Ghost Train Adventure Evokes Inner Child

Tweetsie Offers Fun for All Ages During Nighttime Festival


Published:

The Ghost Train looked ominous against the darkening mountain sky as passengers waited to board.

Images by Micki Bare

The sun was setting as we drove toward Blowing Rock one recent Saturday evening. The view was breathtaking. Then again, I wasn't driving. My adventurous hubby was at the wheel donning strong sunglasses and staring at the paint on the tarmac. Otherwise, his retinas would have been seared by the globe of beauty staring back at us for much of the ride. Still, it was worth the purple spots to see the sun setting over our Blue Ridge Mountains as we made our way toward Tweetsie. 

Travel Tip: Leave early enough to avoid driving into the sun and enjoy a leisurely dinner in Boone or Blowing Rock prior to a Ghost Train Festival evening visit to Tweetsie. You won't capture the amazing images of the sun setting over the mountains on your phone for Instagram, but you also won't have to deal with direct sunlight in the driver's eyes for a good portion of the trip.

When we arrived, we followed the directions of the parking attendants to a spot in the lower parking lot. It was 7:33 p.m., a mere 3 minutes after the gates had opened. The upper lot was full and the lower lot was crowded. Having never been to Tweetsie, I did not know what to expect. The first thing I did was excitedly hop out of the car. When the cool air hit me — it was cooler outside than in the car where we had been running the AC — I jumped back in and grabbed my sweater. It was 89 degrees when we left home. The sun had just set in Blowing Rock and it was no longer 89 degrees. Rather, it had settled into the cool upper 60s.

Within the first few minutes of our arrival, I was glad I not only threw my sweater into the car, but that I also thought to wear hiking boots. We had to walk up a hill to find the entrance. Then we had to walk up another hill to find the sprawling Country Fair attraction. And we had to hike a winding path to find the Bone Yard and Haunted House. 

Travel Tip: Dress for the weather in Blowing Rock. Wear layers. And wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes. Think of Tweetsie as the coolest, most fun and exciting — and stroller-friendly — place to hike in the mountains.

Once inside the gates, I melted into 12-year-old Micki. I wanted to check out the cart with all the glow-in-the-dark gear. I darted over to the gift shops and concession stands to see what they had to offer. I doubled back to watch the costumed performers near the DJ. Then 40-something Micki had to use the restroom, so Hubby and I took a quick break. But soon thereafter, 12-year-old Micki spotted the Country Fair area. 

Tweetsie Main Street"Let's go there!" she declared. But as we walked toward the fork at the end of Main Street, the Ghost Train arrived. Those waiting to board for the 8 p.m. ride were gathered near the tracks. The whistle was blowing and steam was pouring out as the train pulled up for its first run of the night. As 40-something Micki patiently waded through the onlookers taking picture after picture of the ghostly engine car, Hubby suggested we look around the park for a bit and then line up for the 8:30 departure.

After the train pulled out, we hiked over to the Bone Yard and Haunted House. Along the way, we passed more bathrooms and some photo ops. Throughout the park, you can have your picture taken with costumed characters or against Halloween-inspired backdrops. There is a photo center near the gate, so you can review and purchase souvenir pictures on your way out.

While 40-something Micki knew that we should line up next if we were going to make the 8:30 train, 12-year-old Micki was distracted by the dancing lights on the hill. Again she declared, "Let's go there!"

I have to mention here that our tickets were good for any departure on the night we visited Tweetsie. However, this year, when visitors purchase tickets for the Ghost Train, they must pre-select a train ride departure time. This system alleviates long lines and wait times at the track. 

Travel Tip: Purchase tickets early so you can select the Ghost Train departure time of your choosing, as they sell out quickly — especially the earlier departure times.

It probably comes as no surprise, but 12-year-old Micki won out and we made our way to the Country Fair section of the park. The best part of the Ghost Train Festival tickets are all the other wonderful things they include, such as the rides and attractions. The only additional out-of-pocket expenses for which you need to prepare are souvenirs, food and, if you stop in the arcade, games. But as Hubby pointed out, all were reasonably priced.

