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.


Pullen Park - Raleigh

Park Website

        My wife and I had taken my preschooler to Pullen before it closed for renovations so when I went after the reopening I was able to appreciate the before and after effect. The transformation is dramatic yet you can still appreciate the original setting of the Park. Now, all of the buildings are color coordinated and attractive crests with the initials PP adorn each one. The restrooms received the most dramatic makeover - they're so clean and well furnished with a changing table in the Men's Room. The Cafe is one of the newest additions and helps to draw the crowds away from the playground equipment during the noon hour.

        The playground features four different areas: a school-age structure, a preschool structure, a sand and water play area, and a swing set with ADA compliant swings. My toddler wanted to stay in the school-age area with its' periscope and twisty slides. There is also a very large spider web that older children can climb. The full-size caboose is still there and its' interior got a fresh coat of paint. My toddler really liked playing in there as well.

The school-age play structure

       All of the rides received upgrades. The kiddie boats got some much needed help - the water doesn't look toxic anymore. The carousel is housed inside an enclosed structure that enables it to be open all year. The train station now sports some fancy wrought iron work and the train itself is shinier than ever. Even the landscaping and bridges along the railway were spruced up. Riding the train is a great way to see all of the renovations because it loops around the part of the Park that had the most work done. My toddler - a train fanatic - was most excited to board the train and wave to all of the passing pedestrians. In fact, the train was really the only amusement he wanted to ride.

      I don't remember how the rides were operated before the renovations but now you have to have tickets for the train, kiddie boats, paddle boats, and carousel. Tickets can be purchased from the large building across from the Cafe. After the conversion of dollars to tickets, the price per ride, per person is $1, except the paddle boats which is $5. The ticket booth takes credit/debit cards and the best part is that tickets don't expire, so if you don't use them all in one day you can use them the next time you come.

      Finding parking will probably be difficult for awhile as landscapers, working on finishing touches, have their large vehicles taking up valuable spaces. The crowds coming out to see the renovations will also be large for awhile, but we still did not have to wait too long to ride the train. I did happen to lose my infant's pacifier somewhere between the train station and the playground so if anyone finds it, send it to Capt. Dad, P.O. Box........


Carolina Rollergirls at Dorton Arena - Raleigh

Carolina Rollergirls Website

         My only previous experience with roller derby was seeing the movie Whip It but if I hadn't seen the movie I probably wouldn't have done a search for an NC roller derby team. I had been toying with the idea of taking my kids to one of these events to see how family friendly it was, but then I got one of those Amazon local deals to see the Nov. 19th doubleheader charity bout for half price and I took it as a sign. Even without the discount my kids got in for free to this matchup featuring the Trauma Queens vs. the Debutante Brawlers and the Carolina All-Stars vs. the Cape Fear All-Stars from Wilmington.

        The premise of roller derby is pretty simple. The jammer - identified by the star on her helmet - must break through the defensive players to become the lead jammer and the number of times she passes through the pack during a jam - two minutes - equals the number of points she scores for her team. Team members take turns as the jammer and the jammer can call off a jam at any time - usually when she is ahead in points. Roller derby bouts consist of two, half hour periods. All of the finer details of the sport are explained in the program.

       Watching roller derby can be at times relaxing and exciting depending upon the performance of the players. Sometimes it can feel like watching NASCAR, but the campy fun of the costumes, players' names, and the humor of the commentators keeps it interesting. The bout we witnessed was a charity event for the Pretty in Pink Foundation so there was also a bake sale and a silent auction going on. And if all else fails to excite, the promoters are not shy about advertising the beer that's available.

       Roller derby in NC seems to be in its' infancy: the scoreboard is an LCD projection on a pull-down screen; the commentators sit at a rough table with minimal PA equipment; T-shirts are launched into the crowd via overhand throw; the venue itself is not climate controlled; and the crowds that come are small but dedicated. There is a certain charm in seeing a sport at this stage of development. I noticed that everyone we encountered - from the ticket takers to our fellow spectators - was very welcoming. The players themselves even mingle with the crowds after a bout. And as long as you're 18 and not pregnant you can sit on the floor close enough to the track to feel the draft of the passing skaters.

      But is roller derby in NC kid-friendly? Absolutely. My toddler's eyes were glued to the track as soon as we walked in the arena and he quickly learned to clap and cheer when we did. The small crowd and the general admission seating allowed us to find a nice open seating area so both of my kids could get up and move without having to worry about bumping into neighboring spectators. If your kids tend to get antsy you can always bring small toys as a distraction. This bout was a doubleheader so it was a long time to expect our kids to stay and we knew it was time to leave when my toddler launched his stuffed lion track-ward.

