Friday, September 6, 2013

Coming soon - I hope

I crossed off two of my wish-list places last week. The first was The Museum of Life & Science in Durham. The second was the New Hill/Bonsal Train ride. Both were amazing and are a MUST for Triangle parents.

I will tell you why we loved them, what we paid and helpful hints for enjoying both places to their fullest. Unfortunately, my blogging has slowed down a bit because we have started school and work and my kids have their favorites. But these two blogs are forthcoming, in addition to new places to be added to my wish list. It's just easier to find what they love and do the same thing over and over - because, after all, kids do that!

Once again, suggestions are always welcome!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Blueberry Day at the Farmer's Market in Raleigh - AWESOMELY SIMPLE!

I am a huge fan of the North Carolina State Farmer's Market. If I could, I'd be there every day for fresh fruit and vegetables. So last Saturday when I saw there was a blueberry day coming up, I marked my calendar, did a little research and headed over with the kids.

There is a brand new building at the Farmer's Market, and that's where the celebration took place. It was very simple - free samples of North Carolina blueberries and a great little blueberry cobbler with ice cream. They also gave out blueberry recipes, stickers, coloring books, little "Got Milk?" bracelets and keyrings for the kids and they had music playing.

I later found out from a regular visitor for these special events that they usually have a blueberry princess or sweet potato princess that comes out and greets people.

It was really a fun event and great way to get me back out to the Farmer's Market during the week (when it's far less busy).

Click here for information on the next celebration: but you can expect a Peach Day, Watermellon Day, Sweet Potato Day, Grape Day and more. There's really nothing ridiculous or can't miss about this event, except it's free food and it's just a fun thing to do that's a little out of the ordinary for you and your kids. I had a great time and plan to go back next time!

201 Agriculture St  
Raleigh, NC 27603
HIGHLIGHTS: Free fresh food, new recipes, great outdoor activity and other giveaways and you get to go to the farmer's market, which is awesome.
LOW LIGHTS: It gets a little crowded, so I would go early, and there are not a ton of seats available.
COST: Free (unless you buy produce there, which I always do).

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Walnut Street Park in Cary - ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL!

This park is FANTASTIC! It makes me wish I lived in Cary. Walnut Street Park, as the view from Walnut Street would falsely indicate, doesn't look like much other than a little walking park and some open spaces and picnic tables.

After a busy morning checking out another park, heading to the Farmer's Market for blueberry day and then stopping at Cook-Out for a lunch tray, we wanted to have a little picnic in the shade before heading home. So we stopped here - and I couldn't be more happy I did.

There was plenty of shade for picnicing, sandboxes, several climbing/slide jungle gyms, a rock climbing wall and so much more. I took tons of pictures, knowing I'd never be able to describe all the great options this park has for kids.

It was a bit hot outside, although nowhere near as hot as it can get in North Carolina, so I am not sure how often we will get to this park - but there were shade casters over some of the jungle gym areas, baby swings and regular swings right next to each other - which was always a big issue for me when Dani (2) was younger and Jordan (3) wanted to be on the big-girl swings. A lot of parks have the baby and big-kid swings separated.

I also loved the open spaces where you could throw down a blanket for a picnic or kick a soccer ball around, and I am a big fan of walking trails for much-enjoyed exploring. Of course, my kids had so much fun on the playground equipment there was no exploring this area for us today.

AND I love the padded playground flooring versus the playground mulch. We screwed up and left the house with flip flops on, and it was a relief that there was no playground mulch here because nobody likes mulch in their shoes.

The biggest negative here was the bathrooms. They weren't terribly clean, smelled kind of nasty and had no soap or hand sanitizer. If you can, have your kids go to the bathroom before you head out to this park. It's worth the battle to avoid this bathroom (although it's not as bad as some).

