Jennette’s Pier

Last week I spent a wonderfully relaxing week with great friends and family in Nags Head.  Everyday was at least 85 degrees and sunny except for the last day, so my mom, sister, bro-in-law, Ashley and I decided to check out the newly renovated Jennette’s Pier at MP 16.5 in Nags Head.  For someone who isn’t interested in fishing, I fell in love with this pier!  From the magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean, to the history and science lessons scattered throughout the pier, to the spirit of the fishermen… you, too, will fall in love.

The pier, on property originally owned by the Jennette family, was first built in 1939 for $6,000 and extended 740 feet.  It collapsed in 1943 and was rebuilt after WWII in 1947.  Since then, there have been several repairs due to storms and hurricanes, most notably in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel came through and destroyed a large portion of the pier.  Before then, the Jennette family had sold the pier and then the NC Aquarium Society (a division of the NC Dept of Environmental and Natural Resources) purchased it in 2003.  Construction of the new pier began in 2009 and was finally completed earlier this year.

Before going onto the pier, you’ll pass through the main building, which contains the future aquarium, educational programs, and gift/convenience shop.  The shop is filled with children’s books, stuffed animals, and prepared food and drinks.  A digital tower highlights educational programs, daily temperature and tidal current info, fishing reports, and history about the pier.  There is no fee to walk onto the pier, but there is a suggested $2 donation.  The daily fishing rates are as follows: $12 adults, $6 children under 12.  Additional fishing fees can be found here.

The new pier cost $25 million and has 257 concrete piles installed between 35-45 ft deep.  The pier extends 1000 feet, where the water is about 25 ft deep.  It is a grand structure, to say the least.  As you walk along the pier, it’s easy to get lost in the conversation among the fisherman, the sounds of the crashing waves, and in the educational information about tidal currents, pier etiquette, wind power, marine mammals and birds, and surfing, to name a few.  You’ll also see fish plaques throughout the pier showcasing the various sponsors.  The sounds from the three wind-powered turbines support the pier’s “green” statement.

On the second story of the pier is a large reception room available to rent for private events.  It has a plasma TV, floor-to-ceiling fireplace, and gorgeous globe-like chandeliers.  The wrap-around porch with rocking chairs provides 270 degree views of the pier and ocean.  Chair sponsorships are also available.

So, next time you’re at the Outer Banks be sure to check out Jennette’s Pier with your family.  Whether you’re there to do some fishing or just exploring the pier, there is great fun for everyone!

Thumbs up:  beautiful views, educational programs, gift/convenience shop, informational boards throughout pier

Thumbs down:  nothing to report

Powell Drive Park

This post originally appeared on southwestraleigh.com, where you can learn more about what a great place South West Raleigh is to live, work, and play.

Powell Drive Park is another example of a Raleigh park that offers more features than meets the eye.  Drive past Powell Drive Park and you might only see the features closest to the road, such as the unattractive neighborhood building, playground area, and tennis courts.  You may not know that if you explore the park further, you’ll find a small pond surrounded by shade trees great for picnics and photos, pavilions perfect for small family outings, and a large open field for group recreational activities.

Powell Drive Park is located at 740 Powell Drive in the southwest Raleigh area.  It is located in the triangular region between Western Blvd, I-440, and I-40.  For those in the nearby neighborhoods, there are sidewalks and stairs for accessing the park.

Close to the parking lot is a small open field, a neighborhood center used for programs or available for rent, two lighted tennis courts, and a playground area.  The neighborhood center is not staffed, but you can learn more about the facility at the City of Raleigh’s website.  The playground area has a large jungle gym with mulch base, swing set, sandbox area, benches, and water fountain.

Follow the paved path from the parking lot past the playground and you’ll first come to the lighted basketball court.  Immediately past the basketball court is where the small pond surrounded by shade trees is located.  Several benches are located along the perimeter of the pond, which you can access by a cleared trail covered in pine needles.  At opposite ends of the pond are small steel bridges, which add architectural interest to the area.  Sadly, on this particular day, I didn’t see any evidence of ducks or turtles near the pond.

Continue on the paved path to access the large, open field where the backstop and soccer goals are located.  The open field is surrounded by a dense forest to the north and west and four small pavilions (one has a charcoal grill) and a less dense forest to the east and south.

With the busy school schedule and college/pro football season upon us, take some time out and grab the kids and stomp around the playground, enjoy a yummy picnic with a loved one, or round up some friends for a game of flag football at Powell Drive Park.

Thumbs up: playground area, shady picnic spots, photo ops around pond, large open field, small pavilions

Thumbs down: unattractive community building

Kentwood Park

This post originally appeared on soutwestraleigh.com, where you can learn more about what a great place South West Raleigh is to live, work, and play.

Kentwood Park is located at 4531 Kaplan Dr in southwest Raleigh not far from the NC State campus and AB Combs Elementary School. It’s too bad the park entrance sign is missing, but given the park’s proximity to the road, it’s hard to miss the entrance.

From the medium-sized parking lot near the entrance you can get to all the park’s features within a very short walking distance. Follow the steps up to one of the four lighted tennis courts or follow the sidewalk to the large playground area and pavilion with picnic table

Unfortunately, the recent rains seemed to have resulted in more silt and sand covering the pavilion area. Near the back of the parking lot is a building with restrooms and a community board. The restrooms have certainly seen better days, but be sure to check out the community board especially if you’re interested in frisbee golf leagues. Just past the building is the lighted baseball field complete with bleacher seating for the spectators.

Signs are posted on the way to the baseball field alerting patrons of the stream restoration project that is in process. The sign notes that the City is intentionally not mowing sections of the park in order to allow the natural vegetation to build up and stabilize the stream bank. Check out the information plaque for more details about the in-progress restoration.

This is one of the few parks in Raleigh with an 18-hole frisbee golf course. It begins near Kaplan Dr and ends between the baseball field and tennis courts. Being close to NC State this is a very popular place for college students to play, as we saw several kids playing golf that day. Not ever having played frisbee golf, my competitive nature will definitely bring me back to the park soon to play.

Thumbs up: frisbee golf, tennis courts, playground

Thumbs down: bathroom facilities, landscaping, lack of park entrance sign

Ridge Road Pool

With the summer heat in full gear there’s no better place to cool off than at the pool. This past week we explored Ridge Road Pool at 1709 Ridge Rd in Raleigh. It’s adjacent to Martin Middle School, so as you pass the school, bear right where you’ll find the pool parking lot. The crape myrtles in the parking lot provide shade while you’re relaxing at the pool.

The sidewalk leading down to the pool entrance passes by the nicely terraced landscaping and bike rack areas. Before heading into the pool, you have to stop by the front desk to pay the entrance fee. Since I’m a Raleigh resident and I had a child under 1, we only had to pay $3. Once you pay, you’ll pass the restrooms, the lifeguard office, and the life vest rental office.

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Morrisville Community Park


After a rained-out start to our shift on Monday night, Tuesday proved to be plenty hot and sunny! Tuesday night we headed to Morrisville Community Park at 1520 Morrisville Parkway where the 10u girls age group was playing.  This park is run by the Town of Morrisville Parks System and it did not disappoint!

The softball fields used for the tournament are in the back, but you can’t help but stop and stare at the gigantic playground area on your way in. I think this playground is in competition with the Anderson Point Park playground for its massive size and ability to entertain! This playground has several jungle gyms hooked together by various bridges. There are also two swing sets and a shaded gazebo in the middle perfect for a picnic. The main playground sits on a rubbery base and adjacent to it is a sandy play area with see saws. A 0.6 mile paved jogging trail loop, which is part of the Hatcher Creek Greenway, is close by as well.

Playground area
Gazebo in middle of playground
Biggest playground ever!
Parking lot near playground
Access to the Hatcher Creek Greenway

Follow the walkway past the playground to the restrooms and adjacent pavilion with picnic tables and charcoal grill. There is a small open area in front of the pavilion too.

Pavilion with picnic tables and charcoal grill
Shady area near pavilion
Restrooms near playground and pavilion

Continuing on the walkway you’ll pass a large open field (mostly used for soccer according to another volunteer) and a small softball field with bleachers.

Smaller softball field
Open field

Finally in the back of the park are the two lighted softball fields, concession area, water fountain, and restrooms. Both fields have covered team benches and uncovered spectator bleachers. Today was a hot one for playing and watching softball so most of the team’s families brought in canopies, which they set up over the bleachers.

View towards Field 1
Field #1
Let's play ball!
Field #2
Restrooms and concessions
Water fountain
Benches along the walkway
Paved walkway

We were set up next to field 2 so we had a good view of the thrilling pickle, slides into third base, and outs at home. And these were only the 10u games!  I encourage everyone to come out and watch the games.  10u, 12u, and 14u Championship games will be played on Thursday at Middle Creek (10u and 12u) and Thomas Brooks (14U) parks.  16u and 18u Championship games will be played on Friday at Thomas Brooks park.  Stay up to date with dates and times on the PONY website.

Pretty tired after a long night of volunteering
Future volunteers! Chris with his daughter, Kennedy, and me with Ashley!

A nice feature to this park is the proximity of the parking lots to the playground, pavilion, and softball fields. There are large pockets of parking throughout the park.

Thumbs up: proximity of parking areas, functionality of walkways, quality of softball fields, friendly Town of Morrisville staff
Thumbs down: lack of shady seating near main softball fields

North Hills Park

North Hills park is located at 100 Chowan Circle in North Raleigh. Overall this is a basic neighborhood park with B+ features. As you arrive there is a medium-sized parking lot with a nice lighted baseball field on the right. It has bleacher seating for the spectators and a water fountain near the far team’s bench area. The adjacent grassy hill also provides plenty of additional seating.

Baseball field
Bleacher seating near baseball field

Water fountain near far team's bench
Another view of lit baseball field

At the top of the grassy hill is a building for restrooms and the Buffaloe family cemetery.

Building with restrooms
Buffaloe family cemetery

If you continue driving past the baseball field you arrive at the back parking lot near the two lighted tennis courts, playground, pavilion with picnic and access to the greenway. The playground has several connected jungle gyms with a hard mulch base and a smaller sandy playground. The pavilion has 6 picnic tables and a nearby charcoal grill. The wide, paved sidewalk provides easy from the parking lot around the playground and pavilion.

Large back parking lot
Tennis courts
Playground area
Another view of the playground
Sandy playground area
Benches and sidewalk near playground in the shade
Pavilion with picnic tables
Nearby charcoal grill

The access to the greenway is near the tennis courts. This is the North Hills Segment of the Crabtree Creek Trail and it is 1/4 mile of steeply sloped paved pathway. Going down isn’t bad, but pushing the stroller back up was quite a workout! I would definitely recommend the baby bjorn for this segment. The trail tees into the Crabtree Creek Trail, where if you go left you’ll head south towards Lassiter Mill Park and if you turn right you’ll head north towards Shelley Lake.

Access to Crabtree Creek Trail greenway
Beginning of paved greenway
Signs at the end of the North Hill Segment of the trail
Head left towards Lassiter Mill Park
Head right towards Shelley Lake

It’s amazing to think that under all these overpasses and adjacent to creeks and roadways exists this other world of trails.  Navigating through the greenways really helps you get a better sense of direction and helps you realize how close these parks really are to each other. It sort of reminds me of a foreign place like Middle Earth in LOTR.  I encourage you all to explore the greenway.  A lot of the trails are paved and shaded and would make for a great adventure with dogs, loved ones, or a group of friends.  So, pick a greenway segment, find a parking lot, and explore!

All smiles again

Thumbs up: quality of amenities, large parking lots, large playground, easy access to greenway, sidewalk access to pavilion and playground areas
Thumbs down: no sidewalk from baseball field to playground area

Isabella Cannon Park

The new Isabella Cannon Park is officially open! I had the great pleasure of attending the grand opening on Monday night with about 100 other fellow neighbors, kids, city leaders, and Raleigh Parks & Rec staff. Mayor Meeker and Councilman Crowder along with others spoke about Isabella Cannon and congratulated everyone on a job well done with the project. Mayor Meeker noted that Isabella Cannon served as Raleigh’s mayor from 1977-1979 and passed away in 2002 at the age of 97. She was also the first woman to serve as a capital city mayor in the U.S. and was elected during a turning point in Raleigh.

Park Dedication
Grand opening program
Mayor Meeker addressing the community
Councilman Crowder congratulating those on the project
Project Manager giving thanks
UPHA president giving her thanks
The ribbon cutting ceremony!

Isabella Cannon Park is located at 2601 Kilgore Ave inside the beltline. Even though there is no parking lot, there is plenty of side-street parking. The main entrance on Kilgore Ave has a very wide path, making it an inviting place to come.  There are additional stairway entrances near the intersection of Everett Ave and Gardner St across from the Rose Garden.

The new sign on Kilgore Ave
Main entrance on Kilgore with entry wall ahead
Side-street parking is available
Bike rack near the main entrance
Near corner of Everett Ave and Gardner St
Stairway entrance on Gardner St

Heading up the main entrance path is a beautiful stone entry wall in front of an open field surrounded by a concrete walkway. If you follow the path to the right you’ll see the renovated basketball courts, updated landscaping, playground with swing set, jungle gym, and see saws. The playground has both a mulch base and a sandy area with several picnic tables and benches scattered throughout.

Basketball courts
Basketball courts beneath large shade trees
Playground with swing set, jungle gym, and sandy area
Another view of the playground area
University Park Homeowners Association metal bench

Beyond the playground is a new stairway to the unpaved and more densely wooded area that has a charcoal grill. Continue on and you’ll find the stairs leading up to the entrance at Everett Ave and Gardner St.

New stairways leading to the unpaved section of the park

If you’re back on the concrete walkway continuing around the open field you should notice the newly planted Knockout Roses behind the entry wall symbolizing Mrs. Cannon’s love for the Rose Garden.  Along the walkway there are several comfortable benches to rest on or enjoy the views of the open field (still closed off to allow the grass to grow).  Once the grass grows in, it will be a great place for a flag football game!  There is a also new pavilion with 4 picnic tables on the far side of the path.

View of pavilion from across the field
Picnic tables at the pavilion
Comfortable new benches

Continuing past the pavilion you’ll come to the most unique feature of the park: a small rock climbing area!  The base has some padding to soften any falls and there are rules posted for climbing the rock.  According to some of the speakers at the event this is the only park in Raleigh with a rock climbing area.  The pathway extends up Kilgore Ave to the intersection of Latta St where the park ends.  There are more benches in shady areas and new landscaping to enjoy.

Rock climbing area
Pathway along Kilgore Ave
Additional benches along the pathway

Being at the grand opening really gave me a sense of what a community is all about.  The renovations for this park were provided by the 2003 bond referendum and from hearing the speakers thank those involved it sounds like the entire project from soliciting the community’s ideas to developing the master design plan to executing the project achieved the goals that were set forth…bringing a community together!  I only wish I had gotten involved with the UPHA years ago.

Baby Ashley was all smiles when seeing the new park

Thumbs up: rock climbing area, sense of community, pathways, benches, playground, basketball courts, picnic area

Thumbs down: nothing to note

Glen Eden Pilot Park

Glen Eden Pilot Park seems small and uninviting at first glance, but boy does it pack a punch! This park is located at 1500 Glen Eden Dr just outside the beltline. When I first pulled up I immediately noticed the empty parking lot and ugly stone building. I was carrying Ashley in her car seat due to lack of signs about trails so I figured I’d take a few pics with nothing to report and we’d head home. The main building is not staffed and was locked but can be rented by calling the Jaycee Comm Center at 831-6833. Next to the building I passed some stairs so we decided to walk down them. At the bottom I was pleasantly surprised to see a paved walkway and a gravel path that seemed like you could access it from Glen Eden Dr. My gut told me maybe there was more to this park than I initially thought, so I went back to the car, put Ashley in her stroller, headed on the narrow sidewalk and turned left out of the parking lot onto Glen Eden Dr. We found the secret wheeled-access path and met back up with the paved walkway.

Main park entrance
Front of the stone building
View of the empty parking lot
Another empty parking lot pic
Stairs next to the building leading down to the paved trail
Side view of stone building available for rent
Gravel path for wheeled access (tough for pushing the stroller)

As we continued we passed a small pond for fishing and then came upon this open space oasis! I felt like we had just entered the secret garden! There is a large pavilion with 5 picnic tables, large open fields, 2 basketball courts, and a playground area all adjacent to this 1/4 mile loop paved trail. There are benches and a water fountain near the basketball court. The playground has a swing set and 2 jungle gyms. The large open spaces would be great for picnics or flag football.

