Western Regional Park in Howard County, MD

IMG_8379This Fall, we visited Bill’s parents in Howard County, MD and made a morning trip to the nearby Western Regional Park.  Western Regional Park is located at 14800 Carrs Mill Road in Woodbine.  This park is a true symbol of where sports and recreation meet in the countryside.  Nestled among the scenic hills and nearby farms are playgrounds, walking trails, recreation fields, a community center, and lots more!

Upon arriving at the park, we drove to the back of the park near the large spiderweb climbing structure, since this was the highly anticipated play area.  Everyone (including grandparents) had a blast on this climbing area.  It consists of four tall poles connected through a series of spiderweb tightrope material.  Ashley had a blast shimmying around the climbing area and pretending the rubberized ground was “hot lava”.  Also nearby are some climbing rocks and spinning wheels, which we all enjoyed.  Down from the parking lot are smaller football fields, a multipurpose grass field for lacrosse or baseball, and a small pavilion with charcoal grill.

IMG_8396After exhausting our climbing skills, we explored the nearby paved trail in search for the other playground.  At the end of our short walk we saw a large lighted multipurpose artificial turf field with field hockey, soccer and football goals, a large open field, small mobile concessions, fenced-in basketball, community center, baseball fields, a line of porta-johns, tennis courts, and a playground.  Unfortunately the playground was being resurfaced while we were there so it was closed, but looked like it offered a lot for all ages and was fenced in!  The multipurpose field conditions were pristine – the grass was a luscious green color and very well maintained.  Another interesting feature of this park is the natural area preserved next to the sports fields; I imagine the spectators enjoy some depth to the typically flat parks.

Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to explore all of this park, but in looking online there are more than 4 miles of walking trails (including horse trails), a thorough listing of common flora and fauna, and a nearby library.  For more information about this park, including maps and a full list of amenities visit the Howard County website.

Thumbs up: gorgeous condition of fields, natural area near sports fields, spiderweb climbing area, paved sidewalks between amenities

Thumbs down: signage around park

Caroline County Park in Ladysmith, VA

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During a recent family visit to Ladysmith, VA I inquired about the local parks, to which I heard crickets in response.  After an unsatisfying trip to the Caroline Parks & Rec website, I talked to my sis-in-law who is a teacher in Caroline and she remembered there being swings near the high school.  So on Sunday before heading home to Raleigh my sister and I met up with my sis-in-law and her daughter at Caroline County Park.

Caroline County is a small county of less than 30,000 people, but one that is steadily growing in businesses and population.  Caroline County Park is located across the street from Caroline Middle School around 13690 Devils 3 Jump Rd.  For a small town with assumingly small recreation funds, I was pleasantly impressed with the features of this park; however, the general upkeep needed some attention.  The park has a large shelter pavilion with horseshoes, a shaded walking trail, a skateboarding park, a playground area with swings, baseball fields, tennis courts, soccer fields, public restrooms, and ample parking.

IMG_6770The pavilion area was great in that it could hold large family gatherings with nearby parking, but the amount of trash scattered throughout the area was disturbing.  In reality, the problem seemed to be that the trashcans were light enough to be tipped over by small animals so some heavy duty trashcans with lids would probably solve that problem.  The nearby horseshoe pit and sand volleyball court would probably get more use if they were raked and maintained more frequently.

The nearby playground area was the big hit for our little crew.  It has a tall double slide, large climbing structure, one tot swing, one handicapped-accessible swing, and several regular swings.  Claire enjoyed sharing the tot swing with her sweet cousin, Emma!  The playground area has great shade cover, but plan to bring mosquito repellent next time – we left with quite a few bites.

After the playground we headed over to the skateboard park area to check it out.  By this time the skateboarders had left so Ashley brought her new (to us) scooter in to wheel it around.  After the scooter lost its appeal, she enjoyed running up and down the skateboard ramps.

IMG_6813All in all, this park had several great features despite some maintenance needs.  And, it was nice to see so many people enjoying the soccer fields so early in the morning.  Hopefully as the county continues to grow, more people will visit the local parks and draw more attention to what fun kids can have here!

