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.


Morehead Planetarium and Science Center - Chapel Hill


    This was my second, and finally successful attempt, to go to the Planetarium (see my blog on the Ackland Art Museum). Since my wife, a school teacher, is tracked out, I had an extra person on my team for this trip. We parked in the public lot in front of the Planetarium. It is a pay lot so you will spend $1.50 an hour. We arrived right when the show was starting and the attendant was nice enough to let us go into the theater and pay for the show after it was over - he also helped by lighting the way for us as we entered the very dark theater.

      Don't try to see this attraction on the cheap. In other words, pay for the tickets to see one of the shows. You can see the exhibits for free, but they're really not the main attraction here and would probably not be worth the drive on their own.It turned out that the "Zoom In" exhibit was closed the day we visited so we wouldn't have been able to see it anyway. School field trips are often scheduled during the week and this was the case on the day we were there. We were able to benefit from the show that was already scheduled for the school group because there were still enough seats in the theater for us.

    We saw the show Magic Treehouse Space Mission which is based on the Magic Treehouse book series for children http://www.magictreehouse.com/#.  My four year-old is familiar with the series which made this film more enjoyable for her. The film is very kid-friendly. Usually my four year-old constantly asks questions when she sees a movie for the first time, so the fact that she was silent during the whole thing was a good indication that she was completely engrossed. Even my 18 month-old sat still through the whole film and didn't feel the need to wander - which is a minor miracle.There was a part where it became completely dark in the theater, and another part where the sun flew into view that spooked my 18 month-old a little, but he quickly recovered. Other younger children in the theater cried at various times in the movie so I guess it all depends on the temperament of your child. If you are prone to motion sickness, as I am, seeing the stars pass by all around you (the projection screen is a huge dome surrounding you) may force you to look away at times to avoid nausea. Even my wife and I learned something from the film about the different space probes that have visited other planets in our solar system.

     After the film, the theater attendant projected what the night sky looks like right now in NC and pointed out some constellations for us. This was my favorite part of the visit and I wish more time would have been spent on it. Did you know there is a bunny rabbit constellation?

     The gift shop is large and is the first thing you see upon entering.Kids will find plenty of attractive things in it - my 18 month-old liked the stretchy rubber aliens. The prices of things in the gift shop are reasonable. We bought both of the kids a book on outer space and astronauts to help us answer the questions they would have later. According to my wife, the bathrooms are clean and well maintained. The planetarium shows are a little pricey - $7.25 per adult and $6 for children 3-12 - so I had to pay for my four year-old.I guess it's a little less than going to the movie theater.

      On the other side of the building, is the UNC Welcome Center. You can get to it by walking around the right out-side of the building or by going downstairs in the Planetarium and then walking up another flight of stairs. In the rotunda of the Welcome Center, is a life-size statue of President James K. Polk - an alum of UNC and NC resident. There are also oil portraits of famous Americans that line the wall. A pendulum clock originally designed for the rotunda is housed in a panel on the wall. The clock has its' own mechanism that keeps it wound.

      Getting my four year-old introduced to the solar system was well worth the trip and the planetarium show price.

statue of President Polk

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