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.


J C Raulston Arboretum at NC State - Raleigh

The Necessary House (bathrooms)


         The Arboretum is named after the NC State professor who started it in order to study how different plants from all over the world would survive in the Piedmont of North Carolina. The 8 acre garden is separated into different areas with different themes. There is a Japanese Garden, a White Garden, a southwest garden, a rooftop garden, and a rose garden, among others. The longer you spend in this place the more you will discover peaceful little nooks and crannies interspersed throughout the property. And the Arboretum has got you covered when it comes to bathrooms - there are 3 separate places within the park where you can access a washroom. There is a small visitor's center with books you can purchase (potty stop #1), an educational center with a striking waterfall where Koi and tiny frogs play (potty stop #2), and then there is the colorful Necessary House at the far end of the park (potty stop #3).     

        This was a fun place to spend the morning even though it was one of those days with record heat. As soon as we started down the trail my preschooler was so excited about all the different plants to see that she kept calling me over to see plant after plant.

      Now I know you're wondering how an over sized garden could be fun for young children, and it is true that I have instilled an appreciation for gardening in my kids. But, even if your kids couldn't care less about plants, the Arboretum has created some really dramatic landscapes with some eye-popping plants that would cause any child to stop and take a closer look.To see these dramatic landscapes, start in the southwest garden which is closest to the entrance. On a hot day like the day we were there, it wasn't very hard to imagine myself in the desert surrounded by yuccas and agaves.

     But even if you're kids are bored with the plants, there are waterfalls and ponds with fish.Or you can play the ever popular game 'dodge the sprinkler' since there are occasional sprinklers set up around the garden. The trails are very easy for a stroller. There was only one place where I needed to lug it up stairs and that was to the roof garden which is definitely worth seeing.

roof garden

      My preschooler's favorite part of the park was the Japanese garden with its crooked bridge. She wanted to go through this garden again on our way out of the Arboretum. Another highlight for her was being presented with a fresh cut rose by one of the staff in the rose garden.

Japanese garden

      My toddler's memories of the Arboretum won't all be pleasant. He was pretty upset when he stepped in the fish pond. I was leading him by the hand as we crossed the stones that span the pond, but somehow he lost his footing and got his leg wet up to his knee. Being the good father that I am, I immediately started laughing. His crying told me that he thought his mistake was more alarming than funny.

The pond - the site of my toddler's embarrassment

     The Arboretum is a great place to go if you want to feel like you've stepped out of North Carolina and into an English tea garden, or a desert, or a tropical island. The Arboretum has a reputation for constantly changing its' landscaping so you can be assured of seeing something amazing no matter when you visit.My kids and I both really enjoyed this scenic retreat in the middle of Raleigh.

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