Sunday, May 3, 2015

Our Durham Bucket List

As I've mentioned earlier, we are sadly leaving the Bull City in June.  Fortunately, we've had some time before we leave to explore and head out one more time to some of our favorite family adventures in Durham and the Triangle.  I thought I'd share our list of can't miss spots.  What would be on your list?

1. The Duke Gardens-This has always been one of our favorite places to explore even before we had kids.  Yes, we even took our dog for pictures in the tulips before we had children!  We've seen the graceful heron on the pond, wandered the winding paths of the North Carolina section, wandered past the bamboo forests, stopped our children from running across the large, grassy field and into the water at the far end, posed for many a picture in the flower fields, and eaten quite a few picnic lunches.  We headed over there last week and even combined it with a trip over to Duke's campus to buy some championship tee shirts, pose in front of the chapel, and sit in the seats of Cameron Indoor one more time.

2. The Museum of Life and Science-Few places in Durham have as many memories of my kids as the museum.  We've explored every inch of that place many times.  When we went this weekend, I was reminiscing about how we used to be in the tiny toddler play area trying to keep our babies from getting run over by toddlers, and now those babies are about to turn 7 and won't even be allowed in the kids' area at all.  How time flies!  We've gotten filthy and found dozens of sharks teeth in the dino fossil dig, had several butterflies land on us in the butterfly pavillion, sat in a rocket, watched lemurs, bears, and wolves, sailed sailboats, launched seeds, gotten filthy in the mist (yes, we get dirty a lot), watched the snakes get fed, tried to make a tornado, dipped our hands in clouds, ridden on trains to see Santa, and all the other great things you can do at the museum.  I was even at the museum on the day I went into labor with my second son!

3. A Durham Bulls Game-Again, this has been one of our favorite past times from before we had kids.  However, our kids love these outings too.  It's just a great relaxing place to spend an evening with your family whether we're grabbing a bite to eat, sitting and watching the game, meeting some Star Wars characters, or just playing around in the seats, we always have a good time.  Since my youngest son has recently developed an obsession with all sports, this is one item on our bucket list we can't miss!

4. Eno River State Park-Our family has walked those trails countless times.  However, I'll admit, before we had kids we used to walk much further.  We might not have quite the same distance now, but we certainly have just as much fun.  We like to walk the trails, let the dog sniff, have picnic lunches, wear our swimsuits when it's warm and wade in the water, cross the suspension bridge, hike to Bobbitt's hole, and just have some great adventures in the woods.  The Eno really has helped our whole family develop a love of hiking and being in the outdoors that I hope we can take with us to our new home.

5. Locopops-Sitting outside Locopops on a nice day with your family and a popsicle is just awesome.  We used to head there on our way home from the Eno and even pick up a Pup popsicle for our worn out dog.  I'm always torn between trying one of their new and always delicious flavors or going with my traditional favorite, Mexican Chocolate.  This weekend when we stopped by everyone else tried something new, but I bet you can all guess what I got!

6. Bull City Burger and Brewery-When we want to take visitors to some place that just feels like Durham to us, we always take them here.  The burgers are delicious, you can get a nice beverage to go with your meal (even a fancy soda), the pickle chips are awesome, and best of all, they have a little kids' area where your kids can go after they finish their meal so we can actually talk and enjoy the rest of our meal.  Mmmm, I will miss those pickle chips!

7. The American Tobacco Trail-Of all the items on my Durham Bucket list, this is the spot where I've probably spent the most time.  On all parts of this trail from Wake County to Downtown I've ran, walked, and biked.  I've trained for half marathons, marathons, and triathlons.  We've hauled munchkins to playgrounds, desserts, and restaurants in the bike trailer.  We've gone at a little slower pace to teach those same munchkins how to ride their bikes.  I've pushed both a single and double jogging stroller more miles on that trail than I would have preferred. (Those things are heavy!)  We've even paused to wave at the passing cars and trucks on the newly completed bridge over I-40.  I hope there are some trails in our new home where we can spend just as many miles.

