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Top Rated Attractions in Raleigh/Durham

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Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Founded in 1934, The Sarah P. Duke Gardens offers 55 acres (22 hectares) of world-class gardens in the center of Duke University. More than five miles (eight kilometers) of pathways lead visitors on walks through four sections of beautifully landscaped terraces, gardens, and arboretums. The Duke Gardens host gardening, photography, and natural history classes, and a summer concert series. A cafe and a visitor center are on the grounds. Walking and trolley tours are given four days a week; reservations are recommended.

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North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Explore the natural wonders of North Carolina, from the depths of its ocean to its rocky mountains. Complete with a 20-foot (6-meter) waterfall, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science has much to offer. See North Carolina as it was, in a re-creation of six prehistoric habitats. This is home to the only Acorcanthosaurus skeleton discovered in the world, and Willo, the first dinosaur found with a fossilized heart. The Discovery Room is full of interactive exhibits. Looking for that perfect gift? The Nature Gallery has original nature-themed artwork available. There is a restaurant on site. General admission is free of charge. There is a cover charge for special exhibits. Children under 13 years must be accompanied by an adult. The Discovery Room, Naturalist Center, and Living Conservatory remain closed on Mondays.

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North Carolina Museum of Art

One of the leading art museums of the American South, the North Carolina Museum of Art opened in 1956 as the first in the nation established with public state funds. More than 40 galleries here are home to a permanent collection of paintings, artifacts, and sculptures spanning the history of art from antiquity to the present day. Visitors can see paintings of the European Renaissance, Egyptian funerary artifacts, and contemporary international works of art, among others. An amphitheater hosts outdoor performances, and a museum park features more than a dozen major site-specific works surrounded by forests and fields.

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Durham Performing Arts Center

The Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) is North Carolina’s center for live entertainment and the performing arts. Opened in 2008 as one of the largest centers of its kind in the Carolinas, DPAC hosts hundreds of performances a year, ranging from high profile concerts to Broadway productions, stand-up comedy routines, and festivals. The center is recognized for its contemporary steel and glass design, and features 2,700 seats with intimate sightlines. DPAC’s “Heart of the Arts” community outreach program runs master theater classes for local students, and invites the students to backstage tours, orchestra rehearsals, and post-performance discussions.

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Lake Johnson Park

Lake Johnson Park offers visitors more than 5 miles (8 kilometers) of walking trails leading around a serene lake, past picnic shelters, a boardwalk, a public pool, and boat launches. Boat rentals are available through the park office. The park is a popular fishing destination, holds conference and event facilities, and hosts a public program of educational activities throughout the year.

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Eno River State Park

Spread over 4,200 acres (1699 hectares) of opaque rainforests, the Eno River State Park is a popular outdoor destination that boasts of nearly 28 miles (45 kilometers) of some of the finest hiking trails in North Carolina. The Eno River runs alongside these trails, which lead hikers through mature forests, river bluffs, fords, and a historic mill. Popular activities here include angling, camping, wildlife photography, picnicking, and canoeing and kayaking. Home to a variety of physical features, the Cox Mountain, Eno Quarry, Eno Trace, Fanny's Ford, Holden Mill, Laurel Bluffs and Shakori are some of the park's major attractions. Depending on the time of year, visitors can take part in park-sponsored educational events that include fishing with park rangers and learning about survival techniques animals use.

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