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.


Rainbow Play Systems - Raleigh


    I'd heard briefly about this place from other people in town, and with the weather being as hot as it is, we decided to check it out. Basically it's an indoor showroom for outdoor play structures that holds open play times on weekday mornings from 10am - 2pm. You can also rent the room for birthday parties in the afternoons and on the weekends. Occasionally, when no parties are scheduled, the room is open for play times on the weekends, but you'll need to call first to see if the room is booked.

    When you enter the building you find yourself in a "Tots to Teen" furniture showroom. Check in at the desk in the middle of the store and they'll show you where the Party Room is. The admission fee is $5 per child, but you should check websites like Groupon before you go because Rainbow has been known to run specials. Once you pay your admission you can even go offsite to get lunch and come back without paying a re-entry fee as long as you make it back before 2.

     There are three large play structures, complete with baby swings, in the Party Room. There is also a special small child area for crawlers and new walkers with soft blocks and bean bag chairs (I was told the blocks and bean bags get cleaned every afternoon). Picnic tables line the perimeter of the room and parents are encouraged to bring whatever food and drink they think their kids might need. A wipe dispenser hangs on the wall to clean up those little messes - like when my 11 month-old spit up all over the floor. Bathrooms are located just outside the Party Room.

The small child area

    If you can stand the outdoor temperatures, children are welcome to play on several play structures  out in front of the building.

    My preschooler and kindergartener had a great time running around playing with other kids, and the baby enjoyed crawling around and barfing on the floor. I would definitely go back when the weather is too hot or too cold to be outdoors. What a great idea to turn the showroom into a pay-for-play gymnasium!


Duke Lemur Center - Durham

Duke Lemur Center Website

             The Duke Lemur Center houses one of the largest collections of lemurs outside of their native Madagascar. Lemurs are pro-simian primates which basically means they are precursors to monkeys.  The Center is a research facility for learning about these primates. Touring the Center takes you on a very small loop walk (less than a city block) outdoors.

            First, you need to know that you can only tour the Center by appointment. Tours start at 10:30am and run at 11:30, 1:30 and 2:30. You must call to make an appointment and the Center prefers 48 hour notice if you have to cancel. During the summer, tours book up fast and the morning tours are harder to get which is why we were touring in the afternoon during nap time.

          When you arrive for your tour you're directed into the Visitor's Center for an introduction by your guide, followed by a 12 minute orientation video. The video introduces you to the lemurs and their diet. It also details daily operations at the Center and highlights some of the ongoing research. The Visitor's Center also houses the gift shop and the bathrooms.

           The tour then continues outside as your guide spends 45 minutes leading you around to the different enclosures. The trail around the enclosures is stroller friendly, but the tour itself is not young child friendly. Our tour guide spent a lot of time talking in detail about each species, which did not keep the attention of little minds. I thought it was just my kids (3 and 5 years-old) that were bored but I noticed a 4 and 9 year-old on the tour were busy gathering piles of pine straw rather than listening to the tour guide. I commiserated with their mother on how difficult it was to have young children on a tour where the presentation was geared towards older children and adults. She said that she had visited the Center with her daughter's preschool group and the presentation was just as long and dry for that group as it was today.

          It was hard for my kids to get a good look at the lemurs. The large enclosures have little boxes for the lemurs to rest in and escape the heat. On a day like the one we visited where the temp was in the 90s, the lemurs were smart enough to hide in their little cubbies. One of the tour guides offered treats to the lemurs in order to get them to come closer. But being so small, it was hard for my kids to push through the crowd of almost 20 other people on the tour to get close enough to see.

         The last stop on the tour is the Nocturnal Room where you can see a few different species of nocturnal creatures related to lemurs. The Room is lit by red safelights - the kind used in photographic darkrooms - so it will take a minute for your eyes to adjust to the darkness after being out in the sun. I thought the dark would scare my kids crazy, especially my three year old, but both of them managed to keep it together. The Room is really a short hallway with four rooms off of it, two on each side. The guide opens the shade on each room allowing you to peer inside. We could only really see one of the animals. The lack of light makes it hard to see anything unless it's close to the door.

