Triangle Places for Family Fun in Winter

The Triangle offers lots of play escapes where kids can create and learn — and many outings are free


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North Carolina Museum of History lobby

Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History

Winter may seem like a tough time to find play escapes with your kids, but not in the Triangle. Here are suggestions for fun outings with kids during the colder weather months.

Play and Learn at a Museum

Photo of the Museum of Life and Science's Hideaway Woods exhibit courtesy of the Museum of Life and Science


Many museums in the Triangle are designed to inspire children's imagination and learning with hands-on exploration. Here's a look at some current exhibits at a few local museums.

The Museum of Life and Science, in Durham, has indoor and outdoor exhibits that bring science to life for kids. Head to the insectarium, where an "insect-cam" lets you watch and hear as caterpillar eats food. Climb to the top of a treehouse at Hideway Woods, a 2-acre, forested escape featuring eight interconnected treehouses. Venture into the tropical paradise of the Butterfly House, where 1,000 butterflies flit among exotic plants. Explore the wild to see black bears, red wolves and exotic lemurs up close. Step back in time millions of years ago with your little ones for a walk along the Dinosaur Trail

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh has four floors of exhibits featuring different parts of North Carolina (free admission) and special traveling exhibits (for a fee). The Nature Research Center, an 80,000-square-foot free-admission wing, makes scientific research accessible with hands-on activities. Visit the center's SECU Daily Planet, a three-story multimedia space that links virtual to real nature and offers live programming on breaking science news. The center houses a 40 x 40 foot-high definition screen, where scientists present their work, offering impressive views of the universe.

In downtown Raleigh, Marbles Kids Museum's exhibits encourage imaginative play and creativity. In Around Town, children have a chance to slip into the lives of grown-ups, from bus drivers to firefighters and farmers. They can shop at a grocery store, be a chef or act on Broadway, all in pretend settings. Other areas of the museum include Splash! offering hands-on experiences with water, and IdeaWorks, where children can design, create and build structures, vehicles, simple machines and everyday products. Learn about more exhibits here. The museum also offers an IMAX theater.

The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh offers special programming for children, from crafts to tours, and a museum park that covers 160 acres of fields, woodlands, and creeks, with trails that feature outdoor art on a grand scale. Admission to the Museum's permanent collection of art from around the world and access to the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park is free. There is a charge for some special exhibitions and programs, such as concerts, films, classes, and performances.

Kidzu Children's Museum in Chapel Hill offers creative play for with exhibits that invite them to engage in real-life activities, from gardening and construction to painting and puppetry. Visit Kidzu's website.


Attend Free Carolina Hurricanes Practices

Are your children hockey fans? Catch a Carolina Hurricanes practice session at the PNC Arena in Raleigh. Check the schedule to see when public practices are in session.


Splash in a Public Swimming Pool

What better way to escape on a cold and dark day than to jump into a sparkling light-filled pool? If your family likes to swim, head to a pool for inexpensive exercise. Some facilities offer special equipment for kids. In 2012, The Buffalo Road Aquatic Center opened with a three-story waterslide, lazy river, water vortex, water basketball, water volleyball, and three lap lanes. The zero-depth entry has a tot-size play area including water tumble buckets, a water curtain, and tot-size slide.

Find a public pool that's open year-round near your home:


Venture Out on a Nature Hike or Bike Ride

Photo of American Tobacco Trail courtesy of Carolina Parent staff


Outdoor activities offer a way to get moving if it's not too cold or rainy out. Check out one of these nearby hiking trails kids will enjoy you can see things you normally can't because many of the trees are bare. Visit our Daily Calendar for special nature outings geared for children any day of the week and browse our Readers' Favorites for the Best Family Places to Get Moving and Be Active for more ideas.

If you like to go on outdoor excursions with just your family, check out the growing Capital Area Greenway Trail in the Triangle. Winding through the woods, the Capital Area Greenway Trail offers a network of public open spaces and recreational trails, where any day you'll find families walking, jogging, skating, hiking, bird watching, studying nature and fishing. Take a picnic for more outdoor fun. The trails connect many of Raleigh's parks.


Head to a Storytime

Local public libraries and bookstores feature lots of story times each week, some with crafts, music and discussion. Story times help children make new friends, and provide a chance for parents to meet each other. They're usually free! Search "storytime" in our Daily Calendar to pull up a slew of options.


Step Back in Time at a North Carolina Historic Site

Visit the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources website to learn more about state historic sites that host activities and living history events for kids. In Durham, you'll find these three fascinating places:

  • Bennett Place in Durham, which is home to a simple farmhouse that was the site of the largest troop surrender of the American Civil War.
  • Duke Homestead in Durham, where you can see the early home, factories, and farm where Washington Duke first grew and processed tobacco. (Pictured at right, photo courtesy of N.C. Department of Cultural Resources)
  • Historic Stagville in Durham, where you'll find the late 18th-century Bennehan House, four rare slave houses, a pre-Revolutionary War farmer's house, a huge timber framed barn, and the Bennehan Family cemetery.

Get Out of Town

chimps-added-2013nczoo.jpg

One-year-old chimpanzees Genie (left) and Gigi (right) press their faces to the glass in the N.C. Zoo's chimp exhibit during their first day on exhibit.

Photo courtesy of Tom Gillespie/North Carolina Zoo


Visit the North Carolina Zoo

The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro offers 500 acres of exhibits with more than 1,100 different animals from North America and Africa. The zoo is home to one of the largest chimpanzee troops in U.S. zoos, and has recently added four new chimps.

