Wondering what to do with the kids over break? Look no further. Here’s a list of some cheap and free things that will be fun for kids. Included are special holiday activities to do the first few days of break, plus some activities that are always free or cheap.
Scroll down for a day-by-day list of free and cheap kid-friendly and family-friendly events.
Make sure to subscribe to Triangle on the Cheap by email so you will learn about all the free and cheap events all year. Check out Groupons for kids’ activities in the Triangle, including museums, skating, trampoline parks and much, much more!
This list has been updated for the 2018/2019 season, but more is being added every day, so keep checking back!
- Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro Shops: Free pictures with Santa, crafts, games, more, all free. The same events take place at Cabela’s.
- Christmas lights: Follow the above link for a list of the best Christmas light displays in the Triangle.
- Kwanzaa Celebrations: Kwanzaa lasts 8 days, starting on December 26th. Follow the above link for information on three free family-friendly celebrations in Durham and Cary.
- NC Chinese Lantern Festival: At Booth Amphitheatre in Cary through January 13th. It’s open every day of the week except Monday. Although it is open on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, which are Mondays. Adults are $15, and kids 3-17 are $10. Kids under 3 are free. Tickets are more on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays unless you purchase in advance.
- North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences: Admission is free, and there are also some kid-friendly events, which are also free. Follow the above link to learn about nature play days.
- Historic Yates County Park: This park in Raleigh is a wildlife refuge and environmental center, and also is home to the last operable water-powered gristmill in Wake County. It hosts numerous free educational activities for kids, including nature, art and history programs.
- Library events: All the region’s library systems present a robust program of free events for kids (and adults.) All the library systems are closed a few days for the holidays, so visit each website for the calendar: Durham County Library, Wake County Public Libraries, Chapel Hill Public Library, and Orange County Public Library.
- First Day Hikes: All North Carolina state parks are hosting free guided hikes on January 1st. Follow the above link to learn about the parks in the Triangle and what they’re doing. Some of the hikes will be too much for small kids.
- North Carolina Museum of Art: This museum is always free to visit. Follow the above link for information on free family-friendly tours.
- Pullen Park: Pullen Park is a draw for families, with its playgrounds and the carousel and train ride ($1 each.) (Note: Pullen Park’s Holiday Express is sold out.)
- Go on your own hike: Follow the above link for some of the most kid-friendly hikes in the Triangle.
- Trampoline parks, mini-golf, rock climbing, more: There are tons of fun, active attractions for families in the Triangle. Follow the above link to find Groupons for a lot of them. Why pay full price?
- Three Kings Day Parade: On January 5th in Cary, enjoy this celebration of Dia de los Reyes. The procession of community groups, individuals and businesses will precede the Three Kings.
- Kidzu Children’s Museum: On the first Sunday of the month, which will be January 6th, this Chapel Hill museum is “pay what you can.” There will be a free puppet show and art activity presented by Puppet Show Incorporated based on the book “The Interrupting Chicken” at 1:30 p.m.
- Marbles Kids Museum: Regular admission is $7, but on Thursdays the museum is open until 7 p.m., and admission is just $3 after 3 p.m. The extended hours and $3 admission are also available the first Friday of the month after 3 p.m.
- Stagville State Historic Site: Learn about the Pre-Civil War past. It’s always free to visit, and there are guided tours at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday.
- Ackland Art Museum: This art museum on the UNC campus is free to visit. Follow the above link for the holiday schedule.
- Model Railroad at Raleigh Union Station: North Raleigh Model Railroad Club has their model railroad on display in Raleigh Union Station. Visit Saturdays and Sundays through December 30th, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s set up on the second floor of the station. While you’re there, stop by the observation deck and watch the Piedmont or Carolina train arriving or departing.
- Teen Science Café: Once a month, NC Museum of Natural Science hosts Open Minds Science Café, where teens age 11-17 can enjoy a scientist presentation, an interactive activity related to the discussion, a Q&A session, and time to meet with other teens who enjoy sciences. The first 50 teens will even receive a voucher for a free meal.