8. Rise-Ok, I'll probably have to head to this spot several times before we leave.  After all, I have to get my fill of both their biscuits and their donuts!  I like to head over here for a little indulgence if I have a break from the kiddos, and apparently I do this pretty often because they're beginning to recognize me!  My particular favorites are the biscuit with pimento cheese and the mimosa donut.  Oh, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they will bring back their kolaches so I can try just one before I leave.  (They sold out before I got one each of the other times they made them!)

9. The playgrounds-Well, I know I won't get to all of these before we leave, but so many of the wonderful playground of Durham hold so many fond memories that I hope we get to stop by some of them at least one more time.  The kids have raced bikes around both Oval Drive and Rockwood. We've played in the woods building teepees and bridges many days at Pineywoods.  I watched my kids grow from boys that wouldn't dare to climb the black jungle gym at Old Chapel Hill Road Park, to boys that tried but then cried to be rescued, to boys that spend hours monkeying around the top easily.  The kids have flown down the tall twisty slides at Duke Park.  They've played in the sandbox and ran from play structure to play structure at Hope Valley Baptist Playground.  I've had to continually remind them to stop throwing the super cool rubber mulch at New Hope Church, and we've spent many days exploring the countless other awesome parks that Durham has to offer.

10. Dames Chicken and Waffles-Do I really need to write an explanation on this one??  Downtown Durham+Chicken+Waffles+Schmears-what could be better??

Honorable Mentions-While I'm only putting 10 because we do actually have to move at some point, my list could go on and on.  We'll also miss outdoor lunches at Fosters, divine ice cream at The Parlour, NC BBQ at The Q-Shack, waterfalls-fields-music and more at The American Tobacco Campus, both farmers markets, Durham's great special events (Food Truck Rodeos, Centerfest, the Art Walk, etc), great local bookstores like The Regulator and Letters, Brunch at Watts Grocery or Elmo's, and so, so, so much more!  Oh, and one more mention for True Flavors Diner which I have already been to three times since it opened recently and will have to head back to a few more times before we leave-so yummy!

So, for all of you left in Durham, please keep heading out and exploring all of these wonderful parts of Durham and enjoy them for me until I get back to visit!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Trolly Stop Hot Dogs

What it is:  We're always looking for great kid-friendly restaurants, and another one recently opened up on Franklin St. so we had to go check it out.  Trolly Stop is a small chain of hot dog restaurants with other locations in Wrightsville Beach, Boone, and a few other NC locations.  They mentioned having a variety of toppings, so I thought it would be perfect since the adults could get interesting, yummy hot dogs, while the kiddos could still have the plain version that made them happy.

So, we headed on over on a weekday after school.  I was a little worried about parking on Franklin St.  However, one of the huge benefits of this restaurant is that there is a small parking lot on Franklin St. for this shopping center, so we were actually able to find a spot without walking a long way!

We headed in and checked out their menu.  They actually had five different kinds of actual hot dogs to choose from ranging from the vegetarian dog and turkey dog to Carolina smoked sausage and more traditional beef and beef and pork varieties.  My son got the standard Trolly Stop original hot dog plain with nothing but ketchup.  They had a wide variety of chips so he got chips and a drink to go with it.

I wanted to sample some of their topped dogs, so I tried the NC dog with chili and slaw, the Surfer  dog with cheese and bacon bits, and their homemade baked beans.  All was delicious and I was stuffed at the end of my meal.  I will definitely be back to try another fancy hot dog and this place that was equally kid and adult friendly.  My son also topped off the meal with some of their Hersheys Ice Cream as a dessert treat.

It was a fun stop that can be combined with any of the other kid-friendly places in Chapel Hill like the new Kidzu, UNC Arboretum, Chapel Hill Community Park, and more!

What we liked:  We loved that it had plain kid-friendly options and more dressed up dogs for the adults.  In fact, if your kiddo doesn't like hot dogs they'll even put cheese on a bun for a yummy grilled cheese.  It was also nice to have so many hot dog types including vegetarian and turkey dogs.

What we would change:  If you don't like hot dogs, there really isn't much for you at this particular stop, but with all the different types, there are lots of varied flavors to try.

