Splash into Cool Family Getaways in the Carolinas


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With the summer heat just around the corner, it's never too early to make plans for cooling off. North and South Carolina are filled with natural and man-made wonders where you can swim, splash and slide away the hot summer temperatures. Grab your towels, sunscreen and water shoes, and enjoy some cool relief at these destinations.

Kayaking in the Cape Fear Region
Wilmington, N.C.

Paddling down the river in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina is a great way to catch a glimpse of local wildlife and enjoy the area's gorgeous coastal scenery. Children of all ages are welcome to kayak with Don Harty of Mahanaim Adventures in Wilmington. Kids ages 10 and under can ride in Harty's tandem kayaks with a parent. The kayaks glide through quiet, shaded river waters, and it's not uncommon to see a great blue heron or a beaver. Trips last several hours, and kayakers stop for a picnic lunch and a swim on a river sandbar.

Important info: Mahanaim Adventures In and around Wilmington, N.C., 910-547-8252, www.mahanaimadventures.com.

Inside info: If you're hankering for a yummy treat after hours of paddling, stop by Britts Donuts on the Carolina Beach boardwalk, 315 Cape Fear Blvd., for a local specialty. There are no sprinkles, but these donuts are tasty just the way they are.

Rafting the Chattooga River
Long Creek, S.C.

Kids love the thrill of rafting down the natural-flowing Chattooga River, which follows the South Carolina/Georgia state line. Wildwater Ltd. Rafting takes children as young as 8 on trips down section three of the river, which includes a mix of flat water and rapids.

"Kids love it," says Erin McKergow, group sales coordinator. "You're out in the woods, and sometimes in flat water, they can jump out and swim around." Guides keep kids' attention with games and facts about what they are seeing along the river.

Important info: Chattooga Rafting Center, P.O. Box 309, Long Creek, S.C., 864-647-9587, www.wildwaterrafting.com.

Inside info: If you're looking for an affordable place to stay, Wildwater Ltd. just built several yurt bunkhouses. Great pizza is just down the road at Humble Pie Pizza in Long Creek, where you can enjoy live banjo music and the huge rhododendron bush outside.

Tubing the Green River
Saluda, N.C.

Floating down the Green River in Saluda, N.C., is all about relaxing. Green River Cove Tubing supplies the tubes and a ride to the drop-off point, and tubers drift three miles down river back to the Green River campground. Your cooler can float down the river in its own tube, so you can enjoy lunch on the water. The water averages about waist deep, and there are plenty of places to get out and swim. You can tube all day for $10, and co-owner Jackie Gillespie suggests bringing life jackets and sunscreen.

Important info: Green River Cove Tubing, 5200 Green River Cove Rd., Saluda, N.C., 828-749-3781, www.greenrivercovetubing.com.

Inside info: If you're up for a little exercise ask for a map of nearby hiking trails at the Green River Cove Tubing convenience store. The trailhead for one shaded hike is just across the road.

Swimming in Elizabethtown
White Lake, N.C.

A visit to White Lake in Elizabethtown is a decades-old tradition for many families. The lake, which is fed by subterranean springs and is known for its white sandy bottom, is a popular place to swim, water ski, boat and ride jet skis, which you can rent at the lake. The edge of the lake looks like a beach, and the water is safe for swimming because there are no currents, tides or big waves. Kids love the nearby White Lake Water Park, which has a 2,000-square-foot swimming pool, a huge wading pool and tall water slides.

Important info: White Lake, N.C., www.whitelakenc.com.

Inside info: When you get hungry, head over to Melvin's Hamburgers & Hot Dogs, 133 W. Broad St. in Elizabethtown, for what many locals consider the area's best burgers. And if you're looking for a tech-freevacation, check in at Lasley's Motel, where the cabins have no phones or televisions.

Exploring Linville Caverns
Marion, N.C.

You'll cool off before you even step foot in Linville Caverns, as the naturally 52-degree air inside keeps the entrance to the caves chilly, too. A guided tour of the caves lasts about 40 minutes, and visitors can view stunning stalagmites and stalactites. The guide will turn out the lights at the deepest point of the cave to let visitors experience true darkness, but if your child is afraid of the dark, let the guide know and he or she will flip the lights right back on, says Sarah Davis, caverns manager.

The walk through the caves is mostly level, but strollers and baby backpacks aren't allowed. Be sure to wear a hooded jacket to fend off the "cave kisses," drips of groundwater leaking through the cave's ceiling.

Important Info: Linville Caverns, 19929 U.S. 221 North, Marion, N.C., 800-419-0540, www.linvillecaverns.com.

Inside info: Three miles north of the caverns is Spears BBQ & Grill,    which has a great kids' menu and excellent barbecue.

Splashing at Dan Nicholas Park
Salisbury, N.C.

