Recent recommendations say you're not supposed to let your kid look at a screen for more than an hour a day. Even before the numbers came out, we parents knew we wanted to keep our little ones off the apps and engaged with the real world as much as possible.
But we also know it's hard to keep your kid entertained through all hours of the day. That's why we partnered with Relay by Republic, the innovative screen-free phone for kids, to come up with the ultimate guide to entertaining your young ones in the Triangle.
These activities are so engaging and hands-on that your kid won't even think about begging you to play a game on your phone. Plus, some of them might even be pretty fun for you, too.
We want this guide to keep growing (just like your kids). Have a favorite activity we missed? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
There are few things that are as fun and exhausting as a trampoline—except maybe 100 trampolines stitched together. DefyGravity has locations in both Raleigh and Durham, both of which are open seven days a week and have special jump times for kids ages 6 and under along with plenty of all ages hours.
Lots of kids joke about running off to the circus, but you can make their dreams come true. Cirque du Vol is a unique aerial arts school right in the heart of downtown Raleigh, and they offer plenty of opportunities for kids to get in on the action. For the youngest set (ages 5-7), try their weekly aerial play drop-in on Thursday afternoons. Youth ages 8-12 and teens have plenty of options throughout the week to explore different tricks. (Check their current calendar for the most accurate times.) And if you have an older kid (14+), you can even bring them to an aerial yoga class with you for some air-bound bonding. Or you could just drop them off at class and pop across the street to Vita Vite for some you time while you wait.
On the last Saturday morning of every month, the Living Arts Collective brings the music and community vibes to the Durham Farmers Market. All ages, levels of experience, dance styles, and more are welcome to dance it out together—it's not about how dance "should look" but just about moving your body to the music. Shop the market before or after you shake it out to feel good AND support local famers as a family.
With locations in both Durham (open seven days a week) and Cary (closed Saturdays), this is the perfect place to let your young'un be active and artistic. They can climb the giant guitar frets while playing the strings, walk along the floor piano, bounce around the drum room, and more. They also offer group or private music classes if you're aiming to raise a little Mozart.
Every Wednesday evening from 6:30-8:30p next to the carousel at Pullen Park, you'll find a rambunctiously fun drum circle along with hula hoopers, jugglers, folks doing acro yoga, and more. Bring an instrument (or just yourself) and get ready to dance and play all night long! [Note: From November to March, the jam moves inside for the winter, taking place on Friday evenings at Method Road Park, Pioneers Building, 514 Method Road.]
Most kids just like digging in the dirt, but it's even better when they know they'll find something hidden inside. Enter: old-fashioned gemstone panning. You'll get a bag of dirt and head to the sluice to hunt for hidden gemstones, fossils, and more! Perfect for kids of all ages. There's an outdoor option in Cary open Wednesday through Sunday, or a completely indoor option in Apex open all week.
Gamify exploring the great outdoors with the State Parks Passport program. North Carolina has over 40 state parks, and the more you and your kid explore, the more prizes they can get (and the better off they'll be from spending time in nature, obvi). You can pick up your passport at any state park, and then stop by the office or visitors center at each park you visit to get a stamp (you can also request a sticker by mail if the office is closed). Ten stamps gets you your first prize—see the full list here. There are several state parks within a stone's throw of the Triangle—Umstead, Falls Lake, Eno River, Jordan Lake—so gather your little explorers and get trekking. (And don't forget your Relay in case they run a little too far ahead!)
It may be about forty minutes from downtown Raleigh, but you could easily make a whole day trip out of going to Three Bears Acres. This 50-acre facility includes tree houses, toboggan slides, a pond for fishing and paddle boating, a “mud kitchen,” a grafitti wall, a sprayground, an obstacle course, and more. Dress your little ones in clothes you really don't care about and let them run wild! They're only open March through November, and hours can vary a bit week to week so check their schedule, but they typically have some weekday and some weekend hours. Tip: The best deal if you have a younger child is to show up on “Toddler Thursdays,” when admission for a child aged 3-5 plus one parent is $12 total. They also offer season passes if you know you'll be coming back again and again to keep the kids busy.
