Plan a Triangle Family Staycation


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Does summer travel conjure images of highway traffic, flight delays or long lines at amusement parks? One way to avoid such hassles and make the most of lazy summer days - while also saving money on hotel and transportation costs - is to plan a "staycation" instead of a vacation.

There are many reasons to spend your vacation in the Triangle, not the least of which is that there are so many things to do with kids. Approach your staycation as you would any other family trip: Research your options, think creatively, and explore new activities and attractions. Here are some suggestions for themed summer staycations that will show you a good time close to home.

Cook up some funa-staycation-carrboro.jpg

Summer's bounty makes this a great time to explore local foods. With so many Triangle farmer's markets and farms there are myriad options for sampling, purchasing and picking fresh summer fruits and veggies. The Carrboro Farmer's Market offers regular family events throughout the season, including storytellers and the Tomato Day festival July 13. At right, The Carrboro Farmers Market hosts Tomato Day in July. Photo courtesy of the Carrboro Farmers Market

Molly Gold, Raleigh mom of three, frequently visits the State Farmers Market. "It's fun to time a visit with special activities that they are celebrating, like Watermelon Day, where you might meet the North Carolina Watermelon Princess and get to see prize-winning watermelons weighing more than all the rest," she says. Gold allows each child to pick fresh fruits and vegetables to use in a recipe they will cook together. "We always start with the ingredients for homemade salsa," she says.

Find an extensive list of farmers markets in the Triangle area at in our roundup, Farmers Markets Grow in the Triangle.

You can also go directly to the farm to purchase or pick your own food. Dorette Snover, co-owner of C'est Si Bon cooking school in Chapel Hill, recommends Maple View Farm in Hillsborough, where you can not only see the cows, but purchase milk and ice cream.

Another option is to sign up for a family cooking class at a local cooking school. Snover says she can plan a weekend cooking trip for your entire family. "We'd begin with a family lesson on Friday evening, then send you off to a farm stay and exploring, or cooking with local ingredients," she says.

Snover recommends Fickle Creek Farm in Efland for a bed and breakfast experience that includes seasonal produce, pigs, sheep and livestock.

Explore art for all

f-paperhand-puppet_1.jpgIf budding Van Goghs live in your house, spend a week exploring and making art. The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh offers indoor and outdoor viewing opportunities. Browse inside the museum, then head outdoors to Museum Park, which features 160 acres of woodlands and creeks, biking and walking trails, and works of art installed throughout. Take sketchbooks and encourage your children to sketch pictures and sculptures they like.

The North Carolina Museum of Art also hosts free family tours Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m., preschool classes on Thursdays at varying times, and themed Family Fun Saturdays twice a month at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. (Above, at left, The Paperhand Puppets entertain visitors with a parade at the N.C. Museum of Art.  Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of Art; Christopher Ciccone, photographer)

Other art museums in the Triangle, such as the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, also offer family tours, programs and events.

Another artistic option is to visit the Golden Belt in Durham, a reclaimed mill space where working artists open their studios monthly on the first Wednesday and second Saturday of each month. Jessie Brown, a management assistant at Golden Belt, recommends that parents stroll through the studios first, "to make sure they're comfortable with the work on display. Some pieces may be a little mature for younger audiences, but I think kids can be diverted around the building easily enough."

Golden Belt also offers a free, outdoor, family-friendly concert series on the third Friday of each summer month.

Brown also recommends visiting The Scrap Exchange, a nonprofit, creative use center in Durham that offers a make-and-take room for budding artists, programs and events.

At the end of your art week, host a gallery opening at your house, complete with sparkling grape juice for the kids. Hang a large sheet of white paper on the wall and invite young guests to create a decorative mural.

Get close to nature

Consider a staycation focused on nature. Find field guides at your local library or online (allaboutbirds.org/guide/search) to identify local flora and birds. Go on a scavenger hunt for flowers and trees at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, Coker Arboretum in Chapel Hill or Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham. Snap photos and encourage your children to create their own field notebooks.

Ilina Ewan, Raleigh mother of two, likes to take her school-age boys on hikes along the trail at the Eno River State  Park in Durham and Umstead State Park in Raleigh. Go on a hiking expedition at some of the many trails in the Triangle (search Hiking Trails at carolinaparent.com for a list of kid-friendly trails), and throw in a camping "trip" in your backyard. The kids will love it - especially if you make s'mores.

