Whenever I head up to Shelley Lake Park in north Raleigh, I always wonder why I'm not there more often.
The park land surrounds a small lake complete with more than two miles of paved trails and a good-sized playground at the entrance. It's also home to the city's Sertoma Arts Center, which is packed with art, dance, music and other programs for kids from infants to teens (and of course adults).
Let's start with the 2.08-mile trail. Popular with joggers, dog walkers and moms pushing strollers, it's completely paved so there are no tricky spots to maneuver the stroller around. Much of the greenway, though not all, is shaded. And ducks and geese like to congregate near the bridge at the beginning of the trail, always a popular spot for the kids. In fact, many families only get that far before or after a visit to the playground.
There are some workout stations along the trail. The stations have seen better days, but my five-year-old enjoys the balance beam at the start of the trail near the playground. And be warned: There are a few steep hills on the trail which might be tricky if your child brings a bike.
The greenway connects to other trails in Raleigh's greenway system. Click here to find a Raleigh greenway map. And though there is a boathouse on the lake, it was closed last year because of city budget cuts.
The playground includes two sections - one for toddlers and preschoolers and another for older kids. The surface is sand. So bring your sand toys, but be prepared for little shoes filled with sand. And while there is some shade, it's not completely shaded. Shaded picnic tables, however, do sit to the side of the playground, making it a handy spot for a lunch or snack mid-play.
And there are benches everywhere, along the trail and in the playground.
The fall class season at the Sertoma Arts Center is just starting up and director Jill Brown tells me that there are still plenty of spots open in many of its classes. They include everything from Mommy and Me classes to advanced cartooning for kids ages 10 to 15. And Brown says the center is working to expand its offerings for homeschoolers.
Some free trial classes are scheduled this month. You can try out the center's Music Together program for babies to five-year-olds at 11:45 a.m. Sept. 10. And you can sample its dance classes for children on Sept. 11. A session for kids ages 1 to 3 is from 10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. A class for kids ages 3 to 5 is from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Registration is required for these trial classes.
On Oct. 2, the city's art centers (the other one is Pullen Arts Center) will present Fall Arts Fair 2010. The event, which is free and open to the public, will include children's art activities, environmental art installations, live music, an art market, a fishing derby and more.
For more information about the center's programs and the free trial classes, stop by the center at 1400 Millbrook Rd. or call 919-420-2329.
To see more of Shelley Lake Park, check the video. And click here to see other park and playground reviews.