           This was a hard trip for Capt. Dad. My three year-old and five year-old wanted to do anything but listen to the presentation. My 3 year-old picked up handfuls of gravel from the trail and threw it, wandered into the vegetation beside the trail, and fought with his sister about whose turn it was to ride in the stroller. My 5 year-old complained, fought with her brother, and considered stepping into the small creek that ran in between two enclosures. I was not two minutes into the tour before I entertained the idea of giving up, forfeiting the $24 I had paid for the tour and packing everyone back in the car for home. But with Survivor's Eye of the Tiger playing in my head, I pushed on and tried to keep my kids from distracting the other visitors too much. In the end, I was glad I stuck it out till the end of the tour just for the accomplishment of having endured an hour long presentation with cranky and distracted children.    


Lazy O Farm - Smithfield

The Farm does not have its own website but you can find information about it here.

        Lazy O Farm is what I call a tourist farm. The main purpose of the Farm is to provide an experience for visitors and the actual crops grown all contribute to that visitor experience. For example, one of the crops occupying a whole field is a form of corn which is grown for animal consumption and to create a corn maze for October visitors. The main draw for visitors in early summer is a chance to get up close and personal with a variety of farm animals. At Lazy O you can get close to goats, horses, calves, donkeys, sheep, pigs, chickens, a tortoise, a rabbit, and a turkey.

       Lazy O does most of its business hosting field trips for school groups, but during the months of June and July, Fridays are set aside for families of any size to visit by appointment. The Farm also opens to families on Saturdays in October. Admission is $5 for adults and kids over two. Your time at the farm is self-led but there are plenty of staff members around to direct you and all of the staff we encountered were extremely nice. Once you've visited all of the animals you can get on a hayride or let your kids play on the playground. Two of the slides on the playground are made from industrial drainage pipe and so they feel like tunnels and they shoot riders out wicked fast.

     Some things you need to know about Lazy O.....

  1. You're going to need a GPS to find it because there are no signs to direct you. My GPS had no trouble leading us right to it.
  2. There are no bathrooms at the Farm, only porta-potties which my five year-old refuses to use.
  3. You have to make an appointment to come, even on Fridays in June and July. Call (919) 934-1132 or email dtdjthompson@centurylink.net

      I think I had more fun petting the animals than my kids did. My daughter decided she did not want to touch the pigs because they were too dirty. But even my nine month-old enjoyed sticking his little hand out to pat a goat's nose.

      My kids' favorite part of the Farm was the milking demonstration. The demo consists of a wooden cow with a ten-gallon bucket full of water for an under-belly. The bucket has "udders" on its' bottom that kids are encouraged to milk. For some reason, this just captivated my five and two year-olds and they kept coming back to it over and over again.

The milking cow.

       You can see all of what Lazy O has to offer, and take the hayride, in about an hour. But you could linger longer especially since there is a designated picnic area for a leisurely lunch. If you're in the surrounding Smithfield area, Lazy O is great for a petting zoo fix. If you're coming from a longer distance you might want to wait until October to enjoy the expanded festivities of pumpkin picking and the corn maze.



Sylvan Heights Bird Park - Scotland Neck

Visitor's Center

     Sylvan Heights is a one mile loop walk through enclosures with birds from all different continents. As you walk through the North America section through to Australia, you'll see the domestic to the exotic - from turkeys and owls, to kookaburras and toucans.

      I took all 3 of my kids to Sylvan and all four of us had a blast pointing out all of the amazingly colorful specimens. Even my five year-old girl admitted she had a good time after expecting it to be a boring trip. There was enough to see to keep my 8 month-old from fussing about being in the stroller. And my two year-old lagged behind at every exhibit trying to absorb every last bit of the experience.

    You start your visit at the visitor's center where you buy your tickets. It was $9 for me and $5 for my five year-old ( age 3 and under get in free). There was an incubator in the visitor's center with several different species of bird's eggs in it, along with two newly hatched ducklings. A member of the Park staff took one of the ducklings out for my kids to pet. There is also a small gift shop in the visitor's center.

      Next, you move outside to start exploring the different enclosures along the trail. The trail is hard-packed sand so it's stroller accessible but if you visit after a significant rain you should expect some mud.
All of the exhibits are outside so you'll also want to keep an eye on the weather - the day we were there it was hot and humid. Some of the enclosures have gates that allow you to walk right in. While we were in one of these, a medium sized blue bird came right up to us. The bird was so close my two year-old son could have touched it. And though he didn't touch it, he did back it into a corner where it promptly flapped its' wings and scared my son to death. But my son was undaunted by the experience and was willing to enter another enclosure later on.

