The NC Museum of Natural Sciences is a four-story science museum in the heart of downtown Raleigh. Admission to the permanent collection is always free. Special exhibitions often do have a charge associated with them; that price is always heavily discounted when the museum stays open til 9 PM on the First Friday of the month. Also on First Fridays, the museum shows a sci-fi flick for free at 7 PM (check the website for this month's showing). Overall - the areas on the first floor with the not-live-animal displays (fake fish suspended in a tank) feel a little campy but are very well detailed. The seahorses (live!) on the first floor are a real treat. The second floor is where you can find the overlook information on all the giant whale skeletons (definately worth some time) and stroll through ridiculously detailed re-creations of NC forests. My college age friends can spend hours looking up every plant they spot! The dinos are on the third floor and are quite neat. The fourth floor contains the living conservatory, which, quite disappoingly, is not open late First Fridays, which is the only time I ever manage to get down there. Parking is much easier on First Fridays and on weekends but is by no means impossible otherwise. The group presentations you can book in advance with a staff member talking about animals are excellent.