A local paradise for naturalists, Honeysuckle Tea House invites you to rediscover all the wonderful things nature can do for your body and mind. Located on sixteen acres of land devoted to developing local, community-oriented farmland, orchards, and herb gardens, you can settle into the relaxing tea house while your kids romp around the herb gardens, playground, hammocks garden, mandala garden, and farm fields. Open seasonally all day Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, (check the schedule here) this is the perfect weekend family escape.
Sometimes kids act like little monkeys—so let them be! There are lots of opportunities for all ages to climb through the area's canopies. For the youngest of the bunch, The Museum of Life + Science's Hideaway Woods offers a mini set of treehouses for those aged 0-6, along with their larger in-air playground for the older kids. TreeRunner Adventure Park offers high-ropes courses, with a junior option for ages 4-6 along with standard courses for 7-year-olds through adults (your teens might especially like the special glow-in-the-dark events they have from time to time). And if you've got an especially adventurous kid, you might look into the unique tree climbs provided by Piedmont Tree Climbing several times a year.
This isn't just your average nature walk. The Jordan Lake Educational State Forest is full of "talking trees," aka little sign posts near some of the trees where kids can touch a button to learn more about what they're seeing. It's the perfect scavenger hunt to run through the forest looking for these educational gems. Combine it with a picnic and some time swimming or boating on Jordan Lake, and you've got a full day planned.
Escape rooms are popular with the adult set, but they're perfect for families, too, especially those with tween and teen kids. If your kid likes puzzles, this is the activity for you, where you'll all have to solve puzzles to try and "escape" within the time limit. There are several escape rooms in the Triangle, and many have rooms specially geared towards kids, including a Candy Land-themed room at Mission X in Durahm, a space-themed adventure at Bull City Escape, and even a special room for kids 8-13 to play without parents at tic toc escapes in Raleigh. Some rooms do have age limits, so double check on their site or with the company before booking.
The NC Museum of Natural sciences has so many hands-on, educational activities for kids, it's hard to know where to start. The good news is, the museum is free and open every day of the week, so you can go back time and time again to explore and keep your kids entertained. Try the Natural World Investigation Lab, where they can play with science equipment (safely) and do real experiments. Or the Discovery Room, where they can touch fossils, smell tropical scents, and more.
Instead of staring at screens, why not stare at the sky? You can delight your inner Galileo with a trip to the planetarium. A giant sundial and telescope, stargazing outings, and special shows like the ever-popular Science LIVE will leave the whole family full of wonder.
This is another museum with so many interactive opportunities it's hard to know where to start: the Launch Lab where kids can explore aerodynamics and make things fly; the Sound Garden where kids can be as loud as they want; Into the Mise where kids can explore weather while getting wet. The fun is endless—you can see all exhibits here. While this museum is not free, they do have Community Days throughout the year where Durham residents can get free admission.
Think of Marbles as the playroom of your kids' dreams (and you don't have to do any of the cleanup!). This museum features interactive, educational, and fun exhibits designed for all ages where they can learn about everything from money to inventing to art. See the full list of exhibits here!
There are storytimes across the Triangle for getting out of the house and keeping your kids entertained in a low-key way. During the summer, the weekly Wednesday morning storytime on the roof of The Durham is a fan favorite. Year-round options include regular events at Read With Me in Raleigh (including optional craft time!) and The Regulator Bookshop in Durham. Most public libraries also have storytimes throughout the week, so check with your local branch!
Taking your kids to get donuts is probably already a win in their book, but Duck takes it to the next level, letting them choose whatever coating, topping, and drizzle they'd like for a completely customized experience. Strawberry glaze with rainbow sprinkles and a marshmallow drizzle, anyone? Sorry in advance about the sugar high.
