We are fortunate to have many specialized sports complexes and team leagues to help kids expend some energy and learn leadership and discipline skills along the way. Complexes like Baseball Rebellion (currently based in Hillsborough, but planning to move to Durham soon), Bull City Gymnastics, OC Gymnastics in Hillsborough and Chapel Hill Gymnastics offer coaching and space to help your child improve on their skills.
Get some practice in during the off-season with team leagues. Start by looking at your local parks and recreation department or YMCA. A few other fun local options include Fusion Lacrosse, Rainbow Soccer and Triangle Ultimate (ultimate frisbee).
There’s also the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Pacers Youth Running Club for boys and girls ages 7-18 and the Bouncing Bulldogs, as seen on the previous page, which offers jump rope classes for all ages. Orange County SportsPlex in Hillsborough features a skating rink, hockey leagues for young’uns and a pool.
In addition to the children’s Saturday matinees during the American Dance Festival (ADF) in the summer (learn more in our roundup of seasonal family fun on page 6), ADF’s Samuel H. Scripps Studios in Durham also offers a range of classes, workshops and camps for all ages and levels. Dance with your little one – starting with infants – or introduce your movement-focused kiddo to ballet, hip-hop, jazz, modern dance and much more. Other dance studios in Durham include Barriskill Dance Theatre School, Bellan Contemporary Dance Theatre, Dance Theatre South, Encore Academy of Dance, Nina’s School of Dance and Ninth Street Dance. For a comprehensive list, pick up the latest Durham Magazine Visitors & Relocation Guide. And in the Chapel Hill, check out Ballet School of Chapel Hill, Renner Dance Company, Studio A DanceArts and Triangle Youth Ballet.
ARTS & CRAFTS
The ArtsCenter in Carrboro and Durham Arts Council both offer a wide range of arts opportunities, including metalsmithing, photography, jewelry, fiber arts, ceramics, dance, design and performing arts. The ArtsCenter also welcomes art-loving kindergarten through fifth-graders in an arts-based after-school immersion program.
Nonprofit creative reuse center The Scrap Exchange in Durham challenges youngsters to use their imagination in the Make N Take Room and Design Center, which are regularly offered as open studios for a small fee. Workshops and seasonal programming are also available for more directed fun.
And, for ever-changing exhibitions and a selection of regular kids’ art programming, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and Ackland Art Museum at UNC are great places for your young artist to find inspiration.
If your little one is a budding zoologist, our area has plenty of opportunities for him or her to see animals up close. The largest and most diverse collection of lemurs live right in our backyard at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, which offers Little Lemur tours for children younger than 8 years old, a Lemur Keeper for a Day program and even Painting with Lemurs. Book your tour or event ahead of time, as they tend to fill up fast.
If big cats are more your thing, look no further than Pittsboro’s Carolina Tiger Rescue, where you can witness lions, servals, cougars, caracals, ocelots and, of course, tigers. They offer a reading hour/book tour every month (check out page 36 for more info), as well as a range of public tour, private tour and camp options.
Museum of Life and Science in Durham hits the mark for kiddos interested in space, sound, science, insects (butterflies, especially) or dinosaurs – it’s the perfect place to spend the day exploring (the Hideway Woods exhibit is a must). The wide variety of animals is one of their main attractions. The Explore the Wild exhibit features black bears and lemurs. Carolina Wildlife has woodchucks, skunks, alligators and more. And, at the farmyard, you can meet alpacas and miniature Hereford cows. A significant addition are the museum’s four endangered red wolf pups, who were born in April 2017. It’s been a joy to watch these little guys grow from fuzzy balls of fluff to teenage wolves.
Barnyard friends like the Beltie cows at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro can also be found at 1870 Farm in Chapel Hill, Hux Family Farm (goats galore) in Durham, Blue Whistler Farm in Durham and Funny Girl Farm in Durham.
Heavy hitters in this category would certainly be the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, which both offer educational programming throughout the year. The Botanical Garden recently opened their Children’s Wonder Garden filled with hands-on activities, while Duke Gardens offers gardening open hours, nature navigator programs, storytimes and other activities to engage your little ones.
Kidzu Children’s Museum in Chapel Hill also recently opened up a children’s garden outside its University Place space, which features an interactive wooden beehive and plenty of opportunities to get your hands dirty.
Other neat spots to take your nature-loving explorers include the Coker Arboretum on UNC’s campus, Eno River, Jordan Lake and Triangle Land Conservancy’s long list of Orange, Durham, Chatham and Wake County nature preserves like the new Brumley Forest Nature Preserve.
Schoolhouse of Wonder in Durham offers camps during the summer but also day-long field trips for groups, preschool nature-based exploration programs and weekend family adventures based on various themes.
Every April, the Piedmont Farm Tour invites families out into the countryside to meet farmers and try stellar local grub. Their guide, available online, will point you to the sites with the greatest child appeal.
And, finally, visit Maple View Farm in Hillsborough and treat yourself to farm-fresh ice cream. Follow the farm on social media for the latest on their family-friendly and educational events.
Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is a must for the space-savvy little ones in your life. Exhibits introduce kids to the purpose of the planetarium, and a host of planetarium shows revolve around themes from black holes to Galileo, to Science Live! Programs that demonstrate experiments right before your very eyes. For a special look at the stars, check out one of the center’s off-site skywatching adventures.
Southern Season’s Cooking School and Midway Community Kitchen, both in Chapel Hill, regularly offer kid-focused cooking classes throughout the year. Midway and C’est si Bon in Chapel Hill also offer summer cooking camps. And C’est si Bon features foodie teen getaways to Europe and within North Carolina, the latter of which includes a stay at The Inn at Celebrity Dairy in Siler City. Farmers markets like Durham Farmers’ Market, Carrboro Farmers’ Market and Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market regularly supply kid-geared educational programming, along with local food fests like Abundance NC’s Pepper Festival in September.
On rainy days or days too hot to be outside (we have many here) – or just any old day with nothing planned – Notasium in Durham offers a great interactive, music- based play space designed to interest kids of all ages. It’s an awesome area for siblings to utilize while brothers and sisters take part in music lessons – from banjo, to bassoon, voice to drum and beyond – at Notasium’s music school. Other programs where the musically inclined can hone their craft include Chapel Hill School of Musical Arts, High Strung Violins & Guitars in Durham (check out an Instrument Petting Zoo), Girls Rock NC in Durham, Russell Lacy Music in Durham, School of Rock in Chapel Hill and Cary, Let There Be Rock School in Durham, Durham Children’s Choir or the Piedmont Youth and Family Orchestra.
Many local nonprofits like Meals on Wheels, PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Ronald McDonald House in Durham and Chapel Hill and others will allow children to volunteer alongside their guardians. Check out The Triangle Nonprofit & Volunteer Leadership Center (formerly Volunteer Center of Durham), an organization that can connect you and your child with a nonprofit volunteer opportunity that best suits your interests.
Photography by Briana Brough