Durham Central Park

IMG_6488Part of my summer bucket list for the past few years included a trip to the Durham Farmers’ Market.  Unfortunately, we never made time to visit Durham during the summer (unless it was for a Bulls game) until this summer.  A few weeks ago we had an atypically quiet weekend at home so we decided to head out to the Durham Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning.  Little did we know the farmers’ market is just one piece of a very fun and popular urban park, Durham Central Park.

Durham Farmers’ Market is located at the pavilion in Durham Central Park at 501 Foster St in downtown Durham.  After hunting around for a parking spot (there’s a lot of nearby construction), we parked in what seemed like a valid spot at a local business that is closed on Saturdays.  We then walked the few blocks to the farmers’ market to find a mecca of food, art, and fun!  The main farmers’ market area is located under the covered pavilion, but there are also dozens of pop-up tents and food trucks nearby.  We strolled by all the pop-up tents in the lawn area, which featured mostly artists selling handmade jewelry, doggie products, art, iron-made products and much more.  Then we walked through the main area, sampling fresh fruits, cheeses, and veggies and looking at the local art.  We bought some amazing corn, tomatoes, edamame, and fresh blackberries.

IMG_6484After exploring the main area, we walked across the street to the mini food truck rodeo area, where we bought some fresh tea and loco-pop popsicles.  There were tons of vendors at the market selling clothing, unique handmade items, cold drinks, household items and more.  After window shopping we walked across the bridge at the intersection of Foster and Hunt St where it dumped us out into the large lawn area, also part of Durham Central Park.  We walked up the hill to scope out the skateboard park, which is also located across from a police station.  After watching the skaters for awhile we headed back down the hill past the Leaf open-air performance area to the fabulous playground area, Mt. Merrill.

IMG_6504The playground features amphitheater-style rock climbing, two slides, climbing net, and some shade sails.  I especially loved the cute bird cut-outs perched on top of the poles.  There are also some benches sprinkled along the nearby sidewalk and some shady spots in front of the playground by the wooded area.  We grabbed a few of those shady spots and had a quick picnic with our edamame and blackberries. The girls loved jumping back and forth between having a snack and playing on the playground.  It was neat and unusual to see large boulders used as a climbing element in a playground.

Not wanting our fun morning in Durham to end, we headed back to our car and drove the short distance to Fullsteam Brewery for some yummy summer beers and lunch from the rotating food truck.  A heavy rainstorm popped up while we were there so we enjoyed our lunch to the tune of loud rain pinging off the metal warehouse roof.  In reading up about Durham Central Park since visiting, it seems like there’s some momentum for making improvements and continual development.  I look forward to visiting again in the future and seeing how the park shapes up over the years!

More Resources:

Thumbs up: playground’s close proximity to fun and food, climbing boulders on playground, diverse mix of artisans and farmers at market,

Thumbs down: I don’t recall seeing informational plaques about Durham Central Park while there, needs more picnic tables/benches

Durham & Raleigh 24 Hours of Kid-less Freedom

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About 6 weeks before Claire was born, we had the ultimate luxury of dropping Ashley off with good friends for a day and overnight visit!  Ashley is about the same age and besties with their little girl so we knew she’d have lots of fun (she’s still talking about seeing Elmo on stage)!

Not having a toddler overnight made our minds crazy with ideas…Projects around the house? Nah, need to chill out! Beach trip?  Nah, I may never come back. Vegas? Nah, too crazy!  So, in the end we decided to enjoy what we have here and stay in the area.  Then came the outpouring of ideas on our shared Google doc.  You mean to tell me we could fill our day with 24 hours of uninterrupted together time that didn’t involve having to go home in the middle of the day for naptime or needing to be home by 7:30pm and then under house arrest until 8am the next morning?  Get out!

img_3319After lots of options we decided to spend our morning in Durham and our afternoon/evening in Raleigh exploring places and doing things we had never done before.  After dropping Ash off with friends we headed out to the Sarah Duke gardens because Bill had never been before.  We walked through the Asian gardens and then made our way around to the new (to me) rose garden.  The morning was beautiful and within 45 minutes we were done…no one had asked for a snack or to be held or to be put down or for a toy, etc, etc, etc.  To kill some more time at the gardens we decided to stray from our original plans and try the ultra nerdy pastime of geocaching.  Bill scouted the Geocaching website and found several in the immediate area of the gardens. Geocaching is like being on a treasure hunt except you use GPS coordinates and helpful online hints to locate the “treasure” that you don’t actually get to keep.  Growing up, my aunt and Mimi frequently sent us on treasure hunts around their houses, so it brought back some fun memories for me.  Being geocaching virgins we decided on one with an easy skill level that had been previously discovered the day before.  After spending way toooo much time looking for this geocache we finally found it hidden under a rock on the northern side of the gardens.  It was a small plastic container with little trinkets (stamps, toys, journal).  We signed our names and dated the log and made mental notes to try this again with Ashley.

