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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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

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
Website »

More information

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 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
View map »


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

More information

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
View map »


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

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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
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  17560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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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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
View map »


Website »

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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
Website »

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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
Website »

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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
Website »

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Cost: Free

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

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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
Website »

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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
Website »

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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
View map »


Website »

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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
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

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


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
Website »

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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
Website »

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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

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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Website »

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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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Website »

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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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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 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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Website »

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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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Website »

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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
Website »

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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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Website »

More information

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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Website »

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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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Website »

More information

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
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 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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Website »

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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
Website »

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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
Website »

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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
View map »


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

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
Website »

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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
View map »


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

More information

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
View map »


Website »

More information

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
View map »


Website »

More information

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
View map »


Website »

More information

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
View map »


Website »

More information

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

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

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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Website »

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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
View map »


Sponsor: Aggregate Theatre Company
Contact Name: Matthew Hager
Website »

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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
Website »

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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
Website »

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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
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3770
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
Website »

More information

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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The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.