My son and his feathered friend right before the flap.

    We didn't make it all the way to the Treehouse or the Beaver Blind and we still spent about two hours at the Park. My kids were rewarded at the end of the loop by a playground and fossil dig. I was more interested in the fossil dig than my kids, and found a couple pieces of fossilized coral.

     Someone was really thinking when they designed the bathrooms along the trail because even the bathrooms had exhibits. While you were waiting for other people to finish in the potty you could see a working beehive and an aquarium of poison dart frogs. The bathrooms were also very clean, although they didn't pass inspection from my daughter who noticed a tiny spider in one of the stalls, but she has exceptionally high standards. The sinks are at normal height so you will have to give small children a boost to wash their hands.

     It was a one and a half hour drive to get to Sylvan coming from the east side of Raleigh. And with T-Mobile as my carrier, I had no cell service at the park. There is also no food service at Sylvan so for lunch you're left with the few offerings in Scotland Neck. 

     Still, for an injury count of one skinned knee and $20 in souvenirs this was a great adventure.


NC Museum of Natural Sciences - Nature Research Center - Raleigh


    I took my toddler and infant sons to see the newly opened Nature Research Center at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. The Center has four floors but only the first three currently have exhibits. Each floor has a science theme such as Animal Science, Earth Science, and Genetics. And each floor has a laboratory where professional scientists are researching their particular field. The laboratories are all viewable through the glass windows that surround them. A touch screen in front of each laboratory even allows you to look at profiles of specific scientists at work and what their main interests are.


    The centerpiece of the new wing is the globe which houses a small theater called the Daily Planet. Visitors can wander through the theater and have a seat if they're on the first floor, or they can view the screen from balconies on the second and third floors which overlook the theater.

    The Research Center is a member of the new video generation of museums with view and touch screens almost everywhere. While some of the screens allow you to watch video feeds of scientists discussing their work, other screens deliver information traditionally through readable text.

     Although there were some highlights for my toddler - like the Chevy Volt stripped down to its' electric guts, the tank showing an artificial reef with fish,  and the Dinosaur skeletons - the Research Center is best appreciated by school-age children. I am betting that the Center will be a focal point for school field trips, especially since there are two laboratories where junior scientists can interact with scientific equipment.

     The Center has its' own cafe and souvenir shop. My toddler probably enjoyed the gift shop best of all because he could play with all of the dinosaur figures they had for sale.

Looking ahead..... The exhibit of Titanic artifacts is coming to the NRC at the end of September. This will be the well-reviewed exhibit's premiere in the Triangle, as it only came as close as Greensboro before this.


North Carolina Zoo - Asheboro

North America Entrance

Special Exhibit: DINOSAURS  (until Oct.)

Zoo website

    All of my kids are home for Spring Break, plus, my five year-old niece has been over a couple of days this week while her parents are getting ready to move. So my wife has the ambitious idea to take all four of the children to the Zoo. We were at the Zoo for maybe a half an hour before my wife turns to me and says: "I don't know what I was thinking and I am definitely not ready to take them to Disney!"

    It's not that the Zoo isn't kid friendly because it is, with all of the animals to see and the animal sculptures that the kids can climb on. But if you've ever tried to herd four children - all five and under - through a series of exhibits, you know how hard it can be on the parents. There are the runners, who run way ahead of us - too far, in fact. Then there is my two year-old, the lingerer, who likes to hang back and absorb every last ounce of an exhibit before he can move on to the next thing. And of course, there is my seven month-old who doesn't understand why he has been strapped to the stroller and decides to voice his unhappiness through tears.

     The NC Zoo is an awesome place to take the kids. It is designed like a theme park with its' two continents. But it is HUGE! And you will do a lot of walking which can generate a lot of complaining from young children. My daughter tends to get clumsy the more tired she gets so the injury count on this trip was: 1 skinned knee, 1 skinned elbow, and a hurt finger (Don't ask!). My advice is to make use of the trams that run between the two continents to cut down on some of the time little ones need to be on their feet. My other advice is don't try to see everything in one day. The Zoo has a lot of exhibits from bees to zebras and almost everything in between and everything is spread out. So if you can, stay overnight and conquer it in two days or plan on multiple trips.