Kids can't resist Dan Nicholas Park's splash pad, a large concrete slab with jets of refreshing water shooting out of the ground. For parents who would rather watch than get wet, benches line the outside of the pad. Make sure that non-potty-trained kids wear swim diapers and remember towels.

The whole family will enjoy a paddleboat ride on the lake, whether you choose a swan, dragon or regular boat. Park entrance and the splash pad are free; paddleboat rides are $2.

Important Info: Dan Nicholas Park, 6800 Bringle Ferry Rd., Salisbury, N.C., 866-767-2757,             www.dannicholas.net.

Inside info: Drive by High Rock Lake on your way home for a gorgeous view of one of the area's most popular fishing spots.

Shelling at the Shore
Edisto Beach, S.C.

When the tide rolls out at Edisto Beach, it leaves layers of shells on the sand that can provide hours of treasure-hunting fun for all ages. Sometimes the shells are 2- to 3-inches deep, and sharp eyes can find conch shells, sand dollars and starfish. The best time to look for shells is

between half tide and low tide, and tide tables are available at any store along the beach. A good place to park for the day is Edisto Beach State Park, which has public beach access with restrooms.

Important info: Edisto Beach State Park, 8377 State Cabin Rd., Edisto Island, S.C., 843-869-2756, www.southcarolinaparks.com/park-finder/state-park/1298.aspx.

Inside info: If you're on the hunt for something live, pick up a string and a chicken neck at a beachfront store and dangle it in the water. You'll likely catch a crab for dinner!

Picnicking and Swimming at Horseshoe Falls
Clinton, S.C.

After enjoying a picnic by the beautiful cascades of Horseshoe Falls on Cedar Shoals Creek, cool off in the large shaded pool at the base of the falls. The falls are about 500 feet from the parking area at Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, which is an easy walk for kids. The best place for kids to swim and wade is in the large pool at the base of the falls, where the water is between knee- and thigh-high depth. Pets are welcome on leashes, but be sure to pack out any pet waste and picnic trash.

Important info: Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, 398 State Park Rd., Clinton, S.C., 864-938-0100, www.southcarolinaparks.com/park-finder/state-park/3888.aspx.

Inside info: On your way home, take in some Civil War history at Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site, which is about 25 minutes away. It's the former home of S.C. Governor William Gist, who led the cries for South Carolina to secede from the Federal Union.

Breathtaking Splash at Sliding Rock
Brevard, N.C.

Sliding Rock in the North Carolina mountains rivals any water park with its thrilling 60-foot slide down a natural rock formation into a 6-foot-deep pool of cool water. Children age 7 and older can slide alone, and younger kids can ride on a parent's lap. The slide is fast, so the littlest ones may have more fun playing in the shallow water near the bottom. Lifeguards are on duty in the summer, and restroom and changing facilities are available.

Important info: Along U.S. 276, about seven and a half miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Brevard Pisgah Forest near Brevard, N.C., 828-877-3265, www.visitwaterfalls.com/adventure/sliding-rock.html.

Inside info: For another fun outing, stop by Crab Creek Catfish Farm in Hendersonville, where children under age 12 can fish all day for free with a paying adult. Take your catch home for $3 a pound.

Playing in Boomerang Bay at Carowinds
Charlotte, N.C.

Whether you're swimming, sliding or riding a wave, Carowinds' Boomerang Bay water park offers a plethora of ways to cool off. The 20-acre park features a huge wave pool, 11 water slides and a long lazy river. Younger children will enjoy the three-level water jungle gym at Jackaroo Landing, and older ones may be brave enough to try water sliding in total darkness in the Awesome Aussie Twisters. Food is available at the park, but you can also eat a picnic lunch at tables outside the park.

Important info: Boomerang Bay, 14523 Carowinds Blvd., Charlotte, N.C., 704-588-2600, www.carowinds.com.

Inside info: After a day at the park, treat yourself to a cupcake or cake pop at the Cupcrazed Bakery in Baxter Village, 936 Market St., Ste. 103, in nearby Fort Mill, S.C.

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer based in Charlotte and the mother of two young children.

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Calendar

December 2019

Wear your favorite holiday attire and dine with Santa Claus. Enjoy a delicious brunch, stories and crafts, and take pictures with the jolly man from the North Pole. 

Cost: $10/child. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
Joyner Park Community Center
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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

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Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Telephone: 919-676-6368
Website »

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See dancers and a guitarist from Flamenco Carolina perform a Spanish style of music and dance.

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Website »

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Ebeneezer Scrooge was visited by three spirits, but what about the next Christmas? With heartwarming excitement, discover how the Cratchit family has fared in the year that has passed since old...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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The Durham Medical Orchestra performs with special guest Joseph Alessi, principal trombone, New York Philharmonic.

