What it is: The junk yard is not what one thinks of in terms of kid activities, but we discovered it by accident, and if the need strikes, it's a good thing to know about. Junk yards are, of course, the final resting place for cars salvaged from accidents. They're worth calling if you need a spare part for your car. And if you do need to go there, don't leave your kids at home! Because as you'll see below, it can make for a really interested and fun field trip!
What we liked: My car had a busted side mirror, and I started calling around for a replacement to put on. I called two parts stores and two junk yards, and one of the junk yards mentioned they didn't have a car like mine in the lot, but could easily order the part new for the same cost as a salvaged one (I didn't know they could order new parts). His quote for the new part was at least $15 lower than anywhere else. When I got the call a day later that my part had arrived, I had my kids with me and had to make due. When we pulled up, my girls (aged 3 and 5) were in awe at the lot full of broken-up cars. So after I picked up my mirror, I asked for permission to walk the lot with my girls. We ended up spending 45 minutes exploring. At first, all my girls wanted to talk about was "what happened to that car? what happened to the people inside?" and we could see cars that had hit a tree, or flipped over. This led into talking about car safety, paying attention when driving, seat belts, and air bags: lots of the cars had their airbags deployed for the kids to see. Then we talked about naming the parts of a car: tires, the roof, the hood, the trunk, the engine. What does the engine do? And we ended up talking about what parts are made of: are cars made of wood? How can you tell plastic, metal and rubber apart? At the end of the day, it's all they could talk about with their dad.
What could be better: Okay, it's a junk yard. Don't expect a cheerful reception, make sure there are no guard dogs, and it is a place of work so probably not indicated for kids who have trouble minding. Do expect broken glass, puddles of stuff. In our case, our girls were sufficient awe-struck that they paid full attention.
More information: I found the junk yards by googling " " for durham. There are several along Harvest Road, an area East of Hwy 70. The best quote I got for the spare part was from Fuller's Auto Salvage, but be sure to call a number of places.