2011 Carolina Parent Family Favorites
DINING IN OR OUT
Along with more traditional kid's menu entree items, Red Robin offers children a choice of a chicken, turkey, veggie or BOCA (soy) burger as well as the standard beef patty; grilled chicken on a stick; or a chicken and cheese quesadilla. Locations in Apex, Cary, Durham and Wake Forest; www.redrobin.com.
Elmo's Diner is a locally owned restaurant that serves homemade food and breakfast all day. All sandwiches on the kids' menu come with a choice of small fries, carrot sticks, applesauce or raisins. 200 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro; 776 Ninth St., Durham; http://elmosdiner.com.
El Rodeo offers traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes along with house specialties. Try the agua de horchata drink, made from rice. 2400 Hillsborough St.; 4112 Pleasant Valley Rd., Raleigh; www.elrodeoraleigh.com.
Moe's Southwest Grill menu options include burritos, quesadillas, tacos and more with unique names like The Funk Meister taco and Billy Barou nachos. With 25 toppings, you can customize your selection. Locations in Raleigh,
Durham, Cary and Fuquay-Varina; www.moes.com.
Pei Wei offers options from Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, with all dishes less than $10. Some signature items include Mandarin Kung Pao and Thai Coconut Curry. Locations in Cary and Raleigh; www.peiwei.com.
Goodberry's offers its famous frozen custard in vanilla and chocolate, plus daily and seasonal specials. Ingredients include blueberries, macadamia nuts, English walnuts, mocha and more. Choose a mix-in to create your own special Carolina Concrete. Locations in Raleigh, Cary, Wake Forest, Durham and Garner; www.goodberrys.com.
Honorable Mentions - Cold Stone Creamery: Check for locations in Apex, Cary, Chapel Hill, Garner, Raleigh and Smithfield; www.coldstonecreamery.com.
Locopops: Locations in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh; www.ilovelocopops.com.
Maple View Dairy Farm: 6900 Rocky Ridge Rd., Hillsborough; 100 E. Weaver St., Carrboro; 525 Hampton Pointe Blvd., Hillsborough; www.mapleviewfarm.com.
Mellow Mushroom offers a variety of pizzas made with fresh ingredients to enjoy in an atmosphere of colorful and funky art. The restaurants also serve munchies, salads, calzones, and grilled and deli hoagies. 410 Blackwell St., Durham; 601 W. Peace St., Raleigh; and 2125 S. Main St., Wake Forest; www.mellowmushroom.com.
CiCi's has a buffet of salads and pasta as well as desserts and, of course, pizza. The carry-out menu includes wings, dippin' sticks, cinnamon rolls and more. Locations in Apex, Cary, Durham, Raleigh, Wake Forest, Clayton, Knightdale and Smithfield. www.cicispizza.com.
Place for a Picnic
Duke Gardens occupies 55 acres and is recognized for its landscape design. Public programs for kids and families include workshops for preschoolers, drop-in programs, activity backpack rentals and more. Located at 420 Anderson St., Durham; www.hr.duke.edu/dukegardens.
Honorable Mentions - Pullen Park: 520 Ashe Ave., Raleigh; www.raleighnc.gov. (See Park/Playground for details.)
Bond Park: 801 High House Rd., Cary; www.townofcary.org.
Annual Festival or Event
The North Carolina State Fair has a 143-year history. No wonder it was voted the favorite family event. This year's fair will be Oct. 13-23 at the fairgrounds. 1025 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh; www.ncstatefair.org.
Honorable Mention - Festival for the Eno: July 2-4 at the West Point on the Eno City Park, 5101 N. Roxboro Rd., Durham; www.enoriver.org/Festival.
The Museum of Life & Science has a butterfly house, insectarium, Dinosaur Trail, farmyard, and many more areas of learning and activity both inside and outside. It's open every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. 433 Murray Ave., Durham; www.ncmls.org.
Honorable Mention - Marbles Kids Museum: 201 E. Hargett St., Raleigh; www.marbleskidsmuseum.org (See Rainy Day Outing for details.)
Rainy Day Outing
Marbles Kids Museum is a popular location for those days when the weather doesn't play on your side. A hands-on museum for children 10 and younger, it has permanent themed galleries, temporary exhibits and a 3D-capable giant IMAX screen. Kids can design, dream, draw, splash, play and learn about community life and money. 201 E. Hargett St., Raleigh; www.marbleskidsmuseum.org.