Small pond for fishing
Pavilion with picnic tables
Huge open fields
Basketball courts
Playground with jungle gyms and swingset

We walked past the basketball courts and found another entrance to the park with a small parking lot at Carlow St and Eden Croft Dr. This is a much more suitable entrance for visitors with strollers or in wheelchairs.

Smaller parking lot at alternate entrance (again empty)

From the trail we also came across a secret set of tennis courts. There are 4 courts and 1 court for single play against the backboard. The sign on the courts said to reserve the courts through Raleigh Tennis or use them on a first-come first-serve basis. There is also a separate entrance for the tennis courts although I couldn’t access the parking lot because of having the stroller.

Court with backboard
One of the four tennis courts

As we headed back on the trail I enjoyed how the birds were drowning out the noisy nearby I-440. We had the entire park to ourselves, but I couldn’t help but imagine how much more popular this park could be if only a few signs were posted in the parking lot advertising “spectacular basketball courts, playground, picnic tables, and tennis just a few 100 yards away!”.  Here’s a satellite view of the park from Google Maps of the entire area so you get a feel for what it looks like from overhead.

Thumbs up: peacefulness, open space, tennis courts, basketball courts, playground
Thumbs down: wheeled access from Glen Eden Dr entrance, lack of signage throughout park, lack of information at main building

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

Trip to Southport, NC

I’ve only been to a handful of small towns in my life and this week I had the extreme pleasure of spending the week in Southport, NC for my brother’s wedding.  He is marrying the lovely Rachael Anderson today and I couldn’t be happier for them.

We had a lot of free time this week before the wedding festivities began so I took my sister, Ginni, and Ashley around downtown Southport for some exploring.

After we walked through the shops we headed to the Waterfront Park & River Walk area (corner of Howe St and Bay St), which is located on the Cape Fear River.  This is a beautiful spot to have a seat on a bench or swing and watch the boats come by.  There are several small pavilions with picnic tables, but be careful of the seagulls if packing a picnic lunch.

View of the Waterfront from the north
Map of the area detailing the various islands around Cape Fear River
Bike racks are available
Paved walkways make it easy for strollers
Pavilion with picnic tables
Benches along the Waterfront

Next to the Waterfront is City Pier, which is a popular spot for fishing.  The moderate breeze from the river also helps cool down the hot and muggy NC summer days!

Continuing north on Bay St, you’ll come to Southport Community Building, which is where my brother and Rachael are getting married today!  It has a gorgeous deck overlooking the river, which is where the ceremony will be held and a reception hall inside the building.  There is parallel parking available on both sides of Bay St and stairs to access the building from the street.

Views from the top deck
Southport Community Building

Continuing north, we enjoyed watching the large boats return from trips at sea.  The homes along the walk are also interesting to look at, especially given their historic, New England style.  Each home has a plaque near the front door listing when it was built; most are from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Not having a final destination in mind, I was pleasantly surprised when we came upon another park along the river, Kingsley Park!  Kingsley Park is at the corner of Kingsley Dr and Bay St and is only about 1/4 mile from the Waterfront area.  This was an area where menhaden fishing boats used to dock decades ago.  Menhaden fish are caught in nets and are mostly used for their oil and ecological resources, as they have too many bones for human consumption.

Kingsley Park has several benches, paved sidewalks, information plaques detailing the menhaden fishing industry and Hurricane Hazel destruction from 1954, and a long pier into the river.

Kingsley Park
Benches in the park
Gardens around the park
View towards the river
Ashley and me on the pier
Ginni and Ashley on the pier
Information plaques about the fishing industry

Southport, NC is a fantastically quiet getaway with so much to do.  Whether you’re walking around downtown, shopping, taking in scenes of the river, or eating at one of the local restaurants you’ll have a great time.  From Raleigh, Southport is only 2.5 hours – perfect for a day trip and making wedding memories!  Congrats again to Brandon and Rachael…can’t wait to celebrate with you tonight!

Thumbs up: scenic views, photo ops, educational plaques, historic homes, river walk, piers, downtown atmosphere

Thumbs down: nothing to note 🙂