As we approach August here in the Triangle area, the end of summer is looming large. But there is still a good month of fun to be squeezed in! If you're a first-time mom to a new baby, you have my blessing to continue your lazy summer. Stay inside and snuggle with baby in the air-conditioning. If you're feeling adventurous, take a walk around your neighborhood, meet a friend for coffee, or do some window shopping. But if you're a mom to older kids - from toddler to elementary-school age and up - you're probably dealing with some summertime boredom. If you're feeling like you've exhausted your summer fun list, here are some ideas to help you spice up the end of summer.
- Playgrounds - The Triangle area has so many fabulous playgrounds. I know, it's 100 degrees outside some days, but get out the door early and enjoy some quality playground time before it really heats up. Some of my favorites, by city, include:
- Cary - Kids Together Playground (aka Marla Dorrel Park) - With three different play zones, a dedicated area for preschoolers, and a giant dragon to climb on, this is a kid favorite! North Cary Park - This playground has a nice sand box, several big slides, and a trail that leads to big climbing boulders. Great for all ages!
- Raleigh - Durant Nature Preserve - This is a former Boy Scout Camp turned wonderful nature park. It boasts plenty of natural trails, a Sensory and Nature Play Garden, playgrounds, and two lakes. Kentwood Park - In addition to nice, big play areas for preschoolers and elementary age children, this park also has an 18-hole disc-golf course that is fun for older kids. North Wake Landfill District Park - Looking for something different? Look no further. How about an old landfill that has been transformed into a children's playground. Climb the Top of the Hill Trail for great views of Raleigh.
- Apex - Kelly Road Park - There's no better place to play king of the castle than at the KidsTowne Playground, located at Kelly Road Park. This two-story wooden feature boasts turrets and tunnels and looks like a real castle.
- Durham - Solite Park - The Trail and Pump Track is a great place to let the kiddos go on their bikes. This park also has a recently renovated play structure. Garrett Road - A nice playground on a hot day, with lots of naturally shady spots. Look for the old, metal spaceship. Northgate Park - Another great playground with relatively new climbing and play equipment. If you're looking for adventure, walk the Ellerbe Creek Trail and look for the hidden dinosaur.
- Sarah P. Duke Gardens - Plan a fun afternoon outing to this 55-acre botanic garden. See the historic gardens or the Eastern Asian plants in the W.L. Culbertson Asiatic Arboretum. Find a shady spot by the pond and have a picnic lunch. The kids will enjoy feeding the ducks. If you're looking for something in the evening, Duke hosts a Music in the Garden series during the summer.
- Pullen Park - The fun playground equipment alone is worth the trip to Pullen Park. But did you know it is also the 5th oldest operating amusement park in the US? Indulge in boat and train rides and take a whirl on the historic carousel. Treat yourself to some Locopops from the snack stand on your way out.
- Lake Michie Recreation Area - Located in Bahama, just north of Durham, this large recreation area has fishing, boating, and plenty of nature trails for exploring. There is also a low-ropes course to appease your inner trapeze artist. Park access is free, but there is a fee for fishing and boating.
- RDU Observation Deck - Although hanging out at the airport is not high on most people's fun list, the RDU airport has a great observation deck where kids can watch the planes take-off and land. There is even a kid-sized runway, sandbox, and small playground equipment, too. Lake Crabtree is right down the road, so pack a lunch and head over there after watching the planes. You can snag a picnic table by the playground to make this a nice half-day outing.
- Fuquay Varina Splash Pad - This 6,000 square foot splash pad just opened this summer. It is open from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, through Labor Day, and admission is free this summer. You may need to plan on getting there early, as it gets crowded.
- Local Farmers' Markets - Farmers' Markets make for a great outing with the kids. Wander the stands for some free samples and then buy some fresh, local produce for lunch or dinner. Bonus fun if you can include the kids in the kitchen. There are three large markets in the area, located in Raleigh, Durham, and Carrboro. Smaller markets can be found in Morrisville, Cary, Apex, Fuquay Varina, and the North Hills area of Raleigh.
- Pelicans Mini Golf and Snoballs - Pelicans offers no-frills mini-golf courses. But the real draw here are the New Orleans-style shaved ices, offered in just about any flavor you can imagine. They are a real treat on a hot day! Locations in Apex, Cary, Durham, and Raleigh.
- Frankie's Fun Park - If you're looking for some more serious mini-golf, Frankie's in Raleigh is the place. There is also go-cart racing, laser tag, bumper boats, video arcades and more. A great place to take the big kids on a Saturday night.
- Barnes & Noble - If you have some book worms in the family, take a trip to Barnes & Noble and settle in for some quality reading time. Most locations have toddler and preschool story times. The Cary, Brier Creek, and Durham locations also have train tables for the little ones. Stop in the café for a treat and make it a date.
