Windemere Beaver Dam Park

I have had the privilege to visit several parks with my daughter and granddaughter as they have been working on their blog for the past 8 months!

With the holidays, I asked if I, her sister Ginni, and Ginni’s husband, Blair, could take the baby to a nearby park for the Twelfth Day of Raleigh Parks Christmas and let us take pictures and blog!

Well here it is and to all who know me, I will keep the four letter words to “park”!

Windemere Beaver Dam Park is a wonderful neighbor park – quiet, peaceful and serene!

If I lived in this neighborhood I would be bitter, because I would have to share with all (lol)!

I also realized I was not the only grandparent enjoying the Raleigh sunshine that day, as the park had several families celebrating and enjoying a gorgeous day with their babies just like me.

Windemere Beaver Dam Park is located at 1500 Nottingham Rd in the median between Brooks Ave and Nottingham Rd. It is a wonderful place for families to celebrate just about anything, not only Christmas, but birthdays, soccer/t-ball/pick-up games, etc. They have a couple of picnic tables and numerous benches to take a rest if you are walking, jogging, or running on the nearby greenway trails. You can take a quiet walk and visit the babbling brook that goes around the outskirts of the park; and how wonderful that would be on a hot summer day, to dip your piggies!

In my opinion one of the best features is the open field, where you can play good old fashioned games of kickball, freeze tag, dodge ball, Red Rover, Red Light/Green Light, and of course soccer, lacrosse, t-ball, etc. I would suggest to bring your own chairs so you can be mobile between the open fields to the jungle gym/swings.

The playground area offers 2 slides, 2 swings for us big people and also 2 additional tot swings for our babies.

I truly think the best part of this neighborhood park is how the City of Raleigh kept it in its natural environment! It is a wonderful habitat, great for bird watching, as I saw several cardinals (male and female), chickadees, mocking birds, finches, nuthatches, great for a beginner bird watcher! They have everything they need to survive – food, water and shelter.

I’m grateful that Raleigh has one of the BEST park systems on the East Coast! Being just a visitor to this city over the past 9 nine years, I’d like to thank the citizens and the city council for making your parks a priority in their budget/bond referendums over the past several decades.

Thumbs Up: great family outings, jogging trails, natural habitat

Thumbs Down: parking, lack of park sign, not very stroller-friendly

Greystone Recreation Center

With the weather being rainy on the 10th day of Raleigh Parks Christmas, we headed to an indoor park (yes, that’s correct) in North Raleigh.  We visited Greystone Recreation Center at 7713 Leadmine Rd in the Greystone Village Shopping Center.

Greystone Rec Center has a unique indoor playground area with several different climbing structures that are all intertwined. There’s a giant rope spider web, holes suspended by rope to climb through, nature rocks, and spinners.  The back wall has been turned into a great climbing wall.  The playground area sits atop the spongy surface, which is mostly green in color except for the blue “river” that runs through the playground.

This indoor playground is mostly designed for kids ages 5-12 years old, but there were plenty of kids ages 2 and up enjoying the playground too.  I was clearly the one with the youngest baby and the staff didn’t say anything to me about her age.  We mostly hung out near one of the corners by the rock wall, cruised along the rock wall, crawled on the ground, and tried to stay out of the way of the older kids.  Ashley was also pretty entertained by the paintings on the wall too.  The playground hours are 9-11am and 12:30-5pm Mon-Fri and 9-noon on Saturday.

This indoor park also has several benches along the wall, vending machines, and nice restrooms.  Greystone Rec Center also has several programs for people of all ages going on throughout the year.  Here are a few coming up:

  • Jan 10-Feb 2: Mom and Tots Leap into Learning (ages 20-24months, Tues/Thurs, 9:15-10am, $35)
  • Jan 12-26: Dance-Twinkle Toes I (ages 2-3yrs, Thurs, 11:20-12:15, $40)
  • Jan 12-26: Tumbling Tinies (ages 9-24months, Thurs, 9:30-10:15am, $40)
  • Jan 12-Feb 2: Math Madness (ages 3-5yrs, Thurs, 2-3pm, $40)
  • Jan-Apr: Mahjongg Open Play (adults, Mon, 2-4pm, FREE)
  • Jan-Apr: Bingo (adults, 1st & 3rd Tues, 2-3pm, $1)
  • Jan-Apr: Senior Fitness (Mon/Fri, 10-10:45am, $15/month)

Thumbs up: unique indoor play area, rock wall, community center programs

Thumbs down: indoor playground is small and gets easily crowded on popular days, unattractive shopping center setting

Walnut St Park

On the ninth day of Raleigh Parks Christmas, we headed out to Cary with my friend, Kristina, and her daughter, Lucy to visit Walnut St Park.  Wow, what a great park for crawlers and cruisers!  Besides the large open spongy surface, there are tot swings, a jungle gym with smaller slides, and an area with balance beams and climbing structures that proved to be so exciting for the non-walkers!

Walnut St Park is run by the Town of Cary and is located at 1420 Walnut St, not far from Cary Crossroads shopping center.  Not a surprise, but the main entrance sign is easy to miss when driving on Walnut St, so look for the cross-street of Nottingham Dr.

This park has both a tot play area and an older kid play area that are both very close to each other.  Both playgrounds are covered in the spongy surface with the exception of the small sandbox with diggers in the tot area.  There are swings, jungle gyms, and a small pavilion in each playground area.  The older kid playground also has some amazing climbing structures that were very popular.

If you’re looking to take the dogs on a walk or stroll the kids around, this park has a great paved walking trail.  According to the information sign, 2.5 loops around = 1 mile.  While walking around the trail, you’ll see many birdhouses, an area dubbed the wetlands, a natural mulch walking trail, and a large 1.5 acre open recreational space.  There are many benches scattered throughout the trail and a few picnic tables near the large open field area.  Don’t forget to check out the fancy brick “imaginary garden” promenade that cuts through part of the loop.  Check out the Town of Cary’s website for information about future phases of the park, which include adding a basketball court.

So, I know I can’t say it enough, but the Town of Cary does a great job with creating playgrounds with the spongy surface, which is so nice for the really small crawlers and cruisers!  Ashley and Lucy had a fantastic time roaming through the climbing structures, swinging on the tot swings, crawling from one end of the playground to the other, all the while trying to sneak a taste of the nearby mulch chips!  This would be a great park to bring your lunch followed by a romp around the playground.

Thumbs up: playground, walking trail, tot area, nearby pavilions

Thumbs down: somewhat hard to see entrance sign from Walnut St

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

Twelve Days of Raleigh Parks

So, my friend, Kelly (see Sarah Duke Gardens post) has started a tradition of doing Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies that involves some 28 sticks of butter, pounds of sugar and flour, and different types of candies to make twelve different homemade batches of cookies.  Instead of getting elbow-deep in flour and sugar, Ashley and I are going to get knee-deep in some playground sand!  For the next 12 days, we’ll visit a new park each day and then hopefully get a mini-post added shortly thereafter.

If there are parks you’re looking for more information about or have suggestions for a park we should visit in Raleigh, please send them our way!