Camper Communication: Why Less is More


Published:

"Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh, Here I am at Camp Granada ..."

This familiar ditty by Allan Sherman and Lou Busch, released in 1963, was based on letters of complaint that Sherman's son wrote from camp. The song told wild tales about outdoor life - lakes filled with alligators, bouts of food poisoning, a case of malaria.

Fifty years ago, parents' notions about their child's overnight summer experiences were based on the occasional camper letter sent home. Fast forward to 2013, and camp  communication is vastly different - so different, in fact, that parents can log onto  computers and pull up photographs of the lake their youngster may claim is filled with wretched reptiles. Today's technology, whether websites, emails or other social media, allows parents a window to unobtrusively check in on their child, all while the child benefits from the experience of being on his or her own for the first time.

Before campers leave

For both child and parent, the camp experience begins long before the bags are packed. Technology plays a key role leading up to your child's first days away.

Most overnight camps have websites, which are good places to begin. Check out photo galleries and videos from past summers to get an idea of what your youngster can expect - and show your camper-to-be so he or she feels comfortable.

Many camps also send out tweets and update blogs throughout the year, so families can "experience" camp life beforehand, from home. In addition, most websites include links to apply, make payments and view financial information.

Before Laura Carey's son Will, now 12, began attending Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain three summers ago, Carey had the usual parental concerns. Would he be homesick? Get enough to eat? Carey had most of her answers long before Will left for his session. Through blogs and emails, Rockmont addressed the typical questions, posting videos of what to pack and how to discuss dealing with homesickness beforehand.

When they're gone

In the age of smartphones, texts and video chats, most parents can barely imagine going more than a few hours without communicating with their child, let alone a few weeks. Most camps, however, do not allow children to communicate with their parents beyond writing letters home.

"In this day and age, it's a beautiful thing to send a child to camp and have him have success away from Mom and Dad," says Dan Singletary, director of Camp Timberlake, a boys' residential camp in Black Mountain, N.C. "But that benefit doesn't come from talking with them every night."

Campers are encouraged to write  letters home often, giving parents a reason to dash to their mailbox each afternoon.

"Will did send letters to us, which   diminished in both quantity and detail over the years he was there," Carey says. "My husband and I laughed when this past year, we got only one letter, which basically did not contain a single sentence, but was a list of his activities and what he ate that day." Carey knew the lack of letters only indicated that Will was having too much fun to sit down and write.On the flipside, families are usually allowed to email campers. These emails are printed and delivered each day. Tra-ditional "snail mail" is also encouraged, so campers can receive cards and letters from family members.

One-way views

Camps like Timberlake and Rockmont use technology to show families exactly how their kids are thriving - even without having it come from the boys' mouths. Timberlake uses CampMinder, a customizable, Web-based camp-management program. Through a secure online parent portal, parents can type in their username and password to access one-way email, authorize point-of-sale purchases and view photo galleries. Often photos can be purchased and printed.

Many camps upload hundreds of pictures to their websites every day.

Carey and her husband scrolled through the galleries each day, searching for pictures of Will and what he was doing."I had a 'code' for Will, asking him to give me a thumbs-up to let me know that he was having fun, Carey says. "I got tears in my eyes and felt immediate relief and joy when I saw the first picture of him online with both thumbs up! Seeing pictures of him is very reassuring and gives us a lot of comfort."

Camp Ton-A-Wandah, a girls' camp in Hendersonville, N.C., is coming up with new ways to communicate using technology."We want to communicate with campers the way they would at home, and technology allows us to do that," says Director Garrett Graham. One way is a newsletter emailed to families each night. Counselors write about the days' activities, menu, awards and adventures, whether it's singing or learning to kayak. Parents can also follow Ton-A-Wandah on Twitter, giving them real-time in-sight into their kids' days.

Ton-A-Wandah also posts pictures on Instagram, the online photo-sharing and social-networking service, and Pinterest, the content-sharing service that allows users to "pin" images. All are efforts to make families feel comfortable and connected to the camp experience, even when they are far away. "All these things offer parents opportunities to watch from afar," Graham says.

