Photo by lisajanelkirk

14 Outdoor Summer Activities To Do With Your Kids

By Lisa Kirk
Thursday, Jun 21 2018

Cities in the Triangle are frequently mentioned on national lists of the best places to raise a family, and for good reason. I liked Raleigh when I moved here as a 23-year-old single girl, but now, five years later, as a wife and mama, I prioritize being surrounded by awesome playgrounds and solid schools right alongside fabulous restaurants and creative small businesses. I can hardly imagine living anywhere else. 

Whether you’re a new parent, just getting to know the activities the Triangle has to offer your little ones, or you’re a longtime resident looking for creative, new-to-you spots to take your kids this summer, this list is for you. Turn off the Disney Channel, grab your sunscreen, and get ready for a summer full of local outdoor adventures! 

Photo by @thedurhamhotel

Storytime on The Roof at The Durham

Our local libraries are fantastic, but on beautiful days, it’s a treat for parents and kids alike to enjoy storytime on the fabulous rooftop patio of The Durham Hotel. The Durham County Library takes their storytimes to this hot spot one Wednesday morning a month from June through October. Be sure to register ahead of time on The Durham Hotel’s website and stop by the coffee shop on your way to the elevator to grab coffee for you, fresh juice for the kids, and a cookie or pastry to share.

Wed Oct 03, 10:30a
Storytime on The Roof at The Durham
Free   .  The Durham Hotel   .  Durham
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Photo by @petermoscatiello

Venture to Fearrington Village for farm animals, wood-fired pizza, and live music

While it’s a bit of a hike from Raleigh, heading west to the idyllic Fearrington Village is always worth the drive, but especially when it’s for Roost Beer Garden. Open Thursdays-Saturdays from 4-8 PM and Sundays from 3-6 PM, Roost serves up artisanal wood-fired pizzas for the whole family, plus wine/beer for the adults. Grab an outdoor table or set up on a blanket to enjoy the live music (often bluegrass), and then stroll over to the entrance to see the adorable Belted Galloway cows and goats.

Take in the Beauty of Fearrington Village
$   .  Fearrington Village   .  Pittsboro
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Photo by @wralsarah

Check out the food trucks at County Fare +292 fire icon

County Fare is the type of place that kids and parents alike will want to return to again and again. Heading into their first summer season, this new venue hosts “mini food truck rodeos” daily (they’re open Wednesday-Sunday) at their full-service beer garden. The patio opens up to a kid-friendly lawn, complete with plenty of picnic tables, corn hole, and even a wall where kids can color with chalk. Plus, it’s totally fenced in—we all know how important that is! Check the calendar on their website to see which trucks will be there each day.

NOW OPEN: County Fare, A Daily Food Truck Rodeo & Bar
$   .  County Fare   .  Durham
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Photo by @raleighwhatsup

Watch airplanes take off and land from RDU’s observation park

When it comes to free activities that suit kids of all ages, it’s hard to beat RDU’s Observation Park, complete with a playground, a picnic area, and a grassy lawn. Older kids will get a kick out of eavesdropping on the pilot/air traffic controller communication, while little ones will love simply watching the planes!

Be an Avid Planespotter at the RDU Airport Observation Park
Free   .  RDU Observation Deck   .  Morrisville
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Photo by @elizabethalicephotography

Take a spin around the historic carousel at Pullen Park

There’s a reason Pullen Park is a local icon: families have been enjoying the park since 1887. Head to the playgrounds free of charge, or spend just $1 per ticket for a kiddie boat ride, a loop around the park on the miniature train, or, perhaps best of all, a spin on the Gustave A. Dentzel Carousel. Delighting Raleigh kids since 1911, the carousel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and makes Pullen Park the fifth oldest operating amusement park in the country.

Find Some Peace at Pullen Park
Free   .  Pullen Park   .  Raleigh
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Photo by @Moms in the Triangle

Play in the sand by Jordan Lake

When Wilmington is too far away but you’re craving a taste of the beach (or your little ones are asking for it), set your GPS for Seaforth Recreation Area on Jordan Lake. Just a few miles down the road in Apex, you’ll find a kid-friendly stretch of sand, picnic tables, and a playground overlooking the water. Just a heads up, there’s a $6 per vehicle charge from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Paddle or SUP at Lake Jordan
$   .  Crosswinds Boating Center   .  Apex
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Photo by @life.is.calling

Explore the Museum of Life and Science

There are too many incredible outdoor exhibits at Durham’s Museum of Life and Science to list, but here’s what you need to know: from the animals to the dinosaur trail to the tree houses, kids of all ages will have a blast exploring this hugely popular museum. Tip: kids two and under are admitted free and may especially enjoy the Sound Garden and Gateway Park.

