Historic Murphys Park (Murphys, Ca)

IMG_6879And so begins my multi-part series on public parks we explored in Northern Ca.  At the end of the summer we took the girls on a huge adventure to visit my aunt and uncle in Northern California.  It’s unfortunate we waited so many years before visiting them – we made amazing memories this trip and I’m so glad we shared it with our kids.

My aunt and uncle live in the small town of Sonora, Ca., and one morning they drove us over the dramatically high New Melones Reservoir bridge into Calaveras County and the small town of Murphys, Ca. to explore the small city park and have lunch downtown.  Historic Murphys Park is located at 505 Algiers Street in Downtown Murphys, a mid-1800s gold mining town turned charming Main Street with upscale retail shops, an inn, yummy restaurants and bars, and 20+ local winery tasting rooms.  Here’s a side note about Murphys: the town narrowly escaped the too-close-to-home Butte Fire, a fast moving wildfire that spread during the 2015 California wildfire season.

img_1773Murphys Park is a true community park – built by the people, for the people.  The all-volunteer, non-profit Murphys Community Club opened the park in 1948 and maintains the park for the public through membership dues, donations, and use fees for special events.  Upon entering the park your eyes are immediately drawn to the white wooden gazebo – perfect for photo ops, picnics, and outdoor music.  I was shocked to see rotisserie spits, presumably for hosting the exciting summer concerts that were advertised on big banners throughout the park. The shallow Murphys Creek runs through the park creating a relaxing and water recreational aspect. We splashed in the creek to cool off and enjoyed watching other park-goers gently tube the creek. Picnic tables and benches also align both banks of the creek.

After splashing in the creek the girls played in the playground area. The smaller-age playground contains a slide, interactive spin toys, and climbing stairs.  The playground for older children features several tall slides, monkey bars, climbing ladders and walls, tunnels and shade sails. Two tot swings, two traditional swings and picnic tables are adjacent to the playgrounds.  Family names are carved into the nearby fence pickets, probably signifying park donors.

IMG_6924After exploring the park we visited retails shops in downtown Murphys and ate a yummy lunch at Firewoods. Before leaving Murphys, we visited the tasting room of Villa Vallecito Vineyards, which is owned by dear friends of my aunt and uncle.  The vineyard is a 20 minute drive from Murphys and features amazing views of the rolling hills and overlooks the New Melones Reservoir.  The owners treated us to the most delicious wines and snacks and gave the girls the most sincere hospitality. You can even rent the casita at the top of their property. If you’re heading to the Northern California area, include Murphys on your stop for wine, food, and community feeling – I can’t wait to come back with my wine glass in hand!

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Thumbs up: small-town feel, seating options, splashing in the creek, Villa Vallecito Vineyards wines and property views,

Thumbs down: nothing to report

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

Fun Father’s Day Ideas in Raleigh

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

With Father’s Day around the corner, now is the best time to plan some fun with dear ol’ Dad.  And being in the Creative District, we’ve got some fun, fresh ideas on the perfect way to say thanks to dad. Here are a few Father’s Day events along with some suggestions of great lunch/park combinations:

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

Museum Park

The Museum Park is located on the grounds of the NC Museum of Art at 2110 Blue Ridge Rd just outside the beltline.  Part of the trail through the park is shared with the Reedy Creek Trail greenway, which connects Meredith College to Umstead Park and Schenck Forest.  The museum was renovated a few years ago and besides biking the greenway past the museum, I hadn’t really stopped to visit this park.  So, we parked in the museum parking lot and followed the paved trail towards the very easy-to-read information board.

The information board highlights four different walking paths to take and breaks it out by distance, walking time, calories burned, and features you’ll see along the way.  Because it was a very hot Sunday and we had the stroller, we opted for the one-mile Ambler path, which allowed us to explore several works of art on the paved trail close to the museum.  For those planning ahead, here is a map of the park.



Information plaque with details about the park

Paved trail around the park
View of the East building

Here are the works of art we passed along the Ambler path:

Wind Machine by Vollis Simpson
Collapse I by Ledelle Moe
Gyre by Thomas Sayre
Close up of Gyre filled with concrete and covered in dirt residue
Another view of Gyre
Bill & Ashley under the Gyre
The Conversationalist by Chakaia Booker
Lowe's Pavilion by Mike Cindric and Vincent Petrarc
Another view of Lowe's Pavilion, made of steel, wood, aluminum, and concrete

A photographer’s dream shoot, the Museum Park has a gorgeous landscape of rolling hills with a sprinkle of wooded forests between the East Museum Building and the outdoor works of art.

Looking down at the Gyre artwork
Looking back towards the Wind Machine artwork
Greenway to Meredith College
Part of the unpaved trail on the Museum Park grounds
An unpaved pathway through the park
Great shady pathway for a picnic on the bench

Next, we explored one of the newer (to me, at least) features of the park, The Pond area.  With over 20,000 plants installed, this area helps with runoff, water pollution, and settling for sediment.  The terraced landscaping and even spacing of the plants had an Asian design feel to it, but what do I know!  Here’s a list of the various plants installed and some pictures to detail the beauty of this area:

What outdoor museum would be complete without an amphitheater and outdoor movie screen?! The NC Museum of Art holds several outdoor concerts and movies throughout the summer months.  Having finally made it to an outdoor movie last summer to see The Fantastic Mr. Fox, I can attest to how much fun they are.  So, bring a picnic dinner, lawn chairs or blanket, and some cash (for the beer/wine tent) and you’ve got the perfect, cheap summer night planned!  Btw, The Social Network movie is playing tonight at 8:30pm.

Some of the seating areas for outdoor movies
Looking towards the amphitheater

Overall, this park offers much more than any average park.  Whether just passing by on the greenway, planning a trip to the indoor museum, or watching a movie or concert be sure to plan enough time to explore the artwork in the Museum Park.

Thumbs up: picnic spots, rolling hills, outdoor artwork, outdoor movies/concerts, The Pond landscaping, information plaques/maps, parking

Thumbs down: few pockets of shade