Greater Richmond ARCpark

IMG_0039In mid-October we headed to Richmond to celebrate our old college roommates surviving the first year as new parents and their sweet daughter’s first birthday.  On the morning of the party we met up with several college friends and all our kids at the Greater Richmond ARCpark to get the wiggles out before the big party later that afternoon.  There’s something so sentimental about reconnecting your kids with your college friends’ kids and this weekend visit was no exception.

The ARCpark is located at 3600 Saunders Avenue, near the intersection of highways I-64, I-95 and 195.  This park is designed for kids of all ages and features mostly wheelchair-accessible play areas.  The tot playground features several slides, a small rock climbing wall and stumps for hopping on.  It also has nearby handicap-accessible swings, all located on a rubbery surface.  Adjacent to the tot playground is a stage area and greenhouse with flower planting beds.  IMG_2722Beyond the tot playground is another playground area built into the side of a hill with rocks and tree stumps for steps and slides for sliding down the hill.  There’s also a small play house, two large disc swings (which were the crowd favorite), bench swings, water tables, musical instruments, and a wheelchair-accessible tree house nearby.  The littlest ones in the group loved making music with their hands and mallets while the older ones loved running and exploring the tree house.  A paved walking trail leads to basketball courts and other fitness equipment behind the main building.

IMG_2745After some tree house play, the kiddos gathered throughout the largest playground, which features several long ramps connecting the smaller-age play structures with the taller ones.  The big kids ran up ramps, flew down slides, and climbed up nets and walls while the younger ones crawled between stumps and held on to nets.  Everyone also made time for the cool sensory wall featuring brightly colored mirrors, shiny rocks, spinning wheels and more. Claire and I also took time to walk through the small flower garden area.  She loved climbing on the benches and stopping to smell the flowers.

The ARCpark was a great way to kick off the first birthday celebrations.  It’s always such fun to watch the kids play together while the parents can catch up (as much as one can while wrangling kids)!

Thumbs up: so much to see and play with, large disc swings, playground built into the hill, variety of activities for kids of all ages and abilities, tree house with long ramp for running

Thumbs down: with so much to see and play with it can be hard to wrangle multiple kids

Haywood Hall

IMG_5289In early May I took some time by myself to visit Haywood Hall, a recommendation from friends who were married there over 10 years ago and a lesser known public garden in the Triangle according to TriangleGardener.com’s list. Having spent a lot of time in Downtown Raleigh, I had never heard of Haywood Hall and was excited to explore it for myself!

Haywood Hall is located in downtown Raleigh at 211 New Bern Pl, two blocks east of the state capitol building.  Completed in the early 1800’s, Haywood Hall was built by John Haywood (Raleigh’s first Treasurer and Intendant of Police/Mayor) as a home for his family.  This Federal-style house was occupied by descendants until 1977 when the property and furnishings were given to The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of North Carolina.  Despite a presumably busy May wedding season at Haywood Hall, I happened to visit on a quiet Sunday afternoon.  Even though the house was closed (see their hours), I wondered around the public gardens and gazebo for a closer view.

IMG_5254The house faces south and on an early May afternoon the front lawn was mostly shaded.  Both sides of the gorgeous brick herringbone path were outlined with yellow and orange flowers and remnants of previously bloomed daffodils and azaleas.  A white picket fence outlines the perimeter of the property with large oak and magnolia trees, small patches of grass and shady spots for benches and walks on the front lawn.

IMG_5284I followed the brick path towards the side property where a white tent for special events was erected over a large brick patio with nearby pergolas.  Another brick path leads to the back of the house and the outside restroom facilities, where a kitty was sunning.  Roses and irises were in bloom and hostas were beginning to pop out.  I followed another brick path to the gazebo shaded by nearby trees where I noticed several bricks surrounding the gazebo and pathways contained personalized messages.  In visiting Haywood Hall’s website, I learned more about purchasing commemorative bricks, which would be a nice way to remember a special memory or person at Haywood Hall.

Whether here for a special event or taking a stroll through the extensive gardens, Haywood Hall is a thrilling place to be.  I look forward to coming back again soon to stroll through the main house.

Thumbs up: gardens, special event venue, quiet spot in Downtown Raleigh location

Thumbs down: limited open hours in main house

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Joslin Gardens

Bill being in Blacksburg this past weekend meant that Ashley and I were on our own for a girl’s weekend!  Years ago, a girl’s weekend would’ve been much different than what it is today, but nevertheless we had a fun weekend.

img_1037First we visited the Joslin Gardens in Raleigh.  The gardens were part of a private residence that Mr. & Mrs. Joslin donated to the city and established the City of Oaks Foundation.  The gardens sit on a 4+ acre lot at 2431 West Lake Dr.  Not knowing what to expect once we arrived, I carried Ashley in the baby bjorn, which proved to be the right choice.  The paths throughout the property were very clear, but narrow.  There is a small stream running through the rolling hills on the property, so we had several bridges and steps to walk on.

img_1038We started the self-guided tour by heading north along the trail through the pine woodland area.  There were several helpful maps highlighting the suggested tours throughout the gardens.  I was amazed at how many plants and shrubs were identified.  We slowly made our way over the rolling hills, across bridges, around the streams and eventually up to the formal gardens next to the house.  The formal gardens were my favorite, maybe because they had the most flowers in bloom, but also because it seemed very whimsical.  The pergolas were covered in vines with new rose buds, the gorgeous irises were in full bloom, and the vegetable garden was in the middle of preparing for a busy summer.

It was pretty amazing to witness all the flowers, plants, and shrubs this couple had cultivated over the years.  It truly is a secret garden in the middle of an enchanting city.

Carrying Ashley up and over the gardens exhausted me, so we headed down to the Historic Oakwood area for an early lunch. Ever since I can remember first spotting the restaurant, I’ve been wanting to try Side Street Restaurant.  It’s an adorable neighborhood restaurant with a great selection of sandwiches and desserts.  Ashley was an angel and devoured her first grilled cheese sandwich.  It was very much the perfect mother-daughter lunch spot!

A lot of what Ashley and I did on Saturday morning reminded me so much of my grandma, Mimi.  Maybe it was the quiet creek flowing through the gardens of the Joslin residence; Mimi was infamous in her neighborhood for having a gorgeous water feature and surrounding it with her neighbors.  Or maybe it was the gorgeous spring weather; Mimi’s birthday was April 1st and until a few years ago, she made an annual trip with my aunt to visit us during this time of the year. Or maybe it was the neighborhood cafe with its white-linen tablecloths and regular customers that Ashley and me had lunch at; Mimi loved getting to know her servers and would’ve loved Side Street’s selection of sandwiches.

For more information about the inspiring work Mr. & Mrs. Joslin have done for the City of Raleigh read about their 2011 induction into the Raleigh Hall of Fame.

Thumbs up: quiet girlie weekends, peacefulness of the gardens,

Thumbs down: wished the gardens were open at the peak of the Camelia blooms

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

Rose Garden

For my first Mother’s Day we spent the weekend in Nags Head with great friends and the pups for our traditional Yuengling 5K race. When we got home on Sunday we walked down to the Rose Garden, which is just two blocks from our house. We were too late for their annual Mother’s Day brunch celebration (mimosas and yummy food) so we just walked around and enjoyed the fantastic sights, smells, and company.  The Rose Garden can also be rented for weddings and other events (hint: no money needed on decorations).



Wandering through the rows and rows of roses


Lovely shades of peach, hot pink, and light pink roses



The rose garden is located in the circular, below-street level area at 301 Pogue St.  Parking is limited to around the circle and the nearby neighborhood streets.  There are a few different entrances with stairs or you can walk down the paved entrance way near the theater. The grass height in the gardens is kept pretty low so you can easily push a stroller.

There are over 50 varieties of roses to touch (no snipping) and smell. One end of the garden has a beautiful pergola covered in white roses and the water feature and the other end has a gazebo with other varieties of shade-loving plants. There are benches and picnic tables covered with large shade trees for great picnic spots.

The pergola at one end covered with white roses
The other end of the garden
Some of the shade-loving hostas

You can’t visit the Rose Garden without scoping out the latest plays at Raleigh Little Theater, which is adjacent to the garden. RLT is a community theater that produces 11 shows each season. I’ve been to a few shows and know folks who work on the production so be sure to check them out!

Thumbs up: picnic spots, shade, sights/smells, photo ops, gardens, theater

Thumbs down: parking (at times)

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