Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holiday Express at Pullen Park - My Review

As I've said before, Pullen Park in Raleigh is my absolute favorite park to take my kids in the Raleigh area.  So when I saw Holiday Express At Pullen Park, I ran straight home to look it up. And I'm so glad I did because you have to buy tickets to attend. A month before the event, two of the days were already sold out. The cost was $8 per ticket and you can ride the train and carousel an unlimited number of times, but we certainly didn't get $8 worth of rides per person.

It was a lot of fun, the decorations/lights were gorgeous and when you were on the train it was spectacular! However, I am not going to rave and rave about it. In fact, I may not go back until my kids are a few years older. The biggest problem was the lines. You couldn't park at Pullen, you had to drive to the Dorothea Dix Soccer Fields, where you parked and waited in line for the bus to take you to the park. It was about 20-25 minute wait. Then, you wait in line to pick up the wristbands. You can do this the week of the Holiday Express event, but we live kind of far out so it wasn't convenient to go ahead of time.

Those lines were not the big issue, though. The issue is the train line. It seemed like a half-hour wait to get on the train, maybe more, but after waiting in the two previous lines, my kids were not in the mood to wait again. (They are 1 and 3). When we finally got on the train, that's where we got our monies worth. The train was lit up and there were wonderful, exciting (for the kids) displays around the entire track. My kids absolutely squealed with delight. But we weren't able to ride again because the line was even longer the rest of the visit. The carousel was fun, but the lines were pretty long and were even longer after our first ride. That's all we did. The line for Santa was pretty long most of the time, too.

What I really enjoyed was, of course, the train ride but also there were little craft stations. My oldest daughter made reindeer food, which we toted all the way up to Pennsylvania for Christmas and emptied on Aunt Chrissy's front lawn. Both girls made Christmas ornaments. It was so cute and absolutely wonderful to see my youngest (22 months) get to participate in a craft. Those, too, made the trip to Pennsylvania. My kids liked the clown with the little frog puppet, too.

Did we have a good time? Absolutely. Is it a must-do event? Sure, for the right ages. Will we do it again next year? No likely.

520 Ashe Ave
Raleigh, NC 27606

HIGHLIGHTS: The Train Ride, most of the regular Pullen Park stuff were still accessible, lights were gorgeous, people working were very friendly and seemed genuinely happy to be there, the clown, some of the crafts were wonderful and it's fun to experience the park at night.
LOW LIGHTS: Lines, we had to park at Dorothea Dix and ride a bus to the park, lines, the only food they had there was the standard concession fare (just OK). Did I mention the lines?
COST: $8 per person (under 2 are free)

Noon Year's Eve with your kids

Want to celebrate New Year's Eve with your kids but don't want to keep them up late?

Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh has their own celebration - Noon Year's Eve! They will ring in the "noon" year with a kid-friendly celebration, including a ball drop. Guest who wear a First Night Raleigh button receive buy one, get one free admission vouchers (limit 2 free). The festivities will start at 11:30 a.m. (Admission is $5 per person over 1 and older).

Also, thru January 1 there is an Arctic Antics theme throughout the museum.When they have themes, very often they have stations set up around the museum where you can stop and enjoy a craft or activity. My kids are drawn to these stations most of the time. Once they had butterfly stations and the girls played for hours with butterfly wings on their backs. So cute.

Visit their website at for more information.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bond Park - Lazy Daze Playground is Wonderful

Shhhhh ... don't tell. We fed the duckies! I've been meaning to go to Bond Park in Cary for months but finally made it to play.

I took two toddlers and headed straight to the Lazy Daze Playground. What a great playground! There were two swing sets- one for babies and the other for big kids, two jungle gyms (one for big, and one for smaller kids) and two sandboxes. It was a lot of fun, and the parents and grandparents were so nice.

Then the girls and I headed for the boat dock. There is a trail, docks and even a little beach where we fed the ducks some bread. The hardest part was the parking situation. To park close to the playground meant you were a longer walk from the dock. I wish I had brought my double stroller because it was just a little too far of a walk for my rapidly tiring toddlers to hoof it on the way back. So we drove.

