Family-Friendly Campgrounds from the Mountains to the Coast


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There's nothing like being cocooned in a sleeping bag with your loved ones, far from televisions and handheld game chargers, to encourage family bonding. Camping with your children creates memories they'll treasure for years,  even if they grumble about having to help pitch the tent or gather kindling. Even "RV-ing," while offering more comforts of home, builds family togetherness.
But even the most well-intentioned camping trip can be disastrous if you set off without a specific destination or, worse, the place you think will be great reeks like a sewer or is full of rowdy, partying college students. Whether you're into the mountains, on the coast or somewhere in between, here are five camping destinations with good reputations for families:

MOUNTAINS

Black Mountain Campground and Briar Bottom Group Campground
Approximately 20 miles east of Burnsville, N.C., off State Road 80 South
fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recreation/camping-cabins (search for campsite names)
These two side-by-side campgrounds in the Pisgah National Forest are booked and maintained separately.
With its spacious, shady campsites, riverside location and laid-back atmosphere, Black Mountain campground has attracted return visitors for generations. Each of the 43 sites offers a picnic table, fire ring with grill and lantern post. RVs are welcome but no hookups are available. Sparkling bathrooms with separate shower facilities are a hallmark, thanks to the attentive and industrious volunteer hosts, who also sell firewood, ice and ice cream.
Take plenty of towels for after your kids cool off in hit the swimming hole in the South Toe River and take advantage of catch-and-release trout fishing opportunities, especially if you don't mind hiking away from the busy camping area.
Want to go higher than the 3,000 feet altitude where Black Mountain sits? Visit Mount Mitchell - the highest peak east of the Mississippi. It's about a half hour's drive away on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
There are also plenty of biking and hiking trails - some with waterfall viewing - leading from the campground or nearby, and the campground's circular layout and gravel drive make bike riding a top kid activity. Reservations are strongly recommended, especially on weekends. Call 828-675-5616.
Briar Bottom, a group campground with shelters, a playing field and easy access to the South Toe, shares the same entrance
as Black Mountain. Families qualify since a group is anything more than two people.
For reservations, call 877-444-6777.

Julian Price Memorial Parkpriceparkrangerprogram.jpg
5580 Shulls Mill Rd., Blowing Rock, N.C.
828-963-5911
blueridgeheritage.com or recreation.gov (search for Julian Price)
Located off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, Julian Price Memorial Park boasts the largest campground on the parkway as well as a well-trafficked picnic site. It offers serenity for nature lovers, in part due to the 47-acre Price Lake, where you can canoe, fish or swim.
The campground's 197 sites welcome RVs and tents, and there are more than 30 small sites for tents only. All have fire rings, and firewood is available upon request. (Campers can't bring their own wood due to non-native invasive insects that could damage the trees.) The campground is open late May to October.
Kids of all ages can enjoy park ranger-interpreted programs at the amphitheater or along a hiking trail. (Check with the park to see if the programs are available.)
Take a side trip to Blowing Rock - just 20 miles away - for restaurants, antique shops and other amenities. Grandfather Mountain isn't far, either, and offers native animal exhibits, a nature museum and its famous mile-high swinging bridge. (Pictured above: Children participate in a ranger-led program at Julian Price Memorial Park.)

FOOTHILLS

Stone Mountain State Park
3042 Frank Pkwy., Roaring Gap, N.C.
336-957-8185
ncparks.gov
Thanks to its imposing 600-foot granite dome, Stone Mountain is popular with intrepid rock climbers and wild mountain goats. It's also a go-to vacation destination for family campers.
When you're not sleeping in your tent or RV in one of the park's 80-plus sites (some have electric and water hookups), stake out the perfect family hike from among more than 16 miles of trails. Don't be surprised to find horses at the crossroads of hiking and bridle trails.
For fishing fans, Stone Mountain is a highly regarded trout destination with more than 17 miles of designated trout streams, including The East Prong of Roaring River, a stocked stream classified as delayed harvest, which means campers can only fish there four months out of the year using single-hook, artificial lures. Bullhead and Rich Mountain creeks offer catch-and-release fishing year-round.
Want to give your kids a small dose of history? Check out the mid-1800s-era Hutchinson Homestead, complete with a log cabin, barn, blacksmith shop, corncrib, meat house and original furnishings.

