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Raleigh Area Summer Activities Guide: 45+ ways to keep the kids, family busy this summer

June 6, 2018

Kids in a swimming pool Credit: Pixabay.com

Summer break is here! And so is Go Ask Mom to help you make this summer one to remember.

Our Summer Break Toolbox lists all kinds of activities to keep kids and families busy, including

Looking for other ways to pass these long summer days? Here are dozens of ideas!

The downtown Raleigh museum has extended hours this summer - staying open until 7 p.m. on both Thursdays and Fridays (with a reduced admission of $3 on those days starting at 3 p.m.). Also new at Marbles: It recently opened up the beautiful Color Pop Corner, which is free to visit and a great place for a picnic during a day at Marbles; a new pop-up exhibit inside called Piece Out where kids can collaborate using loose parts and larger-than-life play pieces to build; and Pandas 3D, a fascinating and super cute IMAX documentary at its movie theater.

The west Raleigh museum’s You Are Here exhibit is really interactive and a lot of fun for kids. It runs through July 22. The museum also has free weekend family tours, weekday programs for preschoolers, pop-up art opportunities and its outdoor movie series.

Mazes & Brain Games, a special exhibit at the downtown Raleigh museum, will put your brain to the test with optical illusions and all kinds of games and hands-on activities. The museum also recently released the movie “Backyard Wilderness” in its 3D theater and has a host of special events coming up, including a celebration of International SUNday on June 24.

The museum, which sits across the plaza from the natural sciences museum, has been breaking all kinds of attendance records with its exhibit on World War I. The museum also has regular storytimes and monthly programs for kids.

It’s part of the natural sciences museum, but the ecostation, the museum’s outdoor learning lab, is actually in west Raleigh, closer to the art museum. The spot has a handful of really easy trails for kids and families, a nature playground, a small pond and lots of special activities for kids and families, including weekly nature play days, nature stories, Citizen Science Saturdays and more.

Just south of downtown, the center has a variety of special hands-on activities and equipment that families can check out, including rubber boots so you can wade through the creek.

These parks, just outside of downtown Raleigh, both are home to historic carousels. It’s likely you’ve been to Pullen Park. This summer, check out Chavis too, which is on track to get a major renovation. One thing to note: Ticket prices for rides at Pullen Park and the carousel at Chavis Park will increase July 2 from $1 to $1.50.

Admission is always free at this smaller museum, which is part of N.C. State University. And the lawn makes a great place for a summer picnic, complete with an amazing climbing tree.

Find the inspirational words “sprouting” in parks across downtown Raleigh. Part of a City of Raleigh public art project, the words, such as “play,” “walk” and “connect,” will be on view until mid to late June. Plan a hunt to find them all before they disappear.

The outdoor play space and recreational farm includes a giant slide, jumping pillow, sprayground, fishing and tree houses across 50 acres. On Toddler Thursday, parents get in free with a paying child (ages 3 to 5).

For those who love heights, test your skills at Go Ape and TreeRunners Raleigh Adventure Park.

The Museum of Life and Science’s red wolf pups are growing up. The pair, born in April, are on view in the Durham museum’s Explore the Wild exhibit. The museum’s Into the Mist and Hideaway Woods exhibits also keep kids entertained - and offer opportunities to cool off. There’s mist (of course) in Into the Mist. In Hideaway Woods, you’ll find a stream where kids are invited to take their shoes off and splash. And, don’t forget: The museum opened its new parking garage a few months ago, doubling the number of spaces for visitors. And that means visitors won’t be sent to overflow parking as often.

Duke Gardens has some great places to explore, including the amazing stick-built structure called The Big Easy that kids can run through. The Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden is a working garden with all kinds of growing produce and chickens.

Just down the street from Duke Gardens, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University has a couple of free programs for kids this summer - bilingual storytimes and drop-in art workshops.

The Museum of Durham History, which sits in downtown Durham, is small, but it packs in a lot of information - and some activities for kids.

The Durham Bulls offer up classic summer fun with games all summer. And it’s not just baseball. Regular promotions include $1 concessions on some Thursdays, Friday night fireworks, a Stranger Things night on July 13, a Princess Night on July 15, Bring a Book Night on Aug. 8 and opportunities for kids to run the bases after every Sunday home game.

