NC Botanical Garden-Display Gardens

DSC_4730-01.jpegWe were so excited to find this lovely place near UNC’s campus with loads of kid-friendly play spots and little secret garden features to explore.  The NC Botanical Garden manages around 700 acres of incredible collections filling every kind of garden habitat you can imagine, including the Coker Arboretum, Forest Theatre, Piedmont Nature Trails, Battle Park and other natural areas. Right off of highway 501, ,you will find a visitors center and array of display gardens, including carnivorous plants, fern collection, flowering plant area, and an walkway through bog and sandhills species. My kids loved smelling the vast vast collection of herbs in the Mercer Reeves Hubbard Herb Garden, and the sweet sculptures and water feature there make it a really fun place to explore.  Just for the kids, there is a discovery garden, with wooden blocks, weaving,  a sand box and a fairy garden. For the little ornithologists, a Bird Blind overlooks a special garden just for the birds! It is a wonderful place, I hope you get to take a stroll through it soon!

With Love,

Turtle Dove


Know Before You Go:  There is a Visitor Center with bathrooms and a gift shop at the entrance to the display area.  There are also restrooms at the work building near the herb garden.

Several of the gardens listed on the website are adjacent to each others, but some of the properties are located in other parts of the town.

There is no fee to visit.  The gardens are open Tuesday-Sunday.




Stephens Nature Center at Hemlock Bluffs

DSC_3528-01.jpegWe are so lucky to live in an area where almost every town sets aside some of its natural treasures for public use.  Hemlock bluffs is just that, a preserve that protects a population of Eastern Hemlock trees, intertwined with trails and educational areas that provide for great walks and learning adventures. DSC_3554-01 The park is a joint venture between the Town of Cary and the NC State Parks Service, and its 140 acres have various cool ecosystems to explore.  Town of Cary operates the Stephens Nature Center, with a small exhibit area, classrooms, 2 children’s gardens and a great play area with fun features like a mushroom and turtle hopscotch and a telescope.  DSC_3540-01.jpegThe bluffs themselves can be accessed by a set of long stairs and with overlooks that lead to a short trail loop perfect for kids. I hope you and your family get to see it soon!

With Love, Turtle Dove

Know Before you go: There are restrooms available at the center, none on the trails.

The stairs on the bluff trail are well kept, but there are a lot of them.  Also, they have gravel on top which can be slippery.

There are no food or drink facilities, but there are water fountains at the nature center.

There are plenty of snakes and ticks at this park.




Sarah P. Duke Gardens

DSC_2998-01.jpegFew places have as many spring wonders as Duke Gardens in Durham! Gorgeous beds bursting with Tulips, Irises, and other blossoms make for awesome pretend fairy tale lands for littles, and keep grown ups busy wandering through mazes of flowers for literally hours! DSC_3027-01.jpegPart of the 55 acre park is the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum with fun water features, a stream, and a towering bamboo forest. Just beyond the Visitors Center, there is a relatively new Discovery Garden with a hen house and several activities especially for small guests, like a sensory garden, storybook area, and several pint-sized tunnels and trellises. DSC_3077-01.jpeg My children are also especially enamored of the seven or eight types of ducks and waterfowl that spend their time hanging around the ponds.  There are so many little bridges, paths, sculptures and fountains, you could visit often and still make new discoveries each time!  I hope you and your family get to spend the day here soon!!

With Love, Turtle Dove

Know Before You Go: Parking is public but you must pay hourly or daily.  You need to know your Tag number to purchase parking from the meter. The turn around rate is quick, there are always spaces opening up, especially on the weekdays.

There are a lot of open, ungated water features here.

Ducks, turtles and college students abound at this park.  Some of all of these groups can be moody about kids walking up on them when they’re just hanging out.

Restrooms with changing tables are located at the visitor’s center and the Terrace Garden.

There is a gift shop that offers water for sale, but there is no other food for purchase at the park.





The JC Raulston Arboretum

Screenshot_20180312-123627We love, love, love the arboretum, all year long. Right in the heart of Raleigh, near NC State Centennial campus, the arboretum has 10 acres of diverse flowering plants and trees, divided by different landscape types and features. Fountains, stepping stones, and reflecting ponds are so fun for little ones to discover, and there is even a new, colorful kids garden. Perfect climbing trees and gazebos inspire lots of pretend adventures for us. I hope your family finds the Zen gardens and little covered thinking benches as tranquil as we do!

With Love, Turtle Dove

Know before you go:

Restrooms are located near the entrance in the education facility and out in the purple pagoda building in the middle of the site.

There are no indoor facilities unless you are there for an educational program (then you might be lucky enough to have class in their cool yurt). Rainy days are beautiful, but there are only a few covered places to hang out in this site.

Several water features are ground level and are not gated. They are deep enough for toddlers to be underwater if they take a wrong step. Also, if you sit near them quietly, you may see a bullfrog. (Kisses optional)



Swift Creek Bluffs-a Secret forest fun spot

Boardwalks keep little feet safe and on the path


We absolutely love quiet walks in the woods, especially diverse, beautiful woods like those of Swift Creek Bluffs Nature Preserve near Cary. Early spring especially, these woods are full of wildflowers and new buds on all types of hardwoods. Just off of Holly Springs Rd, near the backside of the Lochmere subdivisions, you can find a natural wonderland of canopied trails lined
Screenshot_20180311-232006with jack-in-the-pulpit, Indian pipe, wild geranium, and other delicate lovelies. We’ve also seen pileated woodpeckers, box-turtles, and several species of salamander.  There are boardwalks and even a “stairway to heaven,” steps that go straight up the side of the bluffs. We really loved dipping feet and nets into the creek, there is easy access if you head to the right. Hope you get to check it out soon.

With ❤  Turtle Dove

Know before you go:

The address is 7800 Holly Springs Rd, Raleigh, NC 27606. It can be hard to find, if coming from Raleigh, look for the Swift Creek sign, on the right parking is just after, next to fenced electrical area.

Parking is limited
No bathrooms! None in walking distance, either
Poison ivy is plentiful off-trail
Trails get washed out after bad storms, if there has been a recent storm, wear boots, trails may be flooded in parts