Thumbs up: playground area, variety of features, skateboard park, shadiness

Thumbs down: general maintenance, waste pickup, lack of informative Parks & Rec website advertising the great features of this park

North Cary Park & Black Creek Greenway

img_5029This past winter has been one of the longest I’ve seen since moving to Raleigh over 11 years ago so when the temps hovered above 45 degrees in January we headed to North Cary Park with a friend and her girls for a short run and playground time.  North Cary Park is located at 1100 Norwell Blvd in Cary off of Cary Pkwy.  It’s a very large park situated along the northern end of Black Creek Greenway.  Before having kids we used to bike through Umstead Park on the Reedy Creek Trail and connect to Black Creek Greenway at Lake Crabtree.  This was a fun way to extend our mileage and explore the Town of Cary greenway system.

But, back to our recent trip.  After arriving at North Cary Park we winded through the park’s slightly confusing trails and eventually met up with Black Creek Greenway where we headed south.  The trail itself is a paved 7.1 total miles and winds between various neighborhoods and the creek.  We passed several bikers and runners along the way so we felt very safe.  We ran until the 2.25 mile mark of the greenway and then headed back.  The creek will make for some fun water playtime in the warm summer months.

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After running, we had some sweet, patient toddlers who needed to get exercise on the playground.  This playground area has a large sandbox area, several slides built into the small hills, a rock climbing area, tot swings, regular swings, a jungle gym for ages 5-12, and a small rubberized area great for the crawlers and early walkers.  With the dense landscaping and so many park features that are spread out, it made it harder for us to keep track of the toddlers while also tending to the babies.  After lots of toddler wrangling we were able to enjoy some time in the sandbox area, which has several benches along the perimeter.  Claire even enjoyed her first tot swing and Ashley was able to practice her potty training at the nearby restrooms, complete with a toddler-height sink.

Other than the playground and greenway, this park also has a large pavilion with a dozen tables overlooking 4 sand volleyball courts named after Julie Robison, 2 basketball courts, and a soccer field.  Benches and picnic tables are scattered throughout the playground area and before heading down to the greenway.  With so many friends with kiddos who train for running races, this is a great place to run solo or with kids combined with a playground visit!

More resources:

Thumbs up: variety of park features, safety of greenway, rubberized option for infants/early walkers, running/playground combo for those with strollers and kids

Thumbs down: confusing signage leading down to greenway trails, playground features being so spread out making it harder to keep an eye on independent toddlers

Williams Park

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Williams Park is a bustling playground in the center of North Raleigh adjacent to Lynn Road Elementary School.  It is located at 1525 Lynn Road and some of the photos are from when Ashley was much younger and some are from this Spring.  As you can see, having a friend to climb through tunnels with, chase through the soccer field, and swing with is the best way to spend an early Spring afternoon!
In addition to the large playground area (complete with shady canopies), Williams Park has a large open field with soccer goals surrounded by a short walking path, tot swings, sand volleyball courts, youth swings, tennis courts, a large shelter area, and some shaded sitting areas.  The playground surface is made of wood chips and sand.  The playground areas are a series of small climbing structures with slides that are connected by monkey bars.  For younger ones, that means lots of repetitive trips down the same slides or that they’ll need your help getting to the other play areas.  Since Ashley was just beginning to climb ladders at this time, she needed my help getting up to the higher slides too.

If you take a walk along the trail at the park, you’ll find a small plaque memorializing the park to Peter P. Williams Jr.  According to a News & Observer article, his father donated the land for the park in honor of his son.  I always enjoy when I can find some tidbits on the history of a park!

Thumbs up: great shade, close parent-sitting areas throughout the playground

Thumbs down: I’ve been here in the past and seen where drainage can be an issue

Halifax Park

I thought our park visits would cease to exist this winter, but we’ve been so lucky with all the cool, sun-filled days that we’ve been able to keep exploring.  Yesterday we visited Halifax Park near Peace College and Seaboard Station.  It’s located at 1015 Halifax St, just north of Peace St and close to the Raleigh Housing Authority.

Halifax Park is a neighborhood park that has a small playground area, large multipurpose field, outdoor basketball courts, and a community center.  The community center has a weight room, gym, and a few meeting rooms.  The playground has a sandy surface with a few swings and a large jungle gym suitable for children 5yrs+.  The playground and the outdoor basketball courts are in need of some TLC, which is planned to begin later this year.  The large multi-purpose field is fenced and has soccer goals, lacrosse goals, bleachers, and a back stop.

