Don’t Back Away, Dad


Published:

Ashleigh decides to wear her pink-and-yellow polka dot skirt, because it shows off her tan legs. She hopes Josh, the cute boy in her math class, will notice. Her dad certainly did, as he glanced up for a moment from reading the morning newspaper when she bounced down the stairs. But he figured if her mom had approved the mini skirt, then why bother making her go back upstairs to change and risk starting an argument?

Ashleigh grabs her cell phone before heading out the door and takes another look at the cool "model-type" photo she took of herself last night on her bed. When she and Sarah get dropped off at the mall after school, she wants to show it to the guy who works behind the counter at Starbucks. She wonders if he'll agree to meet her at the baseball field on Friday night.

Ashleigh is 13, but she easily could pass for 16, given the clothes and makeup she wears. Her mother sighs and shrugs her shoulders, and her father wonders where his little girl went.

Forget 13 — even girls as young as 8 are trying to look 16 and are feeling the pressure to look and act hot. According to consumer research by the NPD Group, tween beauty queens (girls 8 to 12) spend $500 million a year on body sprays and lip products. And the American Psychological Association now confirms the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising and media is harmful to their self-image and healthy development.

The "sexy-girl syndrome," according to Dr. Eileen L. Zurbriggen, who chaired an APA task force on girls' sexualization, skews what preteens and teens feel valued for. In an article that appeared in Family Circle, Zurbriggen says their minds become full of worries about how they look and what other people are thinking about them, instead of whether they're smart or funny, kind or talented.

Fathers, in particular, have the ability to counteract today's aggressive marketing of sexuality and speak louder and clearer to their daughters about their self-worth, says Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician and the author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters (Ballantine Books, 2007). She encourages dads to open their eyes to their daughters' world and protect their minds and bodies.

Staying involved

Fathers' attention, guidance and instruction are crucial to keep young girls from developing an identity solely based on sexuality and to help them grow into confident women, who have a strong sense of self-worth based on their intellect, interests and talents.

While many fathers take a step back during the preteen and teen years, so that Mom can take over the challenges of clothing, makeup and dating, Meeker says fathers must remain involved. Dads are uniquely qualified to offer their daughters their courage, intelligence and strength.

Royce Willmschen of Raleigh says he's very intentional about staying connected with his 9- and 12-year-old daughters. "I make sure we have time to talk one-on-one. I walk to the bus stop every morning with Claire, my 9-year-old, and I usually have dinner once a week with Natalie, my 12-year-old, while my wife and Claire are at dance rehearsal." He adds that in addition to attending all of his daughters' activities — basketball, dance, piano and theater — the family also sits down together several times a week.

Kevin Chelko of Huntersville is the father of Christopher, 21, Amanda, 16, and Maddi, 12. "As Chris was growing up and going through all the typical boy stuff, like camping and hiking and sports, the girls got dragged along for the ride," Chelko explains. "These type of activities, normally thought of as male, now just seem to be part of the norm for Amanda and Maddi, and that keeps me involved in their lives a lot more than if they were only into the fru-fru girly stuff."

The Chelkos schedule "family time" and make Amanda and Maddi participate on a regular basis. "If you stay involved in teens' lives and keep them busy, there is very little idle time for them to stray or wander."

Chelko adds that he tries to support each of his daughters in their interests. "They have their own special activities they like to do with Dad. Amanda likes to hike and camp, and Maddi is more into basketball, softball and volleyball."

Monitoring social activities

But beyond what's going on inside their homes, fathers should try to remain aware of what's happening in their daughters' wider world. Chelko says it's important to remain involved in teens' lives on a daily basis, even though they are gaining the privilege of becoming more independent. "Know who their friends are, where they are going and with whom," he says.

Dads also should show interest in the movies and music their daughters like, and talk with them about the messages that are coming across. And, paying attention to what fashions girls are wearing presents dads with an opportunity to talk about why they agree, or don't agree ... and what boys may think about such clothes.

Greg Fiorentino of Apex says he ties to stay up to date with his daughters' school and social lives. "We monitor their social communications via Facebook and e-mail by checking their accounts once in a while and making sure they only are communicating appropriate information and materials."

He often tells his daughters that what is important is not how they look, but what they feel on the inside, and that he loves them regardless of what they're wearing.

