Best Big Parks
Posted April 9, 2012 11:33 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:21 p.m. EDT
I spend a lot of time at local playgrounds. As a mom of a 7-year-old and a 2-year-old, I always am looking for opportunities to get outside. And as editor of WRAL’s Go Ask Mom,it’s part of my job (and a huge perk too).
Over the past two years, I’ve reviewed nearly 50 parks in the region, typically focusing on the play equipment. You can find the reviews, along with posts and videos on other regional family destinations, on Go Ask Mom every Friday.
While my children enjoy the standard swing/slide/monkey-bars set-up, I’m always on the lookout for something that offers a bit more just to mix it up for all of us.
We are lucky to have so many options around here. When it comes to big parks and playgrounds, here are my five favorites:
Pullen Park (Raleigh) - I’ll start with the obvious first. The newly reopened park offers so much for children, including the carousel, train and kiddie boats. But Raleigh really went above and beyond its usual playground with the new equipment at Pullen. You’ll find slides, swings (a whole area just for them!) and monkey bars here. But you’ll also find a giant web-like climbing structure, lots of sand and a separate play area for younger kids with shade covers, which I wish more playgrounds included. And don’t forget the teeter totters! Those should be required in every park.
Duke Park (Durham) - Here’s what my older daughter said when she first saw this playground: “Wow.” While the play equipment is pretty standard here as far as what it includes, it’s the height that caught her and my attention. The towering tower to play on features some giant tube slides and all kinds of opportunities for climbing. There’s a separate play area for younger kids (though I wonder how many actually spend most of their time there with the giant playset in view). Check out Go Ask Mom's full review of this park
White Deer Park (Garner) - This is one of my new favorite parks. This gem, which opened a couple of years ago in Garner, features two playgrounds. The first is a natural playground featuring equipment made with natural materials like log teeter totters. And you can’t beat a 20-foot slide that descends with the slope of the land. On the other side of the park is a more traditional playground. You’ll find swings and slides here, along with lots of play pieces that feature ropes for climbing and parts that move children around. It’s a newer playground design that we’re seeing as parks departments replace old pieces and build new ones. (White Deer Park bonus: It’s across the street from Lake Benson Park, which has another great playground.) See Go Ask Mom's reviews of White Deer Park and Lake Benson
Kids Together Playground (Cary) - Kids Together opened a dozen years ago thanks, in part, to two young girls who saw a need for a playground where kids of all abilities, including those with disabilities, could play together. This large, spread out playground features a giant sand area, a climbing structure, slides, swings and dragon for kids to climb on. There are some nice shady areas here. If you have more than one or two children with you, it can be difficult to keep track of them all because it’s so spread out. You’ll all be tired after your visit (but isn’t that part of the goal, at least for the kids?). Check out Go Ask Mom's full review of this park.
Kelly Road Park (Apex) - It’s the castle playground! This park features a giant wooden, castle-like structure with all kinds of nooks and crannies for hiding (making it a great place for hide and seek). There is a separate place for younger children to play here too, though I’ve never successfully contained my young children here. The castle corridors beckon. Check out Go Ask Mom's full review of this park.
You can take a look at all of our reviews on the Go Ask Mom park and playground database. And I’m always on the look out for more. I’d love to hear your favorites!