Powell Drive Park Update

IMG_2142Before preschool started, we headed to Powell Drive Park to check out the playground renovations finished earlier this year.  I first visited Powell Drive Park about 4 years ago and remembered this park for being an easy one for parking and playing, which was exactly what my dear friend and new mama (third time around), Katie, needed on this hot August morning.

Powell Drive Park is located at 740 Powell Drive in a southwest Raleigh neighborhood.  The same old community building exists, but the layout of the playground and sidewalks around the park are new.  The new partially fenced-in playground area features a rubberized base with tot swings, regular swings, oval swing, ages 2-5 playground and ages 5-12 playground.

IMG_2152The ages 2-5 playground features bright neon colors with two small ladders, musical drums, slide, tunnel, water/sand table and stepping stones.  The playground’s height is short, making it the perfect size for early explorers.  Nearby is the ages 5-12 playground with a large spider web rope climbing ladder, curved metal ladder, and tall slide.  The big girls loved climbing to the top of the spider web rope and everyone squealed in delight while being pushed on the large, oval swing.  The old tennis courts and basketball courts are adjacent to the playground area.  There are some large shade trees near the tot swings, but little shade around the ages 2-5 playground.  A few benches surround the perimeter of the play area and several moms with small babes had the right idea by bringing a breakfast picnic to the park!

After exploring the playground we took a short walk by the pond to the small pavilion with picnic tables.  Everyone enjoyed a picnic lunch and then the bigger girls headed off to the large open field for running and hide and seek.

Overall, it was a simple morning for entertaining little ones while the mamas got some chatting done.  The big downside to the morning was having to make do with “natural” bathroom areas when nature calls for little ones.  The neighborhood center isn’t open on a regular basis, so I had to schlep both girls to hidden areas when they needed to use the bathroom.  I love the City of Raleigh parks and we frequent them a ton, but they have to make some improvements with the access to public restrooms.  I’m not asking for anything fancy, even a pay-by-use porta-potty or these nice public Portland loos (suggested by friend, Carter) will do.

Thumbs up: bright playground colors and design, unique oval swing, easy access to park, pond/picnic/playground features all nearby

Thumbs down: access to bathrooms

Blue Jay Point County Park

IMG_2125Blue Jay Point County Park is an outdoor mecca for people of all ages!  We visited Blue Jay Point County Park about a month ago after hearing so much great news about the new Go Ape Zip Line & Tree Adventure course.  Even though this park visit was more for the little ones, I can’t wait to head back here for some adult time on the adventure course.

Blue Jay Point County Park is a peninsula located at 3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd in North Raleigh.  It is surrounded on three sides by Falls Lake and just south of the intersection of NC-98 and Six Forks Rd.

We first drove to the back of the park and scoped out the playground area, which was huge!  The ages 5-12 playground has at least 8 slides in total, long ramps for running up and down, monkey bars, climbing ladders, tunnels and more.  The ages 2-5 playground has several shorter slides, an arched climbing ladder, and nearby teeter totters and standing sand tables.  There is a restroom area, small covered pavilion, benches and picnic tables near the playground.  Most of the playground area is in full sun, but we were able to score a little shade on the benches under the trees.

IMG_2124After some playground time, we headed towards the covered pavilion where the Laurel Loop nature trail begins.  This was such an ideal walk for young kids – it is a well maintained unpaved trail with lots of shade, has several benches and picnic tables throughout, is only 0.2 miles, allows for a short walk by adjacent Falls Lake, and loops you back to the playground area.  All of the girls from ages 18 months to 4 years old loved exploring this trail, especially finding the dozens of caterpillars along the trail.

After our hike, we got back in our cars and headed to the front of the park to explore the main building’s Nature Discovery Room.  After recently visiting Rockwood Nature Center in Richmond, VA where we saw several live animals, the girls seemed disappointed they didn’t have any live creepy, crawly native animals to gawk at.  However, they did enjoy learning about the water cycle at Falls Lake and playing with some of the interactive tree and plant exhibits.