Fiorentino also isn't letting his teenage girls — Rebecca, 16, and Grace, 14 — grow up too fast. Just because everyone else is doing it, isn't a good enough reason in the Fiorentino household.
"Rebecca is the only one who has a cell phone, and she didn't receive it until after her 15th birthday," Fiorentino says, adding that age 16 has been the family rule for wearing makeup and beginning to date.

As counter-culture as this sounds, Meeker encourages parents to set limits and resist the temptation to back down. Because young girls don't have the intellectual maturity of adults and can be easily seduced into trouble, she says it's parents' responsibility to set rules and vigilantly protect them against themselves as well as others.

Fiorentino says he and his wife try to keep their daughters busy to limit their downtime and access to negative attention-grabbers. Church, school and sporting activities, he says, offer environments where positive messages can sink in and nurture a strong sense of self-worth.

Encouraging smart choices

"Peer pressure is the No. 1 thing I worry about as a parent," Chelko says. "It is very powerful and can easily influence girls, who seem to be all about what others think."

He says he talks with both his daughters about the importance of a healthy sexual relationship between two mature adults in contrast to what happens when a teen becomes sexually active and then the relationship ends. Chelko says they talk about the negative feelings, harsh words and hurtful rumors that often get spread.

Willmschen says that although he tries to create a home environment that will counter the need for his daughters to find self-worth from outside sources, he admits he hasn't talked with his daughters enough about peer pressure and sex. "My fear is that they will unintentionally put themselves in situations where they attract the wrong kind of attention, and they won't be able to handle it properly."

Talking about sex is essential, Meeker says, and it's also important to give teen girls permission to call home and ask for help — perhaps without any questions asked — if they find themselves in a dangerous situation.

Fathers are perfectly suited to talk with daughters about respecting themselves and their bodies and waiting until they are older. Dads not only were teenage boys once themselves, but they've also "been there, done that," and they know what goes on inside the hormone-driven male mind.

With Hollywood, the media and social-networking Web sites vying for girls' attention and values, Colin Pinkney, a Charlotte father of six children (four of whom are girls, ages 21, 17, 10 and 7), says fathers must invest in their daughters and fight against today's sexual culture. Spend the time, stay involved and secure a strong father-daughter bond through open communication.

"It's a war worth waging," Pinkney says, "and whoever makes the biggest investment wins — whether it's MySpace, YouTube or you, her dad."

Lee McCracken is an associate editor of Charlotte Parent, a sister publication of Carolina Parent.

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Calendar

April 2019

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Museum of LIfe and Science
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Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
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Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
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Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

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101 Wilkinson Ave.
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Cost: $15/child, use your package/membership.

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Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt Carmel Church Rd
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Cost: Free

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
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Telephone: (919) 662-2850
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

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2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $18/resident, $23/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
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Quail Ridge Books
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Cost: Free

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NC State University Beef Educational Unit
4505 Mid Pines Rd.
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Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
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Cost: Free

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Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
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Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

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Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
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Farm Animal Days gives children a chance to see and touch farm animals and learn about agriculture. See tractors, enjoy free ice cream and more. Register online. 

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NC State University Beef Educational Unit
4505 Mid Pines Rd.
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Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt. Carmel Church Rd.
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Cost: Free

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Piedmont Wildlife Center
364 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Piedmont Wildlife Center
Telephone: 919-489-0900
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Parents learn to help children with special needs manage anxiety and worries. Register online. Choose course #121427.

Cost: $11/resident, $15/nonresident

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Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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The kick off for the 3rd annual Series of Fortunate Events to benefit Arts Access.  An evening celebrating the artists, hosts, sponsors, and Honorary Chair Martha Keravuori of the...

Cost: $50/person

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AIA NC (American Institute of Architects) Building
14 Peace Street
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Sponsor: Arts Access
Telephone: 919-833-9919
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Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

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Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
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Cost: Free

Where:
Gregg Museum of Art & Design
1903 Hillsborough St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Sponsor: Gregg Museum of Art & Design
Telephone: 919-515-5335
Contact Name: Evelyn McCauley
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Cost: $10-$22

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North Carolina State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Farm Animal Days gives children a chance to see and touch farm animals and learn about agriculture. See tractors, enjoy free ice cream and more. Register online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
NC State University Beef Educational Unit
4505 Mid Pines Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27695
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Enjoy imaginative play in a natural setting. Materials provided. Register online. Choose course code #231348.

