Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Magic Kids Care

As Southpoint has Green Kids drop in child care, Crabtree Valley Mall has the brand-new Magic Kids Care. With it's grand opening celebration occurring at the end of May, I have fingers crossed that this place makes it. It is a great idea.

Magic Kids Care is located on the upper level of Crabtree Valley Mall. You check your child in to play and then head out to shop, dine or whatever else suits your fancy.

Magic Kids accepts children ages 1 (do not have to be walking) through age 10. They are open from 9:30 am - 9:00 pm Monday through Saturday (late enough to have a dinner date with your honey) and then 11:30 am - 7:00 pm on Sundays.

The first hour is $10, each hour after that is $5. The maximum stay is 4 hours. If you have 2 kids staying at Magic Kids, it is $15 the first hour, each hour after that is $5 per child per hour. If you have 3 kids staying, it is $21 the first hour, each hour after that is $5 per child per hour.

You are free to bring food and they will feed your child, but they do not provide food.

This place was not nearly as fancy as Green Kids, but it was very clean and looked fun. It was a very large space with a lot of entertainment for kids. For younger kids there is a play mat, books, and other age-appropriate toys. On the other side of the room there is a Wii and a bounce for older kids. Magic Kids is also planning on offering Spanish classes but details on that are to be revealed at a later date.

I am not sure I would leave my child here for too terribly long as it doesn't have seem to have the same personal service Green Kids has, but to walk a couple of stores away for a little while so that I could shop easier and/or eat at Cheesecake Factory for a datenight? Absolutely. Unfortunately, I didn't know about this place until after C and I have completed our errands. But holiday shopping is right around the corner (believe it or not) so this something to know about, parents!

Magic Kids Care
Crabtree Valley Mall

between Hudson's Belk's and Merle Norman on the Upper Level


(no website)

Monday, August 30, 2010

North Hills Kids: Activities on the Commons

From Sarah C. today - free outdoor activities for younger kids:

North Hills in Raleigh offers year round shopping, dining and movies. As part of its family friendly appeal, North Hills has regular weekday kids activities on the Commons during the warmer months including open play, story tellers, and shows.  D and I stopped by recently to burn a little energy during "Open Play and Creative Exercise."

I confess, I don't get to this particular area of Raleigh often so I wasn't sure what to expect.  What a delight to find a small area with astro turf ground cover.  Set up in the middle of it were a couple pop up canopies providing shade to lots of soft mats and play blocks.  The entire area was enclosed with a colorful plastic and fabric barricade.  There was an opening facing the building housing Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's.  I talked to a couple other mothers who were fighting a case of the runaway babies.  One mom admitted closing off the barricade completely when her kids were the only ones there one day.  Personally, I find that a good idea.  It's quite easily maneuvered by parents and would slow down the little escapees.

After our play time, we headed across the street for lunch at Chick-fil-a.  It's one of a number of restaurant options in the shopping center.  Of course, you could also easily grab a coffee from Starbucks which, as previously mentioned is adjacent to the play area, to sip while you watch your kids play.  I would recommend the open play for crawlers to preschool age.  Even on a hot August day, with the shade from the canopies and a bit of a breeze, this was great fun.

The summer schedule of NH Kids events ends on Tuesday, but North Hills has hinted on their website that there may be more fun in September - weather permitting.  They also host a number of various events throughout the year.  See their website (links below) for more information.

North Hills
NH Kids | NH Kids Calendar | Movies & Events
4350 Lassiter at North Hills Ave
(919) 881-1146


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nordstrom Lounge

One of the best known secrets for moms, especially nursing moms, is the women's lounge at Nordstrom at Southpoint. Out running errands, out shopping, and need to nurse or need to change your child? Head to Nordstrom's women's restrooms.

Nordstrom has two women's lounges, one on each floor. Which is even better if you are pushing a stroller and don't want to maneuver an elevator. Floor 1 has the lounge near the mall entrance by Fayetteville Road (the kids area). Floor 2 has the lounge near the customer service area.

Each lounge has a changing table. In fact, Floor 1 has a large, oversized, padded changing table. But the real beauty of these rooms are the comfortable couches, chairs, and relative quiet. Not that you should ever be ashamed to nurse in public, but I was not very graceful at it so I appreciated a quieter spot to attend to C's needs.Now we still head there if he needs a "costume change" because of how spacious and clean these lounges are.

Nordstrom also has a Family Restroom on the First Floor. This is nice, as well, but no comfy chairs here. It is simply a very large bathroom with a Koala care changing table in it.

If anyone from Nordstrom is out there, big thanks from MiCHill and other Triangle area mommies for providing such a wonderful spot for us.

Nordstrom Women's Lounges
The Streets at Southpoint
6910 Fayetteville Road

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ox & Rabbit: Soda & Sundries

How did I not know about this store before?! This is a fantastic store located on Ninth street in Durham. This place is popping with trendy designer-licious goodness as well as ice cream treats!

So what does "Soda & Sundries" mean, exactly?

The Sundries are cute gift items and otherwise fun boutique-style shopping. There is an entire area dedicated to kids. There are some great books here, very cute clothes, nursery bedding, bento boxes, nursery decor, and more. Ox & Rabbit carries Dwell studio bedding and clothes, too. Even though I left with just 1 book (I have really been digging on Amy Rosenthal lately), I could have bought up all of the goods in this store.

The Soda part means shakes & floats. There is an entire bar at the front of the store that has malts, shakes, sodas, and floats. We opted for the shakes and while the menu isn't too long, the flavors are exotic. S'Rich had Lavender Vanilla, I had a Mexican Vanilla, and Sarah C. had a Truffle Chocolate. Yum.

The kids may not have appreciated the gourmet flavors, but they were definitely in love with the red round spinning chairs under the bar. Perfectly kid-sized, these chairs were a hit and kept the kids occupied while I dreamt of redoing the nursery.

Ox and Rabbit Soda and Sundries
Facebook Page

732 Ninth Street


Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Happy Factory

Alas, The Happy Factory closed summer 2011. There is still some fun things in Hillsborough for families, though, check out our By City page.