Website and other important information:

Website: http://www.trollystophotdogs.com/

Address: 306 W. Franklin St, Ste. B

Hours: Sunday-Wednesday: 11am-9pm, Thursday-Saturday: 11am-3am

Photos:  


(a view from outside)


(the menu)


(a view of the interior)


(chips)


(our three hot dogs)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Change is in the air at Stir Crazy Moms

So, one day about six years ago, I went to a Durham playground with my son's baby playground.  I think it was Cook Rd. playground.  We started talking about how useful it would be if there was a website or blog that gave information about the area playgrounds and discussed whether they had baby swings or bathrooms or whether they were safe to go to alone.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought about what a great idea it would be.  So, six years ago I started Stir Crazy Moms.

Through the years the blog has kept going.  Here we are 886 posts later and I'm still writing.  I have taken my boys out and about to countless new and exciting places, dragged numerous friends acquaintances into writing a post or two for the blog, received e-mails and comments both with criticism and those comments that keep me going, that say I helped someone get used to a new place or find a new adventure.  The blog has been a labor of love and it has far surpassed my expectations. I am continually tickled that people actually read the blog and it actually helps people.

Now, after those six years, our little family is going on a new adventure.  We are moving to St. Louis in June.  While we're incredibly sad to leave Durham which has been my home for over 12 years now, we are excited to see what we can find in our new home.  So, while I won't be able to check out new places and keep writing the blog from St. Louis, never fear, the blog will continue even after I move.

It's hard to hand off Stir Crazy Moms, but don't worry it will be in good hands.  First, I am going to work hard to update the index, the map, and update the posts to make it as current as possible.  That way, people can easily continue to search and use it as a resource to find all of the great things to do in Durham.  If anyone has anything they would like me to add before I leave, please let me know.

Once I leave, I would like to open the blog up to you guys.  If you are interested in writing posts for the blog or know of anything that would be a great resource to fellow Durham parents.  Please write it up!  I will even be posting a list of needed posts in the sidebar of the blog so you can check out the list and write a post on one of those places if you know about it.  Then, you can just send the blog to the e-mail address on the site.

That e-mail address will be manned by long-time blog poster and awesome founder of SoDu Parents Posse, Kat!  She will be watching over the blog and making sure it continues to be an honest blog about all the fun activities for families in Durham written by parents and for parents.  I have seen all that Kat has already done for Durham families and I know that it is in good hands.  Between the blog as a resource, the SoDu Parents Posse, as well as Hulafrog-Durham/Chapel Hill and Durham Mothers Club, I know everyone will have plenty of great Durham resources available.

So, until June folks, let me know all of your ideas for what I should update on the blog.  I'll keep posting until then, and then, promise me that this great Durham community will be waiting for me when I come visit!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Giveaway: Flip4Kids FREE WEEK of Summer Camp!!

I am so excited to bring this opportunity to all of my wonderful readers.  Flip4Kids Language Immersion Program is offering one of our lucky readers a free week of full-day camp!!  How awesome is that??

Flip4Kids offers a traditional camp in a full immersion setting.  You can choose from Spanish, French, or Chinese, and they work with kids of all levels from novice to fluent.  The camps run from 9am-3:30pm at Rashkis Elementary in Meadowmont in Chapel Hill.  During the camps kids enjoy music and movement, arts and crafts, indoor and outdoor activities, cooking and more, all while learning or maintaining another language.

For example, a recent Spanish camp involved a visit to Kidzu Children's Museum, the fire station, the post office, Harris Teeter to practice grocery shopping, and a Mexican restaurant (where they had to order in Spanish).  They also had a visit from a police officer, made tortillas and cookie houses, observed earthworms, learned songs and more.  Sounds like a great week to me!!

Oh, and if the camp is not for you and your kids, they do also offer classes for kids of all ages from six months and up.  Just check their website for more information: http://www.flip4kidsnc.com/classes-and-camps/

So, if you'd like to enter to win the FREE WEEK of summer camp simply comment on this blog post on the blog or on facebook!  You can enter the giveaway until midnight, April 6 at which point I'll pick a winner using random.org.  Good luck!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

True Flavors Diner

I know that there have been a lot of posts about food lately, but that's because there are so many great new places opening up in Durham!  (Plus, our family really likes good food!)  Don't worry, other non-food posts are definitely in the works!

What it is:  I am a little reluctant to write this post because this new restaurant that just opened up in the Greenwood Commons stopping center (home of the S. Durham Farmers Market) is so good that I really want to keep this secret for myself.  But they are such a great place that I just have to share the love.  My husband and I happened upon the menu for this place online and were immediately hooked.  Everything just sounded so mouth-watering!  So, we headed over on their second day of business on my husband's lunch hour to check everything out.  It's only about five minutes from my house, so we're definitely in luck.

The restaurant was a little tricky to find, tucked behind an auto shop in the corner of the shopping center.  While it didn't look like much from the outside, when we walked in, the decor was so inviting.  From their indoor fresh herb garden and open kitchen to the large spoon and fork on the wall, it was very welcoming.

One we were in the small restaurant we sat down at one of their tables and started the tough decision of picking something off the menu.  They have a breakfast and lunch section as well as appetizers and desserts and everything looked good.  At this point, they did not have a kids' menu, but they did say they were working on it.  They did mention a kids' chicken tenders option with a side option.  We decided to try the waffles with a side of mac and cheese for the kiddo.  I can't wait to hopefully see an official kids' menu next time I stop by.  He also enjoyed one of their daily drink specials-a strawberry, pineapple lemonade.  While they didn't have a kids' menu yet, they did have a kids' placemat and crayons for him to play with while we waited for our food.

As for the grown ups I chose the burger topped with brisket, peppered bacon, and pimento cheese (I know, not diet!) and my husband chose the duck club, both with fries.  Both were as delicious as they sound!  For dessert we had a many-layered neopolitan cake that was fabulous.  All of their desserts are also made in house.  We left full and happy, and I absolutely can't wait to come back for more!

What we liked:  The food was delicious!!  The menu looks great and there's so much more I want to try.  Plus, it's in a great shopping center in South Durham with several other great restaurants, The Glass Jug, and the Saturday morning South Durham Farmers Market.  All of the staff there was very welcoming and friendly including the chef who came out from the kitchen several times to talk to our table and ask our opinion.

What we would change:  Since they had only been open 24 hours when we stopped by they still had a few kinks to work out.  They did not have a kids' menu or high chairs yet but they said that both were on the way.  I hope they follow through with both because I can't wait to go back!  Oh, and they are only open for breakfast and lunch right now and not open on Sundays.

Website and other important information:

Website: http://www.trueflavorsnc.com/

Address: 5410 Highway 55, Durham

Hours: Monday-Friday: 6:30am-2:30pm, Saturday: 7:30am-2:30pm

Photos:


(lemonade special)


(my son's waffles)


(my burger)


(my husband's duck club)


(our dessert)


(the decor)


(their herb garden)


(the interior)


(their open kitchen)


(the unassuming exterior to this fabulous restaurant)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Gonza Tacos

What it is: Gonza Tacos is a local chain of restaurants that just opened up its third location in West Village in Downtown Durham.  We had checked out the one in Wake Forest in The Factory and found it delicious so we had to see if the Durham one measured up.  We discovered that both restaurants were similarly excellent.

We headed down to the location downtown and found a lot to park in.  Then, we walked a short distance to Gonza Tacos.  They had a lovely outdoor area which we think would be great to enjoy when the weather is a little warmer.  The restaurant is a little dark and noisy inside.  There are plenty of bright luchador masks and stars hanging from the ceiling making it a little brighter and give the kiddos something to watch.  We also walked past a bar on the way to our seats.  So, while this restaurant is very kid-friendly with most of the other tables also having children, it would also be a great place to go on an adults-only outing.

They gave the kids some crayons and a kids' menu to decorate.  The menu only had two items (tacos and quesadillas), each $7.  That's a bit pricey for a kids' meal, but it came with a drink, rice, beans, and little ice cream cup for dessert.  We also ordered some queso for the family, and the kiddos loved it!  They emptied the bowl! For the grown ups they had lots of delicious options. We have sampled several of the tacos and enjoyed all of them especially the carnitas and pastor ones.  The tacos come with beans or soup, and their tortilla soup was the best tortilla soup that I have ever tried.

What we liked:  The food was delicious for the adults and kid-friendly-always a good combination. The little cup of ice cream was a nice touch for the kiddos at the end of a meal.

What we would change: It was a bit noisy in the restaurant, but that may be beneficial for some of us with children who sometimes forget their indoor voices (like mine).  Plus, the rice that comes with the kids' meal may be super delicious, but it's also green which made it a no-go for my picky eaters.

Website and other important information:

Website: http://www.gonzatacosytequila.com/https://www.facebook.com/GonzaTacosyTequila.Durham?sk=timeline

Address: 604 Fernway Avenue, Durham

Hours: Closed Monday, Tuesday-Thursday 11:30am-2pm and 5pm-9:30pm, Friday 11:30am-2pm and 5pm-10pm, Saturday 5pm-10pm, Sunday 5pm-8:30pm

Photos:


(their outdoor area which will be lovely in a little warmer weather)


(Mmmm, queso)


(a view of the bar)


(a little of the decor)


(the kids' meal)


(the carnitas)


(my steak tacos and soup)


(the kids' ice cream treat)


Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Factory

So this week, we all went a bit Stir Crazy.  4.5 snow days is enough for anyone!  On Friday, we had to get out of the house so we headed up to Wake Forest to check out this unique indoor play space!

What it is: The Factory is an indoor mall, devoted to all sorts of kid-friendly and active pursuits. There was plenty to keep our little group busy and get at least a small fraction of their energy out.  It is located way up north of Raleigh in Wake Forest, so it's a bit of a hike.  However, there's lots to do. We started at Jumpin' Beans which is a small bounce house place.  At first, when we walked in, we immediately noticed that they just had two bounce structures that were the same placed in front of a seating area for adults.  We didn't know if our very active boys, ages 4-9 would have enough to occupy themselves.  However, since we drove all that way, we paid our $8 per kid and sent them in to play.  Over an hour later, they were still happily playing as were lots of other kids.

Jumpin' Beans also lets kids play all day with that $8 fee, so you can go eat or run and errand then come back later in the day, which is a nice feature.  They sell other food and munchies that you or your kids can snack on.

Once we needed a break from our jumping we decided to explore the rest of The Factory.  So, we headed out into the rest of the mall and saw a few places where you could sign up for classes like The Tumble Gym and a soccer field.  We continued walking and saw The Polar Ice House.  If we had had more time that day, we might have joined in for their afternoon ice skating session and gotten some more energy out that way.  However, we didn't have time, so we continued our tour.  We saw a YMCA, a few fun shops including a sports store, a toy store, a sweets shop, and even a place where you can buy and paint your own pottery.  I also heard they have a skate park, a robotics place, and even more.  Then, we found several lunch spots to choose from including a pizza spot, Village Deli, and Gonza Tacos.  We ended up heading to Gonza Tacos who recently opened up a spot in Durham, and I'll definitely fill you in on that one later.

So, The Factory is an interesting spot full of lots of stores and activities with which you could fill your day, so check the hours and prices of your preferred activity, and head on up to check it out!

What we liked:  This is a great spot on a cold or rainy day because the vast majority of the activities are indoors.  You can bounce, eat, ice skate, shop, or paint and make a whole day of it.

What we would change:  First, it is far away, so it takes about 30-45 minutes to get all the way up there from Durham.  Secondly, since there are so many different spots in the mall, you need to check hours and prices before you go.  Ice skating plus the Jumpin' Beans would be fairly pricey to do them both in the same day.  Several spots in the mall were closed when we arrived but open by the time we left.

Website and other important information:

Website: http://eatshopplay.com/

Address: 1839 South Main Street, Wake Forest, 27587

Photos: 


(one of two identical bounce houses at Jumpin' Beans)


(the seating area outside the bounce houses)


(the soccer field)


(The Polar Ice House)


(the toy store)


(Not sure what goes on here, but it looks interesting.)


(the sweet shop)