With older kids, no problem...  with the really small ones it's a bit more challenging.

Bond Park is wonderful, but the facilities are pretty spread out. Below is a list of features at Fred G. Bond Metro Park from the webpage on the Town of Cary website.

801 High House Road
Cary, NC

HIGHLIGHTS: Beautiful park, lots of options for kids big and small, nice playground, great dock area and beach-like area to feed duckies, lots of sitting areas, very well maintained.
LOW LIGHTS: This park is really spread out, so you have to park and walk if you're going to visit more than one hot spot, bathrooms were not close to the playground.
COST: Free!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fuquay-Varina Library Park

Library Park in Fuquay is not much; it's a small jungle gym that would hardly keep my 3-year-old's attention and is not terribly clean or maintained but there's open space to run and burn off some energy. It's passable from my limited experience.

I'd love to give you a thorough review, but my little one (about 22 months) watched another boy throw mulch and decided to copy him. I warned her twice and then said if she threw mulch one more time, we would have to leave.

Guess why I cannot tell you a whole lot about this park?

She liked the climbing apparatus, and she liked the mulch. I am sure it wouldn't take long for her to get bored, too, and start running around the trees in the park. But that's just a guess.

Here are a few pictures of the jungle gym and our little stinker (pre-mulch throwing of course). Also, the website (click here for more info) said it's a 1-acre park adjacent to the Fuquay-Varina History Museum Complex. Hmmm, I feel another blog coming on.

116 South Aiken Street
Fuquay-Varina, NC

HIGHLIGHTS: It's small, convenient to the library for post quiet-time running around and my kids love wide-open spaces.
LOW LIGHTS: It's not particularly well kept, it's really small so won't hold attention for long and the parking situation is less than desirable when the library lot is full.
COST: Free!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bounce U - Get the Energy Out

Bounce U in Apex was so much fun! For the little ones, they have a session from 10 a.m. - noon called the Preschool Playdate where children 7 and younger  get to jump. This is a really big deal for my because my little ones are so small and can be easily trampled by big kids.

I always worry about the big kids getting too aggressive with my 1-year-old around.

Also, kids under 2 are free with an older sibling. So for both my kids to attend it was $8. For kids 2 and older it's $8 per child.

It starts out in one room, and the kids play and jump and climb for an hour. Then they switch rooms for the second hour, keeping the kids attention - especially the little ones who get bored easily.

We had a great time with a 4, 3 and three 22 month old kids. All of them enjoyed something different and played really well together, too.

And let me tell you, my children and I napped incredibly well that afternoon. This is not something I'd be able to do every week, but on a cold or rainy day, it's a fun alternative to staying home.

The facility is really clean, in my opinion, and the staff was not only helpful but pretty friendly. They seem to like kids, as long as you keep an eye on them, too.

While they do have a pretty regular schedule for open jump times, they suggest you visit their website to make sure. Click here for their website.

3419 Apex Peakway
Apex, NC 27502

HIGHLIGHTS: Great for the big and little ones, lots of options to keep them busy for longer periods of time, nice staff and clean bounce houses.
LOW LIGHTS: It's not the safest activity for a toddler, especially with bigger kids around, it also can wear out mommy and daddy as some of the bounce houses require more physical help for the little ones.
COST: $8 per child older than 2, under 2 is free with an older sibling.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fuquay-Varina Library - It's Story Time

Wanna see a magic trick? 1, 2, 3  Shhhhhhhhh

And as easy as that, a room full of toddlers and preschoolers quiets down. I've been to the Fuquay-Varina story time a half a dozen times, and Miss Laura is wonderful! She captures the kids attention quickly and quietly and entertains with music, puppets and books for a solid story time!

We went last week, of course it's the last story time until after the holidays, but there was a cute little boy in the group and she had him clapping, ooohing and aaaahing the whole time. Even my 22 month old, who is now called the Tazmanian Devil by my husband and I, sat in my lap and watched almost the whole time. She did get up when the puppets started blowing bubbles, but Miss Laura didn't seem to mind, and the kids loved it.

