Monday, October 31, 2011

Waverly Place Playground - Cary

From Sarah C.:

Promenade
Waverly Place Shopping Center has been undergoing a renovation and while work is still in progress on some of the buildings, the Promenade is ready for enjoyment. It includes a beautifully landscaped hillside with water and fire features as well as a nice grassy expanse and playground.

While in the general area for other errands, I stopped by with D and my 13 month old niece L to explore the playground. We could see it from the parking lot and were quite excited. Brand new play equipment with an artificial turf lawn beneath and fully fenced in. My only hesitation were the large warning signs posted stating the equipment was designed for the 5-12 age group and that adult supervision was required. We proceeded anyhow as I certainly was not going to disappoint my 2 year old by telling him we couldn't play on the awesome new playground I had been telling him about on the drive over and now was within our reach.

Playground
Admittedly, yes, the equipment is designed for older kids, but we still had plenty of fun. When we arrived, we had the entire playground to ourselves. Later another mother and an 18 month old joined us. The 3 toddlers ran around the artificial turf, climbed through the ropes and up on the springboard platform pieces, rode the single teeter totter, watched the water spraying in the fountain just outside the fence and danced to music playing through the speakers atop the block wall (D was particularly excited when Sheryl Crow's Real Gone from the Cars soundtrack came on - we'll have to bring Allison & C for a dance off one day!).

If you happen to notice the orange cones in the photo above of the play structure, the slide/glider portion of the structure has been removed. The cones are covering it's connections to the ground.

Splash Pad
D discovered the splash pad and was intrigued by the sprayers in the ground. It was turned off, of course. We'll definitely make a visit back next year when the weather is warmer to try it out. For now, it makes a great spot to stand and watch the fountain outside the play area.

To park in the lot closest to the playground, access the center via New Waverly Place from either Tryon or Kildaire Farm Roads. Follow it around to a lot in the back of the center between Buildings A and B (for reference, Whole Foods is at the back end of Building B). The lot here has direct access to the Promenade area including the playground which is beside Building A.

There are water fountains within the playground area. We did not see restrooms nearby or during our stroll around the Promenade to the upper storefronts. Many of the storefronts are still vacant. I imagine there will be some sort of restrooms accessible to the public once the new shops & restaurants open.

If you end up at the Center on a day where the weather isn't quite nice enough for outdoor play, there is a Chick-fil-a with an indoor play area in one of the outparcels fronting Tryon Road.

Waverly Place Shopping Center
http://waverlycary.com/
Corner of Tryon & Kildaire Farm Roads
Cary, NC

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Carolina Panthers Game

Yeah we totally did this. With our kid. Crazy? Just crazy for some football!

You see, we love this area for all the fantastic sports that are here (like the Hurricanes and those wonderful Rollergirls to name just a few!). And we also love watching NFL games and cheering for a certain team that hails from the DC area. When that particular team was in town playing the Panthers, we headed up for a day trip with a very excited little boy.

Right off I am going to let you know the biggest problem you will have with this outing: it is so expensive. If you want to do this you have to plan in advance (both getting tickets early and budgeting). Yet in our opinion it is so worth it! We sat in the seats that are almost as high as you can get and still had great view of the action. Plus the Bank of America stadium is just really cool, with a view of the Charlotte skyline in the distance. (And, by the by, isn't too far from Discovery Place!)

We did the entire trip up and back in one day. From Chapel Hill it was between 2.5 to 3 hours of a drive for us, but very easy. There is a train, too, that goes from Raleigh to Charlotte that a lot of folks take for game day. I am not sure how crazy it might get since there is, apparently, some pre- and post- game tailgating that happens on the train. If we try it some day, I'll let you know.

When you get to the stadium area, you can pay up to $30 to park your car in one of the numerous lots. Or you can drive around like we did until you find a lot that is $10 off of Mint and Graham street. Get there early to get the cheaper parking since it fills up fast! (There is much more detailed and official information at the Panthers' website, see below.)

Outside the stadium is just an experience itself before games. People tailgating everywhere, live music everywhere. At a church on Mint Street just blocks from the stadium a large, very good, and rambunctious brass band plays. C loved that!

To get in the stadium as a parent you will need to know a few things:
1. Bags can not be too large. I took our diaper bag in and that's not tiny, but do pack small if possible. This is also nice simply because when you get to your seat you will want all the foot room you can get.
2. No strollers. Infant carriers such as Bjorns and Ergos are fine.
3. No booster seats of any kid. You probably won't even need them. Our son is a toddler and he could see just fine.
4. Technically no food or drinks allowed into the stadium. They do check your bag but it wasn't a thorough search for us. I brought some "back up" snacks for C just in case we had a food-induced meltdown mid-game and had no problems getting them in in plain sight. Just be prudent.
5. Kids over 12 months must have a ticket to get in. Kids under 12 months without a ticket must sit on someone's lap.

Once inside, there are, of course, plenty of concessions to be had. It is standard stadium food - meaning we found it to be fairly overpriced and not all that great to our grown-up tastebuds but our son was quite content with some chicken fingers.

There are changing tables in pretty much all of the bathrooms. You just might have to wait in line for a toilet (especially if you get up during halftime).

Other things that were a surprise yet good to know with a kid: he LOVED the sound of the Panther roaring (which could potentially lead to your child rooting for the Carolina Panthers if you are rooting for the away team), the halftime show changes but is usually full of music and dancing. Despite football being a relatively slow-moving game, there was plenty here to keep a kid occupied beyond the field.

