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.
Laurel Hills Park - Raleigh
Laurel Hills is a Raleigh park and recreation center near Crabtree Valley Mall. I wanted to see this place because it boasts of having a 'playground for all children.' After seeing the playground myself, I will admit that it is extensive and reminds me a bit of the playground structure outside of the Durham Life and Science Museum, but it wasn't quite what I expected.
A 'playground for all children' made me think it was going to be a playground especially designed for children with special needs - you know, completely flat and wheelchair accessible with maybe some equipment designed for wheelchair-bound kids. My children don't require such an adaptive environment but I was taking them because I thought it would be good for them to see a playground built with special needs children in mind.
It's now apparent that the label 'for all children' refers to the playground's appeal to children of all ages. There were certainly enough structures for both my toddler and my preschooler to enjoy, as well as plenty of fun for older kids too.The structure functions almost like a maze where kids can get just out of reach of their parents, especially when it's time to leave the park. I hit my head pretty hard trying to wrest my toddler out of a small opening so I could take his sister to the bathroom.
Plans are in the works to renovate the playground at Laurel Hills and rename it Sassafras Playground For All Children. It will be a more ADA compliant playground with structures specifically designed for special needs children. Until all of the money is raised to begin renovations, the existing playground will remain open.
The Laurel Hills recreation center has a gym, classrooms, ball courts, and restrooms. When we were there, it looked like they were having an active summer camp session. There is also a basketball court and a baseball field at Laurel Hills. There's a pond too, but we didn't get a chance to see it. If you're in the Crabtree Valley area, Laurel Hills is a good place to let your children run off some energy.