U.S. Interstate 95 is a main corridor for road-tripping families heading north to Maine or south to Florida beach towns and Disney World. A frequent question I hear from parents is, where we can we stop to let kids, and sometimes dogs, out of the car to run around.
There is a plethora of parks and other quick stops within a few miles of 95, but these very local spots can be hard to track down. Here are ten to get you started, along with sources for more.
This sprawling park has walking paths and ball fields, Japanese and rose gardens, a playground, a carousel and more. Wander around the large indoor Botanical Center if you catch some bad weather or explore the zoo if you want a longer stop.
Another option for getting off the road in foul weather are the enormous Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World stores. The Connecticut store has a fudge shop, a cave and Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill, an underwater themed bowling alley and restaurant. The Ashland, VA store has fish tanks and dioramas. The Islamorada Fish Co. restaurant has its own fish tanks, along with a vaulted ceiling and fireplace. Check the stores’ webpages to learn about seasonal events, too.
This pretty 1,200 acre local park near Sesame Place has biking and walking trails, tennis courts, ball fields, a playground, a lake with boat rentals, and a dog park!
This small waterfront park has an older but decent playground, marina, a gazebo and green space for running around. If you’re hungry, the Promenade Grill right onsite is a fried-clams-and-burgers kind of a place with a pretty decent crab cake (it is Maryland), hushpuppies with honeybutter and outdoor seating.
This visitors center a few miles into North Carolina from Virginia has a sizable dog run. According to BringFido, it offers separate dog runs for large and small dogs, fresh water and bowls and a clean-up station. Dogs can run off-leash in the runs but should be leashed in the surrounding small park.
The visitor’s center is off a busy commercial strip with gas stations and quick-service and sit-down chains.
I’m a sucker for wooden playgrounds and would go out of my way for Ridgeland playground at Harold Turpin Park. Luckily, Playgrounds Across America reports it’s right off the highway. A wooden tree house has monkey bars, a round, bowl-shaped swing and slides, among other structures. Parents can relax on a bench swing in the shade or at picnic tables. And there’s a splash pad for little kids to run around in.
There are a few chain and local casual restaurants within a few blocks of the park, and both a Piggly Wiggly and a Harvey’s supermarket, in case you want to pick up items for an al fresco lunch.
This park has 2 large playgrounds with accessible swings, according to Playgrounds Across America. One is partly shaded and the other has some funky looking structures for climbing and balance. There’s also a skate park, ball fields, soccer pitch and basketball courts, batting cages, a dog park and a short paved walking trail.
Local writer J.R. Duren recommends Riverside Park, in the Five Points section of Jacksonville. He likes the ample green space, a nice playground, a good-size park for big dogs and a smaller run for small dogs, and a big pond with a walking path around it.
There are kid-friendly neighborhood restaurants nearby, including Hoptinger Bier Garden. On Saturday a local arts market sets up a few block away with local baked goods, food trucks and live music.
Once you hit Florida 95 winds closer to the coast. If you have time for a longer break you can you can take a quick detour to the beach to run around, take a swim and maybe fly a kite. There are plenty of places to stop and walk or ride bikes on the boardwalk, find a restaurant and let kids run around on the sand. If you want amenities like changing rooms, ball fields and picnic tables, head to either of the two public parks. Michael Crotty has a dog park and Lighthouse has nature trails with possible for animal sightings.
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Eileen is a journalist whose work has appeared in the HuffPost, U.S. News, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Parents.com and many other publications. She has traveled on five continents, three of them with her daughter. She calls New York City home. You can read Eileen's blog at Familiesgotravel.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
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