If your child still is restless and can't hack it anymore, there is a kids area at the stadium. It is called Sir Purr's playden and is located by Section 138. It has astroturf and a football field as well as fun activities such as dressing like a Panther and comparing your weight to the football players' (recommended you do this pre-chicken fingers). We didn't go there ourselves since we didn't need it so I can't tell you whether it cost extra or not. They do offer birthday party packages in Sir Purr's playden, too, if you have a die-hard little fan on your hands.

Overall, this is something that is going to require some planning, commitment, and can make for a long day but will create fabulous memories that nothing else can really provide. Even if your team doesn't win, you will remember the experience!

Carolina Panthers
NFL Football Games
http://www.panthers.com/
Bank of America Stadium
800 South Mint Street
Charlotte

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ragan & Holly's Pumpkin Patch

This could be our last Halloween-related post this season...maybe. It's just that as much as I adore this season and embrace it, time is running short. The holiday is around the corner! Speaking of time running short, if you want to get a pumpkin and have an "out of grocery store" experience without the commitment of a huge fall festival/corn maze/hay ride extravaganza (and at significantly less cost to you) you could check out Ragan & Holly's Pumpkin Patch.

Ragan & Holly's Pumpkin Patch is the fall offerings of Jean's Berry Patch. On the premises where you pick your strawberries when the weather is warm, you can get your pumpkins when the weather turns cool.

Ragan & Holly's really is just about the pumpkins. They will occasionally offer special events like clowns and characters, but these happen on the weekends only and aren't the norm for this spot. Think of those as a happy surprise should you catch them.

Instead, you want to head to Ragan & Holly's to pick up a locally grown and gorgeous pumpkin. This is also a great spot for fall photo opps: hay bales, big tractors you can climb on, and fun fall decor all over. Ragan & Holly's also sells stuff beyond the carving pumpkin. There are all sorts of baking pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks, baked goods, Indian corn, vegetables, and more for sale. In fact, those in the know head to this spot early in the season to get the special Blue Moon pumpkins. The selection of pumpkins here is amazing.

The carving pumpkins aren't the cheapest you will see around town at anywhere between $8-$15 per carving pumpkin, but they are local, large and, well, like I said, just gorgeous.

Cash or check only here. Unlike other fall spots around the area Ragan & Holly's is open daily until 6 pm so you have lots of opportunities to pick your pumpkin up. But if no one is manning the stand it is honor system when it comes to paying for your pumpkins. And please do be honest, folks. This is an incredibly great Apex spot year-round, let's do right by them!

Ragan & Holly's Pumpkin Patch located at Jean's Berry patch http://www.jeansberrypatch.com/
Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jeans-Berry-Patch/
3303 Nc Highway 751
(Corner of Highway 751 and Lewter Shop Road
)
Apex
919-362-5800

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fearrington Village Pumpkinfest

Today we get to give you a debriefing about an event in advance!  Usually we write up events post-visit so that you can use the information for the following year.  But thanks to Katie, today we can get you the information for this event very close to the date of celebration.  Enjoy the read.:

Fearrington’s Annual Pumpkinfest is coming up on Sunday, October 30, and we can’t wait!  (Which, if you haven't been to Fearrington Village before, you must get out and enjoy at some point.  This is such a cute place!)

Last year, we took H (who was just over a year old at the time) and my then 7-year old niece, E, and everyone had a blast. We thought we would just go, check out a few pumpkins, maybe have a little dinner, and head home.  But when we got there, there was so much more! Even better, this event is free!  You only have to pay for what you consume once you arrive.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous about navigating the gigantic crowd with a one year old in a strolled and a seven year old who wanted to see everything, plus all the gear for baby.  Yet once we got going, it was a breeze. We were certainly not the only crew with a little one; in fact, it seems that every tree had several strollers parked around it. We followed suit, parked our stroller and made our way two the parking lot in front of the Belted Goat where a live bluegrass band was playing. H & E had so much fun dancing and laughing with the other children, we almost forgot about the pumpkins!

This is also one of the rare occasions where the cute and cozy McIntyre's Books does a special kids storytime, not to be missed for the older kids.  And, of course, Fearrington Village has the special belted galloways and fainting goats that you can seek out.

As we made our way to the Granary for dinner (which did include a kid-friendly menu) we saw the most intricately, and beautifully carved pumpkins displayed not only in front of stores and along walkways, but tucked away in unexpected spots. And the lit carvings weren’t limited to pumpkins. There were other gourds, and what I am pretty sure really was a turnip.

The only downside of the evening was that when we got to The Fearrington Granary the wait for a table was over an hour long. This year, we will put our names on the list and then go exploring!  (FYI the Belted Goat also serves light fare during the Pumpkin Lighting, but H wasn’t quite ready for a sandwich last year.  Also, The Roost will be, as usual, selling adult beverages for enjoyment but this night they will also be selling hot dogs and fried chicken.) Also, note that if you have a little one who doesn’t walk much make sure you have a stroller with you.  Parking can get tight and you may have to park down the road and walk to the village center.

For the grown-up side of things, check out our review on Discovering the Southern Part of Heaven.  And if you want to see the pumpkins without the crowds, the pumpkins will still be out for display on Monday night.

