Tour de Toys 2013

If you’re brave enough to take on the cold weather and threatening rain, join the Tour de Toys bike “race” this Saturday morning. The race is family-friendly and in past years, kids in trailer, trailer-bikes and on their own bikes have participated. There is a 12-mi course for the ambitious and a shorter 6-mile ride for the leisurely minded. Two free beers (not for the kids) are included; your entry into the race is not a monetary fee, but a donation of a new toy worth $15 or more.

The race starts at 10am at Natty Greene’s, curves through downtown and ends again at Natty Greene’s for a post-race party.

It will be very cold with possible rain – dress accordingly. We’re planning to go with kids and all if the weather is not too crazy. See you there?

Tour de Toys, Saturday 10am, Natty Greene’s. Sign-up today online or tomorrow (if there are any spots left) in person.

Umbrella required – Hands optional (Photo by Franck Vervial, licensed un der CC BY-NC-ND)

Not your average 5K…

Running a 5K was once cool, but is now sooo 2012. These days, when you run a 5K, you do it in costume. Or barefoot. Or being hunted by zombies. Or, “muddy”:

Mud runs, basically 5Ks with obstacles, mud flats and other accoutrements are all the rage, and now also come in a family version! This Saturday, the Big Muddy Challenge takes place. And while registration has ended yesterday, some race-day spots should be available if you come early. The race is completed as a team of two – one parent and one child, age 6-12. Sounds like a lot of fun!

Not especially geared towards kids, but “for all ages” (kids under 7 run free and strollers are welcome) is a completely different race one week later, the Electric Run. Basically a linear rave, but possibly healthier and more fun, you don as many glow sticks and LED lights as you can find, and immerse yourself in a glowing, flickering landscape with pumping music.

With all these options – don’t take your kids to a dull, old school 5K!

Tucker Lake

The City Pools are too small but the beach is too far? How about going half-way, and have a little beach and a lot more water at Tucker Lake. Yes, the place you all know from driving to the beach and have always said, “I wonder what that is like?”

After finally checking out Tucker Lake over the long weekend for the first time, I can now “speak authoritatively” about it: While it is probably not the poshest destination in the area, it is definitely not trashy or dirty, but by and large a safe, clean, family-friendly destination. The place is well-kept and operated, and on a comparable level for amenities and cleanliness as an average beach on the coast.

There is a small concessions are for chips, hot dogs, and ice cream, but ideally you bring a picnic or something to grill; there are countless grills and picnic tables scattered throughout a shaded 4 acre area, and there is probably about 1/2 mile of sandy lake shore. The water depth is very gradual and suited for all levels of experience, if you observe your limits. There are several life guards, but the area is quite large; I would compare it again to a ocean beach with lifeguards; they are there, they watch, but you still need to keep a very close watch on your kids, especially around the numerous slides, rope swings, and other play elements. There is also an impressive water slide which we didn’t try this time.

Since last year, Tucker Lake features also a wakeboard park with a large cable system. (You get pulled by a cable like a ski lift, not by a boat. Don’t sneer at it until you try it – it is how I learned to wakeboard back in the day.) This is of course more for older kids and adults, but I think it brings some welcome funds to the place that should lift up the entire operation. At any rate, if you’ve been to Tucker Lake years ago, you should give it another try; it came under new management in 2012, and seems to be doing well.

Location: Roughly at I95&I64, address: 3025 Allens Crossroads Rd Benson NC, 27504
Hours: Daily 9-6 during the summer, weekends in the fall and closed in winter.
What to bring: Coal and stuff to grill, umbrellas, lawn chairs, small coolers, water toy. But no pets, glass or alcohol.

Tucker Lake

Pool season starts this weekend! (5/25)

This Saturday, Lake Johnson Pool opens at 10 a.m. and officially starts the pool season. The pool will be open daily until the fall and is also open on Monday (Memorial Day). The other pools will open soon as well, Ridge Road on June-1, and Chavis on June-8. Finally, I also want to mention Buffaloe Road Aquatic Center, which is indoors and open year-round, and a great alternative during the summer as well.

Got to be NC Festival 2013

Do you feel like the State Fair is a “must-see” for your kids, but do you loathe the crazy crowds? Try the Got to Be NC Festival instead.

Less crowded, less crazy, more family-friendly, more exciting. You still get all the main State Fair ingredients (rides, tractor pulls, lawn mower racing, farm animals, fried food), but in a more relaxed atmosphere.

The event kicks off Friday afternoon and continues through Sunday. Admission and parking is free.


Image (c) NC Department of Agriculture.

Kidical Mass Bike Ride in Raleigh (2013)

Briefly mentioned last week, Oaks and Spokes is a festival celebrating cycling in Raleigh. Events, mostly geared towards adults, have taken place all week, but on Sunday the kids will take over for a the “Kidical Mass” ride through historic Oakwood and Mordecai.

