Here's a sampling of how people in different countries say goodbye to old Father Time and celebrate Baby New Year.">

New Year's Traditions Around the World


Published:

Photo courtesy of Pirina/Shutterstock.com

It's time to put away the holiday decorations, jot down a resolution or two and reflect on how quickly 2017 has passed. Another year has ended and it's time to usher in a new one. There are lots of ways to welcome in the New Year. Your family might stay up until midnight to bang pots and pans, pop open a bottle of bubbly and watch the ball drop in New York's Times Square. Many believe that sharing a kiss at midnight is a sign of good luck.

For some folks, the New Year signals a day to relax, watch football and unwind from the flurry of holiday activity. Others may review their successes with last year's resolutions before setting attainable goals for the coming year. 

People from all corners of the world participate in many customs and traditions, unique to their culture and history. Here's a sampling of cultural ways to say goodbye to old Father Time and greet Baby New Year. Perhaps you'll add one or two to your family celebration.


Good Luck Grapes

If you are in Spain or Portugal for New Year's Eve, you can share in the local custom of selecting 12 grapes from a bunch. Then, as the clock strikes midnight, eat them one at a time making a wishing with each grape as a way to bring good luck for the next 12 months. Latin American countries share this custom.

In Northern Portugal children go caroling from home to home and are given treats and coins.


Down Under Celebrations

In Australia and New Zealand, New Year's Eve falls when summer is in full swing. Fireworks symbolize the crossover from New Year's Eve, marking the end of the old year, to New Year's Day, which signals the beginning of the New Year. The largest and most elaborate fireworks occur at midnight in Sydney Harbor, an iconic Australian landmark. On this night, the harbor is lit with spectacular fireworks, where hundreds of cultures unite for the Harbor of Light parade.

Because New Zealand is located close to the international date line, it is one of the first countries in the world to welcome the New Year. It is celebrated as a day to relax, visit family and friends, and perhaps attend a horse racing carnival or other summer day fair. Instead of football, New Zealanders watch cricket.


European Festivities

Jan. 1 is an important date in Greece because it is not only the first day of the New Year but also St. Basil's Day. A traditional Greek celebration features Vasilopita, a cake with a silver or gold coin baked inside. On New Year's Day, the cake is sliced as a blessing to the home and to bring good luck for the New Year. The first piece is for St Basil, the second for the house, the next for the most senior member of the household down to the youngest member and often includes absent family members. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will be lucky for the next year.

To predict the future, families in Germany and Austria melt a small amount of lead by holding a flame under a tablespoon, then pour the lead into a bowl or bucket of cold water. The resulting pattern is interpreted to predict the coming year. A heart or ring shape means a wedding, a ball means luck will roll your way and a pig signifies plenty of food in the year ahead.

South of the Border

Bolivians who want to travel in the New Year must take their luggage to the door of their house or go upstairs. Another custom is to wear underwear backwards: wear red to be lucky in love and yellow for wealth. At midnight, Bolivians turn their underwear frontward to symbolize moving forward into the New Year. Some Bolivian families make beautiful little wood or straw dolls to hang outside their homes to bring good luck.

Brazil may be the most celebrated locale to welcome in the New Year. Millions of people from around the world travel to Rio de Janeiro's shores, especially in Copacabana, to experience majestic fireworks that light up the sky above the beaches. Your good luck will increase if you can jump over seven different waves while making your New Year's wishes, one for each wave. Brazilians believe lentils signify wealth, so on the first day of the New Year they eat lentil soup or lentils and rice.

At midnight on New Year's Eve, Mexican families open the front door and symbolically sweep out the old year before tossing coins on the ground and sweeping them into the house wishing for prosperity in the coming year. To symbolize renewal, Mexicans also throw a bucket of water out the window.


"Auld Lang Syne" — a Scottish Creation

The most popular New Year's Eve song, "Auld Lang Syne," is actually an old Scottish song. Poet Robert Burns transcribed and refined the lyrics after hearing them sung by an old man. He published the song in the 1796 edition of Scots Musical Museum, a collection of six volumes of traditional Scottish folk songs and music. "Auld Lang Syne" translates as "old long since" and means "times gone by." Bandleader Guy Lombardo popularized the song in 1929 and turned it into a New Year's classic.

The birthplace of "Auld Lang Syne" is also the home of Hogmanay, a rousing Scottish New Year's celebration. Shortly after midnight on New Year's Eve, neighbors visit each other and impart New Year's wishes. They are called "first footers" and traditionally bring along a small gift. You will be especially lucky if a tall, dark and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the New Year rings in. The Scottish also believe that you should clear your debts before "the bells" ring at midnight.


Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year can fall between late January and the third week of February. This year it's Feb. 16. The exact date is fixed by the lunar calendar, in which a new moon marks the beginning of each new month. There are parades where thousands of people line the streets to watch the procession of floats. Dancing dragons and lions weave their way through the crowded streets. The dragon is associated with longevity and wealth. Inside the costumes are 50 dancers, twisting and turning the dragon's long silk body and blinking eyes.

The Chinese believe evil spirits dislike loud noises so they decorate their houses with plastic firecrackers. The loud noises are intended to frighten away evil spirits and bad luck that these spirits might bring.

Families give out lucky money in red envelopes with their family name and good luck messages written on them in gold, but only to the unmarried and children of the family.