All in all, this is a fantastic park, and I will certainly go back - especially to meet up with some of a wonderful women I met this morning - always a huge perk to meet nice people!
1420 Walnut Street
Cary, NC

HIGHLIGHTS: Shaded and sunny areas, love the soft playground flooring, lots of options for bigger and little kids to climb around, spin around and play in the sandbox, swing and work on their balance/coordination, open spaces for playing ball or relaxing, walking trails and great pepole - one of the nicest groups of women at a park I've met yet.
LOW LIGHTS: The bathrooms are a little ishy, need work, and on really hot days the equipment that's not in the shade will be brutally hot - but there are lots of options to chose from, some of which are shaded.
HELPFUL HINT: I heard there are wild blueberries growing in this park that are OK to eat! We didn't find them, but we also didn't look. (Don't quote me on this! I heard it from a mom who visits the park a lot)

R.S. Dunham "DAD" Park in Cary - Nice Traditional Park, nothing special though

R.S. Dunham Park in Cary is a park I've passed a dozen times but never stopped to play, so I made a special trip with the kids to check it out.  

This is a well-shaded park, and the equipment stayed much cooler when the hot sun hit it than most parks with full sun. It has big equipment for the bigger kids, a see-saw, swings, a large sandbox, basketball courts, tennis courts and this cool little spinny thing that was being dominated by big kids having an absolute blast - so I steered the little ones away to keep them safe.

I didn't see the bathrooms nearby, but the website says there are restrooms there. The tennis courts are lighted at night, too, for the "big" kids enjoyment.

There wasn't anything really special about this park, except for the merri-go-round that the big kids were enjoying so thoroughly. And I am not a fan of the playground mulch because my kids are constantly complaining about the mulch in their shoes. But I did enjoy the nice shaded areas and the great big sandbox, which my kids could play in for hours.

It's an average park, to be honest, so I wouldn't go out of my way to visit but if you're nearby it's certainly worth a pit stop for the little ones. My kids lasted less than 30 minutes before getting bored.

519 Walnut St
Cary, NC

HIGHLIGHTS: This park is pretty well shaded, with gorgeous mature trees surrounding the playground and basketball courts, great big sandbox and a fun little merri-go-round like none I've ever seen before.
LOW LIGHTS: Not a big fan of the playground much they have here, and there's not much to it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Millbrook Exchange/Community Center - Refurbished Park, Splash Pad & Baby Pool

We were so excited to check out this new park at Millbrook Exchange Community Center & Park (with splash pad). So I read up a bit and headed out to check it out.

Unfortunately, just as we arrived (a 35-minute drive later) we found out that the park was not yet open and the splash pad was not free or refurbished. Based on the articles I had read it was all open and mostly new (we visited May 30, so a few weeks has passed and the park may be open now). The stories were unclear, and I was visibly frustrated. I have a neighborhood pool, which I already pay for. Why would I drive all that way to pay for my kids to play?
Well, it was fun! We had a great time, and the people were incredibly friendly. The park, when it opens (which the construction workers said would be two weeks, but I wouldn't bank on it) will be wonderful. There were two separate sections and it looked really nice. Unfortunately, the bad taste in my mouth about it not yet being open after such a long drive will hinder this review.

If I lived in North Raleigh and didn't have a community pool, I would definitely take advantage of this place. It was $2/per child and $6 per adult if you are a Raleigh resident.

I do not, however, so for my Holly Springs, Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina readers - this place isn't quite worth the drive just yet. It may be when the park opens - but still, for those with community pools, I'm not sure I'd drive all that way for a park. A shorter drive and different circumstances would likely evoke a much better review of this place.

