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.


Neuse River Trail milepost 19 - 17.75 (Poole Rd. to Anderson Point Park)

      Took my toddler on this section in the one-child stroller. Some significant hills on this section - the first one is about half a mile from milepost 19. Also some twisty turns. View of the river is mostly obscured by trees and underbrush but would probably be better in winter.

      Saw a cow in someone's backyard. Briefly paralleled a neighborhood street. You encounter the bridge shortly before entering Anderson Point Park. Trail spits you out at the corner of Anderson by the Retreat Cottage and a small softball field.


Knightdale Station - Knightdale


      I have been anxiously waiting for this new park to open. And with it being almost in my backyard, you better believe I was there on opening day.

     Knightdale has needed this for a long time - a dog park, walking trails, playing fields, picnic shelters, and a large playground for toddlers and school-age children. Even in its first stage, the park will be a huge asset to Knightdale and its' eastern cousins Wendell and Zebulon.

    The playground makes an effort to be ADA compliant with additional accessible swings promised for the future. The initial plans for the park made promises that reclaimed materials (lumber, etc.) would be used whenever possible. It would be interesting to know if that promise was kept.

    Perhaps most important would be a promise from park visitors not to treat this new space like the litter repository that nearby Harper Park has become.

A chicken coop with wiffle ball eggs

The playground's signature silo

Bathrooms are located close to the playground.

Nice touches like a weather vane and working crossing gate highlight Knightdale's past.

Knightdale's first dog park is well landscaped and includes separate areas for small dogs.

Signage and pet waste stations assist visitors using the park's trails.


Go Bananaz - Raleigh

     Of the many indoor inflatable gyms in Raleigh this one is on the lower end. This was another Groupon experiment and I definitely would not return without the discount. I wonder if establishments offer Groupons when they're in danger of closing.

       Most of the attractions are for kids older than mine. There were only four inflatables that worked for my kids. One had food wrappers in it and needed cleaning (this place lacks the labels confirming sanitation found at Monkey Joe's). Another bounce castle had a frayed entrance flap that my two year-old got his neck caught in as he exited. Decaying foam rubber blocks litter the inside of yet another bounce house.

        Despite the lack of sanitation in the gym area, the bathrooms were clean and the men's room offered a changing table.

      The Groupon I bought included popcorn and arcade tokens for each of my kids. The popcorn was really stale.

    What bothered me the most about Go Bananaz was the lack of supervision by the staff. At least when my kids go to Monkey Joe's there are attendants at each inflatable and roaming attendants keeping tabs on safety. And unlike Monkey Joe's, Bananaz doesn't check you and your kids out upon exiting to make sure your kids go home with the adults that brought them.

     If your kids are really set on forcing you to spend a couple of hours in a loud and chaotic inflatables gym spend the extra money and go to Monkey Joe's. MJ also offers occasional Groupons.


Pelican's SnoBalls - Cary

      I bought a Groupon for this place over the summer and decided to use it on the Sunday before the kids went back to school. Although they don't post their prices on the website, judging by the price of the Groupon it's $5 a person per round of 18 holes (they even charged for my two year-old). The mini golf price does not include snow cones.

     The mini-golf course is obviously just a ruse to subject your kids to the heat, increasing their need for flavored ice. As you play through the New Orleans themed holes you get the sense that this course might have been something in its day but now resembles an abandoned theme park. There are no waterfalls or giant concrete animals but you can occasionally glimpse a live frog hopping out of the murky puddle water.

     A small playground structure sits next to the picnic area. The bees are well acquainted with the syrup laden picnic tables so beware.

     Pelican's is hard to find - you can't see it from the road - so turn into the shopping center and then go to the opposite end of the parking lot from the Food Lion.

     If you happen to be in the area and you want close to 100 choices of flavored ice stop by, but if you're going for the mini-golf Frankie's or Adventure Landing are your best bets this side of the Outer Banks.


Neuse River Trail milepost 17 - 15.5 - Raleigh


       Trailhead and parking for this section is at Anderson Point Park near the boat launch, before you drive over the overpass. I chose this entrance to the Trail because it was the closest trailhead to the new Mingo Creek Greenway. I had seen an article on the Town of Knightdale website about a portion of Mingo Creek opening and I wanted to try it out.

          We reached the Mingo Creek Greenway trailhead rather quickly off of the NRT.

And crossed a very impressive bridge over the Neuse.

      There are no mileposts yet on the Mingo Creek Trail, but I would guess about a quarter of a mile from the bridge the asphalt ends and the gravel and mud begins. I just wasn't in the mood to push two kids in the small-wheeled, double stroller through gravel so we headed back to the NRT and kept going.

Where the pavement ends on the Mingo Creek Trail

       Most of this section of the NRT is swampy but shaded. The smell of honeysuckle was thick in the air.

