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.


Lake Crabtree County Park - Morrisville

Park website

         I wanted to see this Park because I heard about their rod and reel loaner program and my preschooler has been asking me if she could learn to fish. Never having caught a fish in my life, I'm not sure I'm the best to teach her. Still, with my inland fishing license that I bought at Dick's Sporting Goods, we set out on one of the most beautiful summer days we've had yet. When we got to the Park we soon learned that everyone who could set me up with the loaner program was at an off site training. The one worker who was there offered to let me borrow her personal rod but she didn't have any lures and me, being the well-prepared dad that I am, hadn't brought any food that could be used as bait. So even though my preschooler was disappointed because we couldn't fish, we decided to hang around and see what the Park had to offer.

       Fishing at Lake Crabtree is catch and release and only permitted in certain areas of the Park. The fishing pier is very accessible and the view is beautiful. You can also rent boats from the boathouse on the weekends.

from the fishing pier

        There are plenty of picnic shelters, picnic tables, and clean restroom facilities at the Park. There are two playgrounds - a large one in partial shade and a smaller one in almost complete shade. The restroom facility is very close to both of these playgrounds. Mountain bike and hiking trails run throughout the park and range in length from a quarter mile to six miles. Some of the trails are paved and great for stroller hikes. One mountain bike trail goes by the foundation of an old homestead left over from when the Park was all farmland.

the larger playground

        Down at the area called the floodplain - a large grassy meadow - there is a sand volleyball court, picnic tables, and a garden. When we were there a gentleman was flying very large kites where the grassland meets the water's edge. The floodplain also provides a great place to watch planes coming in and out of RDU.

the floodplain

       My kids had a great time playing on the playgrounds and enjoying the scenery. I enjoyed it too. Finding someplace that both my kids and I can enjoy is difficult and one of the main reasons I started this blog. Taking my kids to a playground is a no-brainer but it's nice to go somewhere that appeals to adults as well.

      Lake Crabtree is a Wake County park and, as I've noted before in other postings, Wake County has some of the best parks in the Triangle. Wake County has found a way to combine kid-friendly fun, educational opportunities, and scenic landscapes in many of its' parks. 

     Lake Crabtree is one of my favorite spots and I'll definitely return. Even besides the fishing, there are lots of other activities at the Park I'd like to try.


Durham Arts Council - Durham

Special ExhibitCircus: Costume, Prop, and Baggage    

Arts Council Website

     This exhibit of large acrylic paintings runs until September 25. You can view the paintings anytime the building is open - Monday through Saturdays 9am to 9pm.

     There are almost 20 paintings on view in this display. The works in the exhibit have been described as large, and they are at about 2ft. x 1ft. I guess when I heard about the show I expected wall-size paintings. The paintings are posed almost like snapshots and they focus mostly on the behind-the-scenes lives of circus workers. They especially seem to portray the relationships that have developed in the midst of a circus environment. These very colorful paintings - some of which contain animals - are good for attracting young children's attention.

     Three of the paintings are done on large panels (5ft. x 4ft.) that sit on the floor. One of these - my preschooler's favorite - is pictured above. This is also the only panel that is painted on both sides. On the opposite side the carousel horses are walking through a meadow with the circus in the distance.


        The facility itself is nice with two galleries - one upstairs and one downstairs. There is an elevator to get you to the upstairs gallery if you're using a stroller. Classrooms for the youth programs at the Durham Arts Council are also upstairs.

        The Durham Arts Council is a quick visit so you'll probably want to combine it with another attraction in the area.


Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site - Four Oaks

Visitor's Center

Bentonville Website

       This bloody battle, which has been somewhat eclipsed by the ensuing surrender at Bennett Place,  now consists of a Visitor's Center, the Harper House, and a driving tour of the battlefield.

      The small Visitor's Center contains period firearms and munitions as well as other artifacts from soldiers. The placards around the room are text heavy and if you have small children like I do you probably won't be able to read all of them. There is a short orientation film that the tour guide on duty can start for you at any time. The film begins with the mounting tension that caused the War and progresses through the War's significant events. We weren't able to see the whole film because my toddler was surprisingly not in the mood to watch a movie. There is also a small gift shop in the Center with the expected Civil War paraphernalia - flags, currency, toy guns. My toddler had a great time marching around waving the small flags. The highlight of the Visitor's Center is the audio-visual map that details the progression of the battle via moving colored lights and narration. 

      Restrooms are located in a separate building behind the Visitor's Center and to the right. A picnic shelter is also located next to the restrooms.

Harper House

      The Harper House is a very short walk to the left of the Visitor's Center. Only ten years old at the time, the house served as a makeshift hospital for Union and Confederate wounded. The Harper Family was forced to move to the upstairs so that the downstairs could be used to treat the wounded. The House is setup much the way it would have looked at the time of the battle. The rooms downstairs are arrayed with makeshift operating tables and blood stained bandages strewn helter-skelter as if the House's occupants had just fled. The upstairs features a cramped living room and bedroom to illustrate the tight living space that the family endured during the House's occupation as a hospital.

     Behind the House is the kitchen building which is from the period but originally resided on a neighboring home site. The inside is sparsely decorated with a loom and a few other household tools.

     Built in a similar manner to the kitchen and very near it is the slave's cabin (the Harper family had three slaves). This building was also moved from the same site as the kitchen. The cabin's interior features a table and two beds - one of which is one half of a bunk bed set.

