Restaurant Etiquette for a Peaceful Family Meal


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Eating out more frequently has become part of what we do as Americans, says Patrick Whalen, operating partner at Nan and Byron’s restaurant in Charlotte. “I don’t know if it’s good or bad, it just is,” he says.

But as routine as restaurant dining has become, it still serves as a special occasion for families. Parents can use eating out as an opportunity to act as role models and teach children how to socialize and behave in a restaurant environment. Here are suggestions for how you can work on restaurant manners with your child for your family’s next dinner out.

Practice at Home

Alice Cunningham, owner of Alice’s Place, a teahouse in Winston-Salem, says restaurants provide parents with an extended environment in which to model the good manners they should already be practicing at home.

“Good etiquette is good etiquette,” Cunningham says. “You don’t separate restaurant behavior from day-to-day behavior. It’s not like a dress you can take on and off.”

At home, Cunningham advises turning off the TV to fully enjoy a family meal and focus on good behavior and conversation. “If it’s done day-to-day, it’s not as traumatic when you go out in public,” she says. “What you do at home, you automatically do ‘out there.’”

Susan Caldwell, founder of Lil’ Chef Kids Cooking Studios in Raleigh, says “Etiquette is a spin-off of what we do every day. … Kids feed off praise and recognition.”

Set Expectations

Before going to a restaurant, parents should prepare children for how they’re expected to act. Cunningham encourages parents to tell their children to be mindful of others, to stay in control of their behavior and to think twice about misbehaving, which will not be tolerated.

“When you set clear boundaries at any age, they know from your voice that you mean what you’re saying,” she says.

Caldwell, who has an 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, recommends role-playing at home to prepare your child for dining out. She even prints out a placemat to teach children how to set the table. (Try this one from emilypost.com.

Plan Ahead

“Advanced preparation is key,” Caldwell says. She suggests bringing a backpack of items that will keep the child occupied: toys, paper, pen, crayons and books, for example. “I try to be prepared for whatever’s thrown my way,” she says.

Whalen, who has a 3-year-old son and 4-month-old daughter, encourages parents to “be engaged with what your kids are doing — it’s part of the social process. You can’t just hand them an iPhone and have them disengage. It’s good to learn how to deal with impatience or not getting exactly what they want to eat. They need to learn the rules of the restaurant.”

Step Away

If your baby begins screaming, take her out of the situation, Cunningham advises. Likewise, if an older child causes a commotion, talk quietly and firmly to him or her at first.

“If the behavior continues, then remove the child from the restaurant,” she says.

Whalen recommends that parents take the child outside, weather permitting, to calm her down. “People are more willing to be forgiving if the parent is involved in the socialization of the children and [is] correcting behavior, than if you’re disengaged and playing Angry Birds,” he says.

Clean Up?

The jury is out on this one. Whalen doesn’t think parents need to clean up messes made by a baby or toddler when dining out because, “the whole point of going to a restaurant is to be taken care of,” he says.

Caldwell, however, suggests parents attempt to clean up, including taking baby containers home rather than leaving them on the table. Caldwell says if she can’t clean up the mess, she compensates by leaving a larger tip.

Whalen says a bigger tip is not necessary. “Families may not be in a position to pay more,” he says. “So don’t add to it by increasing the tip.”

(See below for how some of our Facebook fans handle this situation.)

Order Independently?

Children’s readiness to order their own food depends on their personality, age and developmental stage. Whalen advises that parents take over when their child is hesitant or takes longer than 10-20 seconds. “It’s not quantifiable,” he says, but can occur “when the child feels comfortable to speak publically without infringing on the server’s ability to do their job.”

Good restaurant etiquette not only reflects favorably on your child and the job you have done as a parent; it also builds self-esteem, encourages self-confidence and sends your child into the world with life skills he will use over and over again.

“Children learn to respect themselves and others, and it helps with making good choices at home, school and in play,” Caldwell says. “A good foundation gives them the opportunity to learn and practice leadership skills, and it makes them more likable.”

FACEBOOK: Do you clean up after your family at a restaurant, or leave it to the wait staff?

We try to keep it clean, stack plates, pick up major crumbs, etc.
— Denise McEntee

I always clean up and make it as easy as possible for them to get the table ready for the next guest. I was a waitress for years and make sure that my children appreciate that waiters, waitresses, bussers, etc., are people too
.— Heidi Mulligan Walker

I stack all plates and silverware, put all napkins on top and move all drink glasses next to the stack. I pick up anything that was dropped on the floor by my children and I wipe down the table. I’m a tad OCD, but I have four kiddos so I feel like I should not leave a disaster for the waiter/waitress. My kids all help with the cleaning.
— Christina Beatrice Minnish

Unless we are leaving because of a meltdown we try to clean up. Thankfully we have finally passed the throwing food on the floor stage ... With having our three in three years it seemed like poor daddy spent at least 5 minutes crawling around under the table every time we went out!
— Covey Denton

I always clean up and stack the plates. I sometimes try not to but I can’t help it! Also, it shows common courtesy and speeds things up for the next person waiting for a table Besides, that way I can also make sure I did not leave anything behind!— Veronika Garcia

Table Manners

Alice Cunningham, owner of Alice’s Place in Winston-Salem, and Susan Caldwell, founder of Lil’ Chef Kids Cooking Studios in Raleigh, teach the following table manners to their students:

  • Always put your napkin in your lap.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Don’t slurp your drink.
  • Cut your food into small pieces.
  • Eat small bits of food with a fork.
  • Don’t bang utensils or other items on the table.
  • Start from the outside in when using utensils.
  • Hold the chair for ladies.
  • Cross your legs at your ankles.

