What it is: This is one of the most fun places to go with toddlers in the area when the weather is nice. It is a park in the airport where you can watch the planes take off and land. It includes a raised, covered platform where you can watch the runway complete with speakers broadcasting the voices of the air traffic controllers. Next to the observation platform is a large grassy area with a sandbox and small climbing structure at one end perfect for toddler play. There are some picnic tables and benches perfect for enjoying a snack or picnic meal. Apparently, there's also a nearby cafe at the General Aviation terminal with some indoor space for viewing the planes, but I have never investigated this. Please let me know and post a comment if you have.
What we like: We love basically everything about this park. It's great to have the grassy area and play area in addition to the observation deck so that toddlers can take a break and play when they have lost interest in the observation deck. The park is also nicely removed from traffic and nearby roads so I feel safe letting my toddler run.
What we would change: The one thing that is a bit tricky is the staircase at one end of the observation deck. While I feel safe letting him run in the grassy area, I feel like I have to stay close to him when on the deck so that he doesn't run over to the stairs which are fairly steep. It can also be pretty sunny in the summer. There's not much shade except for on the observation deck.
Website and Directions: To get to the observation park, head to the airport right off of I-40 between Raleigh and Durham and follow directions given on their website. It's a little tricky to find, near some of the park and ride locations, lesser terminals, the air traffic control tower, and business buildings.
1. This photo is of the observation deck at the park. (Photo courtesy of airport website.)