There's a new shop in town. In my town: Hillsborough. Just opened less than 2 weeks ago now, The Happy Factory located right on Churton Street is very cute and a nice addition to downtown Hillsborough.

The shop sells gift items, specialty items, but mostly clothes.

The gift items were cute. They have an area devoted to newborns with beautiful blankets, wall art, and plush toys.

One of the things I found particularly unique about this store is that the clothing sold is from newborn to size 8. That's a huge range! Most of these boutique stores tend to stop at 3T size. This has clothes for the older kids, too.

As with any great kid's clothing store, there is a place for the kids to play while parents shop. Actually, 2 places! There is an indoor area with toys for all ages. But outside is the mecca: a fenced in area with tables, ride-on toys, and more.

This is a great little family owned local business. I look forward to seeing The Happy Factory grow their inventory even more, and am glad they are part of the community.

The Happy Factory
200 N. Churton Street

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pritchard Park - Chapel Hill

While on a visit to the Chapel Hill Public Library, I noticed the signs for Pritchard Park. So I packed C in the stroller and exploring we went.

Pritchard Park is over 30 acres of wild woods with a 1-mile nature loop through it. The loop is accessible from Library Drive, which is how C and I found it. Just look for the signs pointing the way.

The trail loops and you will also see a trailhead at the library parking lot, with a spur heading down towards Estes Drive.

To walk down to Estes Drive (which spits you out right near the Trader Joe's and EVOS, by the way) you get a paved, lighted path that is quite nice.

However, if you want to take in Pritchard Park, bring a carrier or at the very least a jogging stroller. We had the umbrella stroller and while my MacLaren can tackle a lot I put in front of it, it gave a huge sigh of defeat on these trails.

The path is very pretty, though, and I like how you can get some nature time with your library time.

Pritchard Park is going to be given some nice updates as part of the library expansion, too. Look for an art garden here in 2011.

Pritchard Park
Library Drive
Chapel Hill
From thiswaytonature.com:
"A one mile nature trail encircles the park, with two spurs to the library branching off the main trail on the western side. You can access the trail from the parking lot and library as well as from Library Drive. Green and white signs point the way. Proceeding north from Library Drive, the trail ascends gently along the creek until it reaches the footbridge, then rises more sharply as it angles toward Audubon Road. From there it heads southeast over the ridge, crossing an asphalt walkway to enter the eastern side of the park, where it descends gently toward Estes Drive.

HappyBaby Book Giveaway Winner

It is true that the more ballots you cast, the better the odds are that you will win! And our winner of the HappyBaby book + more is "dysons." (Please email us at mominchapelhill@gmail.com).

Thanks to all for the great tips on feeding children. We have lined up some other great giveaways for the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned. Now Mom in Chapel Hill not only gives you great ideas and information, but you can also get stuff!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Durham Central Park

From Sarah C.:

You won't find a playground at Durham Central Park, but don't let that deter you from a visit. It's home to the Durham Farmers Market which is open Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons (seasonal). Across the street in the main section, you will find a big grassy hill that is great for little ones to run up and roll down. There are also a couple of climbing sculptures (a turtle and a cardinal) and a big metal bridge to walk across.

Older kids and teenagers will enjoy the skate park. It's located at the very top of the hill with an amazing view of the park and downtown Durham. Personally, I prefer to keep both feet on the ground these days, but it looks very cool. Lots of ramps and obstacles you are encouraged to enjoy with your skateboard or inline skates. Remember to wear your helmet and knee and elbow pads for safety. They are required when using the park per City Code.

The park is host to a number of events throughout the year. Check the park website listed below for more details.

Looking for something else to do while in the area? The Scrap Exchange is located immediately adjacent to the park (unfortunately the Scrap Exchange has relocated as of June 2011).

Durham Central Park
534 Foster Street


Monday, August 23, 2010

NC State Farmers Market

My father-in-law is always making great meals with his NC State Farmers Market finds, and heading there to see the birth of genius for myself has always been on my to-do list. Then it turned out that Sarah C. hadn't been since her NC State days (which I won't tell you how long ago that was), so we decided to make an outing of it! It was even better that we had the flexibility to do this during a weekday before the Market gets too busy with the weekend shoppers and cooks.

We started by dining at the NC State Farmers Market restaurant. This place is huge inside. The menu has a bunch of fried-tastic things in the way of good southern cookin' but, as this is also next to the Farmers Market, they offer changing side dishes of fresh veggies daily. They use whatever is in season (I had fried okra, though, so still stuck with my fried theme). The food was quite good.

One of the things we loved about the restaurant was the "petting zoo" outside. Even though the animals weren't real our boys still loved it. The area is outside yet off the restaurant, gated in, and filled with a bunch of ceramic statues. These statues include a pig, an alligator, a cow, a horse, and even a cowboy riding a horse. If those don't interest your child, there is a Spiderman car that costs a quarter to ride and a small carousel ride that you also have to feed quarters. The statues look like they have seen better days, but that didn't stop us from enjoying them!

Also outside the restaurant is a bunch of old farm equipment that looks great for climbing.

(The Market actually has 2 restaurants, the second being a seafood restaurant on the other end. We didn't scope that out....yet....)

After eating and playing with the "animals" we went up to Market Imports for some shopping. And wowza, can you shop here. So much stuff. Alas, not a good stop for a toddler or child who is inclined to bang on expensive home decor. We hightailed it out of there before it became a very expensive trip.

There are two pavilions at the State Farmers Market. One houses baked goods, candies, gift and craft items, and even ice cream. We had fun meandering through that, but our best time was in the pavilion that held the produce stands. We went on a weekday and there was still so much here it was unbelievable. I can't imagine what a weekend holds.

There were vegetables of every color and size. Peaches and watermelons were the flavors of the day we went, but there was far more than that here. There were also a slew of free samples. Fun for kids! There was even wine for sale and wine samples around. Fun for adults!

In the back of the produce pavilion was a garden market with trees, plants, shrubs, and more to buy. The costs were quite reasonable.

