The kids and I visited friends in the Chapel Hill, NC area in May as well as the previous July, to see wonderful friends there – a family of 7. This is to say, beware of inviting us to visit because we will eventually show up – maybe more than once!
The vibe is different down South- slower, friendlier, newer buildings and roads, LOTS of ex-northerners. Actually, one day we met a friend of mine in a town called Cary, NC, and she told me the town name is jokingly said to be an acronym for “Containment Area for Relocated Yanks”!
The first time we visited, we went during the extremely hot middle of summer, just after the 4th of July. Our car had no a/c and I remember pouring water over my head while driving to keep my cool. This trip was much cooler, so unseasonably cool that every day the kids asked to go swimming, since we had done that the previous trip, and every day we said no because it was too darn cold! The kids, all NINE of them, made an epic hopscotch and did lots of playing at our friends’ giant yard+ driveway instead.
Cleverly loves making hopscotches that go to 50 or more! Really on a scooter, kids running in the yard towards the woods.
Chapel Hill Greenway
Chapel Hill seems to have a young, educated population since it is a colllege town for UNC and also a part of a ‘research triangle’ with Raleigh and Durham. I wish that the public transportation system was as progressive as I would hope for such a population, but that does not seem to be the case. There were far too many traffic jams with one-person-per-car, which seemed totally unnecessary to me, especially with all the shiny new roads, why not put some of those development resources into mass transit? But The Chapel Hill Greenways is a step in the right direction. It is a system of bike/hike trails around the area, and our friends had access to one of them, the Morgan Creek trail, behind their house. This bike trail map shows many of the greenways, and clearly some group is thinking progressively. I hope that they can keep it going and expanding. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the creek and the path.
Kids on the Greenways path, a fat snake (center of photo) next to the creek, crossing the creek on a fallen tree
Museum of Life and Science
This place is in Durham, about an hour from Chapel Hill. It was a wonderful place to spend the day with all 9 kids. Our friends are members, and we were able to use reciprocity from another museum membership to enter for free! There is really a lot to do here, indoors and outdoors. They have play areas indoors for babies, a large outdoor playground, a butterfly building, an outdoor ‘dinosaur trail ‘ with fossil dig area, an Apollo space capsule, a lush greenhouse, and rescued local wildlife including fox and bear. The Museum is like a zoo, an interactive science museum, and a giant park/playground. We went last year and I didn’t have a camera at the time, but here are some borrowed photos to give you an idea of what is there.
Front of Museum, elevated trail to animal areas, greenhouse, butterfly building
Kids Play Together Playground, Cary, NC
I have a childhood friend who moved to the area, so we looked her up one day. She, her parents, and her brother are a few of the numerous ex-Northerners living in the area and loving it. She has three boys (although one recently got his driver’s license and was therefore too cool for us!) and suggested we meet at this playground. It is 2 acres of the 16-acre Maria Dorrel Park. You just don’t see this kind of thing on the East Coast – 16 acres?!? It was a gorgeous park on a beautiful day. My friend’s youngest has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy so the playground equipment was suited to him, and all of the other kids loved it as well.
My childhood friend and I with some of the 11 children we had there that day, and a cool dragon structure to climb
I’d love to go back to the area and try the bike paths, also there are the beaches to the east which I hear so much about, and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to the west.