The rides are geared toward the younger crowd, which is likely why 12-year-old Micki was so excited. However, the Tornado, Round Up, Free Fall and Ferris Wheel were all fair game for adults. While 12-year-old Micki would have ridden them all, 40-something Micki selected the Tornado and Ferris Wheel. Those two rides certainly appeased the child in me. The most incredible part of the Country Fair experience, however, turned out to be something other than the lit up rides amongst festive Halloween décor. When we looked up, the sky was filled with a million stars that were framed by the silhouette of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Travel Tip: Don't forget to look up while you're at Tweetsie. The park is on a mountain. The views are incredible, whether you visit during the day or at night.

Country Fair at Tweetsie Ferris WheelYou are probably interested in hearing about the main attraction. The reason Hubby and I made the trek to Blowing Rock. The chilling ride through the dark and creepy wooded mountain top. The Ghost Train. Well, we finally boarded in time for the 9:30 departure. The crowds had thinned out and the costumed dancers were readying to perform "Thriller" as soon as the train pulled away. We contemplated hopping out of line to watch the performance. The costumed dancers are pretty amazing and fun to watch. But we decided that would be something for next time. 

Travel Tip: Make time to watch the costumed dancers and let the kids dance along with them. We watched a group of kids whipping some nae nae with the dancers before we left the park. If the rest of the attractions don't wear your little ones out for the ride home, the dancers will. 

We finally boarded the train. The excitement was palpable. Or maybe it was all the steam pouring out of the engine car and lapping up the sides of the train. When we first sat down, we didn't realize there was a monitor on the train. We could not see it well from our seats, so we moved quickly before the car filled up. A few minutes later, the train pulled out and we were on our way into the dark woods on a scary Halloween monster adventure.

I cannot say more than that, because I don't want to ruin the spooky surprises for those who dare to ride this year's Ghost Train. However, I will offer a few more Ghost Train-specific tips.

Ghost Train Tips

  • Arrive and line up early for your departure time so you will have first choice for your preferred train car and seats.
  • Select a car in the middle of the train. If you do end up in the first passenger car, sit toward the back. If you are in the last passenger car, sit toward the front.
  • Sit where you can see the monitor, as it will be broadcasting throughout the ride.
  • It won't matter which side of the aisle you select, both sides are equally scary and exciting.
  • The Ghost Train is not recommended for children under age 8 according to the Tweetsie Railroad website, however, we saw younger children on the train while we were there. They sat with their parents and did fine. However, there were a few adults behind us who did not handle the experience as well as the teens with them — I'm sure they've been having nightmares ever since.

There were so many attractions we did not see, like the Freaky Forest or Warp Tunnel. And, of course, we did not partake in the Trick-or-Treating, although 12-year-old Micki was slightly disappointed about that. 

Travel Tip: Research the offerings on the Tweetsie website and decide ahead of time which attractions you don't want to miss so you can make the most of your evening at Tweetsie.

Micki Bare is the associate editor/web editor for Piedmont Parent. She is also the author of the Hubbleville Series children’s books and writes a weekly newspaper column. She lives in Asheboro with her husband and three sons.

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October 2019

Take part in a 10k, 5k or 1-mile-fun-run to raise funds for local mental health research. Register online. The event also features food and kids' activities. Register online.

Cost: $30-$75. Free for ages 5 and younger.

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The Angus Barn
9401 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Cameron Village
2108 Clark Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605
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Sponsor: Cameron Village Merchants' Association
Telephone: 919-630-2908
Contact Name: Amy Davis
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Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
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The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough and Ayr Mount Historic Site presents a weekend of activities centered around Scottish heritage, colonial history and the wildly popular...

Cost: See website for ticket fees

Where:
Ayr Mount Historic Site
376 St. Mary’s Rd
Hillsborough, NC
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Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
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Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
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Website »

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Make witchy legs for the Halloween season. Ages 6-10. Register online. Choose course #126766.

Cost: $31/resident, $40/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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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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Ages 5-8 embrace science and nature while developing skills and knowledge about the natural world. 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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Ride a bike on the streets of Carrboro. Enjoy bike decorations, giveaways, healthy snacks and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Elementary School
400 Shelton St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Activities include large KidZone with fire engine, face-painting, giant games, inflatable obstacle course, and paint-a-pumpkin. Kids can enter their original pumpkin carving in the Carved...

