Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Kangaroo Pouch

As you know, we love our consignment shops on MiCHill. Kids just grow so fast and are so rough on their clothes, why spend lots of money on their tshirts!? So I was happy to give Kangaroo Pouch in Durham a go when I needed some new winter sweaters for C.

The Kangaroo Pouch is constantly rated highly by parents as one of the best consignment stores in the area. I can say that C enjoyed it. In the back corner of the store is a gated area with a bunch of toys for kids of all ages. He did not want to leave when it was time to go.

We went for clothes and had a successful trip. There was a good selection of shoes and winter items for kids of all ages. I didn't see as much gear and toys at this place as I was expecting, but it could just be a low inventory time.

If you want to sell here, you would be best served to call ahead. Baby gear items may be bought outright, but all toys and clothes are consigned and you get 40% of the final sale price. But they are very particular about which clothes they will take and when. For example, they are no longer accepting clothes at all for consignment (like I said, they had a lot of clothes on the racks already). Starting in February they will be accepting summer clothes. So make sure they are open to your goods before you go.

The prices here were pretty decent as far as buying, and it was great to see so many clothes selections on the racks.

The Kangaroo Pouch
http://www.thekangaroopouch.com/
919-471-0322
2812 Guess Road

Durham, NC

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday House in Hillsborough

Does anyone get into the holiday spirit all crazy like me? I love the holidays. I thought I was the person who loved them the most, but I think some folks have me beat. Driving out 86 towards Virginia, about 15 miles outside of downtown Hillsborough, is a house that puts me to shame.

I am not sure how long they spend decorating, but the overall effect is impressively overwhelming. There are well over 20 blow-ups, lights, candy canes, and other nice little surprises and whimsy. It is worth pulling over for the kids to take the time to see it. This picture is just one half of the yard:Note about pulling over: 86 is a busy road, and moves fast. So please use extreme caution. Good news is that the line of sight at this particular part of 86 is fairly good.

This house gets particularly decked out for Christmas, but whoever is in charge also enjoys all holidays (4th of July, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and more).

If you are headed out that way you might want to stop in Hillsborough for some sweet treats or keep driving to Shangri-La.

Holiday House in Hillsborough
15 miles outside of downtown Hillsborough (on right)
NC-86

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Baby Equipment Rental

We have so much information to share with you at MiCHill about local things, but I found this great website called Baby-Equipment-Rental.com while planning our upcoming travel, and just had to post about it.
I don't know about you all, but when I travel with C I like to travel as light as possible. I am all about minimizing the amount of stuff we have to lug around, especially if travel involves planes. (Is anyone else constantly amazed at how many "things" we need for kid? And how hard it is to chase a kid down when you are weighed down by too much gear?) Anyhow, I like getting there and renting. Whether it be a crib, a pack n play, a high chair, a car seat, a stroller...it is so nice not to carry it to the destination, but still have it for use while on holiday. It has worked out so nice for our family and I feel like it lessened the stress of the travel, too.

Enter this awesome website. There are companies all over the US that provide rental services. Some deliver to your vacation spot, some meet you at the airport, some allow you to pick up. There are a myriad of options and styles, but the idea is the same. And this website lists all these companies by state. Instead of Googling, just stop here. Baby-Equipment-Rental doesn't rent, but they make it easier to find the place you can rent from.

But Baby-Equipment-Rental also has other resources regarding travel with kids, so it is certainly worth a gander. As you plan your holidays and upcoming travel, consider logging on to this website.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Train Table Roll Call

Thanks to Stacey "S'Rich" for getting us started on this. Got any more? Send them our way, please.

Have a kid that loves trains, but don't have the space, time or budget for your own train table? Or maybe your little engineer just needs to drive some new trains every now and then? Or maybe you just need to get out of the house? We've started rounding up a list of local area train tables where moms can shop or eat and the little ones can get their train fix.

For Toys & Trains, try:
Learning Express at Patterson Place
The Play House Toy Store on Ninth Street
Sea of Learning by Southpoint (location now closed. Northgate Mall location did not have a table during our last visit.)
Toyland at Southpoint Mall (location now closed)
The Children's Store on Elliott Road in Chapel Hill

For Books & Trains, try:
Barnes & Noble at Brier Creek Commons
Barnes & Noble at New Hope Commons
Barnes & Noble at Southpoint

For Treats & Trains, try:
Lickity Split at Meadowmont

For Shopping & Trains, try:
Birth & Wellness Center Boutique in Chapel Hill
Glee Kids in Chapel Hill
Pittsboro Toys in Pittsboro

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tanger Outlet Mall (Mebane)

As you gear up for your Black Friday shopping, let's talk a little about the all-new highly anticipated Tanger Outlet Mall in Mebane. This place is brand new, and we were all pretty excited it was going in (just in time for the holidays, those geniuses).

Right off of I-40, this was a quick, easy, approximately 40-minute drive for me from Chapel Hill.

There are many big name storefronts here: JCrew, Banana Republic, Nike, Coach, Saks, Guess, Nine West, LOFT, Michael Kors, Van Heusen, Polo Ralph Lauren, and the list goes on. There are over 50 stores here. A seriously good place to "get your shop on."

In the kids department, there are clothing stores and a Toys R Us Express. The clothing stores for kids apparel are: Carter's, The Children's Place, Gap Outlet, Gymboree Outlet, and OshKosh B'gosh.

So one thing that was a surprise was that these aren't all technically outlets. Some are indeed "factory stores" and "outlets," but even though this is a factory outlet center only a proportion of these are actually outlet stores. So watch the store name to see if it is an outlet or not. Thinking that these would all be outlets, Sarah C. and I weren't really "wowed" by the prices. We were "wowed" though by the options and the size of the stores. For example, the Carter's store was big. We've reviewed the one in Morrisville for you, of course, but this one was huge.