Find Out Where to Ski, Tube and Snowboard

One of the best things about living in the Triangle is our proximity to the mountains. In less than five hours, snow lovers can find skiing, snowboarding and snow-tubing fun. Browse this roundup of different ski and/or tubing resorts in North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia within a six-hour drive of the Triangle.

Check Out 15 Must-Visit Small Towns in North Carolina

North Carolina is home to many quaint towns rich in history and natural beauty that provide an opportunity for relaxation and family togetherness, without the noise and traffic of larger cities. If you love the small-town vibe, pack a suitcase to discover the irresistible charm of these road-trip worthy destinations.

 

Updated Jan. 13, 2018

 

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Calendar

June 2019

Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

This celebration of toys features interactive attractions, vendors, toy experiences and more. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $12/person. Free for ages 2 and younger.

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


Website »

More information

Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

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
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

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Enjoy food, activities, music, and water sprayer fun for kids. Sixteen vendors will offer African clothing, jewelry, beauty products, voter registration, HIV/AIDS education and testing,...

Cost: Free

Where:
East End Community
Wake Forest, NC  27587


Website »

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p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 15.0px Calibri; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Safely view the Sun through a solar telescope, hear about how...

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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Learn more about our amazing star, the Sun. Safely view the Sun through a solar telescope, hear about how the Sun and other stars affect life on planets, and about current solar science...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
121 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Discover Historic Yates Mill - a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of water...

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

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy ice cream made by the Children's House program and splash in the water table and kiddie pool.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nido: Coworking & Childcare
902 Broad St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Durham Refugee Day celebrates the contributions and cultures of our refugee and immigrant communities and provides an opportunity to stand in solidarity with these neighbors. This is a...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Make colorful jellyfish with wiggly tentacles. Age 2-6 with caregiver. Register online. Choose course #125005.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

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Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Drop by the cybrary for storytime with a librarian. Activity Room 4. Preschool and kindergarten ages. No registration necessary. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Cybrary
100 N Greensboro St
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-918-7387
Contact Name: Cybrary
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 15.0px 'Times New Roman'; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 15.0px 'Times...

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs sing favorite songs, karaoke-style. Register online. Choose course #125030.

Cost: $3/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

See a fun mashup of classic fairytales. 

Cost: $3/person

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


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Sally Ride will take audiences on the ride of their life in this dynamic performance about space exploration. Through music, audience participation, and narrative, kids will see just how far...

Cost: Free

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: Orange County Main Library
Website »

More information

Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
Website »

More information

Sally Ride will take audiences on the ride of their life in this dynamic performance about space exploration. Through music, audience participation, and narrative, kids will see just how far...

Cost: Free

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: Orange County Main Library
Website »

More information

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Show Less...

Meet a staff member at the information desk and follow your guide outside to the garden exhibit or into one of the museum galleries. Look around and listen to a history-related story. Ages 3...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Kids ages 6-9 discover the different types of turtles that live at the Preserve.  The focus will be hands-on outdoor investigation and the study of living things in their habitat.  In...

Cost: $5

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


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Marti Kane
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Explore the ocean through books and trivia. Make your own travel-sized magnetic fishing game. Grades 3-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs play bocce, cornhole, croquet and more on the lawn. Register online. Choose course #125353.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Page-Walker Arts & History Center
119 Ambassador Loop
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Walk through the Cretaceous period, the Jurassic Period and the Triassic period and experience what it was like to be among living dinosaurs. See life-size replicas of adult and baby dinosaurs, dig...

Cost: $22-$36

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


Website »

More information

Meet live owls and other raptors, learn the secrets about their lives in the wild. Grades K-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 4-10 enjoy an evening with hiking, crafts, music, games and s'mores. Register online. Choose course #124331.

Cost: $23/parent and child pair; $12 additional child

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


Website »

More information

Join the TreeRunner staff at Raleigh for a magical night in the park. Dress as your favorite prince, princess, wizard or another fairy tale character and come climb in the trees. Take pictures with...

Cost: General Admission

Where:
TreeRunner Raleigh
12804 Norwood Rd
Raleigh, NC  27613
View map »


Sponsor: N/A
Telephone: 919-410-7347

More information

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Walk through the Cretaceous period, the Jurassic Period and the Triassic period and experience what it was like to be among living dinosaurs. See life-size replicas of adult and baby dinosaurs, dig...

Cost: $22-$36

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


Website »

More information

Take your family for a fun day of making slime, playing with slime, watching live demos on how to make slime, buying slime from Instagram slime stars, and much more! Kids under 3 admitted free....

Cost: $20-$70

Where:
Kerr Scott Building of NC State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in the Carolina Hurricanes' Summerfest Celebration, headlined by an autograph session at 10 a.m., a State of the Hurricanes panel at 10:45 a.m. and the final practice of Prospect...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. Choose course #124952.

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

Please join us for the SouthEast Crab Feast event this summer in Raleigh, NC.  This event offers the Low Country Coastal Heritage of outdoor cooking of fresh seafood.  This highly...

Cost: $10-$30

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: SouthEast Crab Feast Inc.
Telephone: 980-202-1142
Contact Name: Jamell Hamilton
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Search wetlands and forests for birds. Ages 13-15. Register online. Choose course #124934.

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

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...

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

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Take the family for a day of fun, free food, live music, kids activities, giveaways, and motorcycle shows. There will be an onsite food pantry, job fair, health screening, clothing distribution,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Launch Ministries
3013 Barrow Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27616
View map »


Telephone: (919) 225-1020
Contact Name: Yolanda Morgan
Website »

More information

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Annual Guides

Education Guide

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