Note: The title originally stated Fri-Sat; this was typo; the festival is through Sunday. Thanks to J. for alerting me!
If taking your kids out of school to travel the world for a year or so sounds crazy, here is your local, low-risk, short-term alternative: The International Festival that is held annually at the Convention Center in downtown Raleigh. More than 11% of Wake County’s population, which is over 100,000 people (including Yours truly) are foreign-born, and want to share their heritage with you. While not specifically directed (only) at children, there are at least three areas that are perfectly suited to give little one a taste and a glimpse of the world:
First, and perhaps the best kept secret, are the dance performances. In some cultures (think India, Brazil), dance plays a much more important role than here. Where American expats abroad may teach their children American history and children’s songs or cook out on 4th of July, expats from other countries living here may in turn teach their children traditional folkloric dances. On the main stage, there is a different group performing every 10-15 minutes. From a Teen African Drum Ensemble to Lebanese Belly Dancing or Korean Percussion, there is a wide variety of exciting performances, many of them by earnest teens and adorable children.
Food is of course another great cultural bridge, and there are Food booths from just about any ethnic cuisine you’ve heard of. Thai, Lebanese, Italian and Mexican of course, but also Dutch, Turkish or French. Dig in, and let the little ones sample the foods that taste so different from their everyday meals.
Third, the festival does have a genuine “kids corner”, with the usual face painting and balloon animals and storytelling, all with an international twist.
The festival is taking place Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday; tickets are $8 and kids under 6 are free! At this low price, it is worth dropping in for even an hour or so sometime over the weekend, and see what is happening.