The mall is very nice and new. It is an outdoor mall, meaning that the walkways are outdoors. But they are covered from the sun and rain with some very pretty awnings. You aren't protected from the temperature but you are protected from the elements. It makes for nice shopping, in my opinion. It doesn't feel too claustrophobic. And even though the parking lot was jammed pack and there were obviously a lot of people here, we didn't feel crowded out. The mall could handle the people.

For eats, there aren't a lot of options. There is a pretzel shop and stand but for a meal Subway is the only game in town. Because of that it gets crowded. A burger place is going in soon, but isn't up and running yet. I would plan to eat before going or after. And bring snacks and drinks for the kids (although they will probably still beg you for quarters for the candy machines and for a cinnamon sugar pretzel).

For kids, there is a great play place outside on one end of the mall. It is, of course, brand new. It has synthetic ground cover, was generally safe play for kids 2 and up, was big, and covered by huge sail shades. It was pretty and obviously fun for kids of all ages (including one 17 year old I saw doing the slides with his sister). The negative is that the barrier is a low-wall and some plants, and then it is out to parking lot and traffic. So it is really easy for a case of the Runaway Babies to turn scary very fast. Diligent eyes parents! But it makes for a great break from the shopping and strollers for the kids.

Throughout the Outlet Mall there are ride on toys for quarters that are also a big hit.

For Black Friday, stores open at 12am on Thanksgiving night and remain open all night and through til close on Friday without stop. And, of course, there are all kinds of deals to be had on the 26th. Good luck & be safe out there.

Tanger Outlets in Mebane
tangeroutlet.com
4000 Arrowhead Blvd (Exit 154 off 1-40/1-85)
Mebane, NC
(800) 409-3631
Hours are Monday thru Saturday 10 am - 9 pm; Sunday 11 am - 7 pm

Monday, November 22, 2010

The ArtsCenter SuperFun Show Series

The ArtsCenter in Carrboro is already such a great resource for our town. They keep the arts accessible. They aren't too big, and because of that they can bring quality classes and fantastic acts to our area. You can get hands-on with arts here. I personally think they are just great. Then I was even more pleased to learn that they cater to children of all ages outside of the classroom, too.

I would be referring to the SuperFun Show Series that runs once a month. Usually on a Saturday afternoon, an arts show of one kind or another comes for the children. There is magic, music, dancing, and puppets. The shows range month to month.

The particular show we caught last weekend was Hobey Ford's shadow puppetry. This was beautiful. It was Native American tales told through shadow puppets, which if you haven't caught before you should look it up. It is pretty neat. C was fascinated and sat still, which is no small feat for a 2-year old boy.

Beyond the particular show, though, the SuperFun series is wonderful for kids since they know their audience. Children are never expected to sit still and quiet for the entire show. In fact, while at the puppet show there was not only audience participation at requested times, but there was children chatter the whole time and no one minded at all. And the performers know that they are dealing with kids, so things have to move fast and change a lot. The whole attention span thing....

The ArtsCenter theater is a great size for kids. You can be close enough to the stage wherever you are to have a great view. And at the end they conduct a Q&A session for the performers, where the kids get to ask their questions. I am always amazed at how perceptive and curious children are.

Tickets vary show to show so check online. But in general adults are $9, kids 3 and up are $7, kids 2 and under free.

The next show is coming up December 4th and stay tuned to the website below for a list of all upcoming shows.

The ArtsCenter SuperFun Show Series
http://www.artscenterlive.org/
300- G East Main Street
Carrboro
919-929-2787

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Greensboro Children's Museum

To finish our Road Trip Week 2010, I am going blog about the incredibly wonderful Greensboro Children's Museum. Since Greensboro is in that other "T" area of NC (the Triad) I don't think to go there often. But this was just an hour away for us, an easy drive, and we had a fantastic time.

Think of Marbles but not as large, overwhelming, or as crowded. There are various areas of play, each themed, and kids can spend hours here enjoying themselves. And parents can sit on big, comfortable chairs and just watch.

This list is not exhaustive, but just to give you an idea: there is a kitchen area, pizzeria, grocery store, huge play train, train tables, real fire trucks and police cars and race cars to climb in, a camping area, a reading nook, a construction zone, a crafts area, meterology center, vet's office, hospital, and a theatre (the most elaborate I have seen with a play sound board). I was personally amazed at the level of detail in nearly every exhibit. In fact, there is so much to see here, that I couldn't possibly put all of my pictures into one blog post. If you are interested in seeing more pictures of the GCM, visit the photbucket link here.

The arts & crafts center was only open for play if supervised, and a lot of the time we were there it was not supervised so closed. That was a bit of a bummer, but they did have a clock up announcing when the next craft session would start, so there are opportunities there.

There is also a very large tot spot. Things here are padded, gated, walled, and restricted to kids 2 and under. There are tot-appropriate toys, adult chairs, and a wash bin for toys that have gone in the mouth.

Outside on the grounds of the Museum there is a red barn where they hold classes. It was near to see an old barn silhouetted by the skyline of downtown Greensboro. There is a very large garden, and the GCM prides itself on having an program called "Edible Schoolyard." The Edible Schoolyard program is designed to teach children all about oraginc eating, growing, harvesting, and enjoying fresh and seasonal food. They really stress showing children the seed-to-table nature of food. If you are a day visitor, you can browse around and there will be a sign up showing you which things are available for picking and eating that visit. If you want a full program, though, from the Edible Schoolyard, check the website. Programs are special events.

No food for sale at GCM outside of vending machines in the lobby, but you are welcome to bring your own food and beverage in. Also, out in front of the museum, behind a large wooden fence, are a bunch of picnic tables, a sandbox, and a view of the train tracks. This was very fun for my son!

Parking is free. They do offer birthday party packages as well as field trips.

You are right in downtown Greensboro, so watch for high-traffic times and make sure your GPS is updated since downtown Greensboro can be a little tricky to navigate.

I was mildly annoyed at first that children over 1 are charged full admission at $7 and I was also charged a full admission at $7. But given how much C played here and how much time we spent, I got over it.

