I know how hard it is to get young kids out of the house to go somewhere - even quick outings require you to pack enough snacks, diapers, and toys to make you think you’ll be gone for a week. And who wants to wrestle kids in and out of carseats just to find out that your destination isn’t kid-friendly? That’s why I’ve decided to visit Triangle area sites to see if they’re worth your trip. I won’t use a rating system but I’ll try to describe what you’ll see well enough for you to decide if your kids would find it interesting. I’ll also give you the heads up on bathrooms, stroller accessibility and any other SNAFUs I encounter.
Ackland Art Museum - Chapel Hill
I took the kids to Chapel Hill, originally intending to go to the Planetarium, but apparently they don't reopen until late in January. So, having driven all the way out to Chapel Hill from Knightdale I looked for anything else to do with the kids. Luckily, we passed by the Ackland Art Museum and having never been there I decided to try it.
First, know that parking for this specific Chapel Hill attraction is non-existent. There is no parallel parking on the street in front of the museum. There are no parking lots anywhere close to the museum. I parked at a nearby shopping center and hiked over with the stroller (I know that's a no-no and there were "customer only" parking signs). The Museum opened at 10am. The main doors are a little hard to get through if you have one of those long, double strollers like I do. The day we were there the museum was installing exhibits on the second floor so we didn't get to see anything up there. The staff, specifically the security guards, were some of the nicest people I've ever encountered. I told them I had never been there before and they hooked me up with a map. But the best part is that they had activity packs for the kids! They give you these clipboards with activity sheets and colored pencils in them. My kids' job was then to identify details in works of art they liked and try to sketch them out inside little squares on the paper. The idea, of course, is to break down a work of art into small, appreciable quadrants or zones for the kids - a good art skill. My 4 year-old daughter wasn't quite able to do this, but she loved the chance to just draw. They gave one of these activity packs to my 18 month-old son too. He wasn't quite able to do anything with it but he liked holding it and he appreciated them making it equal for him.
It's a small museum but there is a lot of cool stuff to see that I have never seen in other art museums. There is a whole room showing artifacts from the Silk Road. There's a large (about 2.5 feet) ancient Chinese sculpture of a horse, Roman coins, and a calligraphic piece of a Mosque doorway. In another room there is a sampling of medieval and Byzantine Christian artwork, including a bust of the Virgin Mary with very life-like eyes and some original Albrecht Durer prints.The temporary exhibit we saw was of North Carolina pottery. There were some very large pots in this exhibit and some fun face jugs. One of the face jugs has hands reaching up out of the top and a face with its' tongue sticking out on the inside bottom of the jug.
When we left, the guard gave my kids stickers and was again, very kind. I would definitely go back. It's a great intimate art museum with eclectic objects and best of all..... it's FREE.