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.


NC Museum of Natural Sciences - Nature Research Center - Raleigh


    I took my toddler and infant sons to see the newly opened Nature Research Center at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. The Center has four floors but only the first three currently have exhibits. Each floor has a science theme such as Animal Science, Earth Science, and Genetics. And each floor has a laboratory where professional scientists are researching their particular field. The laboratories are all viewable through the glass windows that surround them. A touch screen in front of each laboratory even allows you to look at profiles of specific scientists at work and what their main interests are.


    The centerpiece of the new wing is the globe which houses a small theater called the Daily Planet. Visitors can wander through the theater and have a seat if they're on the first floor, or they can view the screen from balconies on the second and third floors which overlook the theater.

    The Research Center is a member of the new video generation of museums with view and touch screens almost everywhere. While some of the screens allow you to watch video feeds of scientists discussing their work, other screens deliver information traditionally through readable text.

     Although there were some highlights for my toddler - like the Chevy Volt stripped down to its' electric guts, the tank showing an artificial reef with fish,  and the Dinosaur skeletons - the Research Center is best appreciated by school-age children. I am betting that the Center will be a focal point for school field trips, especially since there are two laboratories where junior scientists can interact with scientific equipment.

     The Center has its' own cafe and souvenir shop. My toddler probably enjoyed the gift shop best of all because he could play with all of the dinosaur figures they had for sale.

Looking ahead..... The exhibit of Titanic artifacts is coming to the NRC at the end of September. This will be the well-reviewed exhibit's premiere in the Triangle, as it only came as close as Greensboro before this.


North Carolina Zoo - Asheboro

North America Entrance

Special Exhibit: DINOSAURS  (until Oct.)

Zoo website

    All of my kids are home for Spring Break, plus, my five year-old niece has been over a couple of days this week while her parents are getting ready to move. So my wife has the ambitious idea to take all four of the children to the Zoo. We were at the Zoo for maybe a half an hour before my wife turns to me and says: "I don't know what I was thinking and I am definitely not ready to take them to Disney!"

    It's not that the Zoo isn't kid friendly because it is, with all of the animals to see and the animal sculptures that the kids can climb on. But if you've ever tried to herd four children - all five and under - through a series of exhibits, you know how hard it can be on the parents. There are the runners, who run way ahead of us - too far, in fact. Then there is my two year-old, the lingerer, who likes to hang back and absorb every last ounce of an exhibit before he can move on to the next thing. And of course, there is my seven month-old who doesn't understand why he has been strapped to the stroller and decides to voice his unhappiness through tears.

     The NC Zoo is an awesome place to take the kids. It is designed like a theme park with its' two continents. But it is HUGE! And you will do a lot of walking which can generate a lot of complaining from young children. My daughter tends to get clumsy the more tired she gets so the injury count on this trip was: 1 skinned knee, 1 skinned elbow, and a hurt finger (Don't ask!). My advice is to make use of the trams that run between the two continents to cut down on some of the time little ones need to be on their feet. My other advice is don't try to see everything in one day. The Zoo has a lot of exhibits from bees to zebras and almost everything in between and everything is spread out. So if you can, stay overnight and conquer it in two days or plan on multiple trips.

      Financially speaking, the Zoo is not the most expensive place you can go in NC. With two adults, three children, and one child less than a year, we spent $54 on admission, including admission to the special Dinosaur exhibit. We didn't buy carousel tickets or pay for the Dinosaur 4-D Movie. And lunch at the Park wasn't as expensive as it could have been. We spent about $6 a person on lunch without buying drinks (which were $3 a piece) because we brought our own water bottles.

Special Exhibit: DINOSAURS

    Animatronics have come a long way since I was a kid. The motion of these beasts is pretty smooth,  unlike the jerky robotic movements I saw when I was growing up. This exhibit had my two year-old boy so freaked out he was in his mother's arms screaming "Hide! Hide!" the whole way through it. The two five year-old girls were a little weirded out too, although they deny it now and say they were screaming out of excitement. If you've seen this animatronic dinosaur display when it was at one of the other NC museums, then you can probably skip it at the Zoo. 
                                    ***********SPOILER ALERT************

   The last two dinosaurs - one on the right and one on the left of the trail - spit water from their mouths every minute or so. I avoided the first spray only to take the second directly in the face.

                               *************END OF SPOILER*************

    The kids all had a great time and were oblivious to all the work we, as parents, put in to making it a good day, which is how I suppose it should be. When asked, both girls said their favorite part was stopping for ice cream on the way home.