Friends of mine recently took their 5-month-old baby to three concerts in a single day. They caught Midtown Dickens at Brightleaf Square in Durham, then saw Arcade Fire and Superchunk salute Barack Obama in Carrboro, then headed to Chapel Hill for the Carolina Inn's Friday afternoon bluegrass show to see The Cadillac Stepbacks. Baby Michael, still portable in his pre-crawling state, happily absorbed it all (with the help of some baby earplugs).
"We just try to expose him to things we like," his mother told me, "in the hopes he'll like them, too."
I'm not as ambitious as Michael's parents, though I do hope to bring the kids up knowing there's more to culture than the mall, more to music than Hilary Duff, and more to cuisine than restaurants with animatronic mice and overpriced arcade games. Parenthood confronts you with corporate, consumer culture at a whole new level. With its kids' menus and ubiquitous advertising, it's just the path of least resistance.
But thanks to the Triangle's generally family-friendly culture, it is possible to resist without too much effort. Kids don't need licensed characters and Happy Meals. Mostly what they need are places to run around and make noise. It helps if there's food and entertainment that caters to them. And, of course, they need bathrooms.
But then, so do parents—including your parents, who might be visiting from out of town. Entertaining your 5-year-old son and your 65-year-old mom at the same time isn't difficult: Our list of the best things to do with kids includes many places you can also take your parents, spots unique to the Triangle, and many that put you and your entire family outdoors to enjoy the summer season. All of them, we hope, are things you'll enjoy, too. —Fiona Morgan