10 Free Kid-Friendly Destinations and Activities in the Triangle
The Triangle is full of things for families to do. Try these 10 free activities when the day is long and the dollars short.
1. Spring and Summer Outdoor Concert Series
Enjoy free live music in Triangle towns all summer. Try the Midtown Music Beach Series on the Commons at North Hills in Raleigh, summer concerts at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Fridays on the Front Porch series at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, the Sertoma Series at Bond Metro Park in Cary, the Find Your Cool Concert Series at CCB Plaza in downtown Durham and several others.
2. Triangle Lakes
• Jordan Lake
280 State Park Rd., Apex
• Falls Lake State Recreation Area
13304 Creedmoor Rd., Wake Forest
The Triangle is home to two large lakes: Jordan Lake west of Apex and Falls Lake north of Raleigh. Operated by the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, enjoy a day, weekend or more of camping, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking and picnicking at either location.
3. Public Libraries
• State Library of North Carolina: statelibrary.ncdcr.gov
• Durham County: durhamcountylibrary.org
• Orange County: co.orange.nc.us/library
• Wake County: wakegov.com/libraries
• Town of Chapel Hill Public Library: chapelhillpubliclibrary.org
From storytimes and puppet shows for preschoolers to writing and LEGO workshops for elementary school-aged kids, public libraries offer a variety of free programs for families. Many also offer book clubs and SAT practice sessions for teens.
4. Sarah P. Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St., Durham
Experience 55 acres of what has been called "the crown jewel of Duke University." Enjoy 5 miles of allées, walks and pathways through the gardens. Kids will enjoy walking across the zigzag bridge and playing on the grass beside the large garden pond. A new organic food garden opened in 2012.
5. RDU Observation Park
2400 W. Terminal Blvd., Morrisville
Visit the RDU Observation Park to watch planes land and take off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport's 10,000-foot runway. Listen to piped-in pilot-tower communications from the nearby Air Traffic Control Center, check out the play area, and take a picnic or dine at Crosswinds Café in the General Aviation Terminal. You can even host birthday parties at the RDU Observation Park.
6. Greystone Recreation Center
7713-55 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh
Designed for ages 5-12, this free indoor playground offers a climbing structure and 8-foot traverse rock-climbing wall that makes for a great rainy day destination. The center's rubber surface ensures safe landings.
7. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St., Raleigh
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences was the No. 1 “Most Visited” site in North Carolina during 2015 with 985,905 visitors, according to Carolina Publishing Associates. The museum offers free access to natural sciences exhibits, programs and special events, as well as the Nature Research Center with the SECU Daily Planet, a three-story multimedia center. Leave time to head across the mall to the North Carolina Museum of History, which is also free.
8. Pullen Park
520 Ashe Ave., Raleigh
Kids can hop on the miniature train, ride a 1911 carousel (listed in the National Register of Historic Places), cruise around a small pond in kiddie boats or rent pedal boats to power on Lake Howell. The playground centers around themes of history, art and nature, and includes four age-appropriate sections.
9. Raleigh Flea Market at N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh
Ranked by CNN as one of America's top flea markets, the Raleigh Flea Market features more than 600 indoor and outdoor vendors. Browse antiques, jewelry, furniture, produce and more in this outdoor, family-friendly atmosphere.
10. State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St., Raleigh
Enjoy fresh flowers, plants, produce and specialty items from North Carolina farmers in the 30,000-square-foot Farmers Building or browse market shops in the 15,600-square-foot Market Shoppes building. Dine at one of three restaurants: Market Grill, the State Farmers Market Restaurant and N.C. Seafood.