Biking To & Around North Wake Landfill District Park

IMG_6714If you can’t tell by the themes of some of my latest blog posts, biking has been our family’s new passion.  Having a bike hitch, bike trailer and at least one child biking on her own really opens up the family bike outings to beyond the driveway or cul-de-sac.  Even though Bill is usually the one to strap the bikes onto the hitch and gather all the gear, I’ve made it a point to learn how to do it on my own in hopes that I could take the girls out by myself.  Feeling rather confident about strapping all the bikes onto the hitch, remembering all the gear and snacks, I took the girls for a bike ride on Abbotts Creek Trail one summer morning in August.

For this trip, we parked at our tried and true parking lot at 10888 Bedfordtown Dr in the Bedford neighborhood.  After biking down the access path we turned right on the Neuse River Trail.  We then turned right onto the beginning of Abbotts Creek Trail.  We biked past the blue heron habitat and over a large wooden walkway before coming to Falls River Ave.  There wasn’t any obvious directional signs for how to stay on the greenway, but remember my past time on this trail, we turned left on the sidewalk of Falls River Ave.  After mostly walking our bikes up the hill, we then made another left to stay on Abbotts Creek Trail, which continues to be more hilly than the first portion of the trail.  Ashley walked her bike up several of the hills, but made up for it on the downhill portions of the trail. After about 1/2 mile of riding we turned left into the entrance of the North Wake Landfill District Park and biked/walked up the steep trails to the playground area where the girls ran around and climbed like monkeys for over an hour.

IMG_6703The bike ride back to the car was successful and even a bit adorable as my stop-and-smell-the-flowers daughter took advantage of light greenway traffic with her simultaneous bike ride swaying and singing.  Despite the hot weather, the girls made the trip so much fun and were so patient with me as I carefully installed the bike equipment back onto the car.


Fast forward to a few weeks ago when we headed back to the landfill park (9300 Deponie Dr, just off Durant Rd) with our bikes, but this time we drove in and parked at the playground and rode our bikes around the road surrounding the big hill.  The road around the hill has been updated from a two-lane car road to a two-lane road with one dedicated bike/pedestrian lane and a one-way car lane.  The road is about 1 1/2 miles long and a short median separates the bike/pedestrian lane from the car lane and has several pedestrian crossing areas.

DSC_0220We biked to the bottom of the trail that leads to the top of the landfill, parked our bikes and walked to the top.  I’m the only one in our family who has ever been to the top of the landfill, so I was excited to share the views with everyone.  The little ones took turns exclaiming their discomfort for walking up the hill, but it’s such a short walk (less than 1/4 mile) that they pushed through it.

Even though it was a cloudy morning, we could still see some downtown Raleigh buildings.  The beautiful blue sky poked through, which gave great contrast to the super lush grass on top of the mountain.  The girls loved being up so high and enjoyed playing photographer with my new big camera. We had the top of the hill to ourselves that morning, making it a really fun family outing!

With the girls being a bit older now, we really were able to utilize this park for all its assets – greenway access, advanced climbing features on playground, and large open spaces.  I look forward to bringing them back when they’re much older to explore the mountain bike skills course. It’s hard to imagine this place was once a fully functioning landfill.

Thumbs up: park located along the greenway, great playground areas with variety of features, separated two-lane road around landfill hill, clean and fully functioning restrooms

Thumbs down: poor signage along Abbotts Creek Trail at Falls River Ave

Rockwood Park in Chesterfield, VA

IMG_1594If you live around the Richmond, VA area you have to check out Rockwood Park in Chesterfield County.  While visiting Tech buddies in Richmond at the end of June we set out for Rockwood Park Nature Center’s annual Honeybee Festival and everyone (kids and adults) fell in love with this park!

Rockwood Park is located at 3401 Courthouse Road in Chesterfield County near the intersection of Hull Street Rd.  While the festival vendors were setting up outside, we stepped inside the park’s nature center and got to see a whole lot of slithering, crawling, squirming and buzzing animals.  The kids got to see several types of snakes (including a copperhead and corn snake), turtles (including a gigantic snapping turtle), bull frogs, a large iguana, and a live bee exhibit.  All of the permanent exhibits were at levels great for little ones to see all the action.  With the Honeybee Festival going on outside there was a very knowledgeable and friendly bee expert who described bee keeping to us and pointed out the queen bee in the hive exhibit.  This center also has a great reading nook with nature books and kid-size table with coloring activities.

