There's more to the State Capitol tree lighting on Thursday than just the lighting of a tree. Officials are planning an evening of family-friendly activities, including special events at the state history and natural sciences museums, all in downtown Raleigh.
Here's what's going on:
The event starts at 5 p.m. Thursday with the lighting of luminaries and holiday music by several groups. There will be cookies and hot chocolate. Mascots from local sports teams will be on hand. And Santa will make an appearance. Girl Scouts will seek food donations as they go "Caroling for Cans" throughout the evening.
Gov. Bev Perdue and her husband will officially begin the ceremony at 6:15 p.m. The tree, a 24-foot spruce from Ashe County, will be visible the length of Fayetteville Street once lit. After the ceremony, check out the inside of the historic building, which will be decorated for the holidays.
Both the state history and natural science museums will both be open late Thursday, good places to warm up and relax.
The N.C. Museum of History will stay open until 7:30 p.m. and offer some make-and-take crafts and other activities. Visitors also will get reduced admission of $5 to the "Discover the Real George Washington" exhibit. Kids under age 18 are, as usual, admitted for free. I saw this exhibit over Thanksgiving weekend and recommend it. There are several interactive opportunities for kids. And my five-year-old enjoyed looking at the life-size models of the first president.
The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences will be open until 7 p.m. Thursday with some "meet the animals" tables inside the museum on the first floor. The animals will include a gray ratsnake, softshell turtle, red-eared slider, guinea pig, dwarf hamsters, plated lizard and more. A lecture on rainforest biodiversity is scheduled for 7 p.m., though it's not really child friendly. It's a serious lecture.
Thursday kicks off a weekend of activities at the State Capitol. The open house continues through Sunday and will include holiday music, a Civil War Christmas encampment and other activities. Check the website for hours and details.
And the Executive Mansion, a few blocks from the State Capitol, also is open to the public Thursday through Sunday. Check the website for hours and details.