Cost: Free

Where:
Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University
1336 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Website »

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As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
Website »

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Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

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The choir presents its 49th performance on Handel's "Messiah."

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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The first day of winter is right around the corner! Help us welcome the season by making a snow globe to take home. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult...

Cost: For all ages (adult accompaniment required for all children); FREE. Registration

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
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Telephone: 919-662-2850

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Children will enjoy this wonderful book written by John Denver reminding us not to forget about the wildlife this holiday season. We will make a craft then take a walk to look for our wildlife...

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
Website »

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Join RTOOT as it performs the music of great Italian composers as well as beloved Christmas classics. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $9/adult, $3 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Dan the Animal Man brings some of his animals from his vast collection to entertain all ages. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Website »

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Help find candy canes hidden in Bond Park before the Grinch turns them green. Ages 6-12. Registration required online. Choose course #127871. 

Cost: $10/child

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
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Website »

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Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

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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

Get into the holiday spirit by decorating cooking, making a craft and enjoying a holiday children's show.

Cost: Free

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Website »

More information

The Wake Forest Abilities Choir will present an evening of holiday music under the direction of director.

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

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Celebrate pecans at the State Farmers Market.

Cost: Free

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

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Join us to learn about how Habitat for Humanity helps build houses, hear a Christmas tale and then build a graham cracker house of your own. Call to, 919-245-2532. Best for ages 4 and up with a...

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
Website »

More information

Is there a man in the moon, and is the moon made of cheese? Sip on some hot cocoa and listen to some of the stories people have told about the moon and find out if there is truth to them. Then...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone, and adult accompanime

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Discover family traditions from North Carolina and around the globe. Create art, enjoy free access to Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, and have a special visit with Santa.

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art East Building and Museum Plaza
Raleigh, NC


Website »

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Bundle up and enjoy an evening around the campfire learning about creatures of the night and listen to Native American tales about some of our favorite nocturnal animals. Roast marshmallows and go...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Kids ages 5-12 enjoy indoor activities while parents enjoy a night out. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Website »

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Wear white clothing and play games, tumble and dance. Enjoy pizza, drinks and more. Ages 5-10. Registration required online. Choose course #127487.

Cost: $18/child; $28 for two children per family

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
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Website »

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Friday, December 13, 6:00pm, at both the Millbrook and Wake Forest Campuses. Put on your Christmas jammies, grab a blanket and come out for a  festive night to watch the classic animated...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crossroads Fellowship
2721 E Millbrook Road
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Sponsor: Crossroads Fellowship
Telephone: 919-981-0222
Contact Name: Lorraine Entwisle
Website »

More information

Have some fun and make something great at the Clay studio (and parents can sneak away and grab a bite or do some shopping at Northgate Mall). Each kid will complete and paint a piece of pottery...

Cost: $18 per child per workshop

Where:
1058 West Club Blvd
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Telephone: 919-560-2726
Contact Name: Lauren Tannenbaum
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Sing along with the band as they perform holiday favorites of Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter solstice and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
, NC  27513
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Website »

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Celebrate the love and joy that this season brings by creating art inspired by a Christmas tree. Register online. Choose course #126761.

Cost: $32/resident, $42/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

More information

Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
Website »

More information

Our Reindeer Romp is open to the entire community and our Girls on the Run families. So join us! Celebrate as nearly 1,000 girls reach their end-of-season goals – the finish line is only the...

Cost: $30 - $35

Where:
Koka Booth Amphitheater
8003 Regency Pkwy
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: Girls on the Run of the Triangle
Telephone: 919-401-6307
Contact Name: Jamie Botta
Website »

More information

Ages 5-12 make a picture frame for the holidays. Snack provided. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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

Travel with us to Puerto Rico with books, games and arts and crafts!  Join the staff of ISLA (Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition) for a fun filled hour! Best for ages 3 and up with a...

Cost: Free Gratis

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

One ticket admits the entire family to decorate a special gingerbread house. Supplies provided. Workshops available at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Allergy-free workshop available at 11 a.m....

Cost: $40

Where:
Family Preschool
4907 Garrett Rd
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Family Preschool
Telephone: 919-402-1500
Contact Name: Sue Henson
Website »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Holiday Habitat Helpers Saturday, December 14, 2-3 Attract winter wildlife to your backyard by providing or improving their habitat.  Create simple outdoor decorations...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us as we watch for meteors during the Gemenids Meteor Shower. Local astronomers will help us observe these shooting stars and other phenomena in the night sky. As a bonus we may see or hear...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Favorite Christmas songs are presented in authentic Nashville country style with dazzling guitars and fiddles along with soaring harmonies. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $25/person

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

See the choir perform beloved Christmas songs with guest vocal group AVANTE. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

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