The Triangle has plenty of family-fun sure bets that will never go out of style, like the Marbles Kids Museum (201 East Hargett Street, Raleigh) and the Museum of Life and Science (433 West Murray Avenue, Durham). But if you or your fussy little ones are looking for something new but no less adventurous, here are four, well, maybe not hidden gems, but places that foster free play and imagination (and, eventually, naps!) in the little ones, but that are also gratifying for the adults (and not just because of the naps).

Moore Square

226 East Martin Street, Raleigh,

This newly reopened—after a years-long, $13 million facelift—four-acre urban green space in downtown Raleigh is big, has an interactive water feature, a restaurant (Square Burger), a weekly farmers market, and an events calendar that will keep you coming back (think story time, game nights, concerts, jazz, and more). Kids can play to their hearts’ content, and it’s an ideal place to bring a picnic, people-watch, and meet up with all those friends you don’t have space to invite to your home.

The Honeysuckle Farm & Gardens

8871 Pickards Meadow Road, Chapel Hill, 919-903-9131,

Honeysuckle’s farm has quickly climbed onto our favorites list because of the folksy wooden play structures (swings, seesaw, sandpit, etc.), hammocks, farm fields, herb garden, mandala garden, and a tea house that also serves mead and kid-pleasing smoothie bowls and pastries. The namesake Honeysuckle Cafe and Bar, about a ten-minute drive away, serves a more extensive menu that includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

North Carolina Museum of Art

2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, 919-839-6262,

In addition to its extensive permanent art collection and the awe-inspiring temporary exhibits you expect from a museum of this caliber, NCMA also has an outdoor museum park littered with sculptures and art that kids can touch, climb, and have fun with. A calendar of events chockful of concerts, family tours, campouts, movie nights, family workshops, and festivals round out the offerings. Make sure to ask for your free Tour in a Tote or the Park Pack with games and activities. 

Gregg Museum of Art & Design

1903 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, 919-515-3503,

N.C. State’s Gregg Museum dates back to the 1970s, but it was the grand reopening in August 2017 at the Historic Chancellor’s Residence on Hillsborough Street that made the difference. The museum, which collects objects and art pertinent to the university and the state, is compact enough to explore with children but doesn’t feel like an education trip. The outdoor spaces, which include a lush lawn, water features, a formal garden, historic trees, and a stylish patio, have made this museum a well-loved space for our family. Being well-connected to the Theatre in the Park, Pullen Arts Center, and the eateries on Hillsborough Street is an added bonus.

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