We stopped after a day of exhausting play at Cheesecake's by Alex on Elm Street (can't believe they haven't changed the name of that street yet) and got some coffee and sweets. It was a great little place: the cheesecakes were good, there is outdoor patio seating, and there is a large aquarium that kept C occupied so my mom and I could fight over the last bits of pumpkin cheesecake on the plate!

http://www.gcmuseum.com/
220 North Church Street
Greensboro, NC

336-574-2898

Mondays are open to Museum-members only

Friday, November 19, 2010

Downtown Graham, NC

Continuing with our Road Trip Week 2010, C and I hit the road on a gloomy day to see what Graham, NC had to offer. This little downtown area was recommended to us by a blog reader quite a time ago. And even though this isn't far at all from Chapel Hill (1 hour max down 54 headed out to Greensboro), with our big house move it took us a few months to get here. But I am so glad we went. You know the whole 'sha-poopy' scene in The Music Man? This downtown area made me feel like I was THERE.

So the best part is the Graham Cinema. This old, classic cinema is right downtown (which Downtown Graham isn't too terribly big so you truly "can't miss it"). They play one movie at a time, only one showing during the weekday and multiple times during the weekends, but the movie is family-friendly. The best part? All seats are $3. And we heard that the popcorn is refillable, for free. C still can't sit through a movie, so we skipped it, but the cinema was old school.

There were 3 consignment shops downtown: 2 for kids (Little Blessings and Miss Tiggy Winkle's) and 1 for ladies (Sandy's). C and I browsed through the kids' consignment places. These are all about the clothes. The racks were teeming.

Then we started walking. Since the downtown area isn't too large, the walking didn't wear us out. But within a stone's throw of the Cinema is the Graham Public Library. I was also pleased to see that The Children's Museum of Alamance County is going in soon next to the library.

Which brings me to the point that Downtown Graham is definitely a place undergoing a revitalization. Although it was founded in 1851 and has a deep history, you can tell that it has seen a depressed era (alas, it appears that the Graham Historical Museum is closed). But you can also tell that the local government is doing a lot to restore and give a facelift to the downtown area. So while there are still empty storefronts and some not-so-safe-looking burroughs right near the downtown area, the historic courthouse is getting a massive facelift, a new museum is slated to go in, and there are signs all over town announcing that they are reinvesting in downtown Graham by "Preserving Our Heritage/Promoting Our Future." And since I have always wanted to live as they do in The Music Man I am a sucker for that. But that means you see a beautiful Bank of America located in a historic, restored colonial house across the street from the Dollar General. I can't wait to see what Graham becomes over the next few years.

Right now, though, you can still live in the past. The Sneauxball Effect is, apparently, a big hit with kids (and they have the Tiger's Blood flavor I have mentioned before). But it was closed when we were there for their off-season hours, so C and I had a milkshake at the fantastic Downtown Graham Soda Shoppe. This place was great!! No longer in The Music Man, I had moved on to Grease. C had a great time grooving to the 50s music, the milkshake was delicious, and the memorabilia in the shop fun to look at.

If you keep walking downtown, you will surely want to sip a coffee from the Roasted Coffee Depot and sit outside in the Sesquicentennial Park (what year is that?). This park right off of the courthouse is a covered arbor with beautiful landscaping. It isn't large but has some benches.

There are some other cute places to eat off of Court Square, including Just Desserts and Barrister's Cafe.

Of course, go 1/2 a mile and there is a McDonald's with a huge playplace as well as some Burger King, Zaxby's, and Arby's. Like I said, I really enjoyed Graham's unique character and can't wait to see how it grows! Definitely worth a visit.

Graham Cinema
http://www.grahamcinema.net/
119 North Main Street
(336) 226-1488

Miss Tiggy Winkle's Consignment for Kids
http://www.mrstiggywinkles.com/
102 E. Pine Street
(336) 221-0044

Little Blessings Consignment for Kids
Facebook Page
134 North Main Street
(336) 222-5805

Sandy's Ladies Consignment
Facebook Page
142 North Main Street
(336) 222-9422

The Sneauxball Effect
Facebook Page
10 NE Court Square
(336) 227-7898

Graham Soda Shoppe
http://www.grahamsodashop.com/
22 NE Court Square
(336) 229-0501

Roasted Coffee Depot
http://www.roastedcoffeedepot.com/
131 West Elm Street
(336) 229- 2295

Thursday, November 18, 2010

IKEA (Charlotte)

From Sarah C.:

As if you needed a reason to trek to Charlotte to visit IKEA, here are two: shopping and fun. DH & I finally made it during a child-free weekend and were stunned by the enormity of the place (perhaps we're the last 2 people to visit an IKEA?). Truthfully, I wasn't entirely sure where to start once we made through the entrance. Thankfully, there are pamphlets including a store map and shopping list ready to help you out along with plenty of signage.

The building contains two levels. Head up to the second floor to start with the showrooms. You can wind through them browsing the displays and filling your cart with smaller items (larger items such as furniture are displayed and you note specifics for pick-up in the Self-Serve area later). The final showroom area is Children's IKEA which is conveniently located next to the stairs and elevators (ie, you could easily head straight here from the entrance downstairs) and the restaurant. The restaurant made for a great break point in our shopping trip and had good food at a very affordable price.

After visiting the showrooms and restaurant, head downstairs to shop the Marketplace and Self-Serve areas. Here's where you really load up the cart. The Marketplace features all the fun smaller stuff - pillows, fabrics, lights, frames, glassware, desk accessories, etc. The Self-Serve is literally a giant warehouse with racks and racks of the bigger items. Here's where that little pamphlet with the map and shopping list that you pick up when entering the store comes in handy. As you find items (ie, kids table and chairs set) in the showrooms you like, you note the description along with the item number and the aisle & bin where it is located. Refer to that in the Self-Serve area to locate your purchase.