      Financially speaking, the Zoo is not the most expensive place you can go in NC. With two adults, three children, and one child less than a year, we spent $54 on admission, including admission to the special Dinosaur exhibit. We didn't buy carousel tickets or pay for the Dinosaur 4-D Movie. And lunch at the Park wasn't as expensive as it could have been. We spent about $6 a person on lunch without buying drinks (which were $3 a piece) because we brought our own water bottles.

Special Exhibit: DINOSAURS

    Animatronics have come a long way since I was a kid. The motion of these beasts is pretty smooth,  unlike the jerky robotic movements I saw when I was growing up. This exhibit had my two year-old boy so freaked out he was in his mother's arms screaming "Hide! Hide!" the whole way through it. The two five year-old girls were a little weirded out too, although they deny it now and say they were screaming out of excitement. If you've seen this animatronic dinosaur display when it was at one of the other NC museums, then you can probably skip it at the Zoo. 
                                    ***********SPOILER ALERT************

   The last two dinosaurs - one on the right and one on the left of the trail - spit water from their mouths every minute or so. I avoided the first spray only to take the second directly in the face.

                               *************END OF SPOILER*************

    The kids all had a great time and were oblivious to all the work we, as parents, put in to making it a good day, which is how I suppose it should be. When asked, both girls said their favorite part was stopping for ice cream on the way home.


Master List of Kid-Friendly Triangle Attractions

I've been posting to this blog for a year now and I figured it was time to create some kind of Master List of the most kid-friendly places I've been to in the Triangle. As you will notice, there are a lot more outdoor attractions than indoor. Because of this, one of the hardest things to do is to find things to do during January and February - the two months when it gets really cold.

By clicking on any item in the lists you can go to the post reviewing that attraction. As I continue to find child-friendly sites I'll add them to this list.

Outdoor and Parks

Anderson Point Park - nice playground and relaxing porch swings

White Deer Park - natural playground has an Adirondacks vibe

Pullen Park - playground, rides, and a train

Noah's Ark Ministries - good for a petting zoo fix

Lake Crabtree Park - nice spot for fishing

Yates Mill Park - historic mill

JC Raulston Arboretum - great southwest garden

Raven Rock State Park - beautiful views and an impressive rock ledge

Falls Lake Recreation Area - nice swimming area 

Carolina Tiger Rescue - lions, tigers, and other carnivores

RDU Observation Park - best place to view takeoffs and landings

NC Railway Museum - train rides 

Oak View Park - friendly goats and children's exhibits

Little River Park - relaxing waterfall

Sarah P. Duke Gardens - lots of walkways through garden vistas

Indoor Attractions

Pullen Aquatic Center - inexpensive indoor pool

NC Museum of History - Story of NC exhibit Part I is kid-friendly

Country Doctor Museum - antique automobiles

Atkinson's Grist Mill - see a modern milling operation

NC Life and Science Museum - theme park + petting zoo + science museum

Marbles Children's Museum - plenty of interactivity

Harris Energy and Environmental Center - kids can try on a bullet-proof vest

NC Museum of Art - stunning artwork even kids will notice

Morehead Planetarium - kid-friendly planetarium shows

Ackland Art Museum - staff caters to families with young children

Rainbow Play Systems - Pay-for-play indoor showroom of playground structures

Outside the Triangle (over an hour and a half from the Triangle)

Town Creek Indian Mound - kids will love the mortuary hut

NC Transportation Museum - trains, cars, and a working roundtable

North Carolina Zoo - 2 continents, lots of animals

Sylvan Heights Bird Park - birds from the domestic to the exotic and you can get really close

Seasonal Entertainment

Carolina Rollergirls - (Fall/Winter) lo-tech sports experience allows spectators to get close to the action


Sarah P. Duke Gardens - Durham

 Garden Website

      Duke gardens has been raved about in Carolina Parent magazine so I've been waiting for a really nice day to see what all the hype is about. I was pretty sure that my toddler would be really bored with this attraction. It turns out he really enjoyed himself. There were ducks to see and plenty of fountains, or as he calls them, waterfalls. And thanks to our mild winter, even a few daffodils were in bloom.

 I wasn't the only one who brought my kids to the Gardens either, I saw many moms pushing young children in strollers down the gravel pathways. Not all of the pathways are stroller-friendly - parts of the path we used through the Asian Garden forced me to carry the stroller.

    At the Doris Duke Center you can find bathrooms, a gift shop, a horticultural library, and a large reception hall that can be rented for meetings or special occasions. A staff member at the Center was helpful in showing me interesting places in the Gardens to take my kids.

