American Indian Heritage Celebration

The NC Museum of History honors the American Natives of North Carolina with the annual celebration of American Indian Heritage. Did you know for example that Miss NC 2013 is an American Native? That NC has the largest Indian population of any state in the East? Or that there are eight recognized tribes in our state? Learn these and more facts, and have some direct encounters with the music, dances and cooking – if you’re lucky you might even run into Miss North Carolina Johna Edmonds. The event is taking place in the NC Museum of History and on the Bicentennial Plaza right outside the museum, and lasts from 11am to 4pm.

Christmas Parade

Correct, it is not even Thanksgiving yet, but we’re having the Christmas Parade. On its traditional route down Hillsborough and then Fayetteville Street, the Christmas Parade can be relied upon to warm hearts and freeze toes.

Some people arrive early and brave the cold and drizzly weather, while other come later and only admire the tallest balloons floating over the heads of people standing in front of them.

The parade is from 10:00-12:00, and is taking place for the 69th time. (And if you don’t like rain – the parade is also broadcast live on WRAL.)

PepperFest (Sun 3-7)

Do you like Peppers? You probably didn’t expect it, but there is a Festival just for you. In its sixth year, the Annual Amazing Abundance Pepper Festival takes place on Sunday in Chapel Hill. Sample all sort of pepper dishes, celebrate pepper king and queen, and even sample pepper micro brews!
Pepper Festival Website

Bluegrass and Barbecue

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Raleigh has snagged the Annual Bluegrass Convention and surrounding hootenannies from Nashville. If Bluegrass and Barbecue is not your world, it might be best to stay home for the weekend or go to the beach. (For better alternatives, see below.)

Assuming that you’re looking for some free entertainment with kids, here are the options: There are actually two kids’ areas, one next to the convention center facing the Marriott (Salisbury St.) and the other further up on Martin St. Near the main stage on City Plaza, there is a dedicated hula hoop space.

Want band recommendations? (see schedule for details):

Big Fat Gap (Fri 3p), Kruger Brothers (Fri 6:15p), Lou Reid and Carolina (8:15p) on Friday; then the Church Sisters (Sat 4pm), Vickie Vaughn Band (Sat 5:15) and Chatham County Line (9:30p) on Saturday.

And what about the barbecue?

The NC Whole Hog Barbecue State Championship is co-located with the festival. Pigs will go on the grill on Friday at 9pm, and will be ready on Saturday for lunch. Barbecue will be for sale after the judging is over.

bluegrass

Young Audience by Hindrik S, licenced under CC BY-NC-SA

Eastern Triangle Farm Tour

First off, I was wondering why this is the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour. Is there a competing Western Triangle Farm Tour? Is it only in the Eastern part of the Triangle? Neither is the case, so it will have to stay a mystery. (Unless you know and tell me!) 27 farms, all over the Triangle and beyond, are opening their gates and barns to curious foodies, goat fans, and homesick farmer’s granddaughters.

You need to buy a ticket ($30 per car), and can visit as many farms as you can squeeze into four hours. (Or eight, if you go both days.) Farms are open from 1p-5p, so it pays to plan your route if you want to really see more than just 1-2 farms. Print the guidebook ahead of time.

One potentially good route would be to head out towards Bunn, where four farms are relatively close together. Don’t try to squeeze all four in, consider it three visits with one backup. Another option is to head South, where three farms are scattered around the Holly Springs / Fuquay-Varina area.

Here my personally picked tour: Leave Raleigh on Capital Blvd. and continue on to Hwy-401. Eventually you take 98-East and follow directions to Ray Family Farms, a meat farm with large black hogs, cows and free range chicken. If you’re vegan, you’ll like the next stop, Vollmer Farms, focusing on berries and vegetables. They also have a large unique playground (“The Back Forty”). Next stop could be Sun Raised Foods, a solar powered farm that raises lamb (sold at Whole Foods). Rare Earth Farms, if you still have time, focuses on Natural Grass-Fed Beef. Continue down Hwy. 39S and then on Hwy 64/264 back home. To conveniently load all addresses and directions in Google Maps, use this link.

