Jennette’s Pier

Last week I spent a wonderfully relaxing week with great friends and family in Nags Head.  Everyday was at least 85 degrees and sunny except for the last day, so my mom, sister, bro-in-law, Ashley and I decided to check out the newly renovated Jennette’s Pier at MP 16.5 in Nags Head.  For someone who isn’t interested in fishing, I fell in love with this pier!  From the magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean, to the history and science lessons scattered throughout the pier, to the spirit of the fishermen… you, too, will fall in love.

The pier, on property originally owned by the Jennette family, was first built in 1939 for $6,000 and extended 740 feet.  It collapsed in 1943 and was rebuilt after WWII in 1947.  Since then, there have been several repairs due to storms and hurricanes, most notably in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel came through and destroyed a large portion of the pier.  Before then, the Jennette family had sold the pier and then the NC Aquarium Society (a division of the NC Dept of Environmental and Natural Resources) purchased it in 2003.  Construction of the new pier began in 2009 and was finally completed earlier this year.

Before going onto the pier, you’ll pass through the main building, which contains the future aquarium, educational programs, and gift/convenience shop.  The shop is filled with children’s books, stuffed animals, and prepared food and drinks.  A digital tower highlights educational programs, daily temperature and tidal current info, fishing reports, and history about the pier.  There is no fee to walk onto the pier, but there is a suggested $2 donation.  The daily fishing rates are as follows: $12 adults, $6 children under 12.  Additional fishing fees can be found here.

The new pier cost $25 million and has 257 concrete piles installed between 35-45 ft deep.  The pier extends 1000 feet, where the water is about 25 ft deep.  It is a grand structure, to say the least.  As you walk along the pier, it’s easy to get lost in the conversation among the fisherman, the sounds of the crashing waves, and in the educational information about tidal currents, pier etiquette, wind power, marine mammals and birds, and surfing, to name a few.  You’ll also see fish plaques throughout the pier showcasing the various sponsors.  The sounds from the three wind-powered turbines support the pier’s “green” statement.

On the second story of the pier is a large reception room available to rent for private events.  It has a plasma TV, floor-to-ceiling fireplace, and gorgeous globe-like chandeliers.  The wrap-around porch with rocking chairs provides 270 degree views of the pier and ocean.  Chair sponsorships are also available.

So, next time you’re at the Outer Banks be sure to check out Jennette’s Pier with your family.  Whether you’re there to do some fishing or just exploring the pier, there is great fun for everyone!

Thumbs up:  beautiful views, educational programs, gift/convenience shop, informational boards throughout pier

Thumbs down:  nothing to report

Powell Drive Park

This post originally appeared on southwestraleigh.com, where you can learn more about what a great place South West Raleigh is to live, work, and play.

Powell Drive Park is another example of a Raleigh park that offers more features than meets the eye.  Drive past Powell Drive Park and you might only see the features closest to the road, such as the unattractive neighborhood building, playground area, and tennis courts.  You may not know that if you explore the park further, you’ll find a small pond surrounded by shade trees great for picnics and photos, pavilions perfect for small family outings, and a large open field for group recreational activities.

Powell Drive Park is located at 740 Powell Drive in the southwest Raleigh area.  It is located in the triangular region between Western Blvd, I-440, and I-40.  For those in the nearby neighborhoods, there are sidewalks and stairs for accessing the park.

Close to the parking lot is a small open field, a neighborhood center used for programs or available for rent, two lighted tennis courts, and a playground area.  The neighborhood center is not staffed, but you can learn more about the facility at the City of Raleigh’s website.  The playground area has a large jungle gym with mulch base, swing set, sandbox area, benches, and water fountain.

Follow the paved path from the parking lot past the playground and you’ll first come to the lighted basketball court.  Immediately past the basketball court is where the small pond surrounded by shade trees is located.  Several benches are located along the perimeter of the pond, which you can access by a cleared trail covered in pine needles.  At opposite ends of the pond are small steel bridges, which add architectural interest to the area.  Sadly, on this particular day, I didn’t see any evidence of ducks or turtles near the pond.

Continue on the paved path to access the large, open field where the backstop and soccer goals are located.  The open field is surrounded by a dense forest to the north and west and four small pavilions (one has a charcoal grill) and a less dense forest to the east and south.

With the busy school schedule and college/pro football season upon us, take some time out and grab the kids and stomp around the playground, enjoy a yummy picnic with a loved one, or round up some friends for a game of flag football at Powell Drive Park.

