Tips for Finding The Right Summer Day Camp


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I still remember the Excel spreadsheet my husband created when our son was in grade school. We were trying to patch together multiple summer-day-camp options that would be fun and enriching for him and that also would, frankly, help us out with child care while we both worked. We talked with friends, read everything we could get our hands on, poured over websites... And cobbled together a plan. What we didn't have was great advice — like the tips from our experts, below — on how to go about the whole process.

With this advice, you'll know where to start looking, what questions to ask – and you'll even nab a few tips on what to do once you've chosen the right camp(s) for your child. Happy summer camping!

°        Know your child. "The age and interests of the child help to determine which type of camp experience will fit," says Howard Batterman, of Blue Bell, Penn., owner and director of Sesame/Rockwood Camps and Rockwood Adventures Teen Travel Program. "With very young children ages 4 to 5, the length of the day and the week is a consideration. Most day camps offer mini or full days with extended hours for working families before and after the regular camp-day hours," adds Batterman, who also has held several leadership positions with the American Camp Association. "With older children, you will be looking into either a traditionally-based program (which often includes swimming, sports, arts and outdoor-adventure activities and instruction) or short-term specialty programs with an emphasis on a particular sport, theater, dance or magic — or even something like robotics or culinary arts," he says.

°        Ask around. Of course, websites are a great source of information on local day camps. You'll also want to check out summer camp fairs, which are often held in the spring at local schools or community centers. But word-of-mouth suggestions can be the best sources of information, Batterman says. Parents from your child's school, neighbors and relatives are often happy to share their experiences with day camps, he adds. It's even helpful to ask a favorite babysitter if he or she went to day camp or perhaps worked at one. Be sure to ask "What did you like about the camp? What did you dislike? Would your child want to return to the same camp again in the future?" Some parents also ask their Facebook friends for recommendations when looking for camps. As you ask around, start creating a short list of camps that you want to consider.

°        Schedule a visit — and take a list of questions. "Schedule a time to visit, along with your child, and tour the facilities with the director," Batterman suggests. Ask questions. Are lunch and snacks provided or do kids bring food from home? Is there care taken for children with food allergies? Is there a nurse on staff? Is transportation provided to and from your home? If so, how is that done? What is the staff-to-camper ratio? (This varies based on the age of the campers. For the younger campers, Batterman recommends a 3:1 camper-to-staff ratio; for older campers, a 5:1 ratio.) How are children grouped? Is there a swim program? If so, what certifications do the people hold who are running that program? What is the interview process for the staff? Have staff members had extensive background checks and been fingerprinted? What type of training do staff members receive?

°        Check out camp security. What procedures are in place to sign out a camper? At Batterman's camps, for example, each family is mailed ID cards before the start of camp. Child-custody and parental restrictions should be strictly enforced, he notes. Also, staff should be wearing camp t-shirts or some other type of uniform, and should wear photo ID on a lanyard, Batterman says. "This ensures that each staff member is identified," he adds. "If a stranger is on camp property, they are easy to spot."

°        Ask about visitation policies. Batterman suggests looking for a camp with an open-visitation policy for parents. "This is important because it tells the parents that the camp has nothing to hide," he says. "Parents should be able to stop by camp at their leisure to visit their child." (Always be sure to check in upon your arrival, as the camp will need to keep track of all visitors for security reasons.)

°        Check on accreditation. Is the camp ACA accredited? The American Camp Association is the governing body of both day and residential camps. "Camps that are accredited must comply with more than 300 standards for the health, safety and welfare of campers and employees," Batterman says.

Decided on a Camp? Now Should Your Child Take?

Once you decide on a camp, you'll want to make sure your child has a great experience. Donna Schwartz, associate executive director of Siegel JCC day camps for children and teens in Wilmington, Del., has these suggestions:

°        Pack wisely. You will likely receive a "what to bring to camp" list from the camp before your child's first day. Will your child be carrying her stuff around with her all day at camp? If so, pack minimally required items, and consider having your child use a small backpack.

°        Keep food safe. Will your child's lunch be refrigerated? If yes, pack it in a brown paper ?bag labeled with his name and group name. If no, pack it in an insulated lunch box (also labeled) with? an ice pack.

°        Remember the sunscreen. How much outdoor time will your child get? It's always a good idea to? slather your child with sunscreen before she is sent to camp, but if there is ?a lot of swim time and outdoor time, send more sunscreen along, to be re-applied ?by the staff.

°        Do not send along toys or electronics. Camp is about socializing,? making new friends and trying new things. If you send along electronics (assuming they are even allowed at the camp), your child will be will? be more isolated and focused on playing Angry Birds instead of enjoying camp activities. Plus, electronics have a way of getting lost at camp.

