Choosing a Financial Safety School


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Making college contingency plans is entirely antithetical to the passion-filled optimism pulsating through the average teenage brain. Counting on your son or daughter to make a post-secondary backup plan is like expecting Romeo and Juliet to respond to their parent-mandated breakup with an unemotional resolve to “see other people.”

Even if your child is focused on attacking his or her applications to Ivy League schools with military precision, he or she is unlikely planning for a less-than-ideal outcome of a safety school. For those without unlimited funds at their disposal, having what is known as a “financial safety school” should be of equal importance.

Financial Safety Schools Defined

The criteria for what constitutes a financial safety school varies based on your child’s unique academic profile, as well as your own financial situation. However, two tenets of a solid financial safety school are universal:

1. Your teen’s chances of acceptance at this college are pretty much guaranteed because of his or her standardized test scores, GPA and class rank are significantly above the averages for an accepted student — and even better than those in the 75th percentile at that particular institution.

2. You, as parents, are comfortable covering 100 percent of the tuition, room and board, and other fees. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have the cash on hand to cover the entire expense — few do. But it does mean that you have a plan to cover the cost, even if it means taking out low-interest government loans.

Who Needs a Financial Safety School?

All college applicants, even those at the top of the applicant food chain, need a safety school. But not every applicant needs a financial safety school. If you have more than $200,000 in your child’s 529 account or happen to be extremely well-off, you don’t need to pick a financial safety school.

The most expensive schools in the country, which include institutions such as New York University, Harvey Mudd College and the University of Southern California, all cost upwards of $66,000 dollars per year, translating to a grand total of $264,000 for a bachelor’s degree, significantly more than the average home price in the U.S. If that number doesn’t make you cringe, you can stop reading this column right now. For everyone else, read on.

Picking a Good Fit

It won’t be hard to find colleges and universities that meet the above criteria. The challenge will be finding an institution that meets both of those critical standards and is a school your student would genuinely like to attend. Here’s an example scenario.

Jenny lives in Delaware. Her parents earn a combined annual income of $135,000 but do not have much money saved to cover college tuition bills. Jenny has a SAT score of 1370, has taken seven AP courses and ranks in the top 10 percent of her class at her public high school. She wants to major in economics and stay on the East Coast.

Lehigh and Bucknell universities in Pennsylvania, Trinity College in Connecticut, and George Washington University in Washington D.C. are Jenny’s target schools, at which she is confident she has a 50-50 or better chance at admission. For safety schools, she will fill out applications for Rutgers, Syracuse and Iowa State universities. Let’s examine what is wrong with these choices.

Rutgers (out of state) and Syracuse (private) universities won’t come cheap, and while Jenny is likely to be offered some merit aid, this is an uncertainty.

The perfect financial safety school for Jenny is actually in her own backyard. The University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics has a strong reputation and admits two-thirds of its applicants. Her SAT score ranks well above the 75th percentile and the total four-year cost is right around $100,000, making the University of Delaware ideal from both an admissions and academic standpoint.

The Bottom Line

Planning for doomsday scenarios is not nearly as exciting as dreaming about receiving an acceptance letter from a dream college, but it can be a dangerous task to neglect. Students who thoughtfully select a quality financial safety school can breathe easier as they await financial and merit aid notifications from their top-choice schools.

While your young adult can and should be in the driver’s seat through much the application process, parental intervention may be necessary to ensure he or she doesn’t experience the college admissions-equivalent tragic fate met by the young lovers from the houses of Capulet and Montague.


Dave Bergman, Ed.D., is a co-founder of College Transitions and co-author of “The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process.” Learn more at collegetransitions.com.

 

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College Transitions

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July 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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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
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  17560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Cost: $7 ages 1 and older.

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Durham's cookout experience features some of the best food trucks in the Triangle, face painting, games, craft vendors and more. Pets welcome.

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Enjoy activities inspired by Eric Carle's popular book, "The Grouchy Ladybug." Ages are 4-9.

Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Library, Hillsborough Library, Kidzu
900 Old Fayetteville Road
Inside McDougle Middle School
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Sponsor: Orange County Library
Telephone: 191-996-93006
Contact Name: Jody Smith
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Children make treasured memories while increasing their knowledge of plants and animals. Ages 7-10. 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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Enjoy a complimentary 20-minute review of your child's current IEP for Section 504 Plan. Call 919-942-1430 to register.  When you call, state that you are requesting an appointment...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gahagan Law Firm, PLLC
3326 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd
Suite 210-C
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: The Gahagan Law Firm, PLLC
Telephone: 919-942-1430
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Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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At the Main Library in Hillsborough, Puppet Show Inc. presents a re-telling of Eric Carle’s classic book, “The Grouchy Ladybug.” A make and take craft will follow the show. Ages 4...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W. Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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Sunday, July 22; 2:00–3:00 p.m. Marshes, bogs, and swamps have one thing in common - they are all wetlands! Build a model wetland in a hands-on science experiment. Explore the important role...

Cost: $1/Person

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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This epic musical is about wishes, family and the consequences of the choices that we make. A childless baker and his wife endeavor to lift their family curse by journeying into the woods,...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Enjoy a family-friendly movie. See the website for the movie title. Showings at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Website »

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Did you know that July is National Ice Cream Month? Create a craft celebrating the treat that helps us beat the summer heat! We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages...

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
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The Art Therapy Institute has been working in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools with the Exceptional Children's Program for the past ten years. Enjoy a summer art therapy groups in June and...

Cost: $20 per session

Where:
Art Therapy Institute of NC
200 N Greensboro St. Suite D-6 (2nd Floor Carr Mill Mall)
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Telephone: 919-381-6068
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Website »

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Meet a favorite princess or superhero from 11 a.m.-noon and 1-2 p.m.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Enjoy the Fun Caravan, a mobile recreation program equipped with a host of fun activities for ages 12 and younger. Enjoy games, arts and crafts, obstacle courses and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Edgemont Park
205 S. Elm St.
Durham, NC
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Enjoy "Whale in a Fishbowl" by Troy Howell and Richard Jones. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Website »

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Enjoy a Build-A-Bear activity, storytime, games and painting from 11 a.m.-noon and 1-2 p.m.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Three new books by North Carolina authors explore friendship and family, feature kids flying and eating flying bugs, and discover what is worth fighting for. This panel of middle grade...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Join us at Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro every Thursday at 10 a.m. for a casual storytime on the porch or even out in the yard. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Chatham Marketplace
480 Hillsboro St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Sponsor: Chatham Marketplace
Telephone: 919-542-2643
Contact Name: Craig Kolman
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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. 

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Enjoy giant board games, free-play areas and special activities for all ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Park
319 S. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27511
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Enjoy a slice of fresh watermelon and watch the weigh-in of watermelons vying for top prize in the market's Largest Watermelon Contest.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Ages 7-12 enjoy fashion and design activities from 11 a.m.-noon.; ages 13-18 enjoy the same activities from 1-2 p.m.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Website »

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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Website »

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Enjoy a family-friendly movie, "Paddington 2," and a slice or two of pizza. p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px 'Times New Roman'; color: #ffffff;...

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

Where:
The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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Experience the the excitement of wheelchair basketball in preparations for August Madness. Whether your team is practicing for August Madness or you're looking for a fun Friday activity, all...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Campus YMCA 'Cage' Court
304 Blackwell St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Bridge II Sports
Telephone: 18668802742 x12
Contact Name: Katharine Doyle
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Enjoy live music. Take a blanket or lawn chairs. Pets and alcohol not permitted.

Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Historic Depot
220 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The Halle Cultural Arts Center
Telephone: (919) 249-1120
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See the musical about rock star and teen idol Conrad Birdie. After he is drafted into the army, his manager Albert Peterson faces financial ruin. Desperate for a publicity stunt big...

Cost: $12/adult, $6 ages 18 and younger

Where:
The Clayton Center
111 E. Second St.
Clayton, NC  27520
View map »


Sponsor: CYT
Telephone: 919-553-1737
Contact Name: CYT Staff
Website »

More information

This epic musical is about wishes, family and the consequences of the choices that we make. A childless baker and his wife endeavor to lift their family curse by journeying into the woods,...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Friday, July 27; 8:00–9:00 p.m. On any given summer night, hundreds of moths are on the wing in North Carolina. A park naturalist will attempt to attract as many as possible using light and a...