Thumbs up: playground area, shady picnic spots, photo ops around pond, large open field, small pavilions

Thumbs down: unattractive community building

Lake Johnson Park

Picturesque. Serene. Beloved. All words to describe my recent visits to Lake Johnson Park.

Lake Johnson Park is located in the heart of southwest Raleigh at 4601 Avent Ferry Rd. Its popularity is evident with the many parking lots scattered throughout the park. On two of the mornings I visited, I had to loop around the lot a few times before a spot opened up. Other parking areas are highlighted on this map and can be found further down Avent Ferry Rd on the left, off Lake Dam Dr, at Athens Dr High School, or at Lake Johnson Pool.

The main entrance is where you’ll find the large veranda, deck, conference room, concessions, restrooms, rentals, live bait/tackle vending machines, and the boat put-in area. The veranda, conference room, and deck are available for rent. Paddle boats, jon boats, sunfish sailboats and canoes/kayaks are also available for rent. Rocking chairs along the perimeter of the deck provide peaceful views of the lake. There are also several picnic tables and information boards highlighting several of the unique park programs (boot camp, nature photography, fly fishing, sailing). Even though most have already begun, the fall programs such as the kayak and canoe lessons for ages 12+ are starting soon. Call 919-233-2121 for more information. Stroller Strides also runs fitness classes for moms/dads with kids on Tues/Thurs mornings and is beginning a mom/dad 5k training program on Friday, Aug. 26th.

Avent Ferry Rd splits Lake Johnson in half and there is a paved trail loop on the eastern half and an unpaved trail loop on the western half. The trail is the Lake Johnson Segment of the Walnut Creek greenway trail. Park maps can be found at several of the parking areas, but if you head east on the trail from the main entrance you’ll find a helpful map detailing distances and features of the park.

Distances around the park:

  • West Loop (unpaved, prohibited to biking) = 2.15 miles
  • East Loop (paved) = 2.75 miles
  • Full Loop = 4.33 miles
  • East to west loop from the bridge = 1.32 miles

East Trail – This is a wide, paved path perfect for biking, strolling kids/dogs, walking, and running. The trail is enveloped in large trees that provide great shade. You’ll find beautiful views of the lake throughout this trail, especially along the dam and boardwalk. You’ll also pass a few benches, swings, and shelters for rent along this trail. Shelter 2 has two picnic tables and a large charcoal grill and Shelter 4 has four picnic tables, several benches, and a large charcoal grill. Magnolia Cottage is a medium-sized building tucked deep in the woods that can also be rented for events. If you head clockwise on the trail from the main parking lot the trail starts off flat and then gets rather hilly after crossing the dam.

West Trail – This is a fun trail for hiking or trail running. Bikes are prohibited and I would recommend using a Baby Bjorn or back pack if bringing an infant/very young child. Use caution on the trail, as it is mostly a narrow, hilly, dirt trail with roots covering the path. Nature photography opportunities are galore on this trail. You can also access Lake Johnson Pool from the West Trail. Even though we didn’t have time for a visit inside the pool, from the outside there looks to be a spray garden, baby pool, and main pool with lap lanes and free swim area.

After a two year hiatus from visiting Lake Johnson Park until last week, I’ve been back three times and it is quickly becoming a favorite. Between the scenic views, boating opportunities, great running trails, and safeness of the area it’s a must-visit park!

Thumbs up: shady trails, scenic views, condition of paved trail, boating opportunities, security, facility rentals, mile markers along East trail, peacefulness

Thumbs down: confusing signage (especially along West Trail)

This post originally appeared on soutwestraleigh.com, where you can learn more about what a great place South West Raleigh is to live, work, and play.

Kentwood Park

This post originally appeared on soutwestraleigh.com, where you can learn more about what a great place South West Raleigh is to live, work, and play.

Kentwood Park is located at 4531 Kaplan Dr in southwest Raleigh not far from the NC State campus and AB Combs Elementary School. It’s too bad the park entrance sign is missing, but given the park’s proximity to the road, it’s hard to miss the entrance.

From the medium-sized parking lot near the entrance you can get to all the park’s features within a very short walking distance. Follow the steps up to one of the four lighted tennis courts or follow the sidewalk to the large playground area and pavilion with picnic table

Unfortunately, the recent rains seemed to have resulted in more silt and sand covering the pavilion area. Near the back of the parking lot is a building with restrooms and a community board. The restrooms have certainly seen better days, but be sure to check out the community board especially if you’re interested in frisbee golf leagues. Just past the building is the lighted baseball field complete with bleacher seating for the spectators.