Fearrington Village Annual PumpkinFest
Sunday, October 30, 2011
5 pm - 8 pm

Fearrington Village

www.fearrington.com
2000 Fearrington Village Center
Pittsboro

Spooky Storytime at McIntyre’s Books (6:00pm & 6:30pm)
Family Style Dinner at The Fearrington Granary (5 pm-8 pm)

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Hubb's Corn Maze

Are you all tired of fall fun and adventure yet?  Of course not!  Us either.  Today Dave from the great blog Forced-Family-Fun brings us another post, this time about his family's adventures at Hubb's Corn Maze.  Although it's in Clinton, it seems well worth the 1 hour drive!:

When hanging with the family I usually stick pretty close to downtown Raleigh… why endure the inevitable crying that comes with a long car-ride? However, recently my family visited Hubb’s Corn Maze in Clinton, a little less than an hour from Raleigh. While the ride was not trivial it was well worth it. My wife and I giggled like children as we enjoyed the huge jumping pillow and lightening fast burlap-sack slide, making this outing officially the most fun I’ve had being a parent (note that my son also had fun).


Hubb's is much like McKee's in that they specialize in huge corn mazes.  In fact, there are 4 at the premises: 1 for beginners, 1 for toddlers,  and 2 longer mazes.  This year's theme is a tribute to the 30 year space shuttle program (check out their website, below, to get an aerial view).

One of the greatest things about Hubb’s Corn Maze is that their only criteria for adding a new activity or ride is that it must be super-fun and borderline dangerous. The barrel train is a manifestation of this policy. Kids climb into barrels with wheels on them and are whipped around in circles by a surprisingly fast lawnmower. Our son G and my wife road together for his first ride but soon he was riding all by himself. This was our 16-month-old’s favorite activity.  (Note that younger kids will really love this, older kids may not.)

Oh, special insider's tip: if you have a young kid that needs a parent to ride with them make sure that the shorter parent volunteers. I almost got stuck!
 
Another of our favorite activities was the dueling burlap-sack slides. We warmed up by taking our son down the smaller slide on our lap and then let loose on the larger one. Our son even went down the smaller slide on his own. While you may be thinking “it’s just a slide” let me assure you that the combination of speed with the lack of control caused by the burlap sack is exhilarating.  Make sure you get every inch of your butt and feet on that burlap sack and you’ll really fly!

While Hubb’s Corn Maze is a great outing it’s not a free one. We paid $15 per adult (cash only) for the activities + maze pass but, truth be told, we didn’t even make it to the corn maze! If you have young kids consider just getting the activities pass, as you’ll never have time to do both the activities and the maze before nap time. If your kids are a bit older spring for the full pass and you can really make a full day of fun.

Here's a full list of everything you can find at Hubb's:
    * Hubb's Express Train (50 Passengers)
    * Barrel Train
    * Jump Pillow
    * Air Canon
    * Huge Sand Box
    * Tire Play area
    * Wooden Play Tower
    * Steer Roping
    * Giant Slides
    * Toddler Town
    * Fire Pits in the evening (byo marshmallows)
    * Mini Hay Bale maze
    * Hay Ride
    * Pony Ride
    * Pumpkins
    * Concessions

Hubb's also offers a Haunted Trail at night.  They promise scary excitement so make sure your kids are prepared if you elect to take them.

Hubb's Corn Maze
http://www.hubbscornmaze.com/
10444 West Highway 421 North
Clinton
919-564-6709

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sweet Tomatoes

Today's post comes from our newest resident blogger, Katie.  If you missed our Facebook announcement, we've entered into a partnership with Discovering The Southern Part of Heaven, and we're pretty excited.  Here's a great place to eat with kids (the description kind of reminds me of Souper!Salad, which my family loves!):

Last weekend, we headed over to Lake Crabtree County Park with H to check out the tot lot.  After all that playing and exploring, we were all ready for lunch.  With no picnic packed, we started trying to decide on lunch options.  And in our family, this is a big deal.  Gone are the days of going into any restaurant with our peacefully sleeping baby in a carrier.  We are fully into the days of needing a restaurant with tables and seats that are easily wiped off, and an atmosphere where a little noise doesn’t matter, but we didn’t really want to go straight for fast food.  Veggies would be great!   So, we headed for Sweet Tomatoes in Cary. 

Sweet Tomatoes was just what the doctor ordered for our post-park lunch.  While it might not top my list of  exquisite date night choices (really, they bill themselves as family-friendly, so I don’t think there will be any hurt feelings there), it certainly tops my list for a family friendly restaurant with plenty of veggie options! My husband and I both got huge salads (the premise of the restaurant is soup and salad, with some extras, like pasta, bread, baked potatoes and dessert thrown in), and H had some fruit, veggies, and his favorite, mac and cheese!

Here’s what to expect:  You serve yourself—the main part of the restaurant is one gigantic, and well stocked, salad bar.  After you’ve loaded up on salad, you pay at the end of the line.  There is a set price for adults (see details below), and children 2 and under eat free (yet another reason it would top my family friendly list).   Once you have paid, you serve yourself drinks and can pay a visit to the hot bar (pastas, soups , breads).  There is also a limited dessert bar—usually ice cream, pudding, jello, etc.   It isn’t exactly cheap, but honestly, you might just pay the same about for fast food, and if you are a big eater, it is all you can eat.

Seating is booths and tables, and there are plenty of high chairs and booster seats.  H had lots of fun making eyes at the little girls sitting in the booth behind us.   

Sweet Tomatoes
www.souplantation.com
2310 Walnut Street
Cary, NC 27518

Sunday-Thursday 11am-9pm
Friday-Saturday 11am-10pm
Adult Prices:  lunch (11-4, $8.89 per person)
               Dinner (4-close, $9.89 per person)
Children’s Prices (remain the same regardless of time)
                         2 years old and under:  Free
                         3-5 years old $2.99
                         6-12 years old $4.89

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

William B. Umstead State Park - Raleigh

Are you all really excited for the leaves to turn colors and pop?  Lucky for you I know a great place right in Raleigh off of 70/Glenwood Avenue for you all and your kids to take the foliage in: Umstead Park.

