Take a Child Outside Week: Sept 24-30, 2015

Seeing a turtle along the Wee Walkers Nature Hike

Cooler temps and lower humidity means that Fall is on it’s way and it couldn’t be a better time to participate in Take a Child Outside Week (TACO), held September 24-30, 2015. Take a Child Outside Week is an national initiative through the NC Museum of Natural Sciences with partner organizations throughout the country.  The program emphasizes outdoor nature activities with children to increase their awareness and appreciation of the environment.  Here are several outdoor activities at local parks to highlight this program:

City of Raleigh Parks – has several organized events throughout different parks where you can learn about the native animals and plants in our area, enjoy a family campout, hike a nature trail, feast on s’mores and a story around the campfire, and many more events; several events are FREE or have small fees; to see the complete list visit the City of Raleigh’s TACO website; as a hint, the Wee Walkers program at Durant Nature Preserve Park is a great organized nature hike for young ones

Wake County Parks – their list of TACO organized events includes nature hikes, a twilight bike ride, nature play day, junior meteorology experiments, tree and spider identification activities and a storytelling festival; several events are FREE or have small fees; to learn more check out the events on Wake County Parks TACO website

JC Raulston Arboretum – join the plant experts at the Arboretum for a variety of nature crafts, scavenger hunts; several events are FREE or have small fees; learn more about the TACO events at JC Raulston Arboretum calendar

Eno River State Park

NC Museum of History – although not a specific TACO event, join the museum’s garden staff for Saturday’s in the Garden, an informal tour of the History of the Harvest exhibit along Bicentennial Plaza; FREE; Saturday, Sept. 26 from 1:30-2:30pm; for more info visit event details 

Prairie Ridge Ecostation – listen to a story and take a nature hike, explore the nature play area (bring bug spray), discover the nature garden, or explore the nature trails; for more ideas, visit the Prairie Ridge Ecostation website

Eno River State Park – take a walk with a ranger to search for salamanders and amphibians, go canoeing, learn about Occoneechee Mountain’s geologic wonders; for more details visit the NC Parks TACO website and select “Eno River”

William Umstead Park – learn about insects and butterflies, discover animals native to the park, watch the Amphibian movie, take a short (0.6mile) nature photo hike, go fresh water fishing on Big Lake; for more details visit the NC Parks TACO website and select “William Umstead Park”

Falls Lake State Park – go on a spider safari complete with campfire story and s’mores, take your child fishing; for more details visit the NC Parks TACO website and select “Falls Lake State Park”

NC Art Museum – visit the Museum Park to explore the Park Art including a new “Park Pictures” exhibit; my personal fave is hiking the unpaved trail to discover the Cloud Chamber (aka Hobbit House) exhibit

NC Environmental Education – listen to nature stories, go on hikes, visit with native animals and more; check out the NC Environmental Educations’s complete list of TACO events in the Greater Raleigh area and beyond

If you can’t make it to any of these organized events, check out TACO’s list of suggested activities and head to the nearest park or greenway and just explore!

Hobbit House & More at NCMA Museum Park

IMG_7013A few weeks ago, Bill planned a fun Sunday outing to explore the outdoor Cloud Chamber for the Trees & Sky exhibit (aka Hobbit House) at the NC Museum of Art’s Museum Park.  Between trips with out of town guests and regular Stroller Strides workouts, we’ve been to this museum a TON, but never to see the Cloud Chamber exhibit or hike the corresponding unpaved trails.

We parked in the large parking lot off Blue Ridge Rd and headed down the paved trail towards the infamous Gyre exhibit (the three huge concrete ellipses).  After passing the Gyre and Chairs in the Trees exhibits, we made a right onto the Blue Loop and then a left onto the unpaved trail that starts by the Crossroads/Trickster I exhibit.  The unpaved trail starts out as gravel, but then we made a slight right towards the Cloud Chamber and the path became grassy and then a very narrow dirt trail in the wooded section.  We made the mistake of bringing a BOB Revolution SE Stroller and should’ve brought a carrier for Claire and let Ashley walk.  Having two adults made it easier to maneuver the stroller over the bridges, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

IMG_7015So, after a short walk through the wooded section we found the Cloud Chamber house, which looks like a replica of Bilbo Baggins’ house.  It’s a short, circular house built into the side of the hill with large stones, some criss-crossed logs, and a green plant-based roof.  It has a concrete floor and a heavy wooden door and the house’s neat feature is that it acts as a camera obscura.  After entering the house, close the door and wait for your eyes to adjust to the darkness and you’ll see faint views of the sky as light is projected through an opening in the roof onto the floor of the house.  Bill took Ashley into the house by themselves but didn’t stay long and then I went in by myself and witnessed puffs of sky inverted on the floor…it was neat to be able to look “down” onto the sky!  And, I don’t think we’ll ever forget our trip to the Hobbit House with Ashley asking where are the “wobbits” every minute; poor girl was expecting to see some real life hobbits.