Sports Event for Families
Families enjoy Durham Bulls baseball games April through September. Sumo wrestling, inflatables and face painting keep the kids entertained. Durham Bulls Athletic Park, 409 Blackwell St., Durham; www.dbulls.com.
Honorable Mention - Carolina Hurricanes: 1400 Edwards Mill Rd., Raleigh; http://hurricanes.nhl.com.
Place to take Visitors
Duke Gardens is the favorite place to take visitors in the Triangle area. (See Place for a Picnic for details.)
Activity/Place that's Free
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Science features permanent and special exhibits, live programs and educational films that adults and kids enjoy. It is also the largest museum of its kind in the Southeast. 11 W. Jones St., Raleigh; http://naturalsciences.org.
Honorable Mention - Duke Gardens (See Place for a Picnic for details.)
The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro encompasses 1,500 acres. Animal enclosures mimic natural habitats, so you won't find cages. For the first time in 22 years and the second time in park history, the zoo is expecting a baby gorilla in late July or early August. 4401 Zoo Pkwy., Asheboro; www.nczoo.org.
Place to Walk
Umstead State Park has 20 miles of hiking trails. Horses and bikes are only allowed on other trails, so you won't have any unexpected encounters. The park is accessible from Harrison Avenue off Interstate 40 and from U.S. Hwy. 70. 8801 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh; www.ncparks.gov.
The American Tobacco Trail provides 22 miles to hike, bike or horseback ride through a rails-to-trails project. The route crosses through the City of Durham; Durham, Chatham and Wake counties; and the planning jurisdictions of the towns of Cary and Apex. It also passes through the Lake Jordan project land. Take a cell phone, if possible, and drinks, since water isn't available at trailheads. www.triangletrails.org/ATT.HTM.
Shelley Lake is a 53-acre lake with a park area and boathouse. Two miles of paved, scenic greenway trails with workout stations surround the lake. There's also a playground area and three open fields for more physical activity. 1400 W. Millbrook Rd., Raleigh; www.raleighnc.gov.
Lake Lynn is a 75-acre park with paved and boardwalk trails, making it a favorite spot for walking, cycling,
jogging and in-line skating. The Recreation Center offers many pro-grams, especially for kids. Entrances are off Ray Road and Lynn Road.Neither entrance is easy to spot, so look carefully. 7921 Ray Rd., Raleigh; www.raleighfree.com/lake_lynn_park.html.
Place to Ride Bikes
American Tobacco Trail takes the top spot on this category. (See Places to Walk for details.)
Pullen Park, located next to North Carolina State University, is divided into five sections: the aquatic, community and arts centers; the athletic field; and the amusement section. The park also offers three softball fields and six tennis courts. The amusement section is closed for renovations and is expected to reopen in late fall 2011. 520 Ashe Ave., Raleigh; www.raleighfree.com/pullen_park.html.
Honorable Mentions - Kids Together Park: 111 Thurston Dr., Cary; http://kidstogethercary.org.
Bond Park: 801 High House Rd., Cary; www.townofcary.org.
Family Fitness Facility
YMCA facilities provide all family members a place to exercise, learn and enjoy time together while having fun. It offers health and wellness programs, fitness classes, after-school programs, youth service projects, swimming lessons, senior adult programs and more. www.ymcatriangle.org.
Wake County Public Libraries offer popular story times that engage children in the world of literature. Cameron Village Regional Library (1930 Clark Ave., Raleigh) and Eva Perry Regional Library (2100 Shepherd's Vineyard Dr., Apex) were selected as the favorite branches. www.wakegov.com/libraries/kids/events.
Barnes and Noble hosts story-time events at some locations. Check for participating stores at www.barnesandnoble.com.
Hands-on Activity Place
Marbles Kids Museum is tops for this category. (See Rainy Day Outing for details.)
Honorable Mention - Museum of Life and Science (See Museums for details.)
Class/Program for Ages 0-4
The Little Gym provides classes according to an age-specific curriculum, delivered in weekly lessons to build kids' motor skills. Its noncompetitive programs include karate, cheerleading and dance. Locations in Durham, Raleigh, Cary and Holly Springs. www.thelittlegym.com.
Honorable Mention - Spanish for Fun: 8000 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh; 100 Endeavor Way, Cary; www.spanishforfun.com. (See Class/Program for School Ages for details.)
