The days are getting longer and the heat is creeping in. You know what that means….summertime will be upon us before we know it. For many moms, this means that we will be spending a lot more time with our kiddos. I work throughout the school year as a teacher, but in the summer my two-year old son is home with me. We spend a lot of time at the pool and visiting various parks, but there are times when I just get the itch to throw him in the car and go somewhere for the day. Of course, there are always the ‘ole faithful places (ie. zoo, Wrightsville Beach, etc.), but I like to be creative and think outside the box from time to time.
Below, you will find a list of five semi-creative places to take your kids during the summer when you are starting to get bored with the same old, same old. Hint….if your hair is starting to turn green from all of the pool chlorine, it might be time to give one of these options a go! I tried to include places that are either free or don’t cost an arm and a leg. As a teacher, I know all about stretching out that summer budget!
- Saxapahaw, NC. Located along the Haw River near Burlington, NC, Saxapahaw is a charming small town that you need to check out during your summer excursions. Once there, head to the Saxapahaw General Store if you want to pick up some locally grown organic produce, or to grab something to eat. Their menu is varied and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner options, as well as a weekend brunch from 10:00am-2:00 pm. Also in Saxapahaw, you will find an amphitheater where they show movies most Friday evenings at dusk. (There is a $5 per person suggested donation). Heading to Saxapahaw on a weekend? Saturdays in Saxapahaw run from May-late August and include a farmers market from 5-8pm, as well as a concert series from 6-8pm. From there, hop on over to The Eddy Pub for a true British pub experience, or the Haw River Farmhouse Ales brewery!
2. Lazy 5 Ranch. The Lazy 5 Ranch, in Mooresville NC, hosts exotic animals such as lemurs, zebras, and giraffes. General admission is $11 for adults, and $8 for kids two and up. However, your best bet is to sign up for the wagon ride, where you will enjoy a 3.5-mile safari. That brings your price to $16 for adults and $11 for children, although it includes the $3 bag of animal feed. (Reservations are required for the wagon rides!). Another important tip……BRING CASH! The park does not accept credit/debit cards. If you get bored, you are close enough to Concord/Charlotte, where you can easily extend your trip if you are feeling up to it.
3. Amtrak ride. I personally can’t wait to do this with my son this summer. We plan on hopping on an Amtrak train to take a quick day trip. Obviously, there are many options, but we are thinking of heading to Durham for the afternoon. Quick and easy! The train station is approximately a quarter mile from Brightleaf Square, making for an easy stroll. You can easily grab lunch at several casual nearby restaurants, including our personal family-friendly favorite, Mellow Mushroom. If you are feeling adventurous, you could even try to catch a Durham Bulls baseball game! I priced a round trip train ride for my son and me for a random weekday in June, and it was $18. I think it would make a fun excursion, especially for a train-obsessed toddler like my son.
4. New Bern, NC. You can find one of my favorite small towns about two hours from Raleigh. New Bern is an adorable town that sits next to the intersection of the Trent and Neuse Rivers. Two hours is pretty much the maximum distance I will drive for a day trip, but I have zipped out to New Bern a couple of times for just the day, as I find it to be an easy drive during the summer. Once there, you can hit up the Tryon Palace, where you can choose from touring the Governor’s Palace, or simply the galleries and gardens if you are looking for a more economical trip.
Afterward, I enjoy strolling through the downtown district. You can pop into the Pepsi store for a cold drink and some popcorn, and be sure to visit the Firemen’s Museum. (Open Monday-Saturday from 10:00am-4:00pm). Admission is $7 for adults, and children under 6 are free! Be sure to call before your visit, as they have been renovating recently. New Bern also has a handful of restaurants that overlook the water, if you plan on staying for dinner.
5. Hiking. You don’t necessarily need to visit the mountains of NC to find some good hiking spots. Right outside Raleigh, in Lillington NC, you can visit Raven Rock State Park. There are a few different hiking options available, including an easy .5 mile loop, as well as a longer 2.6-mile loop that allows hikers to look down upon the Cape Fear River. Or head over to Orange County and visit the Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area. Here, you have a choice between a few easy trails that are less than one mile. There is also a longer two-mile loop that runs alongside the Eno River. The best part about hiking….it’s active, family-friendly, and free! (For more information on North Carolina parks, check out this link).
Wherever your summer adventures take you, I hope that you plan for at least one fun day trip. We live in a beautiful state, with much to see and do. Get on out there and explore!