     There is no admission fee to visit the Gardens but you will have to pay for parking. There is an automated kiosk in the parking lot where you can pay for your spot. The ATM - like machine allows you to pay with debit or credit cards.

     There were lots of colorful ducks and geese by the lake in the Asian Garden. You can buy duck food in the gift shop to feed the ducks and watch them fight over it.
     My toddler really enjoyed standing on this bridge and saying "river, river!" Apparently that's the new word he's learned to describe a body of water.

      Tucked into a secret corner of the Asian Garden is this small tea house used for tea ceremonies. If it's open you can go inside, as long as you remove your shoes. On the day we were there, the door to the house was open but a sign was posted saying it was closed, but we did get to peer inside.

       Our visit to the Gardens was cut short on account of rain. You'd think after my last experience crouching under a slide during a sudden rainstorm, that I would think to bring an umbrella. But alas, Captain Dad is not that well-prepared.


Anderson Point Park - Raleigh

Park Website

      Anderson Point is a great park if you live on the eastern side of Raleigh. The Park has picnic shelters, a playground, a nature trail through the meadow, a cottage that can be rented for meetings, and clean, heated bathrooms. There is also a ball field where I taught my daughter how to fly her first kite. But my favorite thing at Anderson Point is......

the porch swings on the top of the hill. I only wish they were closer to the playground so I could swing while I supervise my kids.

    The playground is nicely equipped and is surrounded by magnolia trees. There are several slides, and  water fountains and bathrooms are close by. On the day we were there, the bridge on the play structure was missing and blocked off by yellow caution tape. I've been to Anderson many times before and never seen the playground in disrepair so I'm sure this is only a temporary situation.

    While we were at the playground, one of those quick and heavy rainstorms caught us and the only place we could take shelter was under one of the slides. So here is a grown man, huddled under a very thin slide  and wearing his infant son in a carrier while clutching his toddler next to him to try and stay dry. Eventually the rain started coming in sideways and I decided to grab my toddler and make a run for the picnic shelter across the field. The field was wet and sloshy but we made it to the picnic shelter to wait out the storm - which is when we discovered the heated restrooms.

The parking lot is a decent walk from the playground so I took the stroller so I wouldn't have to carry the toddler the whole way. Signage on how to get to the Park is not great so I offer the following directions:

  • turn on Rogers Lane towards the Food Lion shopping center
  • take a right at the stop sign to stay on Rogers
  • left on Neuse View
  • take a right on Anderson Pointe to cross the overpass over 264 and enter the Park
There is a canoe launch into the Neuse River and a greenway before you cross the overpass, but the Park is on the other side of 264.


African American Cultural Complex - Raleigh

Complex Website

       MLK Day found my preschooler, my infant and I at the African American Cultural Complex - an independent museum established by Dr. E. B. Palmer at his residence in Raleigh to address the lack of African American history presented in most museums. Because the Complex is also a private residence, visitors must call and make an appointment to come.

      We arrived at our scheduled tour time, I in my regular street attire, and my preschooler in this past year's Halloween costume that she insisted on wearing (she was Jessie the Cowgirl from Toy Story). We were led into the house by Dr. Palmer's school-age grandchildren who apparently know the tour so well that they started the introductory video for us while we waited for their grandfather.

     Once Dr. Palmer arrived he led us outside onto a paved walking path through the backyard that led first to a small structure about the size of a hotel room. Inside - where it was just as cold as it was outside - were walls lined with photographs, drawings, and placards. The far wall displayed many common items that were invented by African Americans. Dr. Palmer took time to highlight a few such inventions like the  bag phone (for those not old enough to remember, this was the precursor to today's cell phone).

     After leaving this building, we meandered down the path to the next 'house.' We could see the amphitheater to our left where summer performances of The Amistad are staged. In this next building there were photos of African Americans in law enforcement and rescue professions. A firefighter's uniform and gear hung in one display case.

      The final structure on the property highlighted African American cowboys, the Philadelphia born architect behind Duke University's characteristic architecture, and the historically black colleges and universities.

      The Complex may be short on actual artifacts, but the real treasure is Dr. Palmer's knowledge of African American history. Your reward for visiting is simply to listen to Dr. Palmer as he presents information on the various topics covered at the Complex. Feel free to ask questions because he will most likely know the answer and be able to share even more relevant information.