IMG_2139We then headed outside to the nearby fenced-in garden area for a much deserved picnic lunch.  After our lunch we walked all throughout the gardens learning about the different herbs, flowers and vegetables they’ve planted.  The biggest highlight for me was the “pizza garden” where they planted lots of basil and tomatoes.  The biggest highlight for the girls was spotting butterflies and checking out the resident turtles and water snake in the small pond area.

Even though we spent about 3 hours at Blue Jay County Park, I feel as if we barely scratched the surface of this park.  With so many nature and hiking trails (some that connect to Mountains-to-Sea trail), a natural play area, a tree-top adventure course, lots of open space, and tons of educational programs I can’t wait to come back very soon!

Thumbs up: nature trails with varying lengths for all ages, gardens, playground area, proximity to Falls Lake, so many outdoor activities to do

Thumbs down: signage around park

Rockwood Park in Chesterfield, VA

IMG_1594If you live around the Richmond, VA area you have to check out Rockwood Park in Chesterfield County.  While visiting Tech buddies in Richmond at the end of June we set out for Rockwood Park Nature Center’s annual Honeybee Festival and everyone (kids and adults) fell in love with this park!

Rockwood Park is located at 3401 Courthouse Road in Chesterfield County near the intersection of Hull Street Rd.  While the festival vendors were setting up outside, we stepped inside the park’s nature center and got to see a whole lot of slithering, crawling, squirming and buzzing animals.  The kids got to see several types of snakes (including a copperhead and corn snake), turtles (including a gigantic snapping turtle), bull frogs, a large iguana, and a live bee exhibit.  All of the permanent exhibits were at levels great for little ones to see all the action.  With the Honeybee Festival going on outside there was a very knowledgeable and friendly bee expert who described bee keeping to us and pointed out the queen bee in the hive exhibit.  This center also has a great reading nook with nature books and kid-size table with coloring activities.

IMG_1604After spending at least 30 minutes in the center, we headed outside to enjoy the bee festival activities.  The friendly staff helped the kids make pipe cleaner bee crafts and plant flowers.  Then they enjoyed listening to bee themed stories and having bees painted on their hands.  After exhausting the storyteller’s books we headed out across the field to explore the playground area.

IMG_0113The playground area is made for kids mostly 5 years and up, but that didn’t stop these almost 2-year olds and 4-year old from playing.   The playground has a small slide for younger kids that is connected to higher play areas by monkey bars.  There are several more climbing areas connected by ladders with access to twisty and straight slides.  With the recent rains the kids happily discovered the large mud puddle at the bottom of the twisty slide.  Tot swings and regular swings are nearby and several benches and picnic tables are also located in the playground area.  The entire area is mostly shaded by tall, mature trees and there are several more amenities (such as a dog park, pickleball courts, baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, pavilions) adjacent to the playground.  As someone who has spent a lot of time visiting family and friends in Chesterfield, I am excited to explore more parks in this area.

For a complete list of the amenities at Rockwood Park, see the County of Chesterfield website.

Thumbs up: live animals at nature center, friendly staff, variety of activities for young kids, shady playground area

Thumbs down: poor drainage near playground

Spring Forest Road Park

IMG_5429At the end of May family visited us for the weekend so we headed out on Sunday morning with my aunt, sis-in-law, and niece to explore a new park in northeast Raleigh, Spring Forest Road Park.  I’d been wanting to check this place out ever since I heard earlier this year that it was going to be one of the parks to host the Hot Air Balloon Festival.  With such a massive open area surrounded by a walking trail and shade trees it’s no wonder it was chosen for such a festival.

