An automatic plan for killing time without spending money involves sitting in front of a television, a gaming system, or a book. Sure, those activities don't cost much and are simple pleasures in their own right, but you can get out of the house any given day or night and find plenty to do in the Triangle sans wallet. And even if you do bring your Visa check muscles, there's no reason why you should have to give them too much of a workout: A night out in Raleigh with dinner, coffee, and a movie can cost under $20 if you know where to go, and even if you insist on staying home and renting a movie, we've got some suggestions on how you can do it for free.
We also suggest you start saving money on getting to and from our recommended value destinations by taking advantage of public transportation. All three cities in the Triangle have accessible bus systems--Chapel Hill's is even fare-free--and bike paths, allowing you to leave your car at home. At the rate the area is growing, our roads won't be able to accommodate everyone who's on the road, so when you're running errands around town or heading to any of the destinations listed below, let your tax dollars work for you as much as possible, and utilize the infrastructure our cities have made for public transport.
Adventure Landing, 3311 Capital Blvd., 872-1688
Batting cages, go-karts, and a game room. Play laser tag or golf for only $5.99. Pay as you go.
African-American Cultural Complex, 119 Sunnybrook Rd., 250-9336
An exposition of contributions made by African Americans to the development of North Carolina and the United States. Call in advance to schedule appointments.
Artspace, downtown Raleigh, 821-2787
A center for the visual arts featuring 44 working artists in open-to-the-public studios. www.artspacenc.org.
Blue Ridge 10 Cinema, 600 Blue Ridge. 828-9003.
Ten screens of recent movies that have finished their runs in the major area cinemas. Here you can enjoy the comfort of one of those first-run theaters for $1.50 a ticket.
Burning Coal Theatre Company, 4100 Howard Rd., 388-0066
Modern and classic plays for only $14.
Capital City Bicycle Motocross Race Track, Lions Park, 516 Dennis Ave., 831-6995.
Watch exciting bike races for free or pay only $7 to compete.
Carmike 15 Theatre, 5501 Atlantic Springs Rd., 878-8778
Go see a movie between 3:30 pm and 5:30pm for $3.75.
City Market, 303 Blake St., 821-1350
Fresh fruits, laughter and art. So much to see and taste.
ComedyWorx. 431 W. Peace St., 829-0822
Professional team-on-team improvisational comedy. Two teams of actletes (half actor, half athlete) compete for points based on audience laughs. Saturday matinees are $6, all other times are $10.
The Cotton Company, 306 S. White St., Historic Wake Forest, 570-0087
Free admission, and great place to check out artwork by local artists.
Durant Nature Park, 8305 Durant Rd., 870-2871.
Has trails, a bird and butterfly garden, and a lake and picnic area--all free.
Farmers' Market, 1201 Agriculture St., 733-7417
Produce doesn't get any fresher--or more colorful--than at this 75-acre open air market, where over 300 different products are sold by local growers. www.ncagr.com/markets/facilit/farmark/raleigh.
First Friday Gallery Walk. Moore Square art district, and on South Glenwood Avenue downtown.
This is a monthly event where people can see cool art and meet the artists.
Historic Trolley Tour. The tour begins at Mordecai Historic Park, 834-4844.
$5 for adults ($2 if you are under 17) ,which gives you an all day pass for a narrated tour visiting art galleries, museums, restaurants and historic sites.
Mill Brook Exchange Tennis Center, 1905 Spring Forest Rd., 872-4128, or 872-4129
Reserve a court for $3/hour.
N.C. Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Rd., 839-6262
Features one of the South's best collections; in the summer, special concerts and film screenings take place in the Joseph Bryan Theater in the Museum Park, a large outdoor space that includes several art installations and a mile-long bike trail. ncartmuseum.org
N.C. Museum of History, 5 E. Edenton St., 715-0200
Sparkling facility showcases North Carolina's unique and colorful history. Includes the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame --members include Arnold Palmer, Dean Smith and Richard Petty. nchistory.dcr.state.nc.us.
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 W. Jones St. 733-7450
Learn about the state's natural history, from the coastal plains to the mountains. Titanic exhibition going on right now. www.naturalsciences.org
North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre. 7713-51 Leadmine Rd., 866-0228
Great musicals and other productions for as low as $8.
Parks, Lakes and Greenways, (800) 849-8499
Visitors to Greater Raleigh can enjoy more than 150 beautiful parks and lakes, covering 6,500 acres, and 46 miles of greenways. www.raleighcvb.org
Pullen Park, 410 Ashe., 831-6191.
Downtown park featuring a 1911 antique carousel, train ride, kiddie boat ride and pedal boats. Has a huge pool--costs only $2.25 to swim.
Quail Ridge Books, 3524 Wade Ave., 828-1588
See and hear from authors, or check out used books.
Raleigh Ensemble Players Theatre Company, 201 East Davie St.
Great off Broadway productions for $11.