Cost: $1/Person

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


Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Join us on the playfield at Harris Lake County Park for some really cool night sky viewing through telescopes and binoculars. If you are willing to stay late and the weather cooperates, we will be...

Cost: $1 per person

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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Learn how worms turn food waste into nutritious soil for the garden. View different worms, play worm games, and learn how to keep food waste from the landfill. Ages 8-15. Choose...

Cost: $6/child

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2761
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Kids ages 6-14 launch their very own start-up business at a one-day pop-up market. This event is held in conjunction to the monthly Downtown Garner Pop-Up Market.

Cost: Free

Where:
Garner Recreational Park
221 E. Garner Rd.
Garner, NC  27529
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Ages 7-16 with an interest in singing, dancing and musical theatre can audtion for Lythgoe Family Productions' special holiday show taking place in Raleigh...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Take the family to enjoy a day of hands-on learning. Discover life on a 19th-century farm and play historic games, from parlor games to town ball, and make a toy of your own.

Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Website »

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Enjoy a special storytime to preview the upcoming children's shows from the Raleigh Theatre created by Matthew Hager. During August, Aggregate Theatre Company presents four shows...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Website »

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Children's booksellers read their favorite picture books. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Website »

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Tech-savvy Charlotte is confused when she receives a new toy -- a doll! Once she finds the hidden battery pack, things get interesting. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a DJ, games, ice cream and train rides. See more than 35 vintage pre-1928 automobiles on display from 10 a.m.-noon. Purchase tickets online for 12:15 p.m., 1:45 p.m. or 3 p.m. train...

Cost: $12-$14/person

Where:
New Hope Valley Railway
3900 Bonsal Rd.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Aggregate Theatre Company joins Read with Me for a special edition storytime. In preview of Aggregate's upcoming children's theatre series, actors will perform songs from the new...

Cost: Free

Where:
Read with Me
111 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Aggregate Theatre Company
Contact Name: Matthew Hager
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View the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history and aspects of its preservation. All ages. Registration encouraged online; tickets available inside...

Cost: $5/adult, $3/ ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See the musical about rock star and teen idol Conrad Birdie. After he is drafted into the army, his manager Albert Peterson faces financial ruin. Desperate for a publicity stunt big...

Cost: $12/adult, $6 ages 18 and younger

Where:
The Clayton Center
111 E. Second St.
Clayton, NC  27520
View map »


Sponsor: CYT
Telephone: 919-553-1737
Contact Name: CYT Staff
Website »

More information

Fathers and daughters enjoy an afternoon of dancing, photo opportunities with Princesses and goodies to eat. Your favorite Princesses will be there! The cost is $25 which includes entry for both...

Cost: $25 for first child; $15 each additional child

Where:
The Mill Room at The Factory
1839 S. Main Street
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sponsor: Mouse Dreams Foundation
Contact Name: Scott Cooper
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Spend the night under the stars at the DPAC. Enjoy an exciting Bulls baseball game followed by a sleepover on the famous DBAP outfield. Take part in a pre-game parade, enjoy dinner and...

Cost: $22.20

Where:
Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Durham, NC  27701


Website »

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Enjoy live music. Take a blanket or lawn chair. Pets and alcohol not permitted.

Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Nature Park Amphitheatre
2600 Evans Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The Halle Cultural Arts Center
Telephone: (919) 249-1120
Website »

More information

This epic musical is about wishes, family and the consequences of the choices that we make. A childless baker and his wife endeavor to lift their family curse by journeying into the woods,...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate National Moth Week and learning about these beautiful and under-rated insects and their fascinating adaptations. Head outside to see who’s come to visit the baits and black lights....

Cost: $7/member, $8/nonmember

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
Website »

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Take the family to watch a family-friendly movie on the farm. During the movie, take turns holding the farm's baby goats. Concessions available. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $10/person

Where:
Spring Haven Farm
5306 Homer Ruffin Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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