If you live in the area and need an indoor activity or learning experience, go see Miss Laura at Fuquay-Varina Library on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Click here for their schedule, Story Time resumes after the holidays on January 2, 2013.

When you're done with story time, you can check out the Library Park. It's just a little jungle gym, but there's wide open spaces, too, for your kids to run around.

133 S. Fuquay Avenue
Fuquay-Varina, NC 27526

HIGHLIGHTS: Small and good for little ones, a great indoor activity, puppet show, singing and dancing and Miss Laura really keeps their attention, also very close to a park and the library has a real bunny my girls love to visit.
LOW LIGHTS: Story time has odd schedules and they start and stop, and I am never able to keep track of when it's going on. I am sure the information is available on the website, but I'm not much of a planner.
COST: Free.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Sweet Creation for a Healthy Snack!

AUTHOR'S NOTE: One of my closest friends (and a Not-So Stay-At-Home Mommy) owns Sweet Creations Frozen Yogurt in Fuquay-Varina, so I could not objectively write this review. Of course I think it's the best frozen yogurt place in the world. They have changing tables in the bathrooms and high chairs, too!! So I asked a great friend and Not-So Stay-At-Home Mommy herself to share her far more objective feelings about this place. So here it is!


By Amanda Moore

Being a serious frozen yogurt lover, I'm always on the hunt for a good fro-yo place. So when a friend suggested that we stop at Sweet Creations frozen yogurt shop in Fuquay-Varina on our way home the park with our young kids, I was all in. Normally I avoid eating establishments of any kind. With a toddler who loves a good food fight and an audience for her singing and table-dance routine, I just say "no" to restaurants. On this day, however, my sweet tooth prevailed over my good judgement.
Amanda with her daughter.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly girl behind the counter who asked us if we'd been before and welcomed us to sample the yogurt. She suggested a new flavor called Only 8 Chocolate, which is very low in calories and was super delicious, so I went with that. I was thrilled with the extensive selection at the topping bar, and with how well stocked and fresh all the offerings were. In fact the whole establishment was clean, bright and well-kept. I went with mostly fruit toppings and added a few cookie and candy goodies for my daughter with the hopes that I could bribe her into behaving. No such luck. 
It says coming soon, but it's already here!
A few bites in, she was under the table and screaming. After a quick wrestling match she decided to join us again and painted the table with yogurt. Mortified as always, I ate my yogurt at a brain-freeze pace and gathered our things, trying to corral her as we waited for my friend and her little girls to finish, who were ecstatically polishing off their bowls. I was especially impressed when the owner, who saw me struggling and insisted that we not worry about the mess. Then he made sure that I had a frequent visitors card. Really? We were welcome back?! Can't wait to try it again, or better yet, go on date night. 

Oh, and if you think it's to chilly out for frozen yogurt this time of year, they offer a premium hot beverage bar. Yum! And there were coupons in the Clipper Magazine that came out a few weeks ago for Sweet Creations.

Sweet Creations
400 Broad Street
Fuquay-Varina, NC

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sue Helton Park (APEX)

I wouldn't drive from Chapel Hill to visit Sue Helton Park in Apex, but we had a good time. It's a little park for pretty little ones. The sign said designed for ages 2-5, but my 3-year-old wouldn't have lasted five minutes at this park. There are a couple slides, some peak-a-boo spots and a large gazebo (the highlight for the kids).

We really had a great time, and I would go again.
201 Matney Lane
Apex, NC

HIGHLIGHTS: Small and good for little, little ones and the gazebo was good for running around.
LOW LIGHTS: It needed a little maintenance and cleaning, and there were no swings; very small area and not fenced in, no bathrooms. 
COST: Free.

- located on Matney Lane inside the Perry Farms subdivision

Friday, November 16, 2012

Christmas Tree Lighting & Sleigh Rides in Fuquay-Varina

Last year I went to the Fuquay-Varina for the Tree Lighting Ceremony. I am sure it would have been wonderful, had we got there in time to see the tree lighting or get a sleigh ride for my kids. We didn't. 
December 6, 2012 (a Thursday) I will get a second chance to entertain my kids at this event. The tree lighting and holiday sleigh rides run from 6-8 p.m. But get there early if you want a sleigh ride. In the spirit of giving and helping the Fuquay-Varina community, they are asking all who want a sleigh ride to bring a canned food item as a "ticket" to ride. The line sets up at 5:30 at TR Ashworth and down on Main and Depot Street. The last ride will leave at 7:55 p.m. 

