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:


Address: 1839 South Main Street, Wake Forest, 27587


(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)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Please Help! Notasium Music Based Playspace-Kickstarter

I have heard lots of Durhamites comment recently about the lack of an indoor space where kids could play and parents could sit and relax.  Now, we have the chance to make that happen again here in Durham!  Preston Clarke is planning a fabulous space called Notasium which would incorporate a kids play area, a cafe where parents can sit and watch while their kids play, and space for music lessons.

Here is Preston's description of Notasium:

I am trying to raise money to build the first Notasium, a music-based play space and school for the Durham/Chapel Hill area. It will have a play space that will allow young kids to not only play off some energy but exercise their minds and creativity through musical play structures filled with notes, rhythms and symbols. It will offer classes and private lessons in a separate area for kids ready for more focused music instruction as well as a cafe, with seating encircling the play space, where parents can hang out while their kids play and learn safely within sight.

See the video and other info here:

Now, one of the great things that I've learned about the Durham parents community through the years of doing this blog is that we all can really come together as a community to support Durham and what would make Durham better for our families.  This is one of those opportunities where we can all come together, donate what we can, share with others and make this happen.  They have the perfect space picked out, but they could lose it to a much less kid-friendly venue, so we need to help!

I'm going to head over now and donate, and I hope you can do the same!  Thanks!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bull City Ciderworks

Last weekend we were having a very Durham Sunday morning.  We headed downtown and had a glorious Sunday brunch at Dames Chicken and Waffles.  We also spent some time laughing, reading, and buying some new (to us) books in Letters Bookshop next door.  You might think our Durham fun was over for the day, but you'd be wrong, we had one more stop in Downtown Durham that I highly recommend.  

What it is:  Bull City Ciderworks makes their own local cider on Elizabeth Street downtown in a very unassuming warehouse.  It doesn't look like much from the outside, so we didn't really know what to expect when we went inside.  Plus, we were taking our two energetic boys inside a place that makes and serves hard cider, so we weren't sure how that would go.  However, at all went fantastically and everyone had a great time!

We headed in and immediately saw the large barrels where they make the cider.  A sign directed us around the corner to the tasting room.  The tasting room was small with a few tables and a bar with tall stools.  We fortunately brought a book for the kiddos (that we had just purchased at the bookstore), and they sat entranced while we sampled a few of the ciders.  Bull City Ciderworks offers all kinds of hard cider and puts some different and delicious twists on it.  I'm not a beer drinker so it was fun to stop by a place where I could also enjoy the tasting.

We decided to try the tasting flight where we got to try several different small pours for, I think $2 per small glass.  We tried some delicious traditional ciders, one made with ginger which was my favorite, one made with tea, and even one with blueberries.  Everything that we tried was delicious. They also had a local root beer made in Raleigh on tap for a non-alcoholic option and it was fabulous.  Even my youngest son tried it and thought the root beer was awesome!  They also had some nonalcoholic juice boxes for the kiddos if their thirsty.

Bull City Ciderworks also sells ciders by the pint and growlers at this location.  You can also pick up their growlers at several other locations around town like Sams Bottle Shop.

I can't wait to head back when the weather gets a little warmer when they throw open the garage doors on their tasting room and people can sit out on the picnic benches, occasional food trucks stop by, and they will even have some fun games outside to enjoy.

What we liked:  We loved that they had something different, and they made a delicious, unique product.  We also liked how they are kid and dog friendly and are welcoming to both.  I like how they have a tasting room that can open to the outdoors so they can really take advantage of the space outdoors (for little energetic kiddos to get their wiggles out).  It is a place that can accommodate kiddos, but would also be great to stop by on a date day or evening.

What we would change:  It was a small tasting room, so it would be nice to have more space for when word gets out about this great little stop.  However, fortunately they can open up their garage door and use the picnic tables for more space.

Website and other Important Information:


Address: 113 S. Elizabeth St, Durham

Hours: Wednesday and Thursday: 5pm-10pm, Friday 4pm-11pm, Saturday 11am-11pm, Sunday 1pm-6pm


(our flights of cider)

(the taps)

(a view from the outside)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Boot

I've been meaning to write up this great little new Italian restaurant for a while.  It's a great casual spot for both adults and kids.

What it is:  The Boot is a new Italian restaurant that opened up just before Christmas in the old Local Yogurt spot off University Dr. next to Bull City Craft and across the street from Q-Shack and Nanatacos.  I have been there twice now, once with kids, once with some moms from preschool, and it was delicious both times.