Cost: $10/adult, $5/child. Free for ages 5 and younger

Where:
Commons at North Hills
4321 Lassiter at North Hills Avenue
Commons
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: Midtown Raleigh Alliance
Telephone: 919-606-6068
Contact Name: Tara Robbins
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In honor of Cameron Village’s 70th anniversary, play tunes and games. Learn how some incredible kid musicians play songs that capture the beat of life in Raleigh in 2019.  Cameron...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cameron Village
2108 Clark Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Sponsor: Cameron Village Merchants' Association
Telephone: 919-630-2908
Contact Name: Amy Davis
Website »

More information

Enjoy a guided tour of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the park, followed by an art activity using plant materials collected during the tour. All ages and abilities welcome. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

We are starting the Halloween-time festivities early! Join us for some make-and-take craft time in the park and create a “monster” to take home. We will bring the materials if you bring the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Ages 11-17 learn how to make desserts perfect for Halloween. Register online. Choose course #127729.

Cost: $35/resident, $46/nonresident

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

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In honor of Cameron Village’s 70th anniversary, play tunes and games. Learn how some incredible kid musicians play songs that capture the beat of life in Raleigh in 2019.  Cameron...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cameron Village
2108 Clark Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Sponsor: Cameron Village Merchants' Association
Telephone: 919-630-2908
Contact Name: Amy Davis
Website »

More information

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

Enjoy a guided tour of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the park, followed by an art activity using plant materials collected during the tour. All ages and abilities welcome. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $2

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood

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Read the story by Laura Numeroff and make brownies. Register online. Choose course #127716.

Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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It's a Fall Homeschool Day at the JC Raulston Arboretum! Join us for a fun rotation through hands-on stations to learn about a variety of fall topics. Students will have a chance to interact with...

Cost: $5.00 per child for Arboretum Family members, $7.50 per child for nonmembers

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
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In honor of Cameron Village’s 70th anniversary, play tunes and games. Learn how some incredible kid musicians play songs that capture the beat of life in Raleigh in 2019.  Cameron...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cameron Village
2108 Clark Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Sponsor: Cameron Village Merchants' Association
Telephone: 919-630-2908
Contact Name: Amy Davis
Website »

More information

Enjoy a guided tour of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the park, followed by an art activity using plant materials collected during the tour. All ages and abilities welcome. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In honor of Cameron Village’s 70th anniversary, play tunes and games. Learn how some incredible kid musicians play songs that capture the beat of life in Raleigh in 2019.  Cameron...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cameron Village
2108 Clark Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Sponsor: Cameron Village Merchants' Association
Telephone: 919-630-2908
Contact Name: Amy Davis
Website »

More information

It's a Fall Homeschool Day at the JC Raulston Arboretum! Join us for a fun rotation through hands-on stations to learn about a variety of fall topics. Students will have a chance to interact with...

Cost: $5.00 per child for Arboretum Family members, $7.50 per child for nonmembers

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Parent and child ages 2-5 water plants in the native wildflower gardens. Register online. Choose course #124908.

Cost: Free

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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This program is designed to move at a toddler’s pace: Run. Stop. Pick dandelions. Run. Climb on a rock. Find an interesting leaf! Join others for an easy-paced hike around the greenway...

Cost: FREE

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


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

More information

Enjoy a guided tour of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the park, followed by an art activity using plant materials collected during the tour. All ages and abilities welcome. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy dinner with your family on us! On Thursday, October 17th, The School for Creative Studies PTSA will be hosting its 3rd Healthy Eating Tasting Night. Local Chef Carmen Settles of Full Street...