1905 Spring Forest Road
Raleigh, NC

HIGHLIGHTS: Wonderful, lowish cost for a pool activity that doesn't require a membership. Splash pads and toddler pools are almost always a hit for young kids, and the new playground looks like it will be amazing if/when it opens (yes, that was a bit snarky). The guy at the front, taking payments, was very friendly and helpful.
LOW LIGHTS: They don't seem to have the media connections to get the word out about the correct opening date of the refurbished park; for those of us on the Southwest side of the Triangle, it's not really very close & the cost is more for non-Raleigh residents. The restrooms aren't really very clean, nor are they convenient to the splash pad and pool areas for much-needed quick trips little ones and potty training kids of need. But it's not too bad either. For someone living in the area I would absolutely ignore my review and go and enjoy!!! The lifeguards did not seem like they enjoyed their jobs -- very unfriendly that day.
COST:  $2 for 1-12 year olds, $4 for 13-54 and $3 per 55+ (RALEIGH RESIDENTS). Nonresidents pay $3 for 1-12, $7 for 13-54 and $5 for 55+.
HELPFUL HINT: You didn't hear this from me, but they don't really check if you're a resident or not, so if you want to save a few bucks just say you're a Raleigh resident. I feel terrible writing that, but it's true and if I can save people a few bucks ...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hunt Center Toddler Sports - So Fun!

Love sports? Kids love em, too, or at least you want them to?

If you live in or near Holly Springs there is a wonderful program for little ones at the Hunt Center through the Parks and Recreation Department that offers soccer, t-ball, basketball, hockey/golfyoga and more for ages 18 months to 3 years.

Dani (2) tried soccer and had such a great time. Of course, it's mostly just fun activities that center around a soccer ball, rather than actual soccer skills, but there is some of that, too.  Dani spent most of her time hanging on the door handles and running through the bleachers, but she pretty much ran the whole time with a smile on her face. Oh, and she screamed throughout the class, as did some of the other kids. They all seemed to have a good time.

The woman who runs the class is patient and wonderful and started the program years ago when there was nothing available for toddlers in the area of sports for her own kids. She said she started a lacrosse class years ago but didn't have enough interest to fill classes. I would love for her to start that class up again. Her biggest obstacle is getting enough people to fill the classes. In fact, my 3-year-old was signed up for basketball but they didn't have enough kids to fill the class so it was canceled. She's also very open to new ideas. I suggested she teach a volleyball and track and field camp and she said she'd love to do the track and field camp - maybe in August - and offered that maybe I teach the volleyball camp, if that's something I would like to do.

For Holly Springs residents the program is $14 for two, 30-minute sessions on weekdays. I highly recommend giving it a shot. I was unable to get pictures as Dani was running all over the place, but we had a blast. I asked her if she had fun in the car an the way home, she giggled and squealed, "soccer ball!"

Jordan (3) was out sick from school and watched one of the classes. She said, "mommy, can I play next time?" How do you get a better endorsement than that? So we opted to take the T-ball class, too. Both girls love it.
Hunt Center
301 Stinson Avenue
Holly Springs, NC

HIGHLIGHTS: Great way for your toddler/preschooler to get a "taste" of sports without the stress of making them participate or expectation of them having any kind of skill at this point. The coach is fantastic, and it's 30 minutes long - just long enough for the kids to run around and get the wiggles out without them getting bored.
LOW LIGHTS: At $14/per person for two, 30-minute classes it's a bit more than I'd like to spend. For non residents of Holly Springs it is more. Also, there are two weeks between classes so the kids get excited about it and they have to wait two weeks to participate again.
COST: $14/per child for Holly Springs residents, $21 for nonresidents.

Monday, May 20, 2013

6 Play-Places To Go & When To Save Money

In the (Formerly CitiPass) GoPlaySave Book, there is a buy 1, get 1 free admission to BounceU in Apex. BounceU features large bouncy houses and slides. It is a very clean environment and the staff really seems to care about their jobs. This is an $8 value for regular bounce sessions and $6 value for the abbreviated sessions on the weekends.

Three Bears Acres in Creedmoor has a great deal on Thursdays. The cost is usually $13 per child and $7 per adult. On Thursdays it's $10 per child and adults are free!! I have never been, as I just learned about it. I heard they have a graffiti wall, loug for kids and a safe archery area. I don't know how you make archery safe for a preschooler, but I guess it works. I cannot wait to go, but it will have to be on a Thursday. The idea of this place is for kids to do all the things they're usually told not to do, including yell, scream, run, paint the walls, climb, jump and more.

