To get everyone out of the house for an afternoon, I thought it would be fun to check out Pullen Park in Raleigh. The park is 66 acres near NC State University and was established as a free public park in 1887, when the land was donated by a local business man. There is an amusement park on the property (the 5th oldest in the United States) which was recently closed for nearly 2 years for renovations. It reopened on Thanksgiving weekend. There is a train ($1 per ride), a carousel ($1 per ride), a small lake for paddle boating ($1 per ride), and several playgrounds. What amusement park is that cheap??
I never thought the park would be packed on New Years Eve. I figured that people would be at home with family, huddled around a fire to keep warm and ring in the new year, and watching football. Surely thousands of people didn't remember that the amusement park recently reopened and would all converge there at the exact same time as us. Too bad it was in the mid-60s and several thousand people DID have the same idea as me. Oh well. I am un-unique. Despite my best efforts, I sometimes choose the road most traveled. It doesn't always work out badly, though!
Once we found parking (took a while even with handicapped tags), we walked through the beautiful rolling hills, past the picnic shelters and the aquatic center and finally reached the amusement park. We could immediately see the line for the train, several hundred people long. Oh boy. Thoughts of turning back entered my mind.
Papa, Nate and Will (happy in a backpack) bought tickets for all of us, as Grammy, Aunt Kylie, Luke, Matt and I made our way to the playground areas. Wow. The renovations were beautiful. There were several playgrounds set up by age-appropriateness, and all of them had recycled rubber underneath them. Luke and Matt enjoyed their playtime. The rest of us chuckled a kid playing near Luke whose shirt read: I tried to be good, but I got bored.
Thankfully the train line moved quickly (at least 100 people fit on the train at a time). Before we knew it, it was time for our ride. Though Luke was excited for the train, I think that Matt might have been the most excited out of anyone. We loaded on the train and took a nice ride around the whole amusement park. Good $8 spent.
As we were deciding what to do next, I spotted the face of a friend from the University of Rochester (and fraternity brother of Nate's) who we haven't seen since 1999. After a couple of seconds of doubt (Raleigh is a long way from Rochester!), we realized that we knew each other. We all had a round of hugs and laughs, and caught up quickly on how we both ended up at this exact spot on the globe at the exact same time. As it turns out, one of their children is the kid with the I tried to be good... shirt that has been playing next to Luke!
Next we walked over the to the merry-go-round, which is a beautifully restored 1911 Dentzel Menagerie Carousel - one of only 23 remaining in the world. The line looked shorter than the train, but it was a little deceptive. Once you got into the building, the line wrapped 3/4 of the way around the carousel before you actually got a ride. Good time for snacks and for getting kids excited as they watched the animals go up and down!
When we finally made our way to the head of the line, everyone was excited to turn in their tickets and find a couple of animals together. Luke assured us that he wanted to ride a horse, and NOT one that stood still. Will stayed in the backpack, and Nate rode a horse with him. I stood by Matt's side to make sure he was doing alright - this was his first carousel ride. About halfway through the ride, he tried to slide off the saddle, so I stood him on the floor next to me. He quickly realized that the floor wasn't as exciting as the back of his magical horse, and put his hands up to get back up.
After the carousel ride ended, we took a nice walk around the paddle boating pond. Though there were thousands of people at the park, it did not seem too crowded. Luke took Will's place in the backpack for a bit. As we made our way back to the center of the park, the sun was starting to set and we decided to end our lovely afternoon at the park. Got to have some time to set up for our Rockin' New Years Eve!