Signs are posted on the way to the baseball field alerting patrons of the stream restoration project that is in process. The sign notes that the City is intentionally not mowing sections of the park in order to allow the natural vegetation to build up and stabilize the stream bank. Check out the information plaque for more details about the in-progress restoration.

This is one of the few parks in Raleigh with an 18-hole frisbee golf course. It begins near Kaplan Dr and ends between the baseball field and tennis courts. Being close to NC State this is a very popular place for college students to play, as we saw several kids playing golf that day. Not ever having played frisbee golf, my competitive nature will definitely bring me back to the park soon to play.

Thumbs up: frisbee golf, tennis courts, playground

Thumbs down: bathroom facilities, landscaping, lack of park entrance sign

Museum Park

The Museum Park is located on the grounds of the NC Museum of Art at 2110 Blue Ridge Rd just outside the beltline.  Part of the trail through the park is shared with the Reedy Creek Trail greenway, which connects Meredith College to Umstead Park and Schenck Forest.  The museum was renovated a few years ago and besides biking the greenway past the museum, I hadn’t really stopped to visit this park.  So, we parked in the museum parking lot and followed the paved trail towards the very easy-to-read information board.

The information board highlights four different walking paths to take and breaks it out by distance, walking time, calories burned, and features you’ll see along the way.  Because it was a very hot Sunday and we had the stroller, we opted for the one-mile Ambler path, which allowed us to explore several works of art on the paved trail close to the museum.  For those planning ahead, here is a map of the park.



Information plaque with details about the park

Paved trail around the park
View of the East building

Here are the works of art we passed along the Ambler path:

Wind Machine by Vollis Simpson
Collapse I by Ledelle Moe
Gyre by Thomas Sayre
Close up of Gyre filled with concrete and covered in dirt residue
Another view of Gyre
Bill & Ashley under the Gyre
The Conversationalist by Chakaia Booker
Lowe's Pavilion by Mike Cindric and Vincent Petrarc
Another view of Lowe's Pavilion, made of steel, wood, aluminum, and concrete

A photographer’s dream shoot, the Museum Park has a gorgeous landscape of rolling hills with a sprinkle of wooded forests between the East Museum Building and the outdoor works of art.

Looking down at the Gyre artwork
Looking back towards the Wind Machine artwork
Greenway to Meredith College
Part of the unpaved trail on the Museum Park grounds
An unpaved pathway through the park
Great shady pathway for a picnic on the bench

Next, we explored one of the newer (to me, at least) features of the park, The Pond area.  With over 20,000 plants installed, this area helps with runoff, water pollution, and settling for sediment.  The terraced landscaping and even spacing of the plants had an Asian design feel to it, but what do I know!  Here’s a list of the various plants installed and some pictures to detail the beauty of this area:

What outdoor museum would be complete without an amphitheater and outdoor movie screen?! The NC Museum of Art holds several outdoor concerts and movies throughout the summer months.  Having finally made it to an outdoor movie last summer to see The Fantastic Mr. Fox, I can attest to how much fun they are.  So, bring a picnic dinner, lawn chairs or blanket, and some cash (for the beer/wine tent) and you’ve got the perfect, cheap summer night planned!  Btw, The Social Network movie is playing tonight at 8:30pm.

Some of the seating areas for outdoor movies
Looking towards the amphitheater

Overall, this park offers much more than any average park.  Whether just passing by on the greenway, planning a trip to the indoor museum, or watching a movie or concert be sure to plan enough time to explore the artwork in the Museum Park.

Thumbs up: picnic spots, rolling hills, outdoor artwork, outdoor movies/concerts, The Pond landscaping, information plaques/maps, parking

Thumbs down: few pockets of shade

Lake Lynn Park

A couple weeks ago I found myself in a terrifying position: at home alone with the baby for 36 hours. I hadn’t done that before. My lovely wife, the creator of this blog, was at the Britney Spears concert in Washington DC (I’m afraid I’m not joking) with her sister and some other troublemakers.

I asked my wife, “What do I do with the baby for that length of time?!” After an incredulous look followed by, “What do you think I do while you’re at work all week?” she politely suggested I take the baby to a yet unexplored park, take some pictures, and write a guest article on her blog. I did the first two at the end of July, and here I am mid-August completing the job.

My assignment was Lake Lynn Park. I had no idea there was a Lake Lynn. I knew Lynn Road from the shopping center with Goodwill and the movie theater that serves beer, but this lake was news to me. Turns out that it’s a great location for walking or running, and it’s teeming with fauna, considering its suburban location.