How to Say ‘Happy New Year’ Around the World

Brazilian: feliz ano novo
Brazilian Portuguese: feliz ano novo no brasileiro
Chinese (Cantonese): Sun nien fai lok
Chinese (Mandarin): Xin nian yu kuai
Czechoslavakia: Scastny Novy Rok
Finnish: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta
French: Bonne année
German: glückliches neues Jahr
Greek: ef?tychisméno to néo étos
Hawaiian: Hau’oli makahiki hou
Italian: Buon anno
Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo
Philippines (Tagalog): Manigong Bagong Taon
Spanish: Feliz Año Nuevo; Prospero Ano Nuevo


Claire Yezbak Fadden is an award-winning freelance writer and mother of three sons. Follow her on Twitter @claireflaire.

 

This article was updated Dec. 26, 2017.

 

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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. 

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

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Telephone: 919-348-0472
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2001 Campus Dr.
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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...

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1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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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

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Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Celebrate the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle with vendors, food trucks, free food samples and live music.

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Armory
220 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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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 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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This back-to-school celebration features indoor and outdoor eating areas, kids' activities, music and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn at Southpoint
7007 Fayetteville Rd.
Durham, NC  27713
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Enjoy a back-to-school event featuring a food truck rodeo, inside and outside eating areas, kids' activities and more. Take a non-perishable food item for Back Pack Buddies, an Inter-Faith...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn at Southpoint
7007 Fayetteville Rd.
Durham, NC  27713
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Sponsor: Spectacular Magazine
Telephone: 919-916-1640
Contact Name: Phyllis Coley
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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...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh-Durham International Airport
2400 John Brantley Blvd.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Telephone: 919-942-5119 x117
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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...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh-Durham International Airport
2400 John Brantley Blvd.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Telephone: 919-942-5119 x117
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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...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh-Durham International Airport
2400 John Brantley Blvd.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Telephone: 919-942-5119 x117
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Discover how farmers preserved their food in the days before refrigeration. Learn about drying, pickling, canning and other techniques. All ages.  ages. Registration not...

Cost: Free

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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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.

Cost: $10/person

Where:
Hux Family Farm
1923 Shaw Rd.
Durham, NC  27704
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Learn about the importance of trees through games and hands-on activities. Make paper and  discover the goods that we get from trees. All ages with adult. Registration required...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
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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Sunday, August 19, 2:00–3:00 p.m. Want to do more to help out your community park? Do you like history, the environment, agriculture and/or the arts? Consider volunteering at Yates Mill! Join us...

Cost: Free

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

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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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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Study the vital role that wetland ecosystems play. Net macroinvertebrates, learn how to identify them and discuss their value in the aquatic environment. Wander through some of Lake...

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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Enjoy activities inspired by the boo, "Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf," by Judy Sierra. Ages 4-9. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Hillsborough Library
137 West Margaret Ln.
Inside McDougle Middle School
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Library
Telephone: 191-924-52525
Contact Name: Beth Hawkins
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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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Read the story by Eric Carle, and practice counting and observing similarities and differences.  A short walk to look for crickets and other insects. Ages 18 months-3 years with adult....

Cost: $2/child

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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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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Weekly basic skills cooking class for children aged 5-10 at Whole Foods North Raleigh.  This free class meets each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and is offered by registering in advance...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Low-cost microcontrollers, such as the Arduino, have revolutionized the way we connect the real and virtual worlds. Learn Arduino programming and create projects using sensors...

Cost: Free

Where:
Parata Systems
106 Roche Dr.
Durham, NC  27703
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Sponsor: TechGirlz
Contact Name: Jenna May
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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. Registration required.

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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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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Website »

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Read a story about cows, compare cow breeds, and learn about life on a dairy farm. Explore how milk is made into butter, cheese and other yummy products. Wrap up with an ice cream social and taste...

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
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Contact Name: Rebecca Cope
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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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Learn about the exciting process that changes caterpillars into butterflies. Visit the butterfly garden while searching for butterflies and caterpillars!. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $4/child

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


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

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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
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online.

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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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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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

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

More information

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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Website »

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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
Website »

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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
Contact Name: Vera Cecelski
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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
View map »


Sponsor: Camp Gladiator
Telephone: 919-538-7606
Contact Name: Marisa Park
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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
View map »


Website »

More information

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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Hundreds of artisans from across the Southeast, festival foods, demonstrations, a kids' play area and live music highlight the town's signature arts and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27513
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Stretch your way into creative and silly poses. Share fun memories from the summer, like building sand castles, spitting watermelon seeds, and diving into the swimming pool with our friends,...

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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The Salvation Army of Wake County’s 7th annual Most Amazing Race Raleigh will take place Saturday, August 25 at popular locations throughout downtown Raleigh. The scavenger-hunt-like race is...

Cost: Teams must raise $300 to participate

Where:
The Salvation Army of Wake County Corps Community Center
902 Wake Forest Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Celebrate North Carolina farming culture and history at Duke Homestead. Don't miss the looping contest and Hornworm Race. This event features live music, local arts and crafts vendors, hands-on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Enjoy backpacks and school supplies while they last. Sponsored by Word of Truth St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church and Carolina Pines Community Center.

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
Telephone: (919) 831-6435
Contact Name: Tonya Henderson

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Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Enjoy live entertainment, hands-on projects and gallery hunts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

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
View map »


Sponsor: Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 336-599-8333
Contact Name: Melissa
Website »

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

Cost: Free

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

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The first Holly Springs Children's Business Fair allows children in Holly Springs and surrounding communities to showcase their entrepreneurial skills by launching their own business. Children...

Cost: Free

Where:
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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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

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


Website »

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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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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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Join staff for a morning in the gardens. Take a peek at a mini pond, composting area, pollinator garden and children’s garden. Ages 5 and older with family. Register online. 

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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Enjoy giveaways, live entertainment, food, inflatables and more. Dog-friendly event.

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Pine Plaza
US 64
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Lake Pine Plaza
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster

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Enjoy live music. Take a blanket or lawn chairs. 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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