Be sure to check with the camp staff about the camp's photo policy. Camps that post photos of campers on public sites, including Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook, may ask you to sign a photo release form. Other camps may activate privacy settings for the sites that require a password.

Growth opportunity

Even though not being able to talk to your child for a few weeks can be difficult, when the summer ends and campers return home, parents understand why it's such an important policy.

"It was tough to let Will go, him being our only child," Carey says. "We were left at home without him for the first time, and it was a big realization that he was no longer a baby, and this experience was the first of many milestones to come when he'll leave us again. (But) we know he is having a wonderful, positive growing experience while he is there."

Timberlake's Singletary agrees that being "on their own" is what makes the camp experience so rich for youngsters. "At the end of the summer, parents see that they've given their child the ability to conquer their fears, learn to make friends, grow and mature," he says. "Camp is an investment in the growth of a child. And there's something about a camp kid that just makes him unique."

Amy Salvatore Reiss is a freelance writer who lives in Davidson and is the mother of two young girls, one of whom hopes to attend sleep-away camp for the first time next summer.

To find lots of camp options, visit our Camp Directories.

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Calendar

July 2018

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

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
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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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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Take part in Maple View's annual event that features live music by Back Porch Orchestra & The Mason Lovette Band. Enjoy delicious ice cream specials and award winning dairy products, the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maple View Farm Ice Cream
6900 Rocky Ridge Rd.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Maple View Farm Ice Cream
Telephone: 919.960.5535
Contact Name: Allison H. Nichols
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Discover clay through a safe and engaging activity. Dress for the weather and to get messy or wet. Register online. Choose course #220634.

Cost: $3/person

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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Monday, July 16; 10:30–11:00 a.m. Practice your shapes and develop your fine motor skills through games and hands-on activities. Then go on a nature hunt to find plants and animals of different...

Cost: $2/child

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Enjoy a family-friendly movie. See the website for the movie title. Showings at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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The Art Therapy Institute has been working in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools with the Exceptional Children's Program for the past ten years. Enjoy a summer art therapy groups in June and...

Cost: $20 per session

Where:
Art Therapy Institute of NC
200 N Greensboro St. Suite D-6 (2nd Floor Carr Mill Mall)
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Telephone: 919-381-6068
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Book Harvest and Scholastic are hosting the ultimate summer reading road trip event to celebrate “A Magical Summer of Reading.” In an effort to get kids reading this summer, the 2018...

Cost: Free

Where:
Burton Magnet Elementary School
1500 Mathison St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Scholastic Inc.
Telephone: 212-343-6876
Contact Name: Josephine Djonovic
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Athlete and artist Ernie Barnes is known for his colorful, elongated figures and for his special way of making the figures look like they were in motion. Look at some of his paintings, strike a...

Cost: $5/child

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Meet a favorite princess or superhero from 11 a.m.-noon and 1-2 p.m.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Cost: $7 ages 1 and older.

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Tuesday, July 17; 11:00 a.m. – Noon What's swimming underneath the surface of Crowder's Pond? Explore the animals that call this habitat home in a hands-on pond study. Learn the aquatic food...

Cost: $1/Person

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Enjoy the Fun Caravan, a mobile recreation program equipped with a host of fun activities for ages 12 and younger. Enjoy games, arts and crafts, obstacle courses and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
West Point on the Eno
5101 N. Roxboro St.
Durham, NC
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Enjoy "Grumpy Monkey" by Suzanne Lang.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Enjoy a Build-A-Bear activity, storytime, games and painting from 11 a.m.-noon and 1-2 p.m.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Many animals and insects live in the pond! Read "Around the Pond" by Lindsay Barrett George and discover what animals can be found there. Make a pond collage craft with all of your favorite...

Cost: $4/Child

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Budding naturalists ages 2-6 enjoy a craft, engaging activity, and guided walk along the greenway. Register online. Choose course #219940. 

Cost: $2/person

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: 919-996-2761
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Join park staff to discover amphibians, birds, insects, spiders and more. Help collect data for the Natural Resource Inventory Database while increasing your own identification skills. Ages...

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
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Are lizards really dinosaurs in miniature?  Learn the answer to this, plus other interesting facts about some of our  local lizards. Theme related stories and activities for parent...

