Arts-Based Camps Invite Kids to Paint, Act or Dance Through Summer


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Is your child more of a Picasso than Archimedes or Usain Bolt? Maybe you’ve heard about the cognitive and social benefits arts-based camps offer and you’d like your child to experience them. Whether you’re raising an artist, mathematician or athlete, an arts-based camp may be just what your child needs to balance out, or further enrich, his developing brain.

Plentiful arts-based camp options abound in North Carolina. Your student can train with musical masters at UNC-Greensboro and University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, or participate in summer acting programs at the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory in Raleigh, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte or East Carolina University in Greenville. If your child likes to dance, internationally acclaimed instructors offer summer programs as part of the American Dance Festival in Durham.

Whether you’re enriching an already-artistic-child’s journey or just making an introduction, North Carolina claims a variety of exceptional programs to choose from. Deciding which dream to chase may be the toughest decision your young artist has to make.

More Than Music

Music’s benefits have long been obvious to parents who have crooned soft melodies to soothe agitated babies and later observed the positive effects of an arts education on their growing children. Now, recent studies document the benefits of music on a child’s cognitive and social development, particularly when experienced at a young age and over a long period of time.

Research presented at the 2013 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience reported positive changes to the brain and sensorimotor capabilities of subjects who participate in musical training. Lead author Julie Roy of the University of Montreal presented research suggesting that musical training improves the nervous system’s ability to integrate information from all senses into an understandable whole.

Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, M.D., Ph.D, of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, says music stimulates reward systems in the brain. An expert on music, neuroimaging and brain plasticity, Schlaug wrote the following in a conference statement from the 2013 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience:

“Playing a musical instrument is a multisensory and motor experience that creates emotions and motions — from finger tapping to dancing — and engages pleasure and reward systems in the brain. It has the potential to change brain function and structure when done over a long period of time.”

Another study presented by Yunxin Wang of the State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning at Beijing Normal University in China, suggests that musical training at an early age yields positive affects on brain development. Wang and colleagues investigated the effects of musical training on the brain’s structure in 48 Han Chinese adults between the ages of 19 and 21 who had formal musical training for at least one year between the ages of 3 and 15. Researchers found that the volume of brain regions related to hearing and self-awareness were larger in those adults who began taking music lessons before age 7.

The advantages of music education on cognitive function have been well documented by previous studies as well. These studies show that children who have experienced musical education often score higher on IQ and standardized tests. A study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, showed that students in elementary schools with high-quality music education programs scored approximately 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to students attending schools with low-quality music programs, regardless of socioeconomic disparities between the schools.

Shirley Brice Heath, a Margery Bailey Professor of English and Dramatic Literature, Emeritus; and Professor of Linguistics and Anthropology at Stanford University, discovered that young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours, three days each week for one full year are:

- Four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.
- Four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair.
- Three times more likely to win an award for school attendance.
- Four times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem.

Social Perks

The California Alliance for Arts Education recently asserted that arts education helps students become globally competitive by developing their ability to innovate, communicate and collaborate. Lauren Richardson of Raleigh has witnessed the academic benefits of music and arts on her four children, but values the social benefits most.

Her son, a participant in the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory for the Performing Arts’ Summer Theatre Arts School, recently scored his first paid professional gig with a role in Frosty the Snowman by Broadway Series South in Raleigh. Richardson says she saw dramatic improvement in his maturity thanks to this experience.

“It was a complete turnaround as far as his focus and maturity this year in school after doing (Summer Theater Arts School at the conservatory),” she says.

Her three daughters have also benefited from studies in music and arts. Her oldest daughter is a successful playwright in New York City and her 18-year-old daughter studies musical theater at American University. Richardson’s youngest daughter transformed from a reticent 4-year-old to a confident, young woman, in large part because of her experiences at the conservatory.

“She experienced tremendous growth in just one week of improv,” Richardson says.

The conservatory directors have a Broadway background, which creates a high level of professionalism and authentic theater experiences. “The kids learn a lot about working together with other people and what it takes to collaborate on a project,” Richardson says. “They are doing very grown-up work.”

Ray Walker, artistic director for the conservatory who made his Broadway debut as “Marius” in the hit musical Les Miserables and who played “Annas” in Jesus Christ Superstar and “Doody” in Grease!, says the conservatory originated as an offshoot from the popular summer theater camp run by North Carolina Theatre in the 1980s.

One current conservatory student, 12-year-old Reed Shannon, who has been with the conservatory since age 4, recently booked a national tour starring as a young Michael Jackson in Motown.

“What we are trying to do (at the conservatory), our goal, is to create working actors, dancers and performers who can get jobs and have viable careers, and we have had some success with that,” he says.

The popularity of arts-based camps indicates that children are gravitating toward what they inherently know is good for them. A 2005 Harris Poll revealed that 93 percent of Americans consider the arts to be vital to providing a well-rounded education and a critical link to learning and success. When it comes to shaping young minds, arts-based camps have become an essential piece of the puzzle.

Carol McGarrahan is a freelance writer in the Triangle.

Arts-Based Camps Across NC

Research shows that arts-based education can wire the brain for creativity in ways we are only beginning to understand, and programs across North Carolina can help students explore the arts. Here are some to consider.

