One of my favorite things about working in law enforcement is getting to know and interact with the citizens I encounter. Often when I am patrolling in the evenings, I see families outside together playing or parents watching their children run around in the yard as they are ending the day. It does not matter which part of the city I am patrolling, there is a common thread of family love and unity.
As parents, we often want to know what we can do to ensure that our children will grow up to be successful members of society. Unfortunately, there is not one simple answer to this question. With a simple search, several articles appear giving parents advice or tips, but no quick answer or simple solution.
While all these articles have wonderful points, most of these articles agree that one of the best ways to guide your child to success is by spending quality time with them. Creating relationships with your children by making memories and being present when you’re together. Thankfully Rowan County has a wide variety of activities that fit into all budgets that make it easy to invest quality time into relationships and making memories as a family.
As a parent myself and a Rowan County resident, I’ve had a lot of experience with the amazing places right in our backyard that you can spend some quality time and make lasting memories with your kids. Here’s my list of must-visit destinations in Rowan!
More Than Just a Field Trip Destination
Horizons Unlimited is known to many families with school aged children due to their field trips, but did you know there are also many programs that are available for the community? Through educational programming for all ages, Horizons Unlimited has served Rowan County for over 50 years.
One of my family’s favorite things to do there is the interactive nature walk. You simply access the nature trail located beside the building, select an age appropriate guide, and begin an adventure on the nature trail. While this activity is available all the time, Horizons also has events scheduled throughout the year. All events are easily found on the Horizons website here.
Affordable and Right in Rowan’s Backyard
Dan Nicholas Park is one of the best places in Rowan County to spend a day with your family! There are several free and low-cost activities. Beyond playing on the playground, families can enjoy the splash pad, Nature Center, hiking trails, and much more for free.
For a small fee, families can view animal habitats, ride the carousel, ride the train, feed the ducks, paddle-boat on the 10-acre lake, and more! If one day of fun just isn’t enough for your family, they also offer a 76-site campground and 6 cabins for rent. My family and I have enjoyed quick trips to the park as well as overnight visits with our camper. My favorite part is its affordability and convenient proximity to anything in Rowan.
An Experience in Local History
Although it seems odd to take your family to a cemetery, the history of the Chestnut Hill Cemetery is quite intriguing. The cemetery was established in 1888 and consists of 19.3 acres. My wife and I enjoy making our visit an educational one. We task our children with finding graves with specific years, quotes, and names.
Since this is not your typical family outing, we do remind our children of the importance of being respectful before entering the cemetery and appropriate behavior while on the cemetery grounds. There are also several signs that provide information about the history of the cemetery – the first burials recorded were from 1889!
Tigers, Lions and Bears… Oh My!
Tiger World is a nonprofit animal conservation in Rockwell, NC. They are dedicated to the conservation and education of all threatened and endangered species. This terrific attraction is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. year-round, closed on Wednesdays. See firsthand feedings of tigers and lions with the Carnivore Feeding Safari Tour on Thursday evenings (May-September).
Although the name would lead you to believe you will only view tigers, they actually have a wide variety of exotic animals at the conservation including baboons, leopards, kangaroos, sloths, and more!
Buckle Up for a WILD Ride
Lazy 5 Ranch is an exotic animal drive-thru park and educational experience for all ages. Drive-thru in your personal car or opt to ride the wagon. You’ll encounter cattle, deer, antelope, ratites, sheep, goats, zebra, and giraffe! Make sure to bring a camera to capture some zoo-tastic moments.
A Night at the Movies
Cinemark Tinseltown USA in Salisbury offers a Summer Movie Clubhouse Program. With this program, families can view a movie for just $1 or all 10 movies in the program for $5 with the purchase of a punch card. While the movies are not new releases, it provides families with an opportunity to affordably enjoy the love of cinema together. The theater is always filled with children, so you don’t have to worry about your little ones disturbing other viewers. Sit back, relax and enjoy some great films!
Visit with Local Heroes
One of my children’s favorite things to do is visit local police and fire stations. Though you should call before and set up a time to visit, most stations are eager to allow our youngest citizens to tour their station. Allowing children to see first responders in a calm setting is a wonderful way to put any anxiety they may have at ease, which only helps if the children ever find themselves in an emergency.
Nothing Sweeter Than Family Time Together
After a jampacked, fun-filled day, Rowan County is blessed to have several local restaurants and places to get a sweet treat as a family. Some of our favorites are Spanky’s Homemade Ice Cream & Deli, Sweet Treats by Nevaeh, Abigail’s, Troyer’s Country Market, and Knead Sweets of Granite Quarry. Each time we have entered these sweet establishments, we have been welcomed and treated with nothing but kindness. We look forward to getting a treat, almost as much as our kids do!
Stay Safe While Exploring
As fun as visiting local attractions can be, it can also be stressful for families. Speaking as a law enforcement officer, there are a few tips that can be utilized to help ensure the safety of even the youngest members in our families.
- When you arrive at your destination, be sure to take all valuables out of your vehicle and lock your doors behind you.
- Be sure you are aware of what your child is wearing. This may seem simple, but as our children begin to dress themselves, we don’t always pay close attention to their outfits for the day. Taking a quick picture as you begin your adventure is always a good idea, especially when visiting an attraction with a large crowd. If by chance your child wanders off, it can happen in an instant, you can easily relay to management or officers what your child was last seen wearing.
- Develop a family plan for what to do if you all are separated from one another and review the plan with every member of the family.
Life’s Short… So Make it Count
As much as we don’t like to think about it, the time we have with our children is short. We are blessed to live in a county that gives us easy ways to invest into quality relationships with our children and it is up to us as parents to take advantage of these opportunities.
You have eighteen summers to enjoy with your children before they graduate, join me in making this summer one to remember here in Rowan County!