Now, returning to the intro, perhaps you noted where I mentioned we were "child-free" and are thinking, "but this is supposed to be about taking our kids?" And it is. D will definitely be with us next time around. We stopped on a whim during a weekend getaway and, not knowing what we were in for, felt like it was a great time to explore it on our own. One of the things we learned is how family and kid friendly IKEA is:
  • Potty trained kids between 36-54 inches can enjoy free playtime at Småland for one hour while you shop.
  • The restaurant features 99c options and a kids eating area complete with smaller tables and chairs. Essentials like bibs and bottle warmers are also available.
  • Play areas throughout the store.
  • Family friendly parking conveniently located just off the entrance in its own small lot.


And, if for whatever reason you aren't in the mood to shop, it's conveniently located off of I-85 and would make a great stop just for lunch and to stretch your legs for a bit.

IKEA Charlotte
http://www.ikea.com/us/en/store/charlotte
8300 IKEA Boulevard (I-85 exit 43/City Blvd)
Charlotte, NC
(704) 549-4532

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Aquariums (Kure Beach & Pine Knoll Shores)

I love aquariums. I feel as though they transport you to an entirely different world. Exotic animals, beautiful colors....I remember going as a child and being mesmerized. Luckily for us North Cackalacky residents, we have not 1 but 3 aquariums in our state!

And when it comes to our NC Aquariums, between all of us bloggers & correspondents at MiCHill, we have been to 2 out of the 3. Not a-one of us has been to the Roanoke Island Aquarium! What is that?! Road Trip 2011 or Bust.

In the meantime, here are some things to know about the other two:

Pine Knoll Shores:
I visited this aquarium years ago, pre-Baby, and had a fantastic time. This aquarium is located near Atlantic Beach. Both DH and I thought that the Aquarium was very friendly touring, but also full of things to look at. There are over 40 exhibits here & five galleries. It kept us entertained.

The Aquarium is all one level. It is part of the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, which includes 2 nature trails. One is part of the Aquarium admission and easily accessible with a stroller. Sarah C. thinks the other trail is more like a "kid on the back" kind of hike.

Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium does have a touch tank.

DH and I went on a rainy day at the beach in the summer. So it was busy. But the aquarium seemed capable of handling it.

Sarah C. actually visited the beach during the off-season with D. And it turns out that off-season means the return of Toddler Time on Wednesday mornings at Pine Knoll Shores. The program starts at 10am and is free with admission to the aquarium. D was 14 months when Sarah C. visited, but that was actually a little young so you might want to hold this for older kids. The program began with each child getting a name badge (a drawing of a turtle with a line beneath to write their name and a small piece of yarn to hang it around their neck) to color. A staff member then read an aquarium related story to the group (ours was about a turtle, seeing a theme?) and then the group participated in a craft project. It looked like a lot of fun but D was off to the touch tanks to check out the horseshoe crabs and starfish before the story ended. If this sounds like fun for your family, be sure to call ahead and verify the day/time before you head out and note is only offered during the off-season.

There is a Dairy Queen at the aquarium (yay!).

Fort Fisher:
The Fort Fisher Aquarium is very close to Wilmington. During a summer beach vacation over in Ocean Isle, a bunch of us took the kids here (via ferry from Southport, which makes a nice little additional adventure) as a break from the sand and sun.

Honestly, we were a little surprised at how small this aquarium felt to us adults, but it clearly was huge to the toddlers we had in tow. The Fort Fisher Aquarium focuses on Cape Fear waters and marine life.

There was a kids-time here as well. Two divers got into the very large shark tank (really, this shark tank is the center and piece-de-resistance of the aquarium), were mic'ed, and answered kids' questions. Same as Sarah C. experienced, though, this seems most suited for older children. Our toddlers were much more interested in the nearby steps.

There was a touch tank, which was a joy.

It didn't take us too long to get through this aquarium. Due to it's small size it makes for easy maneuvering, but it certainly isn't going to be a full day experience. The kids seemed to enjoy the first exhibit, the conservatory, the most. Here were large alligators, frogs, snakes, and turtles. The Fort Fisher Aquarium also houses a very rare albino alligator, named Luna.

Very few concessions here, so I wouldn't plan on eating at this aquarium. They offer an outdoor stand that sells items such as hotdogs and chips, but not much selection & only open on the weekends during the off-season. Luckily Wilmington is nearby and Southport is just a ferry ride.


All aquariums are free on Veteran's Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Admission prices are $8 for adults, $6 for kids ages 3 -12, and free for kids 2 & under.  If you have a membership to the NC Zoo, you can use it to visit the aquariums as well and vice versa.

Either way, the aquariums are worth a visit. I can't wait to finish out the trifecta and head to Roanoke Island soon.

http://www.ncaquariums.com/

Roanoke Island
374 Airport Road

Manteo, NC, 27954

Toll Free:
1-866-332-3475
Programs:
http://www.ncaquariums.com/roanoke-island/programs


Pine Knoll Shores
1 Roosevelt Blvd.
Pine Knoll Shores, NC 28512
Toll Free: 1-866-294-3477
http://www.ncaquariums.com/pine-knoll-shores/programs
Fall-Winter 2010-2011 Free Programs:
http://www.ncaquariums.com/pine-knoll-shores/programs/fall-inter-2010-2011-free-programs

Fort Fisher
900 Loggerhead Road

Kure Beach, NC, 28449

Toll Free:
1-866-301-3476 Programs: http://www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher/programs Programs & Activities for Parents & Children: http://www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher/programs/for-parents-and-children

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

North Carolina Zoo (Asheboro)

Continuing with Road Trip Week 2010, Sarah C. takes us to the Zoo.:

Confession, I love the NC Zoo. DH kindly gave me a membership for Christmas many years ago and we've nearly had a continuous membership since (okay, so we slipped up for a few months after D's birth but that's understandable, right?). Earlier in the month we took D for his first visit. The weather ended up being cooler than we expected but we were too
excited to let that stand in the way. Truthfully, I think there are some advantages in going during cooler weather - less crowds and the animals aren't hiding in the shade napping.

