This is about to be the start of my fourth school year in Raleigh, NC and it has been a hectic adventure with the pandemic and all the unsightly and sometimes frightening chaos that feels normal at this point. I often need time to clear my head from the dark looming clouds on the horizon, but music isn’t always enough to make the sun shine.
While I find Raleigh’s “skyline” ugly and sparse, the city offers some great local parks to sit and enjoy local, urban “nature”. The animals, birds and plants are nowhere as good as a real forest or the wilderness, but they still bring some peace and quiet to the city.
A lot of these parks are a short walk from NC State’s central campus. They are great places to study with friends or even stress free date spots.
I often venture forth on a quick 5 minute walk to the Raleigh Rose Garden to enjoy the well kept rose bushes of varying flavor and color. The small park has many great benches and tables to enjoy a picnic, snack or even a nice book in the shade. This miniscule attraction is like a pocket dimension where nothing matters as long as you don’t mind mosquitoes munching at your ankles.
Another great place for shade and relaxation is Nash Square in downtown Raleigh. Another small park, but it is covered in trees and shade, which is a requirement in our syrupy, southern heat waves. The center monument of this wonderful box park, celebrates the firefighters who have lost their lives protecting the citizens of North Carolina.
Nash Square does have many squirrely inhabitants. The squirrels in this park are an issue. I stopped for a break to drink water and snack for about 5 minutes and too many of the furry tree-rats stared me down with their soulless, beady, black eyes.
In Pullen Park, there are many child oriented options to imbibe in. A slow train ride that skirts the premises, an indoor carousel and paddle boats to explore the murky algae infested waters are all exciting options to choose from here. This park is right next to NC State’s campus, which offers a really easy option for first-year students to enjoy the parks and recreation of Raleigh.
I spent many hours in Pullen Park my first year at NC State because it was a calming walk on the greenway from Sullivan Hall to the park. I could easily pick a nice spot by the water and enjoy the weather, sounds and people watching all without the need of a car.
Dorthea Dix Park is a bit too long of a walk, but a nice short drive away from NC State. The wide open fields and more dynamic view of the Raleigh skyline offer good spots for photos or frisbee. Dix Park is also very close to the state farmers market, so grab a picnic blanket, basket and fresh fruits to enjoy on the rolling hills.
While exploring Raleigh, I have found one park I never want to return to. The North Carolina State Capitol building is unsightly. The grotesque and worn down columns that support an eyesore of a building don’t work well together.
The space outside the building is even worse. There are relics like cannons from wars that celebrate death and destruction, while a monument lamenting the horrors from the deaths of millions sit right next to it.There are a smattering of other monuments in the spaces outside the capitol building that serve as an insight into the history of Raleigh and North Carolina.
Also, this space has limited shade and unique attractive qualities that brings me back to previously mentioned parks like the Rose Garden.
Finding time to be alone and outside helps me think and keep myself moving forward. I can focus on my mental well-being while taking in the sights and sounds of the surrounding cityscape. Raleigh’s parks help me, and I hope that anyone unaware of their existence can now enjoy the beauty of them.