I was surprised by how large the space was after having been to Local Yogurt many times.  The front is filled with long picnic tables and the rest of the restaurant is filled with these and some booths.  It's nice and quiet and has a very Durham sort of vibe.

The menu is small, and the food is tasty.  The ravioli is currently the only pasta that is homemade, but I was told that they hope to add other homemade pastas in the future.  The first time I tried a farfalle with peas and ham and the second time I tried the homemade ravioli.  They were both delicious and the portion was reasonable.  It wasn't so big that I felt overstuffed.  There was no kids' menu, but when I was there with my kids they had garlic bread and pasta with parmesan and butter which my kids scarfed down.

What we liked:  I liked the casual atmosphere and good food.  It was a great place for my whole family, and it was a great place where I could go with other adults to talk.  We will definitely be back.

What we would change:  Some people have commented that prices are a little high for what they received, but I didn't think they were too bad.  In addition, on a busy weekend, parking in their lot can be a little tricky, but we were able to find spots both times.

Website and other information:


Address: 2501 University Dr, Durham

Hours: Monday-Saturday: 11:30am-10pm


(my son's dish)

(my farfalle)

(my husband's sandwich)

(the view from the outside of the restaurant)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mount Merrill at Durham Central Park

I'm sure that many more of you are familiar with Mt. Merrill after today's glorious food truck rodeo, but we stopped by on a weekday last week and again this weekend at the Food Truck Rodeo and wanted to give everyone the scoop.

What it is:  Mt. Merrill is the new playground created at Durham Central Park thanks to a fundraising campaign with donations from many Durhamites, myself included.  It's been fun to watch it come to fruition, and I know my kids are going to have lots of fun playing on it during all of our future outings to Durham Central Park.

If you're headed to Durham Central Park to find Mt. Merrill, there are several parking options.  You could use the nearby street parking, or park in the public parking garage a few blocks away at the corner of Foster and Morgan Streets.  Usually, we park at the garage whenever going to that area because I am an absolutely terrible at parallel parking.  There are some nearby lots, but they are all reserved for various businesses.

Once you find parking you can head on over to Mt. Merrill which is located across Foster St. from the Farmer's Market Pavilion at Durham Central Park.  It's a small playground, but for some reason, it kept my kids occupied for a long time both times we visited.  In fact, the other parents I was with agreed that the small structure kept their kids occupied for longer than they thought it would.  Regardless of it's size, they had fun.

Mt. Merrill itself consists of a small and a large slide set on a climbable mountain with boulders and large walkways up to the top.  The slides are made of metal with rounded edges.  There are also large poles positioned around the mountain.  In looking at them, it looks they would hold a sunshade in the summer.  There's also a small area with some ropes for climbing on one side.

The mountain is positioned in the middle of an area which will soon hold grass.  There is a seating area in the back as well as a sidewalk with statues of a bird and turtle which are great for toddler climbing.  The sidewalk leads to a bridge over a creek before it ends at the edge of the small park.

What we liked:  One of the great thing about Mt. Merrill is its location at Durham Central Park where lots of great events already take place. This way, your kids have a place to blow off some steam while you are enjoying the weekly Durham Farmers Market or one of the fabulous Food Truck Rodeos.   The fact that Durham Central Park took the time to build this playground means they really were looking out for the needs of Durham families, which is awesome.

What we would change: The playground is a little small, but of course that is the way that it has to be at a multi-purpose park such as Durham Central Park, and its size didn't keep my kids from having a good time.  With the little ones I would also worry because the park could be a bit dangerous for you if you don't keep an eye on them.  There isn't much protection to keep them from falling off of the climbing rocks.  However, with parents playing with them and keeping an eye on them, it's a fun place for all ages.  

Website and other important information:


Address: 501 Foster St, Durham


(the smaller slide)

(the larger slide)

(a view of the whole structure)

(another view)

(the crowds playing during the Food Truck Rodeo)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sky Zone-Durham

I have two very active boys, so any time we can get a little extra energy out is a good thing!  This is especially true in the cold and wet months in the winter.  This indoor spot is a great way to do that right here in Durham!