Playmakers Repertory Company Summer Youth Conservatory: playmakersrep.org/outreach/syc
Raleigh Area Children’s Theatre: raleighact.com
Raleigh Little Theatre: raleighlittletheatre.org
North Carolina Theatre Conservatory for the Performing Arts' Summer Theatre Arts School in Raleigh: nctheatre.com/education
UNC-Greensboro Summer Music Camp: smcamp.org
ECU Summer Drama Camp: ecu.edu/cs-cfac/theatredance/outreach/Summer-Drama-Camp.cfm
American Dance Festival Summer School: americandancefestival.org/education/school/2014-summer
University of North Carolina School of the Arts Summer Session: uncsa.edu/summersession

For additional arts resources, browse our Camps Directories and Enrichment Directory, and check your city’s parks and recreational classes for youth. Read our feature, Kids Camp in Carolinas and Virginia Offer Unique Overnight Experiences.

 

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August 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

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Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
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Open Arts
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Durham Armory
220 Foster St.
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The Arc of the Triangle, Allegiant Air and The Arc of the North Carolina will co-host a Wings for Autism event at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in partnership with the Transportation...

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Raleigh-Durham International Airport
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Hilton Garden Inn at Southpoint
7007 Fayetteville Rd.
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The Arc of the Triangle, Allegiant Air and The Arc of the North Carolina will co-host a Wings for Autism® event at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in partnership with the Transportation...

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Raleigh-Durham International Airport
2400 John Brantley Blvd.
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Tour the farm, spend time with farmers who care about the environment and meet friendly animals. Tickets must be purchased online; the farm is not open for drop-ins.

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Hux Family Farm
1923 Shaw Rd.
Durham, NC  27704
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Cost: $1/person

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
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Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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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
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Cost: Free

Where:
Hillsborough Library
137 West Margaret Ln.
Inside McDougle Middle School
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: $2/child

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Cost: Free

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Parata Systems
106 Roche Dr.
Durham, NC  27703
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Cost: $15/resident, $19/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: $7/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Cost: Free

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Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Enjoy live entertainment, hands-on projects and gallery hunts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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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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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

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Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Cost: $20-$34

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Personality Festival is a Roxboro tradition. Enjoy amusements rides along Main Street, food vendors, singers, dancers, craft and merchandise vendors, local businesses and more. Little Miss...

Cost: Free

Where:
Uptown Roxboro
211 N. Main St.
Roxboro, NC  27573
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Sponsor: Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 336-599-8333
Contact Name: Melissa
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Kids spend a night out in nature making memories and new friends in an old-fashioned, camp-style program. Ages 8-12. Register online. Choose course #117241

Cost: $15/resident, $19/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Take the family for a night of jigs, reels and anything Celtic. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Carrboro Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Celebrate the end of the "dog days of summer" by joining a park naturalist for an evening hike around the millpond. Learn tips for observing wildlife and find out ways to identify the...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-400-3288
Contact Name: Rebecca Cope
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Take a moonlit stroll down the Trail to the Beaver Creek bridge and back, listening and looking for nocturnal animals. Linger on the bridge to enjoy the wonderful sounds of nature and play some fun...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-2117
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Morehead Planetarium presents a night of West African storytelling and stargazing at Historic Stagville. Learn about the oral tradition that might have been preserved by enslaved families. After...

Cost: Free. Donations welcome.

Where:
Stagville State Historic Site
5828 Old Oxford Hwy.
Durham, NC  27712
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Telephone: 191-962-00120
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Camp Gladiator takes over the Durham Bulls Athletic Park featuring fun workouts designed for all fitness levels. Enjoy local vendors, music, food, gear and tons of giveaways....

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Bulls Athletic Park
409 Blackwell St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Camp Gladiator
Telephone: 919-538-7606
Contact Name: Marisa Park
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Enjoy a unique weekend celebrating the history of Tweetsie Railroad, the ET&WNC Railroad and mountain culture.

Cost: $0-$45

Where:
Tweetsie Railroad
300 Tweetsie Railroad Ln.
Blowing Rock, NC  28605
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Sponsor: Tweetsie Railroad
Telephone: 180-052-65740
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Walk through the Cretaceous period, the Jurassic Period and the Triassic period and experience what it was like to be among living dinosaurs. See life-size replicas of adult and baby dinosaurs, dig...

Cost: $20-$34

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27513
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Cost: $20 -$25

Where:
Funny Girl Farm
504 Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27707
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Telephone: 984-377-3113
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Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

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

Where:
Carolina Pines Community Center
2305 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27605
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Sponsor: Word of Truth St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church & Carolina Pines Comm Center
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Cost: Free

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Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: Free

Where:
Uptown Roxboro
211 N. Main St.
Roxboro, NC  27573
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Sponsor: Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 336-599-8333
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Cost: Teams must raise $300 to participate

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The Salvation Army of Wake County Corps Community Center
902 Wake Forest Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Cost: Free

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Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: Free

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Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
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Cost: Free

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Holly Springs Towne Center
NC55 & New Hill Rd.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Infinity Educators, LLC
Telephone: 919-694-1908
Contact Name: Charlene Y. Dunn
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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  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
Hillsborough Street
2011 Hillsborough St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Sponsor: Live it Up! Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation
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Cost: $1/person

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Cost: Free

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Lake Pine Plaza
US 64
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Sponsor: Lake Pine Plaza
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster

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Cost: Free

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Apex Nature Park Amphitheatre
2600 Evans Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Telephone: (919) 249-1120
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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.