Cost: Free

Where:
The School for Creative Studies
5001 Red Mill Rd.
Durham, NC  27704
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Sponsor: The School for Creative Studies PTSA
Telephone: 919-560-3535
Contact Name: Tanisha Davis
Website »

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Just in time for your next dress-up event!  Join us to make a tutu.  Kids 8 and up and teens make one for yourself!  Adults make one for yourself or for a child!   Call to register,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

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In honor of Cameron Village’s 70th anniversary, play tunes and games. Learn how some incredible kid musicians play songs that capture the beat of life in Raleigh in 2019.  Cameron...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cameron Village
2108 Clark Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Sponsor: Cameron Village Merchants' Association
Telephone: 919-630-2908
Contact Name: Amy Davis
Website »

More information

Homeschoolers of all ages enjoy a day of hands-on activities focused on the history of slavery and freedom in North Carolina. 

Cost: $4/student

Where:
Historic Stagville
5828 Old Oxford Hwy
Durham, NC  27712
View map »


Telephone: 919-620-0120
Website »

More information

Enjoy a guided tour of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the park, followed by an art activity using plant materials collected during the tour. All ages and abilities welcome. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Sip cider and enjoy a cookie while listening to music and a storyteller. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Weaver Street Market Lawn
101 E. Weaver St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Website »

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Enjoy live German music, traditional Bavarian food and fare, German cars, a "Kinder Platz" zone wiener dog races, nail-driving competitions and more. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $5-$20

Where:
Koka Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

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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
Website »

More information

Come join us for a party of spooky proportions! We will have classic monster mash games including a mummy wrap, Halloween Fear Factor eating challenge, Tarantula Toss, and other fun party...

Cost: Adults & Kids Over 14 years of age:$44; Kids 13 and under: $39

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


Telephone: 919-410-7347
Contact Name: TreeRunner
Website »

More information

We think about bats this time of year for Halloween. Join us as we learn the truth about bats and their importance to the ecosystem. After a wonderful story we will take a walk to some places...

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
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15/resident, $19/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

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Cost: See website for fees; prices vary based on pick-up location

Where:
, NC


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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
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Chestnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center
4300 Camp Chestnut Ridge Road
Efland, NC  27243
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Sponsor: Chestnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center
Telephone: 919-304-2178
Contact Name: Becky Garus
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15-$60

Where:
Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Blackwell St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

In honor of Cameron Village’s 70th anniversary, play tunes and games. Learn how some incredible kid musicians play songs that capture the beat of life in Raleigh in 2019.  Cameron...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cameron Village
2108 Clark Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Sponsor: Cameron Village Merchants' Association
Telephone: 919-630-2908
Contact Name: Amy Davis
Website »

More information

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Cost: $19/resident, $25/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Library
Inside McDougle Middle School
900 Old Fayetteville Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Sponsor: Orange County Library
Telephone: 919-969-3006
Contact Name: Jody Smith
Website »

More information

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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: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Games, entertainment, vendors and kids activities await families in an event that celebrates National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month. All ability levels welcome.

Cost: Free

Where:
Community Family Life & Recreation Center at Lyon Park
1309 Halley St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a guided tour of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the park, followed by an art activity using plant materials collected during the tour. All ages and abilities welcome. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Discover the flavors and history of African American foodways Saturday, Oct. 19, 12 noon to 5 p.m. at Historic Stagville. The “Harvest, Forage, Feast” program explores the history of...

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Historic Stagville
5828 Old Oxford Highway
Durham, NC  27712
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy live German music, traditional Bavarian food and fare, German cars, a "Kinder Platz" zone wiener dog races, nail-driving competitions and more. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $5-$20

Where:
Koka Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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


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

More information

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Cost: Free

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


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Enjoy a yoga session in costume, games and treats. Ages 5-10. Register online. Choose course #127452.

Cost: $19/child

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Park Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
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Shop with more than 40 businesses operated by local children ages 6-14.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Commons at North Hills
421 Lassiter at North Hills Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Discover what's happening as the sun sets and listen to stories around a campfire. All ages with adult. Register online. Choose course #127673.

Cost: $18/resident, $24/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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East Cloud Kungfu hosts a Parent's Night Out event, featuring a safe environment for kids as they about the wide world of kungfu.   Check it out!...

Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
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N.C. By Train and Amtrak are making it easier than ever for families to get to the N.C. State Fair through a special stop right at the fairgrounds in Raleigh from Friday, Oct. 18 through Sunday,...

Cost: See website for fees; prices vary based on pick-up location

Where:
, NC


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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.