Plan the Perfect Spring Family Picnic

Best spots, gear and tips for making your next outdoor picnic a success.


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Jewel tones and heavy layers make way for pastels, open-toe shoes and fragrant, longer days during spring. The grass needs cutting, gorgeous bushes bloom and allergies to nature’s own brand of confetti — in the form of pollen — kick into overdrive. Yes, spring in North Carolina is magical — so much so that it can inspire some extra-special adventures with your family in the great outdoors.

Nothing says “spring” or “quality time” quite as well as a meal shared in the form of a neatly packed picnic. Or, it could be a disheveled one. The point is to spend this time in nature with loved ones.

Picnic-Perfect Recipes

Yvonne Madden of Charlotte is stepmom to Ivy, an aspiring young chef. Madden and her stepdaughter use any opportunity they can to spend time together in the kitchen. Madden’s Vietnamese heritage drives her love of delicious, fresh foods, so her suggestions for picnic goodies do not disappoint.

If you’re picnicking in an area where a grill is available, Madden suggests considering burgers for your main course.

“Ivy loves making patties with me. You can have most school-age kiddos mix the ground beef and form them into patties,” she says. “In fact, any ground meat or meat substitute works wonderfully for this. You can also buy premade patties from any of our fresh, local grocers.”

Madden also raves about the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in the Queen City and Triangle region. “We’re really lucky to live in a climate where we can access most anything any time of the year,” she says.

A true hallmark of North Carolina is that fresh produce is often locally sourced, making it more economical.

“Pre-slice everything and toss them into some Ziploc baggies for easy snacking,” Madden advises. “Bonus: Kids can help bag up the veggies and fruits.”

Though some fan-favorite recipes call for it, mayonnaise is not the most picnic-friendly of foods since it can spoil if not refrigerated. Madden’s suggestion: Replace it with pesto in salads. One of her favorite recipes involves slicing up a handful of cherry tomatoes and adding in some mozzarella pearls, fresh basil, pesto, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Madden says this dish offers the perfect accompaniment to crusty bread, can be eaten alone or be made into a sandwich.

Another tasty traveling recipe is bowtie pesto pasta salad. Just toss boiled bowties with pesto, then add some salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese.

For a sweet but healthy treat, scoop out the centers of large strawberries and fill them with melted chocolate chips using a small spoon or piping bag, then store them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so until the chocolate hardens. Use an egg carton to prevent the strawberries from tipping over.

Prepackaged Goodies

If you’d rather spend less time preparing for and more time enjoying your spring family picnic, consider purchasing seasonal, prepackaged foods.

“Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of someone else’s labor, but you’re actually able to be present in the moment with your kiddos, saving time and potential frustration when things don’t go according to the plan,” says Durham-based nanny Krysta S.

Suggestions include nongreasy chips that don’t leave a residue, and prepackaged salads, fruits and veggies. Add some precooked grilled chicken strips and you’ve got this picnic “in the bag.”

Top Picnic Spots

North Carolina offers perfectly picturesque picnic locations come spring — whether you’re at William B. Umstead State Park for a piece of outdoor sanctuary in Raleigh or Jetton Park hitting up a little slice of a beach at Lake Norman.

Other honorable mentions for Triangle families include Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, Pullen Park in Raleigh and Ayr Mount in Hillsborough.

The Charlotte area offers perfectly picturesque picnic locations come spring — whether you’re at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden or Freedom Park. Other honorable mentions include Latta Park in Dilworth, and Romare Bearden Park or First Ward Park uptown. Independence Park is great for its view of uptown and playground, and you can picnic by the playground at Colonel Francis Beatty Park which also has bike trails by the lake.


Hassle-Free Accessories

Pack the right accessories to achieve picnic perfection. Here are a few good ideas to consider.
 

Camco’s Handy Mat With Strap folds out to 60-inches by 78-inches and into a compact 10.5-inches by 15-inches for storage. (A 72-inch by 108-inch mat is also available). Built-in handles assist with easy transport, and the mat also features convenient pockets and mildew-resistant material that can be cleaned with soap and water. camco.net and amazon.com, $7.64-$19.43.

 



REI’s Sea to Summit Alpha Utensil Set

This fork-spoon-knife combination is made from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy for increased durability and weighs only 1.3 ounces. The product includes a small accessory carabiner so you can clip all three utensils together. rei.com, $19.95.

 

 

Scuddles Cooler Picnic Basket

This modern take on the nostalgic wicker basket features strong leather straps and keeps food hot or cold for 12 hours. The cooler includes a set of four stainless steel spoons, forks and knives; four plastic wine glasses; four washable napkins; salt-and-pepper shakers and a bottle opener. scuddlesusa.com, $35.99. (Scuddles also offers a picnic backback for $49.99.)