Also available for sale outside the produce shelter were baked goods, jams, and jellies.

There is a drive-thru pavilion. But this is for truckers and wholesale buyers. Which means you have to buy in some serious bulk (I think it would put your Sam's membership to shame).

But it's ok, because getting out and walking around this Farmers Market is half the fun. It is shaded, a nice breeze blows through, and fans run. The vendors are nice and the stands are like artwork with their offerings. And even on a hot summer day we felt cool and refreshed with the pavilion protection and the fresh peaches on the tongue.

The Farmers Market runs festivals and fairs based on in-season produce. Be sure to check out their website (see below) and calendar to stay on top of these.

NC State Farmers Market

Farmers Market Drive


Monday thru Saturday 5:00am - 6:00pm

Sundays 8:00am - 6:00pm

State Farmers Market Restaurant

1240 Farmer's Drive


Monday thru Saturday 6:00 am - 3:00 pm

Sunday 8:00 am - 3:00 pm

NC Seafood Restaurant at the Farmers' Market in Raleigh


Farmers Market Drive

Monday thru Saturday 11 am - 8:00 pm

Sundays 11 am - 5:00 pm

Market Imports
1208 Farmers Market Drive
Monday thru Sunday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Ok, this isn't a local website or place, perse. But it is a fantastic way to explore your local environment, and get your kids involved. It is called geocaching!

DH and I have been geocaching for years, slowing down a little once pregnancy and newborn arrived. But we really enjoy it and have gotten our friends and family hooked. We can't wait to get C started since it is even better with children. Kids love this.

So what is it?
Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt.

People all over the globe create caches. A traditional cache is a tin or tupperware container that has little prizes and trinkets in it as well as a log book. The cache is then hidden. The person who hides the cache records the coordinates and logs them on the website www.geocaching.com.

You then grab the coordinates from the website, plug them into your GPS, and go searching for the "cache." Once you find it if it is a traditional cache you open it up, take a trinket, leave a trinket, sign the log book, and (if you want) log it on your online account at www.geocaching.com.

In addition to traditional caches, however, there are also microcaches (small ones that have a logbook only), virtual caches (it gives you something to see), multiple caches (you get clues at the first stop that help you get the next coordinates for the next find), and even webcam caches (where we were on an Internet camera for a local news station and called our parents to look at us). Geocaching's website will tell you before you hunt what type of cache it is.

A word from the geocaching-wise: it is important to read the notes and reviews left by other users. Sometimes caches disappear (pesky animals) or become waterlogged (pesky rain). So know before you go if it has been recently found. Since caches can be hidden by anyone (you could even do it, too!), people will sometimes pick places that are not so picturesque. But, again, this is noted in the reviews.

And take the notes with you as there are hints available if you are having a hard time finding the cache.

If you haven't heard of geocaching before you will be surprised to find out that these caches are all over the place. For example, in Anderson Community Park there are at least 2 geocaches. There are over a dozen off the Bolin Creek Trails. Geocaching can sometimes take you to places in the area you never knew existed, or just never made it to.

You can also geocache while on vacation. All you need to do is head to www.geocaching.com to find coordinates of caches where you are. And, again, this is a worldwide game. In Australia? No problem, you can geocache there.

What you need to play?
Some sort of GPS device, the kind that you plug coordinates into. Because this game has become so popular with kids of all ages (it's a treasure hunt, afterall), outdoor outfitters have started to make kids GPS devices such as the Geomate Jr (available at Target). But nowadays some phones even have applications and gadgets on them to make geocaching feasible.

Don't forget to take trinkets and toys and create a family caching name for your group. You are going to want to sign those logbooks and that website when you feel the success of finding a cache in the woods!

Have fun, and remember to keep the cache hidden from the muggles and say TFTH.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fairview Park- Hillsborough

When I read about a 45 acre park in Hillsborough, NC, I was very excited to go try it out. It was a morning where the heat wasn't too bad yet, and C and I were itchin' to get out of the house (already). We packed the picnic basket and packed out.

You can imagine my disappointment when I realized that most of these 45 acres are still overgrown natural areas, not groomed for general use. When I got home, I looked up this park and read on the city's website:

Once finished, it will be a community park that includes one ball field, two basketball courts, three tennis courts, one volleyball court, 10 picnic tables, and a picnic shelter, and extensive trails and open space. The work is slated to begin in 2008 and is expected to be complete by fall 2009.

I am going to go out on a limb and say they are running behind. Right now there is one, albeit very nice, playground and one restroom facility.
The playground really is great: brand new and well designed. C had a lot of fun with all the climbing features. The ants were pretty bad on the "parent bench" that I was sitting on, but not on the playground itself. The ground cover is mulch, and the slides are a lot of fun (so C says). There is some shade here but not much.

Fairview Park has a very pretty meadow area for recreational sports as well as some nice picnic benches.

There is active construction going on, which means they are on their way to improvements and more offerings at Fairview Park. In the meantime, head there for the playground.

Fairview Park
Rainey Ave

Thursday, August 19, 2010


From Sarah C.:

Pattywhacks located in Salt Box Village in Cary features a wonderful variety of clothing, accessories and gifts for infants and young children. Some of the specialty brands you will find include Bailey Boys, Sweet Potatoes and Kate Mack. If you are buying for an ACC fan, they had a nice selection adorable outfits for any of the Triangle's three local teams.

This was one of those times where, I confess, I'm grateful to have a boy. Some of the little girls' clothing was so adorable that I would have had an impossible time choosing and would quickly be cut off from the credit card. Seriously, how can moms of infant girls resist those precious hats and headbands with the big flowers?

They also had a nice selection of christening attire. I wish I had been aware of this several months ago when I was dragging D to multiple stores trying to find an appropriate outfit for his baptism.

Finally, as a mother of a toddler, I really appreciated the children's corner in the back. It's a small play area contained by half walls so you don't have to worry about a case of the runaway baby. Your little one can safely play within view while you browse the racks which makes shopping much more fun for both mommy and baby.

