Anderson Point Park

My mom visited this past weekend so on Friday morning we headed out to Anderson Point Park at 20 Anderson Point Dr in east Raleigh. This park is bordered by 264/64 bypass on the north, the Neuse River to the east and Crabtree Creek on the west. From the park you can also access the greenway via the Neuse River Trail which is over 4.5 miles of unpaved trails. Here’s a satellite view of Anderson Point Park from Google Maps.

When you arrive at the park, go around the cul-de-sac to the far left to the parking lot. From there we found a very helpful park map detailing all the features.  We then walked by the Large Shelter and headed left along the main trail, which is about 3/4 mile loop. The shelter is a large pavilion with several picnic tables, restrooms, and an adjacent open field with a back stop.

Main entrance sign
Informational board near parking lot
Parking lot
Large Shelter pavilion
Restrooms at Large Shelter
Open field with backstop near Large Shelter
Another view of the open field

Walking along the paved trail we first came to the amphitheater. It’s a beautiful stone-terraced amphitheater with lush green grass at each level. At the bottom is a large tree surrounded by a stone wall with benches and swings along the perimeter. The tree provides great shade for picnics or reading on a hot day.  My mom did comment on how difficult it might be to see any type of performance at the bottom due to the hedges at each terraced level.

Amphitheater
Large shade tree and benches
Ashley with her Cici
Looking from the top of the amphitheater

Back on the trail we followed the spiral pathway up to the scenic overlook. There’s a circular flower garden at the top surrounded by a stone wall perfect for sitting and enjoying the views of the park. There are also several covered swings at the top great for relaxing and taking in the scenery.

Pic of the paved trail
Flower garden at the top
Shaded benches at the top
View from the top overlooking the park

Continuing on, we passed bluebird trails and bird houses that attract martin birds. Luckily my mom, who is a bird enthusiast, was with us to identify the bird houses. The surrounding natural vegetation still allows for great views of the park.

Houses along the bluebird trail
Martin birdhouses

Next, we came upon a large open field with a backstop across from the Retreat Cottage. The cottage can be rented for conferences and events and contains a small nearby parking lot to use.

Open field with backstop near cottage
Sign outside cottage
Retreat Cottage for rent

Close to the cottage is the Small Shelter, which is a covered pavilion with several picnic tables and restrooms. It has an adjacent open field surrounded by crape myrtles and magnolias. Nearby there is also an information board with details about renting the various shelters, open fields, and Retreat Cottage.

Small Shelter with picnic tables
Restrooms near Small Shelter
Open field near Small Shelter
Beautiful crape myrtles and stone work near open field

Next on the trail is the largest playground I’ve ever seen. Part of the playground is covered in a mulch base and part is a sandy base. There is a large jungle gym, multiple swing sets, and several teeter totters with plenty of seating along the perimeter and sloped, grassy hill. The entire playground area is full sun, so be sure take a break at the nearby water fountain. The Small Shelter would be perfect for birthday parties with the playground being so close!

Looking down at the playground
Slides down the grassy hill
Large jungle gym
Swing sets
Another view of the jungle gym
Sandy area with teeter totters
Water fountain

Continuing on, we arrived near the entrance, which has several shade trees and swings overlooking a large part of the park.  The signs are helpful in directing you to the various parts of the park.

Shade trees and swings near entrance
Benches at the entrance
Signage near the front

We followed the trail back to the parking lot and headed out of the park, but not without stopping at the canoe launch that we passed on our way in.  Park in the lot there to get on the Neuse River Trail or head down the gravel road to the launch area for the Neuse River.

Canoe Launch sign from Anderson Point Dr
Gravel lot near put-in area
Launch area
Looking north up the Neuse River
Looking south towards the railroad tracks and 264/64 bypass

This is a great open park with lots of unique amenities surrounded by a paved trail that is perfect for walking the dogs and babies or going for a run.  We had a fun morning with lots of exploring, so we finished off our adventure with cupcakes from The Cupcake Shoppe!