We got there at 7 last year and the ride was all "sold out."
Santa was there last year, but I didn't see if he would be at this Tree Lighting Ceremony. It was a wonderful family event, with free cookies, music and more. Please share if you have any further information about performances or guest appearances. 

Fuquay-Varina Downtown - Fuquay District

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Blockfest in Raleigh - Math & Science for Kids under 6!!

Blockfest is back! Blockfest is an interactive exhibit where children and their parents visit stations designed to raise awareness of early math and science by playing with blocks, and it's for kids under 6. This sounds absolutely incredible and has a pre-k teacher's stamp of approval.

The exhibit, which is held November 30 and December 3, is hands on and specifically designed for families with young children.

Wake County's Project Enlightenment is sponsoring this event. Pre-registration is required but the event is free. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Hope Valley Railway Holiday Trail

New Hope Valley Railway in New Hill/Bonsal has tickets for sale for "Santa Rides the trains and visits the New Hope Valley Railway."

Santa will be in New Hill for the train rides on Saturday and Sunday, December 1 and 2, and December 8 and 9. The trains run at 11 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:45 p.m. and 4 p.m. on all of those days. Adults and children 13 and older are $10 per person, ages 2-12 are $7 and under 2 are free. The train rides go from Bonsal to New Hill and back.

The ride takes about one hour and the website suggests you arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled departure to park and board your train. They also suggest you dress warmly, as the railroad "operates open cars, rain or shine."

Click here to buy your tickets.

Yard Office and Museum
5121 Daisey St
New Hill, NC 27562

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hollyfest in Holly Springs - Great for Kids!

We absolutely lucked out! I was so disappointed Hollyfest 2012 was the weekend we were scheduled to go to the mountains. Guess what!!!??? Hollyfest was rescheduled due to the weather from Hurricane Sandy. So we got to go. I've never been before, but it was so much fun! There were rides for the kids, crafts for sale, yummy food and lots of local vendors with samples and giveaways.

Also, I'm a helicopter geek, and they flew in a helicopter and allowed people to tour it! We couldn't wait in the long line because we had our youngest with us who does not stand still. But I hope they do it again next year because I will be there, and she will be old enough to understand how cool it is to get in a helicopter. Or maybe not, but I will try to explain it to her.

There were fire trucks, rock climbing walls, kiddie rides in addition to several bounce houses and a huge bouncy slide. That looked so fun, and Jordan (3) even tried it - but she got scared and someone had to slide down with her. It was pretty high; I must admit I would have paused myself.

There were photo opportunities, too, and some pretty good music for a while. I love this festival and wish I would have planned to stay longer. We committed the ultimate festival faux pas - we didn't bring cash. I had no idea how much stuff was there to buy, I actually just thought it was a couple of bouncy houses ... boy was I wrong. Luckily a good friend was there to lone us some cash for snacks and fun, but it was sure embarrassing. So if you go next year, which I highly recommend, bring cash. I know that seems like a no-brainer, but I was a rookie and didn't do my research.

Womble Park 
301 Stinson Ave. 
Holly Springs, NC

HIGHLIGHTS: Rides, bouncy houses, good food, local vendors (& I like to support locally), a helicopter and more.
LOW LIGHTS: Duh, this event is cash only and they don't have a cash machine on site. Parking was a disaster, but they handled it well (even though early voting was going on at the Hunt Center next door, which doubled the traffic), and it's at Womble Park (which is a parking mess in itself, in my opinion). 
COST: Free, except for food & crafts.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gone With The Wind at the NC History Museum


We adults were so excited to see the Gone With The Wind exhibit at the NC History Museum in downtown Raleigh. And it was everything we expected. Unfortunately, so were our kids (or at least one of mine). 