°        Label everything. Your child inevitably will lose something. You ?are more likely to get an item back if it has his name on it.

—      Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist specializing in parenting issues. Her son has done everything from science experiments to basketball to swimming at summer day camps. She still swears by her trusty Excel spreadsheet.

Summer Camps Directory

Browse our camps directories to find day or residential camps or track-out programs that cater to a range of interests.

 

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Calendar

May 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
Website »

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Enjoy the renowned outdoor and indoor photography festival, featuring the work of 100 prominent photographers from 38 countries. Historic Downtown Wilson is transformed into a vibrant...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Downtown Wilson
210 Moss St.
Wilson, NC  27893
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Telephone: 1-708-271-3042
Contact Name: Jerome De Perlinghi
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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
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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 an Art Market with more than 170 visual arts and crafts exhibitors from across North Carolina and the nation; Kidsplosure, showcasing multiple interactive educational...

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
Fayetteville St.
, NC  27601
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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
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Enjoy live entertainment, hands-on projects and gallery hunts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Andia's Homemade Ice Cream and its owners Andia and George Xouris offer a day of family fun to thank patrons for their unwavering support since the shop's opening in July...

Cost: Free

Where:
Andia's Homemade Ice Cream
10120 Green Level Church Rd.
Cary, NC  27519
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Get in the driver's seat with a free hands-on experience with vehicles of all kinds.  We will have local representatives and their vehicles from emergency, construction, landscaping,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Community Park
2200 Laura Duncan Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: Town of Apex
Telephone: 919-249-3507
Contact Name: Allie Prelaske
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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), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Want to do more to help out your community park? Do you like history, the environment, agriculture, and/or the arts? Consider volunteering at Yates Mill! Join us anytime during the program time to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Carolina Ballet presents the beautiful fairytale featuring stunning visuals and musical compositions. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $32 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601


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Take the family to play bingo and enjoy prizes. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Green St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Enjoy a Zumba Kids class as a fundraiser for the future Carolina Children's Museum in southwest Wake County area. Enjoy movement, music, instruments and fun...

Cost: $10

Where:
Devils Ridge Golf Club (Homestead Room)
5107 Linksland Drive
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Carolina Children's Museum
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Applause! Cary Youth Theatre presents the tale of Emma Katz, the toughest Viking in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, who goes on a quest to save her town -- and herself. Purchase...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC
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Children with special needs and their families enjoy an afternoon of boating. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #111595.

Cost: $7/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Children with special needs and their families enjoy an afternoon of boating. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #111595.

Cost: $7/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

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Enjoy the renowned outdoor and indoor photography festival, featuring the work of 100 prominent photographers from 38 countries. Historic Downtown Wilson is transformed into a vibrant...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Downtown Wilson
210 Moss St.
Wilson, NC  27893
View map »


Telephone: 1-708-271-3042
Contact Name: Jerome De Perlinghi
Website »

More information

Take a closer look at bees and their relationship with flowers. Discuss bee conservation, the wide range of bee species, and the differences between them. Learn how to make your yard or garden...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 191-946-03355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Children with special needs and their families enjoy an afternoon of boating. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #111595.

Cost: $7/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

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Weekly basic skills cooking class offered for children ages 5-10 at Whole Foods North Raleigh.  This free class meets at the cafe each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and is offered by registering...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Come celebrate Turtle Day by stopping by the park’s visitor’s center to learn some cool facts about North Carolina’s turtles! Meet our live park ambassador – Frankie the Turtle – and play...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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More information

Enjoy the renowned outdoor and indoor photography festival, featuring the work of 100 prominent photographers from 38 countries. Historic Downtown Wilson is transformed into a vibrant...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Downtown Wilson
210 Moss St.
Wilson, NC  27893
View map »


Telephone: 1-708-271-3042
Contact Name: Jerome De Perlinghi
Website »

More information

Learn all about frogs and toads while investigating real live tadpoles. Ages 3-5 with adult. Register online at http://apm.activecommunities.com/wakeparks/Activity_Search/2711.

Cost: $4/child

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Telephone: 919-870-4330
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Enjoy the renowned outdoor and indoor photography festival, featuring the work of 100 prominent photographers from 38 countries. Historic Downtown Wilson is transformed into a vibrant...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Downtown Wilson
210 Moss St.
Wilson, NC  27893
View map »


Telephone: 1-708-271-3042
Contact Name: Jerome De Perlinghi
Website »

More information

Join us at Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro every Thursday at 10 a.m. for a casual storytime on the porch or even out in the yard. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Chatham Marketplace
480 Hillsboro St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Sponsor: Chatham Marketplace
Telephone: 919-542-2643
Contact Name: Craig Kolman
Website »

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Enjoy an easy-paced and stroller-friendly walk along the greenway. Suggested for ages 3 and younger with parent. Register online. Choose course #219869.