The Zoo is HUGE - it encompasses 500 acres "making it one of the largest 'natural habitat' zoos" in the nation. The layout is split into two continents - North America and Africa. You can travel between them to view the animals via the 5 miles of paths and/or taking the tram. For the most part, I've always walked except at 6 months pregnant when I finally gave in to a few moments of rest taking the tram from North America to Junction Plaza. All of the paths are nice and paved. They made for easy walking and pushing of the stroller during this recent visit. Of course, you can also limit yourself to just one continent if you like and explore the other on your next visit. This is very easily done during the warmer months when both Zoo entrances are open so you could park and enter closest to the continent you are interested in. Check the Zoo website (see below) for a map to plan your visit ahead of time.

If your child has a favorite animal (or perhaps will pick a new one during the visit?), you are sure to find it here. The NC Zoo features over 200 species. A few personal favorites:

- Wilhelm, the polar bear. Before arriving at the NC Zoo, he was part of a circus in Mexico and was abandoned in Puerto Rico. Not exactly ideal for a cold weather bear. The NC Zoo has given him a wonderful new home and, when he's in the mood, he has a lot of fun showing off for the crowd. Definitely one to catch the attention of children young & old.

- Wilhelm's neighbors, the seals and sea lions, can put on quite the show as well.

- The river otter. Very playful and active.

- The chimpanzees. Whether they are running around or sitting still can be quite fascinating to watch and they will come right up to the glass to watch you back.

- The elephants. The opening of the Watani Grasslands Reserve with its elephant trail has made it easy to get closer to these magnificent creatures.

- The giraffes. April - October visitors can visit the Acacia Station Giraffe Deck to get a close up view. Check the website for time restrictions and fee.

Additional fun for kids:
Garden Friends Playground is open year round and features a number of garden inspired sculptures for kids to climb and slide on - squash, leaves, spider webs, etc.

kidZone open April - October features activities and animal encounters for young visitors.

Other details to know before you go:
Food and beverages are available for purchase in designated areas in the Zoo. You can pack a lunch, but all picnics are restricted to designated areas off of each parking area outside the Zoo. Check the Zoo Rules (link below) for all rules and restrictions.

If you plan to visit more than once during the year, consider a membership.  It will save you money and also gain you free or discounted access to more than 150 other zoos and aquariums including the 3 NC aquariums.

North Carolina Zoo
http://www.nczoo.org/ | Hours | Tickets | Zoo Rules | Kids | NC Zoo Society - Membership
4401 Zoo Parkway
Asheboro, NC
1 (800) 488-0444

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Catawba Science Center (Hickory)

It's Road Trip Week here on MiCHill!! That means we are hitting the road and exploring places that are within a drive of our Triangle area. We're opening up the map! Get out your GPS, fill the car with gas, and come along with us this week. Kicking off Road Trip Week 2010 is a post by Stacey "S'Rich" about Catawba Science Center in Hickory, NC:

We were looking for a way to break up the four hour drive to Asheville with a fun activity for our very active toddler ("G") and decided to stop at the Catawba Science Center in Hickory, NC. It was a perfect stop!

Now we had the 'unfortunate' luck of stopping there on Free Day, which seems like it would be great, but we would have gladly paid money to cut back on the crowds. (Regular pricing is very reasonable at $6 for adults, $4 for children and free for 3 and under, along with a variety of other pricing options.) The place was packed and parking looked hopeless. Fortunately, we found a spot and were able to squeeze into the museum. I'd guess that on a regular day, both parking and crowds are not such a problem, so I won't dwell on those and will instead tell you about some of the great things about the museum.

The first is that they have a toddler play area called "Explore It!" which is perfect for trying to wear down a little one that's spending a lot of the day in the car. It has a play house with a tunnel, a light table, padded building blocks, magnetic fishing(so great!), and other activities for little ones. It's actually similar to the toddler area at the Museum of Life + Science (although it could use a door to keep the little ones from escaping). A nearby room contains several ball ramps for the ball-obsessed set to do various ball rolling experiments. There was also a huge area downstairs from Explore It (called "Energy Avenue") that, judging from the joyful shouts we heard, sounded like a great area for older kids to burn some energy while learning about science.

Another one of our favorite areas was the wetland petting zoo. This area of the museum had hermit crabs, fish, turtles, sting rays and sharks, and the kids could put their hands in the water to pet all of these little creatures except.... the turtles (bet you thought I was going to say sharks, didn't you? Wrong! The little sharks were actually petable, but also so popular that we couldn't get close.). We weren't sure G could handle petting the animals, but each of the aquariums had baby-height windows that G loved. I personally enjoyed the giant African turtle and the kid-friendliness of the place.

A strategy note: The museum is actually spread out across a couple of buildings. The toddler play area is in the one that looks like an old red brick school house and the wetland petting zoo is in the tan one that looks more like the official museum, so if you're stopping after a long car ride, I'd recommend starting with the red brick building and heading straight for "Explore It!" to kick off your museum tour.

We didn't check it out since our little guy isn't ready for movies yet, but the museum does have a planetarium. For information and showtimes see link below.

I didn't see a place to eat at the museum, but there were lots of families having picnics in the field out front, so you could pack a lunch and make a full stop of it.

I am not sure I would suggest driving two hours just to go to Catawba, but it's a nice museum and definitely a great stop if you're already heading west--the timing is especially perfect if you're heading to the Asheville area since it's just a little over half way and it's only about 5 minutes off of I-40.

Updated 11/18: The nice folks at Catawba informed us that if you have a Museum of Life+Sciences membership you get into the Catawba Science Center for free!