It was incredible! They had actual clothing worn in the movie, screen tests for the actors and even some of those who didn't get the parts, the Academy Awards (such as the one Vivian Leigh received) on display. I could have spent an hour there. But my kids would only allow 10 minutes. So we had to leave the exhibit.

Dani (almost 2) doesn't sit still and she doesn't listen well. So she wouldn't allow me to keep her in the stroller, nor would she stop hitting things and screaming. In fact, she insisted on pushing the stroller, and a security guard asked me to please stop her. He was very nice, but unfortunately it threw Dani back into a horrendous temper tantrum. Bummer!

After a few photo opportunities with the Academy Awards from the movie, we headed downstairs to an incredibly kid-friendly exhibit. The Story of North Carolina exhibit was wonderful for kids! There was a cow the kids could milk, building replicas from NC Native Americans and the 4th oldest home in North Carolina with furniture on display. I wish I could remember the name of the specific display that kept my kids the most entertained. But it was a series of buttons you could put and each one would light up a portion of North Carolina and an activity would move around and make noise (pictured last here on the lower left). All the kids loved it and spent a bit of time there. I say "a bit" because we were really only at the museum for an hour or so.

When I go back with the girls, I'll go straight there and just let them run around. In this exhibit there were a lot of "Please Touch" signs, which was excellent because Dani will do it whether you like it or not. She's a pistol!

Also, I'm not much for pageants but there was an exhibit on the main floor of dresses and costumes from the Miss North Carolina's over the past 75 years. It's not my thing, but we took the girls. I'm happy to say my Tom Boys weren't impressed. That doesn't mean yours won't be!

5 East Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC

HIGHLIGHTS: There is so much to see and learn from this place, lots of hands-on activities and things to see, The Story of North Carolina exhibit was a "please touch" area.
LOW LIGHTS: A lot of this museum is not kid friendly, specifically most of the areas outside The Story of North Carolina exhibit. You cannot touch most things, and the security guards were rightfully a little nervous about the toddlers and watched us pretty carefully.
COST: Free! Parking was $1/hour on the street during weekdays.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Jaycee Park in Apex - A Surprise in the End

I have driven by Apex Jaycee Park no less than 100 times and had no idea what exactly was there. The truth is, not much is there. But it was enough to entertain two preschoolers and two toddlers for almost two hours!

We pulled up and saw a little playground. Unfortunately, it was really little. The oldest kid in the group said, "Is this the only playground?" There was a sign there that said it is ideal for ages 2-5 but the preschoolers (3 & 4) were bored within 5 minutes. There is a little walking trail which I believe shoots you out to Apex Peakway, two large soccer fields and a softball field that we passed to get to the playground. I didn't see it, but there is a batting cage, too, according to the website.

The kids ran up and down the sidewalk/trail a couple times, climbed on the wooden fence and ran up and down the little hill right next to the playground. There is a beautiful tree which looks perfect for climbing at the top of the hill, but our little ones were just a bit too small to reach the branches. Another year or so and they'll outgrow the park completely, but they'll be able to climb the tree. Go figure.

Honestly, this park isn't much, but if you have a really little one the playground is great, low to the ground and built for toddlers. I knew what I was going to write until Jordan (3) said to me that she wants to go back to that park and she had a great time. I think it was because the kids ran around the soccer fields and played a little "football" with two boys, two older boys who were brothers, and they were so good with the kids they had a blast. It just goes to show you, you don't have to have the best park to have a great time - just an imagination and some wide-open spaces (and maybe a football).

451 West Williams Street  
Apex, North Carolina 27502

HIGHLIGHTS: Lots of places to run and burn some energy, a great little playground for toddlers (very safe) and no parking issues, right off of Williams Street (Hwy 55), nice trail that runs through it and out to Apex Peakway, and the climbing tree.
LOW LIGHTS: There were fire ants everywhere. I counted 15 mounds outside the playground area. Some of them had clearly been treated and were not active, but the ones along the fence for the soccer field were crawling with fire ants! It's pretty tame, just a small playground for the really little ones.
COST: Free!