 


Extra tip: If you’re planning to be out for a while before eating, partially freeze water bottles to surround your food in the cooler. Not only do frozen water bottles do a fantastic job of keeping your goodies cold, they also come in handy once the ice melts. Use your own reusable water bottles to score extra eco-friendly points.


Lauren Ramirez of Lexington is a new mom, former teacher and higher education professional.

 

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Calendar

June 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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Dads play free mini golf with each paying player at regular price.

Cost: $7.99/person

Where:
Adventure Landing
3311 Capital Blvd.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Sponsor: Adventure Landing
Telephone: 191-987-21688
Contact Name: Mike Collins
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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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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Take Dad to enjoy food trucks, live music and more at Durham Central Park's food truck rodeo. All ages.

Cost: Free. Food available for purchase.

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Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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It`s 1863 at Yates Mill, and the yard is alive with activity! Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal.  Tour fee:...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

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Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
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Cost: $1.00 per person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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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.
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Weekly basic skills cooking class offered for children ages 5-10 at Whole Foods North Raleigh.  This free class meets at the cafe each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and is offered by registering...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Learn about law issues including divorce, separation, child custody, child support, landlord-tenant issues, and more. A local attorney will lead the discussion. This event is free and free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Compass Center for Women and Families
210 Henderson Street
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: Compass Center for Women and Families
Telephone: 919-968-4610
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Enjoy "Kate Writes a Song."

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Budding naturalists ages 2-6 enjoy a craft, engaging activity, and guided walk along the greenway. Register online. Choose course #219939.

Cost: $2/person

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


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Join Preston Sharp, a 12-year-old who was recently recognized by President Trump at the State of the Union, to honor U.S. veterans by placing flags and flowers on their graves...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh National Cemetery
501 Rock Quarry Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 1-530-515-3825

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Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Take your own poles or borrow one from the park through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Little eyes, ears and hearts are always watching and learning how to navigate life through Moms. Explore what it means to manage your mind and how important it is for your family as well as...

Cost: $10

Where:
Center for Excellence
3803B Computer Drive, Suite 106B
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: Tracy Nolin Beerman
Telephone: 919-612-4608
Contact Name: Tracy
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Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty suncatcher to hang in...

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 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
View map »


Sponsor: Chatham Marketplace
Telephone: 919-542-2643
Contact Name: Craig Kolman
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Enjoy a free blueberry dessert and purchase fresh blueberries from local growers.

Cost: Free

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Raleigh State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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What do Historic Yates Mill County Park and the woodland faeries have in common? They both love nature! Take a short walk near the millpond to search for evidence of faeries (sightings are not...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Kindergarten students entering year-round school practice a lunch line, get moving at recess, hop on a school bus and explore circle time.   

Cost: Free

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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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
Website »

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Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/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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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  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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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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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Cost: Free

Where:
Open Table United Methodist Church
824 N. Bloodworth Street
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Sponsor: Open Table UMC
Telephone: 919-561-2637
Contact Name: Andrea Chapman
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Cost: $15/person

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main Street
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 191-992-92787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
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Cost: See website for fees

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Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
2116-D New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
6001 Turkey Farm Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Triangle Land Conservancy
Telephone: 191-990-80054
Contact Name: Molly Richard
Website »

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Transform a plastic storage box into a worm bin suitable for indoor use. Materials provided. Suggested for ages 6 and older. Register online by June 17. Choose course #220017.

Cost: $45/family for City of Raleigh residents; $60 for non-residents

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


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2761
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Get the real scoop on turtles, how they “earn a living," and hear a story. Ages 5 and older. Register online.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
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 Little Golden Books' "Jurassic Park." This action-packed and age-appropriate title is great for dinosaur lovers, both new and old. Activities to follow. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

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Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

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Dorothea Dix Park
2105 Umstead Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Cost: $17.25/person

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian Dr.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: American Dance Festival
Telephone: 919-684-6402
Contact Name: Sarah Tondu
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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $15/person. Free for ages 12 and younger

Where:
Vollmer Farm
677 NC Hwy 98 East
Bunn, NC  27508
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Sponsor: Vollmer Farm
Telephone: 919-496-3076
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Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are provided,...

Cost: $10.00 per boat

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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As the Triangle continues to grow, it is increasingly important to tell the stories of North Carolina so that natives, newcomers and visitors alike feel at home in our great places. Celebrate North...

Cost: $15-$20

Where:
Historic Adams Farm
2601 Broad St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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See the critically acclaimed documentary p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Arial; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} from Academy Award-winning...

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