Right away I want to state the obvious: this is not the Umstead Park playground in Chapel Hill that we've covered, nor is it the gorgeous Umstead Spa in Cary that we are also fans of (which comes up if you Google "Umstead").  The Umstead family was just really popular here, even giving us a Governor.

This Umstead Park is close to 6,000 acres - not a typo - right in Raleigh of trees and forest.  It is a little bizarre.  You pass all the discount furniture places, you are minutes from Carmax and Rainbow Play Systems, yet there is an oasis of wilderness.

Umstead State Park does not have any playgrounds or special kids activities.  The two major draws are the boathouse and the hiking.

The boathouse, alas, is not open any more this season.  The second weekend in October is your last chance to rent a boat here.  But they open up again the second weekend of April and remain open all summer.  By the way, these are all man-powered boats, like canoes.  There are actually 3 lakes in Umstead Park (no swimming), all of which boast great fishing (proper licensing required if you decide to do this), but the boats run out of the largest of the 3 lakes called, appropriately, Big Lake.  (Does anyone else think of Sixteen Candles?)

Umstead Park has a slew of trails for horses (13 miles), mountain bikes (13 miles), and day hikers (22 miles).  All of which are strictly designated as such so there shouldn't be any bikers swishing by on your hike. Plus there is camping available in the park, for a fee.  Obviously, you can plan to stay here for awhile if you wish. 

From anywhere in the Triangle this makes for a great day hike adventure, which is why it is such a treasure.  The hikes are fairly easy.  There aren't a lot of hills in this part of Raleigh so they aren't too intense.  The trails are not paved, for the most part.  You will find some areas that are paved near the very large, shaded, and beautiful picnic area (bring a lunch!) and down to the boat house.  Yet in general plan to bring a really rugged stroller or a carrier.

There is a visitors center with nice restrooms as well as some restrooms down by the picnic area at the end of the road.  There is also a nice little trail that makes a circle behind the visitors center.  There are, of course, trail maps available at the park but if you like to plan before you go there is a detailed trail map at Umstead Coalition here.

Do pay attention to your trail as you are walking it.  Things are labeled but you have to make sure you stay on the correct path.  Lots of folks talk about getting lost in here.  C and I just did part of the Pott's Branch Trail and the Sycamore Trail and had no problems, but it is a common complaint I hear.

There are shelters of various sizes available for use and special event rental.

Since this is right in Raleigh you will hear traffic noises from Glenwood and the planes flying overhead as they take off and land from RDU.  For C that was part of the appeal.  Otherwise, get out there and enjoy!



William B. Umstead State Park
http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/wium/main.php
Park hours:
Nov. - Feb. : 8 am to 6 pm
Mar., Apr., Sept., Oct. : 8 am to 8 pm
May - Aug. : 8 am to 9 pm
Close Christmas Day
Boat Rentals available mid-April thru mid-October


8801 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh
919-571-4170

Sunday, October 16, 2011

NC State Fair

From Sarah C.:

When I moved to the "big city" of Raleigh in 1996, I began my annual visit to the NC State Fair. I'd never been to a state fair prior and the entire event mesmerized me from the rides to the food to the people watching. The last two years DH & I decided to skip. Although we've definitely seen plenty of folks with their wee little ones there, we didn't envision taking a then 4 or 15 month old very exciting for us. This year, we decided to give it a shot with our now 2 year old son thinking we'd make a morning out of it. Surprise to us, it went so well we spent 8 hours! I could write a quite lengthy post, but will try to keep it brief and highlight a few of the fun things to do with the younger crowd (although most the entire family will enjoy!).

Smokey Bear - There often seem to be a number of people who miss Smokey. Believe me, you will know if you see him. He "hides" in the NC Forestry exhibit which is accessed behind Heritage Circle and across a bridge. Stop by to have a chat with him & get a picture taken. When you leave, head further into the exhibit to see a sawmill in action and pick up a free pine tree sapling (the website says only Fri-Sun for the saplings) as well as stickers, rulers, tattoos (this seems to be the new "in" thing this year), etc.

State Fair Ark Animals - Located in the Expo Building, this is a great spot to see the animals - touching is not allowed here. We saw donkeys, cows, pigs, goats, a horse, and lambs. Just beyond the Ark section NC State Animal Science Club has their cow milking booth. Older kids might enjoy a chance to milk a real cow.

Children's Barnyard - Here is where kids can touch the animals. We skipped it because D is still so young. There are hand washing stations located outside of it. Nearby is the pony ride - it's $5/per ride. There is also a petting zoo near Gate 9 according to the map.

Flower & Garden Show - Ok, I confess this is my favorite part of the Fair. I always enjoy seeing the gardening entries. A few things the kids will love - the giant adironack chair you can sit in for a photo op, a large chicken made of chicken wire on a surfboard in the air plus his "nest" of giant eggs in a boat on the ground, pumpkin carving (check times to see this live), and a garden featuring two trains! Be sure to check out the gourd display - you can pick up free gourd seeds to plant next year. Another learning opportunity for the kids!

Field of Dreams - Kids under 12 can pick up a basket and participate in this exhibit. Pass several small fields of plants to a picking area where kids fill their baskets with specific quantity of produce items. Continue along the path to the farmers market where their produce is weighed and the child gets "paid" (in funny money, of course). Then head into the tent to shop with the "money." Each child gets a shopping bag of goodies including an apple & lunch pack of Mt.Olive Pickles. (By the way, if you're a Mt. Olive Pickle lover, check out their booth in the Commercial Building for free stickers and 50 cent pickles.)