Spring Forest Road Park is located at 4203 Spring Forest Road, east of Capital Blvd, near a fire station, and not far from Triangle Town Center.  After arriving in the parking lot, we took a short walk along the trail to the nearby playground.  The playground is in a very sunny location and has a sandy base.  It has several slides, monkey bars, and climbing areas that are all connected, making this a playground for ages 2-12.  The first few steps lead to a small slide for the younger ages and a big step leads to a jumpy suspension bridge, two twisty slides, a covered “castle” area (deemed so by Ashley), and a curved ladder.  After the girls exhausted my aunt on the playground they settled in with some sand toys that we brought from home.  Being that the sand and playground area was so sunny, we enjoyed a quick snack on the nearby benches before taking a walk around the loop trail.

IMG_5447We passed several small groups of folks walking that morning and noticed signs advertising walking programs held through the City of Raleigh/Wake County on their information boards.  They also advertised several zumba and kickboxing evening classes held here, which sound like a fun place to meet up with neighbors and friends in the evening.  The paved trail is 1/2 mile loop with a few small hills and passes through some shady spots.  The surrounding open space must be one of the largest open fields in the whole park system, especially if it was large enough to house a hot air balloon festival.  We also passed a baseball field before returning to the parking lot where the large pavilion with restrooms and tennis courts with backboards are located.  Several types of flowers were in bloom and the trees were full of leaves throughout the park making you forget it’s just a short distance from busy Capital Blvd.

Thumbs up: large open space, great walking trail, community walking group/activities, landscaping

Thumbs down: very sunny playground area

Robert Godbold Park in Cary, NC

IMG_9902.jpgOne sunny morning this winter we headed out to Cary for haircuts followed by a visit to the nearby Robert Godbold Park.  I’m always impressed by the Town of Cary parks and despite being an older park it packed the fun.

Robert Godbold Park is located at 2050 NW Maynard Rd between Harrison Ave and Chapel Hill Rd in Cary.  It has several pockets of parking lots to choose from depending on what activity you’re looking for – basketball, tennis, playground/picnic, dog park, or skateboarding.  We headed over to the playground, which has one large jungle gym over mulched surface.  The jungle gym was safe enough for both ages (18months, almost 4yrs) to use – it has shorter steps to the smaller slides that are connected via a tunnel and more steps to the larger slide.  The playground also has several climbing structures, a fireman pole, and monkey bars.  Two tot swings, two regular swings, a small sandbox, and public restrooms are also located in or near the partially fenced-in playground area.  Six tennis courts with picnic tables and a gazebo are within eyeshot of the playground too.

IMG_9945.jpgAfter exhausting the playground we walked over to the basketball courts to run around some more.  We had a quick snack on the nearby picnic tables and then ran through the woods a bit before walking to the adjacent skate park to check out all the construction.  The skate park was temporarily closed for renovations, but according to the Sk8-Cary website it might have reopened by now.

After the backhoes, diggers, and small motorized dump trucks lost their appeal we walked over to the dog park to visit with the pups.  This off-leash dog park requires a membership and young kiddos aren’t allowed in so we watched from outside the gate.  The girls also enjoyed the colorfully painted fire hydrants located outside the dog park.

If you’re accessing this park by foot, there’s a pedestrian crosswalk and sidewalks along both sides of NW Maynard Rd.  This park is also located along the Black Creek Greenway with access to the Northwoods Greenway.  In searching online for more information about the park’s namesake, Robert V. Godbold, I learned that he passed away in 2013, but seemed to have lived a full life – owned a general contracting company that built homes throughout the Triangle area, served on the Cary Town Council for 18 years, was a long-time church member, served on the Cary Volunteer Fire Dept for 20 years and was married for 58 years with a large family.  It’s wonderful when the legacy of a community leader like Robert Godbold can live on through the happiness of a park.  Read more about Robert Godbold’s obituary here.