Yummy red velvet

Thumbs up: scenic overlook, shelters, open fields, access to greenway, canoe launch area, playground, beauty of amphitheater, birding

Thumbs down: unsure of usage of amphitheater

Glen Eden Pilot Park

Glen Eden Pilot Park seems small and uninviting at first glance, but boy does it pack a punch! This park is located at 1500 Glen Eden Dr just outside the beltline. When I first pulled up I immediately noticed the empty parking lot and ugly stone building. I was carrying Ashley in her car seat due to lack of signs about trails so I figured I’d take a few pics with nothing to report and we’d head home. The main building is not staffed and was locked but can be rented by calling the Jaycee Comm Center at 831-6833. Next to the building I passed some stairs so we decided to walk down them. At the bottom I was pleasantly surprised to see a paved walkway and a gravel path that seemed like you could access it from Glen Eden Dr. My gut told me maybe there was more to this park than I initially thought, so I went back to the car, put Ashley in her stroller, headed on the narrow sidewalk and turned left out of the parking lot onto Glen Eden Dr. We found the secret wheeled-access path and met back up with the paved walkway.

Main park entrance
Front of the stone building
View of the empty parking lot
Another empty parking lot pic
Stairs next to the building leading down to the paved trail
Side view of stone building available for rent
Gravel path for wheeled access (tough for pushing the stroller)

As we continued we passed a small pond for fishing and then came upon this open space oasis! I felt like we had just entered the secret garden! There is a large pavilion with 5 picnic tables, large open fields, 2 basketball courts, and a playground area all adjacent to this 1/4 mile loop paved trail. There are benches and a water fountain near the basketball court. The playground has a swing set and 2 jungle gyms. The large open spaces would be great for picnics or flag football.

Small pond for fishing
Pavilion with picnic tables
Huge open fields
Basketball courts
Playground with jungle gyms and swingset

We walked past the basketball courts and found another entrance to the park with a small parking lot at Carlow St and Eden Croft Dr. This is a much more suitable entrance for visitors with strollers or in wheelchairs.

Smaller parking lot at alternate entrance (again empty)

From the trail we also came across a secret set of tennis courts. There are 4 courts and 1 court for single play against the backboard. The sign on the courts said to reserve the courts through Raleigh Tennis or use them on a first-come first-serve basis. There is also a separate entrance for the tennis courts although I couldn’t access the parking lot because of having the stroller.

Court with backboard
One of the four tennis courts

As we headed back on the trail I enjoyed how the birds were drowning out the noisy nearby I-440. We had the entire park to ourselves, but I couldn’t help but imagine how much more popular this park could be if only a few signs were posted in the parking lot advertising “spectacular basketball courts, playground, picnic tables, and tennis just a few 100 yards away!”.  Here’s a satellite view of the park from Google Maps of the entire area so you get a feel for what it looks like from overhead.

Thumbs up: peacefulness, open space, tennis courts, basketball courts, playground
Thumbs down: wheeled access from Glen Eden Dr entrance, lack of signage throughout park, lack of information at main building

Fred Fletcher Park

From playing sports, walking, and having picnics to viewing the numerous gardens there is such a variety of activities at Fletcher Park. Fletcher Park is located at 802 Clay St inside the beltline. Parking is available along Washington St or in the nearby parking lot. We parked in the large parking lot and began our stroll along the paved walkway. The entire park is magnificently landscaped. Follow the walkway and you’ll come across stone walls protecting the gardens, perfectly edged lawns, and beautiful gardens filled with varieties of crape myrtles, gardenias, magnolias, hostas, butterfly bushes, and daylilies.

Enjoy a picnic lunch on a bench, on the lush green grass, or in the amphitheater-style seating in the grass. There are plenty of private areas to lay a blanket down and soak up some sun with a good book too!

Next, we came upon the Borden house, which was built circa 1900. It has been restored and is available to rent for weddings and other events.

We then walked through the grass next to the Borden building to get a better view of the baseball fields below.

Afterwards, we walked through the grass behind the Borden house and came upon another paved walkway that backs up to residential homes. We passed several labeled species of daylilies.

As we followed the narrow path around, we discovered the water gardens that were under construction in 2008. First we came upon the Forebay, which is the deepest pool of the water garden.

Information plaque about the Forebay
Plant life in the Forebay

We continued on and enjoyed the rest of the water garden and wetlands. There is a great wooden deck overlooking the wetlands, perfect for spotting wildlife and enjoying the views. Informational plaques located along the walkway and on the deck provide more details about the benefits the water gardens provide. It’s a great place for kids to experience; while there, we saw ducks, dragonflies, and butterflies!  Here’s more information about the City of Raleigh Water Garden and Wetlands Project.

