Postcards from our adventures

CITY AND TOWN PARKS

Fred G. Bond Metro Park

DSC_5948-02If you live in or frequent the triangle, chances are you’ll end up in Fred G. Bond Metro Park in Cary for either Kite Festival, Winter (man-made) snow sledding, a sporting or running event, or one of the great concerts the town has in the park’s small amphitheater.  At 350 acres, Bond park is one of the largest municipal parks in this area.  In addition to the aforementioned fun, the park also has several baseball fields, fishing lake with boat rentals, picnic shelters, and miles of paved greenways and running trails.  Our favorite part of this park is  the Compost Education Center, a series of outdoor exhibits and landscaped garden areas exploring the different aspects of composting, complete with a worm bed! The kids also love the “Lazy Days” playground here, especially the large sandbox and shaded swings.  The park is fronted by Cary’s Community and Senior Centers, and has a ropes course area that can be booked for classes and team building activities.  Whether you visit for an event or a fun outing with the family, I hope you get to spend some time at Bond Park soon!

With Love,

Turtle Dove

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Know Before You Go:  Bond park has several restroom areas, but they are all a few minute walk from the playground.  (We first visited with a toilet-training toddler and that was tough for us!)  You can find bathrooms near the boat house and across Bond Park Drive from the playground in the direction of the amphitheater, as well as near the Compost Education Center and Ropes Course.

There is no swimming at the Bond Park Lake.

Admission is free to the park, however, certain events require a fee.

There are snacks and drinks for sale at the boathouse during the summer months.

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LAND TRUSTS AND NATURE PRESERVES

NC Botanical Garden-Display Gardens

DSC_4730-01.jpegWe were so excited to find this lovely place near UNC’s campus with loads of kid-friendly play spots and little secret garden features to explore.  The NC Botanical Garden manages around 700 acres of incredible collections filling every kind of garden habitat you can imagine, including the Coker Arboretum, Forest Theatre, Piedmont Nature Trails, Battle Park and other natural areas. Right off of highway 501, ,you will find a visitors center and array of display gardens, including carnivorous plants, fern collection, flowering plant area, and an walkway through bog and sandhills species. My kids loved smelling the vast vast collection of herbs in the Mercer Reeves Hubbard Herb Garden, and the sweet sculptures and water feature there make it a really fun place to explore.  Just for the kids, there is a discovery garden, with wooden blocks, weaving,  a sand box and a fairy garden. For the little ornithologists, a Bird Blind overlooks a special garden just for the birds! It is a wonderful place, I hope you get to take a stroll through it soon!

With Love,

Turtle Dove

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Know Before You Go:  There is a Visitor Center with bathrooms and a gift shop at the entrance to the display area.  There are also restrooms at the work building near the herb garden.

Several of the gardens listed on the website are adjacent to each others, but some of the properties are located in other parts of the town.

There is no fee to visit.  The gardens are open Tuesday-Sunday.

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CITY AND TOWN PARKS

Jack Smith Park and Splashpad

Screenshot_20180604-151322_DriveHow about some pint-sized water play, for free? Situated on a historic farm property on the outskirts of Cary, there’s a 50 acre park with 2 playgrounds, a great field, cool agrarian sculptures, and a rock-climbing feature. During the summer months, Jack Smith Park runs a free splashpad for kids, and my kids LOVE it! Lots of colorful sprayers, blasters, and fountains to choose from, there is plenty of space to run around and cool off, and the padded, spongy floor makes it safer for all ages.  My girls love to get soaked, splash around, then run down to the field at the bottom of the hill to play on the sheep sculptures and explore the woods and creek behind the park.  The playgrounds are sectioned for kids ages 5 and under and 5-12 since there are some taller slides on the one for older kids.  It’s a great place to spend the hot, summer afternoons, I hope you and your family get to have some fun there soon!

With Love,

Turtle Dove

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Know Before you Go:  There are restrooms near the Splashpad, with changing tables, but no changing rooms.

The uncovered play equipment and climbing sculptures get HOT to the touch on bright, sunny days.

There is not much shaded seating around the splashpad.

There is a small trail to a creek at the back of the field, but watch out for poison ivy!

Water fountains are located near the splashpad, but other than the occasional visit from the ice cream truck, there is no food for sale at this park.

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COUNTY PARKS AND RECREATION SITES

Historic Oak View County Park

DSC_4183-01.jpegA beautiful place to explore NC’s rich agricultural history, Historic Oak View offers a network of historic structures and reconstructions, barns and paddocks with live animals, garden areas, an orchard and acres of rolling grassy hills. The visitor’s center here is a real gem, especially for those with young children, as it includes a well equipped play kitchen, farm stand, and dress-up area.  Exhibits in the Farmhouse and outbuildings tell the story of 19th century farm life as well as that of farmer Benton Williams and his family. Williams was an outspoken union supporter during the Civil War. Other exhibits in the tenant house and cotton barn explain that after the war, the farm was owned and operated by the Wyatt family who diversified the farm by planting other crops such as the grove of pecan trees that front the main house.  My kids love spending a day here, and I love how much they learn exploring the herb garden and farm buildings, doing laundry with lye on a washboard outside the old kitchen house, or observing the goats and chickens that live on site.  I hope you and your family get some time to relax in the shade of one of the front porches and stroll through some of our area’s most rich history soon!