       We ended our hike where New Bern Avenue crosses the Neuse River. A number of monarch butterflies were clustering under the bridge.

       On the way back we interrupted a small turtle trying to cross the Trail.



Neuse River Trail milepost 22 - 24.5 - Auburn Knightdale Rd., Garner


           A beautiful, cool spring Sunday inspired me to head out on the Neuse River Trail once again with all three children and Mama Cruise Director too. A minivan packed with my oldest's scooter, a Big Wheel and enough rations for a picnic had us on our way.

           This trailhead offers a great parking lot off of Auburn Knightdale Rd. The Trail speed limit of 10 mph is helpful on this portion with its' steeper grades (one of the steepest is near the site of the above picture). Private land and a wastewater facility cause the Trail to take its' greatest deviation from it's usual riverside meandering. Farmland is the dominant scenery here. Trailside litter is nonexistent. And although hunting is prohibited near the Trail, if you think you hear gunshots near marker 23 you're right - there's a law enforcement firing range nearby.

          Stopping trailside we had a picnic. And even though he hadn't pedaled or scooted a mile like his brother and sister, my toddler packed in the food until he belched so loud it was hard to believe a sound that deep could come from such a small body.

          The highlight of the trek is the tunnel under Battle Bridge Rd at mile 23.25.

        At mile 24 the Trail crosses Brownfield Rd and then parallels it for another 3/4 mile. The entrance to a landfill is also at this crossing and even though you can't see the landfill itself, you can smell it when you're downwind.

         The nice weather meant plenty of bikers were on the trail (I always prefer it when they call out which side their passing on.) We even stopped to talk to one cyclist after my preschooler kept swerving his Big Wheel in front of the man trying to prevent him from passing. My preschooler's stamina is obviously improving as he pedaled well over a mile and a half this time.

UPDATE: Dec 2013
Part of this section at the Auburn Knightdale Rd. parking lot is closed while it looks like a new bridge over the Neuse is being installed. Check out these photos of the work.


Neuse River Trail milepost 15 to 13 - Raleigh


       I've been trying to get out to this new greenway for awhile. I would like to do the whole Trail in sections.

      We started our trek at milepost 15 from Loch Raven Parkway off of Old Milburnie Road. There is a parking lot there at the end of a gravel road. You'll find picnic tables and a canoe launch at this same spot.

       As you cross the first bridge you're treated to a view of water rushing over a dam, as pictured above. The trail is wide and paved. No steep grades on this section, just gentle slopes. We saw several cyclists along our 2 mile stretch. My 3 year-old rode his Big Wheel for 3/4 of a mile. This portion of the Trail is not shaded so it was a good thing we did it on an overcast day.

        For a half mile of this section the Trail backs up to a neighborhood of double occupancy homes, so that part is not as scenic. But in the more natural portions we saw ducks, geese, turtles, and all kinds of birds. At one point the Trail passed a home with two ponies in the backyard.

        At milepost 13.5 you encounter an impressive suspension bridge across the River.

        And there are a couple of nicely landscaped crossroad points that allow access to the Trail from other neighborhoods.

       This is a nice greenway and everything is so new and pretty. You can even smell the new wood used on many of the bridges. There is not much litter along the way and I hope people will care enough to keep it that way. I wanted to keep going because I never knew what I'd see around the next turn, but with young children you only have so long before their attention wanes and the whining begins.



Buffaloe Road Aquatic Center


     I've only been to one other indoor swimming facility in Raleigh (Pullen Aquatic) but Buffaloe Rd. is by far the nicer and probably the newest.

     I took my 1 year-old son after I dropped his brother off at preschool. At 10am when the place opened we walked right in and paid our admission ($3 child, $7 adult for Raleigh residents) and headed for the dressing area. There are two really nice family changing rooms with fold-down tables, a toilet, sink, and shower. Then we headed for the pool.

     There's a lap pool but we were bound for the kiddie pool. The ramp into the kiddie pool allows the littlest ones to frolic in only 6 inches of water and it reaches a maximum depth of 1 foot 6 inches. There are plenty of sprinklers, sprayers, and showers in the kiddie area. A small water slide provides even more fun. The staff also puts out a generous supply of float toys, cups, balls, etc. for the little ones. We spent most of our time in this area.

    Buffaloe also has:

  •  water basketball goal
  •  3 story water slide
  •  lazy river
  • birthday party area with tables
    Life vests are available even for tots as young as mine. We made use of one and I took him through the lazy river a couple of times. The water in the kiddie pool is cooler than the other pool so it was nice to take a warm diversion through the adult area.

    We had a great time but the large digital clock on the wall told us it was time to go pick up my preschooler. I can't wait to go back.

view of the lazy river from the water slide (photo courtesy of  City of Raleigh)