The park is squarely in north Raleigh, between 540 and 440 to the north and south, and Creedmoor Rd and Glenwood Ave to the east and west. I entered at 7921 Ray Rd and parked in a large, 90% empty parking lot on a Monday morning. (By the way, what were those 20 cars doing there? Don’t these people have jobs?) There is a large community center that looks like it’s used for things like summer camps, several lighted tennis courts, a lighted softball field, and a nice playground.

But, the real attraction is the lake and Lake Lynn Trail around it. The trail is alternately paved and a sort of boardwalk/causeway stretching over long sections of water. This segment of the greenway is part of the Hare Snip Creek Trail. I’ve heard it’s around 2 miles, but we didn’t make it to the halfway point before someone got fussy so we didn’t make it all the way around (I’ll leave who it was to your imagination).

There are waterfowl galore, including many stripes of duck and a camera-shy white swan. I even found a pair of adult turtles with their litter of babies sunning on a log, but they scattered when I was close enough for a photo. A little girl was feeding the ducks stale bread as we were leaving. I’m guessing this is a popular activity, due to the large duck population and their affinity to humans, hanging out within a few feet of a busy section of trail.

All in all, Ashley and I had a great time exploring this park. It’s another great Raleigh Parks facility, and ideal for going on a walk, feeding the ducks, or a short run with great scenery.

Weekend Agenda

So, BOB arrived this week! He’s navy blue and black with hints of gray, very sturdy and reliable, and was a complete surprise! BOB is not another BT rescue (2 is plenty) or a weekend guest; he’s my new jogging stroller! Everyone I’ve talked to who runs with their baby and young kids swears by BOB. Despite the price tag, it’ll be something you’ll still be using with kid 2+. So my sweet mom and mom-in-law conspired (on the advice of my husband I’m sure) to get me this early birthday present and I can’t be more excited! We love our current stroller deeply and will use it 75% of the time, but with the uneven sidewalks and gravel trails around here, Ashley looked like she was going to catapult out if I didn’t do a wheelie over every little bump.

BOB allows us to take our park exploration to a whole other level, so tomorrow morning we’ll be heading over to Umstead Park to probably hike the S. Turkey Creek Trail and Reedy Creek Lake Trail. These are ones we’ve biked pre-baby and they should be nice, shady trails for Ashley and the BTs.

But before we head to Umstead tomorrow, we’ll be heading out to Thomas Brooks park tonight at 5pm to watch the 16u and 18u PONY softball championship games.  Today is the last day of the tournament, which was co-hosted by the Raleigh Jaycees and NC ChallengersThomas Brooks park is run by the Town of Cary and it’s a first class softball complex.

On Sunday morning I’m heading up to DC to meet my sisters and friends for the Britney concert…should.be.awesome!  While I’m out of town I’m putting my husband on assignment (he’s finding this out while reading now) to explore a new park with Ashley and write about it for next week.  He’ll be so excited!  Happy weekend to you all!

Morrisville Community Park


After a rained-out start to our shift on Monday night, Tuesday proved to be plenty hot and sunny! Tuesday night we headed to Morrisville Community Park at 1520 Morrisville Parkway where the 10u girls age group was playing.  This park is run by the Town of Morrisville Parks System and it did not disappoint!

The softball fields used for the tournament are in the back, but you can’t help but stop and stare at the gigantic playground area on your way in. I think this playground is in competition with the Anderson Point Park playground for its massive size and ability to entertain! This playground has several jungle gyms hooked together by various bridges. There are also two swing sets and a shaded gazebo in the middle perfect for a picnic. The main playground sits on a rubbery base and adjacent to it is a sandy play area with see saws. A 0.6 mile paved jogging trail loop, which is part of the Hatcher Creek Greenway, is close by as well.

Playground area
Gazebo in middle of playground
Biggest playground ever!
Parking lot near playground
Access to the Hatcher Creek Greenway

Follow the walkway past the playground to the restrooms and adjacent pavilion with picnic tables and charcoal grill. There is a small open area in front of the pavilion too.

Pavilion with picnic tables and charcoal grill
Shady area near pavilion
Restrooms near playground and pavilion

Continuing on the walkway you’ll pass a large open field (mostly used for soccer according to another volunteer) and a small softball field with bleachers.

Smaller softball field
Open field

Finally in the back of the park are the two lighted softball fields, concession area, water fountain, and restrooms. Both fields have covered team benches and uncovered spectator bleachers. Today was a hot one for playing and watching softball so most of the team’s families brought in canopies, which they set up over the bleachers.

