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.


Harris Energy and Environmental Center - New Hill (near Apex)


        This is the visitor's center for the Harris Nuclear Power Plant. The Energy and Environmental Center is not inside the gated area of the actual power plant. The E&E Center is at 3932 New Hill Holleman Rd., New Hill, NC. You will need this address to get to the Center because the address cannot be found anywhere on the Web. You will also have to make an appointment to visit the E&E Center during weekday business hours. It is easy to make an appointment, though. You can do it by phone (919-362-3263) or by email - the email address is provided in the link at the top of this page.

       On the way to the Center, I explained to my preschooler that the place we were going to visit makes the power that powers all of our lights, heat, TV, etc. I then pointed out the overhead power lines that we passed alongside the road and explained that those wires took the power from the plant to our house and other people's houses. She seemed to understand all of this - "Oh Dad, that explains everything."

       The reason I took the kids to the Center is that my wife had taken her fourth grade class on a field trip there and she said that the Center would probably be fun for our kids. The E&E Center advertises that its' exhibits are for middle school age and older. And in fact, when we arrived, the hostess seemed worried that my young children would get hurt on the undersides of the exhibits or by falling down the stairwell.  I will testify that I did not see anything dangerous under the exhibits - in fact I don't even think my small kids could fit under any of the exhibits - and I was able to keep my kids from falling down the stairwell. The kids didn't even notice the stairwell. My guess is that the hostess' apprehension stems from the fact that they probably don't see a lot of young children coming in for a visit.

      The front room exhibits focus on the history of electricity and the construction of the Harris Plant. My kids weren't that interested in those exhibits. The real fun for them was going into the back room where they could walk through a metal detector (it wasn't on), work in a guard station, and use mirrors to examine the underside of a real car. It was pretty cool I have to admit. In the guard station they could move a security camera with a joystick while watching what it sees on a monitor. They could also turn on security lights and sound a very loud and obnoxious security alarm. There were even real bullet-proof vests for them to wear. I put one on my toddler and it was so big and heavy that, when I draped it over him, it pulled him to the ground.

      In the next room there were some more exhibits where kids could generate electricity. There were also exhibits on radiation, power lines, and the giant Harris Plant cooling tower that is visible for several miles. An interactive computer screen, in this room, allows you to take a virtual tour of the Power Plant.

Model of the cooling tower that kids can go in
         It took us about 40 minutes to go through all of the exhibits. There are clean public restrooms and a watercooler at the Center.

         Did my kids understand everything they saw at the Center? No, probably not. But did they have fun? I can honestly say 'yes.' The interactivity of the security exhibit was like the exhibits you find at Marbles Kid's Museum, only this was free.You could also combine a trip to the E&E Center with a trip to the North Carolina Railway Museum - the Railway is within five miles of the Center.


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