By Guest Blogger Kristen Bagwell

Fall is a beautiful time of year to take some day trips or weekend getaways around NC. You don’t have to go far to find unique venues. Throw the family in the car, hop on I-40 and travel east to Raleigh. Here are a few ideas of how to spend your day!

If I had to choose anyplace in town to start my day (besides Starbucks), it would be the State Farmers Market. Located downtown near South Saunders Street, the Farmers Market opens at 5am on weekdays and Saturday, and at 8am on Sundays. No matter when you go, there is a ton to do, see, and eat! Check out the Market Grill (open at 7:30am) or the State Farmers Market Restaurant (open at 6am daily, 8am on Sundays) for breakfast, and then browse the Farmers building and Market Shoppes for fresh fruits, veggies, indoor and outdoor plants, and local delicacies to take home.

We always like to stop and see our friends at Bone Suckin’ Sauce, and then head over to the Market Imports area which opens at 9am. You have never seen such a selection of planters, statues, furniture, and a million other things! You literally cannot go wrong, no matter what your family’s interests may be. Visit the official State Farmers Market website for more information and directions.

Next on the list, and not too far down the road, is Marbles Kids Museum. The museum always has a number of events and exhibits for young and old, and has special features weekly and monthly for families to enjoy. Don’t forget about IMAX too – check out the latest movies on the big screen and often in 3-D! Visit www.marbleskidsmuseum.org for more information and a calendar of events or read our guest blog here.

At this point, lunch is definitely in order. If you want something within walking distance of Marbles, I’d recommend Roly Poly, which is all but attached to the museum (on the IMAX side), or Dos Taquitos Centro, which is about a block past the parking deck on Wilmington Street. Either is delicious, fresh, and has at least a few kid-friendly menu items.

After lunch, there are any number of places to venture next. One ideas is Historic Oak View County Park. From downtown Raleigh, head east toward Wendell and take the Poole Rd. exit. (Find detailed directions here.) Historic Oak View County Park is a 19th-century farmstead, and is dedicated to show how farms were run in NC back in the day. The park is open daily at 8:30am except Sundays, when it opens at 1pm. Enjoy the five “official” historic buildings, or prowl around through the gardens. There is also a picnic area and fishing for those who are in the mood, and you can’t leave without visiting the two goats that live on site! (Keep your fingers to yourself, though.)

You can also check out Pullen Park with ducks, playgrounds, boats, a train, a carousel, and endless fun. Pullen Park is a bit closer to the State Farmer’s Market in downtown Raleigh and while it’s an entirely different experience, it’s definitely a good time!

At this point in our house, it’s definitely nap time, so this is where we’d head back home. However, for those with older kids, you could grab a snack and head on over to do some shopping. If you ventured to Oak View Park, then Triangle Town Center is your closest option. Let the kids run wild on the indoor play area and other indoor events. Last time we were there, they’d set up a huge trampoline/harness combo, and kids of all ages were jumping more than halfway to the second level!

For those who want to stay closer to downtown, there is an indoor mall at Crabtree Valley. It boasts outstanding shopping and super restaurants, as well as a number of kid-friendly stores and activities including a Lego store.

If shopping is not on the list today, another alternative for the older kids is to check out the bugs at the NC Insect Museum. (Did you even know such a thing existed?) The NC State University Insect Museum is an internationally recognized systematic resource for insects and mites from North Carolina, the Southeastern United States, and, in several insect groups, the world. Other choices are the NC Museum of Art just up the road, and don’t forget the NC Museum of History near the state Capitol building. Whew – so much to see and do!

That pretty much caps off my own personal “fun day” but there are 1000’s of other things to do and see in Raleigh. What are some of your favorites?

For more Day Trip ideas, click here!