Nurturing Your Relationship


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Every Valentine’s Day, I choose a card for my husband: sometimes silly, sometimes serious and sometimes homemade. The card itself doesn’t matter. What charms me is his reaction when he opens it and the opportunity it provides to tell him how much he means to me, even after eight years of marriage, three children, two jobs and a goofy, yellow dog snoring at our feet

A lot of ink is devoted to the subject of love. We’ve provided some practical tips from well-known people, parents and experts on how to make it last, especially through the changes of parenthood.

"Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation". — Oscar Wilde

Durham parents Matt and Ann Barnes have been married for 10 years and have two small children. However, they still schedule time to talk every night. The Barnes give their kids a last-chance play time of 30 minutes, after which the kids need to clean up their toys. Naturally, the children scamper away.

“This allows time for Ann and I to have a glass of wine and to talk, without interruption, about the day’s events or whatever is on our minds,” Barnes says. He thinks this is particularly important because his wife, a stay-at-home mom, doesn’t have much chance to talk with adults during her average day.

He also appreciates these windows of time with his wife because they are consistent. “It is nice because it works most evenings so it is a sure thing, so to speak, unlike our attempts to have a regularly scheduled ‘date night,’” Barnes says.

"People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or wife. The rules are the same. Look for something you’ll feel comfortable wearing. Allow for room to grow." — Erma Bombeck

Before adding kids to the mix, it’s easy to imagine that a steamy relationship will stay that way. While still childless, couples may think things will immediately get back on track post-baby. Experienced parents know that the lifestyle change in those early days is shocking, and it takes teamwork to make it through.

Researchers at the University of Virginia confirmed this in a study of more than 100 first-time, postpartum parents. Most participating mothers and fathers were worried about issues pertaining to the quality of intimacy post-baby. The study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in January 2007, found that one-third of parents had persistent concerns about “child-rearing differences with spouse, greater desire by the man than the woman, and the mother’s body image” after one year postpartum.

Accepting that a relationship is going to change and realizing that partners need to be understanding during the postpartum period are important. The bottom line is that marriage is different post-kids, and it takes both partners’ understanding to get to a comfortable place.

“It’s really hard, and it’s definitely not the same post-baby for a lot longer than we’d expected,” says Chapel Hill mom Kelly Reynolds.

Reynolds had thought her husband and she would be the same in very little time after each of their two daughters were born. She learned otherwise. The path to feeling like herself and working out the post-baby kinks took considerably longer than she had imagined.

“It takes time to establish a new normal,” Reynolds says. “Somewhere around the year mark after both girls, I started to feel comfortable with everything again — with the home/work balance, with us as a family and with myself as a person.”

"Husbands are like fires. They go out if unattended." — Zsa Zsa Gabor

With the responsibilities that accompany children, it’s easy to take a spouse for granted or feel too tired to focus on the marital relationship. However, psychologist Susan Orenstein, Ph.D., who practices in Chapel Hill and Cary, stresses the importance of devoting this energy.

“In the first few years, you are dealing with physical exhaustion, difficulty getting a full night’s sleep, frequent interruptions. It is difficult to have time, let alone the impetus, for romance. It is important that the new parents make time to be together and keep the fires kindling,” says Orenstein, who specializes in marital therapy and healthy family relationships.

In fact, couples who have young children frequently allow intimacy to take a back seat in their relationship. “Research shows that compared to couples married the same number of years, couples with young children have less sexual activity and more dissatisfaction in their marriage than those without children,” Orenstein says.

Parents may devote so much energy to their kids that their relationship with each other suffers. But is intimacy important? According to Orenstein, having an intimate relationship is a gift that parents can give their children.

“It is important for the intimacy of the couple to be healthy, not only for the sake of the marriage, but also for the children,” she says, adding, “The parents need to model a good relationship to instruct the children, and also need to be a team separated from and in charge of the children.”

Sandy Silverman, a Hillsborough mother of two, believes in devoting specific time to her and her husband’s relationship. “We have date nights at home. Kids go to bed, we watch a movie or have a nice dinner for two, and go to bed early and together,” she says.