Lucky for us, we visited the park before construction begins later this year on improvements to the community center and playground.  The Raleigh Parks & Rec department will work with the Raleigh Housing Authority and nearby citizens to ensure the recreational needs of the community are met. According to the City of Raleigh’s Planning and Development website, this project is currently in the design stage with construction beginning this year and completing next summer. The improvements to this park are being funded through the approval of the 2007 Bond Referendum.

We’re excited to check back on the status of Halifax Park as it makes its transformation.  Lucky for the residents in the area, Mordecai Mini Park is close by.

Thumbs up: large multi-purpose field, upcoming improvements, shady picnic spots, close proximity to many neighborhoods (Capitol Park, Pilot Mill, Mordecai)

Thumbs down: small playground area limited to mostly older children, old community center

Brier Creek Park

Wow, it’s amazing to think how much the Brier Creek area has changed from when I first moved there almost 9 years ago!  I didn’t recognize most of the streets or shopping areas, which may be why I got a bit lost on our way to Brier Creek Park, the park of our second day of Christmas.

Brier Creek Park is located right next to Brier Creek Elementary School. Even though the address is 10810 Globe Rd, you actually enter from Bruckhaus St unless coming by foot, where there are sidewalks galore leading to the paved walking trail inside the park.

Inside this park, you’ll find basic features. There’s a large covered pavilion with nine picnic tables and large grill, public restrooms, two soccer fields, and a small playground for ages 2-12. The playground has a few structures for climbing on and around and a few slides. The surface is made of the spongy material, which is great for the crawlers. Even though it’s a small playground, it’s probably a great place for younger siblings to burn off some energy when the older ones are playing soccer nearby.

Thumbs up: walk ability, pavilion area, large open recreational fields

Thumb down:  little shade and landscaping, no swings on playground

Laurel Hills Park

On the first day of Christmas, we came across swings, rings, and other things!  I’m talking about none other than Laurel Hills Park located at 3808 Edwards Mill Rd near Crabtree Valley Mall.  With all the great features this park has, it’s also super easy to access regardless of where you’re coming from in the Triangle area.  It’s also very close to Glen Eden Pilot Park and Crabtree Creek Trail on the greenway.

Laurel Hills is mostly known for the All Children’s Playground.  This truly is a playground for kids of all ages, even being accessible for kids with disabilities.  There is a large tot area with four tot swings, rings, monkey bars, tires for climbing through, and a slide.  The tot area also has a slightly spongy surface, which is nice for the crawlers.  Just a few feet from the tot area is the older kid playground, which is an enormous wooden, castle-like structure over a sandy surface.  It has bridges, towers, tunnels, tires for crawling through, amazing places for hide and seek, slides, and monkey bars.  There are 6 swings and the most impressive tire swing I’ve ever seen.  Two girls were having the best time on the tire swing as their dad tried to keep up with their laughs and gasps by sending them higher with each swivel! The nearby pavilions, picnic tables, and benches are convenient for keeping a close eye on the young ones as they play.

There has been much talk over the past few years of reconstructing the playground (it’s 20 years old now) but funds have to be raised first.  Visit Sassafras All Children’s Playground to learn more about the plans and how you can help.

In addition to the playground, this park also has a large community center used for group rentals, open gym, recreation programs, and other activities.  There’s also a large pavilion with picnic tables and charcoal grill.  If you’re looking for outdoor recreation, there is a large soccer field, two lighted baseball fields, two basketball courts, and a paved walking trail.  The restroom facilities near the pond are very nice and even have a child changing station.

Thumbs Up: All Children’s Playground, tot swings, climbing areas, small pavilions near playground, walking trail, community center, recreational facilities, tire swing, proximity of different playgrounds to each other

Thumbs Down:  no sidewalks from Edwards Mill Rd to inside park

Eastgate Park

So, I’ve never had such a relaxing Thanksgiving week in a long time.  Our Thanksgiving holiday started by visiting Eastgate Park earlier this week. It was extra special because we were able to spend it with Bill, who took off for the holiday week. With us around I’m not sure it was much of a relaxing vacation for him, but we enjoyed having him around all week.

Eastgate Park is located at 4200 Quail Hollow Dr, not far from North Hills Mall.  The parking lot is located on Quail Hollow Dr, but side-street parking is also available on Wingate Dr.  After parking in the parking lot, you can head to the left towards Cooper’s Pond.  This a small pond with an small overlook area and opportunity for fishing or visiting with the fauna.  Around the pond, you’ll also find a cleared path and covered pavilion with picnic tables and charcoal grill.  The path this week was covered with large leaves, perfect for great photo ops!

