Prairie Ridge Ecostation

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A few weeks ago Claire finally got her own special park day where we took advantage of an early Spring day and headed to the Prairie Ridge Ecostation, which is NC Museum of Natural Science’s outdoor learning space.  Even though the science museum is located downtown, this outdoor gem of 45 acres is located down the street from the NC Museum of Art at 1671 Gold Star Drive in Raleigh.

The Prairie Ridge Ecostation is an outdoor oasis of walking trails, play spaces, nature programs, animal habitats, gardens, and more!  This particular day we spent the morning with friends listening to the storytime program, walking the trails, and exploring the outdoor buildings/gardens.  After parking, we headed on the paved trail (with the small signage) through the woods and eventually found the outdoor storytime spot at the amphitheater.  I love the idea of outdoor storytime, but with the noise from the nearby road and a novice story teller, it did not make for optimal conditions. So, even though several of the smaller kids lost interest, there is plenty of adjacent natural play areas: tunnels and slides, sifting, digging, stacking, balancing, jumping on tree trunks and more!

img_5519Next, we passed by several picnic tables and open spaces on our way to the grassy walking trail.  The trail follows along the stream and then crosses into the lowland forest and piedmont prairie areas.  Near the piedmont prairie area is a building that overlooks the pond that is made for bird watching.  The kids had a great time looking for birds and playing in the building.  After we arrived back at the beginning of the trail (about 1/2 mile total) we visited the Green Building, which is used mostly for educational programs but also has restrooms and a back deck great for picnics. Since we didn’t pack a picnic we continued to explore the grounds and settled in the Nature Neighborhood Garden.  The garden features NC native plants, dry stream beds for collecting run-off water, a koi pond and more.  Claire and I enjoyed some quiet time on the benches under the pavilion before heading out.

This outdoor expansion to the science museum is a must-explore spot for any family; wear old clothes, pack a picnic lunch, bring a carrier for any non-walking children and plan to get dirty!

Resources:

Thumbs up: outdoor learning opportunities, play space, picnic spots, bird watching

Thumbs down: story time program is in its infancy

Greater Raleigh Drop-in Rainy Day To Do List

With all the recent rainy and snowy weather in Raleigh I wanted to create a list of drop-in activities that I could refer to whenever I’m grasping looking for something to do with little ones in tow.  Here’s a starter list of indoor activities outside the house that are guaranteed to educate and entertain the sweet babes:

  • rainy day playgroundFit4Mom/Stroller Strides of Midtown Raleigh – grab your Bob Stroller (or any stroller, really) and join other mommas for a great workout with your babes; first class is free; check out the Facebook group which is free to join and full of fun playdates
  • Tot Time with City of Raleigh Parks & Rec – free, indoor playtime (ages 5 and under) at various community centers around the city of Raleigh; each center has different toys (i.e., basketball hoops, tunnels, push cars, slides, etc) available for play; my favorite Tot Time is at Laurel Hills Community Center; consult the most recent Leisure Ledger for dates/times at each center
  • Great Harvest Bread Co in North Raleigh – has small play area with toys for kids while you enjoy delicious coffee and breads!
  • City of Raleigh’s Greystone Recreation Center – indoor playground in North Raleigh with rock climbing wall and various rope climbing structures; designed for kids ages 5-12, but I’ve found Ashley began enjoying this park at age 2 1/2; playground times vary, so be sure to check their schedule or sometimes I’ve found it’s easiest to call for their hours: 919-996-4848
  • Storytime at the library – libraries throughout Wake County have several storytimes grouped by ages: baby, toddler, preschool and family; storytime at Cameron Village featuring Mr. Erik is the most interactive library activity we’ve been to; check the list of kids’ events for dates, times and locations
  • Bounce Houses – refer to the list of bounce houses compiled by WRAL’s Go Ask Mom
  • Marbles Kids Museum – hands-on kids museum in downtown Raleigh that offers two floors of interactive, creative play for children; $5 per person over age one; one of the only indoor places in Raleigh open on Sunday mornings
  • Storytime at NC Museum of Natural Sciences – free, downtown museum with an amazing variety of exhibits, events, and hands-on displays for kids of all ages, but the daily storytime and “Meet the Animals” activities are our favorite activities
    • storytime and “Meet the Animals” schedule
    • complete list of events
  • NC Museum of History – free, downtown museum that has fewer hands-on exhibits for toddlers, but still boasts a large permanent collection on the history of NC along with several very interesting rotating exhibits (be sure to check out Watergate); weekly storytime on Thursdays; check full schedule of eventsrainy day playground
  • Rainbow Play on Glenwood Ave – large indoor party room with swing sets mostly designed for kids older than 2, but they do have a small area for early walkers and crawlers; open play time is Mon-Fri from 10am-2pm but call during other times to see if room is available for play; $5/child for ages 2 and up
  • Tumble Gym of Raleigh – open gym time with trampoline, balance beam, bars, and more; $10/hr per child; call for dates/times: 919-977-0357
  • See an IMAX movie at Marbles – other than the latest Hollywood movies, this theater shows several educational documentaries that are appropriate for toddlers
  • Paint your own pottery – paint ceramic pieces (plates, mugs, household items, etc) in a pottery studio; prices usually include all painting supplies, glazing and firing; pieces are available to pick up about a week later; makes for great gifts; our favorite is Klaystation off Durant Rd
  • Kids’ Workshops at Lowe’s and Home Depot – free hands-on workshops to teach kids about tool safety and do-it-yourself projects; Home Depot runs workshops on the first Saturday of each month – check local store for times; Lowe’s runs clinics on select Saturdays – consult schedule
  • The Farmers’ Corner at Historic Oak View County Park – this is a fantastic park that is so much fun for kids and adults, but the Farmers’ Corner in the Farm History Center is where kids can plant and harvest crainy day poolrops while reading books and playing dress-up; main building is open 8:30am-5pm on Mon-Sat and 1-5pm on Sundays but the Farmers’ Corner is sometimes not available due to scheduled programs, so call ahead 919-250-1013; see previous posts on this park
  • City of Raleigh indoor swimming pools – with so many options for year-round swimming in Raleigh, visit one of the indoor pools: Pullen, Millbrook, Optimist, Buffaloe Rd Aquatic Center; be sure to check the hours of operation before heading out
  • Bass Pro Shops in Cary and local pet stores – endless rows of interesting animals and fish to see
  • Train tables at Barnes & Nobles (Triangle Town Center) and Logan Trading Company in Seaboard Station offer great fun for little ones
  • DefyGravity trampoline Park in Raleigh features great fun for all ages, including a special jump session from 9-10am for kids under 7 where they play fun princess/toddler music

Where else in the Triangle do you explore on rainy or snowy days?  Let me know what I’ve missed so I can include your ideas.

Fearrington Village in Pittsboro, NC

One of our favorite places to visit within a short drive of Raleigh is definitely Fearrington Village.  Over the years, we’ve probably been at least a dozen times; some visits are weekend-long gifts from parents and some are short day trips with friends or family, the dogs and baby.  Whatever our reason for visiting, we always have delicious food and spend some quality time with the belties!

Located only 35 minutes from Raleigh in Pittsboro, Fearrington Village is one of the cutest places for a romantic weekend, nibbles at the beer garden, storytime with baby, a delicious brunch, or a quick visit with the beltie cows and goats.  You can combine any or all of those options and you’ll have an awesome time.  Here are just a few of the features of Fearrington Village: a quaint, luxury inn with a french Fearrington House Restaurant, a day spa, a casual breakfast/dinner restaurant (The Granary), a beer garden (The Roost), a deli (The Belted Goat), beltie goats and cows, large reception areas for weddings, cute shops, and a bookstore.

Jerry’s first visit to Fearrington back in 2005

Our most recent visits were in August when I wanted to get a quality Sunday drive with my new car and a fun lunch trip with my friend, Kristina, and her daughter, Lucy.  Both times we loaded up the car and set off to visit the belties and grab a tasty lunch from the Belted Goat.

Thumbs up: beltie cows and goats (no petting), landscaping, dining options: sit-down casual, take out, or fancy french at the Inn, lodging, BEER GARDEN, pet-friendly (except for the Inn), wine selection at Fearrington House Restaurant

Thumbs down: lack of an outdoor pool for Inn guests

Trip ideas: romantic weekend getaway (check out their packages), New Years celebration, storytime with baby followed by lunch and beers from Belted Goat, brunch at the Granary followed by visit with the animals, live music and nibbles at the Roost beer garden

If those ideas haven’t excited you, check out their website for so many more fun events like: wine/beer classes, farmers’ market, Halloween Festival & more.

Here are some pictures from over the years and from our most recent August trips:

Fearrington 2009

Fearrington 2010

Fearrington 2011

Fearrington 2012