17 Hidden Gems for Triangle Families to Discover
Updated: January 16, 2020
Triangle families are fortunate to have many of the state’s finest museums, kid-friendly parks and attractions in such close proximity. But there are some best-kept secrets even locals don’t know about. Here are our top picks for lesser-known attractions serving up family fun in the Triangle.
Experience one of the Triangle’s most popular disc golf courses at Apex Nature Park, as well as outdoor movies and concerts in the park’s amphitheater. Nearby athletic fields, sand volleyball courts, shelters, playground equipment, and large and small dog parks make this a popular destination for everyone in the family. 2600 Evans Rd., Apex.
The Children’s Nature Trail at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, a 140-acre natural area, opened in 2015. Visitors can enjoy a variety of play elements such as a log tunnel, log balance beam, ceramic creatures and more. 2616 Kildaire Farm Rd., Cary.
Sears Farm Road Park features a playground, paved trails and uniquely landscaped areas. It’s the perfect spot for a family picnic. The highlight of this park is a giant sculpture little ones can climb. 5077 Sears Farm Rd., Cary.
Lavender Oaks Farm, which opens in spring 2017 and operates seasonally, is an organic lavender farm on 45 acres. Tours are available by appointment only. 3833 Millard Whitley Rd., Chapel Hill.
The Duke Lemur Center on Duke University’s campus houses the largest population of lemurs outside of Madagascar. Tours and special programming help fund conservation efforts. Visit the website for public and premium tour information. 3705 Erwin Rd., Durham.
Photo courtesy of the Duke Lemur Center
Take a walk on Hillsborough’s Riverwalk, a paved, accessible, urban greenway that stretches about 1.8 miles along the Eno River between Gold Park in western Hillsborough and trails east of town. This trail is popular for walking, jogging and cycling, and provides pedestrian connections between several neighborhoods. Local artist Patrick Dougherty's unique stick sculpture, “A Sight to Behold,” was removed in January 2019 due to weathering after a two-year presence on the Riverwalk. The sculpture lasted longer than predicted. River Park entrance, 140 E. Margaret Lane, Hillsborough.
Maple View Farm offers delicious hormone- and antibiotic-free ice cream at its Hillsborough country store. It’s a great spot to enjoy scenic farmland views and a sweet treat for the kids. 6900 Rocky Ridge Rd., Hillsborough.
If you have a little one who loves planes, a visit to the RDU Observation Park makes for a perfect afternoon outing. The park offers a fantastic view of the airport’s 10,000-foot runway. Kids can also listen to pilot and control tower communications. Near the air traffic control center near W. International Dr., Morrisville.
Enjoy a one-hour train excursion in an open passenger car on the New Hope Valley Railway. Explore the rail yard, exhibits and gift shop. Tickets are $7-$10. 3900 Bonsal Rd., New Hill.
Carolina Tiger Rescue offers tours to see lions, tigers, cougars and more. Tickets are $11-$18. 1940 Hanks Chapel Rd., Pittsboro.
Celebrity Dairy, just 13 miles west of Pittsboro in Siler City, offers open barn weekends throughout the year for visitors. Spring is the best time to visit the 300-acre farm to admire the newly arrived “kids” — baby goats. Check the website for dates and special events. 144 Celebrity Dairy Way, Siler City.
Schedule a free tour at Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge in Pittsboro. The 20-acre animal sanctuary is home to rescued chickens, turkeys, goats and sheep. 7236 State Route 87 N., Pittsboro.
See how chocolate sweets are made at Videri Chocolate Factory, which offers free, self-guided tours throughout the week. End your visit with a stop in the Chocolate Shop. 327 W. Davie St., Sweet 100, Raleigh.
Photo courtesy of Videri Chocolate Factory
Enjoy a narrated tour of historic downtown Raleigh aboard the Raleigh Trolley. Tickets are $4-$10. Kids 6 and younger are free. 1 Mimosa St., Mordecai History Park, Raleigh.
Sassafras All Children’s Playground, designed for children of all abilities, features swings, slides, a pair of 50-foot zip lines and basketball court with adjustable hoop height. 3808 Edwards Mill Rd., Raleigh.
Photo courtesy of RALEIGH PARKS, RECREATION AND CULTURAL RESOURCES DEPARTMENT
Free public tours are available the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Raleigh Fire Museum. Kids will love the firefighting memorabilia covering 150 years. Keeter Training Center, 105 Keeter Center Dr., Raleigh.
At the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park, you’ll find the outdoor exhibit “Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky,” a round building made of stone and wood with a small door. An opening in the roof allows the building to act as a camera obscura. 2110 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh.
Myra Wright is the web editor of Carolina Parent and Piedmont Parent. She frequently writes about North Carolina travel.