The Rollergirls' mascot, Evil Ed


NC Museum of History - Part 2 of Story of NC Exhibit - Raleigh


To see my blog on Part 1 of the Exhibit click here.

       The second part of the exhibit opens with a very fun map of NC with buttons that activate wooden toy representations of different regional contributions to NC history, like the running train that represents the opening of the Wilmington Weldon Railroad. The exhibit then paints in broad strokes from slavery to secession to the Civil War to Reconstruction to WWI and WWII. There is a video stop in the secession area and in the Reconstruction portion is a KKK headdress and a video explaining the Wilmington race riot of 1898. In the WWI area your child can have their picture taken as the face of a doughboy soldier.

The map 

      Stops along the way describe significant elements in NC history like tobacco production, the emergence of textile mills, and the development of Black Wall Street in Durham. My preschooler paid close attention when we told her that at her age she would have been working in a mill already. She asked the ever important question: "how would I go to the bathroom?" When we read a placard to her that described the communal outdoor bathrooms for workers she emphatically proclaimed, "Everybody would see your panties and your butt! Everybody!"

A textile mill interior cleverly set up with mirrors.
         In the slavery section the Museum has reconstructed a slave cabin that they supposedly removed from its location and reassembled. Based on the quality of building materials and the architecture, not to mention the number of furnishings inside, I have a hard time believing this was an authentic slave cabin. It looks like it post dates the slavery period. It could have been a sharecropper's cabin or perhaps the owner of these slaves was a rare exception who set his property up in nicer accommodations, but the cabin certainly does not represent the majority of slave dwellings that I have seen. Even the slave cabins of Stagville in Durham, while on the nicer side with their wood floors, are nothing compared to the "luxury"of this re-created cabin at the Museum.

A cutout view into the nicest slave cabin I've ever seen.
        After WWII, the exhibit has very little to say about modern NC. I was surprised to see no mention of Andy Griffith's NC connection and his contribution to early television - there was actually no display on the emergence of TV. Likewise, no displays chronicled the Vietnam War and Fort Bragg's role as a major training facility for that War. It's like the curator ran out of energy or physical space to bring the exhibit into more recent history.

     This second part of the exhibit is obviously the most ambitious portion but it's also less interactive. There is a great deal more text to digest in this second installment and not enough video segments to occupy the kids while you try to read up. There are much fewer hands-on items in this second part than there was in the first. My preschooler was engaged but we had a heck of a time keeping my toddler reined in. He might be a great candidate for one of those kid leashes I never thought I would consider.


Wake Forest College Birthplace Museum - Wake Forest

The Museum is in the newer structure on the right


       This was probably the quickest visit I've ever made. The Museum is anything but kid-friendly, especially for young children like my toddler. It's furnished like an alumni house or like my in-laws living room with lots of nice furniture and breakable sit-arounds.

       The auditorium on the right side of the Museum is where you can see a 15 minute video about the College and the Town of Wake Forest and their survival as exclusive elements. I only saw one or two minutes of the video before my toddler insisted on leaving the room, but it started out using golf star and alumnus, Arnold Palmer, as a departure point for exploring the College's history.

      The Museum's collection - which can be viewed in a hall to the left of the main foyer - center's mostly on the College's sports history. A few displays focus on other aspects of the College's story like it's medical program. I had to view the exhibit hall rather quickly while repeating "Don't touch that!" as I followed behind my toddler's pinball-like trajectory, so I didn't get a chance to read many of the placards.

Display of WF's medical school artifacts

       The main foyer houses a diorama of the original campus replete with a stationary miniature train, which my toddler loved. It also houses a 'Rolls Royce golf cart' which was made for one of Mickey Mantle's charity golf tournaments. The tricked out cart with cooler and stereo tape deck was acquired by one of Mantle's teammates, a WF alumnus who donated it to the Museum.

       I had read about the Museum's collection of photographs of the Town's two train wrecks and I figured my toddler would be interested in those since he likes making his own toy trains wreck. After asking one of the Museum staff about the photos he brought out the book containing them, at which point my toddler became his own train wreck as he fell to the floor in a screaming meltdown. I decided that was a good signal to leave.

      The Museum is definitely not for young children and may not be that interesting to older children either unless they have a passionate interest in Wake Forest history. The Museum's target audience is definitely WF alumni interested in better understanding their alma mater's beginnings.