North Carolina’s capital city has several museums supported by state funds that offer wonderful and low cost experiences for the whole family. With guests in town for the holidays, these public treasures offer a great opportunity to get out of the house. Most are free to enter and see the permanent collections, with paid admission for special exhibitions. Tickets are available online.
The state’s magnificent art museum was recently expanded with numerous galleries filled with art from every era, including major collections of Italian Renaissance and baroque art, ancient works from Egypt, Greece and Rome, a gallery of historic Jewish ceremonial objects, and a huge collection of bronzes by Auguste Rodin, the largest in the southeast. Currently showing at the museum are two exhibits with a combined special admission ticket. The Worlds of M.C. Escher: Nature, Science and Imagination includes over 100 works representing Escher’s entire career drawn from various collections around the world. The second special exhibit, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Codex Leicester and the Creative Mind, is centered on da Vinci’s 500-year-old notebook, on loan from the collection of Bill Gates. Both special exhibits are on display through January 17, 2016.
This museum stuffed with artifacts, documents, photographs and more documenting the rich history of North Carolina is packed with interesting sights, including a permanent exhibit tracing the history of the region from the earliest inhabitants to today and the official NC Sports Hall of Fame. Other exhibits explore the state’s musical heritage and Civil War events. A special exhibit, on display through July 10, 2016, North Carolina’s Favorite Son: Billy Graham and His Remarkable Journey of Faith, traces the career of the evangelist from his birth in Charlotte through his rise to international influence. Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives includes many rare documents, including maps, letters, official charters and more, many rarely on public display. The exhibit runs through June 19, 2016, but some of the most fragile documents will be displayed for a limited time. Southern Impressions: Paintings from the James-Farmer Collection, running through July 4, captures scenes from the region circa 1820-1950, through paintings from the collection of prominent Chapel Hill collectors as well as museum artifacts. None of the current exhibitions at the Museum of History require tickets or admission.
Recently expanded with a huge new Research Center containing one of the world’s top displays of whale skeletons and globe-shaped theater, the NC Museum of Natural Sciences has long been a favorite destination for dino-viewing as well as exhibits on the state’s flora, fauna, coastlines, geology and more. A regular schedule of special exhibitions brings top touring shows to town. On display now through March 27, 2016: Extreme Mammals explores the diversity of mammals through the ages, including the largest, smallest, and downright weirdest ever to walk the earth.
Many of the museums have special hours during the holiday season. Be sure to check their websites for hours and ticket details.