Kiddieland Fun Park - This area between Dorton Arena and the Education Building, contains all the rides for the kids. Riders must be at least 36" tall or accompanied by a paying adult. Each ride notes specific requirements or check the website (link below) for further details. There are also a number of roaming acts and free shows here.

Weigh in - Step on the scales at the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Standards Division exhibit to get a printout with your weight on it. Ok, so some of the adults might not be too anxious but the kids will find it fun. They can come back each year for a new printout & see how they've grown. (And I laugh while I write that as both DH & I got our weights which we've done for years - yes, we're brave like that! - but D skipped as he was amazingly content in his stroller at that moment.)

Cultivate a Career exhibit -  This interactive exhibit teaches about the various career opportunities in agriculture. One perk for stopping here, our son was given a free herb growing kit so be sure to visit this tent!

Got to Be NC exhibit - I personally love shopping local and this tent is all about that. Another plus, several of the vendors offer free samples as well as items for purchase. This can come in handy when you have a hungry child. From hot dogs to hot sauce to peanut butter to ice cream, it's here.

Musical Acts - Find a variety of free musical acts throughout the Fair. We paused in Heritage Circle and D started to get his groove on to the Back Porch Bluegrass Band.

Sponsor Tents - There are lots of great sponsor tents that feature goodies for the kids. My favorite was the UNC-TV / PBS & Marbles tent. There were cut-outs of characters to take photos with (the man in the yellow hat & Curious George, Clifford, Sesame Street gang, etc) and games to play. Pick up a nice free shopping bag, stickers and pencils. The Governor's Highway Safety Program area had patrol cars to check out, a child seat safety section (be sure to get a free emergency contact sticker for your car seat), those click-it or ticket clickers (if you've ever been to the Fair, you know what I'm talking about), etc. Ford had a number of their cars on display that you can climb into (what kid doesn't like getting behind the wheel?). If your child loves buses, check out the school bus between the Expo & Kelley buildings.

Scavenger Hunt - The Fair has a couple of different scavenger hunt options this year if you really want to explore the Fair a little further. One requires your mobile phone using a free app or using your texting service (see the website link below for details). Another is a single page PDF you can download and print. This could be fun for older kids to help them learn a bit about the Fair & the state of North Carolina - 2011 State Fair Adventurer Scavenger Hunt PDF.

Fireworks - If you & your kids can survive the Fair until 9:45pm, be sure to catch the fireworks display.

Final tips ...
  • I'm sure you know this, but will mention it just in case - if you have younger kids, take the stroller! The fair is huge, parking is close but still a walk so little legs will tire. If you do forget, strollers and wagons are available to rent on a first come, first serve basis. Also, if you have a buddy harness, it's another helpful way for keeping your little one close by.
  • There are lots of hand washing / antibacterial stations but you may want to pack your own sanitizer & hand wipes for extra convenience. 
  • Food & drinks can be brought in. Packing your child's sippy cup & snack trap might be old habit, but don't forget yourself even if you plan to buy food.
  • If you didn't purchase tickets in advance, you can buy them at the gate and kids 5 & under are free.
  • There are changing tables available in most bathrooms. There are family restrooms in select areas. "Mothers" rooms are located only in Scott, Martin, Expo and Graham buildings
  • Enjoy!! 

NC State Fair
http://www.ncstatefair.org | 2011 Ticket Info | 2011 Fair Map (PDF)
The 2011 Fair runs until Oct 23rd. Open 8am - midnight.
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC 27607

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Traveling Teacher Show at UMall

I have talked before about how UMall keeps making improvements and changes, and that I am on board with where they are going.  Well add another one in the win column for this little mall that could: The Traveling Teacher Show.

I am going to tell you up front that I did not take C to this.  You see, the shows are currently offered Tuesday and Thursdays at 10:30 am in the mall, and C is now in preschool those times (sniff, yet also sigh of relief).  So while out running errands on my own (gasp) I stopped by to check this out for you all (you're welcome).  It was so cute! (And no more sound effects, I promise.)

This is a variety show, as it were, created and presented by 2 women who are both trained educators, former teachers, animated, and simply great with kids.  They read stories, sing songs, have a puppet show presentation, engage in some audience participation events, and also do a craft.  Yet beyond that I can't really give you too many details since each show has a different theme and is different.  Every Tuesday and Thursday is a different show.

The primary goal of The Traveling Teacher Show is to teach kids to be environmentally conscious and aware.  In the meantime, though, it is just fun.

The show advertises all ages in some places and ages 2-5 in others.  The group I saw in attendance there was primarily 1 to 3 year olds and they were all having fun. UMall provides a barricade of sorts, floor mats for cushioning, and folding chairs for parents.  So despite being in a mall it is quite comfortable.

Oh, and did I mention it's free!?

Again, as of right now this is scheduled to continue Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 10:30 am, at the mainstage at UMall.  But you will want to stay tuned to their Facebook page and website (see below) for most up to date information.  They have even listed all of the themes for the rest of the month. UMall also does a great job of updating their events on their website, as well.

Don't forget that UMall has a Chick-fil-A, the My Fairy Godmother shop, Cameron's and that crazy back room, A Southern Season, and soon to come the Chapel Hill Public Library's temporary spot (which we got a sneak peek of and looks gorgeous!).


