Today marks the last day of our dreamy, relaxing week in Raleigh, North Carolina. After being temporarily out of commission yesterday, I am now determined to make the most of our last day here. There’s really only one must-do activity left on my list, and that’s the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science , but we’re gonna save that for the heat of the day. For that and everything in between, here’s what we did on our last day in Raleigh!
Paddle boarding on Lake Johnson
You’re probably just as surprised as I was that we were going to Lake Johnson again.
I’m not sure what kind of magnetic pull it had on our family, but this morning, we were back on the lake again, this time on paddle boards!
Unlike yesterday, I picked my paddle boarding outfit carefully, knowing full-well that there was a good chance I was going to end up in the lake, even though swimming was not allowed.
I had paddle boarded once before in Michigan on Lake Eerie, but it was cold and windy and I fell off twice, so now I’m determined to overwrite that experience with a happier, sunnier one.
Still, I had trepidation as the watercraft attendant gave me a starting push into the warm green lake.
I shouldn’t have worried, paddle boarding isn’t hard at all. I wobbled the whole time while standing, but you sure can go fast on those things! We paddled all the way across the lake, exploring the little estuaries and looking for birds and turtles.
At one point, we saw a great blue heron being chased by two little birds, honking ferociously all the way. That’s the second time in a row we’ve seen small birds chasing big birds, someone please tell me why this happens!
My favorite part of our hour on the paddle boards was when we settled in the middle of the lake and made a circle with our boards. I sat down and let my legs dangle in the lake water, reveling in the fact that I technically wasn’t breaking the rules, but only half-convinced that I wasn’t going to contract a flesh-eating disease. So far, there has been so sign of flesh eatage, and I had a blast so I’d say it’s well worth it!
Stand up paddle boards were $10/hour, so not as good of a deal as a kayak rental, but a lot more fun, in my opinion
North Carolina Museum of Natural Science
The natural science museum was on my to-do list primarily because it’s the #1 rated must-see activity on tripadvisor, and secondarily because it’s free!
The first room is full of cube-ish glass containers filled of specimens of plants and animals native to North Carolina. Being a biology kid- I went ham. I tried my best to read every plackard, and marveled at how North Carolina’s mountainous and beachy terrain could yield so many different species.
Looking back, I shouldn’t have spent so much of my museum stamina in this room, because I had no idea how truly massive this museum was. Because admission was free, I could have never expected this behemoth to have 4 floors of exquisite exhibits.
The first floor focused on the diverse ecosystems of North Carolina, and I particularly enjoyed the shoreline exhibit, complete with a tank of live shrimp swimming around. The second floor covered some more ecosystems, like mountains and savannas, but it also had an artifacts library, which documented how the museum collected and stored items.
Honestly, there were so many other exhibits on this floor, but listing them all would be tedious for you guys. Don’t get me wrong, they were all great! I just don’t want to bore you.
Things really started heating up on the third floor. There were more exhibits here, but the walls consisted of laboratories with glass windows, full of students from the local university doing research on anything from geology, to astrology, to paleontology, and back.
The animal surgery lab blew the other labs out of the water, though, and we actually got to see a guy perform an operation on the musk gland of a snake, while a speaker system allowed him to narrate the surgery as he works. It’s cool beyond words, people.
Just when I thought times couldn’t get any better, on the other side of the third floor, they had dinosaurs.
My mom calls me a 12-year-old boy because of how vocal I am about my love of outer space and dinosaurs, so let’s just say my 12-year old alter ego is in full force.
The star of the show here at the NCMNS is an Acrocanthosaurus named Acro, a predecessor to the T-Rex, and apparently, an NC specialty.
From my understanding of the exhibit, the main difference between Acro and a T-Rex is that Acro is smaller, but has super muscular arms.
Like I said before, NCMNS has more exhibits than I can name, but my museum stamina had pretty much worn out after the dinosaur area, so the rest is kind of a blur. Hopefully, I can come back someday and give the whole museum the attention it deserves.
Thomas G Crowder Woodland Center
We were at the museum for several hours, so we quickly planned the rest of our day from there: gas station diet coke, short hike, pool.
Our original plan had been to go to the pool first, but just as we were pulling into the parking lot, we spotted the Thomas G Crowder Woodland center right next to the pool building!
We walked inside and asked a very friendly receptionist if there were any hikes surrounding the building, and sure enough, there were! The woodland center also had a neat balcony that looked out onto the forest.
The trail we picked was a short one, less than a mile roundtrip to the lakeshore and back. The hike was uneventful, until we found the frogs.
These weren’t just any ordinary frogs, and they weren’t toads either. They were the tiniest frogs I had ever seen in my entire life. They were a light auburn color, and smaller than my fingerprint. There were a lot of them too, and after crouching on the muddy ground to stare at them in wonder, we spent the rest of the hike with eyes glued to the forest floor, so as not to step on them.
After the hike, we used the last of our pool card punches, and the rest of the day was uneventful. We spent the evening in our lackluster Airbnb, packing things up and getting ready for the next day’s travels- to Gatlinburg and Great Smokey Mountains National Park.