Ray Price Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum , 1126 S.Saunders St., 832-2261.
Check out the only Harley-Davidson drag racing museum in the world located on the second floor of one of the largest Harley dealerships in the United States. The newly-expanded showroom is the home of the world-famous drag racing champion Ray Price.
A.D. Clark Pool. 216 North Roberson St. Chapel Hill, 968-2784
To swim, adults pay $1.70, children $1.25.
Art at Arbor Realty Gallery, 431 West Franklin St., Chapel Hill 924-9937
Features local artists' works.
Community Center Pool. 120 South Estes Dr., Chapel Hill (Community Center Park), 968-2784
Good place to cool off for only $2.50 (adult), $1.35 (children).
Ephesus and Hargraves Recreation Center and Park, 200 Plant Rd., Chapel Hill, 968-2784 or 968-2794
Both have athletic fields, basketball courts, playgrounds and picnic areas.
Glazed Expectations, S. Fordham Blvd., Chapel Hill, 933-9700
Great place to practice and learn how to do ceramics or make sculptures for only $8 a day.
Green Tara Gallery, 1800 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, 932-6400
Paintings, other works of art and special exhibits.
Martha Nell Hardy Theater, Bingham Hall on UNC campus.
You can see performances for as low as $5.
N.C. Crafts Gallery. 407 W. Weaver St., Carrboro, 942-4048
Cool sculptures and other works of art.
Norman's Stables. 5317 Norman Rd., Rougemont. 732-5739
This is a cool place to go horseback riding along creeks and rivers for only $20.
PlayMakers Repertory Company, Country Club Road on the UNC campus, 962-7529
Top-quality regional theater for as little as $9.
Skylight Exchange , 405 1/2 W. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill, 933-5550
Cheap trivia nights on Mondays, chess tournaments Thursdays, occasional poetry readings/open mic.
Triangle SportsPlex. 1 Dann Kidd Dr., Hillsborough, 644-0339
Go ice skating, play hockey or go swimming and more for under $11.
University Lake, Chapel Hill, 942-8007
The 213-acre public lake includes row and paddle boats, fishing, picnicking, and sunbathing. To rent a boat for the day, pay only $6.
American Tobacco Trail
23 miles of trails--six from downtown Durham to Hwy 54--for walking, running or biking. www.ncrail-trails.org/trtc/ATT.HTM.
Campus Hills Park. 2000 South Alston Ave., 560-4444
Swim, lift weights or play sports for under $4 dollars a day.
Duke Forest , multiple locations.
Extensive walking/biking trails perfect for picnics, birdwatching, etc., and though it's against the rules, the best place in the Triangle to run dogs off the leash. Open only during daylight hours; completely free. Several sections and entrances; see websites below for details
Duke University Museum of Art, Duke University East Campus. 684-5135.
Check out the collection of pre-Columbian, classical, and African art. There's a lot to see, and it's free.
Durham Arts Council, 120 Morris St., 560-2731
Features music, theater, dance, visual, media and literary art. Children's plays range from $5-7, and adult play tickets are as low as $10.
Durham Bulls Athletic Park, 409 Blackwell St. 687-6500.
Lawn tickets are always $4.50, and the most you'll pay to see a game is $8.50 (if you want fancier seats).
Durham County Public Library, 300 N. Roxboro St., 560-0100, 560-0299
Durham residents get a free membership. Their A/V section rivals many area video stores, with a large selection of current, foreign, and cult releases, all free with membership.
Eno River State Park, 6101 Cole Mill Rd. 27705. 383-1686
This park features 15 hiking trails, picnic tables and grills, and a river for swimming.
Hayti Heritage Center, 804 Old Fayetteville St., 683-1709.
Features exhibits by African-American artists from past and present.
Horizon Gallery, 905 W. Main St., 688-0313
Pottery, paintings, and porcelain art by American and international artists.
Ideas! Coffee House, 2105 E NC Hwy 54. 405-4140
Free poetry readings and open mic on Tuesdays.
Lake Michie Recreation Area. I-85, Hwy 15-501/Roxboro Rd, go north 10 miles. Turn right on Bahama Rd., go 3.5 miles. 560-4355
You can birdwatch or picnic for free, but camping, fishing, and boating cost between $12-$17.
Museum of Life & Science, 433 Murray Ave., 220-5429, $8.50 for adults, $6 children 3-12
Cool exhibits (some are interactive), and a gorgeous butterfly house.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 426 Anderson St. 684-3698
Beautiful landscapes in its 20-acre gardens, ponds, and grass sweeps. Wide open spaces perfect for Frisbee; lots of students can be found here studying on sunny days.
Village Bowling Lanes, 330 Hardee, 682-9145
Between 9-5, you pay only $1.99; $2.99 on nights and weekends.
Wynnsong 10, 1807 Martin Luther King Pkwy., 489-9020.
See a movie between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. any day for only $3.75.