The Traveling Teacher Show at University Mall
http://www.thetravelingteachershow.com/ 
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Traveling-Teacher-Show/
For October- Tuesdays and Thursday 10:30 am

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Children's Cooperative Playschool Consignment Sale

Today's post comes from our friend, Susan.  Since you always want to know about consignments, and whether it's worth it, before you go here is the inside scoop on this sale coming up!  This is a short sale, only 4 hours to shop, so make sure you get there.:
 
Twice a year the non-profit Children’s Cooperative Playschool holds a consignment sale for one day.  This year's fall sale will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2011, from 8:00 am-12 noon. 


Here's a little sneak peek at the merchandise: tons of fall and winter children’s clothing (0-5 yrs), Halloween costumes (why overpay for costumes, come check this stuff out!) and dress up clothes, books, toys, DVDS, riding toys, bedding, nursery accessories, maternity clothes, nursing items, exersaucers, strollers, and pack & plays.  But still oh so much more!

The sale will be held in the church parking lot next to the preschool (2025 Ephesus Church Rd, Chapel Hill). In the event of rain, the sale will be held in the church basement.

Everything is priced to sell and most items will be marked to half-price from 11am-12pm!

If you want to consign items, please visit the website link here for instructions on how-to.  Consignors get a big return at 65% of your items’ selling price!  That's huge for consignment.

The Children’s Cooperative Playschool is a non-profit preschool. Proceeds from the sale help provide scholarships to our students. Not only can you get a good deal on gently-used merchandise, but it's also for a good cause.

Children’s Cooperative Playschool Consignment Sale
www.childrenscooperativeplayschool.com
Biannual sale (Fall and Spring)
Children’s Cooperative Playschool
2025 Ephesus Church Rd

Chapel Hill

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vollmer Farm

Roadside Market
Sarah C. just toured Phillips Corn Maze and I didn't get to go (sniff sniff). So when I was looking for something fun and fall to do this past weekend, which was pretty much the best weekend weather a family could hope for, I decided to try out my own fall farm. Will Sarah C. be jealous?! Intrigue and drama here at MiCHill.

C and I decided to head out to Vollmer Farm in Bunn, NC. Vollmer is HUGE, I mean, HUGE. There is a lot to do here for families. Yet before I get into all the activities, I am going to start off with price. Because Vollmer is not cheap. There is a front roadside farmer's market area where you can pick your own pumpkin, play on some really neat playground equipment like a pirate ship, and buy other goods. There is no charge for admission to that area.

But the part I am really going to go into is called the "Back Forty." The Back Forty Playground at Vollmer Farm is where all the action is. The Back Forty costs you to get in: $13 ages 2 & up, and free for kids under 2. There are discounts for seniors as well as UNC and Duke Hospital employees. But you can see how this would add up quick. (Psst, if you are a Triangle NC Kids Club member you get a discount.)

That warning issued, there really is a lot to do here so you can easily get your $13 worth out of this adventure. This farm kept surprising me with how many activities were around each corner. We were here close to 3 hours and easily could have made it longer had we not had obligations back home (like nap a.k.a. Mom's sanity saving time).

Great Pumpkin Jump
Let's get going. Here is what the Back Forty has:
- A corn crib. We talked about this in our Ganyard Farm post and how great it is. This was a hit here, too!
- A pumpkin catapult. Um, young boys, pumpkins, large rubber bands, and targets? Yes, please.
- "Great Pumpkin Jump." This is a huge pillow-top looking thing to bounce on. See the picture to get the gist. The hardest part is getting up on it.
- A wooden playground area. This included a choo choo train, a large truck, some sort of blimp looking thing, swings, and John Deere tricycles.
- Duck races. Yet kids get really involved in these by pumping the water of the wells to make their ducks go. The faster you pump the well, the faster your duck goes.
- An underground slide. This is super fast, by the way.
- A "zip line" for tots. It is a little airplane on a short zip line that you put your kids in and away they fly.
- Not 1, but 2 corn mazes. One is small, one is large.
Cow Train
- A cow train. This was THE thing my toddler wanted to do here. A John Deere tractor pulls a bunch of cars that look like cows (each with its own name) around the grounds and the lake.
- A rubber play field. This is a bunch of tires and other really cool things placed all around the area for climbing, bouncing, and exploring.
- Rat races. A funny little game: kids climb into big tubes and someone rolls them around (caution:: do not let siblings roll each other, turns out they can be kind of evil and relentless when it comes to tormenting each other).
- Animals. There are lots of baby animals here including pigs, a cow, bunnies, goats, and hens.
- Rope maze. According to everything I have read there is a rope maze to do. We didn't see it but honestly I would not be surprised if we missed some things here.
- Large bubbles to create and chase.
- Arts and crafts.
- The pumpkin queen. If you see her around grounds, you can say hi to the pumpkin queen. She's not hard to miss!
 - Corn Hole.  There were corn hole games, complete with bean bags, set up all over for impromptu games.

I've put all my photos on our photobucket site if you want to see more.

Another great part? To get to the Back Forty you park your car at the farm's main shop and get a tractor pull ride to the back and another one to return to your car. It's sort of like a hay ride built in to the experience. We even got a little guided tour on our ride to the Back Forty, with the driver pointing out the various veggie patches and things they grow.

A little tip? Have your kids wear shoes that are easy to get on and off and think about socks (or not). The Great Pumpkin Jump and Corn Cribs both require no shoes.

The place was really clean, well put together, and well organized. All of the bathrooms are port-a-johns, but beyond that this was a really pristine area with a lot of scenery as well. And since this is a family place they have thought of everything: the tractor rides to the Back Forty accommodate strollers (either strap them to the hooks on the back or just bring them on with you) and there are changing tables and areas around.