Kidzu Children's Museum in Chapel Hill is free on Sunday afternoons. It's usually $5 per person. I have heard this is a much smaller version of Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, but still very nice. I've never been but it's good to know you can try something for free every once in a while that is usually sumwhat pricey.

Speaking of Marbles Kids Museum (Raleigh), on Wednesdays if you show your Food Lion MVP card you get $1 off general admission (for up to 4 people per family). Every third Tuesday of the month is Target $2 Tuesday, which means you can bring the whole family from 5-8 p.m. and play for just $2 per person. This is sponsored by Target, obviously. If you have a Triangle GoPlaySave Book (formerly CitiPass) you can get 20% off one item at the Marbles Gift Shop with the coupon.
The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro is a wonderful place to play during the week or one the weekends. It's open year round, but doesn't have all of its exhibits open year round (for example, the Giraffe Bridge where people can stand inches away from munching giraffes), the Carousel and more. But being 20 yards from a live elephant and watching the baboons chase each other is family fun all year long! I searched long and hard and polled some friends and it would seem the best way to save at the NC Zoo is to buy a family membership. It's $74 and allows unlimited visits and also gets you free admission to the NC Aquarium (Fort Fisher) and other Zoos across the U.S. (some, not all). I will continue to look for good discounts, but in the meantime, I may just have to buy the membership. Just a couple visits to the Zoo and a trip to the NC Aquarium and it will pay for itself. Also, if you are an N&O Zone subscriber, they offered a buy 1 get 1 pass in the May 2013 Newsletter.
Buy 1 ticket and get 1 free to Durham Bulls minor league baseball games if you have a Triangle Go/Play/Save Book (formerly Citipass) and you go Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday with your coupon.

Kristin Wilson, the mother of two preschoolers, is a guest blogger for Triangle Money Saving Mommas and has her own blog, The Not-So Stay-At-Home Mommy, about where to take your kids in the Raleigh, Durham and even Chapel Hill areas that are kid-friendly and why. Visit to view her blog.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pick Your Own at Vaughan's Strawberry Farm in Holly Springs

Unfortunately, this wonderful strawberry patch no longer exists for this purpose. It was so close and convenient to my home, but due to an illness in the family, they decided not to grow strawberries for the first time in 2015.

With more than 30 rows of strawberries at Vaughan's Strawberry farm it's fun to pick your own with your kids. I took Dani (2) and Jordan (3 1/2) and we had a blast.

I wouldn't recommend eating while you pick, as strawberries need to be washed thoroughly before eaten (and are one of the dirty dozen, the 12 fruits and vegetables most likely to contain high levels of pesticides) but they are delicious fresh and still warm from the sun.

Vaughan's has improved their kid-friendliness by adding three see-saws and a castle with a slide for the little ones in addition to letting them feed the chickens and the pigs ($.50/cup of feed).

My oldest loved the pigs, which stuck their little snouts through the fence and let her pet them. Dani loved the chickens, who clucked and strutted around the food dish until she dropped it inside the fence, and then they all came running over to eat.

Picking your own ($1.85 per lb) is 50 cents a pound cheaper than buying them all ready to take with you ($2.35/lb).

We will probably go back soon (maybe this weekend). I have been making home made fruit leathers and knock-off NutriGrain bars with fresh strawberries and sugar filling. (Much cheaper and much better for my kids - minus some of those 5-syllable ingredients).