View towards Field 1
Field #1
Let's play ball!
Field #2
Restrooms and concessions
Water fountain
Benches along the walkway
Paved walkway

We were set up next to field 2 so we had a good view of the thrilling pickle, slides into third base, and outs at home. And these were only the 10u games!  I encourage everyone to come out and watch the games.  10u, 12u, and 14u Championship games will be played on Thursday at Middle Creek (10u and 12u) and Thomas Brooks (14U) parks.  16u and 18u Championship games will be played on Friday at Thomas Brooks park.  Stay up to date with dates and times on the PONY website.

Pretty tired after a long night of volunteering
Future volunteers! Chris with his daughter, Kennedy, and me with Ashley!

A nice feature to this park is the proximity of the parking lots to the playground, pavilion, and softball fields. There are large pockets of parking throughout the park.

Thumbs up: proximity of parking areas, functionality of walkways, quality of softball fields, friendly Town of Morrisville staff
Thumbs down: lack of shady seating near main softball fields

Our week at-a-glance: PONY & Parks

This week I’m doing something slightly different with our park visits. Instead of being a regular patron exploring the parks, I’ll be a volunteer with the Raleigh Jayeces during the 2011 PONY National Softball Tournament. This girls youth softball tournament brings teams from mainly the east coast and Canada to parks throughout Cary, Garner, Holly Springs, and Morrisville. Pool play began this past Saturday, but since I was out of town this weekend, I’m catching up on my volunteering with a few evening shifts this week (with Ashley in tow). The stormy weather in Richmond, VA on Saturday prevented Ashley from seeing the Richmond Squirrels baseball game so I’m sure she’s excited to catch a glimpse of her first live softball game.

PONY Baseball and Softball is designed to “Protect Our Nation’s Youth” by providing experiences in youth baseball and softball that will help young people grow into healthier and happier adults. Since 2007 the Raleigh Jaycees have hosted the tournament and this year they are co-hosting the tournament with the NC Challengers.  Check the PONY website for the tournament schedule of age groups and games.

As a member of the Raleigh Jaycees I get this unique opportunity to volunteer during the girls softball tournament, which is quickly becoming one of the area’s signature sporting events. So, come on out to a park this week, purchase a day pass, and catch some thrilling softball games. You’ll certainly be greeted by folks with a friendly smile and helpful information!

North Hills Park

North Hills park is located at 100 Chowan Circle in North Raleigh. Overall this is a basic neighborhood park with B+ features. As you arrive there is a medium-sized parking lot with a nice lighted baseball field on the right. It has bleacher seating for the spectators and a water fountain near the far team’s bench area. The adjacent grassy hill also provides plenty of additional seating.

Baseball field
Bleacher seating near baseball field

Water fountain near far team's bench
Another view of lit baseball field

At the top of the grassy hill is a building for restrooms and the Buffaloe family cemetery.

Building with restrooms
Buffaloe family cemetery

If you continue driving past the baseball field you arrive at the back parking lot near the two lighted tennis courts, playground, pavilion with picnic and access to the greenway. The playground has several connected jungle gyms with a hard mulch base and a smaller sandy playground. The pavilion has 6 picnic tables and a nearby charcoal grill. The wide, paved sidewalk provides easy from the parking lot around the playground and pavilion.

Large back parking lot
Tennis courts
Playground area
Another view of the playground
Sandy playground area
Benches and sidewalk near playground in the shade
Pavilion with picnic tables
Nearby charcoal grill

The access to the greenway is near the tennis courts. This is the North Hills Segment of the Crabtree Creek Trail and it is 1/4 mile of steeply sloped paved pathway. Going down isn’t bad, but pushing the stroller back up was quite a workout! I would definitely recommend the baby bjorn for this segment. The trail tees into the Crabtree Creek Trail, where if you go left you’ll head south towards Lassiter Mill Park and if you turn right you’ll head north towards Shelley Lake.

Access to Crabtree Creek Trail greenway
Beginning of paved greenway
Signs at the end of the North Hill Segment of the trail
Head left towards Lassiter Mill Park
Head right towards Shelley Lake

It’s amazing to think that under all these overpasses and adjacent to creeks and roadways exists this other world of trails.  Navigating through the greenways really helps you get a better sense of direction and helps you realize how close these parks really are to each other. It sort of reminds me of a foreign place like Middle Earth in LOTR.  I encourage you all to explore the greenway.  A lot of the trails are paved and shaded and would make for a great adventure with dogs, loved ones, or a group of friends.  So, pick a greenway segment, find a parking lot, and explore!

All smiles again

Thumbs up: quality of amenities, large parking lots, large playground, easy access to greenway, sidewalk access to pavilion and playground areas
Thumbs down: no sidewalk from baseball field to playground area