Catawba Science Center
243 3rd Avenue NE
Hickory, NC 28603
828-322-8169

Closed Mondays

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hill Ridge Farms

From blogger Marney today. This weekend is your last chance to take advantage of the Fall Festival 2010. I have heard that Hill Ridge can get crowded, but also that it is worth it. Marney gives you the full scoop on what to expect.:

Allison was not the only one bitten by the farm bug this fall, my family has also been motivated to visit some of the wonderful farms in our area. So when we heard that Hill Ridge Farms in Youngsville had pony rides as part of their fall festival, our 4 year-old was hooked and once we took a look at all there was to do here, we were too.
Hill Ridge Farms is an educational and fun filled farm located approx. 10-15 miles north of Raleigh / Wake Forest in Youngsville, NC. Hill Ridge felt more like an amusement park than a farm when we first entered. I saw no grassy fields, animals or growing vegetation, just a ton to see and do for kids of all ages. The activities were laid out in rows so you could easily go from one to the other. Our only question was what to do first? We of course let our kids (a 4 year-old and 16 month-old) decide where to go, what were we thinking? We "ran" from one of the two bouncy houses to the hay jump (basically a ton of hay that you run and jump in,) to play in a giant sandbox, zoom down the giant slide, feed the animals in the corral, take the pony ride and check out the rabbits living in "Bunnyville" before finally taking the train ride. Phew! Are you as exhausted reading this as I was doing it?!

The train ride was pretty cool, it takes you on two loops around the farm which is very picturesque and there are lots of old farm machines to view. Unfortunately we were pretty disappointed in the pony ride since it was a carousel style instead of an actual pony ride around a stable but all the kids seemed to enjoy it, including mine.

We ran out of time but there were also some really nice educational exhibits with old kitchen and farm equipment, amusement games, a "corn playhouse" (like the hay jump but with corn), play sets, gemstone panning and a live DJ. We also missed taking the hay ride which looked really fun and it's when you get to pick your own pumpkin. If you miss this activity amongst the craziness be sure to pick a pumpkin from the small pumpkin cart as you exit the farm on your way to the parking lot. Sadly these pumpkins were pretty beat up but my kids didn't seem to mind.

The price of admission was a bit steep and added up quickly. General admission is $10 / person which includes a pumpkin and hayride but you pay extra per person for the pony ride ($4 on weekends only), the gemstone panning ($6) and the train ride ($2.50). They also offer a "superpass" for $20 which includes the regular admission deal + the gem stone panning and unlimited hayrides.

They had some fun food options for snacking like lemonade, kettle corn and funnell cake and they offer lunch at Chuckwagon Grill (Friday - Sunday) which sells hot dogs, hamburgers and fries. You are welcome to bring your own food and eat at their covered picnic tables. We opted to eat on the way home since there were plenty of options on Highway 1 and Capital Boulevard. There is also a general store which sells items like mums, homemade fudge (yum), apple butter and old-fashioned educational toys. Parking was easy and organized and not too far from the entrance and the bathrooms were clean and near the entrance.

Hill Ridge also offers school field trip and group events (think kids birthday parties) that can be catered or spiced up with things like a bonfire or karaoke, how fun! They also have an event center available for rental year-round. Call or visit their website for more information. The fall festival ends this weekend (Nov 14th - sorry!) and the farm has no more big festivals in the winter months. They reopen for a new season of fun events in March and are open year round for event rentals and birthday parties.

Hill Ridge Farms
703 Tarboro Road
Youngsville, NC 27596
919-556-1771

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gracely Girl Kids Clothes Giveaway

We are thrilled to be giving away holiday clothing this month. Gracely Girl Designs is owned by local mom, Amy. Amy handmakes beautiful and whimsical kids' clothes. By using applique, your child gets a unique shirt that will also be practical and comfortable.

We are giving one lucky blog reader a tshirt for their child (sizes 12m - 8) from Gracely Girl Designs. You get your choice of a little girl's Christmas Tree tshirt or a little boy's Snowman tshirt. Amy will work with you to customize your shirt, allowing you to pick the tshirt color. And all this in time for the holidays!

Amy lives in Holly Springs, and you can buy her clothing online at www.gracelygirl.com.

Here is how the giveaway works:

1- Post here or on our Facebook page about your child's favorite article of clothing (we love tidbits like that!).

2- Extra entries if you like Mom in Chapel Hill on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Google Friend Connect (1 extra entry for each social networking medium).

3- Extra entry if you like Gracely Girl Designs on Facebook.

We will pick 1 winner from Random.org. Contest ends Friday, November 19th at noon. Winner announced Friday evening.

So give us your stories about your child's favorite clothes (we know it will be the Gracely tee if you win), and good luck!

Wellness Center at Meadowmont (Pool)

The Wellness Center at Meadowmont, run by UNC, is supposedly the place in Chapel Hill to work out. I had heard how gorgeous the facilities are, and their group fitness schedule is loaded. There is usually a wait to get a membership here. So when C wanted to get in the water, I decided to forego our usual Homestead Pool and head instead to the Wellness Center, use their waters, and get a peek inside.
You do not have to be a member to get in, but like most gyms you do have to pay for a visitors' day pass. It is $10 for a day for anyone over age 8. This is pricey! So right off the bat I am going to say that if you are going for the day, combine your day pass with other things, such as putting your kid in the childcare and taking a class.

The pool itself was very clean, but also very cold. It said on the board that it was 83 degrees, but I don't believe it. There is a warm water pool, but I was told that that is pretty much always reserved for PT sessions or water aerobics classes (despite all the kids toys that are in there). A total tease!

There was a zero-degree entry which is always great with kids.

They had one area of the pool open for recreational swim, so that is where we hung out. There were some great, brand new pool pieces such as turtle shaped kick boards and noodles.

The locker rooms were quite nice: big and clean. They have signs posted that kids over the age of 3 must use gender-appropriate locker rooms. But they do have 2 family changing rooms located near the pool (with showers, changing tables, and toilets). These family rooms were popular when I was there, with a wait.

There were two lifeguards on duty.

I took a little sneak at the rest of the facilities while there. The childcare (called Stay n Play) was so clean, it made me feel guilty about the cheerios sitting on my kid's playroom floor. There is also an indoor track to walk which is a great thing for the colder temperatures coming up.