 Restaurant Etiquette Resources

Online

  • Emily Post Institute: emilypost.com/home-and-family
  • Cookbook author Linda Stradley: whatscookingamerica.net/Menu/DiningEtiquetteGuide.htm

 Books

Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th Edition by Peggy Post, Anna Post, Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning

Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (Freshly Updated) by

Judith Martin, illustrated by Gloria Kamen

Etiquette for Dummies by Sue Fox

For a list of local family-friendly restaurants in North Carolina visit:

 Cathy Downs is a Triangle-based freelance writer.

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November 2019

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Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
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More information

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Cost: $29/person

Where:
Whole Brain Escape
410 Upchurch St
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View map »


Sponsor: Whole Brain Escape
Telephone: (919)355-2714
Contact Name: Heather Chandler
Website »

More information

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

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

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Telephone: 919-662-2850

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Cost: $29/person

Where:
Whole Brain Escape
410 Upchurch St
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Sponsor: Whole Brain Escape
Telephone: (919)355-2714
Contact Name: Heather Chandler
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Cost: FREE

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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
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Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

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Whole Brain Escape, the Triangle’s newest escape room, is debuting its 4th room! Located in Apex, Whole Brain Escape is excited to unveil The Curse of Dr. Conundrum on Friday, November 8th....

Cost: $29/person

Where:
Whole Brain Escape
410 Upchurch St
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Sponsor: Whole Brain Escape
Telephone: (919)355-2714
Contact Name: Heather Chandler
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Show Less...

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Whole Brain Escape, the Triangle’s newest escape room, is debuting its 4th room! Located in Apex, Whole Brain Escape is excited to unveil The Curse of Dr. Conundrum on Friday, November 8th....

Cost: $29/person

Where:
Whole Brain Escape
410 Upchurch St
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Whole Brain Escape
Telephone: (919)355-2714
Contact Name: Heather Chandler
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Cost: Free

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Sponsor: Orange County Library
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Contact Name: Beth Hawkey
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Cost: $25-$45/person

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McKimmon Center
1101 Gorman St.
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Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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See horses compete and enjoy food trucks, children's activities and more. Admission is free; Saturday evening Grand Prix tickets are $10/person. Proceeds benefit Duke Children's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

When Possum sees the full harvest moon, he decides to throw one last party before the long winter. But everyone is too busy preparing for winter and it looks as if nobody will come to Possum's...

Cost: FREE. Registration is required.

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Discover all things sweet potato at the State Farmers Market. 

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Whole Brain Escape, the Triangle’s newest escape room, is debuting its 4th room! Located in Apex, Whole Brain Escape is excited to unveil The Curse of Dr. Conundrum on Friday, November 8th....

Cost: $29/person

Where:
Whole Brain Escape
410 Upchurch St
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Whole Brain Escape
Telephone: (919)355-2714
Contact Name: Heather Chandler
Website »

More information

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201 E Hargett St.
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View map »


Sponsor: Read and Feed
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More information

See horses compete and enjoy food trucks, children's activities and more. Admission is free; Saturday evening Grand Prix tickets are $10/person. Proceeds benefit Duke Children's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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Baileywick Road Park
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View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
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More information

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Cost: Registration is not required.

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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+ yrs), $3/Child (7-16yrs), Free/Child (6yrs & younger)

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: $5/child

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View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

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

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Cost: Free

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Halle Cultural Arts Center
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Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

November Story Time, Puppet Show and Art Activity Puppet Show Incorporated https://www.puppetshowinc.org/ presents the classic folk story Stone Soup. Activities include a story time, puppet show...

Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Branch Library
900 Old Fayetteville Road
Inside McDougle Middle School
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Library
Telephone: 919-969-3006
Contact Name: Beth Hawkey
Website »

More information

Take a walk in the woods and discover the animals and plants that call our park home. Help collect data for our Natural Resources Inventory Database and other citizen science projects. All...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Whole Brain Escape, the Triangle’s newest escape room, is debuting its 4th room! Located in Apex, Whole Brain Escape is excited to unveil The Curse of Dr. Conundrum on Friday, November 8th....

Cost: $29/person

Where:
Whole Brain Escape
410 Upchurch St
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Whole Brain Escape
Telephone: (919)355-2714
Contact Name: Heather Chandler
Website »

More information

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+ yrs), $3/Child (7-16yrs), Free/Child (6yrs & younger)

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

During harvest time, farmers often helped their neighbors to get hard work done during communal gatherings such as corn shucking. Learn about this fall tradition and make a corn husk doll to take...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Usher in the holidays with a tree-lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Carolers, a visit from Santa, a dance scene from the Nutcracker, special performances from local schools, and dozens of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lafayette Village
8450 Honeycutt Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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All evening and into the night, 3000 pounds of molten iron will be poured into molds, in an exciting fiery display. Additionally, there will be Liberty Arts artists’ work for sale, scratch...

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Discover what's happening as the sun sets and listen to stories around a campfire. All ages with adult. Register online. Choose course #127674.

Cost: $18/resident, $24/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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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
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
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Join the Studio School of Durham team to sip, tinker, and create on Saturday, November 16th at 7:00pm for this FREE event!  We will provide the food, wine, beer, and non-alcoholic...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Studio School of Durham
1201 W Woodcroft Pkwy
Durham, NC  27713
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Sponsor: The Studio School of Durham
Telephone: 984-377-4502
Contact Name: Danielle Sunde
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The EWFL carries a unique experience in youth football to play in a “big game” atmosphere.  Our games begin in the afternoons on Saturday and play into the evening “under the...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Durham County Stadium
750 Stadium Dr
Durham, NC  27704
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See horses compete and enjoy food trucks, children's activities and more. Admission is free; Saturday evening Grand Prix tickets are $10/person. Proceeds benefit Duke Children's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 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 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.