Information plaque about the Water Garden
Demonstrating how the water garden improves water quality in Raleigh
Looking into the water garden
Views of the plant life
Plants thrive here!
Beautiful purple flowering plants love it here too!
One of the many ducks living in the water garden
Learn more about the different plants that inhabit the water garden
Baby Ashley enjoying the views from the deck
It was such a sunny day!

Across from the water gardens are the basketball courts and tennis courts. When Bill and I used to play tennis here it was always a very popular spot.

Across from the tennis courts you’ll see the art sculpture.  Further ahead, you’ll pass the shaded playground area along Washington St. To the left there is also a large pavilion with picnic tables and a charcoal grill. If you continue on the walkway you’ll find your way back to parking lot. This is also a great place to visit on Sunday evenings in the summer for their free concert series! Bring a blanket and some snacks and have a fantastic evening!



Thumbs up: condition of basketball and tennis courts, scenic views, wetlands, water gardens, picnic spots, landscaping, free concerts
Thumbs down: lack of signage

Trip to Southport, NC

I’ve only been to a handful of small towns in my life and this week I had the extreme pleasure of spending the week in Southport, NC for my brother’s wedding.  He is marrying the lovely Rachael Anderson today and I couldn’t be happier for them.

We had a lot of free time this week before the wedding festivities began so I took my sister, Ginni, and Ashley around downtown Southport for some exploring.

After we walked through the shops we headed to the Waterfront Park & River Walk area (corner of Howe St and Bay St), which is located on the Cape Fear River.  This is a beautiful spot to have a seat on a bench or swing and watch the boats come by.  There are several small pavilions with picnic tables, but be careful of the seagulls if packing a picnic lunch.

View of the Waterfront from the north
Map of the area detailing the various islands around Cape Fear River
Bike racks are available
Paved walkways make it easy for strollers
Pavilion with picnic tables
Benches along the Waterfront

Next to the Waterfront is City Pier, which is a popular spot for fishing.  The moderate breeze from the river also helps cool down the hot and muggy NC summer days!

Continuing north on Bay St, you’ll come to Southport Community Building, which is where my brother and Rachael are getting married today!  It has a gorgeous deck overlooking the river, which is where the ceremony will be held and a reception hall inside the building.  There is parallel parking available on both sides of Bay St and stairs to access the building from the street.

Views from the top deck
Southport Community Building

Continuing north, we enjoyed watching the large boats return from trips at sea.  The homes along the walk are also interesting to look at, especially given their historic, New England style.  Each home has a plaque near the front door listing when it was built; most are from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Not having a final destination in mind, I was pleasantly surprised when we came upon another park along the river, Kingsley Park!  Kingsley Park is at the corner of Kingsley Dr and Bay St and is only about 1/4 mile from the Waterfront area.  This was an area where menhaden fishing boats used to dock decades ago.  Menhaden fish are caught in nets and are mostly used for their oil and ecological resources, as they have too many bones for human consumption.

Kingsley Park has several benches, paved sidewalks, information plaques detailing the menhaden fishing industry and Hurricane Hazel destruction from 1954, and a long pier into the river.

Kingsley Park
Benches in the park
Gardens around the park
View towards the river
Ashley and me on the pier
Ginni and Ashley on the pier
Information plaques about the fishing industry

Southport, NC is a fantastically quiet getaway with so much to do.  Whether you’re walking around downtown, shopping, taking in scenes of the river, or eating at one of the local restaurants you’ll have a great time.  From Raleigh, Southport is only 2.5 hours – perfect for a day trip and making wedding memories!  Congrats again to Brandon and Rachael…can’t wait to celebrate with you tonight!

Thumbs up: scenic views, photo ops, educational plaques, historic homes, river walk, piers, downtown atmosphere

Thumbs down: nothing to note 🙂

Historic Oak View County Park

Historic Oak View County Park is a must-see park for people of all ages located at 4028 Carya Drive in east Raleigh.  I had first visited this park several years ago when I volunteered with the Raleigh Jaycees and Wake County Animal Shelter during their Annual Mutt Strutt and was so surprised at how large and unassuming it was given that it’s right in a business park.

As you pull into the park you pass a small pond, large open fields, and shelters to the left and limited parking on the right.  There’s a walking path that snakes through the open fields.

 

Keep straight on the road to get to the main attractions of the park – Visitor’s Center, Cotton Gin Museum, and Main House.  First, check in at the Visitor’s Center and get a walking map of the area.  Inside the Visitor’s Center, you’ll find some agricultural exhibits to visit and a ton of educational activities for children to do.  It also seems like the center has children’s programs available during the week, so call them to learn more.  Begin your journey by heading out the back doors through the patio.