What it is:  Sky Zone is a new indoor trampoline park that just opened in North Durham in the same parking lot as Northgate Mall, right next to Sears.  I took my youngest son who is 4 and we headed on over one afternoon with some friends.  Just like other trampoline places in the area, you came in, signed a waiver, and paid according to how long you wanted to jump, half an hour increments.  Then, you also paid for some official Sky Zone socks with grippy soles that you were required to wear but could bring back each time you came.  

The interesting thing about paying was that the price designation for toddlers was based on height not age.  So any child under 45 inches got to pay at the toddler price, which was great because I have kids that are so small I think they're going to be in the toddler category forever!

Once we bought our tickets, we used the change machine to get some change and used our quarter to get a locker for our belongings.  They said you could use a locker without paying to lock it, but with my purse involved I appreciated the locking option.  

Then, it was time for jumping!!  When we headed out to the trampolines we were actually the only ones there except for one other family!  Now, I imagine that will change as more people find out, but it was great.  They said that the middle of the weekdays were usually pretty empty but things definitely filled up in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends.  Everyone had a ball and completely wore themselves out, including me.  There was the trampoline floor full of wall-to-wall trampolines for bouncing.  There were also trampolines for jumping and dunking basketballs.  Then, there were separate dodgeball arenas which we didn't explore, and finally, there were trampolines where you could jump into a pit of foam balls-my son's favorite.

One thing I noticed about Sky Zone was how many monitors they had.  There were tons of staff monitoring the jumping.  They were very strict about having one person jumping off each trampoline into the pit at a time, and even having one person on each trampoline on the jump floor.  This was a difference between this and other jump places.  While it was a little frustrating having to be so careful not to jump on the same square as someone else and not being able to hold hands with my son and jump, I really appreciate their attention to safety.  They weren't going to let anything slide!

After our hour was done, we were all super thirsty.  Fortunately, they had a concession stand where you could buy drinks, snacks, Icees, and even pizza.  I also noticed they had birthday rooms where you could celebrate your own Sky Zone party.

What we liked:  We love having another indoor option for getting the little kiddo energy out right here in Durham.  I also really appreciated their attention to safety which made me feel more comfortable as a parent.  They also have a toddler time on Saturday from 9-11am and Tuesday through Thursday from 3-5pm which is exclusively for kids under 45 inches.  One of the workers there told me that at that time that during toddler time parents were actually able to hold hands with the kids and be on the same trampoline square, but I can't completely verify that.  They also don't charge for the adult when a toddler is jumping.  They also have specific times for other groups such as teens.

What we would change:  The price was really the limiting factor for us.  At $15 for an hour for an adult for an hour, that was an expensive outing.  Fortunately toddler prices were a little cheaper which made things a little better for us.  Their website just says $10 for the first half hour and $5 for every half hour after that for everyone.  However, they gave us the toddler pricing  of $8 per half hour and $4 after that even though it wasn't officially toddler time.   I'm not sure if this is always their policy, or if the discounted prices were just during toddler time.  

Website and other important information:

Address: 1720 Guess Road, Suite 90, 27701

Hours: Closed Monday, Tuesday-Thursday 3pm-9pm, Friday 11am-10pm, Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm  *This doesn't match up with the Saturday 9-11 toddler time.  I will call to clarify.


(A view of their concessions stand from the seating area)

(The jumping floor)

(the sky slam dunking zone)

(a view from the foam pit-it's like quick sand in here)

(The pit)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Smallcakes winners!

Hi everyone!  Thanks to the fabulous generosity of Smallcakes, they increased our giveaway and decided to give a free cupcake to the top 25 people that commented on the previous post, YAY!

So, here are the names of the people that commented in time order of when they commented.  If you won, your comment is published.  If you didn't, your comment is not published.  If you won, just go in to Smallcakes, give them your name, and they'll give you a cupcake!  Please double check if your comment was one of the ones published because there are some duplicate name entries.

And the winners are: The Gaineys, Yda Balcazar, Emily, Gina Martinez, Mary Claire Somerville, Mary Elizabeth Maynard, Sara H, Amy @ Amy Hogan Photography, Eve Choi, Stephanie, Wendy Ferrara, rhg, Jessica, Mary Taylor, Jennifer, Erika Williamson, Gigi De la Torre, Andrew McGeary, Janice Giles, FIAMA, Sherri Nevius, Genevieve, yourmomdesigns, Lindsey, and Robin H.

If you didn't win, it's definitely worth stopping by anyway.  I know I'll be back to buy some delicious cupcakes for me and my family!  :)