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 11.25 (Buffaloe Rd. Aquatic Center) - 9.5


            Another section of the NRT completed!

        This section wasn't exceptionally scenic but it wasn't behind a residential neighborhood either so there was a semblance of being surrounded by nature. That is until you cross under the Buffaloe Rd. and I-540 overpasses.

Looking North towards I-540

        Our trek originated at the Buffaloe Rd. Aquatic Center. (Enter at Buffaloe Road Athletic Park, follow the signs to the Aquatic Center and the trailhead is at the left rear of the parking lot.) The trail from the parking lot is not actually the NRT but a quarter mile paved access to the NRT with adequate signage. There are two steep slopes on this trail right out of the gate which rendered my four year-old on his trike and two year-old on his ride-on out of control. Once you reach the compass rose of the NRT junction go North.

          If you want to begin directly on the NRT there is a very small parking lot and Trail access off of Buffaloe Rd. - just make a left off of Buffaloe immediately after the Neuse River bridge and then make another left behind the water pumping station.

        We brought a small picnic and ate at the 9.5 mile marker. It was MLK Jr. Day and the weather was nice so this section was well traveled. Despite the rotating complaints from the two older children they communicated their enjoyment when we were done. And even though we had to coax, cajole and carry them on the return trip they still had enough energy to play on the Athletic Park's playground. Except my two year-old whose exhaustion is manifested in clumsiness causing him to tumble down the steps of the slide.

My kids named this Dog Poop Bridge for the huge pile of excrement someone left in the center of the bridge.


ROAD TRIP: The Biltmore - Asheville

The Mother of all NC Attractions


            I won a four pack of tickets from a Carolina Parent online contest so we decided to take the kids for their first overnight family vacation.

I discovered that a vacation with young kids =
  • no vacation sex
  • no enjoyment of the hotel cable of which we do not have at home
  • and early bedtimes for parents as well as kids that are essentially futile since the kids giggle and chatter like they're at a slumber party for the next hour
       When we awoke the second morning, my two-year-old was asleep on the floor. Either he got out of bed and put himself to sleep on the floor or he rolled out of bed in his sleep without waking up.

         The following are my recommendations for taking young children to the Biltmore:

Do arrive as early as possible to the Biltmore. Crowds and wait times increase as the day wears on.

Do check your tickets and the ages of your children. Children of certain ages do not require a paid ticket to enter the House.

Do leave the stroller in the special stroller parking area inside the House on the first floor. It's too hard maneuvering even a folded standard stroller with the crowds, especially when you start using the narrow servants' stairways.

Do visit during Christmas at Biltmore. It's worth it with all the lights and decorations even for a daytime visit (candlelight evening visits are around $70). Christmas decorations usually go up shortly before T-giving and stay up through the first week of January.

Do visit first without the kids. My wife and I went twice before bringing the gang. You need to appreciate it on your own before having to keep the little ones from touching things and charging the velvet ropes. Plus, only you know what will intrigue your kids about the House and where the trouble spots may be.

Don't bother with the audio tour for you or your kids. This is why it pays to visit alone first. You and your spouse can enjoy a leisurely visit with the audio tour which will provide you with the background and stories you will need when introducing your kids to the House. The audio tour requires a lot of time and young children wouldn't sit through it. And the audio player would probably only become a weapon in the hands of my four year-old.

Do find all of the hidden passages. On your first visit to the House sans les enfants, make note of  where all of the oddities and hidden doors are - they make for good distractions when the kids get antsy.

Do printout the Treasure Hunt from the Biltmore website. Even if your child doesn't obsess over solving every single riddle like our 7 year-old did, there's still a dollar coupon on the back good towards merchandise and food.

          Plan to eat lunch on the Estate. There are several options including places that specialize in lunch only. We spent about $50 feeding our family of 5 at the Courtyard Cafe outside the Stable Shops.

       After lunch and visiting the Shops, we went down to the gardens and Conservatory. There are no ramps to take you from the House to the gardens so plan to carry the stroller down the steps. And as much as you may not think your kids will give a rip about a humid building with lots of plants, the Conservatory contains some very exotic plants, including some imaginatively shaped cacti that captivated my previously plant-indifferent four year-old.

         Beyond the Conservatory is a long and meandering walk through the Azalea and Asian Gardens down to the Bass Pond where there is a small boat house. Ms. Cruise Director and I took this walk on our first visit but didn't think we could stand the kiddie complaints this time.

        Do make time to visit Antler Hill Village. On your way there you'll cross the brick bridge featured in the movie Last of the Mohicans. Get to the Estate Farm at Antler Hill before 5pm so your kids have the chance to pet very friendly farm animals. (There's a well-appointed wash station at the barn for cleaning hands after petting.) If your kids are into it, there are plenty of antique farm implements around the stable and try to catch the blacksmith's demonstration if you have time.

        Antler Hill also has a new playground featuring water-play, a slide, and sandbox.

         Ah, and then there's the winery…….
     If you're like us, the tasting has become one of your favorite parts of a visit. I had expected to reluctantly skip it this time due to our wee encumbrances, but Ms. Director had no such intentions and better yet she had a plan. Feeding them candy from her copious stash, she bought herself just enough time for an abbreviated tasting.

      When the candy runs out, you or your spouse can always take the dear ones to see George Vanderbilt's automobile  - a 1913 Stevens Duryea - which is kept in its own room at the Winery.


       We finished our day with dinner at Yoshida Japanese Steakhouse in Asheville. It's a cozy Hibachi restaurant. Our chef was great with the kids - juggling eggs, making an onion volcano, flaming up the grill. My four year-old's review: "It was awesome!"

       On the way home the next day, the video players crapped out again so we decided to take the Blue Ridge Parkway for part of the trip. We had to take a detour around Mt. Mitchell since that part of the Parkway is closed during winter. The GPS had no idea where we were so we had to make like our ancestors and get out a paper map. We were able to get back on the Parkway around Little Switzerland just in time to see the Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain.

Linn Cove Viaduct

Grandfather Mountain


Carolina Hurricanes - PNC Arena, Raleigh


         Ms. Cruise Director won Canes tickets from the school she works at as a teacher (one of very few advantages to teaching in NC). The 2 tickets we won were for the $100/seat section so we had to buy 3 more tickets for the kids at the teacher discounted rate of $30 a ticket (yes, even our 2 year-old was required to have a ticket). Combined with the $15 parking fee for the PNC arena lot which we did not pay - we paid for parking in the form of screaming and crying during the long walk from a nearby office park.

         Overall, everybody had a great time. There was enough music, lights, and activity on the screens to keep all the kids engaged so the wifey and I could actually watch the game. Surprisingly the noise did not bother my 4 year-old who has some sensory perception issues. He spent the time focused on the location of the puck, asking questions about the game, and annoying the drunk guy in front of us.

         My 2 year-old sat happily in his expensive seat, waving and clapping at all the right times. Later he practiced letting the seat fold him in half, and by two hours past his bedtime he already had a finger in his mouth.

         Be advised this is a late-nighter; with a starting time of 7pm, three playing periods of about 18 minutes each, plus two 15 minute breaks for zamboni between the first and second period and again between the second and third.

        Around 9pm, with Mama Cruise Director's ammunition of candy spent, we could tell it was time to wrap it up for home.