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

Pullen Park

A few weeks ago, I went to the Pullen Park VIP Event with my friend, Jason, from southwestraleigh.com.  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.

Excitement was in the crisp Fall air during the Pullen Park preview event on Thursday afternoon and it’s not going to die down any time soon.  Children played on swings, adults rode the newly renovated carousel, and the train sounded off when leaving the station.  It’d been nearly two years since the amusement area had been open and the smiles say it all – it’s well worth the wait.

Pullen Park is located at 520 Ashe Ave, just west of Downtown Raleigh and at the edge of NC State University.  The renovations to the amusement center cost more than six million dollars and are part of the 2003 Parks & Rec Bond Referendum.  During the renovations, the Pullen Arts Center and Aquatic Center remained open.

Upon entering the park, your eyes are immediately drawn to the new sign extending across the walkway.  Near the entrance is the new Pullen Place, serving healthy, local fare at very reasonable prices.  Adjacent to the cafe is a large outdoor eating area, restrooms, and the Welcome Center where you can learn more about the park, purchase tickets for rides, or purchase park schwag.

If you head right, you can explore the various playground and climbing areas, swing sets, sand and water play areas, misting fountains, tire swing, and open play areas.  The different play areas have guides indicating the ages appropriate for the equipment.

Also in this area is a restored caboose with seating inside for having a picnic.  Smaller children can also enjoy a boat ride for one ticket.  A must-see attraction is the CP Huntington miniature train ride, which is great for all ages and a beautiful way to explore the park from the perimeter.  The views of the park from the train, especially around the lake, are gorgeous.

Another main attraction at the park is the carousel.  With over 50 hand-carved animals, it is a Dentzel Carousel housed in a gorgeous new building.  Among the animals you can ride are pigs, ostriches, horses, and billy goats, just to name a few.  The Wullitzer organ produces music that sets the mood.  The Pullen Park emblems outside the building provide a royal touch to the carousel.  The weather vein atop the building is unique in that it contains colored glass and animals other than just horses.

Heading from the carousel to the lake, you’ll pass a large pavilion with picnic tables, another restroom building, the pedal boats, and the Andy & Opie statue. Be sure to stroll around Lake Howell, where you can admire the waterfront views, stop for photo ops, or enjoy the fauna.  The new bridges are spectacles in themselves, adding a rolling hills feeling to the park.

With so many things to do, see, and hear at Pullen Park, you may not notice the attention paid to the small details.  The cedar shakes, green color palette, emblems, new landscaping mixed with mature trees, and stonework are also worth mentioning as it all adds to the atmosphere of the park.

The park’s grand opening was Saturday, November 19 from 10am-6pm.  Be sure to also purchase tickets for Holiday Express, where Pullen Park is transformed into a Holiday Wonderland from December 8-11, 4pm-7pm.

Thumbs up: playground area, views around lake, carousel, unique details in woodwork/design, miniature train ride, Pullen Place

Thumbs down: not many, but parking may be tough, especially in the beginning months

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

Roanoke Park Playground

So, a few weeks ago when my mom came into town I wanted to do a picnic lunch in the park, but wanted to have food from a new (to us) place and explore a new park. After some quick online surfing we decided on take-out from Nofo at the Pig followed by a trip to Roanoke Park Playground. Both ideas turned out to be absolutely fabulous!

Roanoke Park Playground is located southeast of Five Points at 1500 Cherokee Dr.  It’s located in a quiet neighborhood in the median between W Aycock St, Cherokee Dr, and Greenwood St.  This was a part of the Five Points area I had never been to and quickly fell in love with the homes and the nearby shops.

On one side of the park is a large open field perfect for a pick-up game of flag football, kickball, or volleyball.  There are numerous shade trees along the perimeter, which gave us ample of shade for our picnic lunch.  There’s also a small pavilion with picnic table, but having a baby in the prime of her crawling meant we were having lunch in the grass!

After lunch, we followed the wooden path to the other side of the park that contains the playground area.  Along the way we passed a large wooden deck with built-in benches.  There are two swing sets complete with tot swings for the little ones.  The jungle gym has several slides and climbing areas atop a mulch base.  The sand box area has a few diggers and other play equipment.  We were also shocked to see numerous riding cars sitting in the toy corral area.  It was welcoming to know that neighborhood toys could sit in a park and go without being stolen.  After some more research on this park, I learned that the neighborhood partnered with the City a few months ago to fund some of the toys you see in the park.  At the far end of the park there’s also a full-size basketball court.

This park was so delightful that I packed a picnic lunch and visited it again the next day with my husband, baby, and dog!

Thumbs up: shadiness, peacefulness, swing sets, open fields, friendliness of neighbors

Thumbs down: nothing to report 🙂