img_3336After the gardens, we headed to Bull City Burger and Brewery in Durham.  For Raleigh folks, think Chuck’s except with a larger menu and hand crafted beers.  We both didn’t think the burgers held up to the Chuck’s standards, but agreed the food was still delish, the beers were refreshing (I just had some sips), company was excellent and the patio out back was super relaxing.  Pickle chips and fries are must-have complements to their gut-busting burgers!

After our mega lunch we headed home for some quiet time at our neighborhood pool…in the pool chairs beside the big pool.  We didn’t even glance over at the baby pool to see if our sucker friends were there with their kids.  We just sat and it was marvelous!

Post-pool we went to Glenwood Grill for dinner.  The food was delicious but based on recommendations we thought the restaurant’s atmosphere would been more upscale.  Some patrons were dressed up, but for the most part it was a random collection of people in jeans and flip flops or jumpsuits (not kidding) and then families with toddlers.  We had their pork belly appetizer and scallops and fish dinners, which was all delish!

img_3731After Glenwood Grill we headed south about a mile to Hayes Barton Cafe for dessert.  Bill had a piece of dark chocolate cake and I had the lemon blueberry cake.  These pieces of cake were about $9 each and very dense, but so amazing!  We took to-go boxes home and slowly devoured them for days.

At this point it was about 7:30pm and we couldn’t possibly call it a night.  With amazing weather, we decided this night needed a finale of something outdoors.  After some extensive googling we decided on an outdoor movie at the NC Museum of Art.  After a quick outfit change at home, we grabbed our lawn chairs and blankets and arrived just in time to see “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”  The movie is a must-see with a great cast of British actors (think Downton Abbey explores India). It was a jam-packed night for outdoor movie watching so we ended up sitting on the hill just past the entrance and couldn’t have gotten a better view.

The entire day and night were absolutely wonderful and a great time for reflection on our marriage and growing family.  We felt more united than ever and were so happy to see Ashley the next morning and so anxious to meet little soon-to-be Claire.

Thumbs up: Sarah Duke gardens, Bull City Burgers & Brewery, Hayes Barton Cafe, Glenwood Grill, NC Museum of Art’s outdoor movies

Thumbs down: Almost not being allowed to bring my own non-factory sealed water into the NCMA

Exploring Durham: Strawberries, Donuts & a Picnic

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Living in Raleigh has spoiled me over the years with such close proximity to outdoor events, great restaurants, parks, live entertainment, etc.  Other than the dozens of trips to see a Durham Bulls baseball game, I never really make the short trek to Durham.  My intentions are always to explore Durham more, but it just never seems to happen.  However, with the countdown to baby number two being less than two months away my Durham radar is on high-alert so Ashley and I set off to do a special mommy/daughter morning in Durham.  You may ask, “What does that entail?”  Well, if there’s something I know about two year olds, it’s that they love attention and to eat; lucky for Ashley she is in good company.

img_3175On stop #1 of our morning in Durham, we headed to Waller Family Farm to pick strawberries!  We love strawberries in this household and with May being the prime month for this delicious fruit, it couldn’t have been a better fit for a two year old.  I found Waller Family Farm through the NC Ag’s website and also started following them on Facebook to get their daily strawberry picking updates.  Waller Family Farm is located at 5005 Kerley Rd in Durham.  Unbeknownst to me (and the farm owners, I think) a local church (all 100 of them) also decided to go strawberry picking this morning!  As we arrived at the farm, the man directing traffic was super helpful in making sure we could find a parking spot because the church did not come in typical church vans or buses…every family drove separately!  So, we parked in the field, lathered in sunscreen and set off to pick strawberries.  The ladies at the cash registers were also very helpful by noticing we were not part of the church group and telling us the ripest strawberries were closest to the white flags in the fields.

