This week's Three-fer Thursday is kind of a Four-fer. If you're feeling extra industrious, or hungry, you can hit two lunch spots instead of one. Oh, and this one is really designed for a warm day (this week's occasionally-awesome weather has got this stir-crazy mom dreaming of 70-degree temperatures). So hold off if it's rainy, cold, or unpleasant.
Head over to UNC-Chapel Hill's Campus to start things off. Take Hwy 54 from SW Durham. Don't get off onto 15-501 when 54 exits... just continue onto Raleigh Rd. When you see the big brick "parallel parking). If you can find a spot, PARK HERE. It'll give you the best walking-access to all the morning's activities. If the spaces are filled, you can loop around the block (turn right at Franklin St., right again at Battle Rd., and you'll be back on Country Club) and scope out another nearby spot. There are a ton of metered spaces in this area." sign and the cemetery behind it, turn right onto Country Club Rd. And the next stop light, turn right onto Raleigh Rd. On your right you'll see a number of metered parking spaces (
Metered parking runs about a quarter per twenty minutes. Plan on at least three hours, so make sure to bring nine-twelve quarters along. If you run out of quarters, keep in mind that the meter maids usually run by at least twice a day: 10:00 am and 2:00 pm seem to be hotspots for activity. *Ahem.* But you didn't hear that here.
If that fails (which it does, sometimes), get back on Raleigh Rd. heading towards Franklin St. Cross Franklin and turn left onto Rosemary St. After you pass through one stop light, they'll be a parking garage on your left. You can park here all day if you'd like, and it will get cheaper the longer you're there. It's a bit pricier than the metered spots, but they do take credit cards. There is also another deck coming up on your right and an outdoor-parking area on your left, right before the stoplight for N. Columbia Street. Either of these would also be fine, and they'll work for the day's activities.
Congratulations! You've parked! It's the hardest part of getting in and out of this part of.
Go to the UNC Arboretum first. If you've parked on Raleigh Rd., between the intersection of Country Club/Cameron Ave. and Franklin St., you're already there. Just walk across the street. If you're in one of the garages, you'll have to cross over Franklin St. and go into campus.isn't hard to find... it's at the intersection of Raleigh Rd. and E. Cameron Ave.
The Arboretum is really pretty, but not very large. Your kiddo can explore the dirt paths, climb on the benches, and smell lots of flowers. Now might also be a good time to enjoy the scenery and get energized with a light snack. Once you and the kiddos have run around a bit, walk away from Raleigh Rd., towards the north quad. If you parked in a garage, you've already been there!
Here your kidlet can run some more. This part of UNC is a lot like a park with a number of students and professors running through it. If it's a nice day, someone will be walking a dog, playing frisbee, and stretched out in the grass studying (or "studying"). It's a lot of fun for the kids to have a chance to people-watch and absorb a little bit of college life.
When you're done here, it's time for some more tangible playtime. Cross Franklin St., turn left, and walk down to Kidzu. You can play here for at least an hour, possibly two. And if you've already gotten a good hour or so of outside run-time, you should be hitting Kidzu at it's least-busy: 11:30-2:00.
After your kid(s) have had their fill at Kidzu (and are, hopefully, a bit wound-down), cross Franklin St. again. Turn left and head back towards the North quad. Look for a tiny alleyway with a set of spiral stairs in the middle of the floor. You've found Cosmic Cantina! And Locopops!
Start with Cosmic. This is a fantastic place to fill up on cheap, hearty food. If you're ravenous, get yourself a burrito. You might get through half of it. Save the rest for dinner! A cheese quesadilla for the little one will run you around $2, and a tasty vegan plate with beans, salsa, guac, and roasted veggies will run about $3 (a steal even if you're a carnivore). And there's always the failsafe chips and queso. Every child likes queso.
If you have time, gumption, and room in your belly you can top it all off with a pop from locopops. They are cheap, delicious, and always a great way to top off an active morning. If not, head home. If there's any last ounce of energy left in your little ones, you can bounce it off as you travel back through the Arboretum.
when to go: you should aim for arrival around 9:30-10:00. If you and your kids have the energy, you can make it all the way till 3:00 pm. If not, 1:30 is a good time to head home.
And if you're a little wary of the sheer quantity of people running around UNC's campus during session, you can plan a MUCH quieter visit by coming during intercession. The best times to visit (or not visit) for 2011 are as follows:
: everyone should be gone by and back in town roundabouts . Immediately before that, everyone will be hyper. Immediately after: everyone will be hung-over and apologetic.
Spring Semester: Exams end, but commencement is . Avoid UNC-Chapel Hill from ! There will be LOTS of proud parents and nervous grads rumbling around.
After, you'll have free-run until , when Summer Session I begins. Have no fear, though. If you're in a low-people tolerance mood, the summer sessions are still ideal. Students are around; classes are happening, but it's a small percentage of the normal population. Plus, everyone is in a chill mood. Summer Sessions run all the way through .
Intercession startsand runs through . There is plenty of activity on campus this time of year, but it's a fun time to visit, regardless. There are summer camps. orientation, and lots of happy tour groups running around. Campus will feel comparatively quiet and there will be younger kids about.
The majority of students will be moving in, so this is another weekend to avoid UNC-Chapel Hill. Unless you want to carry a futon up six flights of stairs.
Once class gets going, UNC quickly becomes a hub of activity again. It's a beautiful campus to explore in the fall, as well, and if you come between Oct. 20-24, the kids will be on Fall Break. Even if you come the week before... they'll all be panicking with their first round of mid-terms for the semester (and, consequently, in the library or at the coffee shops). So everywhere without books or free wi-fi will be quiet.
Exams finish up by Dec. 18th, so they'll be a few weeks of quiet after that. By then it will probably be cold and dreary again, so you can explore but make sure to pack some gear!
what to bring: the usual stuff, good walking shoes, boots if it's been rainy recently (the Arboretum can get muddy), some light snacks to start the day, QUARTERS.
what it'll cost you: parking can run from about $3-6. Bring quarters if you want to use the meters. Kidzu is $5 for each kid over 2 yrs. and $2 for the under-two crowd. One parent and one child can eat lunch at Cosmic for $12 or less. Locopops are $2 a piece. Overall, you're looking at a pretty cheap day; from about $20-$25 for everything.
advisories: check prices and hours (i.e., Kidzu isn't open http://afrotc.unc.edu/visitors/UNC-map.pdf).; parking prices keep going up) before you go. Print and bring a walking map of campus so you can really explore (