IMG_1604After spending at least 30 minutes in the center, we headed outside to enjoy the bee festival activities.  The friendly staff helped the kids make pipe cleaner bee crafts and plant flowers.  Then they enjoyed listening to bee themed stories and having bees painted on their hands.  After exhausting the storyteller’s books we headed out across the field to explore the playground area.

IMG_0113The playground area is made for kids mostly 5 years and up, but that didn’t stop these almost 2-year olds and 4-year old from playing.   The playground has a small slide for younger kids that is connected to higher play areas by monkey bars.  There are several more climbing areas connected by ladders with access to twisty and straight slides.  With the recent rains the kids happily discovered the large mud puddle at the bottom of the twisty slide.  Tot swings and regular swings are nearby and several benches and picnic tables are also located in the playground area.  The entire area is mostly shaded by tall, mature trees and there are several more amenities (such as a dog park, pickleball courts, baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, pavilions) adjacent to the playground.  As someone who has spent a lot of time visiting family and friends in Chesterfield, I am excited to explore more parks in this area.

For a complete list of the amenities at Rockwood Park, see the County of Chesterfield website.

Thumbs up: live animals at nature center, friendly staff, variety of activities for young kids, shady playground area

Thumbs down: poor drainage near playground

Lake Lynn Playground Update

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I spent some time again this fall running around Lake Lynn with the girls while training for the City of Oaks 10k race.  After a few laps around the lake we spent time at the playground so they could get their own exercise.  We were pleasantly surprised to find a few updates to the playground area.

Lake Lynn Park & Community Center is located in North Raleigh and has two entrances.  If the kids are with me I’ll park at the main entrance near the community center and playground off Ray Rd, but if I’m going there for a solo run I’ll park at the smaller entrance with immediate access to the trails off Lynn Rd.

The tot playground area has a new climbing area with a vertical climbing bridge sandwiched between two rock walls, which was a big hit for Ashley.  The older tot swings and small tot jungle gym and bigger kid playground haven’t changed.  Adjacent to the playground is a new large pavilion with about 12 picnic tables, making it a great spot for group gatherings and birthday parties!  The nearby bocce ball courts also seemed to have gotten a small facelift and there seem to be several more picnic tables scattered around the perimeter of the playground.  There’s a lot of other amenities at this park (baseball fields, tennis courts, batting cages), but having a playground area near a covered picnic spot and restrooms is usually what we’re looking for these days!  Most recently we enjoyed a Halloween party with our Stroller Strides friends where kids of all ages enjoyed the playgrounds and there was easy access to the nearby pavilion and community center.

More Resources:

Thumbs up: proximity of playground area to pavilion/community center

Thumbs down: nothing new to report

Leesville Community Park

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On a Sunday morning in May we headed out to Leesville Community Park in hopes of finding a fun playground with some open space for flying a kite.  The playground was unlike any others we had ever been to before and we were able to find a small space for kite flying so it was a successful morning!

Leesville Community Park is located at 5105 Country Dr in North Raleigh and has a Wake County Library on the premises.  It has two playgrounds near each other – one for ages 2-5 and one for ages 5-12.  The smaller age playground is covered by a large shade tarp and is a series of one foot tall platforms for playing and climbing on so this playground is best for a steady climber or even a non-walker who likes to just stand and hold onto things.  Ashley had a blast playing with the spinning toys on the younger playground.

The older age playground is a series of metal or rope climbing structures, a very narrow slide, and a stand-up spinning structure.  It had yellow caution tape in a section where the rope ties were broken.  I’m so thankful Bill was with me this morning to assist Ashley as she spider-monkeyed the rope climbs while I could tend to Claire.  I was pretty nervous with Ashley being so high up, but she did great and even made it down the very narrow slide by herself.  However, I wouldn’t take both girls back to this park by myself because Ashley would require so much assistance on the older playground.

IMG_6299After some playground time we busted out our princess kite in the nearby open space.  We had the park to ourselves this morning which proved to be crucial when giving a 3-year old a kite – she ran all over the place instructing her kite to “C’mon on, kite!”  It was super cute watching her fly the kite, until she ran into some small, unnecessary stumps located in the middle of the open space.

After flying kites we explored the shady median between the parking lots, which featured a short dirt pathway with benches that lead to the Carlton family cemetery.  Finally we got some use out of the public restrooms, which were very comfortable for temporary trailer bathrooms.