As you can tell by the pictures, Ashley is all about some strawberries!  She quickly discerned the green strawberries from the red ones and sampled plenty of Waller Family fruits.  Our bucket full of strawberries yielded about 4 pounds and with it being only $1.99/pound you can’t beat the price and experience!  The picking is still good at Waller Family Farms but be sure to check in with them before you head out there.

img_3660After strawberry picking we headed to downtown Durham for some local donuts at Monuts Donuts!  After reading a recent suggestion from local blogger Triangle Explorer about Monuts Donuts I knew I had to try them and being pregnant gave me the justification.  Durham has become quite the foodie city and having a speciality donut shop helps prove why.  Monuts Donuts opened its brick and mortar store earlier this year at 110 East Parrish St.  Before having a store front, they sold donuts at the farmers market and food truck rodeos.  This particular morning we shared a strawberry lime poppy seed donut and classic marble donut.  Both were out of this world!  Other than donuts, they also serve coffee, beer, and breakfast and lunch sandwiches.  I can’t wait to go back for more!

img_3188After filling up on donuts, we took a short drive over to the American Tobacco District for a quick picnic at stop #3, the Diamond View Park.  This park is located adjacent to the DPAC and Durham Bulls baseball stadium on Blackwell St.  There are several FREE short-term parking spaces (30 min, 1 hr, 2hr) nearby and also several long-term pay parking garages…just be sure to take note of the signs.  It’s a rather large park for being in the middle of the city and doesn’t have many features other than open green space, trees along the perimeter, and benches along the pathway.  On this particular day the park’s perimeter was lined with short, temporary gates – probably for the upcoming outdoor concerts held in the park.  Being that Ashley and I had mostly filled up on strawberries and donuts, we didn’t have much of an appetite for a real lunch, but I still enjoyed watching her run around after the frisbee while I relaxed on the lawn.  We also took in some good people watching as folks hurried to lunch at the various nearby restaurants.  To learn more about the history of the American Tobacco District, visit their website.

Wow, what a jam-packed morning of fun little adventures.  It was nice to get out of our normal routine and try something different.  Exploring new things in Durham was such a treat that I want to create a Durham Bucket List similar to my Raleigh Bucket List!

Thumbs up: strawberry picking, donuts, open space at park, availability of parking around park, mommy/daughter time, exploring Durham

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Sarah P. Duke Gardens

We’re not in Raleigh anymore! Yes, we did venture out to Durham in early April to see the Sarah P. Duke gardens on the campus of Duke. My best friend, Kelly, was coming into town to meet Ashley so the timing was perfect for my inaugural visit to the gardens.

We went mid-morning on a Friday and had to circle the hourly pay parking lot for about 15 mins before a spot opened up. We stopped off at the Visitor’s Center first to get a map and use the restrooms. Not knowing much about the gardens (besides it being a great spot for weddings), the folks at the front desk were extremely helpful with explaining the different gardens. We decided to first visit the Terrace Gardens. The walk to the garden is a rocky, dirt path that was partway under construction so it was somewhat difficult to push the stroller. However when we got to the top of the terraces and walked under the gazebo, the breathtaking views were so worth it! It was April which means tulips, tulips, tulips in bloom everywhere! Most of the paths along the terraces are compacted mulch, which made for easy strolling. After walking through the rows of tulips and other flowers we checked out the water lily pond, but nothing was in bloom yet so we walked along the South Lawn.

Tulips and other flowers in the Terrace Gardens


Tulips, tulips, tulips!


More pics of the Terrace Garden and Kelly with Ashley at the top


Views of the South Lawn


After that we made a short trip to the Native Gardens before deciding they were a little too native for the stroller.

We had worked up a sweat so we stopped by the Terrace Cafe in the Terrace Gardens for a lunch. They sell pre-made sandwiches, chips, drinks, ice cream, fruits, and coffee. All of the shady spots in the garden were taken so we ate in the cafe’s shady courtyard. It was a fun, relaxing lunch after all the walking and stroller pushing.

We ran out of time to visit the other gardens, but we’ll be back soon. Next time we’ll bring the Baby Bjorn instead of the stroller.  Afterwards, we headed back to Raleigh to cool off with ice cream sandwiches from the Cupcake Shoppe on Glenwood Ave.


Thumbs up:  flowers, gardens, views, picnic spots, photo ops

Thumbs down: pathways for strollers