Triangle Children Holiday Classes Create Homespun Gifts


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A whimsical cinnamon-scented elf ornament. A hand-bound book of The Night Before Christmas, where Santa steps happily down the chimney of a lit fireplace. A wreath of green and red macaroni that is missing a noodle or two. Potato-stamped Christmas tree coasters. A manger made of Popsicle people.

Each holiday, parents lovingly display treasures made over the years by their little ones. These gifts are special because of their imperfections. They bring back memories and come from the heart.boxsnowmanlowres_001.jpg

Each year, venues across the Triangle host a variety of classes to help children make gifts the old-fashioned way — by hand — creating new memories for generations to come. (Learn more about the schedules for 2014 Triangle holiday gift-making classes for kids here.)

As the winter holidays approach each year, Jewel Kichak is among those who excitedly pull out decoration boxes. An arts program specialist with the Cary Arts Center, she decorates with ornaments made by “her children” — kids she has taught at art classes over the past two decades.

“A majority of our decorations were created by my children 20-some years ago,” Kichak says. “There are Rudolphs, Santas, stars, snowflakes, snowpersons, gingerbread persons, miniature trees, sleighs, candy canes and more. The eyes may be ‘misplaced,’ the proportions ‘irregular,’ and the colors ‘nontraditional,’ (but they’re) perfect — just the way they were made by all those little hands. Each item represents a memory, a precious gift to be unpacked over and over each year.” (Photos of  box snowman at right and clay Santa on sleigh above courtesy of Town of Cary.)

ballerinaornament3308resized_001.jpgFree Rein to Create

Kari Bacon, an artist who owns The Artful Mind in Wake Forest, teaches fine-art-based holiday classes for children to make gifts. She gives her students free rein in creating but encourages them to think about the person who will receive their gift, and tailor it to suit him or her. Bacon’s gift-making classes have yielded snow globes to be hung on trees, handsewn ornaments and finger puppets, candy dishes, picture frames, nativity sets, greeting cards and paintings of snowmen. This December, her classes will make gingerbread houses, candy cane garlands, clay bud vases and handsewn elf stuffies, among other creations. Her students choose what they will make right from the start.

“I let the child lead the way,” Bacon says. “[Their gift] will be one of a kind, and it will come straight from the heart because I make them really think about who they are giving it to. I say, ‘Does Grandma like the color red, and if not, let’s not put it in there.’” (Photo of ballerina ornament courtesy of Kari Bacon, The Artful Mind)

At West Point on the Eno, Susan Dwiggins, a certified clinical aromatherapist who owns Nature’s Pure Essentials, helps children ages 12 and older use nature to make gifts with scents favored by the person the gift is for. She teaches a “Blending Essential Oils for a Holiday Gift” class for Durham’s Parks and Recreation Department. Her students choose from a variety of essential oils to make scented bath salts, all-natural lotions and body spritzers. Along the way, they learn a dab of chemistry and the precise proportion of oil needed for each gift.

“It’s so easy, and that’s what I like the children to do — and adults — learn how to make these no chemical-, no pesticide-filled aromatic gifts, Dwiggins says. “They learn how many drops to put in a bath. They can either make a blendp1140610_001.jpg or they can use a single drop if they like the aroma of [say] lavender, rose.”

At the J.C. Raulston Arboretum of N.C. State University in Raleigh, a “Holiday Creations” class designed for children of all ages, and their parents, helps them experience the season in the garden. Children make holiday crafts using natural materials such as pinecones, acorn cups or sticks. Their final products range from cards to wrapping paper to hanging decorations, says Elizabeth Overcash, a children’s program coordinator with the arboretum. “It’s definitely a way for kids to connect with the garden and to have a piece of it that they can give — to create with the garden and to share the garden with other people.” (Photo at right courtesy of Elizabeth Overcash, J.C. Raulston Arobretum)

victorianornament2ncmuseumofhistory_001.jpgAt the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, children in Nancy Pennington’s “Make It, Take It: Holiday Ornament” free drop-in program learn surprising facts about Victorian holiday decorating.

“A lot of folks made their own ornaments,” Pennington says. “Sometimes they could be elaborate; sometimes they could be very simple. We are going to focus on some of the simpler ones — made out of paper, maybe out of peanuts.”