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
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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Enjoy springtime temperatures at Waverly Place during the second spring Wine Walk. With a $15 donation to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, visitors receive a sampling glass plus a Waverly Place...

Cost: Visitors receive a sampling glass plus a Waverly Walk Passport that allows acces

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Waverly Place Shopping Center
302 Colonades Way
Cary, NC  27518
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Relax in the courtyard with food and jumbo games. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Edison Johnson Community Center
500 W. Murray Ave.
Durham, NC
View map »


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Enjoy fun, games, friendship and more every Friday.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

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Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

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Relive the magic of your favorite wizard in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Concert. Based on the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s classic saga, fans of all ages can now...

Cost: $28-$81

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-996-8711
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Come experience the wonder of Japanese koi fish, a living art. Meet national experts and local hobbyists. Learn how to care for your pond and fish. Enjoy various raffles, auctions,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Elks Lodge #735
5538 Lead Mine Rd
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Sponsor: ZNA Carolina
Telephone: 919-818-0289
Contact Name: Robin
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See more than 1,500 cars, including hot rods, classic cars, custom cars, trucks through 1987 and others. Enjoy a demolition derby, kids activities and more.

Cost: $10-$22

Where:
North Carolina State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

See more than 1,500 cars, including hot rods, classic cars, custom cars, trucks through 1987 and others. Enjoy a demolition derby, kids activities and more.

Cost: $10-$22

Where:
North Carolina State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Throw paint on walls, jump over a huge 20-foot, green sofa, enjoy a massive food fight and much more at the YMCA Families On! Challenge, presented by Delta. This family race is...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Vollmer Farm
677 North Carolina 98 Hwy E
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Sponsor: YMCA of The Triangle
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Cost: $30-$35

Where:
American Tobacco Campus
300 Blackwell St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Girls on the Run of the Triangle
Telephone: 919-401-6307
Contact Name: Jamie Botta
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Cost: Free to members / Included with admission

Where:
Museum of Life and Science
433 W Murray Ave
Durham, NC  27704
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Telephone: 919-220-5429
Contact Name: Matt Pusateri
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Cost: Free

Where:
BRITE Building at NC Central University
302 E Lawson Street
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Women in Bio
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Cost: Free

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Bond Park
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Cary, NC  27513
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Cost: Free

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Technology Dr., off Hwy. 42 W.
Garner, NC  27529
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Cost: $35/adult, $20 ages 14 and younger.

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27518
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Cost: Free

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Pullen Park
520 Ashe Ave.
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Cost: Free

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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $3 per adult, $2 for ages 5 to 16 years, and under age 5 is free.

Where:
Bennett Place
4409 Bennett Memorial Rd.
Durham, NC
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Cost: Free

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Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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All ages enjoy a dance performance, stories, and dance instruction for those interested in learning some new moves.

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham East Regional Library
211 Lick Creek Lane
Durham, NC  27703
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Cost: Free

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Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: 12 Oaks
Telephone: (919)-557-6850
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Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (6 - under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $25/person

Where:
The Cary Theater
122 E. Chatham Street
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Arts Access
Telephone: 919-833-9919
Contact Name: Penny Arrowood
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Adults enjoy an evening gala to support Marble's Kids Museum.

Cost: $75/member, $95/nonmember

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh , NC  27601
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Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


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Enjoy a magical evening of dancing, crafting, stories and more. Dress as your favorite storybook character or dress in your royal best, and take a new look at the library after the doors close...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cameron Village Library
1930 Clark Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605
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Walk with a park naturalist to look and listen for wildlife in the woods and fields as daylight transitions to night. Ages 4 and older; children must be accompanied by an adult. Trails are not...

Cost: $2

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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Relive the magic of your favorite wizard in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Concert. Based on the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s classic saga, fans of all ages can now...

Cost: $28-$81

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-996-8711
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Come experience the wonder of Japanese koi fish, a living art. Meet national experts and local hobbyists. Learn how to care for your pond and fish. Enjoy various raffles, auctions,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Elks Lodge #735
5538 Lead Mine Rd
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Sponsor: ZNA Carolina
Telephone: 919-818-0289
Contact Name: Robin
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Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

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.