What to Ask About Maternity Leave


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Just found out you are expecting a baby? Now is the time to learn about your company's maternity and paternity leave benefits and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Here are five key questions to get the conversation started with your company's human-resources professional.

1. Does your company have a maternity and paternity leave policy?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave (see sidebar). In addition, some employers provide leave benefits to their employees over and above the minimum required by the FMLA, says Angela Cummings, an attorney in the Charlotte office of Littler Mendelson, the nation's largest employment and labor law firm.

In addition, many employers not covered by FMLA voluntarily provide maternity and/or paternity leave benefits to their workers. For example, Triangle Community Foundation in Durham has 17 employees, so it is exempt from FMLA. However, the organization pays a new mother's full salary for her paid leave. An unpaid six-week leave is first, but it is usually covered by short-term disability, which pays two-thirds of the employee's salary. The monthly premiums for short-term disability are paid by the Triangle Community Foundation, one of Carolina Parenting's Family-Friendly 50 honorees for 2010. All benefits continue while the employee is on leave.
Expectant parents should contact their company's human-resources representative for information about any maternity/paternity leave policies as well as FMLA.

2. Does your company offer short-term disability coverage for maternity leave?

Many companies offer short-term disability for employees to use for maternity leave. Using short-term disability, the employee can be paid all or a percentage of her salary while on leave.

Lori Mayette, the director of human resources for Raleigh-based Luihn Food Systems, says salaried employees with the company can take short-term disability and be paid a portion of their salary. This runs concurrently with FMLA leave. Luihn employs about 300 salaried employees and a total of 2,200 employees in three states. The time period for short-term disability can vary, but generally is six weeks for a typical delivery and eight weeks for a cesarean delivery.

Some larger companies pay an employee all of her salary while on short-term disability, while smaller companies often pay a percentage of the salary. The timing for when short-term disability coverage begins depends on the employer's policy. Many policies have a seven-day waiting period before starting. During this waiting period, the employee can often use accrued paid time off such as vacation time or can take unpaid leave. Employees also can buy private short-term disability policies.

3. If you want more paid time off than what short-term disability provides, can you use accrued vacation time and sick leave?

Whether an employee may, or even must, use vacation or sick time while on leave depends on the individual company's policy. Some companies allow employees to use their paid time off after the short-term disability leave period ends, says Alison Nolan, the site human-resources manager with BASF Corp. in High Point. For example, an employee could use short-term disability for six weeks and then take additional paid time off by using vacation time and sick leave. In addition to short-term disability of six to eight weeks for new mothers, Hewitt Associates in Charlotte, a 2010 Family-Friendly 50 company, offers one additional week of paid time off within the 12 weeks of the FMLA. Extended personal leave of absence also can be requested if an employee is eligible.

4. Do companies typically offer paternity benefits?

Similar to maternity leave policies, paternity leave options, beyond what the FMLA mandates, vary by company. At UNC-Chapel Hill, the faculty-leave policy allows faculty, both men and women, 15 weeks or one semester off within a year of a birth or adoption, says Melanie Joyner, the director of academic personnel at UNC. The popular leave policy was adopted in 1997 to increase faculty recruitment and retention. Most other public university campuses across the state have similar leave policies for fathers and mothers. Hewitt Associates in Charlotte offers new fathers and adoptive parents one week of paid time off within the first year after the birth or adoption of their child, outside of one week of paid parental time. Fathers also have access to extended leave beyond FMLA if they are eligible.

5. Does your company offer any other benefits that may ease the transition from maternity leave to a return to full-time employment?

Other than what is required by the FMLA, companies operating in North Carolina do not have to provide maternity-related benefits. According to Cummings, though, many companies have voluntarily adopted policies that allow an employee to take an extended unpaid leave, allow an employee to telecommute for a period after a leave, or even allow an employee to return to work on a part-time basis after maternity leave has been exhausted. In addition, a growing trend among larger companies is to provide onsite child care for employees and/or employee discounts at national day-care providers. Employees should review company policies and contact their human-resources department to find out more information on what policies and benefits are available to them after the birth or adoption of a child.

Jane Paige is a Triangle-based freelance writer.

FMLA Explained

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees of covered employers to take off up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in any 12-month period to care for the employee's child after birth, or for placement for adoption or foster care. It also can be used, among other things, to care for the employee's, or a close family member's, serious health condition.

An employee is only entitled to 12 weeks of leave per year under FMLA. Time taken off work because of pregnancy complications before a birth counts toward, and can lessen, the number of weeks of leave an employee may take after the birth.

An eligible employee is one who has worked for a covered employer for at least one year and worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months. The 12 months do not have to be consecutive. Also, to be eligible, the company must employ 50 or more people within 75 miles of the worksite. Government employees are eligible for FMLA leave.

FMLA also requires that the employee's group health benefits be maintained during the leave. Upon return from FMLA leave, most employees must be restored to their original job or to an equivalent position.

"Some states have additional leave laws that provide greater coverage than the federal FMLA. However, North Carolina does not have any state law equivalent of the FMLA," says Angela Cummings, an attorney in the Charlotte office of Littler Mendelson, the nation's largest employment and labor law firm. "North Carolina employers and employees should become familiar with their rights and responsibilities under the federal law."