On the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, Morehead will offer an extended summer schedule from mid-June to August with lots of planetarium shows and free Science Live presentations, which are fantastic for kid and families.

Ackland has another Patrick Dougherty stick-built creation that you can walk in and explore. Step Right Up is made of five individual sculptures that are built entirely out of tree saplings. They are free to see. Ackland also has some family programs scheduled for the summer. Free Family and Friends Sundays are June 24, July 22 and Aug. 26. And it has classes on its calendar for kids and tweens on June 9, July 14 and Aug. 11.

Spring Haven Farm has been lining up a lot of family-friendly activities in recent months. Starting in June, the farm’s events calendar includes breakfast with goats, movie nights with goats and a farm Summerfest with, of course, goats!

The museum at University Place has lots of fun planned, including a Summer on the Stage series with free performances for families, Messy Mornings where you can let the kids create without worrying about cleaning up your house when they’re done, weekly Junior Gardeners programs, a drop-in STEAM’D Up series for kids ages 7 and up, storytimes and, on the first Sunday of each month, a pay what you can admission day.

Built way back in 1999, this park might not be shiny and new like lots of others across the Triangle, but the playground here is hit with families thanks to the massive wooden, castle-like structure that kids absolutely love. So many staircases and corridors to explore! It’s well worth the drive.

And the town’s Elevate Fitness Course, originally designed for teens, but fun for everybody, offers an opportunity to work out and have fun at the same time with different obstacles and exercise pieces.

A train-themed playground, now scheduled to open in mid to late June, is on tap for this park next to Salem middle and elementary schools.

Kids Together Playground’s new misting garden is now open, just in time for the blazing hot weather ahead of us. Kids (and parents) can cool off with just a push of the button on the purple arches. Also check out the amazing public art that sits right next to the misters. (If you go, it’s worth getting a treat or bringing over a picnic breakfast or lunch from nearby Chanticleer Cafe & Bakery.)

Play some ping pong or a little bocce ball at Downtown Park. Then head over to a movie at The Cary, the downtown movie theater.

I love the trails at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary. They are our list of family-friendly hikes. And for little itty bitty kids, there’s the Children’s Nature Trail.

If you read Go Ask Mom, you know my house is full of soccer fans. We all love going to North Carolina FC and NC Courage games at WakeMed Soccer Park. Games are scheduled through the summer. And, if you go, here are five things you can do on top of watching soccer at the games.

Spend an entire day at both White Deer and Lake Benson, which are just down the street from each other. Both offer plenty of open spaces to run, natural places to explore and playgrounds to climb all over. In June, White Deer Park will host a Picnic with Professionals series where kids can bring a picnic lunch and meet some local heroes, including fire fighters, police officers and other public servants.

The Holly Springs Salamanders are back in town, offering up some great baseball. Part of the Coastal Plain League, the Manders, as they’re called, feature top college players, who come together for a summer league. It offers the players, who hope to be drafted by major league teams, exposure to scouts. Games run through Aug. 4 and include some special promotions, such as Pirate Night on June 17, Star Wars Night on June 30, Christmas in July on July 15 and a celebration of mascot Sal’s birthday on July 22.

For kids who love farms and trains, Knightdale Station Park offers up a little bit of both. Plus, there’s this awesome swing where adults and kids can swing together.

The sprayground is open this year for its first full season and features jets, buckets and other ways for kids to get soaking wet.

And stay tuned for the grand opening of the new Holding Park Pool complex, which will include three pools, two water slides and a lot of fun. It’s slated to open sometime in late June or early July.

Hill Ridge Farm is now open daily for the spring and summer season with lots of opportunities for outdoor fun, including its splash pad, giant slide, farm animals, jumping pillow and much more. On Wednesdays, an adult gets in free with a paid child’s admission.

The team serves up lots of fun baseball and activities at its games. They include fireworks on Fridays, Bark in the Park days when you can bring your four-legged family members to the game, Christmas in July on July 20, a Super Splash Day on July 25 and more.

Happy summer!

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