825 Wilbon Road
Holly Springs, NC 27540

HIGHLIGHTS: You can feed the pigs and the chickens (for a small fee), play on see-saws, a small play castle with a slide and of course there's the strawberry picking, which is seasonal and a great opportunity to help teach kids about plants (for example, I explained to the girls that plants eat and drink through the roots that stick in the ground and the leaves absorb the sunlight and that helps strawberries grow).
LOW LIGHTS: I'm not a big "bug" person, and my kids are a little squeamish with spiders, which of course are found everywhere in a garden/farm. Dani (2) is a little young to pick strawberries, and more than once I had to explain to her that the green strawberries are babies and not ready to be picked.
COST: $1.85 per pound of strawberries, 50 cents for the pig/chicken feed.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

PlayNation In Morrisville - Worth the trip

I so was not in the mood for an adventure this morning, but I fed off my exploring buddy, Amanda's, positive energy and cruised over to Morrisville to visit PlayNation.

It's an indoor playground with a bouncey, blow up slide, play houses and great little backyard playhouses. I would love one of these beauties in my backyard, especially the ones with the tire swings. My kids love tire swings. It's really a great bad-weather activity, but it doesn't really feel like you're inside most of the time because of the outdoor playground equipment.

Dani (2) took off running before I could even pay and was climbing stairs and flying down very fast slides right away. She later warmed up to the large blow up slide. She had an absolute blast!

There was one huge drawback of this place, though, and a couple minor ones. The big one: they had, on display, snacks and juice, almost a small child eye level and most of these are not snacks I would offer my kids. The minor drawbacks included a sumwhat dirty looking floor. I can honestly say I went straight for the hand sanitizer as soon as we got in the car, and I don't usually do that. It might have been clean, but the padding on the floor was a bit dingy, making it look dirty, and the doors and handles looked like they need to be wiped down pretty thoroughly (ie, the door to the office from the play area). Also, the location is strange. It's in an industrial park area and it's all the way around the back side of one of the buildings. But those two minor issues didn't bother me; they were just noteworthy.

I will certainly go back!

300 Dominion Drive - Suite 425
Morrisville, NC
HIGHLIGHTS: This place is great for little ones because they have such short attention spans and there are so many options, including bouncy house/slide, tire swings, baby swings, slides, play house, a snack area separate from the playing kids, bridges, rock climbing walls and more. Oh yeah, and they have birthday parties there, which I thought was a wonderful idea for a little one's party.
LOW LIGHTS: The snacks are at the front desk where you pay and right at children's eye level, it seemed a little under kept in terms of its cleanliness, and it was a bit hard to find - I would have NEVER found it without the address and suite number and even then I had to turn around a couple times en route. Some of the slides were a bit slick. This could be a drawback or a positive. Either way, with little ones I'd watch them because my friend's daughter went flying off the end of one and landed a few feet later. Fun for some, injury for others. (I was notified by the owners that the flooring is being replaced soon, and that it is regularly disinfected, but wasn't meant to be permanent in the first place!)
COST: $5 per child. Call for prices on birthday parties if you're interested.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Couponing - This is Pretty Helpful Site For Those Who Don't Coupon Well

So I just saw this blog about my recommendation to go to Jordan Lake's Ebenezer Church public beach area.

These women do the research for you and tell you how to get the best deals and where. The below link is a direct review of her own trip to Jordan Lake, but takes you to her blog where you can find those great deals.

It's called Triangle Money Saving Mommas. I spoke with their writers and they said they would be posting deals to get into some of the areas kid-friendly places in the future and sharing them with me. In turn, I will be sharing those with you when they do! And hopefully it will take some of the cost out of the picture - especially for those of us on a limited income.  This does deviate a little from my normal blogging topics, but does the same thing - reduces the road blocks that keep us from having fun with our kids!

Sick again ...

Trying to come up with fun ways to play with my kids indoors. We are burnt out on coloring and play dough.

This not-so stay-at-home-mommy has forgotten how to stay at home.

I'd love to bake cookies, but we are watching our weight in this house and my husband cannot say "no" to cookies, brownies, or any baked goods.

Suggestions needed!!! Can you help?