Vollmer has concessions for sale on the Back Forty. You can buy ice cream, BBQ platters, hot dogs, sodas, water, and more. But families are also welcome to bring picnics and their own food in with them. Throughout the Back Forty are nice picnic tables - and a BUNCH so you will be able to find a picnic table if you want one. Whether or not you get one of the ones with shade is a different story since those are coveted....No dogs allowed, though. So some family members will have to stay home.

Vollmer does do birthday parties on the Back Forty and we saw 2 happening during our visit. They look like fun!

FYI, you don't get a free pumpkin to take home with you after your visit here. If you want one you have to pay extra.

Bunn, NC is not too far from Raleigh at all (I was surprised, Mapquest it!). From my home in Chapel Hill, Chatham Co. side nonetheless, it was just over an hour. Those of you in Raleigh will be much closer. I talked to some parents while there and they said that they found Vollmer much more enjoyable than Hill Ridge but since I haven't been to both I'll let you all be the judges. Just throwing it out there...

Something else so cute is that on Saturday nights in the fall Vollmer does a large bonfire, sells marshmallows to roast, and shows family friendly movies outside such as "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and "Winnie the Pooh." Check their website, below, for details and schedule.

That's pretty much all I can think to share with you all about this spot! (Did you even make it this far?) We really had a fantastic time here and I will gladly go back next fall. Bear in mind that the Back Forty is a seasonal thing and only open to the public on weekends during October (see their website, below, for full hours) so you need to hurry if you want to go. And don't worry too much about crowds. There were a lot of folks there when we were but since there is so much space and so much to do it never felt crowded to us.

The roadside market of Vollmer is open year round selling seasonal vegetables. Also check them out during various fruit seasons since they have pick your own strawberries and organic blueberries. Vollmer also offers a CSA that, if my view of their vegetables is any barometer, I bet is really good.

Vollmer Farm
http://www.vollmerfarm.com/
Fall Festival and Back Forty Playground
677 NC Hwy 98E
Bunn
919-496-3076

Friday, October 7, 2011

Phillips Corn Maze

From Sarah C.:

I love fall and all things that come with it - especially the chance to visit local farms for hayrides, pumpkin picking and more. Last Sunday, my family & I spent a few hours at Phillips Farms in Cary. While the parking lot was fairly full when we arrived mid afternoon, it didn't feel crowded and we easily moved from one bit of entertainment to the next.

We started by wandering to the left to explore the kids' play areas. Ok, maybe I should scratch the word "kids" because even the adults can have fun! There is a corn crib (big boxed space with lots of dried corn kernels to play in), pedal cars to race, corn hole, giant tic tac toe game, bounce house, tube swing, slides (no adults on these), a pumpkin shooter ($1 per shot), a "duck race" (pump water to race plastic ducks down pvc sides), small hay bale maze for the little ones, etc.

After playing a bit, we headed to the line for the hayride. We literally only had to wait for the tractor to pull up and unload then we were on - perfect when you have a fidgety toddler. The hayride took us to the pumpkin patch where each child could select a softball size or smaller pumpkin for free (larger pumpkins are $6 each). All the kids seemed to love wandering the patch looking for their own perfect pumpkin.

When the hayride returned us, we walked over to the corn mazes. Yes, mazes. You have an option between the small or large mazes. The attendant told us the longer one seems to take visitors anywhere from 30-60 minutes. We were up for the challenge and chose the longer.

She handed us two quizzes - the adult and kid versions. Did I scare you with the 'q' word? Don't worry, they aren't too challenging. As you reach checkpoints during the maze with the "Which Way?" sign, you read the associated question and choose one of the multiple choice answers. Choose correctly and you proceed on through the maze to the next checkpoint. Choose incorrectly and you'll go in the wrong direction! (My one hint here, go the wrong way on question #5. Along with 4 other groups, we chose the correct answer but it led us to a dead end. Once we went the 'wrong' way, we found checkpoint #6.) Minus our little confusion at checkpoint #5 and a sometimes slow toddler, we successfully found our way out in about 45 minutes.

Phillips Farms of Cary is open to the public on weekends through November 1. Check their website listed below for hours. Other days of the week reservations can be made. Call or email for those as soon as possible to get the date you want. Tickets are $10 for ages 13 & older, $6 for ages 4-12, and free for ages 0-3. A coupon for $1 off is available on their website.

Phillips also offers the Haunted Farm featuring "Barn of Gore, Field of Screams, The Haunted Hayride and more" on Friday and Saturday nights through October 31. Tickets are $15 for ages 10 & older and $10 for under age 10 but due note that it is not recommended for children under 10 years. If you have younger children, perhaps hire a sitter and try as a date night ... if you dare. ;)

Phillips Farms of Cary
http://phillipsfarmsofcary.com/corn_maze.html | Haunted Farm
Open to the public Friday, Saturday & Sunday; other days by reservation
6701 Good Hope Church Rd
Cary
919-795-0675

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chatham County Fair

I know the State Fair is right around the corner and you might be feeling a bit of a longing and yearning...looking forward to fried foods, agricultural competitions, and fair rides. Next year remember that the Chatham County Fair is also in our area, at the end of September, and worth a stop!

This fair was small yet because of that was navigable for a family, safe, and cheap.

DH and I enjoyed our visit here and also really appreciated the history behind it. This was the 61st fair, it has been going continuously, rich in history, since then. The Chatham Journal writes:

"In 1950, the Fair allowed prominent members of local African-American communities and county agricultural agents a venue to spotlight the production of goods, skills and crafts they'd helped hone in rural black Chatham County. Local families from all over the county had a safe, friendly place to gather and visit at this much anticipated annual event."

This is a fair that has added to Chatham County's personality for decades.