Raleigh M.A.I.N Event

MAINIf you’ve lived in Raleigh for a few years, you know that we’re getting ready for the busiest month: Babysitters are booked months in advance, OpenTable.com crashes and pedestrian traffic jams block downtown sidewalks. We used to call it just ‘busy September’, but this year it has become “The M.A.I.N. event“, a cleverly chosen acronym for music, art, innovation and, um, noise. So we’ll focus on the first two, since innovation is focused on grown-up stuff like entrepreneurship, angel funding and venture capital, and the noise, well, we parents have that year-round.

Of the 18 events that make up M.A.I.N, here are the best for families and kids:

  • The African-American Culture Festival is this weekend on City Plaza, and features a family village, including a stage with kids’ acts.
  • Hopscotch, a week later, has little to no kids-programming, but draws many fringe activities that make it fun to be downtown for all ages.
  • On that same Sunday, the Fiesta del Pueblo will have ‘Ninolandia’ for the kids.
  • Another week later, Sept. 12-15 is dedicated to SparkCon, with many options for kids, from music to street art to circus and fashion shows.
  • After catching our breath (or attending a few entrepreneur event without kids), we put in the ear plugs and get ready for Capital City Bikefest, organized by Ray Price Harley Davidson, and declared “family-friendly”. If you think kids and bikers don’t go together, read this article. There will be stunt shows and more to excite little vroom vroom fans.
  • As the bikers are rolling off into the sunset, we seamlessly shift into a quieter kind of noise, as Bluegrass takes over from Sept. 24-28. A whole week of music, trade fair and award show will offer plenty opportunities to bring your kids closer to this genre that is so closely tied to our state.
  • To round off the month, Marbles‘ birthday party is on 9/28, as is the (re-)opening of the City Museum.

Ready? As the wild things said, “Let the wild rumpus start!”

Tucker Lake

The City Pools are too small but the beach is too far? How about going half-way, and have a little beach and a lot more water at Tucker Lake. Yes, the place you all know from driving to the beach and have always said, “I wonder what that is like?”

After finally checking out Tucker Lake over the long weekend for the first time, I can now “speak authoritatively” about it: While it is probably not the poshest destination in the area, it is definitely not trashy or dirty, but by and large a safe, clean, family-friendly destination. The place is well-kept and operated, and on a comparable level for amenities and cleanliness as an average beach on the coast.

There is a small concessions are for chips, hot dogs, and ice cream, but ideally you bring a picnic or something to grill; there are countless grills and picnic tables scattered throughout a shaded 4 acre area, and there is probably about 1/2 mile of sandy lake shore. The water depth is very gradual and suited for all levels of experience, if you observe your limits. There are several life guards, but the area is quite large; I would compare it again to a ocean beach with lifeguards; they are there, they watch, but you still need to keep a very close watch on your kids, especially around the numerous slides, rope swings, and other play elements. There is also an impressive water slide which we didn’t try this time.

Since last year, Tucker Lake features also a wakeboard park with a large cable system. (You get pulled by a cable like a ski lift, not by a boat. Don’t sneer at it until you try it – it is how I learned to wakeboard back in the day.) This is of course more for older kids and adults, but I think it brings some welcome funds to the place that should lift up the entire operation. At any rate, if you’ve been to Tucker Lake years ago, you should give it another try; it came under new management in 2012, and seems to be doing well.

Location: Roughly at I95&I64, address: 3025 Allens Crossroads Rd Benson NC, 27504
Hours: Daily 9-6 during the summer, weekends in the fall and closed in winter.
What to bring: Coal and stuff to grill, umbrellas, lawn chairs, small coolers, water toy. But no pets, glass or alcohol.

Tucker Lake