For animal life, visit the black bears, red wolves and lemurs at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, visit the

North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, or schedule a tour at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham or Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro. Public tours are also available at Carolina Tiger Rescue on Saturdays and Sundays.

Relive history

a-staycation-duke-homestead.jpgNorth Carolina is a cradle of U.S. history. Consider planning a staycation to learn more about the role of the Tarheel State during the Revolutionary and Civil wars. Check out books from the library about both wars and read them together. Visit the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh to explore its Civil War and "Call to Arms" exhibits, which present overviews of the state's involvement in the wars and military heritage.

Learn about the Civil War's history in Durham at civilwardurham.com. Print Civil War trail markers (in the website's "Experience" section) and visit sites such as Bennett Place, where the negotiation for the biggest Civil War troop surrender took place, and Duke Homestead, with the early home, factories and farm where Washington Duke first manufactured tobacco products. Duke (Photo at left shows agrarian re-enactments at Duke Homestead State Historic Site. Photo courtesy of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources) Don't forget Historic Stagville, the site of one of the largest prewar plantations in the South.

In Raleigh, visit the Raleigh City Museum and take a historic trolley tour to learn more about historic sites such as Mordecai Historic Park, the site of Andrew Jackson's birthplace. Stop by the Joel Lane Museum House to learn more about "The father of Raleigh," a Revolutionary War patriot.

Finally, be sure to collect souvenir brochures and maps and take lots of photos during your staycation adventure. Scan printed items and upload pictures to make a scrapbook. It will be just the thing to pull out when you and the kids want to relive warm memories on a cold January day.

Mara Gorman is a freelance writer who blogs about family travel at motherofalltrips.com.
This article was updated July 3, 2013.

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Calendar

June 2019

Discover the joys of fishing at Bass Pro Shops with free fishing seminars, kids crafts and more. 

Cost: Free

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Cabela's
201 Cabela Dr.
Garner, NC  27529
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Sugg Farm
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Cost: 24.00

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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
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Cost: $10/adults, $7/children (ages 2-12) and free for ages 2 and younger

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New Hope Valley Railway
3900 Bonsal Rd.
Bonsal, NC  27562
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Cost: 24.00

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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
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Cost: See website for fees

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Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 833-202-7626
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Cost: Free

Where:
American Institute of Healthcare & Fitness
8300 Health Park
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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
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Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (ages 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: 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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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

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Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


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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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Drop by the cybrary for storytime with a librarian. Activity Room 4. Preschool and kindergarten ages. No registration necessary. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Cybrary
100 N Greensboro St
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-918-7387
Contact Name: Cybrary
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Soil is magical and needed for everything we do. Using our magic soil bag, each child will participate in this fun magic trick and help us make soil from a rock. This is a fun program on a "dirty"...

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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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Ages 11 and older with disabilities make a salad, pinwheel sandwiches and a refreshing dessert. Register online. Choose course #124745.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


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


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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
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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. 

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Park West Village
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Cost: $5

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: Marti Kane
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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 Girls will get a tour of the labs, enjoy a short presentation on the research that occurs at NIEHS, and listen to a panel of young female scientists will share their stories. There will also...

Cost: Free

Where:
National Institute for Environmental Health Scienc
111 TW Alexander Drive
Durham, NC  27713
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Sponsor: Young women in bio
Contact Name: Kaitlyn
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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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Vacation Bible School is a FREE event at Trinity Baptist Church. All families are welcome! June 12-15, 2019. Wednesday - Friday 6-8pm and Saturday from 9-11:30am. Children can come enjoy...

Cost: Free

Where:
Trinity Baptist Church
4815 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Sponsor: Trinity Baptist Church
Telephone: 919-787-3740
Contact Name: Katie Medlin
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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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Meet a staff member at the information desk and follow your guide outside to the garden exhibit or into one of the museum galleries. Look around and listen to a history-related story. Ages 3...

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #124692.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

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Summer is coming and we know that the best way to kick off the long warm days is with our second annual School’s Out Gelato Party! Students, parents — or anyone who just wants to...

