I know how hard it is to get young kids out of the house to go somewhere - even quick outings require you to pack enough snacks, diapers, and toys to make you think you’ll be gone for a week. And who wants to wrestle kids in and out of carseats just to find out that your destination isn’t kid-friendly? That’s why I’ve decided to visit Triangle area sites to see if they’re worth your trip. I won’t use a rating system but I’ll try to describe what you’ll see well enough for you to decide if your kids would find it interesting. I’ll also give you the heads up on bathrooms, stroller accessibility and any other SNAFUs I encounter.


Historic Oak View Park - Raleigh

The farmhouse


Special Exhibit: From Morning to Night: Domestic Service in the Gilded Age South

        I should start this post with a disclaimer: I have been to Oak View before and it is one of my favorite places to take the kids. There are three reasons why it's one of my favorites:
  1. It's close to my home and my wife's work.
  2. The park opens early - 8:30am - one of the few places in the Triangle open that early.
  3. It's super kid-friendly with great stroller accessibility, play kitchen in the Visitor's Center, and farm animals close enough to pet.
Besides, with it's beautiful rolling front lawn of pecan trees, who wouldn't want to spend time here when the weather is beautiful?

      For those who've never been to the Park, there is a Visitor's Center, barn, carriage house, detached kitchen, herb garden, farmhouse, cemetery, cotton barn, and cotton field. The visitor's center is where my kids prefer to be because it has a play kitchen and lots of interactive farm toys.

Visitor's Center Play Kitchen
 There are also historical exhibits in the Visitor's Center such as a recreated sharecropper's cabin.

       The cotton field always has cotton plants in it and if you go after August you can usually see the pods open, and the white, fluffy cotton bulging out.The cotton barn is a two-story structure with lots of information concerning the production of cotton. There is even a demonstration of how an old cotton gin works that you can crank yourself and see the fluffy material extracted from the chaff and seeds. My preschooler really liked this demo and was able to gin a good deal of cotton. There's also a friendly cat who often hangs around the cotton barn and is willing to rub against your leg if you're open to it.

       I mentioned farm animals didn't I? Yes, there are usually goats hanging around in the field near the carriage house. They're very friendly and will poke their heads through the fence to get a petting. My toddler giggled with delight as these friendly four-footers popped their heads out to greet him. There is a sign that tells you these goats have been known to mistake fingers for food, so you probably shouldn't feed them and I kept my kids' hands away from the goats' mouths. My preschooler noted that one of the goats looked like he had a beard. We were even treated to genuine goat defecation and urination which, for my kids, is absolutely priceless (yes, I have trained them well to appreciate potty humor).

A friendly bearded gent
       The Park also has picnic tables, a small pond, and two gazebos that make it a prime spot for a picnic or just enjoying the outdoors. The carriage house has a horse-drawn carriage you can view and the cemetery contains several unmarked graves as well as the identified graves of some of the site's previous owners. The detached kitchen is an example of an 1820s farmhouse kitchen with period artifact displays inside.

        We went to the Park this time for the express purpose of viewing their special exhibit - From Morning to Night: Domestic Service in the Gilded Age - which was open in the recently restored farmhouse. In fact, this was the first time I have ever been in the farmhouse because it has been closed for a while for renovations. This is also the first exhibit to appear in the farmhouse since its' reopening. The exhibit and the farmhouse open at 10am. The exhibit is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and developed by Maymont Park in Richmond, VA. This was a little bit of a homecoming for me, in a way, since I grew up not far from Maymont and spent many days there as a kid growing up in Richmond.Much of the photographic material in the exhibit is derived from sources in and around Maymont.

        The exhibit details the life of domestic servants during the early 1900s which, in the South, were mostly African American. There are a few displays set up in the house which exemplify the dress and everyday objects of a southern domestic servant, but most of the exhibit consists of bulletin boards which give greater detail about the work of domestic servants. The exhibit is relatively text heavy so I had a hard time absorbing it with a toddler and preschooler running around. But the good news is that the staff has made it virtually impossible for my toddler to destroy anything in the house - they have sectioned off all of the displays with Plexiglas barriers.

       One of my favorite parts of the exhibit was a wall displaying photographs of domestic servants at work in North Carolina. Some of these period photos are of servants at work around the Executive Mansion of Raleigh.

       If you don't end up getting to Oak View for the special exhibit ending June 12, then you should definitely make a point of visiting Oak View. It's got a lot to keep the kids busy and there is enough to keep us adults engaged too.

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