North Carolina Museum of Art

DSC_3877-01 I feel so lucky to live in an area so rich in museums! My kids get to spend several days each year contemplating rooms full of  Rodins, cases of ancient cultural artifacts, and galleries of contemporary art at NCMA.  A stroll through the permanent collection can take us an entire day, so we try to divide up our trips by whatever artistic subjects are relevant to our studies at the time, or we may take a few hours and spend them in one of the museum’s amazing temporary exhibits. While the permanent collections are strictly hands-off, the special exhibitions often have interactive pieces, and sometimes a whole gallery for children’s discovery and creation.  Outside of the exhibit halls, visitors are treated to acres of manicured walking trails that wind around and through outdoor exhibits, an amphitheatre, and a discovery garden with a great slide sculpture and sensory garden.  The rolling hills of the park lead down to a wooded area with bridges and an AMAZING ‘cloud house’ built of stone and earth .  DSC_0880-01.jpeg  The wooded trails loop back to the parking areas, amphitheater, and connect to a greenway that crosses the highway.  Pop-up art programs are held regularly out in the small pavilion in the middle of the park, and are a great, free way for kids to connect to the art.  I hope you and your family get to see some of the wonderful pieces this museum has to offer soon.

With Love, Turtle Dove

Know before you go:  There are restrooms in both exhibit halls and outside underneath the amphitheatre.  There are no restrooms out in the art park.

There is no charge for the museum entrance, but special exhibits usually have a fee.  Children under 6 are often discounted or free.

There is food available at the art museum cafe, but you may need a reservation to be seated on busy days.  It is slightly formal, and the arrangement doesn’t lend itself to play, but you can order and take food outdoors. Sip Cafe, also in the main building has great coffee and baked goods.

The museum is closed Monday, but the park is open each day, dawn to dusk.



Museum of Life and Science

DSC_3345-01.jpegWhen Alice in Wonderland said she thought of 6 impossible things before breakfast, she was probably thinking at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. The whole place is packed with imagination encouraging spaces and wonders of the animal and mechanical sort! Playgrounds, wooden treehouses connected by ladders and nets, a small creek, music making stations, lemurs, a butterfly house, mini remote controlled sailboats, really the list goes on and on. My kids love the Dinosaur trail, complete with fossil dig. There is a farm with live animals, a wild animal section with lemurs, bears, and wolves, and butterfly and insect house with all kinds of interesting creatures. There is a great train that goes around the park as well. Inside the visitor’s center, you’ll find another entire museum with great indoor exhibits, including simple machines, rockets and space exploration, fort building, and a toddler play area. Hope you and your family get to spend a few occasions exploring all that this great place has to offer!

With Love, Turtle Dove

Know Before you Go: There is so much to do at this center, it can take a long time to move through even the first few exhibits/sections.

The train does a loop around the park, but does not take you to any other parts of the park. There is a tunnel where visitors are encouraged to scream at the top of their lungs as they go through, both times. Fun, and surprising for some little ones!

There is a cafe in the visitors center with good coffee and a few snacks. The Sprout Cafe near the butterfly house has great allergen friendly selections and kids meals that always get the thumbs up over here

There are bathrooms near the entrance, the cafe and the sailboats.

Water play is great here. There is water in the Treehouse area and in the Mist area. Kids definitely get soaked. Watch out for loose rocks near the Water play stream in the treehouse area.


Prairie Ridge Ecostation


The NC Museum of Natural Sciences has a wonderful outpost for outdoor education with a pond, nature playspace, hiking trails, orchard, butterfly garden, and several fields full of tall whistling grasses. Bird blinds located near the play space and the pond are great for watching backyard birds and red-winged blackbirds. The playspace is full of fun activites that drive creative play, such as a well-equipped mud kitchen, waterplay, and fossil digs. Hikes are fun and kid-friendly, as there is lots of mowed space to run freely over the hill of the prairie trails. We especially love the energy education with wind and solar power examples, and the educaton garden with ideas for bird and bug friendly backyards. Screenshot_20180320-001257Best of all, there is a section of milkweed, and we always see monarchs in various stages of development!! Hope your family gets to play here soon!

With Love, Turtle Dove

Know before you go: There are bathrooms located at the classroom building, near the educational garden. There is no food available on site, but there are picnic tables by the stream if you bring your own.

There are a lot of tools in the sandbox and around the kitchen area to encourage imaginative play, some may be heavy or dangerous for young children.

We always get soaked here! The water play is great, but extra clothes and sandals are a good idea. Also, the water is turned off from late fall to spring.

There are nesting ground bees in some parts of the field and orchard, and bees are encouraged in the garden.


NC Museum of Natural Science and Research Center

We are in this museum so often that my children think of it as ‘our dinosaur museum!’ This place has amazing permanent exhibits, including a giant dinosaur room, several floors of wildlife dioramas, and a butterfly conservatory Screenshot_20180312-002611with a live (very sleepy) sloth. In addition, there’s a Discovery Room, full of costumes, microscopes, manipulatives, and touchables of all sorts, including live specimens! You can check out the schedule for daily movies, 3-d short films, and other paid activities, and there is always something new in the temporary exhibit hall that usually costs a small fee.

But wait… there’s more…  you can cross an indoor or outdoor pedestrian bridge over to the attached “Research Center,” where you can particiate in science activities led by local scientists in their labs! Several are open for activities each day, and others are open for viewing. So cool, right? And there’s also a 3 story movie room and a smaller underwater submarine simulator. I hope your family gets to spend a few days there and enjoys it as much as we do!

With love, Turtle Dove

Know before you go: NCMS admission is free, special exhibits and movies are not. Check their site for current costs.

School groups visit frequently weekdays before lunch.

The butterfly conservatory and Discovery room are closed on Mondays

The Daily Planet Cafe located on the Research center side has gluten free and dairy free options (and great coffee!)screenshot_20180312-000027.png