This morning we took the kids to the Museum of Life and Science here in Durham, intending to take a walk around the dinosaur trail and maybe spend some time inside chasing the moving lights on the floor. It’s one of our favorite places in Durham to take our kids. Instead, we were surprised by a members-only preview of the museum’s new outdoor playscape, Hideaway Woods. It is basically all of our Pinterest backyard fantasies come true.
There are a couple main areas inside Hideaway Woods. There is a large complex of interconnected tree houses, intended for kids age six and up, a smaller play area intended for younger kids, a man-made stream with a waterfall for all ages to wade in, and a really cool-looking maze/village of huts and hallways woven from twigs by artist Patrick Dougherty. There are also some giant log and branch pieces to climb on, a few hammocks strung between trees, and just the general woodsiness of the forest itself. They’ve done a nice job keeping as much of the area feeling like real forest as possible while still making things safe and open enough for a public play space.
Although they needed spotting up a couple steep stairways, our two-year-olds loved the big kid tree houses. Everything has walls or netting high enough to keep me from worrying about anyone falling, and the big slides are all attached to the structures in such a way that kids are unlikely to fall out. I left our stroller down on the ground and climbed up with our 9-month-old on one hip, which limited me to the lower-level tree houses, but even so I was able to follow a toddler around pretty easily.
Our kids probably could have played in the creek all afternoon, despite the fact that it was a little chilly and rainy. We hadn’t planned for them to wet, so their jeans came off pretty quickly. For the future I noticed a changing area separate from the bathrooms. The creek is almost as fun as a real creek would be, but from a mom’s perspective a bit more relaxed, as I don’t have to worry as much about what’s in the water, and it’s all uniformly shallow.
The younger kid treehouse area is fenced in (!!) with several areas with stools or tables made out of logs, and various loose parts (mostly chunks of sticks and some pinecones) for kids to do whatever they want with. The central play house structure is low to the ground and our boys loved running back and forth across the bridges. There were areas underneath to hide in too.
The woven twig maze we only walked through briefly on our way back inside, but it’s super cool. Lots of potential for hiding and make-believe, although a bit of a bummer (if understandable) that you’re not allowed to climb on it.
Bottom line? Matt and I loved it, and the kids loved it. And we’ll be back soon. Possibly tomorrow.
The member preview began today and it opens to the public on September 29th.