What it is: The North Carolina Museum of Art has everything you'd expect from a large art museum. It's got contemporary exhibits, African, Egyptian, classical, impressionist, and sculpture exhibits including many well-known artists. It was also newly renovated last year, so the building is absolutely beautiful.
What we liked: The museum was recommended by another Stir Crazy Mom, and when we decided to go with a two-year old and a newborn I was really expecting the outing to be some degree of disaster. However, we had a fabulous time! The outdoor areas of the museum are great for a toddler to run around in with lots of fun sculptures to look at, fountains, and even gravel areas which are endless fun to play in. There are also outdoor tables that are great for a picnic in good weather.
Inside the museum, my two-year old loved just looking at the art and the wide open space in the building. I had made sure to tell him not to touch anything before we went in, and he was really pretty content to just look at everything. I know that depends on the toddler, but it worked for him and he's a pretty active little boy most of the time. He also loved the impressionist garden in the back of the museum where he could look at the lily pads in the pond and play in the gravel.
One of the best parts was the "Tour in a Tote". Apparently, they have these bags for all different ages and you can just pick them up at the front desk. Of course, our group got the one for children under 5. It has a different activity for each section of the museum made just for the little kids. First, the kids have to find a selected piece of art in a given section. Then, they get to complete an activity. For one section is was a puzzle, for another, they could feel different textures that looked like ones in the artwork. They also had stories to read and several other activities. While these activities were probably best suited to a child around 3 or 4 years old. My son also had a great time with them. I can't wait to check out the other bags as he gets older! I've heard they also have afternoon toddler scavenger hunts, but I don't know any details on that.
Oh, and the best part is, admission is FREE!
What we would change: While the trip as a whole was great, there were several little details that were a bit problematic. First, the parking lot was a good distance from the museum itself making it a bit of a walk for little ones if you don't have a stroller. It was also a bit confusing finding the new part of the museum itself. Signage wasn't very good, so just head for the newer looking building. Once you get in, you're not supposed to have food or drinks, so make sure to put away your sippy cups and bottles. They do make you check your bags, although they didn't notice my big diaper bag in the bottom of the stroller. In addition, if you're bag looks like a purse, then you'll probably be able to keep it.
Website and other important information: The NC Museum of Art is located near the state fairgrounds in Raleigh.
Address: 2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607-6494
Tuesday–Thursday 10 am–5 pm
Friday 10 am–9 pm
Saturday–Sunday 10 am–5 pm
Admission: Free, unless you go to a special exhibit
1. A view of the museum from outside
2. A view looking down one wing of the museum
3. The garden out back
4. One of the larger pieces
5. The tour in a tote
6. Fun with the tour in a tote