When the season's right, fruit picking is a great activity for all. You can wear out the kids filling buckets with berries, grapes, apples, or whatever the crop of the month is—and then you have a built in activity later on when you have to work together to make something from your bounty. , and then Head over to Herndon Hills Farm for a day of outdoor adventure, picking blueberries and exploring their fields. Herndon Hills Farm in Durham and Page Farms in Raleigh are two great options.
Does your little one want to learn how to cook? Sign them up for a class at Flour Power! There are options for ages 2.5 all the way through teens and topics ranging from cupcakes to comfort food. Plus they have locations in North Hills, Falls River Town Center, and Cary Parkside. Taste Bud Kitchen in Apex also offers family classes if you want to learn right along with your kid.
Nestled into Durham Central Park is a free-pick community garden full of edible goodies like fruit trees, herbs, and more. Stop in for the smells, or pick some goodies to take home before exploring the rest of the park. This was created by SEEDS, a non-profit garden school in Durham that also offers summer camps and after-school programs you could explore if your kid wants to learn a lot more about gardening.
TALK ABOUT SEEDS PROGRAMS
Watch ice cream get made right before your eyes—like magic! Rolled ice cream is having a moment among all ages in the Triangle, and it's no wonder. You get to create your very own treat, choosing your base flavor and whatever mix-ins you want, and then watch it get frozen and rolled up in front of you. Don't forget all the fun toppings! Besides Sweet Charlie's in Durham, you can also find this treat at Raleigh Rolls in Morgan Street Food Hall, or Milk Lab in Cary.
Cat Tales Cat Cafe allows you to enjoy coffee shop vibes, all while snuggling up with the cutest kitties around. You can enjoy a coffee while your kids run themselves tired with the cats. For the safety of everyone, kids under six aren't allowed in the cafe except during special kids' events, but all other young ones are welcome! (And yes, the cats are all adoptable if your kid falls too much in love.)
Famous for their regular schedule of family-friendly goat yoga, Hux Family Farm also offers storytime with goats for the little ones, educational tours, and more. Check their full events schedule to find the perfect time to go with your family.
A visit to this off-the-beaten path farm and animal sanctuary will give you hands-on time with goats, sheep, emu, bunnies, peacocks, a mini donkey, and so many more animals. The farm is open to visitors most days, but you'll need to text farmer Mary (919-244-1800) a detailed request to visit ahead of time (when you're hoping to come, how many kids and what age, etc.), and carefully read her rundown of the experience here first. A little work for you will mean hours of carefree animal fun for your kids.
From May 10 through the summer, Old Mill Farm invites the family to come out every Friday for live music, free pony rides and hayrides, a petting zoo, food, drink, and plenty of outdoor fun. Check the schedule and register here!
Getting crafty on a budget is insanely easy thanks to the Scrap Exchange. This unique Durham shop collects "junk" and sells it at a low cost for folks to use in arts, crafts, and more. Either let your kid run around with $5-10 to see what they can collect, or head to the make and take area, where you can pay $5 per creator to spend an hour and a half making whatever you'd like—all materials included! The crafting area is typically open whenever the Scrap Exchange is, but it's worth calling ahead (919-401-0553) to make sure it hasn't been booked for a party.
Instead of playing with technology why not make it? The MakerLab is a program of the Durham Library located at Northgate Mall that offers STEAM classes for kids and teens. They're only open when they have a program going on, so make sure to check the schedule to plan a visit.
Drop in to Bull City Craft for all the art supplies your kid could dream of. Let them explore at their own pace and make whatever they can imagine with paint, glitter, glue, and more. For only $6 you and your kid can hang out and create as long as you'd like. Playcraft is available during almost all business hours that Bull City Craft is open, but you should call and double check on Saturdays (919-419-0800)—sometimes they have to close drop-in because of parties or special events.
While you're out exploring all these new spots, give each of your kids a Relay so you can have peace of mind that, even if they wander a bit too far following around a chicken at the farm or run off to a different exhibit at one of the museums, you'll be able to connect with them—without distracting them. Learn more or get your Relay here!