Class/Program for School Ages
Bright Horizons is a popular option for parents with busy schedules. School-age children up to age 12 can participate in before- and after-school care, back-up care for school holidays and school closings, and summer day-camp programs. Check locations at www.brighthorizons.com.
The YMCA is also a favorite in this category. (See Family Fitness for details.)
The Little Gym (See Class/Program for Ages 0-4 for details.)
Spanish for Fun offers immersion full-time preschool, immersion summer camp, and a language institute program to learn Spanish in an active environment. 8000 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh; 100 Endeavor Way, Cary; www.spanishforfun.com.
Camp Kanata offers a 1:5 counselor-to-camper ratio with sessions of summer day camp for students entering grades 1-6. Kids enjoy activities that include canoeing, swinging on a Tarzan swing and drama lessons. 13524 Camp Kanata Rd., Wake Forest; www.campkanata.org. (Camp Kanata is part of YMCA.)
Other YMCA day camps were also voted as favorites. (See Family Fitness for details.)
Honorable Mention - Camp Chestnut Ridge: 4300 Camp Chestnut Ridge Rd., Efland; www.campchestnutridge.org.
Camp Kanata gets the top spot in this category. (See Day Camp for details.)
Honorable Mention - Camp Chestnut Ridge (See Day Camp for details.)
YMCA offers the most popular track-out camp with voters this year. (See Family Fitness for details.)
Honorable Mention - Bright Horizons (See Class/Program for School Ages for information.)
Right Time Kids doesn't require membership fees, contracts or appointments for short-term child care. You only pay for the time you use. It's open nights and weekends, and even provides a meal program. Find locations across the Triangle at www.righttimekids.com.
Ted's Twisted Balloons and Magic offers a magic show that kids and adults enjoy. Ted makes multiple sculptures with balloons while entertaining at special events. www.tedstwistedballoons.com.
Dan the Animal Man entertains with an animal and magic show, offering an opportunity to learn about wildlife and animal behavior in a fun way. www.dantheanimalman.net.
Pump It Up has private indoor areas with gigantic inflatable slides, obstacle courses and more. Coordinators organize the party, setting up and cleaning up so you don't have to. Available options include pizza, goodie bags and more. 10700 World Trade Blvd., Ste. 112, Raleigh; www.pumpitupparty.com.
Honorable Mentions - Bounce U: 3419 Apex Peakway, Apex; www.bounceu.com.
Monkey Joe's: 1747 Walnut St., Cary. 6220 Glenwood Ave. Ste. 104, Raleigh. www.monkeyjoes.com.
Once in a Blue Moon Bakery offers cakes, pies and breakfast goodies. You can choose from more than 10 different specialty cakes to celebrate a special day. 115-G W. Chatham St., Cary; www.bluemoonbakery.com.
Harris Teeter lets you choose from decorated variety cakes or message cookies to make a birthday a sweet occasion to remember. Find locations at www.harristeeter.com.
Stone's Educational Supply offers more than 20,000 products including multilingual education sets, teacher resources and other educational items. 3800 Tryon Rd., Raleigh; www.stones education.com.
Teach Me lets you choose from a variety of products that motivate children to learn, such as microscopes and thinking games. 3520 Spring Forest Rd., Raleigh; http://teachmestore.com.
Honorable Mention - A Sea of Learning: 1058 West Club Blvd. Ste. 420, Durham. www.aseaoflearning.com.
Place to Buy Kids' Clothing
Target has exclusive brands that accommodate kids' and parents' tastes. Find the nearest store at www.target.com.
Target covers a range of maternity needs. www.target.com.
Honorable Mention - Motherhood: Locations across the triangle; www.motherhood.com.
Target wins in this category. www.target.com.
Honorable Mentions - Lily Mae's: 10501 Shadowlawn Dr., Ste. 109, Raleigh; 1839 South Main St., Ste. 134, Wake Forest; http://lilymaes.3dcartstores.com.
Hallmark: Find the closest store at www.hallmark.com.
Once Upon a Child is a top choice if you want to empty your kids' closets and make money at the same time by consigning. It sells kids' clothes, toys and equipment. 253 Grande Heights Dr., Cary. www.onceuponachild.com.
Kid 2 Kid is another popular option for parents who know kids grow faster than paychecks. Parents can transform gently used kids' stuff into cash and purchase items. 1059 Beaver Creek Commons Dr., Apex; 430 Crossroads Blvd., Cary; www.kidtokid.com.