Stroll Alongside Life-Size Dinos
$16+   .  Museum of Life and Science   .  Durham
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Photo by @americanaquarium

Browse the State Farmer’s Market

It’s no secret that Raleigh is home to a top-notch Farmer’s Market, but especially if you can head over on a less-busy weekday, it’s also an awesome place to share with kids. Teach them about unfamiliar produce, pick out ingredients to cook a healthy meal together, and sample fresh fruits from every farmer. Be sure to check their calendar ahead of time for special events like Peach Day (July 12) and Honeybee Day (August 18).

Snag Something Tasty at the Farmers Market
$   .  State Farmer's Market Restaurant   .  Raleigh
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Cool off at a splash pad

For the days when the temperatures climb into the triple digits and the kids need to burn some energy, lather on sunscreen and head to a local splash pad. Raleigh hosts splash pads at Millbrook Pool, Lake Johnson Pool, John Chavis Community Center, and Ridge Road Pool, while Durham has them at East End Park, the Edison Johnson Sprayground, Forest Hills Pool and Sprayground, and Hillside Pool, to name a few.

Cool off at Durham’s Spraygrounds
Free   .  Durham   .  Durham
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Photo by @calmcradlephoto

Pick your own blueberries

U-pick blueberries are a win-win: a fun activity for kids of all ages, a great way to support local farms, and the most cost-effective way to bring home buckets of blueberries to put in everything from pancakes to pies this summer. Herndon Hills Farm in Durham is a favorite for Triangle parents—the 200-year old farm is family-owned and beautifully maintained. Plus, blueberries are certified organic, so you won’t have to worry about little ones sampling them before you get home. U-Pick is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7-noon—don’t forget to check their Facebook page in case of any weather-related closures.

Herndon Hills Farm
Free   .  Herndon Hills Farm   .  Durham
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Photo by @durhambulls

Cheer on the Durham Bulls

Whether you’re a sports fan or not, every local family should put a Durham Bulls game on their summer calendar. Along with top-notch minor league baseball, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park boasts firework Fridays, food trucks, Locopops, a playground, $1 concession days, fun contests for kids to participate in, and more! Tip: If you’re a frequent visitor, check out the brand new Wool E. Bull’s All-Stars kids club, which offers two membership options ($25 and free) that earn kids birthday gifts, admission to special events (like Wool E. Bull’s birthday party!), discounts on merchandise, and more.

Cheer On the Bulls
$10+   .  Durham Bulls Athletic Park   .  Durham
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Photo by @nicolefaby

Explore and play at Three Bears Acres

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 their least precious clothes and let their imaginations run wild! 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.

Three Bears Acres
$5+   .  Three Bears Acres   .  Creedmoor
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Past Experiences

Photo by @@rlt1936

Catch a family-friendly flick under the stars at Raleigh Little Theatre

Outdoor movies are certainly an adult summer favorite in Raleigh, but thanks to the Raleigh Little Theatre’s line-up, they can also be a memorable activity for the whole family to enjoy together. Pack up folding chairs and then arrive early to pick up concessions for showings of Frozen on July 5, Labyrinth on July 12, and The Greatest Showman on July 19. Did I mention it’s free?

Past
Movies in the Garden
Free   .  Raleigh Little Theatre   .  Raleigh
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Photo by @lisajanelkirk

Midtown Beach Music Series

You’ll find folks of all ages gathering on the North Hills lawn on summer Thursday evenings—they’ve been hosting the Midtown Beach Music series every year for over a decade. Kids can run around on the play mats, cozy up in a folding chair (bring your own!), twirl around on the dance floor, or even pop into nearby Ben & Jerry’s for a sweet treat to enjoy while listening to the live band.

Past
Midtown Beach Music Series
Free   .  North Hills   .  Raleigh
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Lisa is a wife, mama, wedding industry copywriter, and lifestyle blogger. She moved to Raleigh from Austin, Texas in 2013 and fell head over heels for the City of Oaks' kind people and creative spirit.