick-fil-A as well.)
3. Wonder and Education in Chapel Hill
North Carolina Botanical Garden, 100 Old Mason Farm Rd., Chapel Hill
Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, 250 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill
Celebrate a beautiful morning at North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. Don’t miss the Children’s Wonder Garden with “jump stumps,” or the opportunity to write letters to fairies. Hike the trails to find the perfect shady spot for a picnic. From there, you’re a short drive away from Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, located on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. Tour the hands-on science center while waiting for an educational show in the incredible domed projection theater.
Expert tip: Check out the Morehead Sundial in front of the building. At 36 feet in diameter, the sundial is one of the world’s largest. Chapel Hill fans can continue exploring the campus to snap photos of UNC-Chapel Hill’s famed Old Well and Davie Poplar.
4. Sporty Experiences in Downtown Durham
Durham Central Park, 501 Foster St., Durham
American Tobacco Campus, 300 Blackwell St., Durham
Start your day at Durham Central Park, where your kids can watch local X-gamers rip through ramps, stairwells and an 8-foot trog bowl at the skate park. If your kids plan to skate, be sure to take helmets and pads.
After catching air — or watching others do it — explore the rest of the 5-acre park. Kids can climb Mount Merrill, an interactive children’s play area, or sprint across The Great Lawn, a sprawling, open green space near the skate park.
For lunch, drive less than a mile away to the American Tobacco Campus, where you’ll find Moe’s Southwest Grill, Mellow Mushroom and a variety of other restaurants that provide family-friendly dining in this budding historical and architectural focal point. Across the street, play tag in Diamond View Park while you wait for the Durham Bulls Athletic Park gates to open for one of the greatest family pastimes of all — going to a baseball game!
Expert tip: Check out the SEEDS Garden of Eatin’, a public, free-pick, edible garden in Durham Central Park. Learn more at seedsnc.org/our-gardens.
5. Old-Fashioned Fun in Cary
Phillips Farm, 6701 Good Hope Church Rd., Cary
Fred G. Bond Metro Park, 801 High House Rd., Cary
Ashworth Drugs, 105 W. Chatham St., Cary
Start your day at Phillips Farms participating in kid-friendly, farm-centric activities. Take your fresh picks to Fred G. Bond Metro Park for a picnic lunch. Take a lazy walk to the boathouse and feed the ducks or enjoy a paddleboat ride while your food digests. Earn a snow cone by taking a long hike or trek through the park’s ropes course. During weekends, you may be able to catch a free concert at the amphitheater. End the day by making a stop at Ashworth Drug’s old-fashioned soda fountain in downtown Cary to enjoy an ice cream float or milkshake.
Expert tip: Ensure your spot on the Fred G. Bond Metro Park ropes course by making a reservation through the Town of Cary website.
Mandy Howard is a freelance writer and mother of three in Raleigh.