Like many parents, Silverman and her husband have found themselves attempting to accomplish many chores after the kids go to bed. Silverman found this led to staggered bedtimes with one spouse fast asleep before the other found his or her way to the pillow.

After instituting the never-miss date night, she and her husband ensured they headed to bed hand in hand. Knowing they would “end the day together once a week is a lovely thing,” Silverman says.

“The Eskimos have 52 words for snow because it is so special to them; there ought to be as many for love!” — Margaret Atwood

Sometimes the key to nurturing a relationship is evaluating what is negatively impacting it. Wake Forest working mom Marla Mills-Wilson found that late hours on the job were troubling her husband and affecting their relationship. When she changed jobs and focused on getting home in timely manner, she noticed a change in her husband’s attitude and happiness.

Along with positive actions, like those of Mills-Wilson, Orenstein recommends adding compliments to everyday interactions. “Words of acknowledgement and appreciation can also go far, and not just once in a while. Make a practice of adding positively to the marriage on a daily basis,” she says.

For truly special time with your spouse, reach out to local family members, if that is an option. Mills-Wilson accepts support from family members to ensure she and her husband get designated time together as a couple.

“My in-laws have our 4-year-old son one weekend a month. This weekend without our precious one is ‘Mommy and Daddy’ time to concentrate on each other. We also find that limiting television and movies are a must because these activities limit our time to talk to each other,” she says.

"We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.” — John Lennon

Refocusing on the elements of the relationship that were important when you became a couple is even more important for parents. In terms of initiating intimacy, particularly for new parents, Orenstein offers some advice.

First, for both partners, focus on gestures of affection and appreciation. “The husband can be a partner with household chores and child care. He can initiate date night and can arrange for a babysitter. Surprises like breakfast in bed or letting his wife sleep in and gestures of affection will help keep the intimacy and romance alive in the relationship,” Orenstein says.

For wives who want to ensure their marriage stays fresh, Orenstein believes the same advice she gives to husbands is relevant. She also feels wives need to maintain their own sense of self-confidence, including attractiveness and sensuality. Moms tend to focus so much energy on their home and children, they find their own commitments to healthy eating, exercise and looking their best can take a back seat, which can compromise their sense of self-worth and beauty.

“Women can get in touch with their sensual and sexual side in various ways, for example enjoying a hot bubble bath, wearing special lingerie, getting a pedicure or taking a dance class,” Orentstein says.

For couples who feel their connection really is broken, Orenstein recommends seeking professional help. “If the couple starts avoiding each other, or if there is frequent sarcasm or yelling, the couple could benefit from direction on effective communication,” Orenstein advises.

Other signs that a relationship needs professional help include detrimental behaviors like turning to food, alcohol or drugs to cope. And, of course, if a member of the relationship is seeking validation or intimacy from a third party, a specialist in marital counseling is probably needed.

“A therapist specializing in couple’s therapy can provide a safe place for partners to clear up misunderstandings, heal past hurt, and discover ways to add positivity to their daily interactions,” Orenstein says.

Ultimately, Valentine’s Day is a special time to focus on the person with whom we started this journey into parenthood: our spouse. Tonight, after the kids are in bed, consider avoiding the computer, the TV, and that monster-sized pile of laundry. Instead, spend a little quality time with your spouse. How do you do it? Well, like the Valentine’s Day card you buy for your spouse, that’s up to you.

Robin Whitsell is a mother of three living in Chapel Hill. Her husband plans Valentine’s Day, which typically includes a dinner out, a glass of wine, dressing nicely and no kids.

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Calendar

August 2019

August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day. Come to the Finley Center anytime during the day to share some jokes with the park community. A large board will be set up in the Exhibit Hall where...

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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For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

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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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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Enjoy live music, kid activities, a taco eating contest and The Best Taco contest.

Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger 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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See the Game Grumps play games, make jokes and more in this stage show. Purchase tickets online. 

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Stop in during one of our Back to School Open Houses!  Meet our instructors, tune your instrument, learn a quick song and more!. Aug 12th 7-8:30 Brass & Woodwinds Aug 17th 12:30-2:00...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Ages 11-17 learn how to make foods inspired by Asia. Register online. Choose course #124729.

