I tagged along on a media tour of Pullen Park Thursday morning and I'm so excited to show you what's been going on over there for the past couple of years. The park is not open to the public right now. Crews were working across the site to get it ready for the Nov. 19 opening.
There are some big changes here, but the big favorites remain. Let's start with those favorites:
- The carousel will return, of course. It's just going to be completely refurbished and inside a new building that will be climate controlled and will allow the carousel to run all year. There will be seats around the interior of the building so you can watch your kids ride. The building also will protect the historic carousel from the weather.
- The train will come back, but there will be a new tunnel to scream through and a new depot. It will be handicapped accessible. People in wheelchairs will be able to roll directly onto and off of the train.That's a wonderful improvement.
- And the kiddie boats are nearly unchanged, except they have been brought up to current safety codes.
But there's much more. A new play area next to the train depot and kiddie boats includes a giant rope climbing structure; a water and sand play area; teeter totters (love to see those!); and a special area for toddlers and preschoolers. I was very happy to see that several of the play pieces are covered by tarps. And I was really happy to hear that there will be a couple of misters in the play area to cool off on hot days. The surface under the play area will be rubber matting. Park Preview: Pullen Park
The city did have to replace the train tunnel. That work forced some major changes to the landscape in that part of the park. But in its place is a new outdoor amphitheater where the city will host a variety of special events and regular programming for kids. And next to that area, where the old bouncy space shuttle and swings were, there will be a collection of swings, including bucket, belt and tire swings.
There are more bathrooms and they are closer to the playground. There's a bathroom building between the carousel and the playground. And there are more bathrooms in a large welcome center at the entrance to the park.
The old concession stand is gone. In its place, is a much bigger building that will be home to Pullen Place, a cafe providing affordable, fresh, healthy food with local produce and organic products. They'll have soups, salads, sandwiches, along with concession stand fare such as hot dogs and French fries. They'll also cater events at the park, such as birthday parties. The business' partners include Sarig Agasi, the chef and owner of Zely & Ritz, a farm to table restaurant in Raleigh.
And that brings me to birthday parties, special events and programming. I was especially excited to hear about the city's plans to add more programming to Pullen. These events will include storytelling, magic shows, nature programs, a carousel festival and more. The Holiday Express will be back from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Dec. 8 to Dec. 11 with special rides on the train, a visit with Santa and other entertainment. And Pullen's Easter Egg Hunt, the largest in the city, will be back this year. The last hunt was held in 2007.
There are many more options here if you're looking for birthday party and special event locations. Some of the shelters now have electricity. There's a lovely one right next to the carousel. And park staff tell me that they will offer party packages complete with activities at the park, programming and food from Pullen Place. You will be able to start making reservations on Nov. 1. I'll have more on that as we get closer.
Now an important note: Pullen Park is not open now. It is still a construction site and there is a lot of work going on. City staff say that they have had problems with people trying to play on the playground or wander around. So, to repeat: Pullen Park is not open to the public now.
It will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 19 when a grand opening celebration is planned. That's also the day of the Raleigh Christmas Parade.
To see some scenes of the park under construction, watch the video. And check out WRAL-TV's story on the new playground (which includes some video that's better than what I can do with my Flip :)