Benches outside the Visitor's Center

Our first stop along the paved walk was to the cotton fields and the Cotton Gin Museum.

Signs directing you to the different attractions
Plaque with information about the Cotton Gin House
Cotton fields that are available for groups to help with throughout the year
Plaque explaining the seasonal work for producing cotton
Wagons outside the Cotton Gin House
The Cotton Gin House showcases historical and educational information about producing cotton

Just past the Cotton Gin House is the Williams family cemetery.

The Williams family cemetery
Head stone marking the Williams family

Next, we visited the gorgeous Main House, which is an 1855 Greek Revival home.  During our visit the temporary exhibit, “Morning to Night: Domestic Service in the Guilded Age South” was being showcased.  The exhibit tells the story of the African-American work force in the south.

Entrance to the Main House
Front side of the Main House
Another view of the Greek Revival Main House
Inside the Main House

Just outside the Main House is the Cedar Plank Kitchen, which was unusual for this part of the country because of the costs of cedar.  The kitchen was built separately from the main structure in the event a fire broke out it would not destroy the entire home.

Back side of the kitchen
Plaque of the Cedar Plank Kitchen

Another site to see on your trip through the park is the Herb Garden, which has everything from basil to horseradish!

Other buildings to explore on your visit include the Barn, Carriage House/Tenant House

Carriage House
Barn
Information about the Farm House
Brick walkway through the park
Great spot for photos
Benches along the way

Thumbs up: Visitor’s Center, educational activities, cotton museum, walking path, herb garden, signage, benches, shelter areas
Thumbs down: location of park being within business park

Adventures at Jaycee Park

Oh the Jaycee Park…something for everyone!  As a member of the Raleigh Jaycees since 2007, I’m proud of this park and what it provides to the community. The Jaycee Park was built in the 1960’s and the Raleigh Jaycees were instrumental in helping raise funds by selling targets at the Turkey Shoot at the NC State Fair. Since then it has provided years of recreation for people of all ages.  There’s such a wide variety of things to do here, it’ll take you half a day to explore them all.

If you’re looking for recreational activities, this is the park!  It has 3 lit baseball fields, a large community center, 6 lit sand volleyball courts, 2 lit tennis courts, and a large sandy playground. Next to the sand volleyball courts there’s even a shower faucet for post-game rinses.  The shade trees and benches next to the playground provide great picnic spots. There is also a large recycling drop-off area, community center, administration building, pavilion with charcoal grill and restrooms, and a hemerocallis (daylily) garden.

This park is located at 2405 Wade Avenue inside the beltline and has two entrances with parking lots, one from Wade Ave and one from Chamberlain St.  From Wade Ave, you can easily get to the community center, administration building, and hemerocallis garden.  To get to the recreational areas you can walk up a hill or drive around to the other parking area.  The hill isn’t very steep, but there’s not a paved path so I don’t recommend it with a stroller.

Views of the baseball fields


Tennis courts and sand volleyball courts


Wade Ave entrance, administration building, and community center


Pavilion with restrooms and charcoal grill and playground


Ashley enjoying a shady spot near the playground


Raleigh Hemerocallis Garden and gazebo within the garden


3 of the 50+ different species of daylilies featured in the garden


Brick path that allows you to meander through the daylily garden


A plaque memorializing the daylily gardens in honor of Charles Benjamin “Ben” Huyett



Enjoy your time at Jaycee Park and don’t forget to appreciate how it came to be!  If you’re interested in learning more about the Raleigh Jaycees come visit us at a meeting or better yet…come out to the Beer & Wine Tasting tomorrow night at Tir Na Nog to benefit the HOBY NC East program.

Thumbs up:  condition of tennis/volleyball courts and baseball fields, landscaping, shady spots for picnics, daylily gardens, playground, parking

Thumbs down: Wade Ave entrance, lack of sidewalks near Wade Ave entrance, lack of signage

Shelley Lake

Shelley Lake is a large park in the North Raleigh area. It is located at 1400 W Millbrook Rd and is a popular place to walk and run, especially in the evenings. The lake is surrounded by a portion of the Bent Creek greenway trail that is 2.08 miles. The Lake Park trail (unpaved .42 miles) also connects off the greenway.  A lot of the trail is shaded, but there are also long stretches of full sun.  When you pull into the parking lot follow the snaking trail to the left where you’ll connect to the greenway.

As we walked around the trail we came across several different things this park has to offer.

The parking lot off Millbrook Rd and signage about the park

 

Condition of the trail
Pier and boat house
Access to the fishing pier
Restrooms on one side and scenic views on the other
Water fountain outside the restrooms

Beautiful viewing area overlooking lake

 

Continuing on, you’ll notice that the signage throughout the park is pretty thorough. This park has a lot to offer and it could be easy to get lost along the way. Luckily we didn’t have to leave bread crumbs to help us get back to the parking lot.  The signs direct you to the Lake Park Drive (the unpaved section of the greenway), the Sertoma Arts Center, restrooms, and the Shelley Lake Trail around the lake.  We didn’t venture up to the Arts Center, but it has a plethora of adult and youth art classes available.

As you continue on the trail, you’ll come across a wooden bridge where you can stop to take pictures and visit with the ducks and geese.  Here are some pictures of Ashley with her own Duckie Wubbanub.

In addition to the amenities listed above this park also contains benches along the trail, workout stations, large open fields, and additional access to the other portions of the greenway trail.  Here are some more spectacular views of the lake and open fields.

Thumbs up:  spectacular views, great jogging trail, signage, access to other greenway trails, art center

Thumbs down: popular spot so it’ll be busy, litter in the lake

Lassiter Mill Park

Lassiter Mill Park is a hidden gem of a park.  It is located inside the belt line at the intersection of Lassiter Mill Rd & Lassiter Falls Circle and is home to a beautiful dam where Crabtree Creek flows through.  You can see remnants of the old working mill on the far side of the creek. There is also a plaque with information about the mill on the bank of the water.

Ashley sitting near the information plaque for the old mill
View of the dam from the bank of the creek
Old mill on the opposite side of the creek

This is a great spot to bring a picnic lunch and eat in the open fields or on one of the few picnic tables. For the adventurers, shimmy down the rocky stairs for a closer view of the water. I wouldn’t recommend doing this with a baby unless you have a helper (thanks Bill).  There are also plenty of spots for fishing and signs along the water displaying fishing rules and regulations.

Bill with Ashley on the rocks near the dam
Ashley and I looking across the dam
Another view of the dam

Parking is rather limited so come early.

After you’ve finished exploring the park, walk on the paved path towards Lassiter Mill Road and make a left. After the bridge, cross the street where you’ll find access to the Crabtree Creek Trail, which is perfect for biking, walking, or running. We walked for about a mile on this paved section and then had a picnic on one of the many benches along the greenway. There is an open field with picnic tables but we weren’t up to pushing the stroller through medium-height grass. Along the way we also walked over a beautiful bridge that would make for great photo ops!

The open area with a few picnic tables
The bridge we crossed over is great for photo ops
Crabtree Creek Trail is paved and wide – perfect for all adventures!
The entrance to the trail from Lassiter Mill Rd

Thumbs up: beautiful scenery, walking trails, picnic/photo ops

Thumbs down: access to dam

Hello World

So, what do you do when you have a new baby, are no longer working, and have lots of free time? #1 Get out of the house (baby cries are less ear-deafening with trees, cars, and people to absorb them) and #2 find free things to do. Since I’ve got baby Ashley with me we needed to find some appropriate mommy/daughter things to do (unfortunately free beer/wine tastings were out…so sorry Wine Merchant and Lonerider).

Growing up my mom spent a lot of time taking me and my brother and sister to the local county parks and pools in Stafford, VA so I thought it was only natural to introduce baby Ashley to the various parks throughout Raleigh.  Unfortunately the county and city websites in Raleigh lack a lot of details on each park and there’s not an easy way to search for what you’re looking for in a park.  So, we’ve decided to venture out to all the parks, playgrounds, trails, and pools in Raleigh and report back with photos, details, and our general feedback on each one.

My husband, Bill, and I have been to several of the Raleigh parks in the past but we were more interested in the bike trails and tennis courts.  With baby around now, I’m looking for even sidewalks, shade, and long trails.  Even though baby Ashley is years away from personally enjoying my crazy get-out-and-explore mentality I’m sure she’ll enjoy looking at the pictures and stories of our adventures when she’s old enough. Who knows…maybe she’ll take her daughter on similar adventures one day 🙂  So, here we are at one of our first adventures at Lassiter Mill Park:

Sitting at Lassiter Mill Park
One of our first adventures to Lassiter Mill Park