The City of Raleigh has an extensive park and greenway system with many options for families to have outdoor fun from walking, playing, jogging, fishing, picnicking and more. Residents have numerous options, even many which are close to downtown Raleigh, to embrace the beautiful “City of Oaks”. With so many choices, knowing the top spots is key!
1. Pullen Park
Pullen Park, North Carolina’s first public park and the world’s 14th oldest amusement, spans 66 acres and is located along Western Boulevard to the southeast of N.C. State’s main campus. Pullen Park is a large, “one-stop shop” park for family-friendly outdoor activities. On a nice day, this park is ALIVE with activity. Famous park attractions include the miniature train, which is a one-third size, near exact replica of a late 1890’s locomotive, as well as the historic Dentzel Carousel. The park also has a large pond with pedal boats available to rent, two softball fields, nine shelters, four age-specific playgrounds, kiddie boats, an art center, and a community center. Additionally, Pullen Park hosts a free summer concert series in the amphitheater on Sunday evenings!
2. Lake Johnson Park
To the southwest of Downtown Raleigh, nestled inside-the-beltline near the intersection of I-440 and I-40, is Lake Johnson Park. The expansive 150+ acre lake is surrounded by 5.4 miles of unpaved of picturesque trails (3.5 miles paved, 1.9 unpaved) ideal for walking your dog or taking a run. At the entrance to the park is the boathouse, where you can rent pedal boats, paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes, check out a free rod and reel, and sign up to participate in fun classes such as Therapeutic Yoga or Intro to Sailing. A new $2.6 million Lake Johnson Woodland Center is in anticipated to be complete in spring 2016.
3. Dorothea Dix Park
Historically the campus of a psychiatric hospital, the 300+ acre Dorothea Dix property is located across Western Boulevard from the Boylan Heights neighborhood. After years of negotiations, it was recently purchased by the city of Raleigh with plans of creating a world-class destination park benefiting future generations; think Piedmont Park in Atlanta. The vast, rolling hills and ancient oak trees of the park create a lovely place to run, picnic, and soak in the skyline views of Raleigh.
4. Museum Park at North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA)
This 160 acre park adjoining the North Carolina Museum of Art presents an opportunity to explore an extensive collection of commissioned art and nature simultaneously. There are 4 trails in the park including the 1-mile blue loop and the Reedy Creek Greenway, which connects the Museum Park to Schneck Forest and Umstead State Park. Currently 24 works of art sit along these paved and unpaved paths. With more than a 20 year history, NCMA’s Summer Film Series presents “big-movie magic under the stars”. Raleighites come out on Friday and Saturday evenings, set up a picnic, and enjoy Oscar winners, timeless classics, and family favorite films. The amphitheater also hosts concerts that attracts up-and-coming regional artists.
5. The Raleigh Rose Garden and Amphitheater
Although technically not a “park”, the Raleigh Rose Garden and Louise “Scottie” Stephenson Amphitheater are charming spots to spend time outside with family. The Rose Garden has 56 varieties of stunning roses in 60 beds. During prime season between late May and early October this garden is an ideal spot for special occasions, small events, or a casual picnic. The adjoining outdoor Amphitheater seats up to 2,000 people and hosts a summer movies series on Sundays, theatrical performances from Shakespeare classics to comedies such as SPAMALOT, and small music festivals such as Groove in the Garden, featuring budding local musicians.