Cost: $35/resident, $46/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

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Stop in during one of our Back to School Open Houses!  Meet our instructors, tune your instrument, learn a quick song and more!. Aug 12th 7-8:30 Brass & Woodwinds Aug 17th 12:30-2:00...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
View map »


Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
Website »

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Enjoy storytime with Amy Godfrey. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Locopops Dessert Cafe
2618 Hillsborough St.
Durham, NC  27705
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Dragonflies love to eat flying bugs, especially mosquitoes and gnats!  Discover the different parts of a dragonfly's body through a colorful craft, learn about its life cycle, and play fun...

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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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Join us at Harris Lake County Park as we explore the wonders of water through educational activities and some for just plain fun! We will dip for critters in our pond to discover what lives...

Cost: Free

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: Joanne St. Clair
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Come to Learning Express Falls Pointe for an instructive class on how to make your very own Do-A-Dot Art creation.

Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
Website »

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Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
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Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Bring your own poles or borrow one of ours through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are provided. All...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online. Choose course #124972.

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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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Design a T-shirt. Materials provided. Grades 3-5. Register at the library or call 919-245-2539.

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W. Margaret Ln.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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We are so excited for our next Durham Night Market at Pine & Poplar at The Wine Feed. Over 40 local makers will be selling their handmade products. There will be food trucks, live music...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Wine Feed
307 S Roxboro St
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Raleigh Night Market
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Film to be announced. *Actual time to be determined by sunset. Bring your lawn chairs, blankets, and picnics to enjoy a movie under the stars in our beautiful garden!

Cost: Free

Where:
GREGG MUSEUM OF ART & DESIGN
1903 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Sponsor: Gregg Museum of Art & Design
Telephone: 919-515-3503
Contact Name: Gregg Museum
Website »

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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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
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Sponsor: Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 336-599-8333
Contact Name: Melissa
Website »

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Bring your friends and family to Learning Express for a Family Game Night. There will be several games available to play including popular board games, card games, arcade games, and dice...

Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
Website »

More information

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 #124903.

Cost: $15/resident, $19/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

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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Shop for local handmade arts and crafts from local vendors. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Website »

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The North Carolina Boys Choir and Girls Choir Half-Day Camp and Music Workshop is open to public (all children in our community between 7 and 14 years of age). Register online. ...

Cost: Free

Where:
Binkley Baptist Church
1712 Willow Dr
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Boys Choir and Girls Choir
Telephone: 919-239-9083
Contact Name: Robert Unger
Website »

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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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Website »

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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
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Play children's games from the past. No registration rquired. 

Cost: Free

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


Website »

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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
View map »


Website »

More information

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
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. 

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 »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

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
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Take the family for treats, music, art and more. See a special exhibit showcasing the work of Artspace's talented young artists.

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace
201 E. Davie St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30 & 3:00 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Come into Learning Express North Hills for a trading event. Socialize with others who collect Pokemon and/or LOL dolls and negotiate for rare cards.

Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
Website »

More information

Children make treasured memories while increasing their knowledge of plants and animals. Ages 7-10. Register online. Choose course #124931.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Join Horne Memorial UMC & First Baptist Church of Clayton for an evening of Christian fellowship, inspirational music, free food and family fun. All proceeds benefit Clayton Area Ministries...

Cost: Free

Where:
Clayton Town Square
100 W. Main Street
Clayton, NC  27520
View map »


Sponsor: First Baptist Church of Clayton and Horne Memorial UMC of Clayton
Telephone: 919-218-4010
Contact Name: Melissa Dooley
Website »

More information

East Cloud Kungfu hosts a Parent's Night Out event, featuring a safe environment for kids as they about the wide world of kungfu.   Check it out!...

Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
Website »

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North Carolina State University celebrates the beginning of a new academic year with good, music and family-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC  27607


Website »

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Caribbean culture and cuisine showcase this 7th annual festival that features masqueraders, arts and craft vendors, live music and a kids corner. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
400 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC
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