— Jane Paige

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Calendar

September 2017

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Contact Name: Katie Biasi
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American Tobacco Trail -New Hill Parking Area
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
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Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Sponsor: Carolina Ballet
Telephone: 919-719-0900
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Margaret B. Pollard Middle School 185 Granite Mill Blvd
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Telephone: 919-511-5181
Contact Name: Hannah Eck
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Millbrook Baptist Church
1519 E. Millbrook Rd.
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Sponsor: Millbrook Baptist Church
Telephone: 919-876-1519
Contact Name: Franka Hawkins
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Sunrise United Methodist Church
5420 Sunset Lake Rd
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Telephone: 919-303-3720
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Lake Crabtree County Park
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Telephone: 919-513-7011
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Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
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Yoga Garden PBO
184 E. Street
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Sponsor: Kids Yoga with Emily
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Contact Name: Emily Behr
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Crowder District Park
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Millbrook Baptist Preschool
1519 East Millbrook Rd
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Sponsor: Millbrook Baptist Preschool
Telephone: 919-876-4030
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Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
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Durant Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: Free

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Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
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N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Windows on the World
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

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Whole Foods North Raleigh
8710 Six Forks Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Contact Name: Sherry Thrasher

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Cost: $20-$105

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Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: $7-$10

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Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: $5/child member; $7/child nonmember

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JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
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Cost: Free

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Cost: Free

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

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Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


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Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: $3/child

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 »

More information

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Cost: $20-$105

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
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Help park staff with citizen science projects. Take a water bottle and wear sturdy shoes. Ages 8-10 with adult; 11 years and older adult optional. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Cost: $20-$105

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Website »

More information

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Cost: Free for members; $5/nonmember

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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More information

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Cost: Free with admission

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10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
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Cost: Free

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
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Baby + Co.
226 Ashville Ave
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Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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


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Cost: Samples available for a $10 donation

Where:
Waverly Place Shopping Center
307 Colonades Way
Cary, NC  27518
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Cost: $15/youth, $20/adult

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Durant Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Cost: $1/person

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Crowder District Park
4709 Ten Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
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More information

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Cost: $20-$105

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

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Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

More information

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Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
E. Carroll Joyner Park
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a self-guided scavenger hunt for all ages. Drop-in program.

Cost: Free

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Join gardeners as they share the joy of gardening and planting with the next generation. Read a gardening story, learn about the parts of a plant, what plants need to survive and about all the good...

Cost: Free

Where:
Garden Supply Company
1421 Old Apex Road
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Telephone: 919.460.7747
Website »

More information

Free food, classes, activities and more await families. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Garden Supply Company
1421 Old Apex Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Discover how beavers live, eat and play in their watery world. Search for beaver signs around the pond. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online. Choose course #210657. 

Cost: $3/child

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 »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a day at the park and listen to stories from professional storytellers in an event presented in partnership with Wake County Public Libraries. Featured storytellers include Tim...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Wake County Public Libraries and Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space
Telephone: 919-212-7695
Contact Name: Abby Jones
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Kelly Starling Lyons debuts her new chapter book series "Jada Jones" along with illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton. Enjoy a rock craft, prizes and refreshments. This...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Enjoy a one-hour coding lesson. Choose either the 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. session. Call to register. 

Cost: Free

Where:
thecoderschool - Raleigh
13200 Strickland Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Sponsor: theCoderSchool - Raleigh
Telephone: 191-939-01708
Contact Name: Nidhi Joshi
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The golden age of the circus comes alive with puppetry, contortionists, acrobats and more. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $20-$105

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Explore the amazing adaptations that make animals great migrants. All ages. Advance registration required online. Meet at the Cypress Shelter.

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
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Carolina Ballet presents the tale of an ugly little duckling who ultimately transforms into a beautiful swan. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $32-$72

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Carolina Ballet
Telephone: 919-719-0900
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Explore the historic nature of Leigh Farm Park with a friendly guide. Venture inside the historic farmhouse while being captivated by tales about life at Leigh Farm throughout the years.

Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Durham Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 919-560-1116
Contact Name: Natalya Buckel
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Put on a straw hat or sun bonnet and head to the park to try out the types of farm chores the Ingalls family had to tackle and what they did to get ready for winter. Explore how the family tended...

Cost: $6/person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Be part of the 2017 Harvest Festival, organized by St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church Raleigh, where authentic freshly cooked food, stage performances, music, live auction,...

Cost: Free

Where:
St Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church
Address: 225 Bashford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Families gather to form a group and enjoy an overnight experience, which includes a Dutch oven dinner, a naturalist-led night hike, s'mores, a light breakfast and time for fishing. Take a tent...

Cost: $15/youth, $20/adult

Where:
Durant Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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The golden age of the circus comes alive with puppetry, contortionists, acrobats and more. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $20-$105

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Carolina Ballet presents the tale of an ugly little duckling who ultimately transforms into a beautiful swan. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $32-$72

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


Sponsor: Carolina Ballet
Telephone: 919-719-0900
Website »

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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2016-17 Education Guide offers 643 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our debut Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2017 Readers' Favorites are.