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.

Lake Johnson Park

Picturesque. Serene. Beloved. All words to describe my recent visits to Lake Johnson Park.

Lake Johnson Park is located in the heart of southwest Raleigh at 4601 Avent Ferry Rd. Its popularity is evident with the many parking lots scattered throughout the park. On two of the mornings I visited, I had to loop around the lot a few times before a spot opened up. Other parking areas are highlighted on this map and can be found further down Avent Ferry Rd on the left, off Lake Dam Dr, at Athens Dr High School, or at Lake Johnson Pool.

The main entrance is where you’ll find the large veranda, deck, conference room, concessions, restrooms, rentals, live bait/tackle vending machines, and the boat put-in area. The veranda, conference room, and deck are available for rent. Paddle boats, jon boats, sunfish sailboats and canoes/kayaks are also available for rent. Rocking chairs along the perimeter of the deck provide peaceful views of the lake. There are also several picnic tables and information boards highlighting several of the unique park programs (boot camp, nature photography, fly fishing, sailing). Even though most have already begun, the fall programs such as the kayak and canoe lessons for ages 12+ are starting soon. Call 919-233-2121 for more information. Stroller Strides also runs fitness classes for moms/dads with kids on Tues/Thurs mornings and is beginning a mom/dad 5k training program on Friday, Aug. 26th.

Avent Ferry Rd splits Lake Johnson in half and there is a paved trail loop on the eastern half and an unpaved trail loop on the western half. The trail is the Lake Johnson Segment of the Walnut Creek greenway trail. Park maps can be found at several of the parking areas, but if you head east on the trail from the main entrance you’ll find a helpful map detailing distances and features of the park.

Distances around the park:

  • West Loop (unpaved, prohibited to biking) = 2.15 miles
  • East Loop (paved) = 2.75 miles
  • Full Loop = 4.33 miles
  • East to west loop from the bridge = 1.32 miles

East Trail – This is a wide, paved path perfect for biking, strolling kids/dogs, walking, and running. The trail is enveloped in large trees that provide great shade. You’ll find beautiful views of the lake throughout this trail, especially along the dam and boardwalk. You’ll also pass a few benches, swings, and shelters for rent along this trail. Shelter 2 has two picnic tables and a large charcoal grill and Shelter 4 has four picnic tables, several benches, and a large charcoal grill. Magnolia Cottage is a medium-sized building tucked deep in the woods that can also be rented for events. If you head clockwise on the trail from the main parking lot the trail starts off flat and then gets rather hilly after crossing the dam.

West Trail – This is a fun trail for hiking or trail running. Bikes are prohibited and I would recommend using a Baby Bjorn or back pack if bringing an infant/very young child. Use caution on the trail, as it is mostly a narrow, hilly, dirt trail with roots covering the path. Nature photography opportunities are galore on this trail. You can also access Lake Johnson Pool from the West Trail. Even though we didn’t have time for a visit inside the pool, from the outside there looks to be a spray garden, baby pool, and main pool with lap lanes and free swim area.

After a two year hiatus from visiting Lake Johnson Park until last week, I’ve been back three times and it is quickly becoming a favorite. Between the scenic views, boating opportunities, great running trails, and safeness of the area it’s a must-visit park!

Thumbs up: shady trails, scenic views, condition of paved trail, boating opportunities, security, facility rentals, mile markers along East trail, peacefulness

Thumbs down: confusing signage (especially along West Trail)

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.