     This is not the most child-friendly Museum. In fact, I'm very glad that I left my toddler at home because he would not have been able to just sit and listen. Dr. Palmer has dreams for the future of this Complex, but at the present time there are no hands-on exhibits or activities for children. So unless you have school-age kids, I'd recommend skipping this attraction.

      All that being said, while listening to Dr. Palmer I noticed a definite lengthening of my preschooler's attention span. I can see the effect that school is having on her in that she's able to sit relatively still and quiet for longer periods while an adult is talking. It's amazing to see this kind of development in your own children.

A display of various home and farming implements

RightTime Kids - Raleigh

RightTime Kids, Oberlin Rd. Location Website

     I don't usually review businesses on this blog but I figured, after using a drop-in daycare establishment for the first time, I couldn't be the only parent out there that could benefit from an independent review of one of these places.

     We chose RightTime Kids because it was a national chain, it had a comprehensive website, and it was licensed. The location - Oberlin Rd. - we chose because it was close to where my wife and I wanted to spend our short respite from the kids. I can only comment on what I saw at this location at the specific time I was there. I don't intend to endorse RightTime or discredit them. I'm only providing more information for parents like myself who might be deciding where to drop off their kids.

    When we arrived, the place seemed calm and there were no signs that the kids had staged a coup and taken control of the establishment. A receptionist greeted us and directed us to a computer kiosk at the front of the lobby where we could register our kids. My wife handled the registering, so I can't comment on how easy or difficult it was.

    There was a place in the lobby for my kids to hang their coats and store their shoes - apparently the management requires kids to take their shoes off before going in the playroom. This location provides clean socks for your kids to put on if they didn't come with socks. We were told that our kids could go on in and play while we registered them. In order to enter the playroom, the receptionist had to enter a code on a numbered keypad by the door. Once inside my kids had access to a slide, an indoor play gym (kind of like what you see inside Chick-Fil-A restaurants), toys, playhouses, and dress-up clothes.

     When we were there - on a Saturday afternoon - there were 14 kids enrolled at this location, with a staff of three adults. The two staff members that I could see through the lobby windows were full-fledged adults and not teenagers (not that there's anything wrong with teenagers).

     As for safety, this location satisfied my concerns:

  • staff has passed a criminal background check
  • no adults are allowed in the playroom without the staff's authorization
  • you must show your photo ID to sign your kids out of RightTime. 
  • ill children are not permitted to stay at RightTime. 
  • the toys get cleaned every day.

   I wouldn't have left my kids there if I doubted their safety. And I would probably use RightTime again if I needed a drop-in daycare.

     The best part was that this first visit was free. New clients are given a coupon for up to four hours free on their first visit (for us it would have been 2 hours free for 2 children). And when we came to pick up our kids they didn't want to leave, which is always a good sign.


White Deer Park - Garner

     White Deer Park is one of our go-to places when we're in the Garner area. There are two playgrounds, a huge slide, clean and accessible restrooms, and a nature trail. 

    The playground pictured at left is our favorite because, instead of metal or plastic, it's constructed of rough timber to blend in with the natural surroundings. The wood is all sanded smooth so your kids won't get a splinter, but the playground has a nice log cabin in the Adirondacks feel.

    Along with swings, seesaws, and bridges the 'au naturel' playground also has a very large slide that travels down an embankment. The slide is probably over 20 ft. long and looks like a water-slide without the water. 

    All of the park buildings have accompanying metal cisterns to hold collected rainwater. The picnic shelter near the playground has a hand pump that enables visitors to pump water out of the cistern and into a small, man-made creek bed.

      There is not much to see at the Nature Center besides a taxidermy albino deer - the Park was named for a white deer that was sighted in the area. The Nature Center also houses a large classroom space for park programs. If you need to use the restrooms while playing at the Natural Playground, the closest ones are at the Nature Center.


    The nature trail is paved and is dedicated to the memory of those who died in the nearby ConAgra Plant explosion in 2009. 

   The trail takes you through the woods to the other, more traditional playground, constructed of plastic and metal. This playground is geared towards school-age children and has a lot of new equipment for spinning, hanging and climbing. There are bathrooms located near this playground as well.

   If you're in the Garner area, or just want to see a unique playground, you should check out White Deer. We've been several times and my kids haven't gotten tired of the place. It's also nice because White Deer's natural surroundings allow you to imagine yourself in the woods relaxing while watching your kids play.