TRIANGLE

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area
280 State Park Rd., Apex, N.C.
919-362-0586
ncparks.gov
If you're a water-loving family craving a "staycation," Jordan Lake may be just the ticket. For Triangle families, it's a few minutes away, but you'll feel miles from home. This 14,000-acre lake is ringed by nine recreation areas featuring 1,000 campsites of varying sizes, amenities and facilities, so whether you're RV-ing, car camping or backpacking to your site, you'll find something suitable.
Many people go to Jordan Lake for the clean beaches and boating opportunities, whether you take your own kayak, canoe or a pontoon boat. The lake's marina, just north of U.S. 64, is privately operated and offers ethanol-free gasoline, boat storage, boat rentals, access to boat ramps and a convenience center.
Jordan Lake is also a mecca for bird watchers because it supports the largest
concentration of bald eagles in the eastern U.S. For the best viewing, seek out areas that
afford a wide view of the lake, including Vista Point, Ebenezer and Seaforth recreation areas.

COAST

Cape Hatteras National Seashore
1401 National Park Drive, Avon, N.C. 27915
252-473-2111
nps.gov/caha
If you don't mind sand in your sleeping bag, camping is the best way to fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves breaking. And if pristine is what prefer, the four public campgrounds along Cape Hatteras National Seashore fit the bill. Established in 1937 as the country's first national seashore, Cape Hatteras National Seashore preserves more than 70 miles of Outer Banks coastline.
Each campground - Oregon Inlet in Nag's Head, Cape Point in Avon, Frisco in Frisco and Ocracoke on Ocracoke Island - offers more than 100 sites for both tent and RV-camping. Only the facility at Ocracoke accepts reservations, due to its remote, boat-only access; the rest are rented on a first-come, first-serve basis. Toilets and a bathhouse are available, but cold water is on tap in the showers and it's strictly BYOS - bring your own soap.
Serious fishermen can try some of the best surf fishing on the East Coast. When the kids get tired of collecting shells, body surfing, making sand castles or flying kites, visit some of the more famous lighthouses on the Outer Banks: Cape Hatteras, Bodie Island and Ocracoke lighthouses. Each of these communities has its own character and attractions, including seafood restaurants, historical societies and surf/tackle shops.

Hunting Island State Park
2555 Sea Island Pkwy., Hunting Island, S.C.
843-838-2011
southcarolinaparks.com/huntingisland/introduction.aspx
For those who want their beach camping experience punctuated by palm trees, Spanish moss and subtropical breezes, consider Hunting Island State Park near Beaufort, S.C. The state's most popular park offers 5 miles of undeveloped beach, marshes, maritime forests and a saltwater lagoon, as well as 200-plus campsites on the northern end of the island near the ocean. (It also has a cabin with central air.)
Keep the kids active - and harder for mosquitoes to find - with a visit to the playground. Stroll along the marsh boardwalk, hike or bike on the 8-mile island trail, or take it easy 1-mile campground walk. Surf and marsh fishing are popular, as is trekking to the Hunting Island Lighthouse, one of the only publicly accessible lighthouses in South Carolina. The viewing area at 130 feet affords a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. On the way back to North Carolina, take in the Low Country's many attractions and eateries (southcarolinalowcountry.com).

Suzanne Wood is a Raleigh-based freelance writer and mother of three who has enjoyed a half-dozen week-long camping trips with her family.

Also see Family Camping Tips: Checklist for Supplies, Equipment

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Calendar

November 2017

Step back in time with a 19th-century costumed interpreter and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Registration encouraged online. Tickets available at the...

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
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Celebrate the wonderful world of exotic animals and reptiles. Enjoy live specimens, presentations, raffles, vendors and much more. Purchase tickets online.  

Cost: $12 ages 13 and older, $5 ages 5-12.

