We’re lucky enough to live an in area with an abundance of great outdoor places which is why I’ve put together some of the biggest and most special ones. Since a list of all the green spaces would go on for pages and pages I’ve highlighted some favorites to make it easier for you to get out and enjoy nature.
State Parks and Natural Areas:
Umstead State Park (Raleigh)
Umstead State Park is a gem. A 5,599 acre State Park in a city the size of Raleigh is almost unheard of. Luckily for us, government officials were wise enough to protect the land back in 1937. The park is a haven for hikers, runners, bikers and more. There are extensive trails, creeks and ponds open to the public for free as well as options for camping and more. On top of all this there are several shelters perfect for cook outs and tons of fun with friends and family. If all this wasn’t enough you can also get a little taste of history from the numerous ruins from the park’s past as farmland. I can’t stress enough how great Umstead is.
Hemlock Bluffs (Cary)
Hemlock Bluffs is a protected nature area featuring The Stevens Nature Center, hiking trails, Swift Creek and lots of local wildlife. The nature center runs programs for youth and all ages including some exciting night time nature walks. It’s also a great place to volunteer.
Eno River State Park (Durham)
Eno River State Park is an expansive area that is perfect for all sorts of activities. The river is known to have great fishing and hiking and when it gets a little warmer make sure to go cool off in the flooded quarry, the park’s biggest attraction. As things warm up you’ll find plenty of people floating around the quarry in tubes and daring ones leaping off its banks. There are also several festivals held in part of the park.
Carolina North Forest (Chapel Hill)
Carolina North Forest’s website describes it as “a tranquil natural oasis in which to recreate, relax, and enjoy a respite from the area’s ever-changing urban landscape.” Simply put, it is 750 acres of forest not far from both downtown Chapel Hill and Carrboro. A nice place to get away with several volunteering opportunities.
Haw River State Park (Near Chapel Hill)
Offering camping, picnicking, hiking and more the Haw River is one of the area’s newest state parks. There is plenty of space to fish and explore along the river and an impressive environmental education and conference center adds to the already great location.
Dorothea Dix Park (Raleigh)
Dorothea Dix is already a very nice place with incredible views of Downtown Raleigh but there is currently a massive initiative underway to make Dorothea Dix one of Raleigh’s coolest places. Right now, the project is in the planning stage and developers are keen to hear what the community wants in the park. This is Raleigh’s opportunity to create a space that is unlike any other in the country and has something for everyone.
NC Musem of Art Park (Raleigh)
Recently undergoing a serious face-lift and have I mentioned it’s one of my favorite places? There’s nothing like walking through the amazing and wacky outdoor art displays on a beautiful day. The trails also connect to Umstead Park as well as Wade Avenue.
Bond Park (Cary)
Cary’s largest park, Bond Park has a lake, walking trails, several sports facilities, a senior center, a community center and more. It is a popular place for events as well as Town of Cary sports leagues. It’s giant size makes it easy to find a nice quiet spot all to yourself.
Pullen Park (Raleigh)
The classic Raleigh park, a ride on the train or merry-go-round fills many nostalgic childhood memories for lots of the area’s longtime residents. The park has a neat playground, lake, lots of plant life and more. Pullen Park has something for everyone and is an easy place to get some fresh air if you live in or near downtown. The park’s aquatic center has an Olympic swimming pool that is open to the public all year.
Marla Dorrel Park (Cary)
Marla Dorrel Park or Kids Together Park was created through an initiative to build a park that can be enjoyed by everyone, including those with physical disabilities. The specially designed park is a blast for all kids and connects to the green way and pedestrian bridge over Highway 1/64.
Gardens and Arboretums
Sarah P. Duke Gardens (Durham)
The Duke Gardens are truly spectacular. They are great place for relaxing and even a formal (or informal) photo shoot. There is a wide range of flora, plenty of art and waterworks, and some very impressive landscape architecture. The Gardens are very well kept and nice all year long.
Coker Arboretum (Chapel Hill)
Coker Arboretum lies right in the heart of UNC’s campus. It serves as a great retreat for students and faculty alike to slow down a little in the middle of a hectic day. The arboretum has a nice variety of plants and trails as well as grassy areas to layout and relax. You might even see some students perched up in the trees in hammocks.
JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh)
Run by NC State university, according to the arboretum’s website it “is a nationally acclaimed garden with one of the largest and most diverse collections of landscape plants adapted for landscape use in the Southeast.” The arboretum also serves as a research and educational center and holds events for all ages.
North Carolina Botanical Garden (Chapel Hill)
Per the garden’s website: “The North Carolina Botanical Garden is a “conservation garden.” Our guiding mission is to inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants and to advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature.” Right by the Dean Dome and southern end of UNC’s campus, the garden is easily accessible and has a good amount of free parking.
Here’s to hoping for some nice weather and this article isn’t just wishful thinking put into words too soon. As always, thanks for reading and check back in two weeks for our April Activities.