Another annual event that we’re looking forward to each fall is BugFest. It is organized by the Science Museum, and it clearly deserves being called a “Fest”. Live Bugs, Dead Bugs, Small Bugs, Big Bugs, Bug Movies, Bug Crafts, Bug Races, Bug Art: It is BugFest. To point out my personal favorites:
The Alberti Flea Circus: We’ve all heard of a Flea Circus, but have you actually seen one? Performing at BugFest throughout the day.
Cafe Insecta: They serve bugs. No kidding! Fried Grasshoppers, anyone?
Horseshoe Crabs: If you’ve been to an aquarium around here, you’ll know that they are among the most fascinating sea creatures.
Cyborg Insects: NC State’s iBionics Lab connects microcontrollers to cockroach brains, and makes them run left or right.
Stump the Experts: Bring any bug to the examination table and the experts will identify it. (We did that last year, and brought what turned out to be a Phidippus Audax we found earlier that day.)
Visit the BugFest website for detailed directions, or just head out to the museum and the Plaza and enjoy what you find.
Phidippus audax (yes, we singlehandedly caught one last year)
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.
A visit to the Saturday Market often marks the beginning of the weekend for us. What has started as a food truck and a farm table a couple years ago has become a steady and year-round fixture in our Boylan Heights neighborhood.
The food truck(s) rotate, so it is always a surprise what you find. Captain Poncho and Chirba Chirba are among our favorites. You can always find coffee and sweets, and for “real groceries”, the LoMo Market has a wide variety of fresh vegetables, baked goods, meat, dairy and sometimes seafood.
For the kids, a visit to market is almost as cool as a visit to a farm. Besides the chicken coops, which are the main draw, it is interesting to see what is growing in the garden, watch a train maneuver through the Boylan Wye, or just run around.
The “Around Town” exhibit at Marbles has been closed for a few weeks because it was being updated and remodeled. (“Around Town” is the large exhibit when you come in, with the bus, the grocery store, the ambulance, the stage, and of course the train table.)
Most things are reportedly still there, and a new farm-themed topic has been added, to introduce kids to NC livestock and crops. I’m glad to see that the new train table is actually bigger, I was a bit worried it would have to make place for something else. (“Don’t mess with Thomess!”) I think we were actually there the last day that it was open, and it would only be appropriate to go back on the first day it re-opens.
Beyond the new exhibits, I also spotted a beautiful new mural by Denise Hughes, which is in my eyes one of the nicest aspects of Marbles. (I also like her recent work in the recently opened toddler room.)
Update: Scroll down for a video I took this morning
Were you a member of the 4-H as a kid? If so, you can go back to your roots this weekend. (And let me know, I’m curious to hear the story.) If you weren’t, even better to get you some real farm experience.
Even though I featured the Beef Round-Up last year, I didn’t make it there, but I’m hoping to go this year. You can basically think if as a dog show, only that the middle-aged ladies with their poodles are replaced by farm boys and girls and their livestock.
There is not too much information for visitors (I’m not even 100% sure if this is open to the public), and the website has not too much information. We’ll see! Update: Walter Earle with NCSU commented that this is indeed open to the public. Thank you, Walter!
Update: We didn’t make it to the circus unfortunately, but a fellow local blogger (and clown!) wrote a very nice three-post series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) with many pictures about his visit to the Zoppe Family Circus. Go have a look!
I featured another circus a few weeks ago, and we’ll remember that one fondly as our family’s first circus experience. But depending on how the weekend pans out, we may go to the circus again, since Zoppe promises a small intimate circus right within walking distance.
Zoppe is a family circus, and its history is a marvelous read: Back in 1842 (no typo), a young clown from France (Napoline Zoppe) fell in love with an equestrian ballerina in Budapest, Hungary, much to the chagrin of the ballerina’s father. A clown just didn’t cut it. The young lovers ran away to Venice Italy and founded the circus. Napoline’s great-grandson Alberto came to the US to work for Ringling Brothers (in exchange for an elephant), and brought the circus over here. He performed in the circus until recently, well into his 80s, and today the circus is run by his son Giovanni, great-great-grandson of Napoline and pictured above as clown Nino.
Zoppe features clowns, acrobats, horses and dancing dogs. They perform Friday – Sunday in front of the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts. No online tickets – Advance Tickets at the box office or at the door.
Do you feel like the State Fair is a “must-see” for your kids, but do you loathe the crazy crowds? Try the Got to Be NC Festival instead.
Less crowded, less crazy, more family-friendly, more exciting. You still get all the main State Fair ingredients (rides, tractor pulls, lawn mower racing, farm animals, fried food), but in a more relaxed atmosphere.
The event kicks off Friday afternoon and continues through Sunday. Admission and parking is free.