Here we go! Summer break ... or some version of it for the various school schedules that kids are on these days ... is here.
Summer break looks different for everybody. Some kids have long summers of doing nothing but swimming and playing. Others are walking into new camps each week or spending extended time at overnight camps. Others are hanging with babysitters or grandmas or neighbors while their mom and dad is at work.
Whatever your summer looks like, our 2015 summer break guide offers activity ideas that fit most ages, schedules and interests. Thankfully, around here, there's always something to do!
Free and cheap movies: Theaters, libraries and other venues offer free and very cheap movie series during the summer. Weekday series will start around the week of June 15. Our list of free and cheap summer movies include weekday, weekend, evening and year-round deals.
Public pools and spraygrounds: There's nothing like a splashing in an outdoor pool to cool you off on a hot summer day. Our public pool database has been growing over the last year with the addition of new spraygrounds, including one that is scheduled to open in Fuquay-Varina this summer. Our public pools database lists outdoor pools, indoor facilities and spraygrounds.
Summer reading programs: Libraries ramp up their programs for all ages in the summer with reading programs that encourage babies to adults to keep their noses in a book. They offer some fun incentives, games, activities, crafts and programs. Registrations begin in June. Programs typically run through July. Our summer reading program post offers details on programs across the region. Be sure to check with a library near you to sign up.
Outdoor movies: Museums, theaters and parks offer outdoor movies for all ages during the summer. They include popular series at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh and Booth Amphitheater in Cary. We also have new series at Apex Nature Park and Raleigh Little Theatre. Find them all in our outdoor movie post, which highlights the family-friendly options.
Road trip: How about a day at the beach at Topsail Island or a visit to Sylvan Heights Bird Park? Take a trip across North Carolina and visit one of many destinations across the region. I'll be adding to our Road Trip list this summer.
Sweet treats: Satisfy those sweet teeth with a treat. I've been focusing on local bakeries and other shops lately ... like Yellow Dog, Night Kitchen, Boulted Bread, The Cupcake Shoppe and The Chocolate Boutique. A couple of years ago, I featured more summery treats too. And, don't forget, Beaver's Bog Ice Cream is open through Aug. 31 at Durham's Northgate Mall with soft serve ice cream and stories and music for kids.
Dig It: The Secrets of Soil: Plenty of kids will be spending a fair amount of time actually digging in dirt as they play outside this summer. Why not learn a little bit about it, too? The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences' "Dig It" special expedition explores soil to show us how critical it is for everything we need - food, housing, life. And thanks to generous donations, there is no admission fee! It runs through Aug. 16.
Pretend play at Marbles: Two of Marbles Kids Museum's popular exhibits - the second floor Moneypalooza and the first floor play kitchen and grocery store in the Around Town exhibit - got some big upgrades in the last year. Also, stay tuned later this summer for the construction of an outdoor fort. Marbles, along with Triangle Moe's, are raising money for the project.
Treehouses in Durham: The Museum of Life and Science is scheduled to open its new and huge outdoor exhibit, Hideaway Woods, in late summer. Stay tuned for details about this ambitious project that includes multiple treehouses and a creek for playing in. In the meantime, you can check out the museum's new Gateway Park, which takes over the spot once home to Loblolly Park. The new park includes a climbing structure for all ages, a hillside slide and a large sand play area, along with benches for parents to rest.
New digs for Kidzu The Chapel Hill museum moved into some big digs earlier this year at University Mall. The nomadic children's museum, which has moved from space to space, should be here for at least a few years. It includes an indoor treehouse, The Makery, lots of opportunities for pretend play and daily programs.
Free Bowling: Some bowling alleys offer deals for kids and families during the summer. KidsBowlFree.com lists offers in Clayton, Fayetteville, Wilson and Roxboro, among other places. Buffaloe Lanes has a summer program for kids. AMF and other chains also offer deals.
Make and Take: Local art museums are offering free activities for kids and their parents this summer. The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University launches its Nasher Creates program for kids from 10 a.m. to noon, June 16. It continues on Tuesdays through Aug. 18. There's also a series for adults. The N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh will offer Pop-Up Art in the Pavilion from noon to 3 p.m., Wednesdays and Sundays, on June 10 and June 21, July 8 and July 19, and Aug. 12 and Aug. 16. The family-friendly art-making activities are inspired by the museum's park, which includes my new favorite, the whisper benches.
Search the stars: Morehead Planetarium and Science Center's summer schedule kicks off June 9 with planetarium shows Tuesday through Sunday. There's also a new Science 360 program on the free Science Stage called "Peek at Pluto," which explains the status of this "dwarf planet." Star Families, great for kids ages 7 to 12, feature Summer Skies on July 11 and Greek Myths and Legends on Aug. 15. Be sure to check Morehead's website for details, prices and to register for the Star Families programs.
Head to the ball park: We have lots of baseball in the Triangle. The teams offer special promotions and deals for sports fans. My family loves to take in a game or more each summer. The Durham Bulls' schedule includes regular fireworks, concession deals and more. The Carolina Mudcats has fireworks, appearances and deals.
Head to the zoo: The N.C. Zoo, about 90 minutes from the Triangle in Asheboro, has an animatronic dinosaur exhibit, a new habitat for polar bears and more. Don't forget: Zoo admission went up a bit in April.
Let them be bored: I say this every year: It's a good thing to be bored. So let's all agree to let the kids be bored at least a little bit this summer. They don't need every single moment scheduled or in front of some kind of screen. When my kids mention that they're bored, I usually list some chores that they could complete. It's funny how quickly they find something to keep them busy.