Like I said, the fair was small yet had what we needed to enjoy for an hour or two, especially for a toddler. Prices are reasonable for entrances, too, at only $4 for adults to get in; $3 for kids 6-12; and kids 5 & under were free.

Once in the fairgrounds, there was a rec hall filled with the winning entries of arts & crafts from quilts to photographs to kids crafts, jams and jellies, plants, vegetables, and more.

In the large meadow behind the rec hall was a stage featuring music all day, mostly with local talent. They really do a great job of lining up a lot of musical talent here and engaging local youth. Each year, as well, the planners of the fair try hard to plan various fun competitions like ice cream churn offs, watermelon and pumpkin contests, and Bingo.

There were a few concession stands where you could get fried food (of course!), sno cones, and cotton candy.

There were some fair rides, but not many. Really just one zipper-like ride (smaller, though, so kids of all ages could potentially ride) and a scrambler. C was really entertained on the train ride. This was a tractor pull set up and created to be a train. We sat in the caboose and rang the bell all around the fairgrounds. Most of the kids, though, were spending time in the bounce houses.

All of these fair rides cost money to enjoy. We had to purchase tickets in advance, which were $1 each. Each ride was 3 tickets. Parents rode free with their kids.

If that ended up being still more than we wanted to spend, though, there were plenty of free entertainments around. The Chatham County Partnership for Children had a tent out with a lot of offer. There were sand and water tables, an infant's area, painting, playdough, tattoos, and drums to bang on.

We also had a really good time looking at the old tractors (original John Deere tractors from the 1950s that were in fabulous shape) as well as the animals on display. The animals to be looked at were the winners at the fair, as well, so were beautiful! The pig was huge and the rooster was gorgeous.

This fair was really cute. It felt like a true agricultural fair and not a staged event, so we were really impressed. Again, you might not be able to spend more than 2 hours there, but given how affordable this was we had no problem with that. C had a blast and we were so happy to have a fun fall afternoon here.

Chatham County Fair
http://www.chathamcountyncfair.com/
annually end of September/early October

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Burlington Park - Chapel Hill

Nope, this ain't the park in Burlington that we've already talked about (even though we have close to 500 posts now, we still can keep trackof where we've been enough not to repeat!). This is a cute little Chapel Hill park. Well, it is off of Ephesus Church road in that area that is kind of Durham kind of Chapel Hill, but operated and maintained by Parks & Recs of Chapel Hill.

Driving down Ephesus Church (this is a quick just over 1 mile trip from Eastgate where you will find winners like The Loop and EVOS) you are apt to miss it. There is a sign on the left hand side pronouncing this park is there but it kind of looks like someone's driveway. There is a gravel parking lot and the playground is squirreled away behind some trees.

That means this little playground has fantastic shade. There are both traditional swings and bucket swings off the parking lot. Then you cross a little bridge and are at the main playground.

Warning that this playground is definitely for older kids. The only way up to the slides is a ladder which toddlers and preschoolers can have a hard time with.

The ground cover is sand. This is a small place so no restrooms here.

There are a few really nice picnic tables, each with its own shade shelter. Nearby to those there is a big grassy area for kicking a ball, dancing, hula hooping, or just running in circles (our activity of choice when we went).

Full list of amenities:
  • picnic area
  • grass area
  • playground

Burlington Park - Chapel Hill
http://www.ci.chapel-hill.nc.us/
1701 Ephesus Church Road
Chapel Hill

Monday, October 3, 2011

Simply Crepes

Today we are pleased to bring another great post from Katie at Discovering the Southern Part of Heaven. Enjoy the read and bon appetit!

We are always on the quest for great crepes and places we can eat with our two year old, H. On one of the first cool (ahem, tolerable) nights a few weeks back we headed over to Lafayette Village in Raleigh for an early dinner at Simply Crepes. Okay we really went because Lafayette Village had an electric train that weekend (it's just an occasional thing) and we thought H would love it. As a bonus, we got to try Simply Crepes!

Post train ride we headed over to Simply Crepes and scored a perfect outside table. Perfect not just because it was a gorgeous evening, but also because it was next to the green space in Lafayette Village meaning after we ordered we could take turns burning off some steam with H by running around, visiting the fountains, and dancing to the live music the Village had that night. The staff was happy to accommodate us with a high chair (they have plenty) outside.

We didn’t have to wait too long before our food arrived, and it was delicious! We really didn’t expect an extensive kids’ menu, so we were more than pleasantly surprised with the offerings. We got H a grilled cheese crepe, but they also offer PB&J crepes, a Peanut Butter and Fluff crepe (which I am determined to try), a ham and cheese crepe, pizza crepe, and scrambled egg crepe. We really liked that the sides on the kids’ menu are sliced bananas, sliced apples, and fresh fruit salad. H loved his crepe, and even had an extra serving of bananas (hurray!). For more information on food for Mom and Dad, check out our write up on over on Discovering the Southern Part of Heaven.

Prices are very reasonable, with kids’ meals in the $5 range and adult entrees running between $10-$15. It’s a fabulous restaurant! If you have a little one in diapers, though, we have to warn you, there isn’t a changing station in the ladies’ room. Although to be perfectly honest, they had just opened, and we had a…well…diaper emergency, so I didn’t spend too much time searching. There may very well be one there now. And while we’re talking facilities, they are clean (sparkling) and quite nice.

Overall, Simply Crepes was a great experience; for Mommy, Daddy and our little one!

Simply Crepes
www.simplycrepes.com

LaFayette Village
8452 Honeycutt Road
Suite 110

Raleigh

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