Cost: $4/child

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Attend a Toddler Tour and Information Session, in which families explore a classroom and learn about half- or full-day toddler classes for ages 18 months-3 years. Classes develop...

Cost: Free

Where:
Montessori Children's House of Durham
2800 Pickett Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Take your own poles or borrow one from the park through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic...

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
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Take your own poles or borrow one from the park through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are...

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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Sharon O'Donnell visits Quail Ridge Books to discuss her new book and tell humorous and poignant stories of having a child at 38.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Meet a staff member at the information desk and follow your guide outside to the garden exhibit or into one of the museum galleries. Look around and listen to a history-related story. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Join us at Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro every Thursday at 10 a.m. for a casual storytime on the porch or even out in the yard. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Chatham Marketplace
480 Hillsboro St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Sponsor: Chatham Marketplace
Telephone: 919-542-2643
Contact Name: Craig Kolman
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Take part in hands-on outdoor discovery and the study of birds in their habitat. Ages 6-8. Register online.

Cost: $6

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 staff
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More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Website »

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Ages 7-12 enjoy fashion and design activities from 11 a.m.-noon.; ages 13-18 enjoy the same activities from 1-2 p.m.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Website »

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Enjoy an easy-paced and stroller-friendly walk along the greenway. Suggested for ages 3 and younger with parent. Register online. Choose course #219871.

Cost: Free

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
Website »

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Learn about sea turtle adaptations for success in the ocean and their incredible life cycle. Carolina Children's Museum is a proud sponsor of this free program provided by Dragonfly Nature...

Cost: Free; donations encouraged

Where:
Devils Ridge Golf Club (In the Players Club)
5107 Linksland Drive
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Carolina Children's Museum
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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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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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/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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Cost: $7 ages 1 and older.

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

This epic musical is about wishes, family and the consequences of the choices that we make. A childless baker and his wife endeavor to lift their family curse by journeying into the woods,...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

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Take a walk with a park naturalist to explore the woods and fields at this special time of day. Register online.

Cost: $3

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 staff
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See the G-rated movie under the stars at Booth Amphitheatre. Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast cars, the legendary Lighting McQueen finds himself pushed out of the sport that...

Cost: $5 ages 13 and older. Free for ages 12 and younger.

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27518
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Enjoy a movie outdoors at the amphitheatre. Take a blanket or lawn chair.  Call the Halle Cultural Arts Center for film title. Pets and alcohol not permitted.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Nature Park Amphitheatre
2600 Evans Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The Halle Cultural Arts Center
Telephone: (919) 249-1120
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Join staff for a leisurely hike along our trails while learning how to identify plants, insects, birds and any other critters that happen along our path (not stroller accessible, so baby backpacks...

Cost: $1/person

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

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Saturday, July 21; 10:00–11:00 a.m. Take a walk in the woods and discover the animals and plants that call our park home. Help collect data for our Natural Resource Inventory Database and other...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Children's booksellers read their favorite picture books. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Meet a real turtle and hike to see others. Play turtle games and bring home a rock 'turtle' in a terrarium you design. Ages 3-5 with caregiver. Register online.

Cost: $6

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


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

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

View the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history and aspects of its preservation. All ages. Registration encouraged online; tickets available inside...

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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Saturday, July 21; 1:00–3:00 p.m. Stop by our FREE discovery table to learn about bees! Registration is not required. The display table is located by the Upper Playground.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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arcBARKS, the maker of healthy dog treats operated by The ARC of Greensboro, will have free samples for all dogs at this dog- and human-friendly event. Co-sponsor Shoe Crazy Wines will have...

Cost: Free

Where:
Special Treats Chocolate Shop
Timberlyne Shopping Center
1129 Weaver Dairy Rd.,Unit R
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: Special Treats
Telephone: 919-883-2151
Contact Name: Dan Friedman
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Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

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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Scott Reintgen discusses his newest book, "Nyxia Unleashed."  p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 19.0px Calibri; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

This epic musical is about wishes, family and the consequences of the choices that we make. A childless baker and his wife endeavor to lift their family curse by journeying into the woods,...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

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