Raleigh with Tweens - A Perfect Family Day
Start your day at the North Carolina State Capitol Building (1 E. Edenton St., Raleigh, NC 27601 919-733-4994) Self-guided tours are available Monday through Friday while guided tours are available on the weekends. Be sure to take advantage of the guided tours to hear more about the fire that destroyed the original capitol in 1831 and the ghosts that haunt the current building. Check out the gorgeous architecture from the first floor rotunda and head to the second floor to see where the early legislators met and wrote the laws that still stand today. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of current Governor Beverly Perdue, who has an office in the building located on the first floor of the building. From there, take time to circle the building and take in the beautiful landscape and statues, which give tribute to past politicians and Presidents.
After the capitol, take a quick stroll across the street to the North Carolina Museum of History (5 E. Edenton St., Raleigh, NC 27601 919-807-7900) and take in the full history of North Carolina dating back to the mid-1700s. Throughout the museum you'll find relics from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I and II and learn about the state's American Indian communities. And hanging from the ceilings are planes of old and modern day. There's also a whole area recreated to look like the interior of a 1920s drugstore complete with a pharmacist's work room and an authentic soda fountain. Admission to the museum is free and the museum is open from 9AM-5PM Monday-Saturday and noon-5PM on Sundays.
Next, head a few hundred feet down the sidewalk to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (11 West Jones St. Raleigh, NC 27601 919-733-7450) This particular museum is four floors of wonder and awe but, as by now it's probably lunchtime, head to the fourth floor and enjoy lunch at the Acro Café. As you sit and eat your lunch, you will notice you are right next door to the Living Conservatory where butterflies and a live sloth call home. The floor-to-ceiling glass allows you to take in the exhibit, but after lunch, you must take a tour. Butterflies circulate the room and may just land on your hand as you enjoy the vegetation and wildlife. After, you must check out the dinosaur exhibit or the Arthropod Zoo. On the third floor, you can see even more dinosaurs, and there's wildlife from the sea to the mountains. Venture to the second floor for more exhibits from the three regions of North Carolina, and the underground. Gold was discovered in North Carolina, and a number of settlers traveled to the Piedmont region in search of riches. On the first floor, visitors are welcomed by North Carolina's natural treasures and an extensive exhibit that profiles the Coastal Region. And, of course, there is an incredible gift shop on the first floor where you can find the perfect souvenir.
Right across the street from the Museum of Natural Sciences is the North Carolina General Assembly (16 West Jones St., Raleigh, NC 27601 919-733-7938) which is open to the public seven days a week. As you walk in the front doors, you will immediately notice the magnificent red carpeted stairway that takes visitors to the second floor. If the State Senate and House of Representatives are in session, you are more than welcome to sit in the balcony and listen in on the day's agenda. Each of the opulent rooms has a history as well. There are 30 minute guided tours as well as self-guided tours that begin at the Legislative Information Desk.
The best part about the museums and government buildings in Raleigh is that they are all free -- and so is the parking.
After a fun filled day in Raleigh with your tweens, enjoy dinner at a local eatery like the Tir Na Nog Irish Pub & Restaurant (218 South Blount St., Raleigh, NC 27601 919-833-7795). The name itself stands for "land of eternal youth" and after a day of sightseeing a little youthful environment may invigorate the senses. Another family favorite is the Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen (7307 Tryon Rd., Cary, NC 27518 919-233-1632) with a menu filled with traditional southern cooking.
Raleigh beckons you and your tweens to an incredible day of adventure and fun. So come on down y'all and enjoy!