Thumbs up: bathroom facilities, monkey bars at smaller age playground, library/park combo trip, shade tarp over smaller age playground

Thumbs down: lack of picnic tables, playground features require kids to be very able at climbing, park entrance was hard to spot (we drove right by), small jagged stumps in open field

North Wake Landfill District Park

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A playground at the landfill…say what?!  Yes, the North Wake landfill closed in 2008 and local residents worked with the county to repurpose the closed landfill into a park which now features paved trails, mountain biking trails, a large playground area, pavilion, and access to Abbotts Creek Trail (part of Neuse River Greenway).  North Wake Landfill District Park is located at 9300 Deponie Drive off Durant Rd in north Raleigh.  When you first turn off from Durant Rd, it’ll feel like the landfill is still open because you have to wind through some of the old parts of the dump, but follow the signs for the park.

We spent most of our time exploring the playground area and paved trails that access the nearby greenway. While the playground area has many unique features, I strongly disliked the layout where it is adjacent to a steep hill that my adventurous 3-year old decided to conquer at great speeds, despite strict instruction NOT to do so. So, after recovering from a near heart attack when she sprinted down the steep hill (and received a short timeout) we had a nice time exploring the play areas.

The playground has two areas – one for ages 2-5 and one for ages 5-12. In my opinion this park is definitely more of a “big kid” park. The younger playground area has several climbing structures that are more appropriate for an older and more confident 2-year old. It also has a few slides, two tot swings, and a music feature but it’s a taller playground with little room for playing on.

img_5596The bigger kid playground is any young climber’s dream.  There are huge spider web ropes that connect to the playground along with a sideways rock wall.  The playground also has several monkey bars, slides, twisty ladders, climbing stepping stones and more!

Both playground areas are covered in a thick wood chip surface and are adjacent to several picnic tables, the public restrooms and water fountains.  Also nearby is the large Sycamore pavilion with seating for up to 100, according to the Wake County website.

Descend along the paved trail from the playground to reach access to the western side of Abbotts Creek Trail.  Inside the park there are also several mountain biking trails, a mountain biking skills area, and paved walking trails.  I’d like to come back and walk or bike the short Top of the Hill trail, which takes you 469ft above sea level for great views of the surrounding area.  There is little shade at this park, so plan accordingly!

For more information about this park, visit the Wake County Parks website.  I found the park brochure with map to be very helpful.

Thumbs up: repurposing a landfill into a useable recreation space, variety of climbing activities for older kids, proximity and plethora of picnic areas

Thumbs down: steep hill near playground area, lack of park map inside park (didn’t know about most of the walking or bike trails until going online after getting home)

Update: Greystone Recreation Center

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The weather this summer was extremely kind to my previously pregnant self.  There were few, if any, days where the weather was so ungodly hot you couldn’t go outside.  On those ungodly hot days we ate an early lunch followed by some type of run-your-ass-til-you’re-tired activity…all indoors.  This is when I discovered the super cute local coffee shop, Sola, in the Greystone Shopping Center in North Raleigh.  Actually, I didn’t discover Sola, but TriangleExplorer writes about it frequently so we finally checked it out.

True to the reviews, the folks there are super nice and accommodating of small children and they make some delicious sandwiches and mini donuts!  Let me repeat – they make mini donuts and they are freaking amazing!  They are also super fancy with their coffee making techniques, so if you’re looking for a french press coffee these are your people.

After a lunch at Sola we had some extra time to kill before nap, so we ventured over to Greystone Recreation Center, which is located in the same shopping center as Sola.  The last time we visited Greystone, Ashley was still crawling and it wasn’t a practical place to take her.  Now that she’s a rough and tumble 2 1/2 yr old she can pretty much do everything in the play area.  We arrived at just the right time too – summer camp was finishing up for the day so the play area was pretty quiet.  The playground is a perfect spot for kids who love to climb, jump and swing from ropes.  Ashley is still learning how to climb the rope ladders so this was a good place to try because the surface is spongy and I can be right there to assist.  She wasn’t a fan of the spinning play equipment yet, but also liked the 2ft tall rock you can jump off from.

It’s been interesting to see how my perspective of playgrounds has changed over time while Ashley has become more capable of doing difficult activities.  I wouldn’t dream of bringing a crawling child here again because of the smallness of the play area and all the big kids like Ashley running around, but I’m excited to see how much fun she’ll have here over the years to come.  If visiting Greystone, be sure to check the playground hours before going as they seem to change quite a bit over the year.

