It was a beautiful day to be outdoors, so naturally, my niece, Joy, and Aunt Flo, headed to the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. Turns out the museum is situated in a beautiful 164-acre park where you can find monumental works of arts scattered around the grounds. Two birds with one stone, right?

But we had come to walk the grounds, unaware of the artwork scattered here and there, and to see an exhibit, titled You + Me, but once we stepped into the East Building, we were captivated by the newly reinstalled African art gallery in the East Building and spent almost two hours, browsing, reading and snapping pictures.

To celebrate the expanded African art gallery, the museum is making a day of it on Sept. 23. See the details below.

Our stomachs started demanding lunch, and we headed for Iris in the West Building. The restaurant specializes in seasonal fare using locally sourced ingredients, according to the website. My sandwich, Raleigh’s Best BLT — made with local tomatoes, romaine lettuce, green peppercorn chive sauce, grilled tomato bread and applewood smoked bacon — and a side of sweet potato fries certainly fit that bill.

Museum exhibits are free, by the way, but a meal at Iris’ will cost you about $15.

With our appetites sated, and mindful of Raleigh rush-hour traffic, we took a swift tour of exhibits in the West Building and around the nearby grounds before heading home. It was clear we hadn’t allocated enough time to really savor what the museum has to offer, so we pledged to return one day soon.

A couple of intriguing exhibits we missed, and you will, too, if you don’t make it to the museum by Sunday: You + Me, a photography exhibit that reveals “the complexities of relationships, particularly those between two people — mother and daughter, a married couple, two friends, colleagues, multiple generations, and neighbors,” and “Looking South: Photographs by Eudora Welty.”

On my radar: “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair,” opening Oct. 28. The exhibition will feature 40 stunning ensembles and includes works by designers such as Stephen Burrows, Pierre Cardin, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Patrick Kelly, Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, Bob Mackie, Alexander McQueen, b. Michael, Missoni, Jean Patou, and Vivienne Westwood.

Sounds like a “Girls Trip.”

Threads of Africa: A Celebration of Art, Nature, and People
This daylong celebration includes music and dance performances, drum-making workshops, collaborative community art activities, food, African cultural activities, and more! Walk the new gallery and experience conversations with experts and storytellers, and participate in a collaborative art project with artist Maya Freelon Asante. The day concludes with a free concert by world-renowned West African artist Angélique Kidjo (ticket required).

When: Noon Saturday, Sept. 23
Where: East Building and Museum Park
The event and parking are free.

About the Museum:

Admission to the Museum’s permanent collection and Museum Park, which is open from dawn to dusk, is free. There is a charge for some special exhibitions and programs, such as concerts, films, classes, and performances. You can enhance your visit with a docent-guided tour.

Outdoor concerts, movie screenings, poetry slams, dance performances and chamber music concerts are just a few of the events the NCMA offers throughout the year.

The museum is located at 2110 Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh. Find information about hours, parking and more at the museum’s website: