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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May 2019

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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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North Carolina Transportation Museum
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Sponsor: North Carolina Transportation Museum
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Cost: $55

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Chapel Hill Country Club
103 Lancaster Drive
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Cost: 24.00

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Open Arts
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Cost: Free

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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
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Open Arts
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Cost: See website for fees

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N.C. State Fairgrounds
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Cost: Free with advance registration

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Hilton Raleigh
3415 Wake Forest Rd.
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Sponsor: Girls World Expo
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Cost: Free

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Downtown Chapel Hill
140 W. Franklin St.
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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), Free/Child (ages 6-under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Community Park
2200 Laura Duncan Rd.
Apex, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Town of Apex
Telephone: 919-249-3507
Contact Name: Allie Prelaske
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Cost: $15 or use your package/membership

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Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
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Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

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Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
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Cost: Free

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
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Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
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Park West Village
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Park West Village
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Century Center
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Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

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Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
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Cost: Free

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IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
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Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

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Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
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Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


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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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Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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This after-school class for kids in grades 3-5 offers fun learning yoga poses and mindfulness techniques to reduce stress. Grades 3-5. 

Cost: $15/class, or use your class pass/membership.

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt. Carmel Church Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
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Bring your curiosity and creativity and explore a variety of art media. Grades 3-5. 

Cost: 0

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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Enjoy a family-friendly movie and a slice or two of pizza. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/person. Free for ages 2 and younger

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The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
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Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy karaoke. Take a dish to share. Register online. Choose course #121043.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


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More information

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...

Cost: Free

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

More information

Enjoy Raleigh’s premier Japanese animation and culture convention. Concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise, unique artwork and more highlight the event. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $65/person

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Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
Edison Johnson Community Center
500 W. Murray Ave.
Durham, NC
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Enjoy fun, games, friendship and more every Friday.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
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Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


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Each Fourth Friday of the month join us for a night of art, film, food and fun. This is free and open to the public.​

Cost: Free

Where:
SummerStage
800 Taylor St
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Hi-Wire Brewing and abc11

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Enjoy Raleigh’s premier Japanese animation and culture convention. Concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise, unique artwork and more highlight the event. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $65/person

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

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Get inspired by the park's natural beauty and contribute to a community art project celebrating the season of flowers. Head to the Finley Center to make a few paper flowers and help to...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Cost: $15-$30

Where:
Duke University East Campus
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One Saturday of the month join us for our family fun series. This is free and open to the public. Here is what you can expect: 10am-12pm: Come to the plaza for family-friendly activities for...

Cost: Free

Where:
SummerStage
800 Taylor St
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Hi-Wire Brewing, abc11, and Offline

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Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

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 »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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

Stop by our FREE discovery table to learn about songbirds! Registration is not required. The display table is located at the Upper Playground.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Geocaching is a treasure hunt where participants use GPS coordinates to track down hidden “caches.” Learn what geocaching is all about and head out to find a real geocache in the park....

Cost: Free

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


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-2117
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Enjoy Raleigh’s premier Japanese animation and culture convention. Concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise, unique artwork and more highlight the event. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $65/person

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


Website »

More information

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Annual Guides

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