Optimist Pool

IMG_6721

It’s been a hot summer and the best way to cool off from the hot Raleigh heat is by hitting the pools! Most recently, we spent a lot of time at Optimist Pool while Ashley had preschool level 1 swimming lessons. I was on the fence about whether I felt she could handle lessons by herself (without me in the water), but ultimately I decided to go for it since she’s finished other preschool and recreational activities on her own. And, my decision proved to be the right one…she barely even looked back at me when the first class began.  On this particular pool trip we stayed after swimming lessons to swim in the baby pool and have a picnic.

Optimist Pool is in North Raleigh at 5900 Whittier Dr.  The main pool is a covered year-round Olympic-size pool with depths from 3’6″ to 5’6″ with several lap lanes and wide step entrances at both ends of the pool.  Ashley’s swimming lessons were mostly held in the shallower end of the pool on the wide steps with a few trips with life jackets on to the deeper end.  The instructor was super personable and even made time to chat with the parents after each class about each child’s progress.  The main pool building also contains several chairs and bleachers surrounding the pool and a small lounge area separated by glass.  The bathroom facilities were very nice with updated showers, lockers and bathroom areas.

IMG_6710The large baby pool and diving well areas are located outside and run on a seasonal availability.  The baby pool area is fenced in with a large rectangular pool with depths from 10″ to 18″ in the middle.  There are several deck chairs, a little grass seating, and a portable tent for some added shade.  Various floats and pool toys are allowed in the baby pool area.  Claire thoroughly enjoyed swimming in her shady float while Ashley continuously threw her body into the water.  The diving well features low and high diving boards with deck chairs and bleacher seating on the pool deck.  There are several picnic tables located between the outside and indoor pool areas.  With a toddler and a baby I found it most helpful to bring the single BOB stroller inside the pool area, which helped contain Claire and also provided more storage for all our crap.

By the way, I’m writing this post from my sister’s house in VA.  I’ve brought the girls down here for a few days to help house sit and take care of her dogs while my sister and bro-in-law await for baby Ava to be born…I’m so excited I could bust!

Resources:

  • The City of Raleigh has great small group swimming lessons, but if you’re looking for some private lessons check out what my friend Elaine, a former collegiate swimmer, has to offer at Miss Elaine’s Swim Lessons.
  • For more information about the other facilities at Optimist, read my previous posts.
  • For more information about other pool reviews, read my previous posts.
  • Visit the City of Raleigh website for more information about pool hours of operation.

Thumbs up: City of Raleigh swimming lessons, large baby pool area, clean bathrooms, helpful lifeguards/superb swimming instructor (Kenny), seating options

Thumbs down: nothing to report

 

Optimist Park: Tutus & Picnics

img_5806
Stretching her ballerina toes after class

Awhile back a dear friend of mine and I signed our girls up for a preschool dance class at Optimist Park through the City of Raleigh.  It ended up being the perfect Monday morning activity, which led into extended play time and lunch at the playground.  It was the first activity (other than regular preschool) where the girls were on their own, so it was fun to have a buddy to learn some new skills with (we still talk about plies over here)!

Optimist Park is located in North Raleigh in a subdivision off Six Forks Rd at 5900 Whittier Dr.  It’s an older park with a community center, playground, seasonal and year-round pools, tennis courts, baseball fields, and greenway access for Mine Creek Trail, Snelling Branch Trail and Shelley Lake.

img_5782
A glimpse into the dance class

Dance class was held in the community center in a room that did not have easy access for parents to view their kids “dancing”.  So, to sneak peeks we’d have to poke our heads in and try not to disturb their learning.  Once dance class ended we headed over to the playground for some more play time and a picnic.

Again, Optimist is an older park so the playground has a more classic look with brown and orange painted metal.  The playground area is covered in a sandy surface and has a large jungle gym for the 5-12 age group that our 3 year olds and even 15 month old enjoyed.  There are several slides, a tunnel, and a few climbing ladders.  In the same area are

the springy cars and 4-person teeter totter.  The playground sits adjacent to a creek that has a short fence, which no one really explored even the 15 month old, but do take caution.  Benches are scattered throughout and the picnic tables and swing set are nearby.  This area is pretty shady, even with the few leaves on the trees.  If you follow the paved trail, you’ll come to eight lighted tennis courts that are adjacent to the student parking lot at Sanderson High.

img_5793
From the dance floor to the sandbox

While Optimist Park might not be a destination spot, it sure made for a great post-dance class play time and picnic spot!

Years ago Ashley and I ran the Snelling Branch Trail from Optimist Park and I never posted about it! To get to the greenway access, you’ll want to start in the smaller parking lot off Northclift Dr that is behind the Sanderson High baseball field.  Follow the signs and run behind the baseball field and you’ll come to North Hills Dr, which you’ll cross over.  Continue a little further and you’ll come to the Shelley Lake Trail where you can turn left to go south and see Shelley Lake very quickly or turn right to go north and discover the Mine Creek Trails or northern end of Shelley Lake loop.  We turned right and then made another right onto Mine Creek Trail where we crossed over North Hills Dr again, went under a tunnel for Lynn Rd, and eventually turned around near the intersection of Longstreet and Bent Creek Dr.  There’s a flowing creek along the way and we even passed a random playground.  According to the City of Raleigh website there’s a current project to extend East Fork Mine Creek Trail to Honeycutt Park.  That’ll be a good reason to get back here soon for more current pictures!