Cost: Free

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Enjoy concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise and unique artwork at this Japanese animation and culture convention. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $70/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Learn parenting strategies to help a child with special needs. Register online. Choose course #111592.

Cost: $11/resident, $15/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Decorate a walking stick to use on your nature hikes. Repurpose some invasive bamboo canes to paint and wrap with string. The result will be a personalized walking stick perfect for using to...

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve
2900 Horse Shoe Farm Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sponsor: Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve
Telephone: (919) 870-2871
Contact Name: Nikki Jones
Website »

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Enjoy the renowned outdoor and indoor photography festival, featuring the work of 100 prominent photographers from 38 countries. Historic Downtown Wilson is transformed into a vibrant...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Downtown Wilson
210 Moss St.
Wilson, NC  27893
View map »


Telephone: 1-708-271-3042
Contact Name: Jerome De Perlinghi
Website »

More information

Enjoy concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise and unique artwork at this Japanese animation and culture convention. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $70/person

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


Website »

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Explore the gardens to find the perfect spot to spread a picnic blanket for garden stories and crafts. Meet at the Bobby G. Wilder Visitor Center. Dress for the weather. Ages 3-5 with...

Cost: Free for Arboretum Family members, $5.00 per child for nonmembers.

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road
Campus Box 7212
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
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A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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This Memorial Day, honor those who have served our nation as Project Uplift USA hosts the annual Freedom Balloon Fest at Fleming Loop Park in Fuquay-Varina. See 35 hot air...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fleming Loop Park
2321 N. Main St.
Fuquay-Varina, NC  27526
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Website »

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Bats are the world's only flying mammals, and having wings is only one of the adaptations that make them unique. Discover just how special bats are during this evening program.

Cost: Free

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


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 191-946-03355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This Memorial Day, honor those who have served our nation as Project Uplift USA hosts the annual Freedom Balloon Fest at Fleming Loop Park in Fuquay-Varina. See 35 hot air...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fleming Loop Park
2321 N. Main St.
Fuquay-Varina, NC  27526
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise and unique artwork at this Japanese animation and culture convention. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $70/person

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


Website »

More information

Enjoy concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise and unique artwork at this Japanese animation and culture convention. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $70/person

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


Website »

More information

Enjoy the renowned outdoor and indoor photography festival, featuring the work of 100 prominent photographers from 38 countries. Historic Downtown Wilson is transformed into a vibrant...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Downtown Wilson
210 Moss St.
Wilson, NC  27893
View map »


Telephone: 1-708-271-3042
Contact Name: Jerome De Perlinghi
Website »

More information

Learn what geocaching is all about and find a geocache in the park. Take your own unit or smart phone with a geocache app or borrow one from the park. Ages 6 and older. Meet at the Cypress...

Cost: $1/person

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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Ratty, Badger, and Mr. Toad love spending leisurely summer days going boating. Folks coming to Yates Mill did, too! One never knows what sorts of adventures a simple day on the water can bring....

Cost: $2.00 per person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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The VFW Post 7383 honors veterans by handing out Buddy Poppies, the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, answering questions and providing other information, in front of...

Cost: Free

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

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Ride on a diesel-powered train and enjoy festivities in the rail yard. Enjoy a beach-themed cookout complete with grilled shrimp, chicken, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and non-alcoholic tropical...

Cost: $12/adult, $10 ages 2-12. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
New Hope Valley Railway
3900 Bonsal Rd.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

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

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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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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Learn how salamanders compare with their reptile cousins. Ages 5 and older. Register online at http://apm.activecommunities.com/wakeparks/Activity_Search/2724.

Cost: $1/participant

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


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Join a nature instructor to look for signs of deer like antler rubbings, tracks and scat.  Decorate deer tracks to take home and play fun games to learn more about these magnificent mammals....

Cost: $6/person

Where:
Durant Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: Durant Nature Preserve
Telephone: 919-870-2871
Contact Name: Nikki Jones
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Enjoy an old-fashioned Memorial Day event on the lawn of the historic house that includes  barbecue (chicken or pork) and fixins, old-school relay games, prizes and fun. Tickets must...

Cost: $20-$25.

Where:
CocoFARM
960 Luther Rd.
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: CocoFARM
Telephone: 919-985-1865
Contact Name: Corrie Burton
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Children in grades K-5 enjoy an art-filled afternoon. Materials provided. Register online.

Cost: Free

Where:
Eva Perry Regional Library
2100 Shepherd's Vineyard Dr.
Apex, NC  27502
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Website »

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Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are provided,...

Cost: $10.00 per boat

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

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Celebrate the season opener by enjoying live music under the pines. Purchase tickets online. Kids 12 and under are admitted free on the lawn.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC
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