Fair Destination: N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources exhibits
Posted October 20, 2016
The N.C. State Fair is a blur of activities - rides, games, animals, food. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement, hopping from one spot to the next.
I'm always on the look out for spots to slow the pace down a bit - free activities like the UNC-TV pavilion or the Field of Dreams or the new Casey's Clubhouse where kids can have some fun - and maybe learn a little something at the same time. This year's State Fair guide for families lists a lot of these places.
Add the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources exhibits to the list. The exhibits are inside and outside Dorton Arena. They feature the state's wide breadth of amazing resources - from museums and historic sites to beautiful parks, the N.C. Zoo and the state aquariums.
As Kevin Cherry, the department's deputy secretary, tells me: "We are the keeper of the state's treasures. ... We're the department of fun."
The department operates 39 state parks, four history museums, two art museums and 27 historic sites, among other facilities across the state.
Inside Dorton Arena, visitors can look at displays and, in some cases, video from places like the N.C. Zoo, the state's aquariums and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.
There's an opportunity to take your picture with a pirate to mark the June 2018 opening of the N.C. Maritime Museum's expanded Queen Anne's Revenge Expedition.
Kids might enjoy seeing the old-fashioned bicycles on display in the N.C. Transportation Museum exhibit, including an 1898 Chicago Flyer.
And there's even a dinosaur skull in an exhibit that focuses on the state's archaeology programs.
Head outside and you'll find the N.C. Park's tent. Inside, there's a canoe photo op, along with stationary mountain bikes that kids can pedal as they watch video of a ride through a Umstead State Park on a flat screen TV. For young children, there also are crafts. And, just outside, you can sit on tree stumps and take in a variety of free programs, including meet and greets with snakes. Park rangers will lead programs through Friday.
Park rangers also are there to answer questions and share more information about the park's programs, including the 100-mile challenge and the state parks' passport program.
"This is to show people what's there," Cherry said. "This is theirs. We just take care of it for them."
The exhibits are free with fair admission. The fair runs through Sunday.