Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Last-Minute Gifts: Day trips, classes

Posted December 22, 2015

Morehead Planetarium Skywatching sessions at Jordan Lake (credit: Lee Capps)

I'm wrapping up this little series offering ideas for gifts that don't clutter your house.

I've written about museum memberships and tickets to shows and sporting events. Let's talk about day trips and local classes and activities for kids and families. Again, these don't have to be expensive outings or productions. It's all about spending time together as a family. Tickets can be wrapped up under the tree or stuck in stockings.

We'll start with destinations ... here are just a few suggestions. Of course, please share your favorites in the comments.

Cipher Escape is one of several new escape room destinations that have opened here in the Triangle over the last year or so. In Morrisville, this location features several escape rooms where groups solve a series of riddles to "escape" the room. This is fantastic fun for families with older kids - about age 8 and up. I highly recommend it! Tic Toc Escapes and Raleigh Room Escapes are other options.

Go Ape, the treetop adventure park at Blue Jay Point County Park in northern Wake County, has been very popular. The spot features zip lines, Tarzan swings, all kinds of obstacles and more ... high up in the trees. Tickets range between $38 and $58 per person, depending on the age.

For young kids, Notasium, the new music-based play space in Durham, is a fun destination with a bounce house, indoor slide and other activities. Tickets for a day of play would make a fun stocking stuffer. Admission is $8 and $6 for siblings.

Sylvan Heights Bird Park: One of my favorite places that I've written about in recent years. This Scotland Neck destination is about 90 minutes from the Triangle and features one of the world's largest collections of waterfowl and other birds. It's an amazing collection in a pristine setting where you can get up close and personal with a variety of birds. This is really a unique experience. Tickets are $10 for ages 13 to 61; $6 for kids ages three to 12; $8 for seniors; and free for children under age three.

The Conservators' Center in Mebane offers group and individual tours, giving visitors a chance to see some amazing animals - from lions and tigers to singing dogs and binturongs - up close. I just had a chance to take a premium tour - which would be a great present for a family or group of friends.

Other places to see animals in the region: How about giving tickets to the N.C. Zoo, the Duke Lemur Center or Carolina Tiger Rescue.

Finally, have you been to Hideaway Woods at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham? I know I've mentioned this one a million times, but it is that good! The outdoor exhibit features a collection of tree houses, trails, a man-made stream for playing in and much more. It's included in the price of admission to the museum, which is $11 for kids ages 3 to 12 and $16 for adults. The museum also has regular programs and classes for kids and families.

And here are a few ideas for classes and programs ...

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center: The Chapel Hill spot hosts monthly Star Families programs for kids ages 7 to 12 and their adults. The next one is Jan. 16 and focuses on winter skies. Registration is required for these. The fee is $6.51 for kids and $7.68 for adults. Morehead also offers monthly skywatching sessions on Jordan Lake and elsewhere. These are fantastic activities, especially for families with older children who won't get thrown off by a late night looking at stars in the sky.

N.C. Museum of Art: The Raleigh museum offers Family Fun Saturdays twice a month. Designed for kids ages 5 to 12 and their adults, the program includes a gallery tour and workshop. There's a different theme each week. Tickets are $5.

N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences: The Raleigh museum hosts a variety of all year, including regular Citizen Science Saturdays at Prairie Ridge Ecostation, 3D movies and special exhibits. The Extreme Mammals exhibit is fun.

Marbles Kids Museum: These aren't classes really, but special events at the Raleigh museum that include crafts, snacks and other activities. They include A Princess Tea on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24 and a Superhero Power Party on May 14. Tickets are $20 per person ($15 for Marbles members).

Park Programs: All of the region's parks departments have a variety of family programs. Be sure to check with the park department near you to find out what's offered. In Wake County, you can work together with your kids ages 5 to 15 to become a junior naturalist.

If you have a favorite, please share in the comments!

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