Children may make a Victorian cornucopia filled with nuts or hard candy, or Victorian medallions to hang on a tree — using images such as an angel head or Santa cut from magazines.

Pennington, the museum’s associate curator of programming, welcomes children of all ages — and their caregivers — to the program. (Photo at left of Victorian ornament courtesy of Nancy Pennington, North Carolina Museum of History)

Becca Hulett, a pottery instructor who teaches a trinket box-making class for the Durham Arts Council, says children often love the gifts they make so much, they want to keep them. (Photo at right of heart-shaped clay trinket box, courtesy of Becca Hulett, Durham Arts Council)

“I have found that the children prefer to keep their masterpieces for themselves,” Hulett says. “Many parents have hinted that these would make great gifts — to no avail. There is something very satisfying about storing your treasures beccahuletttrinket2trinketboxlowres.jpgin a special box that you made yourself.”

Hulett, who made her first pot at age 4, says her students have been as young as 6 weeks and as old as 16. “Children make their trinket boxes out of clay, and they can be any shape or design. Whatever the child wants to make, we will figure out a way to be successful,” she says, noting that the 6-week-old child made a footprint in clay that was “very cute.”

thescrapexchangelowres.jpgRecycled Gifts From the Heart

For those who appreciate recycled creations, The Scrap Exchange, a nonprofit creative reuse center in Durham, invites children and adults to seek inspiration for their creations in the Make-N-Take Room, a studio filled with barrels of reclaimed fabric, tubes, sticker paper, elastic, wire, rubber bands and other clean industrial discards.

The studio inspires glue-free creativity, says Lindsey Miller, The Scrap Exchange’s outreach and events manager. “Though we do supply scissors, tape and staplers, we encourage makers to think outside of the box as they use other techniques to connect their materials. Without glue, these materials can be taken apart and used in new and different ways again and again, further promoting our environmental and creative mission,” she says. Self-led use of the studio is $5 per participant for 1½ hours, and visitors can take home their creations.

Holiday gift-making classes are also popular with many parents because they offer a safe place to drop off their kids while they take care of their holiday shopping. Mark Johns, a program specialist with Cary’s Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, says, “A Natural Holiday” and “Winter Wildlife Wonderland” classes are popular because they enable parents to get their shopping done while the kids create.

As the pace of the holiday season picks up, these classes also provide children a place to contemplate the true meaning of giving. And for those parents who take the time to attend a class with their child, that feeling might rub off on them, too.

For details on class locations and schedules and to register your children now, read  Triangle-Area-Holiday-Gift-Making-Classes-for-Children.

Odile Fredericks is the web editor of Carolina Parent magazine.

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October 2019

Since the 1850s, North Carolina farmers have been going to the State Fair to learn about ways to improve their farming practices. Discover the origins of the State Fair and the history behind some...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: See website for fees

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Southpoint Mall and American Tobacco Trail
6910 Fayeteville Rd
Durham, NC  27713
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Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
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Carmichael Gymnasium
2611 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27695
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Cost: Free

Where:
Kirby Horton Hall, Sarah P. Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mallarme Chamber Players
Telephone: 919-560-2788
Contact Name: Mickaella Guarascio
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Compass Rose Brewery
3201 Northside Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park Pavilion
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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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
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N.C. By Train and Amtrak are making it easier than ever for families to get to the N.C. State Fair through a special stop right at the fairgrounds in Raleigh from Friday, Oct. 18 through Sunday,...

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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Enjoy a guided tour of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the park, followed by an art activity using plant materials collected during the tour. All ages and abilities welcome. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

N.C. By Train and Amtrak are making it easier than ever for families to get to the N.C. State Fair through a special stop right at the fairgrounds in Raleigh from Friday, Oct. 18 through Sunday,...

Cost: See website for fees; prices vary based on pick-up location

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, NC


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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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There is more to the “ring-tailed bandit” than meets the eye! Discover the mysteries behind this animal, including what their favorite foods are and their unique adaptations. Make a mask of...

