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Destination: Three Bears Acres

Posted December 6, 2012
Updated May 30

It all started during one of those conversations that moms have when their kids reach a big milestone. Melinda Gross and Moira Roberts, Raleigh neighbors and moms, were wondering what they were going to do next.

Both have three kids; their youngest each is 4. The friends chatted about life without little ones under foot.

"We were pondering life's mysteries and what we should do with our next phase of life," Gross said of that conversation.

The talk, back in April 2011, turned to the times their kids and the moms were happiest. It was easy to come up with the answer: When they were all outside.

And that sparked the beginning of Three Bears Acres, a wildly fun outdoor play space that spans 50 acres and includes everything from a mud kitchen to a 300-foot toboggan run. This place in northern Wake County is, in the words of my three-year-old, "awesome."

Roberts and Gross got to work, scouting sites for their vision and figuring out exactly what they wanted to put there. The two bought the land on a rural stretch of Beaver Dam Road in Wake County in April. With the help of friends, family and their kids, they opened the business in October. Three Bears Acres Destination: Three Bears Acres

I went with my three-year-old and a friend and her three-year-old and stayed for more than three hours last week. This is easily a spot where you could spend an entire day, especially with older kids who don't need an afternoon nap (which is just about the only reason we left when we did).

Three Bears Acres is split into two sections.

The "farm" includes a jumping pillow; outdoor painting wall; mud kitchen complete with old appliances and pots and pans; and a water wall. Roberts, Gross, along with friends and family, planted about 4,000 sweet potatoes, which visitors were able to harvest when they first opened. Now there are carrots ready to be picked. Visitors are welcome to take their produce home with them.

The area also includes archery and an old boat that kids can climb in. Three Bears Acres

Between the two sections is a large pond with a handful of pedal boats and a little island in the middle.

The forested area includes a "tree house," which isn't exactly built into the tree tops, but is a massive play set that sits high up among the trees. You'll find slides, all kinds of swings and a couple of play houses. There also are some baby swings nearby.

And then there is the giant 300-foot sledding hill. The hill has four runs that sit side-by-side, divided by soft barriers. Visitors zoom down them while riding in a plastic sled. It's fast. And it's so much fun. My friend and I went down it nearly as many times as our little ones, who giggled just about the entire way each time.

Our preschoolers loved every bit of it, brushing strokes on the large painting wall, which is just plywood painted white; mixing up mud in the kitchen; and watching the water pour down the water wall. They ran, hid and shrieked in the tree house and could have jumped on the jumping pillow for hours.

What I loved about Three Bears Acres was the space. It's expansive. And the activities are spread out across the site. There is so much room for kids to just run and explore and play.

Gross and Roberts tells me that's part of the design. They have plans to add more features as time goes on. But, at the same time, they just wanted to create a place where kids have the freedom to be outside and enjoy some electronics-free imaginative play.

"You see moms actually finishing a conversation because their kids are busy playing," Gross said.

And that's what it's all about. Three Bears Acres

Three Bears Acres, which is about 15 minutes up Creedmoor Road from its intersection with Interstate 540, offers birthday parties, annual passes, field trips, group discounts and Y Guides patches. The site also offers no fuss fundraising opportunities for schools. 

For all the details, including current hours, admission prices, special events and more, check Three Bears Acres' website and Facebook page. Watch my video interview with Roberts and Gross for more about Three Bears Acres.

I can't wait to get back with my seven-year-old!

Looking for places to take your kids? Check out our reviews of parks and playgrounds and looks at Triangle family destinations. Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday.

7 Comments

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  • mevans27587 Dec 7, 11:26 p.m.

    I'm with everyone else. I totally would do this if it wasn't so expensive.

  • busyb97 Dec 7, 3:07 p.m.

    I will definitely have to venture over there with my boys. They'd stay all day! It does seem quite expensive though! I think I'd consider the annual pass though. Too bad it's not open in the summer time!! THAT is the time to be open because kids are out of school and need something to do! And with the better weather, they'd love nothing more than to be outside.

    *hint hint- consider adding summer hours!*

  • PartyOfSix Dec 7, 1:13 p.m.

    I would love to try this, but as a family of 6 on a tight budget, it is cost prohibitive. I may have to save it for a one on one special activity (or maybe the owners could consider offering a family rate!). Great for these moms though for coming up with such a wonderful idea.

  • oczalevsevy Dec 7, 1:07 p.m.

    We had our daughters birthday party here along with their 40+ friends last month (11/2012) and we are definitely gonna go back for the reasons:
    . friendly staff
    . great activities (jumping pillow, mud kitchen, archery, paddle boat, bonfire, tree house, and the best sled race
    . wide open space so the kids are able to run around

    At the end of our daughters birthday party, every single one of our guests had said they are certainly coming back because their kids had a blast! In fact, we are thinking of getting an annual pass for our daughters for Christmas.

    If you have a day to spare and got nothing to do, definitely go out here, you will not be disappointed when you see your child is having a great time. Might be a drive to some, but it was well worth it - both money and time.... just to see your child go all out and have a great time.

  • shall6 Dec 7, 11:10 a.m.

    I'm with you momx3. It's definitely a commitment. I'm thinking about giving my kids a day there as a Christmas gift instead of something they'll play with for a couple of days and then forget entirely ...

    Sarah

  • momx3 Dec 7, 10:56 a.m.

    Love the concept! I know I tend to be a rather frugal person, but this seems a little pricey. It would cost me $74 to take my entire family!! Will have to keep my eyes out for discounts or groupon before I will ever go.

  • 10hummingbirds Dec 7, 9:21 a.m.

    I go by here everyday. It looks like a really cool place. They even have a teepee. It's out in the country and on a not super busy road. It's near Falls Lake.