Go Play Outside Now in Garner is big and fun. There are giant tube slides; an outdoor laser tag arena; a tent and campground for pretend play; a huge sand pit; jungle gyms made with logs; tire swings; and more. Under tall trees, families can flit from one section to the next, visiting with chickens and ducks or resting in a small, cool barn with games and books.
But owner Ann Vantiflin has a bigger vision for the outdoor playground, which opened to the general public last fall. She wants it to be a place where people of all ages, abilities and sizes can play together. She hopes generations can have fun and make memories for years to come.
And she wants kids to have the same kinds of experiences their parents did - chasing butterflies, leaping over logs and exploring the outdoor world. With gadgets and screens taking over so many kids' lives, Vantiflin is here to provide an alternative.
"This is an effort to get our families to get to know each other again," said the mom of four. "We need a little balance between those things and the great outdoors."
Go Play Outside Now is many years in the making. Vantiflin and her family moved to the area 10 years ago. On a drive by the property now home to Go Play Outside Now, Vantiflin said out loud that "someday children are going to play there."
It became a familiar refrain for her children as they drove by the property over the years. A few years later, Vantiflin found the man who owned the property. She bought it and starting building in 2010.
Before opening to the public in September, Vantiflin opened the doors to private parties and church groups. When individuals drove up to ask what she was doing, Vantiflin, who is deeply religious, would ask them to pray for her.
Here, Vantiflin tells me, she sees parents leaving their phones in their pockets (except to take pictures). She sees them fully engaged with their kids, smiling, laughing, playing.
"I tell every parent 'be sure you're doing something wonderful while your children are watching because they are watching you and they are following you,'" she said.
Wise words, indeed.
We had a blast at Go Play Outside Now. I brought my three-year-old and a friend and her three-year-old daughter. The kids loved the slide and tire swing. What I love about this place is that it's all outside and very low-key. As Vantiflin said, everything requires "people power" to work. And, with the laser tag arena, there's definitely something here for all ages.
Admission is $10 for adults and children; $5 for kids 36 inches and under; and free for grandmas 65 and over.
Go Play Outside Now is generally open from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., daily. But the schedule can change depending on staffing and site work. Check their Facebook page for the latest schedule. The facility also offers packages for groups and parties.
This is a great addition to the Triangle's offerings for families.