Make sure to call ahead if you are going to use the pool for recreational swim. With a busy group fitness schedule that includes water aerobics, they sometimes close the pool completely.

This is in Meadowmont Village, so grab some Lickity Split treats while in town!

The UNC Wellness Center at Meadowmont
http://www.uncwellness.com/
100 Sprunt Street
Chapel Hill
919-966-5500

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Southern Village Playground: Newell Street

This playground in Southern Village gets 2 big thumbs up from this mom. It has shade AND is fenced in! Beauty! We haven't seen that winning combination since the Carrboro Elementary School playground.

There are a few swings (including 1 bucket swing), a kid-sized picnic table, and a playgym. The gym was wood and geared for the older kids with a bridge that had handrails but no guardrails.

It was also great as the entire place was a big old sandbox. There were all sorts of sand toys strewn about. Of course, I thought twice about this when two neighborhood cats came over to say hi and hang out in the playground with us....

This little playground has a lot of charm. Buried in a cute community it is surrounded by white picket fencing and big trees that are turning fall golds and reds. It felt a little like New England.

If you want to get out your stroller and walk around to enjoy the fall temperatures, Southern Village's market center center is close by. Treat yourself to some gelato at La Vita Dolce or a latte at Weaver Street Market. Whatever suits!

Southern Village Playground: Newell Street
on the corner of Newell Street & Winston Ridge
Chapel Hill

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Seaforth Recreation Area at Jordan Lake

I love doing things in the Triangle off season. For example, I loved Seaforth Recreation Area when pregnant because it was summer and I got to go and wade my big belly into the water from the beach (beached whale jokes not permitted here). But then yesterday, on a very warm North Carolina fall day, I loved it for the time I was here with C. I really treasured this day.

Seaforth is off of 64, technically in Pittsboro but close to Apex. It is free to get into October through March. Not that it is terribly expensive during high season, but free is always nice. The best part? We were completely alone. And it was gorgeous.

We did go down to the beach area. The water is cold of course, but the vistas some of the best you can find in the Triangle. And the beach was a great big sandbox for one tiny boy.

If you come here to swim in the summer, note that there aren't any lifeguards on duty.

There is a playground here, too, for when the beach gets boring. The playground has swings (no buckets) and a tire swing. The playgym is certainly designed for older kids. You can tell by the photo below that the bridge component doesn't have guardrails, only handrails (big difference). No shade, and the ground cover is sand, of course.
There are a slew of picnic benches, in fact I read that there are 47, and shelters around Seaforth. They get busy during the summer weekends, but always keep them in mind.

C and I skipped the walking trail this trip. We had all the fun we could take on the big empty beach and the swingset. But the trail makes a nice little 1.4 mile loop and isn't strenuous. In fact, I have read that it is very clearly defined as not a hiking path but a foot trail. I bet a jogging stroller could hack it.

There are large permanent restroom facilities at this recreation area.
Boat ramps also available.

Remember to keep this jaunt in mind for warmer months, too.

Seaforth Recreation Area at Jordan Lake
Seaforth is located on a spit (looks like an island in the middle of the lake) on the south side of US-64. Look for the signs.
Map of Jordan Lake facilities here

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Baby Loves Disco

We sent our super correspondent Marney out to get you the scoop on the nationwide hit Baby Loves Disco. Baby Loves Disco is a monthly event in some major cities. But for other cities they visit through a tour around the US. Dates for new locations and cities are announced with only a couple months' noticed. We were ecstatic they were right in Carrboro at The ArtsCenter. Use the information we provide below to get excited about and stay tuned for the next Triangle area announcement, which we are hopeful will happen someday soon. Now without further ado, Marney's write up about Baby Loves Disco Lemonade Tour 2010:

I was super excited for Baby Loves Disco to be here in Carrboro since my kids (and most right?) love love love to dance and well I admit it, so do I. What could be more fun then to break up the evening routine with some DJ music, pizza and a huge energy release for the kids and parents? Well, not much really. And, this dance party did not disappoint on any of these fronts. I honestly felt like I was a really fantastic Sweet 16! The DJ's spun great music and offered plenty of motivation to keep the crowd dancing; bubble machines, limbo, dance contests with cool prizes (H&M gift certificates), and shaker eggs to add rhythm and take home!

Baby Loves Disco is a traveling group of DJ's / dancers / musicians that put on a kid friendly dance party in the early evening hours. The group was born over 5 years ago in Philadelphia and now tours in 45 US cities and abroad. It's suitable for ages 6 months - 7 years and their parents. The 2010 Lemonade tour is spreading awareness and raising money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand (http://www.alexslemonade.org/) and was sponsored by H&M along with some other local businesses. Tickets cost $5 for kids (crawlers free) and $10 for adults. No kid, no admission.

Aside from the great music, the back of the room was set up as a chill-out area with tents, toys, books and puzzles, a baby changing station and chairs to rest. Outside the room there were more fun activities like face painting, sock-puppet making, a "mini manicure" station, and a full spread of healthy snacks like hummus + pita, carrots, fruit and organic juice boxes. There was also pizza on sale by the slice and beer / wine for the adults.

This truly is an event that the whole family can enjoy. All the parents were smiling as much as the kids and dancing up a storm. The event sold out in 2 weeks but the room never felt overly crowded. Perhaps it was because there was more to do than just dance. I personally prefer a crowded dance floor but my husband made a good point that more people might mean little toes get stepped on. And, kids do need a lot of room to let loose :) There was a TON of picture taking which was exhausting but honestly, it was unavoidable as there is nothing cuter than kids dancing with reckless abandon to "Ring My Bell".

Check out their website to see if and when they will return to this area and spread the word to your friends!

[MiChill note]: The geniuses behind Baby Loves Disco offer a line of children's music. These award-winning albums include Baby Loves HipHop and Baby Loves Salsa. Visit www.babylovesmusic.com for more information.