Cost: Free

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

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Enjoy a guided tour of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the park, followed by an art activity using plant materials collected during the tour. All ages and abilities welcome. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

N.C. By Train and Amtrak are making it easier than ever for families to get to the N.C. State Fair through a special stop right at the fairgrounds in Raleigh from Friday, Oct. 18 through Sunday,...

Cost: See website for fees; prices vary based on pick-up location

Where:
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Did you know young raccoons are called kits? Learn all about these ring-tailed mammals through hands-on discovery, stories, and a fun craft! Then learn how to walk like a raccoon and search for the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

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Enjoy a guided tour of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the park, followed by an art activity using plant materials collected during the tour. All ages and abilities welcome. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

N.C. By Train and Amtrak are making it easier than ever for families to get to the N.C. State Fair through a special stop right at the fairgrounds in Raleigh from Friday, Oct. 18 through Sunday,...

Cost: See website for fees; prices vary based on pick-up location

Where:
, NC


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Enjoy a guided tour of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the park, followed by an art activity using plant materials collected during the tour. All ages and abilities welcome. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

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Assist with our habitat box monitoring. Tasks will vary depending on what needs attention and may include: cleaning or repairing habitat boxes or installing new ones, monitoring our current...

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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N.C. By Train and Amtrak are making it easier than ever for families to get to the N.C. State Fair through a special stop right at the fairgrounds in Raleigh from Friday, Oct. 18 through Sunday,...

Cost: See website for fees; prices vary based on pick-up location

Where:
, NC


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For years, scientists have worked to understand the changes that occur in trees and other plants during autumn. Although many details remain unclear, we do know enough to explain the basics of...

Cost: Free

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


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

More information

For years, scientists have worked to understand the changes that occur in trees and other plants during autumn. Although many details remain unclear, we do know enough to explain the basics of...

Cost: Free

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


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

More information

For years, scientists have worked to understand the changes that occur in trees and other plants during autumn. Although many details remain unclear, we do know enough to explain the basics of...

Cost: Free

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


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

More information

For years, scientists have worked to understand the changes that occur in trees and other plants during autumn. Although many details remain unclear, we do know enough to explain the basics of...

Cost: Free

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


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

More information

Enjoy a guided tour of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the park, followed by an art activity using plant materials collected during the tour. All ages and abilities welcome. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Trick or Treat in Downtown is a Free annual Halloween event sponsored by Fuquay-Varina Downtown Association and participating Downtown Businesses. Held from 2-5pm, families are invited to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Fuquay-Varina
Fuquay-Varina, NC  27526


Sponsor: Fuquay-Varina Downtown Association
Telephone: 919-552-0848
Contact Name: Rachel Cornett
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Celebrate the fall season at the Garden with a fun-filled evening of hands-on nature activities! Meet green monsters, craft a magic wand and leaf critter, tackle the spider web obstacle course,...

Cost: $5 per person; children 2 & under FREE

Where:
North Carolina Botanical Garden
100 Old Mason Farm Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
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Sponsor: North Carolina Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3770
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
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Just as you are getting sleepy and letting go of a yawn, many of the wetland’s inhabitants are stretching and getting ready for their “day.” We’ll learn which animals in the wetland are...

Cost: $5 per family

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Cost: $35

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Drive
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: Kidzu Children's Museum
Telephone: 919-933-1455
Contact Name: Sabrina Varney
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This event is very popular, and spots fill up fast so make sure to reserve your spot in advance.  In the heart of a zombie apocalypse at TreeRunner, the park has been quarantined as a large...

Cost: Adults & Kids Over 14 years of age:$44; Kids 13 and under: $39

Where:
TreeRunner Raleigh
12804 Norwood Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Telephone: 919-410-7347
Contact Name: TreeRunner
Website »

More information

N.C. By Train and Amtrak are making it easier than ever for families to get to the N.C. State Fair through a special stop right at the fairgrounds in Raleigh from Friday, Oct. 18 through Sunday,...

Cost: See website for fees; prices vary based on pick-up location

Where:
, NC


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

For years, scientists have worked to understand the changes that occur in trees and other plants during autumn. Although many details remain unclear, we do know enough to explain the basics of...

