Wake County, North Carolina is a perfect place for kids of all ages. Take it from me, I moved here from New York when I was only three. As my interests changed from year to year, I found no shortage of places to visit and activities to keep me busy, entertained, and occupied while having fun all the while! If you find yourself moving to the Wake County or Raleigh area with your family in the near future—like I did so many years ago—here are some local institutions, activities and nearby destinations that I know you’ll enjoy.
A great thing about the Raleigh/ Wake County area is that you’re never far from the state’s most majestic and entertaining natural wonders. North Carolina is home to some of the greatest beach towns in the country; all less than three hours away. Here are a few that kids who like to swim are sure to enjoy. Topsail Beach, Oak Island, Emerald Isle, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and the Outer Banks are naming just a few. Grab your boogie board, surfboard, or just a shovel and pail—the beach beckons from Spring, to Summer, to early Fall.
Travel to the other side of the state to take in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ski resorts and hiking trails are among the best-known destinations in NC. Rustic, cozy cabins overlook majesties like Grandfather Mountain; but, you can have as much fun inside as you can camping or exploring the outdoors. Asheville, nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is home to something that history and architecture-loving kids will wonder at. The Biltmore Estate is a century-old mansion that I visited with my family a few years ago. Be sure to bring your camera—this palace provides views of nature that you won’t find anywhere else.
Natural Parks and Playgrounds
One of my favorite things to keep me occupied year-round are parks and playgrounds. There are plenty here that all boys and girls are sure to love. Falls Lake is a sprawling, spider-shaped body of water with woods, trails, and dozens of beaches. Jordan Lake, just to the southeast of Raleigh, offers similar scenery. The Capital Area Greenway allows for fitness and fun for kids and adults of any age. Ride bikes, walk your dog, jog, run, or just take a nature hike with your family all four seasons of the year. Visit Pullen Park to play as kids did almost 150 years ago at one of the oldest amusement parks in the United States, and the 16ht oldest in the world! Only a minute from downtown Raleigh, park goers can rent a pedal boat, ride a carousel or train, enjoy the playground, and much more! Bring your brothers and sisters to Barwell Road park, which features a brand-new Carolina Panthers-themed playground that includes an obstacle course and a 40-yard dash with a stopwatch so you can challenge yourself—or your friends and siblings—to run or play and beat your record. Laurel Hills Park offers an immense, all-inclusive playground plus soccer fields, baseball fields, basketball courts, trails and a pond that athletes and active kids will be sure to love. The newly renovated Blue Jay Park, located between Durham and Wake Forest, features an outdoor, natural playground area with forts, a sandbox, and log jumping. Many more hidden adventures await with trails taking you and your family down to Falls Lake!
Food, fountains, rides, and fun await at the annual North Carolina State Fair! Bring your whole family for a day of fun at the NC State Fair Grounds, which hosts the annual event each Fall for thousands of visitors who come from near and far. You never know what you’ll get at the Fair. Take it from me…I fell in a fountain when I was only 4!
For kids who are sports fanatics, the Carolina Panthers, Durham Bulls, and Carolina Hurricanes are some favorite local teams of kids in this area. Wake County has a rich history of college sports as well, with NC State, Duke, North Carolina, and others all within a short drive. Whether it is a home basketball game at PNC Arena or cheering on the Wolfpack at an NC State football game at Carter-Finley Stadium, come check out the local college teams playing at a field near you.
About an hour and 30 minutes-drive from the heart of Wake County is the NC State Zoo, located just South of Asheboro. This zoo has a wide variety of wildlife. Walking along paths or taking the train all around the world, you might find yourself saying ‘lions, tigers, bears, of my!
Visit North America, Asia and Africa to see elephants, owls, snakes, seals, polar bears, giraffes, fox, alligators, and all other kinds of animal fun! Aloha Zoo, about 40 minutes south of Raleigh, offers a more low-key and up-close experience with animals for families on a budget.
Museums are great places to have fun and learn. Marbles Museum (for little ones) and the North Carolina Museums of History and Sciences (right across the street from each other in downtown Raleigh) offer kids of all ages—and interests—a local destination to explore, discover, interact, and engage! I just visited the Museum of Natural Sciences with my sister, dad, and uncle, enjoying the museum’s exhibits, exotic plants, butterfly room, and even a two-toed sloth that is my favorite!
Local to Wake Forest
Now to Wake Forest, where I live! Located just a few minutes north of Raleigh, my home town features fun local destinations like the Factory, which houses a kids gym, hockey rink, soccer fields, restaurants, and more. Another favorite of mine is Galaxy Fun Park, which offers mini-golf, an obstacle playground, and lots of other things kids are bound to enjoy. Holding Park pool and playground is another place for fun, featuring a butterfly garden, swings, a playground and a pool and waterpark. Hill Ridge Farms, found a short drive north in nearby Youngsville, offers a drive through festival of lights at Christmastime. Gemstone panning, a spray park, hay and train rides, a jump house, animal feeding and a toddler maze are just a few of the activities they have here. And finally, my absolute favorite place in town is Sweeties Candy Shop. They change the art on the side of the building seasonally and have a very long history. Recently, they celebrated their 20th anniversary! (Fun Fact – Property Specific Realty is located in the old Sweeties Candy building!)
As you can see, if you follow me with your family to the Raleigh / Wake County area, fun is never far away!