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Written by:  Megan Finke
Date: June 1, 2012

Between camps and family vacations, there inevitably end up being days during the summer when there is nothing to do. To help ease these summer lulls, we compiled a list of some area attractions and museums offering new exhibits. Visit a few or all of them this summer, entertain your family and turn your kids' brains back on school-mode for a bit to squeeze in some educational fun.

Dinosaurs have descended on the North Carolina Zoo

Fifteen "terrible lizards" have come back to life at the new Dinosaurs exhibit at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. Walk through a winding path lined with ancient plants and go back in time as you come face-to-face with more than a dozen dinosaur species. These animatronic, life-size creatures seem very real with grasping hands, menacing claws and gnashing teeth.

Learn about the roaring Tyrannosaurus rex, herbivorous Brachiosaurus and many other prehistoric earth creatures. Kids can even explore a paleontologist's tent and unearth their own discoveries in the fossil dig area. The new exhibit only took two weeks to install, but land for it was cleared three months in advance.

Following its opening March 31, the exhibit helped the zoo post one of its busiest weekends ever, with 33,294 visitors during Easter weekend (April 6-9). This attendance has only been higher once in the same four-day period in 2010, with 36,510 visitors.

The "Dinosaurs" exhibit is open through October 2012 and costs $4 in addition to regular zoo admission per person. The dinosaurs are mobile and life-size, so parents should take caution with little ones.

The North Carolina Zoo is located at 4401 Zoo Pkwy., Asheboro. It is open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through October and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. starting in November. For more information, visit nczoo.org or call 800-488-0444.

Explore mist, landforms and water at new Museum of Life and Science exhibit

A new outdoor exhibit, Into the Mist, is opening at the Museum of Life and Science June 30. Explore mist, landforms and water while shaping and experiencing the landscape.

Visitors can stack rocks, shape wet sand into landforms, crawl into large manmade "gopher holes" and venture to the top of a woodland hut to see an aerial view of the 3-acre wetland, all while discovering how the land is shaped around them.

"It's a wonderfully exploratory experience that mingles together art, science and play," says Roy Griffiths, vice president for exhibits and planning at the museum.

Interactive features include droplets of water suspended in air that create low-lying clouds, a stream that shows how water erosion changes stones to pebbles and rainfalls that demonstrate water's impression in sand. Discover thousands of years of processes that have shaped our earth, condensed into one exhibit.

"We've created landforms on a smaller scale and they are there for people to explore," says Michelle Kloda, exhibits developer for the museum.

The exhibit is made possible by a gift from Sharon and Larry Crane of Durham and is included with regular museum admission. The Museum of Life and Science is located at 433 W. Murray Ave., Durham. It is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. For more information, visit ncmls.org or call 919-220-5429.

Carolina Museum of History exhibit celebrates Latino culture

A new exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History is introducing two "firsts" to the museum. Al Norte al Norte: Latino Life in North Carolina is the museum's first exhibit focusing on the state's Latino community and also the first bilingual exhibit. "Al Norte al Norte" opened May 4 and is comprised of 51 images taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist José Galvez. View photographs capturing the daily life of Latino North Carolinians, from farm workers to kindergarteners. Each image is accompanied with English and Spanish descriptions.

Galvez moved to North Carolina from Arizona in 2004 after noticing the growing Latino community in the Carolinas. During the last few years he documented this emerging population. Since 1980, the Latino population grew from 1.2 to 8.4 percent of North Carolina's residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. This new exhibit is part of the museum's initiative to better serve this expanding community.

Explore "Al Norte al Norte" and learn more about Latino family, faith, culture and work life in North Carolina. The exhibit is free and will run through

April 28, 2013. The North Carolina Museum of History is located at 5 Edenton St., Raleigh. It is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. For more information, visit ncmuseumofhistory.org or call 919-807-7850.

Nature Research Center opens at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

After years of planning and construction, a new 80,000-square-foot wing opened at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in April. The Nature Research Center features participatory exhibits, games, displays and working labs where visitors can actually help with scientific research.

"This new wing links virtual and real nature in all sorts of awesome ways," says Meg Lowman, director of the research center. "The NRC is not just a North Carolina first, but a world-first museum where visitors will learn how we know what we know about science."

The centerpiece of the Nature Research Center is the SECU Daily Planet, a three-story round theater featuring a multi-media-learning center that is connected to classrooms across the state, so students can take virtual trips around the globe. In the Daily Planet, visitors can enjoy videos, maps and graphs on a screen that surrounds the audience, creating a virtual experience.

Explore the center's other exhibits this summer, including a 10,000-gallon aquarium showcasing native bonnethead sharks, Atlantic stingrays and lionfish. Learn how such invaders affect fisheries in our state, while getting up close to these large fish.

The Nature Research Center and North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences are located at 11 W. Jones St., Raleigh, and general admission is free. It is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. For more information, visit natural sciences.org or call 919-733-7450.



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