More Resources

Thumbs up: proximity of park’s amenities, safe pedestrian crossing over Maynard Rd

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Hill Street Park

IMG_8997We took advantage of another clear, sunny day this winter and stumbled upon Hill Street Park in east Raleigh.  Never having been there before we set off with hopes of having a picnic after burning some energy on the playground and that’s exactly what we did!

Hill Street Park is located at 2307 Hill St at the bottom of a relatively steep hill.  It has a very colorful community center that is mostly open for after-school programs and an adjacent pavilion with picnic tables and terraced landscaping to the nearby partially fenced-in playground.  The playground area has a playground with slides, climbing ladder, steering wheel and nearby tot swings for the younger kids (ages 2-5).  There is also a large play structure for the older kids (ages 5-12) that features a half-moon rope climbing structure, monkey bars, balance beam, spinning bars, climbing rings, slide and more.  Both kids had a great time playing on both playgrounds and Claire had a fabulous time sitting in the dog-height water fountain bowl.  Claire went down the small slides at least a dozen times and Ashley enjoyed climbing her way through each rope obstacle on the bigger kid playground.  The bigger kid playground reminds me a lot of the indoor play structure at Greystone Community Center on crack.  With so many climbing areas it’s nice any falls will be lessened by the rubberized surface.

IMG_9010After a lot of running around we picnicked on the nearby benches by the playground.  The playground has little morning light so we huddled on a lone sunny bench to stay warm.  We had the park to ourselves this particular weekday morning and look forward to sharing this hidden gem with friends next time!

Thumbs up: unique climbing structures, close proximity of pavilion to playground

Thumbs down: no access to restrooms when community center is closed

Kelly Glen Park in Apex, NC

IMG_8927This winter we braved a cold, but clear day for new adventures in Apex, NC. After exploring a new (to us) park we heading to downtown Apex for a delicious lunch at Anna’s Pizzeria.  It was the perfect combination of fresh air, exercise and comfort food!

We originally set out to visit the wooden playground at Kelly Road Park, but with the road detour on Olive Chapel Rd/Kelly Rd it looked like the park was going to be closed, so we instead stumbled upon the smaller Kelly Glen Park not too far away.  After some super helpful back and forth tweeting  with the Town of Apex (they even tweeted me a hand sketched map, must’ve known I was not from these parts), we learned that Kelly Road Park was open so we’ll definitely be back to Apex soon!

IMG_8896Kelly Glen Park is located at 1701 Kelly Glen Dr near a neighborhood cul-de-sac just outside I-540 in Apex.  There is a lot of construction along the nearby Kelly Rd bridge so parking is available in the cul-de-sac.  After parking, we followed the short, winding paved path past the pavilion to the playground.  The playground is designed for ages 5-12, but only has one opening at a tall height and Claire did a good job climbing around with my assistance.  The playground has several slides and a tall ladder and features several hand crank-operated marble games.  There is also a pair of nearby low-to-the-ground tot swings that both girls really enjoyed.  Even though Ashley is way TOO big for these swings, she loved running for a “take-off” while sitting in the swing.  Before leaving the park the girls spent quite a bit of time watching the nearby construction from the fence.

After the park we headed back towards Raleigh with a stop in downtown Apex for lunch at Anna’s Pizzeria.  I’ve been wanting to try Anna’s for awhile now and I’m so glad we did.  Despite the busy lunch crowd, we had attentive service and a great lunch of pepperoni pizza and garlic knots.  With so many restaurants and shops in downtown Apex I look forward to returning soon!

Thumbs up: helpful tweets from Town of Apex staff, tot swings, exploring downtown Apex

Thumbs down: in-your-face road closed signs made Kelly Rd Park seem closed even though it wasn’t, noisy construction

Whalebone Park in Nags Head, NC

IMG_6442

We love the beach, even for short three-day weekend trips!  About 9 years ago we started visiting Nags Head, NC with dear college friends for the Yuengling 5k race and it has turned into an annual trip that we look forward to each spring.  The race is always in early May, so it’s the perfect time to visit when rental prices are low and it’s not too busy.  This year as another fantastic weekend was coming to an end, we decided to stop at Whalebone Park on the way out of town.  It’s a park we’ve passed by several times when in town and finally made time for a visit, which was a quick and fun final stop before heading back to Raleigh.