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds, Kerr Scott Building
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Website »

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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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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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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
Website »

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Kicks off the holiday season with local art, music, food, and family activities at various locations in Durham’s historic downtown district. Presented by the Durham Arts Council with support...

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Downtown Durham
120 Morris St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
Telephone: 919-560-2719
Contact Name: Susan Tierney
Website »

More information

Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/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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Celebrate the natural world and where favorite Thanksgiving foods come from. Make a craft. All ages with adult. Register online.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Search the preserve for hidden holiday-themed clues and learn about native wild turkeys. Make a turkey decoration. Ages 5 and older with parent. Register online. Choose course code...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve
2900 Horse Shoe Farm Rd.
Wake Forest, NC
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Website »

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Search for salamanders, owls and more. Ages 10-13. Register online.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Park West Village hosts Winter Wonderland in the District. This year’s event will take place the weekend of November 17th. Take the family to enjoy train rides, magical winter lights, live...

Cost: Free; $5 donation for sledding

Where:
Park West Village
3400 Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Telephone: 919-234-6710
Contact Name: Conner Dixon
Website »

More information

See ponies, hunters and jumpers compete in an event that benefits Duke Children's Hospital. Visit the website for hours and fees.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Website »

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Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

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Make crafts celebrating turkeys. All ages with adult. Meet at the Cardinal Shelter. Registration not required. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

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Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn what it was like to be a kid at the first Thanksgiving. Play games and make a food collage. Choose either the 10:30-noon and 2-3:30 p.m. session. Ages 7 and older. Register online.

Cost: $6/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

Explore the woods and shoreline for signs of nature and collect treasures to make a craft. Take a full water bottle, snack and a bag lunch. Ages 6-11. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Advance...

Cost: $16/child

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Jackie Trickel
Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Listen for the sound of silver bells and climb aboard in your pajamas for a first-class journey on the Polar Express. Come early to meet Santa and enjoy kid-friendly activities and a traditional...

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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Athletes improve their flexibility, balance, joint mobility, as well as body and breath awareness. Special attention will be paid to core strength and posture and its importance in performance and...

Cost: Call for fees

Where:
Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Avenue, Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
Telephone: 919-345-5873
Contact Name: Jen Bluestone
Website »

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Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

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Celebrate what you're thankful for. Play a game and make a pine cone turkey craft. All ages with adult. Drop-in program. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Shop more than 20 local vendors offering amazing gifts this holiday season. Enjoy daily raffles with proceeds benefiting local animal rescue Paws in the City. Kids can enjoy crafts...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Crossroads
333 Crossroads Blvd
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

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
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Read the story by Karma Wilson and make a Thanksgiving-themed craft. All ages. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

See a contemporary re-imagination of Tchaikovky's timeless music. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $35-$55

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See a contemporary re-imagination of Tchaikovky's timeless music. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $35-$55

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Catch this comedy classic on the big screen—as the symphony plays the charming and delightful score by John Williams live. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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Fit & Able Productions presents the Turkey Chase trail festival at Umstead Park. Take part in a 5K, 10K or 20K. After the race, enjoy fruit, brownies and other...

Cost: $25-$45

Where:
Umstead Park
8801 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Fit and Able Productions
Telephone: 919-673-4689
Contact Name: Travis
Website »

More information

Celebrate what you're thankful for. Play a game and make a pine cone turkey craft. All ages with adult. Drop-in program. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Shop more than 20 local vendors offering amazing gifts this holiday season. Enjoy daily raffles with proceeds benefiting local animal rescue Paws in the City. Kids can enjoy crafts...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Crossroads
333 Crossroads Blvd
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

The Raleigh Boychoir makes an appearance before its big Christmas concert.

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a 30-minute tour to view the main power drive and milling machinery. Tickets available inside the park's visitor center. Online registration encouraged.

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
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Explore the historic nature of Leigh Farm Park with a friendly guide. Venture inside the historic farmhouse while being captivated by tales about life at Leigh Farm throughout the years.

Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Durham Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 919-560-1116
Contact Name: Natalya Buckel
Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Catch this comedy classic on the big screen—as the symphony plays the charming and delightful score by John Williams live. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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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 debut Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2017 Readers' Favorites are.
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