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

January 2019

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
Website »

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💕It's time to consign at Cary's BIGGEST Consignment sale - Voted BEST in the Triangle and Top 10 in the Nation! ✳️Register now at KidsEveryWEAR.com ✳️Read our website's consignor...

Cost: free

Where:
Cary Towne Center
1105 Walnut St
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Kids EveryWEAR Consignment Sale
Contact Name: Gail Walker
Website »

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Spend the afternoon helping to maintain and beautify the nature center. Ages 16 and older.

Cost: Free

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


Website »

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The Hillsborough Classic Film Society hosts a series of classic, foreign, and independent film screenings once a month on alternating third and fourth Sundays, excluding holidays. Each screening is...

Cost: 0

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

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Celebrate community heroes on MLK Day at Marbles. From 10am-2pm, meet real community heroes like a paramedic, teacher and police officer. Be a hero by packing food for Backpack Buddies to...

Cost: $7 ages 1 and older

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Rale, NC
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Spend the afternoon helping to maintain and beautify the area around Good Hope Farm in honor of MLK Jr. Day of Service. All ages. Volunteers age 15 and younger must be supervised by an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Good Hope Farm
1580 Morrisville Carpenter Rd.
Cary, NC
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Website »

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Winter can be a fun season if you are dressed properly for outdoor activities. Bundle up and come out for some nature exploration outdoors and indoor crafts. For ages 7-12 (kids drop off program)....

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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Triangle families are invited to celebrate MLK Day with a family-friendly birthday party for Dr. King with interactive activities, crafts, performances, service projects, and birthday cake in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northgate Mall
1058 W Club Blvd, Northgate Mall, I-85 Exit 176
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: MomsRising
Telephone: 919-696-0142
Contact Name: Beth Messersmith
Website »

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Take part in a dental bash, specially created for kids on MLK Day. Enjoy a magician, face painter and lots of arts and crafts. Parents can also learn how to help their child...

Cost: Free

Where:
Leesville Dental Studio
13220 Strickland Rd, Suite 166
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Telephone: 919-238-7729
Website »

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Book Harvest hosts the Dream Big Book Drive, a community-wide celebration of diversity, literacy and books for all children. Donate new or gently used children’s book, volunteer to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Book Harvest
Telephone: (252) 497-BOOK
Contact Name: Daniele Berman
Website »

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Head out to Lake Crabtree to celebrate "Squirrel Appreciation Day" and learn all about our most commonly seen mammal. Spy on the always entertaining grey squirrels that abound in the...

Cost: Free

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

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Did you know that the gray squirrel is North Carolina's state mammal and that field research on them took place historically at Yates Mill Pond? Join us on "Squirrel Appreciation Day” as we...

Cost: Free

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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Ages 11-17 create old-fashioned taffy and hard candy using ingredients like caramel, marshmallow and chocolate. Register online. Choose course #120978.

Cost: $18/resident, $23/nonresident

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

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Expand your knowledge of our local flora and fauna by exploring a different area of the park each month. Join park staff as they "nerd out" over amphibians, birds, insects, spiders and...

Cost: Free

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

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Meet other families in your community in a recreation setting. The play room will be reserved for parents and their young children. Sports and recreation equipment will be available...

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
Website »

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Discover the joy of cooking with storybook characters. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online. Choose course #120080.

Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

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

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Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. Choose course #121605.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Enjoy the family-friendly movie and a slice or two of pizza. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/person, $2 for ages 2 and younger

Where:
The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Website »

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Enjoy the family-friendly movie and a slice or two of pizza. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/person, $2 for ages 2 and younger

Where:
The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Website »

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Ages 11 and older with special needs learn fun facts about sports, music, movies and more. Register online. Choose course #121059.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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Parents learn meaningful coping strategies to benefit themselves and their child. Register online. Choose course #121424.