The event will kick off on Sunday at 10am at the Oak City Cycling Project, but the ride won’t start until 11:30am. Kids old and skilled enough to ride alone are encouraged to do so, with the watchful parents riding along. Two loops are planned through Mordecai and Oakwook, and you can expect to be done by 1pm.

The weather should also get better, with Sunday clear and in the 60s.


Sports, Now or Later (Mar 2013)

If you like quick decisions, you got about 6 hours. At 7pm tonight, the Harlem Globetrotters are performing live at the PNC arena. If that is too soon, here an early notice for another event next week: Join Kidical Mass, a bicycle event for kids, and the culmination of Oaks and Spokes, a weeklong event celebrating the Daddy’s favorite means of transportation: The Bicycle.

Harlem Globetrotters by Battle Creek CVB

Buffaloe Road Aquatic Center

The new Buffaloe Road Aquatic Center

Update: Buffaloe Aquatic Center is closed for maintenance until Aug-27, 2013.

Eagerly awaited, but it still took us a couple of weeks to get to check out the new indoor pool, also known as “Buffaloe Road Aquatic Center”. (Side note for map geeks: If you look at the location on Google Maps, the top-down view still shows forest, whereas the 45-degree view shows the center under construction; toggle back and forth to see how the location changes.)

Buffaloe Road Aquatic Center with water slide, river, vortex, toddler area, volleyball and basketball

I am impressed by how much was packed in a relatively small space; I would say the building envelope is about a third of the size of Pullen Aquatic Center. However, it does not feel cramped, even though you can find a wading pool with implements, toddler slide, water volleyball, water basketball, a river, a “vortex”, and towering over everything, a three-story water slide for “anyone between 48 in. and 300 lbs”. There are only 3 lap swim lanes, and they are not Olympic length. (However, an Olympic size pool is planned for phase 2, in an adjacent building.) The building features a nice, open design, and is equipped with the latest sustainable features. Solar heaters, green roof, etc.

Spacious family changing rooms

The changing rooms are of course also brand spanking new, and I was particularly pleased to find two family changing rooms. (In other pools, no children above 5 are allowed in the changing room of the opposite sex, and I will one day be slightly nervous about sending my 5-year-old daughter alone to the changing room.) So the family room is much appreciated, and is very convenient. (Not perfectly labeled, though: Just enter the door that says “Pool” next to the regular changing rooms.)

Not open when we went, but available in a month or so were a concession stand and a birthday celebration “room”; it can be reserved ahead of time.

We (2-year-old and daddy) both liked the pool, and for this age-group, it is well worth the 15-minute drive from downtown instead of going to Pullen with its “big-boy-pool”.

Toddler area with gradual entry, toddler slide, water curtain, tumble buckets

Hours: (check website)
Monday: Closed
Tue-Sat: 10am-7pm
Sun: 1pm-5pm

Admission: (check website)
Slightly more than other pools; $3 for kids, $7 for adults, and double that if you’re not a Raleigh resident. (It did cost $8 million to build.)

“Up Capital and right on Buffaloe”. Or look up 5908 Buffaloe Road, Raleigh NC 27616.

Benson Mule Days (9/22/2012)

Not just Raleigh has its fall festivals. I suggest that after Hopscotch and SPARKcon, you head out for a somewhat different program at the Benson Mule Days. First, where is Benson? Have you ever noticed that going to and coming from the beach on I-40, the signs say you’re going to “Benson”, but then you actually never go through Benson? Well, for future reference, “Benson” is code for “the intersection of I-40 and I-95”. And Benson is also the location of the annual (63rd this year) Benson Mule Days.

A long weekend filled with small town fun, rides, parades, a rodeo and many four-legged animals, mules and others. Here is the website and their program.

The photo is Mule Riding Couple by Mangrove Mike, used under the CC BY license

Iceplex Raleigh: So cool (2012)

What would be a better place to escape summer than an Olympic sized sheet of ice? Prepared, clean, smooth ice. Judging from yelp reviews, Iceplex seems to have quality ice, definitely one of the key factors for an ice skating rink. Iceplex is also where kids and adult hockey leagues meet and where you can send your youngens to become world-class figure skaters.

This Saturday, Iceplex opens the doors for everybody who would like to find out more – or just cool off. The Open House is from 1:00 – 4:15; it is $2 to get in. (I always thought that “Open House” means no admission, but I guess that is not the case.)

The Open House will include a hockey and a figure skating exhibition; sign-up for the fall season is just around the corner and classes (ages 3 and up) start after Labor Day.

IcePlex is just outside the beltline. From downtown, take Capital Blvd. and (soon after crossing 440) turn right onto Brentwood and go about a quarter mile.

Image credit: the family that skates together…  by angela7dream, used under the CC BY-NC license