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

Lake Lynn Playground Update

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I spent some time again this fall running around Lake Lynn with the girls while training for the City of Oaks 10k race.  After a few laps around the lake we spent time at the playground so they could get their own exercise.  We were pleasantly surprised to find a few updates to the playground area.

Lake Lynn Park & Community Center is located in North Raleigh and has two entrances.  If the kids are with me I’ll park at the main entrance near the community center and playground off Ray Rd, but if I’m going there for a solo run I’ll park at the smaller entrance with immediate access to the trails off Lynn Rd.

The tot playground area has a new climbing area with a vertical climbing bridge sandwiched between two rock walls, which was a big hit for Ashley.  The older tot swings and small tot jungle gym and bigger kid playground haven’t changed.  Adjacent to the playground is a new large pavilion with about 12 picnic tables, making it a great spot for group gatherings and birthday parties!  The nearby bocce ball courts also seemed to have gotten a small facelift and there seem to be several more picnic tables scattered around the perimeter of the playground.  There’s a lot of other amenities at this park (baseball fields, tennis courts, batting cages), but having a playground area near a covered picnic spot and restrooms is usually what we’re looking for these days!  Most recently we enjoyed a Halloween party with our Stroller Strides friends where kids of all ages enjoyed the playgrounds and there was easy access to the nearby pavilion and community center.

More Resources:

Thumbs up: proximity of playground area to pavilion/community center

Thumbs down: nothing new to report

Halifax Park & Community Center Update

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The gorgeous fall weather this season prompted several repeat visits to our favorite parks, Halifax Park & Community Center being one of them.  Thanks to a comment from one of my blog readers, this park underwent a few updates since my Aug 2014 review that elicit photo and amenity listing updates.

Halifax Park & Community Center is located at 1015 Halifax St near the Seaboard Station area.  I was pleasantly surprised to see some much needed picnic tables near the community center where the girls and I were able to enjoy our picnic lunch.  Another interesting addition to the park is an interactive art piece called “Hoops Playing Hoops” by artist Chris Fennell of Birmingham, AL.  It’s a tall group of basketball hoops connected by steel pipes that make them seem like they’re playing basketball together.  Once you make a basket in one of the hoops, the ball will travel down the ramp to another hoop.  The girls had so much fun watching me make attempt after attempt to score a basket – it’s much harder than it looks.

IMG_8367There’s also a separate smaller basketball art sculpture for the younger kids.  The girls had such fun shooting baskets and watching the ball spiral down the ramp.  If you forget your basketball or don’t have one, the friendly staff at the community center will let your borrow their ball.

If you haven’t visited this park yet, just do it!  There’s plenty for kids of all ages to do and the convenience of the community center is invaluable!

More Resources:

Thumbs up: partially fenced-in playground, play areas for all ages, interactive basketball art sculpture, new picnic tables

Thumbs down: nothing new to report

Halifax Park & Community Center

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Recently we met up with friends to explore the newly renovated Halifax Park and Community Center.  If anyone remembers the old park, the community center was well beyond its years and the playground was small, sandy and a little sad.  The updated park is full of fun for all kids and feels safer from the nearby road because of the expanded fencing.

Halifax Park & Community Center is located at 1015 Halifax St, just north of Seaboard Station.  It has a small parking lot with additional street parking.  The playground area is 3/4 fenced in with easy access to the adjacent community center; and the community center is top notch!  It has a fitness gym you can join for a small monthly fee, classrooms, a large gym, and very nice restrooms, which are crucial for any parent with small kids.  A trip to the bathroom was a huge highlight for this preschool-age group!

IMG_7098The playground area has two playgrounds – one for ages 2-5 and one for ages 5-12 with a large oak tree and mulched area in between that provided great morning shade for the smaller-age playground.  The smaller-age playground has a rubber surface with two tot swings, ladders, climbing structures, one slide, and some fine motor twisty toys and noise makers.  The age 5-12 playground also has a rubber surface with several climbing structures, rope ladders, monkey bars, a slide without side rails, and two regular swings.  A big hit for the kids was also the stationary board with pretend car gauges and noises.

IMG_7100In addition to the community center and playground, this park also has outdoor full court basketball with nearby benches, a large fenced-in open field for soccer and baseball (and a poor attempt at kite flying), and great views of the freight trains coming and going.  Combine this park visit with a trip to Tyler’s Taproom or Bad Daddy’s in Seaboard Station and you’ve got a pretty fantastic outing!

More Resources: original Halifax Park blog post

Thumbs up: access to nearby restrooms, large shady oak tree, unique climbing features, landscaping

Thumbs down: small parking lot, no picnic tables

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

Whalebone Park in Nags Head, NC

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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

MacDonald Woods Park in Cary

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We had a jam-packed spring break staycation this year with trips to local parks, dance class, and a visit to Fearrington.  The beautiful weather stayed around all week and one day we met some dear friends in Cary at MacDonald Woods Park.

MacDonald Woods Park was our second choice for a park after we learned that Marla Dorrel Park was closed for renovations; lucky for us, MacDonald Woods Park was a short 2 mile car ride from Marla Dorrel.  MacDonald Woods Park is located at 1601 Seabrook Ave and is connected to Marla Dorrel Park via the Hinshaw Greenway, which is part of the pedestrian bridge that crosses US-64 highway. This park has on-street parking and sits below the road so it seems rather hidden at first, but based on the amount of people it’s a popular spot!

img_6008MacDonald Woods Park has playground areas for the 2-5 and 5-12 age groups with two swings for both groups. The 5-12 age playground is rather large with several ladders and slides, monkey bars, and climbing wall with rope. The loop-shaped ladder was by far a challenging favorite for this duo. The younger playground is very small with only 2 slides, steps and a platform ladder. There are a few bouncy rides and a small low-to-the-ground structure for early walkers. A small elevated sandbox is located between the two playground areas. But, by far, the best feature of this park is the merry-go-round. Yes, that’s right…they have a merry-go-round! Go Cary! Of all the parks we’ve been to this was a first so you can imagine the confusion when the girls first saw it. Having never been on a merry-go-round they watched several groups of people get on and off before getting on with a group of toddler girls. These sweet maniacs quickly caught on as to why you hold on to the bars but also moved into more challenging feats such as dangling their feet over the edge. That proved to be rather anxiety-ridden for us but they had fun and no one went flying off the thing, so it was a success!

After some playground time we had a picnic in the grassy area near the basketball court and then explored the nearby paved trails to the bridge and open grassy field. After some more trail exploring the girls were pretty exhausted so we headed home. I’m not sure if it was the fact that kids were out for Spring Break but I’ve got to think this park is naturally popular with its fun features and entrance to Hinshaw Greenway.

Additional resources: Hinshaw Greenway, MacDonald Woods Park

Thumbs up: merry-go-round, nearby creek to explore, landscaping
Thumbs down: small tot playground, few picnic tables

North Wake Landfill District Park

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A playground at the landfill…say what?!  Yes, the North Wake landfill closed in 2008 and local residents worked with the county to repurpose the closed landfill into a park which now features paved trails, mountain biking trails, a large playground area, pavilion, and access to Abbotts Creek Trail (part of Neuse River Greenway).  North Wake Landfill District Park is located at 9300 Deponie Drive off Durant Rd in north Raleigh.  When you first turn off from Durant Rd, it’ll feel like the landfill is still open because you have to wind through some of the old parts of the dump, but follow the signs for the park.

We spent most of our time exploring the playground area and paved trails that access the nearby greenway. While the playground area has many unique features, I strongly disliked the layout where it is adjacent to a steep hill that my adventurous 3-year old decided to conquer at great speeds, despite strict instruction NOT to do so. So, after recovering from a near heart attack when she sprinted down the steep hill (and received a short timeout) we had a nice time exploring the play areas.

The playground has two areas – one for ages 2-5 and one for ages 5-12. In my opinion this park is definitely more of a “big kid” park. The younger playground area has several climbing structures that are more appropriate for an older and more confident 2-year old. It also has a few slides, two tot swings, and a music feature but it’s a taller playground with little room for playing on.

img_5596The bigger kid playground is any young climber’s dream.  There are huge spider web ropes that connect to the playground along with a sideways rock wall.  The playground also has several monkey bars, slides, twisty ladders, climbing stepping stones and more!

Both playground areas are covered in a thick wood chip surface and are adjacent to several picnic tables, the public restrooms and water fountains.  Also nearby is the large Sycamore pavilion with seating for up to 100, according to the Wake County website.

Descend along the paved trail from the playground to reach access to the western side of Abbotts Creek Trail.  Inside the park there are also several mountain biking trails, a mountain biking skills area, and paved walking trails.  I’d like to come back and walk or bike the short Top of the Hill trail, which takes you 469ft above sea level for great views of the surrounding area.  There is little shade at this park, so plan accordingly!

For more information about this park, visit the Wake County Parks website.  I found the park brochure with map to be very helpful.

Thumbs up: repurposing a landfill into a useable recreation space, variety of climbing activities for older kids, proximity and plethora of picnic areas

Thumbs down: steep hill near playground area, lack of park map inside park (didn’t know about most of the walking or bike trails until going online after getting home)