Cost: $11/resident, $15/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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Join us to read Jan Brett’s classic “The Mitten,” a whimsical story about a young boy, his white mittens, and the woodland creatures he encounters. Learn some knitting history and make your...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Join us to read Jan Brett’s classic “The Mitten,” a whimsical story about a young boy, his white mittens, and the woodland creatures he encounters. Learn some knitting history and make your...

Cost: Free

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

More information

Youth ages 8-13 find out how not to be fooled by Fool’s Gold. Learn how geologists test minerals by using properties like hardness, streak, color, luster, and acid reactivity, then...

Cost: $5

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


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

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Enjoy single rider snow tubing at Bond Park. Ages 5 and older. See website for 45-minute sessions. Registration required online for all sessions.

Cost: $19/person

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


Website »

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Hibernation, brumation, and estivation, oh my! Hibernation isn’t the only type of dormancy behavior and winter isn’t the only time of year animals might reduce their activity. Learn about these...

Cost: Free

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

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Last Fridays of the month, middle and high schoolers are invited to meet and chat about what they’ve read over snacks with the Teen Advisory Board. At each meeting, participants will vote on...

Cost: 0

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Enjoy popcorn with a family-friendly movie while being comfy in your pajamas. Refreshments provided.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Explore Harry Potter's world with a magical craft, potions, trivia, wands and more. Ages 7-11. Register online with course #120889.

Cost: $18/resident, $23/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
150 Metro Park Dr.
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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Enjoy fun, games, friendship and more every Friday.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

This class is a chance for adventurous women to get together for a fun-filled workshop where we explore the basics of aerial silks. No need for a background in aerial yoga, this is a workshop...

Cost: $25

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
Website »

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Go Fort and build! Pitch your tent then curl up with a good book. Bring your blankets and a flashlight. We’ll provide the s'mores!

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

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Enjoy single rider snow tubing at Bond Park. Ages 5 and older. See website for 45-minute sessions. Ages 5 and younger can take part in a parent-child snow tubing session on Saturday from...

Cost: $19/person

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


Website »

More information

Teens learn tips to improve their ACT scores. Register online. 

Cost: $129.99

Where:
Wake Technical Community College – Southern Campus
9101 Fayetteville Rd
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Doorway to College Foundation
Contact Name: Kelsey Foster
Website »

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Enjoy performances, authentic Chinese food and family-friendly activities. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Dorton Arena, North Carolina State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

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Celebrate African-American history and culture with more than 75 musicians, storytellers, hip-hop dancers, chefs, historians, playwrights, authors, artists, re-enactors, a farmers market and more....

Cost: Free

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


Website »

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Take part in an all-ages benefit event for Jordan Prince in cooperation with the Athlete Recovery Fund and Sk8 Cary.  There will be a jam from 12pm - 6pm at Sk8 Cary and after-party /...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sk8 Cary
2040 NW Maynard Rd
Cary , NC
View map »


Sponsor: Athlete Recovery Fund - Sk8 Cary
Telephone: 919-802-6828
Contact Name: Erin Laskowich
Website »

More information

All ages with caregiver learn abut local birds and build a bird box to provide shelter an nesting for backyard birds. Register online. Choose course #121591.

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

Learn how to successfully navigate the college search, selection and application process. Ages 12 and older with parent. Register online with course #119878.

Cost: $7/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Teen Advisory Board invites you to meet up with other gamers to mingle, snack, and test your skills for prizes! Guests are welcome to bring their own controllers/fightsticks. To register visit...

Cost: 0

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Join us for a fun-filled evening learning about owls. We’ll learn what makes these raptors special and what sounds different species of owls make. We’ll dissect an owl pellet and go call to the...

Cost: $4

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood

More information

Saturday, January 26 & Sunday, January 27, 2019 Saturday: 9:00am–5:00pm Sunday: noon–5:00pm The Museum partners with NASA and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the big picture —...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Saturday, January 26 & Sunday, January 27, 2019 Saturday: 9:00am–5:00pm Sunday: noon–5:00pm The Museum partners with NASA and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

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Annual Guides

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