Visit my original post on Greystone Rec Center for additional photos.

Thumbs up: great indoor activity for hot or rainy days, various organized programs held through City of Raleigh

Thumbs down: smallness of area, tendency for playground to be crowded

Method Rd Playground Update

This post originally appeared on Southwestraleigh.com where you can learn more about how to live, work, and play in the Creative District.

If you’ve been waiting for the Method Road playground to be finished, now is the time to check it out!  The playground underwent renovations during the Fall and the work was finally completed last week.

Method Road Park is located at 514 Method Rd.  The playground area is completely fenced in with equipment grouped according to the age levels: 2-5 year olds and 5-12 year olds.  

Toddlers will enjoy the tot swings, mini climbing areas, and music making equipment while the older kids will enjoy the slides, jungle gyms, and racing up the ramps. Each play area also has some fun educational items about shapes and animals. The spongy surface is also great exercise for the little crawlers who aren’t quite ready to play on the toddler equipment yet.

Parents will appreciate the benches and picnic tables inside the playground area, making it easy to keep an eye on the little ones.  The fence around the perimeter of the playground will also put parents at ease given that the playground is so close to Method Road.

Other than the playground, Method Road Park has a community center and many other features to offer.

Thumbs up: fenced-in play area, equipment grouped by age group, tot climbing area, variety of slides and ramps in older kid area

Thumbs down: lack of landscaping

Greystone Recreation Center

With the weather being rainy on the 10th day of Raleigh Parks Christmas, we headed to an indoor park (yes, that’s correct) in North Raleigh.  We visited Greystone Recreation Center at 7713 Leadmine Rd in the Greystone Village Shopping Center.

Greystone Rec Center has a unique indoor playground area with several different climbing structures that are all intertwined. There’s a giant rope spider web, holes suspended by rope to climb through, nature rocks, and spinners.  The back wall has been turned into a great climbing wall.  The playground area sits atop the spongy surface, which is mostly green in color except for the blue “river” that runs through the playground.

This indoor playground is mostly designed for kids ages 5-12 years old, but there were plenty of kids ages 2 and up enjoying the playground too.  I was clearly the one with the youngest baby and the staff didn’t say anything to me about her age.  We mostly hung out near one of the corners by the rock wall, cruised along the rock wall, crawled on the ground, and tried to stay out of the way of the older kids.  Ashley was also pretty entertained by the paintings on the wall too.  The playground hours are 9-11am and 12:30-5pm Mon-Fri and 9-noon on Saturday.

This indoor park also has several benches along the wall, vending machines, and nice restrooms.  Greystone Rec Center also has several programs for people of all ages going on throughout the year.  Here are a few coming up:

  • Jan 10-Feb 2: Mom and Tots Leap into Learning (ages 20-24months, Tues/Thurs, 9:15-10am, $35)
  • Jan 12-26: Dance-Twinkle Toes I (ages 2-3yrs, Thurs, 11:20-12:15, $40)
  • Jan 12-26: Tumbling Tinies (ages 9-24months, Thurs, 9:30-10:15am, $40)
  • Jan 12-Feb 2: Math Madness (ages 3-5yrs, Thurs, 2-3pm, $40)
  • Jan-Apr: Mahjongg Open Play (adults, Mon, 2-4pm, FREE)
  • Jan-Apr: Bingo (adults, 1st & 3rd Tues, 2-3pm, $1)
  • Jan-Apr: Senior Fitness (Mon/Fri, 10-10:45am, $15/month)

Thumbs up: unique indoor play area, rock wall, community center programs

Thumbs down: indoor playground is small and gets easily crowded on popular days, unattractive shopping center setting

Walnut St Park

On the ninth day of Raleigh Parks Christmas, we headed out to Cary with my friend, Kristina, and her daughter, Lucy to visit Walnut St Park.  Wow, what a great park for crawlers and cruisers!  Besides the large open spongy surface, there are tot swings, a jungle gym with smaller slides, and an area with balance beams and climbing structures that proved to be so exciting for the non-walkers!

Walnut St Park is run by the Town of Cary and is located at 1420 Walnut St, not far from Cary Crossroads shopping center.  Not a surprise, but the main entrance sign is easy to miss when driving on Walnut St, so look for the cross-street of Nottingham Dr.