Monday, April 15, 2013

CC Jones Memorial Park - A Great Little Find

A mommy friend told me she accidentally found this park at the end of Jones Street in Apex, not far from downtown. After one of my not-so-successful outings, I drove through Jones Street and sure enough there was this great little park down the hill.

Before I forget, the one thing about this area that I always found a bit strange was there aren't public pools, that everybody knows about, anyway. So this place, CC Jones Park, also has a swimming pool adjacent to it. It requires a membership, but it's a pool that doesn't require you to live in a specific neighborhood to use it (paying or not). I am going to research more about it in the future, but I was so excited to find one!

Anyway, this park was really nice in the classic park sense. It is surrounded by mature trees and it just feels like a park I would have played at as a kid. The equipment is surprisingly updated and well maintained, although not in perfect condition. My kids loved it and flipped out when I said it was time to leave. So I promised we would go again soon. I noticed they had a grill and think we might try a cookout.

309 Holleman Street (Corner of Jones & Holleman)
Apex, NC
HIGHLIGHTS: This is a classic version of a park, tall trees and lots of shade, lots of swings and a grill and shelter for a picnic - and it's right next to a swimming pool (public, I believe - may require membership).
LOW LIGHTS: It needs a bit of TLC and it's at the bottom of a big hill, so if you have to leave mid temper tantrum, it could be physically taxing.
COST: Free.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hunter Street Park - We had a rough day and I'm struggling to remain objective!

All in all, I should have only good things to say about this park, but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in the Hunter Street Park in Apex. But it was more my experience than the park, so take this with a grain of salt.

With the dog park right there, I had pretty high expectations. But it was pretty separate from where we were playing, so the girls, who love dogs, didn't even know it was there.

The fields are in great shape, it was clean, well maintained and all the equipment was great. But there was something missing. I noticed the train tracks were right next to the park, so I hoped we'd hear and then see a train come through. We heard it, but it went the other route. So I think that disappointed me and the kids a bit.
We first kicked the soccer ball around one of their fields, and that was fun. But it didn't really impress the kids. Then we walked over to the playground, which was really nice. It had a climbing wall, four different slides and a cute little bench underneath for the kids to sit down and take a break. As I type, I realize there was nothing wrong with the park, just kids in bad moods. Jordan told a little girl "you're a nasty girl" for some odd reason, which she later explained the girl was being bossy. I didn't see that part, but who knows? 

And Dani opened up the street light box that encased the base of the street light and pulled out a gold fish and ate it. While I tried to pry her mouth open to make sure it wasn't something else, she bit down on my finger and made an instant blister. And that was about 5 minutes into the trip. So, alas I think my expectations were met, my kids just didn't cooperate.

The dog park was pretty cool, actually. It had a separate entrance for big and small dogs and looked like a wonderful place for dog owners, which I am not. So in the end, it was a pretty nice park. Maybe I'll visit again and get rid of the bad ju ju. 

1250 Ambergate Station
(across from Apex Town Hall)
Apex, NC
HIGHLIGHTS: Gorgeously maintained, there was hardly a piece of trash on the ground, the dog park is right there and a wonderful place for pet owners, the train tracks run right along the borders (on two sides I believe) and would provide a fun "aw" moment for the kids if it came through, shelter is close to the playground, which is updated, safe and had a climbing wall.
LOW LIGHTS: My own personal ju ju aside, there was only one issue I found and it was the door to the fence around the playground stuck when trying to open it and wouldn't close properly, which one of the moms said she'd already call the parks and recreation department about and it was "fixed" but it wasn't quite right. Oh, and no swings, which my kids love.
COST: Free. Although, I think the dog park has associated fees?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sweet Creations Is Jumping for Joy! Happy Anniversary!!!

Celebration went great, and there was a steady stream of Frozen Yogurt and fun all day!