1245 Kildaire Farm Road

(919) 468-1928


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Talking Trees Trail at Jordan Lake

A post today from new blogger Marney. I remember doing the Talking Trees with DH years before C came along and enjoying it as an adult. Sounds even better with kids! Thanks for the post Marney.

Hiking is a favorite activity for my family but it can sometimes be challenging to keep my kids interested enough to keep walking. So, I was extremely excited when we discovered a short hike at Jordan Lake called the Talking Tree Trail. The trail is a ¾ mile loop that has “talking trees” or 7 stations, each one with a recorded message about the history and area surrounding the trees.

The trail is part of NC Educational State Forests (ESFs) System which was designed to teach the public - especially school children - about the forest environment. Jordan Lake in Chatham County is one of the newest members.

I decided to invite my mom’s group for a weekday lunch and hike. W
e met at the picnic shelter located next to the trail. It’s a really nice place to have lunch; spacious enough for a group of kids to run around with 10 tables, a fireplace, electricity and water. Neighbors of mine actually had their Easter dinner there last year and of course it would make a great place for a kid’s party.

After lunch we headed out on the trail for some exercise and to learn about the trees. The kids loved the trail, so much so that we had difficulty keeping the
m from running from tree to tree. Their favorite part was pushing the button to make the trees talk. They actually listened and picked up at least one fact after hearing it a few times. The hike took us less than an hour and it was nice to end up right back at our car.

This path is stroller friendly, which is a nice addition. Also, there are many other trails in the area, so be sure to check out the trail map (see link below) to plan a whole day of hiking if you wish.

The bathrooms are also really nice and clean which is always helpful when you have a 1 yr old (B) that likes to lick the floor (I know, ick!). I recommend you have your kids where long pants and shirts to prevent ticks. S had one that I discovered that night in the bathtub, luckily it came right off (ick again).

If you have extra time there is a really cool yellow helicopter belonging to the Forest Service and a piece of forestry equipment to visit. You can easily walk from the parking area or drive by on your way out. The kids loved looking at all the dashboard in the helicopter and they can actually climb and sit inside the forest equipment.

Be sure to check the website for hours of operation, trail map and location map and have fun!

Jordan Lake Educational State Forest: Talking Tree Trail


3832 Big Woods Rd

Chapel Hill, NC


To get there: take Big Woods Road (a left hand turn off of Jack Bennett). Go approximately 3 miles. There is a sign that says Educational State park on the left, so turn in there to enter the park.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

HappyBaby Book: Giveaway

We've partnered with the folks at HappyBaby to bring you our first-ever giveaway!

I have fed C the HappyBaby line of food products for awhile. We have been big fans of the yogurt melts and the puffs in our time, and I feel like they are guilt-free foods for mom. So when the folks came out with the "HAPPYBABY : The Organic Guide to Baby’s First 24 Months" book, I was excited to try it out.

This book is an all-encompassing resource to living green and organically with baby and toddler. If you are anything like me, that seems impossible given all the diapers, wipes, and food requirements. But HappyBaby makes it possible and within your grasp.

There is a lot of information in here. There are the expected chapters about how to clean organically, setting up an organic baby registry, and how to feed baby organically. But there are also some nice surprises (such as how to keep mom healthy & happy).

One note of caution is that this book is an extreme proponent of breast-feeding. Breast-feeding is, afterall, the most organic way to feed your baby. But we know that breast-feeding is not always right nor does it always work for every mother out there. MiCHill keeps an open mind about all sorts of ways to provide for your baby and create a healthy environment. Breast-feeding is preferred, of course, but not the only way to be a good mother. So bear in mind that if you take this book in hand, you need to understand that Dr. Sears and the authors are going to spend a good amount of time extolling the benefits of breast-feeding.

Between the breast-feeding bent and the incredible information about toxins in foods, paint, furniture, clothing, cleaners and more, this book could become a huge guilt-trip. Yet the authors are careful to approach this as a guide, not doctrine. Within the chapters, they provide how to be "pale green," "a little greener," and "deepest green."

What I really appreciated was the menus, lists, websites, and details. Maybe that is just my organized self.

No one can be the perfect parent. And no one can keep their child safe from all the elements out there in the wicked world. However, isn't it great to have the knowledge and know-how to give your child a cutting edge?

So win your copy!!!

Here's what's at stake for 1 lucky MiCHill reader:
  • Book
  • Coupons for products
  • HappyBaby Recipes
  • HappyBaby Nutrition Guide
  • HappyBaby FAQ
Comment here or on Facebook to enter. Tell us if your best tip for feeding your child (of any age!).

Make sure not to leave any comments as an Anonymous user.
Be sure to either leave a valid email address along with your comment or check back on Wednesday, August 25th when the winner is announced to email it to us then.

To gain additional entries:

1- Go to Happy Baby's Facebook page and become a Fan. (make sure to note that you did this when you comment)

2- Sign up for Happy Baby's Tweets. (make sure to note that you did this when you comment)

4- Sign up for the Happy Baby newsletter. (make sure to note that you did this when you comment)

5- If you aren't already, become our Fan on Facebook. (we will add the additional entry)

6- Follow us through Google Friend Connect. (we will add the additional entry)

7- Follow us on Twitter. (we will add the additional entry)

Giveaway is open to all US residents 18 years or older. Ends Tuesday, August 24th at 5:00pm EST and winner will be announced Wednesday, August 25th. Winner will be picked by Random.org. Winner will be contacted by email address.

Note: HappyBaby Food products were received to try for review; however, all opinions expressed are strictly my own.


Monday, August 16, 2010

The Scrap Exchange

From Sarah C.:

**Note: The Scrap Exchange has moved to a new location as of June 2011. Address has been updated below.**

Entrance at former Foster St location
Looking to get out of the house and flex your creative muscles? Head to The Scrap Exchange in Durham. This store is filled with a variety of unique items to inspire creativity in all ages.

On a recent visit, I discovered shelves of glass beakers, bins of scrap fabrics and postcards, rolls of stickers, stacks of discarded computer cards, and much, much more. You can purchase individual items or select a bag (there are 3 sizes) for a set price. Then fill it with goodies from the blue bins located near the front of the store.

For school aged kids, digging through these could be quite the treasure hunt - not to mention the fun they will have making their creations afterward.

D accompanied me on the visit (strapped in his umbrella stroller) and was definitely wide-eyed and curious about all the interesting items and colors. He reached out on occasion to try and grab something that caught his eye. Thankfully, my husband was with us and helped keep the stroller in motion while I browsed as well as kept an close eye on what D was trying to grab - there are plenty of breakable items stacked around the store.

In the rear left is a classroom where you can work on a project during your visit. Ask the staff for details. It also functions as space for workshops and birthday parties. See the website (link below) for more information.

Finally, be sure to visit the Green Gallery featuring work by artists who use reclaimed items in their designs. Show schedules are listed on the website.

The Scrap Exchange
923 Franklin Street

(919) 688-6960


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ackland Art Museum

We have already brought you information about the all new NC Museum of Art and the Nasher Museum. Then we realized that we hadn't visited the Ackland Art Museum in our own backyard! So Sarah C. and I decided to bring our boys some culture and head there for some indoor, a/c entertainment.

We hadn't had a lot of luck to date taking the boys to art museums because of their inability to sit still, so our expectations were low. But we had a great time at the Ackland Art Museum on UNC's campus. I hadn't been to Ackland since they had grown and done renovations (which was, what, like 5 years ago? eek.). Even after renovations, this place is still smaller than its sister museums in Durham and Raleigh. But it is so pretty inside. The lobby was impressive, and we found this place to be kid friendly.

What made this art museum kid friendly? The first was the size: because it was smaller it wasn't as busy. This made the art more accessible to the kids (you didn't have to navigate large, center of the room items) and you didn't have to worry quite as much at disturbing someone deep in the art.

The other thing that made this place so kid friendly was the staff. Unlike the Nasher, the Ackland loved having kids in there, made conversation with us, and even talked with our boys. They were so welcoming and enjoyed that two new mothers brought their toddlers in for an afternoon. This place is stroller friendly as well.

The exhibits were great. Again, not the largest collection, but eclectic and beautiful. A few of the pieces have cell phone tour numbers on them. I tried it out on 1 piece and it was educational. There are also a lot of plaques with information on them throughout the museum. They talk about specific pieces but they also have information around the museum about why certain pieces have been displayed together.

For older kids, there is a desk in one of the center galleries that has books, questions to ask, and information. This can help kids enjoy the museum more. And while you can not leave with these materials, you can carry them around the museum with you. Also, when you first enter Ackland, to the left is a brochure rack with 1 worksheet for kids 4-7 and another for kids 8-12. These worksheets have activities encouraging children to interact with the art ("Find the buddha. Can you sit how he sits?").

Other ways for kids to interact with the art and the musuem:
-The 2nd Saturday of each month they offer a Drawing for Kids program for kids ages 9- 12. Registered required and it is $5 for nonmembers, free for members. Materials provided.
-The 4th Sunday of each month they do a Family Fun Tour for kids ages 6- 12 and their families. A guided tour that is interactive, it is also free.
-Every 3rd Sunday of each month, there is a Music in the Galleries series that features musicians of all styles. It starts at 2 in the afternoon and is free. Ackland also does special ticketed concerts throughout the year, stay tuned to their website.
- The Ackland is very open and interested in doing tours for groups of kids. If you have a tour you would like to set up, give them a call.

Admission to the museum is free for everyone.

As with any activity in downtown Chapel Hill, parking can be hard. Opt for public parking garages on Rosemary or Church streets.

Lots of sweet treats on Franklin Street to enjoy, but we went to Sugarland after this outing.

Ackland Art Museum


101 South Columbia Street (corner of Columbia & Franklin)

Chapel Hill

Weds, Fri, Sat 10 am -5pm; Thurs 10 am - 8 pm; Sun 1 pm - 5 pm; closed Mon and Tues


Friday, August 13, 2010

Border's in Cary

From Sarah C.:

Next door to Monkey Joe's in Cary is a slightly calmer activity to enjoy - Borders bookstore. Tucked into the back is their kids section. Filled with a vast amount of books and gifts, it also offers tables to sit and read at as well as an activity table.

Storytimes are offered Wednesdays at 11am. D and I arrived too late, but had a great time anyway. We enjoyed looking at the board books and having our "own" storytime - I read out loud while D pointed and babbled. Definitely a great way to get out of the house and the heat.

A perk for tired mommies (and daddies too), there is a coffee shop at the front where you can pick up a cup of joe to enjoy while browsing or for the drive home.

1751 Walnut Street

(919) 469-1930


Thursday, August 12, 2010


Like any good American in Italy, I fell in love with gelato. (I am sure this is going to be brought up in the new Julia Robert's flick Eat, Pray, Love, too. Because, really, gelato is that good.) And Sugarland on Franklin Street makes fantastic gelato. It was as though I was transported back to vacation in a little tiny shop in Chapel Hill.

Seizing the last few pre-student return moments, Sarah C. and I decided to take the boys downtown. It was a hot day, and Sugarland fit the bill. There are so many gelato flavors here, and it was absolutely delicious. Apparently other folks think this place is great too as it was mentioned in Bon Appetit recently.

But don't be fooled by my "love of gelato" post. This shop has more than just the Italian frozen dish. It is a Land of Sugar, afterall. There were gourmet cupcakes and cakes and sodas. For adults they had beer and wine. They even do frozen martinis at the bar, which also sounded good in this weather.

The eye candy doesn't stop at the dessert cases. Around the store are decorated cakes that are just phenomenal. The different cakes had different themes, and were art. I don't think I could have cut into one of them. Good thing they had plenty of other options to eat! Sugarland does do cakes for events, if you are in the market. If I were to get married again (to my DH of course), I would get a cake from Sugarland.

There is a huge tv inside, but that was not on when we were there.

Inside there are a lot of tables and chairs. But not a toddler friendly space. We had the best luck sitting outside with the boys. There are some tables and chairs on the sidewalk. This meant our gelato melted a little faster and we got to meet some of Chapel Hill's infamous Franklin Street homeless, but it was still a great little stop for us.

This is a gourmet sweets shop so it isn't as cheap as the Ben & Jerry's or Coldstone across the street, but worth it for a special treat.

As with anything in downtown Chapel Hill, parking can be tough so try for a parking garage off of Rosemary or the one at Church St.

Pairs nicely with a stop at Kidzu or the Ackland Art Museum. Or just a day of wandering around UNC's campus as it is right next door.


140 E. Franklin Street

Chapel Hill


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chapel Hill Public Library & Storytime

Updated 12/2011:  The Chapel Hill Library has moved to a temporary location.  The old building closed up and the collection was moved to a spot in University Mall while a new library is being built.  This happened a little later than originally planned, but is underway.  The pictures below are updated to the new location as is the contact information at the bottom.  The new location is small.  The collection of books, DVDs, and CDs still remains fantastic, as does the offering of stortyimes and kids' activities.  However, the space itself is limited.  So we don't spend much time in there these days lounging and exploring books, but we do head in for storytime and to take books home.  We'll be looking forward to the new location and building in years to come.  

The Chapel Hill Public Library is one of my favorite libraries and is currently conveniently located off of Estes Road. However, by the end of 2010 it is moving to University Mall for a few years while the library is renovated. So get to the old Library while you have a chance! Below, blog reader A.G. provides us with her thoughts on the Time for Toddlers. MiCHill has been told that all storytimes and programs will continue even after the move and throughout the Library's temporary stay at U Mall.

There are shelves and shelves of books and a couple of kid-sized tables. There is also a huge activity block, which looks new, that C enjoyed. But I can see how, after having gone to Durham's Main Library, this is a smaller area. And since there is so much here, it is getting a little cramped feeling. It makes me look forward to renovations.

The selection of books is good, but we also appreciated the great collection of kids music, audiobooks, and DVDs.

An additional note: if you haven't been to the Library's website yet, you should check it out. There are links that are great resources for parents; links about books and stories for kids as well as Internet safety precautions to take.

And now, from A.G. on storytime:
I took my 16-month-old son N to Time for Toddlers at the Chapel Hill Public Library (targeted at 18-36-month-olds). Technically his age would suggest we should go to Baby Time (for 6-18-month-olds), but I had been told by a friend that that time was geared towards non-mobile babies, and that her daughter had been bored.

We haven't had a ton of success with story times due to N's appropriately short attention span, so I was a bit nervous. Storytime is 10:15 am Thursdays - the website suggests getting there early. I, being a little confused and totally out of character, got there at 9:45 since I thought it started it at 10. Unfortunately, the library doesn't even open until 10, so we had to spend a bit of time waiting in the heat, but there were several other kids that kept N very entertained.

After the doors opened, we signed up for Time for Toddlers at the desk in the children's section of the library and spent a few minutes reading and playing with toys before we headed into the story room. This carpeted room is very basic and has very little that my son could destroy (though he did manage to find the one cabinet that wasn't locked and kept going back to it!). The librarian put some fun music on a few minutes before 10:15, and N and a few of the other kids had a bit of a dance party before things got started.

There were about 15 kids there. Because there were a lot of sibling pairs, we weren't the youngest, and there were kids older than 3 present as well.

It's a themed storytime, and the focus was birds that day. We read about 5 books and sang corresponding bird songs. The librarian did a great job keeping the kids engaged and followed the book with a counting game using birds and another song.

Overall, it was super fun - I think the confined space makes it great for toddlers (as opposed to storytimes at bookstores, where there are so many other fun things to do). The librarian was wonderful and did a great job of gently chastising a child who was um, harassing, another child, eventually asking the mother to take him out because he was being disruptive (in the nicest possible way). I really appreciated that they provided a handout with the lyrics to the songs that they incorporated into storytime. I would definitely go back!

The library offers many storytimes for various ages and has an active teen program. They are also doing a summer time family movie matinee series that looks like fun but almost over. It runs through the summers, every Friday, at 2 pm. The last one is Aug 13th, though.

Chapel Hill Public Library
University Mall
201 S Estes Dr
Chapel Hill


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Morrisville Community Park

Tucked into the heart of Morrisville is its Community Park located off of Morrisville Parkway just east of Davis Drive. Take the paved path back into a wooded area and you'll find baseball fields, a playground, greenway and picnic areas.

Similar to other parks in the Triangle, the playground is divided into two areas - one for the 2-5 age group and one for the 5-12. It's all clustered in one spot so keeping an eye on kids of multiple ages is easy. The playground features equipment with climbing options and slides, swings (even bucket swings for the little ones), and a sandbox. In the center of it all is a small picnic shelter. D and I took advantage of this recently while we had lunch before playing.

Looking to stretch your legs a bit more? Check out the greenway that loops the park. It's a combination of paved pathway and concrete sidewalks making it easy with a stroller. You can start right next to the playground wander around the baseball fields and back again. It's also great for a bike ride. During our visit, we saw a family (parents and young kids) heading out for a ride. The smallest were relaxing in a trailer attached to the back of mom's bike.

Another plus, for us, is it's proximity to RDU. If you time your visit right, you can watch the planes coming or going. We were lucky enough to see them arriving which meant D paused frequently during his play to watch and point at the sky.

Restroom facilities are located immediately adjacent to the playground area in a small metal building. There are additional restrooms a bit further away next to the ball fields in a brick building. These are newer and nicer, but both get the job done. No changing tables.

Morrisville Community Park
1520 Morrisville Parkway
Morrisville, NC


Monday, August 9, 2010

Occoneechee Mountain

If you have been reading for awhile, or gone through old posts, you will know that a- I am in Hillsborough for the summer and b- I have talked about the old Occoneechee Indian Tribe before (and how hard that word is to spell). Occoneechee Mountain is the place where the original Occoneechee Tribe had settled. It is the highest point in all of Orange County and one of the few places in our area that offers vistas and views. And it is a few blocks from my summer house!

If you Google Occoneechee Mountain, you aren't going to find much. This is a State Natural Area, so it is protected. But it hasn't been protected for very long (just since 1997). This means that it's exposure to recreational enthusiasts is just now growing. But be careful, this is in Orange County and in Hillsborough. The NC Division of Parks & Rec will tell you the address is Cole Mill Road in Durham. Don't go there. Instead, access Occoneechee Mountain from Virginia Cates Road. It isn't too far from 85. In fact, you can hear 85 during parts of your hike. (See map below.)

This was a great day for us hiking. A stroller certainly won't work, this is hiking. So we had C in a carrier. He loved it.

There are a lot of trails around here. And the map below (which is the one they provide at the park) isn't the best. There is a gravel service road that will take you all the way to the summit. It is short and easy walking.

The Occoneechee Mountain summit is reported to be the highest point between Hillsborough and the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, you can't reach the summit. Well, you can. But it is private property that has a fire tower, a communications tower, and some barbed wire. Not really scenic at all. As DH put it, "At least you can say you have been to the top."

There are two parts of the Mountain that are more rewarding: the Overlook Trail and the Mountain Loop Trail. The Overlook Trail has a couple of different access points. The easiest way is take the service road, then catch the trail to the right that points to the Overlook. At this Overlook you can see out onto the rock cliff and quarry below. It is one of the best views in this part of the state. There is a HUGE permanent sign up that says that the lookout is closed. This sign is up right next to the lookout. And every one we saw proceeded the few yards past the sign to take in the view. Use your own discretion, though.

The Mountain Loop Trail is a 2.2 mile hike that is very nice. It can be pretty strenuous in parts, so plan ahead if you are hiking with older kids. And the path is in all different states: grass, gravel, dirt, steps. There are parts where this path goes under power lines (we have found this to be fairly common in NC hiking), but you also work your way down to the Eno River and walk beside it for awhile. There are even spots to get close to the River and dunk your toes.

As I mentioned above, the trail map isn't great (just not very detailed). The trails are marked with arrows, but there may be a few moments where you don't know which way to go. For the Mountain Loop stay close to the River. But really, you can't get too lost since it isn't that expansive of a park. Just stay on the trails.

Due to it's north-facing cliff, this Mountain harbors a lot of flora not generally seen in our region. In fact, to see some of the plants and flowers you would have to go to Asheville. We ran into a lovely pair of hobby botanists excitedly trolling these woods. They showed us the very rare Crane Fly Orchid. It was pretty cool, and don't worry those of you who know how quickly I kill orchids in my house, I didn't bring it home.

There are two ponds in the State Natural Area that fishing is allowed on. No swimming, and they are not big enough for boating.

There are picnic tables (a bunch of them and they are very nice) at the trailhead. There are also restrooms.

Parking is free.

Occoneechee Mountain
Virginia Cates Road



Trail Map:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hopper's House: Open Play & Drop-Off Childcare

Hopper's House closed 6/2011.

On a hot day in August, Sarah C. and I took the boys to yet another indoor play area. I like to call Hopper's House in Apex "mini-Marbles." Just as much fun stuff to do, yet not as hard for a Chapel Hill-ian to get to. And not as crowded. We had a good time!

Hopper's House is a little tucked away. In an Apex community off of Apex Barbecue Road, I am not sure how many people know about this. It isn't a large space, but it serves up fun for all ages.

What we loved was the "creative play" station in the middle. A big sand box, a train table, a play kitchen, clothes for dress up, books, dolls, Mr. Potato Heads, blocks, and much more. This was especially great for toddlers, but kids of all ages were in this area. The only unfortunate part is that, from a mom-with-a-toddler perspective, the area was not gated off to the main area. So I had a case of the runaway babies again as C decided he wanted to be with the big kids.

There are 3 bounces indoors, 2 of which are dedicated solely to kids 5 & under (the older kids get the big bounce in the back). There is a climbing wall, air hockey table, and basketball hoop also for the older kids. There is also "technology" area-- where there are 2 playstations and 2 computers with online computer games (I saw PBSkids.org). It was a little disheartening to see a bunch of boys glued to tv sets when there were so many active things to do, but I understand how for some kids this is a huge treat. I am not sure how they regulate time. I remember my little brother being fixed on the Nintendo until he beat the game, and sharing was not part of his gaming vocabulary. No fights while we were there, though.

There are refreshments for sale here. Not a huge selection, but enough for a snack and there is a soda fountain. There is also an area with tables and chairs. Hopper's House does parties.

In regards to entry prices, you pay for the child, adults don't pay. Children under 1 are free. After that it is $7.50 per child all day play.

Another nice thing about Hopper's House? They have a drop off option. You can drop your children off to play and you can leave and run errands. Drop off care is $8 per hour for the first child, and each child after that goes down a quarter per hour (e.g. Kid 1 is $8/hour, Kid 2 is $7.75). Unlike Green Kids, they don't guarantee a certain ratio of caretakers to kids. And the caretakers do work the front desk as well. So this isn't a babysitting service, just supervised play.

Again, this place isn't huge, but it fit over 20 children quite comfortably. Not the same amenities here for parents as, say, a PlayNation, JumpZone, or Monkey Joe's, but a much more diverse selection of play for the kids (especially toddlers).

Hopper's House
[**Note that as of the date of this publication, the website is not operational and contains a harmful virus-- MiCHill recommends that you do not click so this is not currently an active link. For any questions, call the number below. We will take this warning off once the website is cleaned.**]

1500 Town Side Drive

Friday, August 6, 2010

Maple View Ice Cream Stores (Two of them)

Update: The Carrboro shop has closed.  News reports say that the new owner of the store front may still be selling the ice cream, though, so stay tuned for details.
We have mentioned Maple View Farms as a fun little ride and destinaton to get ice cream. Yet in that post I also wrote that you can get the same ice cream in downtown Carrboro. It turns out that you can also get the same ice cream in Hillsborough!

I thought we would include these 2 shops as you plan your end of summer activities.

The 2 places are very similar. There is a selection of Maple View Farms ice creams (Carolina Crunch, yum!), select dairy products such as milk, and other items that they may sell (the one in Hillsborough had fresh, organic, local beef for sale when we went).

