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.