Baby Loves Disco

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Monday, November 8, 2010

For Mom: Primp Salon & Bar

When I think of stuff "for mom" for our little blog, I think mostly about food--preparing it, shopping for it, how to make it easier. But sometimes it is nice to be pampered. And I have to say that Primp Salon & Bar in downtown Raleigh makes it fun.

Oh yes, you read that right: Salon and Bar. All in one. I went with the "Toes and Tinis" package here. It was a blast. We walked in, and were immediately told to walk up to the bar to put in our drink order. They have a full service bar, with a fabulous selection of specialty martinis (my favorite titles were "The Break-Up: F him you don't need him" that was followed immediately by "The Make-Up: Take him back, dating is rough"). This is a place with a sense of humor as well as style.

After our drink orders were in, we went to our service area, our martinis were delivered, our pedicures started, and some fabulous entertainment magazines and entertainment television got us gossiping. Some staff came over to ask if they could get us more drinks, and even brought warm cashews for us to munch on. It was great. Special shout-out to our nail technician, Carlos, who was hysterically fun.

This is a full service salon as well. So you can get your hair done, get a waxing (which in reality should always be done with a shot or two), get your nails done, and even more.

This place is not cheap. It is an upscale salon, with a posh atmosphere and great service. It isn't as expensive as an Umstead Salon, but you will pay more than at Lee Nails. Martinis are in the $8 range. But I say that if you want the ultimate ladies' night out, go get Primped.

Primp Salon & Bar
www.primpsalonbar.com
401 N. West St.

Suite 101
Raleigh, NC 27603
919-821-9885

Friday, November 5, 2010

Chapel Hill Pediatric Dentistry

A helpful post today from "S'Rich" about taking care of your kids' teeth:

We saw Dr. Avni Rampersaud at Chapel Hill Pediatric Dentistry (behind the Lowes on 15-501, ) and had a great experience with the practice.

Their waiting room was comfortable with a cute nook filled with toys and activities for kids. They saw us promptly.

I didn't come with a lot of questions since I was pretty sure I could guess what I'd learn: brush my toddler's teeth more. But thanks to our wonderful hygienist, I came away learning so much more than I expected about my toddler's teeth. We got tips for how and when to brush, as well as what to use when brushing along with so many things I never would have thought to ask or research. After his cleaning (during which he sat in my lap), they painted on a special fluoride treatment, so he couldn't have anything crunchy the rest of the day (which made my snack trap filled with cheerios useless, so plan ahead for that, mommas!).

The fun office decor and happy people we met made it a great experience for my 18 month old, so when he goes back at 3 (per the dentist's recommendation), I'm sure he won't have any anxiety over his visit. Plus, I loved how their supportive approach to dentistry made me come away feeling good about my son's teeth and better prepared to keep them in good shape.

So for anyone who's debating whether or not these early childhood dentist visits are worth it, I'd definitely recommend it (and if my vote isn't enough, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry agrees).

Both of the pediatric dentists require you to file your own insurance claims, but (I assume this is true for other places like this) they provide you with all the paperwork you need, so you can just fill it out and send it in.

Chapel Hill Pediatric Dentistry
www.bigsmiles4kids.com
205 Sage Road, Suite 202
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(919)-929-0489

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kraft Family YMCA

I know this is totally not pool season. But since a lot of you are most likely reeling from the Halloween candy, getting ready to go into Holiday season, I bet you are contemplating a gym membership coming up. Well I have to suggest the Kraft Family YMCA in Apex if you are out that way. This place was beautiful and the kicker was the pool area: hello slide!

The Kraft Family YMCA is very large and very nice overall. I was very impressed with how large the facilities are. And it feels new-- I am not sure how long the Kraft Family YMCA has been available and open, but the place is beautiful. The spin room is separate from the group fitness room, both of which are large and open with glass walls out to the lobby. They offer a good selection of classes. There is an indoor track that is upstairs, allowing you the chance to walk around the perimeter of the basketball courts below. I know I mentioned the pool, but this is a good option for some indoor fitness as the weather cools.

But yeah, my eyes really bulged at the water slide. Adults and kids have to be impressed with it. And the pool is large, with a toddler area. Just something to consider as you look at memberships....

Like all YMCAs, there are family-friendly programs galore. They have a beautiful nursery (very clean) ready for your wee ones when you go to work out. They have preschool programs, track-out programs, and teen programs. They also offer special events. (As I am posting this, there is a Veteran's Day celebration on the horizon that promises family fun.)

And, in accordance with the YMCA's mission, it is affordable. For the amenities and facilites, the membership rates are quite affordable.

There are a lot of reason to join the Kraft Family Y : fair weather and foul. A haul from Chapel Hill, but we're putting this out there for our Apex readers, you lucky ducks.

Kraft Family YMCA
www.triangleymca.org/
8921 Holly Springs Road
Apex

919-657-9622

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Brilliant Sky Toys & Books

A post from Sarah C. (and it's brilliant):

When I heard a new toy store had opened in Cary, I knew D and I needed to go check it out. Oh and the fun we had doing so! Brilliant Sky Toys & Books is a large, beautiful store packed with fun for all ages. D started the adventure in his stroller, but I quickly let him out so he could explore.

The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. They were very relaxed about D checking out toys and pulling items off the shelves for a better look (or just to redecorate ... truthfully, it's hard to tell with a 15 month old!). One of the ladies even kindly carried a few toys over that she thought he might like to try and told me that the store owner loves for the kids to come and play. I appreciated that tidbit as I'm sure we'll find our way over to play from time to time.

Brilliant Sky Toys & Books also offers a frequent shopper program and free gift wrap everyday. Currently they have birthday paper as well as
Hanukkah and Christmas. One less detail for busy parents to have to worry about!


One final note storytime is offered each Friday morning at 11.


Brilliant Sky Toys & Books
http://brilliantskytoys.com/ | Brilliant Sky - Cary | Facebook
Stone Creek Village Shopping Center
Cary
919-465-3866

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