The Carrboro shop is located on Weaver Street, directly across from Weaver Street Market. Parking can be kind of difficult, but use street parking and the lot across the street near Fleet Feet. There is also the Carr Mill Mall lot near the Harris Teeter, down Greensboro. Wherever you park, you can certainly enjoy your cone. There are a few tables inside, but it can get crowded in there. Outside there are rocking chairs (which are fantastic if you can nab one), and you can always carry your desserts over to the Weaver Street Lawn.

The Hillsborough shop is a little hard to find, located in a shopping center at the intersection of 86 & 85. But if you find the Walmart, you should be able to find it. Plenty of parking since this is in a shopping plaza. There was a lot of indoor searing here, but no outdoor seating at all. This would pair nicely with a trip to Hillsborough to see the HOST, walk Poet's Walk, or hit the Triangle SportsPlex.

Maple View tends to close up shop, so to speak, in the winter time.

Maple View Farms

Maple View Ice Cream- Carrboro Shop - closed
100 East Weaver Street

Maple View Ice Cream- Hillsborough Shop
Hampton Pointe
525-A Hampton Pointe Blvd

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Breast Feeding Friendly Award Winners 2010

The 2010 World Breastfeeding Week Kickoff Celebration happened right here in our own backyard. On August 1st, Weaver Street Market and CyCo hosted the event. Vendors were present, information about breastfeeding was distributed, and awards were, well, awarded!

Awards were presented to various local businesses throughout the Triangle for their support of, encouragement of, and education about breastfeeding. These places did this by creating a breastfeeding-friendly environment for their employees and/or through creating an atmosphere where patrons could feel free to breastfeed without judgment and with support.

Since all of these businesses are recognized as going above and beyond for breastfeeding moms, we here at MinCHill thought it was worth sharing the list. Go to these places, thank them, and feel free to nurse while there.

Artichoke & Basil
The Chocolate Door
UNC Library Services
Weaver Street Market

March of Dimes, NC Chapter
UNC at Chapel Hill

Keystone Chiropractic
The Diapering Doula
UNC Family Medicine
UNC Hospitals
WakeMed Healthy & Hospitals
Women's Birth & Wellness Center

For other local area support and information about breastfeeding, visit our blog post on Breastfeeding Resources.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Northgate Mall

I never go to Northgate Mall. Not for any particular reason, I just love Southpoint so much that my car could go there on autopilot. So when one of our all-star readers (Laura R.) suggested giving Northgate a try, I hopped on 85 and was there in no time.

Northgate Mall has a lot of stuff for kids. I was surprised how enjoyable this was for C. For parents, I think the shopping is a little lacking. But I tend to be very brand loyal. And I also would like to add that I still managed to spend some money on clothes. Although this isn't the first mall I would go to to for personal shopping, the point of this post is how there is more than you would expect here for the kids.
The main attraction is the carousel. In the middle of a mall is a very pretty carousel. Tickets were $2 for one ride (you could get multiple tickets for discounts rates and you can also buy a frequent rider card where you get your 10th ride free). You pay for the child. Adults accompanying young kids ride free. This was great! The ride lasted awhile, the carousel is in great shape, and it has all the ups and downs, animals, around and arounds, mirrors, music, and lights to entice kids. It was my first time on a carousel in awhile, too, and I was laughing with joy.

Near the Sears you will find the Jump Zone. A large green inflatable bounce is up, and is $3 to bounce for 10 minutes.

There was also a toddler train. It wasn't a very long track, and there wasn't really a theme, but it went around a few times and looked like fun for kids. Sadly, no one was riding it when we were there, although it was staffed. I didn't put C on simply as I don't trust his ability to stay seated in one place yet. But tickets were reasonable at $3 a ticket.

For older kids there was a power jump (you know, that thing that is really tall, they strap you in, and you jump way high and do tricks). Power jump was $7 for 10 minutes, and if you wanted a professional photo while you jump it's $10. Power jump has limited hours opening at 4pm on the weekdays, 10am on Saturdays, and 1pm on Sundays.

Beyond these highly organized entertainments, there were also gumball and candy machines, arcade games, and ride-on toys (the train was quite the hit with C) littered throughout the mall. Coin operated, but change machines around. For grown ups they have coin operated massage chairs throughout the mall available for use.

If you don't want to pay for your fun outside of Northgate Mall Entrance 2 is a large water feature. Water shoots up from various nozzles at different intervals and in different strengths. It looks gorgeous, but there is also a sign up that actually encourages kids to get wet and play in the fountain. They just request that you not climb on the sculptures.

Additionally (information overload yet?) Northgate Mall's cinema does free movies for kids during the summers. Showtimes are every Tuesday and Thursday at 9:30 am. They call it a Kids Movie Summer Camp (see link below). Some of these movies are on my to-see list. And, again, just in case you missed it, free. C is a little too young to sit still enough to take in a flick but I look forward to doing this when he is older, perhaps next summer. By the way, the Cinema here, called Stadium 10, has birthday party rooms.

There are lots of places to get tasty treats at Northgate Mall, too: Marble Slab Creamery, Haagen Daazs, Orange Julius, Dairy Queen, and Cinnamonster. We opted for the DQ so we could watch the carousel go 'round. [Sidenote: is anyone else loving the new mini-Blizzard option?]

If you go to Northgate Mall a lot, or get hooked after your next visit there with the kids, they have a Little Shoppers Club that would be worth signing up for. It appears free to join but you can get some neat benefits.

There were so many things for kids to do at Northgate Mall, I didn't even notice the lack of a free "kids zone" a la Southpoint or Cary Towne Center. Unfortunately, a lot of the kids entertainment at Northgate will cost you, but it isn't a lot. I do hope that getting families in the door gives Northgate the rejuvenation it needs. There are major renovations in process, and I look forward to seeing what Northgate Mall has to offer in the future. A Sea of Learning is opening another store here, and it looks like some of the empty storefronts have "Coming Soon" signs on them.

Northgate Mall
Summer Movies:
1-85 Gregson Street