Cost: Free to attend, $5 for gelato bar

Where:
La Vita Dolce Cafe
610 Market St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Sponsor: La Vita Dolce
Telephone: 919-428-8302
Contact Name: Ann Johnston
Website »

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Enjoy glittering, glowing galaxies, cosmic space dough, galaxy jars, marshmallow constellations and more in an out-of-this-world experience. Grades 3-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Trinity Baptist Church
4815 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Sponsor: Trinity Baptist Church
Telephone: 919-787-3740
Contact Name: Katie Medlin
Website »

More information

Alexander Family YMCA‘s instructors lead a free yoga class in the Jackson-Thiem Pollinator Garden. Come enjoy the Gregg’s beautiful surroundings while you practice building serenity within!...

Cost: Free

Where:
GREGG MUSEUM OF ART & DESIGN
1903 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Sponsor: Gregg Museum of Art & Design
Telephone: 919-515-3503
Contact Name: Gregg Museum
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 »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online. Choose course #124970.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Celebrate Flag Day by delving into the history and lore of the American flag at Historic Yates Mill, which has been around since before the American Revolution. Explore the more than 30 national...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Celebrate the start of a fantastic season of story times, book clubs, and special performances with live music, fun and games, and cool treats.

Cost: Free

Where:
Chapel Hill Public Library
100 Library Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Website »

More information

Vacation Bible School is a FREE event at Trinity Baptist Church. All families are welcome! June 12-15, 2019. Wednesday - Friday 6-8pm and Saturday from 9-11:30am. Children can come enjoy...

Cost: Free

Where:
Trinity Baptist Church
4815 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Sponsor: Trinity Baptist Church
Telephone: 919-787-3740
Contact Name: Katie Medlin
Website »

More information

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Show Less...

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Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Wake Forest
South White Street
, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Discover the joys of fishing at Bass Pro Shops with free fishing seminars, kids crafts and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Bass Pro Shops
801 Bass Pro Ln.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Telephone: 417-413-9368
Contact Name: Todd Foxx
Website »

More information

Discover the joys of fishing at Bass Pro Shops with free fishing seminars, kids crafts and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Cabela's
201
Cabela Dr.
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 984-204-2200
Contact Name: Tammy Fonda-Quann

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It`s 1863 at Yates Mill, and the yard is alive with activity! Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal.  Tour fee:...

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
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Park
319 S. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Growga will take families on an imaginative journey around the world and practice fun movement and pretend play.

Cost: Free; donations accepted

Where:
American Tobacco Campus
Blackwell St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Preschoolers (ages 3-5 accompanied by an adult) enjoy stories, crafts and a hike to learn more about the baby mammals at the preserve this summer.  We will focus on white-tailed deer and Virginia...

Cost: $5

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


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

More information

Ages 3-5 create a simple art project based on a story. Register online. Choose course #124427. 

Cost: $14/resident, $18/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Growga will take families on an imaginative journey around the world and practice fun movement and pretend play.

Cost: Free; donations accepted

Where:
American Tobacco Campus
Blackwell St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $15/$10 for members

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


Telephone: 919-821-2787
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Put your dancing shoes on! Come to the mill yard to join our costumed interpreters Jon and Karena Potter in learning and dancing 19th-century country dances. You do not need to have a partner to...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

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
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

It`s 1863 at Yates Mill, and the yard is alive with activity! Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal.  Tour fee:...

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

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: $10-$20

Where:
1321 Athens Dr
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Website »

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Enjoy music from five community bands from the Triangle area, including the Triangle Community Band, the Raleigh Concert Band, the Holly Springs Band, the Village Band, and the Cary Town Band....

Cost: Free

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


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Vacation Bible School is a FREE event at Trinity Baptist Church. All families are welcome! June 12-15, 2019. Wednesday - Friday 6-8pm and Saturday from 9-11:30am. Children can come enjoy...

Cost: Free

Where:
Trinity Baptist Church
4815 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Sponsor: Trinity Baptist Church
Telephone: 919-787-3740
Contact Name: Katie Medlin
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The symphony performs well-known classical music by Mozart, Beethoven and more, including Rossini’s William Tell Overture. Purchase tickets online. Ages 12 and...

Cost: $30-$33/person

Where:
Koka Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27518
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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. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.