      I was pleasantly surprised with how well my toddler behaved during the tour of the House and outbuildings. Perhaps he was tired, but he stayed in my arms or held my hand during the tour. Maybe my little man is growing up, or this could have been a fluke.

     The driving tour of the battlefield is well marked and pleasant. You need to keep a lookout for the gray square markers that usually sit on the right side of the road - occasionally they can sneak up on you. For most of the markers there is no shoulder to pull onto so I guess locals have gotten used to drivers stopping along the road to read. There are four stops a long the tour that offer driveways where you can pull off the road. There are a couple of places where you can get out of your car and hike to see remaining earthworks, but my preschooler was too tired to do it. If you begin the driving tour at the Visitor's Center you will see the Confederate cemetery across the road. My preschooler may share her father's fascination with historic cemeteries because throughout the rest of the tour she made me promise to tell her if I saw any more graves.

     We made this trip on a day when the heat wasn't as toxic, so standing outside to visit the outbuildings wasn't so uncomfortable. There isn't a lot of walking required at this site - unless you want to see earthworks - so it's good for young children who can't trek long distances. The House tour was quick - probably because the guide figured my young ones wouldn't stay focused for very long. Overall, this wasn't the most kid-friendly site I've taken my kids but it wasn't the least kid-friendly site either. If you have a passionate interest in Civil War sites then I would highly recommend Bentonville.


Fred G. Bond Metro Park - Cary

Town of Cary/Bond Park website

     I had heard a lot about this park so I wanted to check it out. It has a playground, picnic shelters, four baseball/softball fields, an amphitheater, and a lake with a boathouse.You can rent bikes and boats at the boathouse. From what I could see, the trails are paved, or at least stroller accessible, and meander through the surrounding forest.

     We spent most of our time at the playground, which is set back in the woods. There is plenty of signage to direct you to the playground but you can't park your car directly in front of it. Don't worry though, it's not a long walk. The playground is probably only 500 feet from the parking lot. The playground has a sandpit as well as two play structures - one for toddlers and one for school-age kids. There are two sets of swings as well, including swings for babies.

     There isn't a whole lot to distinguish this playground from any of the others I've been to, except maybe the crowd. The day we were there the weather wasn't as hot and there were a lot of kids. It looked like area summer camps and track-out programs also use the playground to let their kids run off some energy. We had to wait a long time to use the swings.

    We drove by the lake and the boathouse but we didn't get out because by that time my kids were pretty tired. The boathouse looked nice but the lake was smaller than I expected.

     Bond Park is a good place to take your kids to play if you live in the Cary/western Raleigh area, but if you're coming from points east the thirty minute drive isn't really worth it.


Country Doctor Museum - Bailey


      The Country Doctor Museum consists of three restored buildings that once housed the practices of 19th century NC rural doctors. The main building shown above houses the gift shop and the Museum's administrative office. The doctor's house, which contains most of the exhibits, is across the street. A carriage house, which sits behind the main building, is where you can find two horse drawn buggies and two early automobiles. Your visit to the museum is conducted by a tour guide. We must have been our tour guide's most raucous visitors with our toddler that couldn't stand still and our preschooler who kept complaining.

     A trip through the doctor's house is a journey through medical practice that begins in pharmaceuticals and progresses to surgery and ends in obstetrics and dentistry. There are lots of artifacts to see along the way - from an apothecary cabinet to a 19th century exam table and Civil War era prosthetics. There are the expected bloodletting devices like lancets and an elaborately decorated urn labeled "leeches" -  the unfortunate patient who saw the doctor entering with such a container could easily guess the proposed course of treatment. Our guide was very knowledgeable and helped to explain that a rural doctor would do most of his work in the form of house calls.

    Oh yeah, and the movies have been lying to us - you know the ones portraying Civil War amputations occurring without anesthesia where the patient is told to 'bite the bullet.' According to our tour guide, ether and chloroform were in common use prior to the Civil War and those sadistic amputations done on fully conscious patients only happened if the surgeon ran out of anesthesia.

doctor's house

    Judging by the tools displayed in the last room of the house, the practice of obstetrics doesn't seem to have changed much in the last 50 - 100 years. Most of the tools looked similar to today's implements. There was, however, some kind of birthing harness that, even with explanation, I couldn't visualize how a woman in labor could be helped by such a contraption.

   Behind the house is an herb garden where plants are tagged as to how they would be used to cure various ailments.

   The payoff for my toddler was when we entered the carriage house with its' buggies and early automobiles. All of the vehicles were owned by local rural doctors whose families donated them to the Museum. The earliest automobile is a 1912 Ford. The cars still run, according to our tour guide, who mentioned that they had just made an appearance in a local parade. Along with the cars, the carriage house contains an iron lung, more artifacts from rural doctors, and an exhibit on nursing.


     Admission to the Museum is $5 per person and $3 for children 3 and up. There are a lot of artifacts to interest adults and the tour guide was very thorough. You'd probably be better off bringing school age kids to the Museum. My preschooler was somewhat bored and my toddler was rambunctious. Listening to the tour guide as if I were not distracted by my toddler yelling and whacking his mother seemed like a scene from a bad movie.

   If you're looking for somewhere to eat in Bailey after visiting the Museum, I'd recommend the Bailey Cafe at the corner of Main and Hanover streets. The building was once the old general store and its' copious shelves are now filled with the proprietor's teapot collection. It's a country kitchen style restaurant where you can get a meat and two sides. The food is home cooked and moderately priced. Dessert is a highlight at the Cafe where pies and cakes are baked in house.

the teapot collection