1. Ava Gardner Museum
325 E. Market St, Smithfield, NC 27577 · 919-934-5830
This small but intriguing museum presents a large collection of memorabilia related to Ava Gardner, Smithfield’s most famous daughter. Displays include childhood photographs, movie posters and some of Ava's film wardrobe. One of the most popular wardrobe pieces is a gown she wore in the 1949 classic "The Great Sinner," which co-starred Gregory Peck. An interesting excursion for movie buffs.
2. Duke University Nasher Museum of Art
Durham, NC 27701 · 919-684-5135
Offering a wide variety of exhibits, the Nasher Museum of Art provides rich insight into the fascinating world of art. Guests enjoy nine different permanent collections, as well as a number of temporary and traveling exhibits. Permanent collections include art from the Medieval, Renaissance and pre-Columbian eras, and contemporary works from 1945 to the present. In addition, the museum features wonderful collections of Latin American, Russian, and African art. Call for information about current special programs and temporary exhibits.
201 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27601 · 919-834-4040
In this Global Experience Center, you don’t even need a passport to tour the world, make new friends, and learn about life beyond your front doorstep. The “People and Places” exhibit allows children to become familiar with different regions and cultures around the world. “Living in Balance” is a station that teaches children about the relationships between humans and the natural world. With hands-on activities, the experiences offered here are compelling, enriching, and altogether unforgettable.
4. North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607 · 919-839-6262
North Carolina's premiere art museum, the NCMA has over 181,000 square feet of exhibit space divided into numerous galleries. The well-known European collection includes works from artists such as Claude Monet, Sandro Botticelli, and Peter Paul Rubens. Several galleries devoted to American artists feature works from such luminaries as Georgia O’Keeffe, Frank Stella, and Jacob Lawrence. Additional galleries present Oceanic, African, and Jewish ceremonial art. A popular restaurant and a museum shop are located on the premises. The museum’s 100-acre park is compleet with a walking trail, sculpture installations, and an amphitheater.
5. North Carolina Museum of History
5 E Edenton, Raleigh, NC 27601-1011 · 919-715-0200
Via informative displays, artifacts, photographs, flags and more, this beautiful, light-filled museum tells the story of North Carolina's history from Colonial times through the Confederacy to the present day. A replica of the Wright Brothers' plane is among the fascinating exhibits provided. This museum has so much to offer, one could easily spend an entire day viewing the displays. This is truly a great educational experience for children as well as adults!
6. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W Jones St, Raleigh, NC 27601-1029 · 919-733-7450
The Southeast’s largest natural history museum offers four floors of exhibits, live animals. The massive "Mountains to the Sea" exhibit, a recreation of North Carolina’s terrain and ecosystems, features native plants and a 20-foot waterfall. Other highlights include an Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur skeleton (the only one in the world on display), and Willo, the only dinosaur discovered with a fossilized heart. The hands-on Discovery Room, Exploration Stations, Living Conservatory (buzzing with live butterflies and hummingbirds), and Fossil Lab are open to the public daily - call for specific times.
7. Playspace Children's Museum
400 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27603-1220 · 919-832-1212
Bring your children to this fun-filled establishment, and let their imaginations run wild. Interactive stations allow youngsters to dress up in any number of costumes and play the part – be it a doctor or nurse, a famous movie star, or a bag boy/girl at the grocery store. When the children are exhausted from all of the excitement, they can enjoy the rest of the afternoon viewing the various educational exhibits in the museum. All children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
Top Weekend Getaways And Day Trip Excursions:
1. Artsplosure Spring Jazz and Art Festival
Raleigh, Raleigh, NC 27603 · 919-832-8699
This is a spectacular downtown event featuring a fusion of jazz and blues musicians as well as 150 juried art exhibits that feature over 200 artists. This event is held annually the third weekend in May. Check out their website at www.artsplosure.org.
2. Bull Durham Blues Festival
409 Blackwell St, Durham Athletic Park, Durham, NC 27701 · 919-683-1709
Come and "sing the blues" at this annual two-day festival held in September. Some of the country's best blues musicians and singers perform their renditions of old classics and new favorites. Call ahead for featured artists and entrance fees.
3. First Night Raleigh
Raleigh, Downtown, Raleigh, NC 27601 · 919-832-8699
This annual alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration presents more than 100 performing artists and arts groups in downtown Raleigh and features an afternoon Children's Celebration at the state Museums of History and Natural Sciences, followed by the People's Procession, evening performances in 35 inside venues and on outdoor stages, and ends with fireworks and the descent of the Raleigh acorn at Midnight.
4. Great Raleigh Road Race
500 Fayetteville St Mall, Raleigh Civic Center, Raleigh, NC 27601 · 919-831-6011
On your mark, get set, race! Held the third week in May during the Artsplosure weekend, this road race offers both a 10k and 5k run for jogging enthusiasts. Registration is $7 or $15 if you want a commemorative t-shirt.
5. Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour
Oakwood Ave, Historic Oakwood Association, Raleigh, NC 27604
Held for two days during the middle of December, this tour may be your only chance during the entire year to take a look inside some of Raleigh's most beautiful and historic homes. Homeowners invite you in to view festive holiday decorations and period furnishings and to share with you the history of their homes. This tour is not to be missed! Find information at www.historicoakwood.org.
6. Home, Garden and Flower Show
500 Fayetteville St Mall, Raleigh Convention And Conference Center, Raleigh, NC 27061 · 919-831-6011 Held annually during late February or early March, this event transforms the Convention Center into a gardener's haven with displays from local and regional garden centers, landscapers, and contractors.
7. Jimmy "V" Celebrity Golf Tournament
Prestonwood Golf Club, Cary, NC 27513 · 919-319-0441
This tournament, held on the weekend before Labor Day, honors former NCSU basketball coach Jim Valvano. Valvano’s family started the event in 1994 with the purpose of raising money for the “V” Foundation, a cancer research organization. Former participants have included such superstars as Michael Jordan and Kevin Costner.
8. Raleigh Antiques Extravaganza
500 Fayetteville St Mall, Raleigh Convention And Conference Center, Raleigh, NC 27601 · 919-831-6011
This biannual event takes place for three days during the months of January and July. It features over 100 exhibitors from all across the East Coast that showcase a wide variety of antiques, dolls and many other collectibles. Check out www.raleighconvention.com for exact dates and times.
9. St. Patrick's Day Parade
Moore Square Arts District, Raleigh, NC 27613 · 919-571-7869
Held on the weekend closest to St. Patrick's Day, this annual event has become a local favorite celebration of the Irish holiday. Features include the parade, Irish music and dance as well as a wide range of fun-filled children's activities. The second largest St. Pat's Day parade in the Southeast.