Eastgate Park has an unstaffed community center that is available for rent and commonly used for recreational programs.  There is also a large open field with several soccer goals, basketball courts, and tennis courts.  We spent a lot of time at the playground area this particular day.  This playground is really nice for a few reasons: 1) the spongy surface, 2) the area is fenced in, and 3) both playground areas are near each other and have several swings.  Even though Ashley is only 8 months old, she thoroughly enjoyed crawling around on the spongy surface and swinging on the tot swings.  I consider both features to be crucial if you have a non-walking child!  Babies and mulch just do not mix!

The playground has swings, slides, and climbing areas.  There is also a sandbox and musical area in the smaller child playground.  Another great feature of this playground are the benches lined around the perimeter.  It’s a great place for parents to enjoy watching their children play.  Down from the playground is a collection of covered picnic tables and sidewalk games like four square and hopscotch.

Thumbs up: sidewalk access to park, pond area, photo ops, playgrounds, benches near playground

Thumbs down: unattractive community building

Kiwanis Park & Crabtree Creek Trail

A few weeks ago we headed down to Lassiter Mill Park again to access the nearby greenway via Crabtree Creek Trail for a run. Little did we know that after a mile and half into our run, we would come to Kiwanis Park. It was a nice surprise and a good break from the run, as we weren’t anticipating either!

Following the greenway was a bit tricky in some places.  If starting near Lassiter Mill Park, you’ll  eventually come to Claremont Rd, where the greenway signs stop.  Take a left onto Claremont Rd and then cross Anderson Dr where Claremont Rd turns into Oxford Rd.  Stay on the sidewalks and you’ll shortly see the next portion of the greenway on your left, which will lead you straight to Kiwanis Park.  Despite the trickiness of the greenway, this has turned out to be one of the favorite running trails in Raleigh.  It is super FLAT and the bridges and scenery you pass make the running seem effortless at times.

The Kiwanis Park is located at 2525 Noble Rd just inside the beltline. It has a playground area with a jungle gym, but no swings. There are also several large open fields, mostly used for playing soccer. There is a sand volleyball court, baseball fields, and a basketball court. The nearby community center is not staffed and is available for rent.  The large pavilion has several picnic tables and restrooms.

Even though you can get to the park by car, why not make this a greenway/park/brunch adventure with the kids! 1) Run/walk 1.5 miles with the stroller on the greenway to the park, 2) let them burn up some energy on the playground while you rest from your run/walk, 3) then run/walk 1.5 miles back followed by 4) yummy brunch at Nofo at the Pig!

Thumbs up: flat portion of greenway, scenery along greenway, playground, open fields at park, recreational sports

Thumbs down: signage along parts of greenway, no swings on playground

Method Road 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.

Method Road Park is a busy park with several recreational and community activities going on, despite the small footprint you see from the road. Method Road Park is located at 514 Method Rd, just inside the beltline, near the intersection of Beryl Road and Method Road. There is a large community center building with indoor basketball courts and bleacher seating. The Method Pioneers Building is nearby and available for rent.  The center has information about programs for all ages. Here are a few to highlight:

  • Method Halloween Festival (Oct 28, 5-7pm, ages 6-11)
  • Free English classes for beginning students (Oct 27-Dec 8, Thursdays, 6:30-8pm)
  • Daily open gym times (call (919) 831-6066 for hours)
  • Haunted Mordecai Lantern Tour (Oct 29)
  • Foster Grandparent Program

If outdoor activities is what you’re looking for, this park has plenty to offer. There are lighted tennis courts, a basketball court with bleachers, baseball fields, a large open multi-purpose field with soccer goals, a large pavilion with picnic tables, and oodles of shady spots and benches for picnics. The old playground area near the front of the park is getting a major facelift. The new playground area will have several swings, a large jungle gym with slides, unique seating, and fun activity equipment.  The playground is currently being renovated and should be finished within the next few months.

This would be a great park to bring your mommy/baby/toddler groups for playtime followed by lunch or a great place to bring the older kids for open gym, flag football, or kickball.  Visit raleighnc.gov for more information about Method Road Park.

Thumbs up: picnic spots, basketball courts, tennis courts, baseball fields, shady areas

Thumbs down: noisiness from I-440