Thumbs up: quiet/not crowded, great picnic spots, fun beginner dance class, convenience of having park features close in proximity, greenway access

Thumbs down: older facilities, lack of true dance studio for watching kiddos

Photos from the Greenway exploration in Feb 2012:

Greater Raleigh Drop-in Rainy Day To Do List

With all the recent rainy and snowy weather in Raleigh I wanted to create a list of drop-in activities that I could refer to whenever I’m grasping looking for something to do with little ones in tow.  Here’s a starter list of indoor activities outside the house that are guaranteed to educate and entertain the sweet babes:

  • rainy day playgroundFit4Mom/Stroller Strides of Midtown Raleigh – grab your Bob Stroller (or any stroller, really) and join other mommas for a great workout with your babes; first class is free; check out the Facebook group which is free to join and full of fun playdates
  • Tot Time with City of Raleigh Parks & Rec – free, indoor playtime (ages 5 and under) at various community centers around the city of Raleigh; each center has different toys (i.e., basketball hoops, tunnels, push cars, slides, etc) available for play; my favorite Tot Time is at Laurel Hills Community Center; consult the most recent Leisure Ledger for dates/times at each center
  • Great Harvest Bread Co in North Raleigh – has small play area with toys for kids while you enjoy delicious coffee and breads!
  • City of Raleigh’s Greystone Recreation Center – indoor playground in North Raleigh with rock climbing wall and various rope climbing structures; designed for kids ages 5-12, but I’ve found Ashley began enjoying this park at age 2 1/2; playground times vary, so be sure to check their schedule or sometimes I’ve found it’s easiest to call for their hours: 919-996-4848
  • Storytime at the library – libraries throughout Wake County have several storytimes grouped by ages: baby, toddler, preschool and family; storytime at Cameron Village featuring Mr. Erik is the most interactive library activity we’ve been to; check the list of kids’ events for dates, times and locations
  • Bounce Houses – refer to the list of bounce houses compiled by WRAL’s Go Ask Mom
  • Marbles Kids Museum – hands-on kids museum in downtown Raleigh that offers two floors of interactive, creative play for children; $5 per person over age one; one of the only indoor places in Raleigh open on Sunday mornings
  • Storytime at NC Museum of Natural Sciences – free, downtown museum with an amazing variety of exhibits, events, and hands-on displays for kids of all ages, but the daily storytime and “Meet the Animals” activities are our favorite activities
    • storytime and “Meet the Animals” schedule
    • complete list of events
  • NC Museum of History – free, downtown museum that has fewer hands-on exhibits for toddlers, but still boasts a large permanent collection on the history of NC along with several very interesting rotating exhibits (be sure to check out Watergate); weekly storytime on Thursdays; check full schedule of eventsrainy day playground
  • Rainbow Play on Glenwood Ave – large indoor party room with swing sets mostly designed for kids older than 2, but they do have a small area for early walkers and crawlers; open play time is Mon-Fri from 10am-2pm but call during other times to see if room is available for play; $5/child for ages 2 and up
  • Tumble Gym of Raleigh – open gym time with trampoline, balance beam, bars, and more; $10/hr per child; call for dates/times: 919-977-0357
  • See an IMAX movie at Marbles – other than the latest Hollywood movies, this theater shows several educational documentaries that are appropriate for toddlers
  • Paint your own pottery – paint ceramic pieces (plates, mugs, household items, etc) in a pottery studio; prices usually include all painting supplies, glazing and firing; pieces are available to pick up about a week later; makes for great gifts; our favorite is Klaystation off Durant Rd
  • Kids’ Workshops at Lowe’s and Home Depot – free hands-on workshops to teach kids about tool safety and do-it-yourself projects; Home Depot runs workshops on the first Saturday of each month – check local store for times; Lowe’s runs clinics on select Saturdays – consult schedule
  • The Farmers’ Corner at Historic Oak View County Park – this is a fantastic park that is so much fun for kids and adults, but the Farmers’ Corner in the Farm History Center is where kids can plant and harvest crainy day poolrops while reading books and playing dress-up; main building is open 8:30am-5pm on Mon-Sat and 1-5pm on Sundays but the Farmers’ Corner is sometimes not available due to scheduled programs, so call ahead 919-250-1013; see previous posts on this park
  • City of Raleigh indoor swimming pools – with so many options for year-round swimming in Raleigh, visit one of the indoor pools: Pullen, Millbrook, Optimist, Buffaloe Rd Aquatic Center; be sure to check the hours of operation before heading out
  • Bass Pro Shops in Cary and local pet stores – endless rows of interesting animals and fish to see
  • Train tables at Barnes & Nobles (Triangle Town Center) and Logan Trading Company in Seaboard Station offer great fun for little ones
  • DefyGravity trampoline Park in Raleigh features great fun for all ages, including a special jump session from 9-10am for kids under 7 where they play fun princess/toddler music

Where else in the Triangle do you explore on rainy or snowy days?  Let me know what I’ve missed so I can include your ideas.