- Library - The library is also a wonderful place to spend some time on a hot day. Check out the Wake and Durham county pages for the branch location nearest to you. Mr. Erik at the Cameron Village branch and Ms. Mary and her ukulele at the Cary Downtown branch are renowned for their story times. Bring a bag so you can take a stack of books home with you.
- Local Parks and Recreation Offerings - Did you know that most cities have a wealth of fun classes and activities for residents? And they are offered at a great price! Sign up for art classes, gymnastics, dance, music, or more. This is a great way to beat summer boredom. Check out the listings for Cary, Raleigh, Durham, Apex, Morrisville, and Holly Springs.
- Marbles Kids Museum - This kid-friendly museum in downtown Raleigh is a fantastic way to spend the day. Children are encouraged to use their imaginations as they engage with pirate ships, submarines, helicopters, and more. There are spaces for dress-up, water play, and building. If you are taking little ones, Monday mornings are a great time to go as doors are only open from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and no school groups are allowed during those times. After your visit, grab a bite to eat and explore downtown Raleigh.
- Museum of Life and Science - One of the best kids museums in the state is located in Durham. There are tons of exhibits to keep the kids happy indoors, including a hands-on space command module, a Carolina wildlife exhibit with a new skunk, and an indoor play area for kids six and under. If you're willing to brave the heat, head outside and see the animals in the Farmyard, visit the butterfly house, explore the dinosaur trail, and take a ride on the train. Reward yourself with a run through the misting ground afterwards. The museum's newest exhibit, Hideaway Woods, which will have tree houses, suspension bridges, and tunnels to explore, is set to open by the fall.
- North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences - If you're looking for a fun museum experience but are on a budget, the Natural Sciences museum in Raleigh is the place for you. The museum offers sea-life and dinosaur exhibits, a butterfly room with a sloth, an array of live snakes on display, and more for free. Don't leave without stopping in the Discovery Room so your kids can do some hands-on learning and playing.
- PlayNation - This playground equipment showroom in Morrisville offers one of the largest indoor playgrounds in the area. During open play hours, children can climb the structures, bounce in the bounce houses, climb the rock wall, and more. There is also a toddler-friendly play area. Pack a snack or lunch to eat at the indoor picnic tables.
- Defy Gravity - If summer is starting to make your kids bounce off the walls, then let them bounce that energy out at Defy Gravity. With locations in Durham and Raleigh, this indoor trampoline warehouse offers trampolines, foam pits, ninja training courses, and more. If your children are younger, show up between 9:00 am and 10:00 am on Monday-Friday to enjoy the Kid Jump hour. It is only open to kids 6 and younger.
- Greystone Recreation Center - The town of Raleigh now offers an indoor playground space. Located in the Greystone Village Shopping Center, this 9600-square foot indoor space boasts playground equipment, a rock wall, and more. The recreation center also offers classes and a dance/fitness studio, so check the online schedule to see what's is happening.
- New Hope Valley Railway - Located in New Hill, the NHV Railway offers passengers the chance to ride on historic rail cars through a scenic, wooded trail. It is also home to a museum full of train memorabilia and artifacts, sure to thrill your little engineer. If you go this weekend, July 25 is the Diesel, Steam, and Ice Cream event!
- Aloha Safari - This family-run zoo in Cameron is home to animals that have been re-homed after being injured, abandoned, or abused. It includes ponies and goats and more exotic animals such as zebras and giraffes. Pay the extra $3 so you can go on the safari ride.
- Three Bears Acres - Head on over to Creedmoor and spend the day exploring Three Bears Acres. Kids love this outdoor recreational farm with its tree houses, toboggan sleds, mud kitchen, jumping pillow, and more. The spray ground is open during the summer.
- NC Zoo - The Asheboro Zoo is one of the best on the east coast. This 5-mile expanse is separated into the animals of Africa and North America. Kids can see elephants, lions, and rhinos, as well as polar bears, penguins, and seals. And much, much more. Don't miss the Giraffe Deck where you can feed the animals from your hand.
- North Carolina Transportation Museum - If you have a train enthusiast, the Transportation Museum in Spencer is not to be missed. Once Southern Railroad's largest steam locomotive repair facility on the east coast, it is now home to a large museum with train rides for the family. Check out the roundhouse - one of the largest ever built - and which now houses 40 restored locomotives and rail cars.
- Greensboro Science Center - The Greensboro Science Center features a museum, zoo, and aquarium, and is well worth the trip. Inside, the museum has life-size dinosaurs and a great collection of reptiles and amphibians. Kids can see giant tortoises, tigers, and more at the zoo. It also features a great petting area. Don't miss the aquarium's touch tank or shark exhibit. After your visit, stay in Greensboro for a delicious, clay oven pizza at Sticks and Stones or head to Hops Burger Bar for one of the best burgers in America.
So, is that enough to keep your family entertained for the rest of the summer? Just typing up this list reminds me that I need to get busy before it's all over. Did I leave anything out? Tell me in the comments section what are your favorite things to do to beat the summertime boredom.