History, Science and Fun Await You In Raleigh

If the summer heat has you scrambling for something cool to do, why not take a road trip to Raleigh? The capitol city boasts eclectic cafes, cozy pubs, funky shops and some of the best museums in the southeast. If you head out early enough, you just might be able check them all out in a single day.06-22-11-day-trippin-pic-1.jpg

The North Carolina Museum of History, located downtown at 5 East Edenton St., is a great place to start. With more than 55,000 square feet of space, the museum houses more than 150,000 artifacts, some of which date back six centuries. Susan Lamb, the museum’s public information offi cer, says, “There is always something new to see and do so come and explore North Carolina’s rich history and learn about its people. The museum’s compelling exhibits highlight the state’s military history, sports heroes, decorative arts and more, and admission is free.”

This summer the museum is once again hosting its 2nd Saturdays series which features craft demonstrations by talented toymakers, jewelry designers and potters. Most of these programs are free and during the months of July and August, hands-on make-it-and-take-it sessions will allow attendees to actively participate in activities such as bead and ornament making.

Currently the museum is offering part one of a fun and interactive exhibit entitled, The Story of North Carolina. The engaging format offers visitors the opportunity to tour a reproduction of an American-Indian dwelling, milk a cow and fi nd out what a pirate ship in the 1700s really looked like. For more information about exhibits, hours, parking and more, visit the museum website at www.ncmuseumofhistory.org.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, located right across the plaza, is one you shouldn’t miss. Four fl oors of exhibits include a 20-foot indoor waterfall, live butterfly house as well as real animals. Sometimes referred to as “the dinosaur museum,” this is one the kids will love! The Discovery Room gives children the ability to explore on their own by trying on animal costumes or using microscopes to take closer looks at items ranging from coral to butterfly wings. If you happen to get hungry while there, no worries, there’s a café on the fourth floor.

Our Expanding Oceans is a special exhibit running now through Nov. 6 that explores global climate themes ranging from icebergs to rising seas. The museum stays open late every first Friday (with the exception of July).

“This is a great night out for younger adults. We have a live band, serve beer/wine and snacks, have a reception for a new gallery artist and the best part, (we) show a really bad sci-fi flick in the auditorium,” said Jonathan Pishney, communication director, adding that one recent film shown was, Devil Girl From Mars. He noted that while the events are free, they do charge for food and beverages.

Perhaps their biggest event of the year is the annual BugFest, which will be held on Sept. 17. The highlight of this free event is the food that’s served. If you happen to be a fan of bug-infused delicacies like “ant-chiladas” or “chocolate chirp cookies” (think crickets), then you need to put this one on your calendar. Keep up with museum news by visiting the website at www.naturalsciences.org.

Also located downtown in Moore’s Square is the well-known children’s museum, Marbles. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining indoor destination than this whimsical place! Catering to kids 10 and under, Marbles is explosive with hands-on activities and exhibits. One of the museum’s most popular exhibits, Splash, features a science submarine where youngsters can don lab coats, gloves and goggles and become instant marine biologists! Prepare to get wet in The Lighthouse with oversized water bowls that allow kids to discover what sinks and what floats. Don’t worry about messing up clothes as the museum even provides smocks.06-22-11-day-trippin-2.jpg

Around Town is a pint-sized community that lets the little ones explore how people work, live and play together. Kids can get in the driver’s seat of a city bus, jump into uniform and become a fi refi ghter, a cashier, weigh, sort and deliver mail, conduct a train, treat an injured pet and more! Marbles is also home to the area’s only 3D-giant screen IMAX theater. For more information about admission, exhibits and show times, visit thewebsite at www.marbleskidsmuseum.org.

A final museum worth checking out is the North Carolina Museum of Art located on Blue Ridge Road, just a few minutes from downtown. As with most of the museums highlighted, there’s no general admission, just an occasional charge for a special exhibit. Here, you will find colorful textiles from Africa, paintings of American landscapes, a 6,000-year-old ceramic jar from Egypt as well as more than 30 bronzes from Europe.

A popular feature at the museum is its 160-acre park with walking trails, picnic area and large art sculptures carefully displayed along the way. You may want to head here when you’re hungry so you’ll have an excuse to dine at Iris. Located at the museum, Iris is a contemporary and sophisticated full-service restaurant that uses local and seasoned ingredients to come up with delicious culinary art! You can get updates about current exhibits and special events at the North Carolina Museum of Art by logging onto the website at www.ncartmuseum.org.

 Photos: North Carolina Museum of History is offering part one of a fun and interactive exhibit entitled, The Story of North Carolina. The engaging format offers visitors the opportunity to tour a reproduction of an American-Indian dwelling (pictured below left), milk a cow and find out what a pirate ship in the 1700s really looked like.

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