IMG_7027We then continued our walk along the loop trail where we also saw the Untitled exhibit by Ledelle Moe, which looked like a small concrete person concrete curled into a ball.  After completing the loop trail we headed back to the gravel path and turned right.  We headed downhill and came across the Whisper Bench exhibit, which was a fun interactive piece of art for Ashley.  It’s two steel benches on opposite sides of the trail that are connected by an underground sound pipe.  Ashley and Bill enjoyed talking back and forth to each other and I loved hearing the toddler giggles!  After the Whisper Bench we continued on the very sunny gravel path that led us uphill and back to the paved trail near Lowe’s Pavilion.  Finally, we stopped for a quick picnic lunch inside the pavilion before heading home for naps.

It was such a fun morning filled with fresh air, science and art and I didn’t have to plan any of it… #besthusbandever!

Additional Resources:

Thumbs up: interactive pieces of art, beautiful outdoor setting

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Mother’s Day Ideas in the Raleigh Parks

Mother's Day 2011 at the Rose Garden

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

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, it’s about that time to start planning a special way to celebrate her. And being in the Creative District, we’ve got some fresh and cool ideas on the perfect way to say thanks to mom.

Here are a few Mother’s Day events along with some suggestions of great lunch/park combinations:

  • Mother’s Day Brunch at the Rose Garden – Sunday, May 13; first seating at 10:30am or second seating at 1:30pm; $35 for adults; $12 for children (ages 5-13); children under 5 are free; ticket includes scrumptious brunch buffet, drinks (mimosas served after noon), professional photograph, live guitar music, special gift for mom, special appearance by RLT’s Cinderella; reservations are required and spaces fill quickly
  • Mother’s Day Hike – Sunday, May 13 from 11am-noon; Historic Yates Mill Park; for all ages with accompanying mom; $5/family
  • Ashley and I at the NC Zoo this past weekend...what a difference a year makes!

    Family Fun Saturday: Adventures in Color at the NC Art Museum – Saturday, May 12 at 1pm; NC Art Museum; fun family workshop to discover each other’s creativity; families with children ages 5-11; $3 members/$5 non-members; grab lunch from Whole Foods on Wade Ave and have a picnic in the Museum Park beforehand

  • Lunch in the Gardens – grab lunch from Neomonde on Beryl Rd and head to JC Raulston Arboretum for a picnic among the flowers
  • Brunch at the Park – order brunch-to-go from Flying Biscuit and then walk over to Edna Metz Wells Park for a picnic and nice stroll
  • Hot Dogs & Ice Cream at the Park – for the more casual mom, grab some hot dogs and ice cream from Snoopy’s on Hillsborough St and then walk over to Pollock Place Playground for a picnic and some playground time with the kids

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

Reedy Creek Trail: Meredith College to 440 Pedestrian Bridge

For our next greenway trip we visited the portion of Reedy Creek Trail that begins at Meredith College and extends to the I-440 pedestrian bridge. There is not a parking lot on the Meredith College side, but there is plenty of street parking on the nearby neighborhood streets. The intersection is busy so use the crosswalks. We live about 1/2 mile from Meredith College so we walked to the trail and began our journey.

The trail begins near the soccer complex on Meredith’s campus at the intersection of Hillsborough St and Gorman St. It is rather wide and paved so it’s perfect for strolling the babies or hitching them behind a bike. You won’t find any picnic tables or benches along the trail with the exception of a bench when you reach the pedestrian bridge. It’s also a pretty popular trail as it provides access to the NC Art Museum where you can then toggle over to Umstead Park.

The distance from Meredith to the pedestrian bridge is 1.3 miles. There’s not much to look at along the way except for the few glimpses of the college campus to the right. The left side of the trail is heavy brush, which helps conceal the noises from neighboring I-440. After you pass the old soccer field, you’ll go up a steep hill and through a tunnel (Wade Ave is above) and then immediately up another steep hill to the entrance of the pedestrian bridge.  Be careful of the current construction around the tunnel.

Small bits of shade throughout
A small bridge you pass near campus
The old soccer field on campus
A steep hill you cover just before the tunnel
Current construction in the tunnel
Another steep hill up to the bridge (this pic is looking back towards the tunnel)

The pedestrian bridge is an amazing engineering structure that connects the campus to the Museum Park. Construction was completed in 2005. Once you cross the pedestrian bridge you enter the Museum Park preserved by the NC Museum of Art. We had been long enough by this time so we headed back. If you continue on the trail you’ll eventually come to the Art Museum, but we’ll save that portion of the trail for another day.

Arriving at the bridge
One of the few benches along the trail
Ashley before crossing the bridge
Looking out towards I-440
On the other side of the bridge looking into the Museum Park

This would make a great trail to visit for the upcoming weekend!  Happy Fourth of July!

Thumbs up: pedestrian bridge access, wide paved path, views of campus, map of greenway near entrance
Thumbs down: noisiness near I-440, lack of benches along trail