With Love, Turtle Dove

DSC_4277.JPGKnow Before You Go:  There are restrooms in the visitors center and near the goat paddock.

The visitor’s center and the main farmhouse are climate controlled.  The other buildings are open air.  While there is little furniture in the farmhouse, it is a decorated beautifully over the winter holidays.

It is ok to feed the goats, but there is a list of what is appropriate to feed them that can be found in the visitor’s center.

There are a few sets of stairs in some of the outbuildings, but most of the park is stroller friendly.

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PRIVATELY OWNED FUN SPOTS

Harris Energy and Environmental Center

Adobe_20180519_195836-02-01The Harris Nuclear Plant in New Hill, NC is currently owned by Duke Energy and produces enough electricity to power 500,000 homes.  As a liaison between the plant and the public, Harris set aside several acres as an education center and hiking trails.  The center offers scheduled tours that cover the topics of energy production and energy conservation.  There are interactive exhibits, most are suited for school-age children. The trails outside have a number of bridges and board walks and move through several ecosystems, including a field and stream. Trees are marked with interpretive signs.  The deciduous canopy and beautiful ferns make these trails beautiful in the spring time, and each bend seems to have an interesting fallen tree, moss covered ledge, or little stream to explore.  Hope your family gets out to the environmental center soon!

With Love, Turtle Dove

Know Before You Go:  The Center is closed on weekends and opens to the public for scheduled tours only.  See  https://www.duke-energy.com/energy-education/energy-centers-and-programs/harris-energy-and-environmental-center/visit-us to learn more about booking a tour. The trails are open to the public from sun up to sundown each day.

The trails can be difficult to follow, look for white markings and the occasional set of arrow signs.

There are no public restrooms, unless you are there for a scheduled tour.

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CITY AND TOWN PARKS

Pullen Park

DSC_4550.JPGThere is an amusement park right in the middle of downtown Raleigh! Operated by the City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation, Pullen Park has so much fun to offer to visitors at such a great price, it’s no wonder that it is a favorite for families of the triangle area.  A beautiful 19th century historic carousel, a train, and little kiddie boats can all be ridden here for $1/ guest.  The park also has play spaces for several ages and ability levels, and a sand and water area.  DSC_4467-01.jpegInteresting spaces, such as the amphitheater, koi pond, caboose, and small islands with shade and geese make spending time anywhere in the park unique and fun.  The pond also has pedal boats available for rent in the summer months, as well as some awesome evening films on outdoor screens.  The park restaurant, Pullen Place, offers locally sourced food and plenty of vegetarian and allergy friendly foods.  It’s such a fun place to be a kid! I hope your family gets to spend a day riding the rides and exploring the play areas soon!

With Love, Turtle Dove

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Know Before You Go:  The restaurant opens at 11, and the rides open 10 am, while the park is open from 9 -9.  The rides close due to inclement weather and darkness.

Tickets for the train, carousel, and boats must be purchased at the park entrance box office and all adults need tickets to ride.

This park is stroller friendly.

There are restrooms in the center of the park, near the carousel, and also at the restaurant/outdoor dining area.

The sand and water play area does not have a foot or hand washing area.DSC_4587.JPG

 

STATE PARKS

Falls Lake State Recreation Area

DSC_4098-01We spent Mother’s day afternoon at the Beaverdam swimming area of Falls Lake and while beautiful, the beach was CROWDED! Falls Lake is used often for family reunions and group events.  We ended up setting up in the picnic section, and it was so much more peaceful, with a shelter of trees and lovely mossy ground.  The lake itself is gorgeous, with a clay bottom and little islands and banks covered in pine trees.  Beaverdam is one of 5 swimming areas (2 were already marked “Full” when we arrived), and is especially nice because there are no motorized boats allowed in that area. Aside from the shoulder to shoulder people in the area, Falls Lake beaches offer bathhouses, playgrounds, and picnic areas.  The park is also on the Mountains to the Sea Trail and is  great for hiking and mountain biking.   There are campsites ranging from RV hookups to primitive, and 2 of the beaches on site are dedicated for camper use only.  The canoeing and kayaking are great here, as there are so many great islands to circle and explore, and you can launch from the great boat ramps or at several walk-outs along the shoreline.  Hope you and your family have an opportunity to spend some time at Falls Lake soon!

Know Before You Go:  The beach and picnic areas fill up early.  Apparently, people go early and set up, and will occasionally move other people’s items around in order to make room for their own.  Week days are much less crowded.

