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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Take the Kids: JC Raulston Arboretum

Posted October 19, 2021 7:00 a.m. EDT

— It’s been a few years since I’ve visited the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh (it’s right near the fairgrounds). Our yard is full of fresh dirt as we are trying to grow grass and I desperately needed to get the kids outside to burn off some energy. So we hopped in the car for a visit.

The garden is open seven days a week and free! It features 10 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and pathways. Part of the mission of the Arboretum is to “introduce, display and promote plants that diversify the American landscape.”

My youngest is about to turn 2 years old and is currently only interested in making his own decisions and exercising his freedom. The best part about the Arboretum is that he could safely do that! There are multiple paths. Some are brick, some are rock, some are sand and some are paved. He and my daughter could choose where they wanted to go and had a blast skipping along the paths as if it were their own secret garden.

They loved seeing the butterflies and birds. We talked about the different colors we saw and they were happy to have the freedom to explore (as long as they stayed on the paths). Again, having a variety of well-designated paths allowed the kids to choose their own way to go with little guidance from me. I only had to chase my toddler out of a garden bed once (and no plants were harmed in the process). They also followed the “look, but don’t touch” rule very easily.

We stayed for about 45-minutes and walked about half of the gardens. Even on an overcast day, the beautiful colors and open air rejuvenated all of our spirits.

Cool Extras Just for the Kids

The JC Raulston Arboretum offers tours, workshops, plant sales and lectures. It also offers Children’s Programming which includes monthly garden kits you can purchase online! The activity kids sold out multiple times already this year. They also offer programs for homeschoolers, school groups and even summer camps! Find out more on their website: https://jcra.ncsu.edu/education/childrens-program/index.php.

Things to Know

  • The garden is a teaching and research facility, not a park. Leave the soccer ball, Frisbee or kite at home.
  • Pets are not allowed. Service animals are welcome.
  • Several areas are accessible by wheelchair, however many paths are unpaved and their condition or accessibility may be weather-dependent.
  • The Arboretum is free, but donations are greatly appreciated.
  • There is a small parking lot available and street parking is also an option.
  • There are bathrooms in the Visitor Center and Education Center (closed on Sundays) near the entrance of the Arboretum and one set of bathrooms located inside the gardens.

Check the website for special events and more details on restricted or limited hours.


Tara Lynn is a former WRAL reporter and anchor. She lends her 15-plus years in journalism to tell visual stories through love-filled photography for families of all kinds. The mother of three little humans and one senior rescue dog believes in celebrating magic in the little things, the big loves, and the imperfect moments that make the most remarkable memories. Her vision is to help families celebrate and share their love through photography and curated album artwork that become timeless keepsakes connecting multiple generations...because moments often pass in the blink of an eye, and the photographs we take connect us to our memories and our great loves, forever.

You can find Tara Lynn on Instagram at @TaraLynn_andCo and TaraLynnAndCo.com. Learn more about her photography at TaraLynnAndCoPhoto.com.