Cost: Free

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


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

More information

For years, scientists have worked to understand the changes that occur in trees and other plants during autumn. Although many details remain unclear, we do know enough to explain the basics of...

Cost: Free

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


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

More information

For years, scientists have worked to understand the changes that occur in trees and other plants during autumn. Although many details remain unclear, we do know enough to explain the basics of...

Cost: Free

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


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

More information

For years, scientists have worked to understand the changes that occur in trees and other plants during autumn. Although many details remain unclear, we do know enough to explain the basics of...

Cost: Free

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


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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
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Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
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Families explore different school and calendar options in the Wake County Public School System.

Cost: Free

Where:
Panther Creek High School
6770 McCrimmon Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27519
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Website »

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Pittsboro comes alive with arts and crafts vendors, food trucks and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Pittsboro
, NC  27312


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The local community is invited to the CORRAL Riding Academy’s CORRAL Classic to celebrate the young women of CORRAL as they give riding demonstrations, meet CORRAL’s horses and goats at...

Cost: Free

Where:
CORRAL Riding Academy
3620 Kildaire Farm Rd
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: CORRAL Riding Academy
Telephone: 919.355.2090
Contact Name: Abby Shea
Website »

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Food trucks, a kids costume contest, arts and crafts vendors and more light up Main Street in Rolesville.

Cost: Free

Where:
Main Street
Rolesville, NC  27571


Website »

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Live entertainment, a kids' zone, corn hole competition, food trucks, and arts and crafts vendors highlight this annual festival in Holly Springs.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Sugg Farm at Bass Lake Park
2401 Grigsby Ave.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Website »

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Calling all walkers, runners and anyone who wants to have fun at the beautiful Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh and help us celebrate 40 years of prevention. Join the staff of PCANC and the triangle...

Cost: $30 Individual/$70 for Families

Where:
Dorothea Dix Park
2105 Umstead Dr
Raleigh, NC  27603
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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: Free

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


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

More information

Enjoy a guided tour of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the park, followed by an art activity using plant materials collected during the tour. All ages and abilities welcome. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

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

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

More information

Come in costume for Halloween family fun at the 𝗧𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗸 𝗼𝗿 𝗧𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗦𝗮𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗱𝗮𝘆,...

Cost: Free Admission

Where:
Triangle Town Center
5959 Triangle Blvd
#206
Raleigh, NC  27616
View map »

More information

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: Free

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


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

More information

Man's best friend is featured in a family-friendly event that includes dog shows, a canine costume contest, parade, photo booth and more.

Cost: Free

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

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Put on your fastest shoes and your race face for some fun, frightening fitness in a 3.1-mile run, Enjoy live music and seasonal food and drinks at the Farmhouse Café. Costumes not...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wendell Falls
320 Vintage Point Lane
Wendell, NC  27591
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Sponsor: Wendell Falls
Telephone: 919-437-4043
Contact Name: Cherith Andes
Website »

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Meet the farm's horses and enjoy games, crafts, treats, music, a haunted trail for teens and more. All proceeds benefit Horse and Buddy Therapeutic Riding Program, a local equine...

Cost: $10/person. Free for ages 9 and younger

Where:
Horse and Buddy Therapeutic Riding Program
4728 Old U.S. Hwy. 1
New Hill, NC  27562
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Website »

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Search wetlands and forests for birds. Ages 13-15. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

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
Website »

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The Annual Raleigh Zombie Walk will be calling the living dead once again this year. The Zombie herd will gather for the 13th Annual Zombie Walk, invading the streets of downtown Raleigh. You can...

Cost: Free

Where:
Nash Square Park
200 S. McDowell St
Raleigh , NC  27601
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Website »

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N.C. By Train and Amtrak are making it easier than ever for families to get to the Lexington BBQ Festival. Board at any of these stops: Charlotte, Kannapolis, Salisbury, High Point, Greensboro,...

Cost: See website for fees; prices vary based on pick-up location

Where:
, NC


Website »

More information

N.C. By Train and Amtrak are making it easier than ever for families to get to the N.C. State Fair through a special stop right at the fairgrounds in Raleigh from Friday, Oct. 18 through Sunday,...

Cost: See website for fees; prices vary based on pick-up location

Where:
, NC


Website »

More information

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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.