10 Free, Fun Places to Take Kids in the Raleigh-Durham Area

Explore the Triangle with kids at these fun, educational locations and events happening in the area that are sure to please all interest types.

The Triangle is full of fun—and free—things to do and places to go.

Plan a full week of kid-friendly activities during your visit to the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area by adding these 10 activities or destinations to your to-do list.

1. Triangle Lakes

The Triangle is home to various small lakes and two large lakes: Jordan Lake west of Apex and Falls Lake north of Raleigh. Operated by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, enjoy a day or weekend of camping, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking and picnicking at either location. Falls Lake State Recreation Area, 13304 Creedmoor Road, Wake Forest, NC, 919.676.1027. Jordan Lake, 280 State Park Road, Apex, NC, 919.362.0586

2. State Farmers Market

Enjoy fresh flowers, plants, produce and specialty items from North Carolina farmers in the 30,000-square-foot farmers building or browse market shops in the 15,600-square-foot Market Shoppes building. Dine at one of three restaurants: Market Grill, the State Farmers Market Restaurant or N.C. Seafood. 1201 Agriculture St., Raleigh, NC, 919.733.7417

3. Public Libraries

State Library of North Carolina
Durham County Library
Orange County Library
Wake County Library
• Town of Chapel Hill Public Library
From story times and puppet shows for preschoolers to writing and LEGO workshops for elementary school-aged kids, public libraries offer a variety of free programs for families. Many also offer book clubs and SAT practice sessions for teens.

4. Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Experience 55 acres of gardens in what has been called "the crown jewel of Duke University." Enjoy five miles of allées, walks and pathways through the gardens. Kids will enjoy walking across the "zig-zag bridge" and playing on the grass beside the large garden pond. Try out the organic food garden. 420 Anderson St., Durham, NC, 919.684.3698

5. RDU Observation Park

Visit the RDU Observation Park to watch planes land and take off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport's 10,000-foot runway. Listen to piped-in pilot-tower communications from the nearby Air Traffic Control Center, check out the play area, and take a picnic or dine at Crosswinds Café in the General Aviation Terminal. You can even host birthday parties at the RDU Observation Park. 2400 W. Terminal Blvd., Morrisville, NC, 919.840.2123

6. Spring and Summer Outdoor Concert Series

Enjoy free live music in Triangle towns all summer. Try the Midtown Beach Music Series on the Commons at North Hills in Raleigh, the Carolina Inn's Fridays on the Front Porch series in Chapel Hill, the Back Porch Music on the Lawn Series in downtown Durham and many others.

7. Greystone Recreation Center

Designed for ages 5-12, this free indoor playground with a climbing structure and 8-foot traverse rock-climbing wall makes for a great rainy day destination. The center's rubber surface ensures safe landings. 7713-55 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh, NC, 919.996.4848

8. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

The No. 1 "Most Visited" site in North Carolina, according to Carolina Publishing Associates, offers free access to natural sciences exhibits, programs and special events, as well as the new Nature Research Center with the SECU Daily Planet, a three-story multimedia center. Leave time to head across the mall to the North Carolina Museum of History, which is also free. 11 W. Jones St., Raleigh, NC, 919.707.9800

9. Pullen Park

In this park, kids can hop on the miniature train, ride a 1911 carousel—listed in the National Register of Historic Places—cruise around a small pond in kiddie boats or rent pedal boats to power on Lake Howell. The playground centers around themes of history, art and nature, and has four age-appropriate sections. 520 Ashe Ave., Raleigh, NC, 919.996.6468

10. Raleigh Flea Market at N.C. State Fairgrounds

Ranked by CNN as one of America's top flea markets, the Raleigh Flea Market features more than 600 indoor and outdoor vendors. Browse antiques, jewelry, furniture, produce and more in this outdoor, family-friendly atmosphere. 1025 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, NC, 919.899.3532

Beth Shugg
About the author

Beth Shugg is the editor of Carolina Parent magazine and Where® (Raleigh-Durham). She and her husband, Chris, are...