Whalebone Park is located across from Jennette’s Pier and next to Sam & Omie’s restaurant at 7300 S. Virginia Dare Trail.  It has a large ship-themed playground for ages 5-12 with several ladders, hanging bars, monkey bars, and slides.  The playground ship is called the Theodosia Burr, named after the daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr who was supposedly murdered on board the Patriot pilot boat at Nags Head around 1812. More information is included in a small informational board at the playground.

There is also a smaller playground for ages 2-5 with monkey bars, teeter totters, climbing ropes, and a small climbing wall.  It also has some musical toys that are a great height for early walkers, one tot swing, which was broken, and one handicapped-accessible swing.

IMG_6447All of the play areas at this park are situated on the rubberized surface, but unfortunately there isn’t any natural shade, so on warm days like this one the heat was beating down on us and we couldn’t even put Claire down to play.  Ashley seemed pretty worn out from the weekend so she spent most of her time swinging.

Next to the playgrounds are some additional features: picnic tables with removable shade tarps (not up on this hot day), sand volleyball court, bocce ball, horseshoes, trash can covers with interesting art and funnel ball game.  So, while it was fun to explore a new park at the beach, it seems like this park would be better appreciated by year-round residents than tourists busy with all the other myriad beach activities.

Resources: previous posts on Nags Head featuring Manteo, Roanoke Island, Jennette’s Pier, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and NC Aquarium

Thumbs up: having a playground option at the beach, interesting trash can lid art, nautical-themed playgrounds, walkable from Jennette’s Pier or Sam & Omie’s or Dune Burger restaurants

Thumbs down: lack of shade, poor landscaping

Leesville Community Park

IMG_6315

On a Sunday morning in May we headed out to Leesville Community Park in hopes of finding a fun playground with some open space for flying a kite.  The playground was unlike any others we had ever been to before and we were able to find a small space for kite flying so it was a successful morning!

Leesville Community Park is located at 5105 Country Dr in North Raleigh and has a Wake County Library on the premises.  It has two playgrounds near each other – one for ages 2-5 and one for ages 5-12.  The smaller age playground is covered by a large shade tarp and is a series of one foot tall platforms for playing and climbing on so this playground is best for a steady climber or even a non-walker who likes to just stand and hold onto things.  Ashley had a blast playing with the spinning toys on the younger playground.

The older age playground is a series of metal or rope climbing structures, a very narrow slide, and a stand-up spinning structure.  It had yellow caution tape in a section where the rope ties were broken.  I’m so thankful Bill was with me this morning to assist Ashley as she spider-monkeyed the rope climbs while I could tend to Claire.  I was pretty nervous with Ashley being so high up, but she did great and even made it down the very narrow slide by herself.  However, I wouldn’t take both girls back to this park by myself because Ashley would require so much assistance on the older playground.

IMG_6299After some playground time we busted out our princess kite in the nearby open space.  We had the park to ourselves this morning which proved to be crucial when giving a 3-year old a kite – she ran all over the place instructing her kite to “C’mon on, kite!”  It was super cute watching her fly the kite, until she ran into some small, unnecessary stumps located in the middle of the open space.

After flying kites we explored the shady median between the parking lots, which featured a short dirt pathway with benches that lead to the Carlton family cemetery.  Finally we got some use out of the public restrooms, which were very comfortable for temporary trailer bathrooms.

Thumbs up: bathroom facilities, monkey bars at smaller age playground, library/park combo trip, shade tarp over smaller age playground

Thumbs down: lack of picnic tables, playground features require kids to be very able at climbing, park entrance was hard to spot (we drove right by), small jagged stumps in open field

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: