Why College Visits Are Worth Time, Expense


Published:

The Harvard University campus in spring.

Photo by Jannis Tobias Werner/Shutterstock

Residing in the digital age, it’s tempting to forgo more and more tasks that, a decade or two ago, involved an actual trek out into the real world. Hassles such as buying paper towels or searching for the perfect used car that used to require legwork, human interaction, and possibly even wearing pants can now be done with a click of a mouse from one’s own living room.

Similarly, parents and students may find themselves considering skipping the annoyances of long car rides or plane trips, days away from work/school, and the slew of hotel bills that come from visiting your teen’s prospective colleges. After all, it’s possible to take a virtual tour of campus, chat with an admissions officer in an online forum, and find answers to most questions about anything from dorm life to financial aid on a school’s FAQ page. So, given the availability of fairly comprehensive virtual excursions, is it still worth the time and expense of a physical trip? We at College Transitions believe that, when feasible, it is for the following reasons:

1. Campus visits allow you to use your senses, including your gut.

For many, college will be life’s greatest expense outside of buying a home and should thus be given every bit as much attention. Would you ever considering buying a house, sight-unseen, from an online listing? What looks like a lush backyard may actually be swampland, the beautiful hardwood floors may be rotting and moldy, and two of the three alleged “bedrooms” may feel more like medium-size closets.

Just as with a new home, it helps to see, smell, feel, and fully experience a college campus before forking over that tuition money. Equally important will be the gut-sense you get around campus. Have a meal in the cafeteria, sit in on a class, read the student newspaper, and talk with a few current students. Does it feel like it could be home for four years? Does it have a positive vibe? Do you feel safe and comfortable walking around campus? The only way to answer these questions is to plant your feet on campus and soak it all in.

2. Distance is more than an abstract concept.

There are a multitude of reasons that 72 percent of college students choose to attend school in their home state, the chief one, of course, being reduced tuition at public universities. Yet, many teens are equally influenced by the proximity to family. After all, it’s comforting to know that a home-cooked meal, a free washer and dryer, and most importantly, a network of love, support, and guidance is no further than a few hours away.

If you don’t visit your prospective colleges then you are missing out on accurately assessing how important distance to family is to you. In the abstract, a school that is 200 miles away isn’t that much different than a school that is 2,000 miles away. One can rationalize that a 4-hour plane trip and a 4-hour car ride are roughly equivalent. As an armchair globetrotter it’s easy to acquire a false bravado. Actually packing your bags for the opposite coast, waiting for hours in the airport, crossing time zones, experiencing jet lag, and seeing how it feels to be so far from home is an appropriate test that will bring clarity to the geographical parameters of your college search.

3. Go on an official and unofficial tour.

It’s wise to begin with the official tour offered by your college. While sanitized and sales-pitchy, you’ll likely get a good sense of the heart of campus, and of the school’s main architectural and social attractions. It will also be a chance to ask your tour guide questions about dorm life, the social scene, and other anecdotal information that is tough to glean from websites and guidebooks.

After the official tour ends, we recommend setting off on a self-guided tour to make sure the infomercial version of the school appears to align with reality. Chat up a few random students about their favorite and least favorite things about their school. Explore the surrounding town or city. Dine at a restaurant or two. The more information you can take in, the better, whether of the school-sanctioned or unofficial variety.

4. Connect with an admissions officer.

If you are visiting a liberal arts school or a mid-size university, you will likely be able to schedule a one-on-one evaluative interview. If you are attending a larger university that does not offer a formal one-on-one interview, try to participate in an information session with an admissions official. Either way, you’ll want to come prepared to talk about your academic interests and achievements, extracurricular activities, and also have a number of thoughtfully-crafted questions for the admissions officer about their institution. Particularly at small liberal arts colleges, making a positive and lasting impression as a nice and engaging human being can pay dividends when application review time rolls around.

For more on how to prepare for a college interview and what type of questions one should expect, revisit our previous blog on the subject.

If you can’t swing an in-person tour …

As we stated at the beginning, we believe that visiting a college is immensely helpful, when it’s feasible. Sometimes due to budgetary or time constraints, seeing some of your prospective schools simply isn’t possible, especially if you have a lengthy and geographically diverse college list. If you aren’t able to view a campus in person, there are still actions that you can take to better form an assessment of a school’s fit.

For those who can’t make it to campus, attempt to schedule an alumni interview at a location near you. Doing so will still afford you the opportunity to humanize your application and make a lasting impression with someone affiliated with the university.

Connect with current students at your prospective college through social media or via your high school’s guidance department. Chances are, unless you attend a tiny high school, a recent alum is currently attending your institution of interest and will be willing to share his or her experiences.

If you aren’t making a pilgrimage to campus, there are plenty of other ways to please the demonstrated interest gods. Attending a local admissions event, following a school on Facebook, and corresponding over email with an admissions counselor are all excellent ways to show a potential higher education destination that you have a genuine interest in attending.

College Transitions’ bottom line

There’s nothing wrong with buying paper towels online but when it comes to a six-figure purchase like a college education, an in-person inspection is recommended. If a school is within reasonable driving distance but doesn’t feel worth the time, effort, and money to visit, then it should be eliminated from your list.

Dave Bergman, Ed.D., is a co-founder of College Transitions, a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. He is also a 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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About this Blog

College Transitions

Expert advice for finding the right fit


About This Blog

College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Learn more at collegetransitions.com

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Calendar

May 2017

Step back in time with a 19th-century costumed interpreter and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Registration encouraged online. Tickets available at the mill. ...

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
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Headlining the air show will be The Blue Angels, the US Navy’s premier aerial demonstration team, performing a myriad of precise formations and maneuvers in six distinctive blue and yellow...

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Seymour Johnson Air Force Base
Martin St.
Goldsboro, NC  27531
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Website »

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Take part in a kids' triathlon that financially supports families fighting childhood cancer in the Triangle area at Duke Children’s and UNC Children’s hospitals. Ages 6-16. All...

Cost: $50/person

Where:
Chapel Hill Country Club
103 Lancaster Drive
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
View map »


Website »

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The Triangle's annual agricultural festival showcases animals, home grown food, family entertainment, music, antique farm equipment, carnival rides and more. Gate admission and parking are...

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

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It's the day of the Great Race between Adventure Bay’s Mayor Goodway and Foggy Bottom’s Mayor Humdinger, but Mayor Goodway is nowhere to be found. Ryder summons Marshall,...

Cost: $21 and up

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


Website »

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Celebrate Artsplosure's 37th anniversary with exhibitors, large-scale visual art installations, live performances, a student art exhibition and much more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
, NC  27601


Website »

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Create a beautiful work of art on an iPad. Learn to use two apps, one to create art and another one to fuse art and photography. Take an iPad so you can take your art home with...

Cost: $50

Where:
theCoderSchool
201 Davis Grove Circle
Cary, NC  27519
View map »


Sponsor: theCoderSchool Cary
Telephone: 919-234-5193
Contact Name: Brandon Wright
Website »

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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
Website »

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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
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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Use clues and observational skills to discover for yourself what object of the past is being displayed and what the artifact must have been used for historically.  All ages. Drop-in...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Get in the driver's seat with a hands-on experience with vehicles of all kinds. Meet with local representatives and their vehicles from emergency, construction, landscaping, military,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Community Park
2200 Laura Duncan Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Town of Apex
Telephone: 919-249-3507
Contact Name: Allie Prelaske
Website »

More information

Enjoy Haven House's 2nd Annual Battle of the Bags cornhole tournament fundraiser. Registration begins at noon and matches start promptly at 1 p.m. The event features a band,...

Cost: $50/team

Where:
Trophy Brewing and Taproom
656 Maywood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Haven House Services
Telephone: 919-833-3312
Contact Name: Shannon Walters
Website »

More information

Enjoy the story of a woman born to be free who captures the hearts and souls of the men who love her. The Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle performs live music to accompany the ballet. Purchase...

Cost: $30-$89

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


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

More information

See a ballet production performed by Raleigh Dance Theatre with the Triangle Youth Phiharmonic. The performance also features "A Lesson in...

Cost: $15 advance tickets, $18 at the door

Where:
Meredith College, Jones Auditorium
3800 Hillsborough St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy finger-picking, toe-tapping bluegrass music for young musicians. Get an up-close look at instruments and make a scrap-instrument to take home.

Cost: Free

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

It's the day of the Great Race between Adventure Bay’s Mayor Goodway and Foggy Bottom’s Mayor Humdinger, but Mayor Goodway is nowhere to be found. Ryder summons Marshall,...

Cost: $21 and up

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


Website »

More information

Ages 5-8 embrace science and nature while developing skills and knowledge about the natural world. Register online.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Triangle Jewish Chorale Concert  Leonard Bernstein: An American Original   The Triangle Jewish Chorale pays tribute to Leonard Bernstein, the preeminent conductor, composer and pianist,...

Cost: Free. Donations welcome.

Where:
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
1200 W. Cornwallis Rd.
Durham, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Triangle Jewish Chorale
Telephone: 919 881 8520
Contact Name: Annie Lang
Website »

More information

See a ballet production performed by Raleigh Dance Theatre with the Triangle Youth Phiharmonic. The performance also features "A Lesson in...

Cost: $15 advance tickets, $18 at the door

Where:
Meredith College, Jones Auditorium
3800 Hillsborough St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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Be Active Kids hosts the Early Childhood Physical Activity Institute. Experts from across the country discuss physical activity for young children. The event begins with an opening session of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Sponsor: Be Active Kids
Telephone: 919-287-7012
Contact Name: Evie Houtz
Website »

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Ages 3-5 enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

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

More information

Make a craft inspired by nature. Materials provided. Al ages with adult. 

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

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Learn how to help your baby excel in motor development. This class focuses on tummy time. Whether your infant needs help learning to enjoy tummy time or find his way to hands and knees for...

Cost: $15

Where:
Baby + Co
226 Ashville Ave.
Cary, NC  27518
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Read the story by Lois Ehlert and explore the world of squirrels. Ages 18 mos-3 yrs with adult. Register online. 

Cost: $2/child

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

More information

Learn about the different parts of trees and their purpose, why trees are an important resource, and how to identify some of the most common trees in North Carolina. Make tree "cookies,"...

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
Website »

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Ages 5-12 learn about healthy fruits and vegetables, kitchen and food safety, and enjoy a healthy snack. Meet in the bakery side of the cafe. Email sherry.thrasher@wholefoods.com to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods North Raleigh
8710 Six Forks Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Telephone: 919-354-0350
Contact Name: Sherry Thrasher

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See the incredible story behind one of the world's most beloved characters, Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers. Appropriate...

Cost: $40 and up

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


Website »

More information

Enjoy the story of an extraordinary girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny. Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, this...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Theatre and Broadway Series South
Telephone: 919-831-6941
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

See the incredible story behind one of the world's most beloved characters, Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers. Appropriate...

Cost: $40 and up

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


Website »

More information

Enjoy the story of an extraordinary girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny. Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, this...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Theatre and Broadway Series South
Telephone: 919-831-6941
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Ages 2-6 and adult enjoy a craft, games, songs, stories and a guided walk through the wetland. Register online. Choose course #203549.  

Cost: $3

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Center
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
Website »

More information

Enjoy the outdoors with a story read aloud in the gardens. Nature-themed stories are followed by a related activity or garden walk. Ages 3-5. Meet in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden Story...

Cost: Free. Parking fees apply

Where:
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Telephone: 919-668-1707
Website »

More information

See the incredible story behind one of the world's most beloved characters, Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers. Appropriate...

Cost: $40 and up

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


Website »

More information

Enjoy the story of an extraordinary girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny. Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, this...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Theatre and Broadway Series South
Telephone: 919-831-6941
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Parent and child explore the gardens together to find the perfect spot to spread a picnic blanket for garden stories and crafts. Ages 3-5. Program begins at the Bobby G. Wilder...

Cost: $5/nonmembers. Free for members

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


Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
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
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Enjoy a leisurely early evening stroll along the trail to the Beaver Creek Bridge. Observe the natural world and take in some amazing views of the wetland. Take binoculars and a water bottle. All...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Alden Early
Website »

More information

Enjoy May Arts Night, featuring new exhibits in the Allenton and Semans Gallery, a pop-up gallery of work from the current Durham Convention Center exhibit, crafts for kids and performances by...

Cost: Free and open to the public

Where:
Durham Arts Council
120 Morris St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
Telephone: 919-560-2719
Contact Name: Susan Tierney
Website »

More information

Use recycled shoe boxes and nature magazines to create a one-of-kind keepsake box. Take an empty shoe or similar-sized box. Ages 6-12. Register online. Choose course #203568.

Cost: $1/child

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


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Local blues icon Mel Melton & The Wicked Mojos with John Dee Holeman perform a free, family-friendly concert. Enjoy local eats and drinks from Baton Rouge Cuisine,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northgate Mall
1058 W. Club Blvd.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Northgate Mall
Telephone: 919-286-4407
Website »

More information

Enjoy the story of an extraordinary girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny. Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, this...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Theatre and Broadway Series South
Telephone: 919-831-6941
Website »

More information

See the incredible story behind one of the world's most beloved characters, Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers. Appropriate...

Cost: $40 and up

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


Website »

More information

This Memorial Day, honor those who have served our nation as Project Uplift USA hosts the annual WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest at Fleming Loop Park in Fuquay-Varina. See 35 hot air balloons...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fleming Loop Park
2321 N. Main St.
Fuquay-Varina, NC  27526
View map »


Website »

More information

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Hear some of "The Wind in the Willows" story while making a crafty model boat to test on the pond. Pose for pictures with the Mill Pond Regatta. Ages 6 and older...

Cost: $2/person

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Take a 30-minute tour to view the main power drive and milling machinery. Tickets available inside the park's visitor center.

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
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

See the incredible story behind one of the world's most beloved characters, Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers. Appropriate...

Cost: $40 and up

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


Website »

More information

Enjoy the story of an extraordinary girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny. Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, this...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Theatre and Broadway Series South
Telephone: 919-831-6941
Website »

More information

Learn canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history. Ages 5 and older with adult. Advance registration required online.

Cost: $10/boat

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Help kick off the NCBA World Series with a Fan Fest and Long Ball Challenge. Food, fun and representatives from the Carolina Hurricanes, Durham Bulls, NCFC, NC Courage and...

Cost: Free

Where:
North Main Athletic Complex
1151 N. Main St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce, Town of Holly Springs, NCBA, Holly Springs Salamanders, GRSA, GMA Supply
Telephone: 919-567-1796
Contact Name: Karen Shore
Website »

More information

Take the family for a ride in an open train car and enjoy ice cream, burgers, hot dogs, kids' activities, music and more. Purchase tickets online. All visitors must purchase a train ticket to...

Cost: $12/adult, $10/child

Where:
New Hope Valley Railway
3900 Bonsal Rd.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy the story of an extraordinary girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny. Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, this...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Theatre and Broadway Series South
Telephone: 919-831-6941
Website »

More information

See the incredible story behind one of the world's most beloved characters, Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers. Appropriate...

Cost: $40 and up

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


Website »

More information

This Memorial Day, honor those who have served our nation as Project Uplift USA hosts the annual WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest at Fleming Loop Park in Fuquay-Varina. See 35 hot...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fleming Loop Park
2321 N. Main St.
Fuquay-Varina, NC  27526
View map »


Website »

More information

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