This park has both a tot play area and an older kid play area that are both very close to each other.  Both playgrounds are covered in the spongy surface with the exception of the small sandbox with diggers in the tot area.  There are swings, jungle gyms, and a small pavilion in each playground area.  The older kid playground also has some amazing climbing structures that were very popular.

If you’re looking to take the dogs on a walk or stroll the kids around, this park has a great paved walking trail.  According to the information sign, 2.5 loops around = 1 mile.  While walking around the trail, you’ll see many birdhouses, an area dubbed the wetlands, a natural mulch walking trail, and a large 1.5 acre open recreational space.  There are many benches scattered throughout the trail and a few picnic tables near the large open field area.  Don’t forget to check out the fancy brick “imaginary garden” promenade that cuts through part of the loop.  Check out the Town of Cary’s website for information about future phases of the park, which include adding a basketball court.

So, I know I can’t say it enough, but the Town of Cary does a great job with creating playgrounds with the spongy surface, which is so nice for the really small crawlers and cruisers!  Ashley and Lucy had a fantastic time roaming through the climbing structures, swinging on the tot swings, crawling from one end of the playground to the other, all the while trying to sneak a taste of the nearby mulch chips!  This would be a great park to bring your lunch followed by a romp around the playground.

Thumbs up: playground, walking trail, tot area, nearby pavilions

Thumbs down: somewhat hard to see entrance sign from Walnut St

Pullen Park

A few weeks ago, I went to the Pullen Park VIP Event with my friend, Jason, from southwestraleigh.com.  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.

Excitement was in the crisp Fall air during the Pullen Park preview event on Thursday afternoon and it’s not going to die down any time soon.  Children played on swings, adults rode the newly renovated carousel, and the train sounded off when leaving the station.  It’d been nearly two years since the amusement area had been open and the smiles say it all – it’s well worth the wait.

Pullen Park is located at 520 Ashe Ave, just west of Downtown Raleigh and at the edge of NC State University.  The renovations to the amusement center cost more than six million dollars and are part of the 2003 Parks & Rec Bond Referendum.  During the renovations, the Pullen Arts Center and Aquatic Center remained open.

Upon entering the park, your eyes are immediately drawn to the new sign extending across the walkway.  Near the entrance is the new Pullen Place, serving healthy, local fare at very reasonable prices.  Adjacent to the cafe is a large outdoor eating area, restrooms, and the Welcome Center where you can learn more about the park, purchase tickets for rides, or purchase park schwag.

If you head right, you can explore the various playground and climbing areas, swing sets, sand and water play areas, misting fountains, tire swing, and open play areas.  The different play areas have guides indicating the ages appropriate for the equipment.

Also in this area is a restored caboose with seating inside for having a picnic.  Smaller children can also enjoy a boat ride for one ticket.  A must-see attraction is the CP Huntington miniature train ride, which is great for all ages and a beautiful way to explore the park from the perimeter.  The views of the park from the train, especially around the lake, are gorgeous.

Another main attraction at the park is the carousel.  With over 50 hand-carved animals, it is a Dentzel Carousel housed in a gorgeous new building.  Among the animals you can ride are pigs, ostriches, horses, and billy goats, just to name a few.  The Wullitzer organ produces music that sets the mood.  The Pullen Park emblems outside the building provide a royal touch to the carousel.  The weather vein atop the building is unique in that it contains colored glass and animals other than just horses.

Heading from the carousel to the lake, you’ll pass a large pavilion with picnic tables, another restroom building, the pedal boats, and the Andy & Opie statue. Be sure to stroll around Lake Howell, where you can admire the waterfront views, stop for photo ops, or enjoy the fauna.  The new bridges are spectacles in themselves, adding a rolling hills feeling to the park.

With so many things to do, see, and hear at Pullen Park, you may not notice the attention paid to the small details.  The cedar shakes, green color palette, emblems, new landscaping mixed with mature trees, and stonework are also worth mentioning as it all adds to the atmosphere of the park.

The park’s grand opening was Saturday, November 19 from 10am-6pm.  Be sure to also purchase tickets for Holiday Express, where Pullen Park is transformed into a Holiday Wonderland from December 8-11, 4pm-7pm.

Thumbs up: playground area, views around lake, carousel, unique details in woodwork/design, miniature train ride, Pullen Place

Thumbs down: not many, but parking may be tough, especially in the beginning months