Havent been to Raleigh in a while? Two major tourist draws both downtown, both free rolled out attractions well worth seeing.
The N.C. Museum of History, at 5 E. Edenton St. (www.ncmuseumofhistory.org) last fall opened the second half of its Story of North Carolina permanent exhibit, which covers state history from the early 1800s through the civil rights movement. It complements the first half, which opened in spring 2011 and which covers pre-settlement times through the early years of American independence.
Taken together, the permanent exhibit tells the story of the state.
Highlights include a reproduction of the Wright brothers first airplane, a 1903 Buggymobile and motor vehicle created in New Bern. And there are entire buildings the fourth-oldest documented home in North Carolina (1742) as well as a Martin County slave cabin built just before the Civil War and an American Indian dwelling.
Slavery and the war that ended it are covered in detail. Other artifacts in Story range from prehistoric stone tools used by the states indigenous inhabitants, artifacts salvaged from the Queen Annes Revenge Blackbeards pirate ship that sank in Beaufort Inlet and a Salisbury lunch counter that figured into the civil rights struggle of the early 1960s.
Just a stones throw away is the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences (11 W. Jones St.; www.naturalsciences.org), and a block west of that is its Nature Research Center an 80,000-square-foot wing that opened in April. The center is aimed at engaging citizens, especially kids, in various scientific fields.
Curiosity kicks in before you enter: Note what looks like a three-story globe attached to the building near the corner of Jones and Salisbury streets. Its actually the SECU Daily Planet, a multimedia space with a 40-by-40-foot high-definition screen that, among other things, shows live science news.
On the centers first floor, a 10,000-gallon aquarium holds large saltwater fish, including bonnethead sharks and Atlantic stingrays.
You can also peer into four glass-walled research labs and watch scientists doing actual research. At nearby labs, you can participate in actual research and try hands-on activities.
Stumpy the whale a 52-foot, articulated skeleton of a right whale is on display at the center. As are four emeralds found in Alexander County, including the Carolina Emperor, the largest cut emerald from North America.
Patterns of Nature, which looks like a 80-foot waterslide that extends through the atrium uses patterns to show how nature is interconnected. Listen to the speakers as you follow it along the exhibit route, which explores what links cloud formations, schools of fish, swarms of fish and wind blowing through grass.
Admission to the Museum of Natural Sciences and the Nature Research Center is free, but there is a cover charge for special exhibits and the 3D Theater.