There is a $7/ car fee for day use at the park from May to September, $6 on weekdays, with different fees for seniors and vans/buses. More information can be found here https://www.ncparks.gov/falls-lake-state-recreation-area/trails

There are restrooms in the beach areas with changing areas and outside showers.  There are also restrooms on the trails near the campgrounds.

There is plenty of wildlife at this park, including ticks and snakes.AirBrush_20180521204701

MUSEUMS AND EDUCATIONAL CENTERS

North Carolina Museum of Art

DSC_3877-01 I feel so lucky to live in an area so rich in museums! My kids get to spend several days each year contemplating rooms full of  Rodins, cases of ancient cultural artifacts, and galleries of contemporary art at NCMA.  A stroll through the permanent collection can take us an entire day, so we try to divide up our trips by whatever artistic subjects are relevant to our studies at the time, or we may take a few hours and spend them in one of the museum’s amazing temporary exhibits. While the permanent collections are strictly hands-off, the special exhibitions often have interactive pieces, and sometimes a whole gallery for children’s discovery and creation.  Outside of the exhibit halls, visitors are treated to acres of manicured walking trails that wind around and through outdoor exhibits, an amphitheatre, and a discovery garden with a great slide sculpture and sensory garden.  The rolling hills of the park lead down to a wooded area with bridges and an AMAZING ‘cloud house’ built of stone and earth .  DSC_0880-01.jpeg  The wooded trails loop back to the parking areas, amphitheater, and connect to a greenway that crosses the highway.  Pop-up art programs are held regularly out in the small pavilion in the middle of the park, and are a great, free way for kids to connect to the art.  I hope you and your family get to see some of the wonderful pieces this museum has to offer soon.

With Love, Turtle Dove

Know before you go:  There are restrooms in both exhibit halls and outside underneath the amphitheatre.  There are no restrooms out in the art park.

There is no charge for the museum entrance, but special exhibits usually have a fee.  Children under 6 are often discounted or free.

There is food available at the art museum cafe, but you may need a reservation to be seated on busy days.  It is slightly formal, and the arrangement doesn’t lend itself to play, but you can order and take food outdoors. Sip Cafe, also in the main building has great coffee and baked goods.

The museum is closed Monday, but the park is open each day, dawn to dusk.

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CITY AND TOWN PARKS

Bass Lake Park

screenshot_20180430-222005_instagram.jpgThe Town of Holly Springs operates a great little nature center at Bass Lake Park, with live animals, small exhibits, viewing decks, and a little Natural History reading nook.  My children love visiting the long time animal residents there: a soft-shelled turtle, milk, king, and pine snakes, and even a little albino hedgehog.  There are always park staff members on hand to answer questions, and sometimes they even have the animals out for cage cleaning or education programs so you get to meet them up close.  Of course, Bass Lake also has animals living outdoors in their natural habitats, such as the fish for which the lake is named, as well as frogs, turtles and all types of waterfowl and songbirds.  Fishing is encouraged, and there are boats for rent and poles to check out for kids. The trail around the lake provides mulch-covered trails for comfortable strolling, and lots of places to stop and look around along the way.  I hope your family gets to see the cool creatures and beautiful flora at Bass Lake soon.

With Love, Turtle Dove

Know Before You Go:  The Nature Center has restrooms, water for sale, ice cream for sale, picnic areas, and nature backpacks to check out with your license or some other id.

The trails are all mulch and not really stroller friendly unless it is an all terrain stroller.

The main trail loops around the lake, returning to the center.

Snakes are along the trail, especially near the water.

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COUNTY PARKS AND RECREATION SITES

Lake Crabtree County Park

DSC_3514-01.jpegJust off Airport Boulevard near Raleigh-Durham International, there is a fabulous wilderness park with playgrounds, boating, and an awesome wildlife observation tower.  You can rent boats or bring your own canoes and kayaks to launch off of the accessible and public boat launch for an amazing day on the lake, where you can view heron and all sorts of fish up close.   There is a lovely open play area in a field near the lake, great for frisbee and other sports. A sand Volleyball court is also located near the boat launch. Adobe_20180430_213152-02  The thing that makes Crabtree Park memorable for us, though, is the 4-story observation tower overlooking the lake.  The kids love running up the stairs to the top and gazing out to watch birds or planes fly by.  I hope you and your family get a chance to spend a sunny day there soon!

With Love,

Turtle Dove

Know Before You Go:  There are restrooms at the tower, the manager building, and the public boat ramp area.  There is no food available, but water fountains are located at the tower.

Each of the 2 playgrounds are shaded and near the lake and picnic shelters.

There is a cool old historic home site if you take the trail from the open playspace.  It has some great interpretation about growing tobacco.

Certain trails are closed from time to time. Check the website and look for signs to stay off of unsafe trails. Parts of the greenway are under construction as of May 1, 2018.

Fishing at the park is catch and release.

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