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.


Museum of Life and Science - Durham


         This Museum is IMPRESSIVE! I would put this at the top of my list of places to go in the Triangle. Imagine a kids' museum combined with a science museum and throw in a theme park for good measure. This complex is bigger than Marbles and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. There is something here for every age group. When we walked in, my toddler got out of his stroller and ran around to check everything out and he never stopped. My preschooler cried when we had to leave - after five hours - and we still didn't see everything.

        There are indoor exhibits and outdoor exhibits. The first floor has interactive exhibits on weather, geology, paleontology, and aeronautics. My favorite part of the first level was an exhibit with live owls, alligators, turtles and snakes native to NC. The second level has exhibits exploring human health and safety. The upstairs exhibits were mostly for kids older than mine, but there was a hand washing experiment that involved a black light and some germ-simulating lotion. I wish I had brought some motel bedsheets.

       Another building houses the tropical butterfly collection and insectarium. The butterflies are unbelievable and mostly from Central and South America. The insectarium has some really interesting specimens, including some huge spiders hanging from webs that are not behind glass. My preschooler was freaked out by them until the keeper came to throw live bugs in their webs, then my daughter surprised me by getting as close as she could to watch the action.

       The outdoor activities are just as impressive. Check out the:
  • huge play structure
  • water experiments
  • drumming setup
  • farm animals
  • life-size dinosaur replicas
  • wild animal habitats
The Ellerbe Creek Railway
      My favorite, and my toddler train enthusiast's favorite, of the outdoor activities was the light gauge railway. There is a separate fee to ride the train ($2.75) but it is well worth it. Along the ride you get to see the dinosaur replicas, woodlands, go through a tunnel, and feel the breeze when the train goes downhill. Your ticket buys you two loops around the track. The engineer/conductor we had made it a lot of fun just by enjoying his job.

     We didn't make it to the "Explore the Wild" outdoor animal habitats or the "Catch the Wind" outdoor exhibit because the kids were just too tired. It's hard to see everything at this Museum in just one day. My only critique of the Museum is that I wish it had an earlier opening time than 10am so we could see more before it got to be nap-time. There is a cafe on the campus which you will need because you can easily devote a day here. The Museum is in the middle of a residential neighborhood so there aren't a lot of other nearby options for food. There are picnic facilities, however, if you wanted to bring a lunch.

     The admission is high - 12.95 per adult and 9.95 per child age 3-12 - but you get a lot for your money and it was definitely worth it. If you plan on going several times during the year you might want to check into a Museum membership that would pay for itself in about 3 visits.

A pig getting a pat at the farm animal exhibit.

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