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Make time for final summer fun

Posted August 8, 2008

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— William Shakespeare wrote the truth. Back around the turn of the 17th century, he penned, “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

For him, like for most of us, summer is a long-awaited season that passes too quickly. The warm, drawn-out, carefree days soon give way to cooler and shorter ones, rushed mornings and hectic afternoons. But autumn’s days aren’t here yet, so savor the last precious tastes of summer with these suggestions of places to go and things to do close to home.

Chill out at the zoo

How do animals beat the heat? The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro shows visitors on a special weekend, Aug. 9-10, during its second annual ZooCool event. Watch zoo keepers serve ice treats during scheduled times to a variety of animals, including polar and grizzly bears, cougars, gorillas, baboons and meerkats. Then learn how the critters chill out in the sun.

Even cooler, “snow” fall is predicted all weekend at the North American bridge – with the help of machines cranking out thousands of nontoxic, evaporative foam flakes. Pamlico Joe, who combines his love of music with respect for the environment, performs both days with Cleanwater Flow at the Junction Plaza in the center of the zoo.

Watani Grasslands Reserve, the Zoo’s newest exhibit, recreates part of the wild African habitat for some of its most beloved residents: elephants, rhinos and antelope. Visitors can traverse the habitat’s 130-foot walkway to observe these exotic animals in their natural surroundings.

Offshoot “discovery trails” house an elephant game for children and an old bush-helicopter hangar with radio collars that rangers use for tracking elephants. Also new is the arbor mister, a large metal palm tree that emits a refreshing spray and gives human animals a chance to cool off too.

Attend a festival

Block off some space on your calendar for Aug. 23, the Saturday before traditional-calendar school starts in most Triangle-area public school districts, to hit one of the big summer festivals in the area that day.

First held in 1977 to lure artists to downtown Cary and to encourage its residents to explore this district, the Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival features high-quality arts and crafts, concessions, a Kid’s World and live entertainment.

Art aficionados can enjoy art activities, face painting, artist demonstrations, live music and delicious treats at Artspace’s Family Fun Day, also on Aug. 23. The carnival is held in conjunction with the Artspace Summer Arts Program Youth Exhibition.

Go paddling

Beginning and seasoned paddlers can spend a relaxing day on the water while enjoying wildlife and the scenery. Both the Haw River Canoe & Kayak Co. and Frog Hollow Outdoors offer canoe and kayak rentals, instruction and a variety of guided trips on the area’s waterways. Reservations are required and are best made several days in advance.

Travel back in time

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh hosts an up-close and fascinating exhibit of The Dead Sea Scrolls. Considered among the greatest archaeological treasures ever discovered, the exhibit’s biblical manuscripts represent nearly every book in the Hebrew Bible and predate any previously known copies by more than 1,000 years.

Siler City’s annual Old-Fashioned Farmers’ Day offers a glimpse into farm life of the past. A showcase of antique farm equipment and farming demonstrations – corn shredding, threshing, bailing and shingle milling – highlights Labor Day weekend, Aug. 29-31. Enjoy steam engines and antique tractor pulls. Watch kids’ cows compete in the junior dairy show.

Children can have a grand old time participating in contests and games, and adults can listen to the sounds of bluegrass and gospel music on two stages. The event also features authentic farm foods, homemade ice cream and farm animals.

Marvel at the wonder of flight

Airplane enthusiasts can head to Observation Park, located on the north side of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Situated near the air traffic control tower and Park and Ride Lot 2 off International Drive, the park overlooks the airport’s longest runway.
From the elevated deck, visitors can watch continuous takeoffs and landings and hear communication from the control tower to pilots. Free parking, picnic tables and a small playground are nearby, and two runway replicas allow children’s imaginations to soar while pretending to pilot their own aircraft. Fifteen vintage photographs showcase RDU’s finest moments, from its first commercial flight in 1943 to its welcoming of eight U.S. presidents over the years on Air Force One.

Get creative

Kidzu Children’s Museum in downtown Chapel Hill has unveiled its first original exhibit, KidZoom: The Power of Creativity!, inspiring children to unleash their creativity through art, construction, and growing and harvesting produce.

Hunt for natural treasures

Send the kids searching through nature on a scavenger hunt. Make a list of items in your backyard, a park or the playground. For children who aren’t yet reading independently, sketch the items to seek. A pine cone, pine needles, moss, a blade of grass, a rock and a leaf are just some examples. Scout the area in advance to be sure kids won’t run across any poison ivy, oak or sumac leaves.

Now, you make the rules. Collect items in a bag to be examined at the hunt’s conclusion or have kids use a digital camera to electronically capture each item. If you use cameras, the list can include things like a tree, squirrels and birds. Search in alphabetical order, by size or color, or race to find the objects in a set amount of time. Individually or in teams, the possibilities for scavenging fun are endless.

Feed the birds

Turn a pine cone into a tasty bird feeder by finding a pine cone and tying a long piece of yarn or ribbon around the bottom of it. Spread peanut butter all over the pine cone and under its scales. Roll the pine cone in a bowl of birdseed so the seeds stick to the peanut butter.
Place the pine cone in the freezer for about an hour to firm, then hang it outside from a small tree branch so squirrels can’t get to it. Cardinals and finches will soon flock to this hanging feeder, while doves and sparrows will enjoy nibbling the seeds that fall to the ground.

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