Sweet Creations (frozen yogurt bar) in Fuquay-Varina is celebrating its first anniversary with a bouncy house, face painting and drawings for free frozen yogurt on Sunday from 2-6 p.m. In addition, it's buy 1-get 1 free all day. I love this wonderful, kid-friendly place that happens to be owned by a very dear friend. This business is warm, clean and wonderful - just like the family that owns it.

Am I biased? Heck yeah. But is it darn good fro-yo and kid friendly, too? Absolutely. (Just because I think my kids are adorable, and I am biased, doesn't mean my kids aren't adorable.) See you Sunday, April 7 at Sweet Creations!

400 Broad Street
Fuquay-Varina, NC

Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro - YES, PITTSBORO!!! (Man I wish My Kids Were A Little Older)

"Meowse, meeeee-owse!" That's what I woke up to this morning over the monitor. Dani, my 2-year-old, remembered we were going to see tigers today. Then she looked at her stuffed animal (a cheetah) and said, "Awwwww, cute!" That was as well behaved with a cat as she was today in one of the best adventures we've had in the Triangle area.

Let me just start by saying, the Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro was spectacular, phenomenal, wonderful, amazing and aw inspiring. We stood just feet away from Tigers, Lions, Cougars and more and watched them eat, communicate and even stalk. There was just a rope and a chain-link fence between my kids and the wild cats, and I never felt unsafe.

Unfortunately, my kids were just too young to appreciate and participate in the tour. As evident in the name, this is where wild cats go when their former owners can no longer care for them (sometimes for legal reasons, other times because a legitimate business like a zoo or sanctuary can no longer function) for the rest of their lives. It is a rescue facility. So the conversation about the cats and why they were politically loaded (and rightfully so) and lengthy (for a toddler/preschooler). There is no law against owning a Tiger in the US. But you cannot keep a squirrel for a pet. Huh?

My kids loved seeing the cats but didn't tolerate the educational part of the tour. I was locked in to the information and very interested, but had to focus on making sure Dani (2) didn't run up to the fence and try to pet the "meowse" (aka cat).

After seeing three lions guffaw and communicate with other lions in the park (see video at the top of the page, it was incredible), my 3-year-old asked to go home. WHAT ON EARTH? I thought, "this child cannot be pleased!" 

This was the third stop in a 1 1/2-hour tour. I bribed her with a treat at the end of the tour if she could just hold on a little longer, and it worked for about 10 minutes. Once she saw the tigers, she was appeased for a few minutes more, but that was about it. We actually had to leave the tour early, along with another family who had a rapidly tiring toddler.

I cannot say I've ever seen anything as majestic as the tiger that close up. Kayla, I think her name was Kayla, was absolutely gorgeous. And Jelly Bean, the white tiger, was a sad story (inbreeding). Even if my kids won't remember it, I will not soon forget this mornings activity. This, easily, makes my top 3 things to do in the area - shortened tour and all!

I'm going to let the photos I took on my phone, NO ZOOM, tell the story. And if you have a 6-year-old or older, go now to their website and sign up and visit this place. You will not regret it. I think I would have enjoyed it 10 degrees colder and pouring rain. For those of you with younger kids, you might want to wait a few years.

They limit the number of tours for the well being of the animals, so visit their website for event dates and tickets. 

1940 Hanks Chapel Road
Pittsboro, NC

HIGHLIGHTS: Up close and personal with the cats, from tigers to lions and cougars and more - 70 animals live in the facility, wonderful/educational guided tour, small facility so you don't have to walk forever to see another animal.
LOW LIGHTS: There are no sidewalks or paved walkways, so it's a little muddy/dirty, the tours include a lot of information about animals and even laws regarding big cats so there is a lot of talking for small children, it's a bit of a hike to get there (but far closer to the Triangle area than the NC Zoo).
COST: $17 per adult (for public tours), $10 for kids 4-10 and free for 3 and under. Twilight tours are $26.50 for adults. Children 10 and under are not allowed on twilight tours. Group rates for schools/education programs may vary. They also have a membership option.