Lake Wheeler Park

I had never been out to Lake Wheeler Park until this summer and I can’t wait to return.  For the most part, Lake Wheeler is similar to Lake Johnson except that it doesn’t have a paved trail surrounding it, but does have much more extensive boating, picnicking and playground areas.

Lake Wheeler Park is located at 6404 Lake Wheeler Rd in southwest Raleigh.  Upon entering the park, you’ll notice the 650 acre lake to the south.  As you meander through the park on the main road, there are several spots along the way to stop and fish or shelters for picnicking.  Continuing on you’ll pass large open fields with larger shelter areas and finally arrive at the large parking lot near the boat house.

We parked in the main parking lot and headed down to explore the boats and docks at the lake.  This particular day was extremely windy so the water was pretty void of any boaters.  We still managed to walk on the docks and talk about the different boats we saw (presumably for rent) – paddle boats, sunfish sailboats, kayaks, jon boats, etc.  For a complete list of boats for rent or launch visit the Lake Wheeler rental website.  You can also learn more about the depths of the lake (which get to 25ft in some spots) by visiting the information boards near the boat house.  Follow these guidelines for fishing in and on the bank of the lake.  Across from the boat ramps is the park’s very impressive boat storage area.  In addition to renting various boats and fishing, you can also take several boating classes offered at Lake Wheeler, which start back up in the spring.

Next we explored the boat house area, which consists of a large veranda (covered and uncovered) overlooking the water complete with picnic tables and rocking chairs, indoor rooms for classes and rental, a concession area, restrooms, and beautiful landscaping leading up to the playground area.  The veranda, indoor room and deck are all available for rent for special events.  Ashley especially loved sitting in the rocking chairs while we talked about the different things we saw near the water (ducks, boats, people, etc).

After visiting the boat house, we explored the nearby t-shaped dock, which offered some great photo ops.  It has several fish cleaning spots and is completely fenced in, making it a fun place to explore for toddlers (provided no one else is around trying to fish).

Next we headed back to the playground, where we spent most of our morning.  This is a great place for playing and then having a picnic, as there are several picnic tables and even a small shelter and charcoal grill in the vicinity.  The playground offers a few areas for early walkers to play on, but is mostly geared towards the more steady walkers.  There aren’t too many openings in the playground, making it easier for nervous moms to let toddlers run free in the playground.  The playground has big-kid swings and low swings for toddlers who can hold onto the chains, but no bucket tot swings.  It has a wood chip base and has several slides, tunnels, and ladders at different levels making it a fun and interesting place to play.

Finally, we made our way over to the large open field to “throw” our frisbee.  Being that we visited the park on the hottest day of the summer we didn’t last too much longer, but enjoyed a fun morning with lots to look at, talk about and explore!  I can’t wait to visit again and do some boating.

For more info about this park including boating, fishing and rental opportunities visit the City of Raleigh website.

Thumbs up: variety of boating activities, playground area, vicinity of picnic tables near playground, views from the boat house

Thumbs down: signage throughout the park

Lake Raleigh

Benches on the fishing pier

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.

The last time I was at Lake Raleigh (unknowingly) was during last year’s Polar Plunge 5k race with the Raleigh Jaycees.  The race started near the lake, meandered through Centennial Campus, and then ended back at the lake where several people plunged into Lake Raleigh…in February!  All for a good cause nonetheless.

Visiting Lake Raleigh on a cool-summer-almost-Fall-time day is a much more practical way to explore the lake.

Open to the public, Lake Raleigh is located on NC State’s Centennial Campus, nestled between college buildings, corporate/government/non-profit partners, and residential space.  Like any place you visit on a college campus, parking will always be a nuisance.  There is a small parking lot at Lake Raleigh, but it requires an NC State parking permit Mon-Fri from 7am-5pm.  You can pick up a $2 visitor day pass from the visitor center or plan to go during other times.  There is also parking along Main Campus Dr, but those too have parking restrictions.

A quiet fishing spot down from the piers

Fishing is permitted in marked areas and non-motorized car-top boats such as kayaks or canoes are also allowed in the lake.  There are two fishing piers near the entrance with long benches, perfect for enjoying the views or waiting for a bite.  The paved trail is part of the Centennial Greenway, which is a work-in-progress.

The trail extends in both directions past the main entrance, but does not loop around the lake.  If you walk to the right, you’ll pass other popular fishing spots, wetlands, The Shores residential area, and a bridge perfect for taking photos.  If you walk to the left, you’ll pass gorgeous views of the lake, the SOUL community garden, the 9-hole par 3 frisbee golf course, and an exercise station before coming to the tunnel under Main Campus Dr.

As noted above, the trail is part of the Centennial Greenway, which is a fitness trail and educational tool for the campus community.  Little mowing is done around Lake Raleigh to allow the natural plants to thrive.  Future development of the greenway will connect Centennial Greenway to the Capital Area Greenway at Lake Wheeler Rd and Lake Johnson.

Thumbs up:  beautiful views, fishing, boating, frisbee golf course

Thumbs down:  parking, lack of area map near main entrance

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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