The Definitive Guide to Picking the Right Preschool


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Step 1: Identify preschools within driving distance from your home or office with a five-star rating with the North Carolina Division of Child Development.
Even if a preschool has achieved a five-star rating, standards can fall very quickly if there has been high staff turnover or if the school ownership has changed within the last few months.

Step 2: Check to see if the preschool has accreditation from AdvancED or NAEYC.
Accredited preschools must jump through additional 'hoops' to meet stringent curriculum, training and testing requirements. Both accreditation organizations are well known for their high standards, so you can feel confident picking an AdvancedED or NAEYC accredited preschool.

Step 3: Now you have a short-list! It's time to schedule tours at each preschool.
Here are some tips:
- When you call to schedule a tour, make sure you are not visiting at naptime because you won't be allowed into the classroom.
- Most preschool classrooms have one lead teacher, one assistant teacher, and if it is a full-day program, one "closer." These individuals will spend the most time with your child. When you set up your tour, mention that you would like to meet your child's class teachers for a few minutes.
- Have realistic expectations. Preschools, by definition, are bustling with activity. When you arrive for your tour, don't be surprised by this. In fact, this is a good thing because 'organized chaos' is exactly what your child will experience in elementary school, so it's best to expose her at a young age. It makes the transition to kindergarten much easier.
- During 'Center Time' many classrooms allow children to pick art, blocks, or other 'centers' they want to play in. If it looks chaotic, no worries. That means there is freedom of choice, movement and expression in the preschool.
- If you see a child staring into space, that's fine too. Too often, preschools are too structured and don't give children enough time to just 'be.' Daydreaming is part of a happy childhood! Every classroom should have a "cozy corner" where children can be quiet.
- Look beyond appearances. Some preschools clean up really well for parent tours. Toys are neatly shelved and children are on their best behavior. "The best preschools let parents see what it's really like," says Lynn Rasmussen, owner of Kids 'R' Kids RTP in Durham. "You want to see a true representation of life at the preschool."
- Use situations to ask questions. During your tour, if you see a child crying: don't be alarmed. It may be his first day at preschool, or maybe he didn't sleep well the previous night. These things happen. It may appear that a teacher is ignoring the crying child, but a few before you walked in, she may have been consoling him.
- Ask questions! "Different families have different ways of correcting behavior," says Monica Miller, field marketing specialist Bright Horizons Family Solutions, which has locations throughout the Triangle. "You want to make sure it aligns with the center where you are enrolling your child because consistency is key."
- Pay attention to nonverbal cues - and the walls! Is the children's art celebrated on the walls? Do the children seem to like and respect their teachers? Do the teachers get down to eye level when they communicate? Seventy percent of human communication is nonverbal, so you can learn a lot from simply observing.
- Pay attention to safety precautions and protocols. Does the main door have keypad access? Is there full visibility into the classrooms from the hallways? Does the school offer secure remote video monitoring, and is that important to you? You also need to evaluate if the preschool is prepared for emergencies. Where would the preschool evacuate to, and how you would be notified? Some parents want to see where their children will take shelter in the building in case of a tornado or severe thunderstorm. Pay close attention to the playgrounds. Do you see any nail pops on the inside of fences? Sharp scissors and cleaning products should be out of reach - and if your child is under age 3, make sure there are no plastic bags in the classrooms either.
- Evaluate the curriculum. The curriculum must be age-appropriate and based on the development of the child's brain. For example, a younger 2-year-old's brain is very different from older 2-year-old's brain and yet some preschools offer the same instruction to both cohorts.

Step 4: Make a final decision.
- Align with your own values. "Aligning childcare with family values is first and foremost," Miller says. "In this era of farm-to-table and organic, I'm seeing families who have nutrition as a high priority." She says guidance and discipline are other big components to consider for families.
- Ask one consistent question to each preschool. Miller recommends that parents ask the following role-playing question during each preschool tour: Johnny and Amy want the same toy. Johnny hits Amy. How would your preschool resolve the situation?
- Consider your child's unique needs. Some preschools creates special learning opportunities: Dr. Seuss' birthday, St. Patrick's Day, July 4 and Memorial Day, for example. If your child is easily bored or very bright, this preschool may be a good fit. Other preschools organize festivals and carnivals. "A shy children can come out of his shell in a safe environment - this helps with the transition to kindergarten," Rasmussen says. "Extroverted children can't wait to perform on stage!" Does the preschool invite outside coaches to offer extra curricular activities on the premises? If your 3 year old jumps out of bed with a squeal of delight every Wednesday because Coach Alyssa is coming to teach soccer, this preschool may be right for her. If your child is speech delayed, some preschools will allow a therapist to work with your child during school hours. This can save you time driving to therapy appointments.
- Follow your gut. After visiting your shortlisted schools, narrow it down to one or two finalists. Then, trust your own instincts. As a parent, you know best what's right for your child, and for your family. "It is all about a feeling you have once you have toured the school, met the teachers and the owners and reviewed the curriculum," Rasmussen says.

It's easy to second-guess yourself, especially if a neighbor or friend recommends a different school. But at the end of the day, you need to know one fact: there is no "perfect" preschool. But you can find one that works for your family.


Neesha Mirchandani is a marketing consultant and mother of a rising kindergartener in Raleigh. Reach her at impactstars.com, twitter.com @neeshamirchi or via Google+.

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Calendar

September 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

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

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
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Due to inclement weather, this event has been canceled. Children make treasured memories while increasing their knowledge of plants and animals. Ages 7-10. 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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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 a street arts festival located in Durham’s historic city center that showcases 145 juried visual artists from across the U.S. and 600 performing artists from North Carolina. Food,...

Cost: $5 suggested donation

Where:
Downtown Durham
120 Morris St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tours are offered every 20 minutes beginning at 1 p.m. Reservations are...

Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages 7–16)* *Ch

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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Tour the farm, spend time with farmers who care about the environment and meet friendly animals. Tickets must be purchased online; the farm is not open for drop-ins.

Cost: $10/person

Where:
Hux Family Farm
1923 Shaw Rd.
Durham, NC  27704
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Sunday, Sept. 16, 1–5 p.m. Learn how farmers harvested crops such as wheat before the invention of mechanized harvesters, try threshing wheat by hand and make a craft to take home!

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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Celebrate Latino culture with live bands, food trucks, dance performances, face painting, a pinata giveaway, crafts and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Garner Performing Arts Center
125 Avery St.
Garner, NC  27529
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Website »

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Take the family for live entertainment, food vendors, rides, hands-on activities, local talent performances, a car show, concerts and more. See website for hours.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Clayton
E. Main St.
Clayton, NC  27520
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Website »

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Sharon O'Donnell discusses her new book and tell humorous and poignant stories of having a child at 38.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
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Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Children with special needs make a creamy vegetable curry. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #116721.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

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

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PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
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Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Read the story by John Parker, sing a spider song and pretend to be a spider before taking a short walk to mist spider webs and to see who’s home.  Ages 18 months-3 years with...

Cost: $2/child

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

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
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Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Wednesday, Sept. 19, 10–11 a.m.** All great inventions start out as merely ideas, and some even happen by accident. Hear invention stories, including the story of Oliver Evans, who invented the...

Cost: $4/child

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

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Do you have what it takes to be a History Detective? Come to Yates Mill and find out! Solve puzzles, hunt for clues, and investigate the mystery of milling with real historical artifacts inside the...

Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages16 & 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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See Happy Dan perform magic, comedy and more.

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Renaissance Centre
405 Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Take your own poles or borrow one from the park through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

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PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Ages 1-5 and caregiver discover nature on a morning stroll. Register online. Choose course #117285.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Jack Smith Park
9725 Penny Rd.
Cary, NC  27606
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Get great bargains on gently used kids' clothing, toys, furniture, baby equip & more at the twice-yearly Kidz Stuff Consignment Sale. From strollers to jumpers, bikes to wipes warmers-if a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hayes Barton Baptist Church
1800 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate Raleigh's creativity under the beautiful lights and cobblestone streets of City Market. Find locally-made goods and enjoy a night filled with music and entertainment with over 30...

Cost: Free

Where:
City Market
306 Parham St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Raleigh Night Market
Contact Name: Sara Buxton
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Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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The autumnal equinox signals the beginning of fall. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

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


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

More information

Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
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Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Get great bargains on gently used kids' clothing, toys, furniture, baby equip & more at the twice-yearly Kidz Stuff Consignment Sale. From strollers to jumpers, bikes to wipes warmers-if a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hayes Barton Baptist Church
1800 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

In celebration of the 151st anniversary of emancipation, MOJAA Performing Arts Company presents a theatrical experience that leads guests through Mordecai Historic Park to experience plantation...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
Mordecai Historic Park
1 Mimosa St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Website »

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Friday, Sept. 21, 6:30–7:30 p.m. Go on an Owl Prowl and discover the kinds of owls that are found in the Piedmont, what they eat, where they live, and what they sound like. Dissect an owl...

Cost: $1/Person

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
Contact Name: Ashley Martin
Website »

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Join us for Scrappy Hour at The Scrap Exchange! This month at Scrappy Hour we will be upcycling mason jars! Join us to create useful and decorative items that will spruce up your space! We will be...

Cost: $25

Where:
The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Road
Lakewood Avenue
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Telephone: 919-213-1278
Contact Name: Anna Graves
Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

Take the family to see a movie by the lake. Movie begins at dusk. 

Cost: Free

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


Website »

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Americana powerhouse vocal trio Red Molly has graced stages from Denver to Denmark. The "Mollies" bring audiences to their feet with their gorgeous harmonies, crisp musicianship,...

Cost: $24

Where:
Garner Performing Arts Center
742 W Garner Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Heartwood Montessori
Telephone: (919) 465-2113
Contact Name: Virginia McCollum
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The autumnal equinox signals the beginning of fall. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

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


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

More information

Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
View map »


Website »

More information

2018 marks 300 years since the notorious pirate Blackbeard roamed the Carolina coast and lost his life – and his head – in a fight with British soldiers. Learn more about the history of...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

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Take part in nearly 100 exhibits and activities, including dragon boat races, cultural displays, games, health screenings, and stage performances. Enjoy a wide collection of ethnic foods...

Cost: $5 advance tickets; $8 at the door. Free for ages 12 and younger

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27518
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Website »

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Tinkergarten brings early childhood education to a park near you. In our classes, kids enjoy the freedom of independent exploration through well-designed play-based activities that lend from the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hollow Rock Nature Park
692 Erwin Rd
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Ali Wolfe
Contact Name: Ali Wolfe
Website »

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Take the family for a day of activity and fellowship. There are two different courses for beginners and advanced competitors, and the whole family can take part as a team. Register online.

Cost: Free

Where:
Hope Valley Farms YMCA
4818 S. Roxboro St.
Durham , NC  27713
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Sponsor: Hope Valley Farms YMCA
Telephone: 919-401-9621
Contact Name: Kelly Johnson
Website »

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Embrace your inner rebel and celebrate the motorcycle lifestyle with family-friendly activities ranging from stunt shows and specialty rides to live music and local vendors. See website for hours.

Cost: $10 for ages 13 and older. Free for ages 12 and younger.

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Project Palooza benefits Project Enlightenment in Wake County and celebrates Project Enlightenment's service to children, families and educators. Enjoy games, crafts,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Project Enlightenment
501 S. Boylan Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Project Enlightenment
Telephone: 614-783-2507
Contact Name: Caitlin Howison
Website »

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Durham Public Schools Hub Farm hosts its biannual open house. This free event will feature music, food catered by DPS students, boating, tree climbing, tours, beekeeping demos, and is kid- and...

Cost: Free for general admission

Where:
The Hub Farm
117 Milton Rd.
Durham, NC  27712
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Website »

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

Cost: Free

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

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Discover how beavers live, eat and play in their watery world. Search for beaver signs around the pond. Ages 3-5 with parent. Advance registration required.  

Cost: $3/child

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

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Taste the world while enjoying free music and dance entertainment, kids games and raffle prizes. Enjoy authentic foods from a dozen countries, live entertainment, games, inflatables and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
J. Ashley Wall Towne Square
Cyprus and Third Streets
Wendell, NC  27591
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Website »

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

Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages 7–16)* *Ch

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Enjoy live music in the Stephenson Amphitheater and Rose Garden. Kids can play games and make crafts in the Kids Zone. Gates open at 1:30 p.m.

Cost: $10 advance tickets; $15 at the door

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Get great bargains on gently used kids' clothing, toys, furniture, baby equip & more at the twice-yearly Kidz Stuff Consignment Sale. From strollers to jumpers, bikes to wipes warmers-if a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hayes Barton Baptist Church
1800 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

In celebration of the 151st anniversary of emancipation, MOJAA Performing Arts Company presents a theatrical experience that leads guests through Mordecai Historic Park to experience plantation...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
Mordecai Historic Park
1 Mimosa St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Website »

More information

Many animals are active around sunset or shortly after. Take a walk with a park naturalist to explore the woods and fields at this special time. Look for deer, coyotes and owls. All ages....

Cost: $2

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


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson Nature Preserve
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PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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