This may not be the best time of year to go forward with those plans for a fancy backyard swing set: You could lose your tools, the 88-page assembly booklet, and assorted screws and carriage bolts under burgeoning piles of fallen leaves.
But there’s no need for your kids to go dormant until spring. Especially if you’re going to or through the Triangle: Hideaway Woods debuted a month ago at the Museum of Life + Science.
The indoor/outdoor facility in Durham has long been a kid-pleaser. The two-story main building is loaded with interactive educational displays – everything from aerospace to zoology. Elsewhere on the grounds you’ll find the Magic Wings Butterfly House, a Dinosaur Trail, a live-animal farmyard, a live-animal nature park and a train ride. And more.
But Hideaway Woods fulfills a more basic function: It’s all about burning energy outdoors – the mix of dirt and dreams. It is not a riff on a standard urban playground or a polyurethane climbing center in a short-order eatery.
This is a 2-acre tract where kids can naturally and safely have fun going wild.
For you, there are five benches, Adirondack chairs and some natural places where you can sit. For youngsters, there are eight treehouses that are 6 to 20 feet off the ground. They can be entered and exited via cargo net, log ladder, spiral staircase, gangway and/or rope bridge. And slides, naturally. They’re all interconnected, like a treehouse village.
All are built to conform with public playground safety guidelines and durability standards.
There are additional areas for workouts. A Tree Climbers area holds mature moved-to-the-site willow oak (one is estimated by be 100 years old). All are live and have been treated with a non-toxic natural preservative. Besides being in an actual woods, the area includes a shallow stream for floating pine cones, crossing boulder-by-boulder and wading over. (The water is filtered through a salt-treatment system; no need to fret over germs and such.)
A Young Explorers area was designed for those 6 and under, with small treehouses, outdoor playing blocks, a hillside slide and stroller parking. (It has a separate, solo entrance to keep them from wandering off.)
The Sweetgum Thicket was created for the hide-and-seek crowd and consists entirely of live sweetgum and red maple saplings. A sculpture there by Chapel Hill artist Patrick Dougherty consists of woven-together saplings.
Another area holds a nature trail, sensory elements and seven durable hammocks.
Add it all up, and Hideaway Woods is a place where juvenile energy be worked off and parents can decompress, whether you’re visiting the area – Durham is 2 1/2 hours northeast of Charlotte – or passing through. If you’re planning to take in the other sites and attraction at the Museum of Life + Science, you may want to put Hideaway Woods toward the end of your see/do list: The kids are likely to get tuckered out.
Hideaway Woods is included in museum admission. And grownups are welcome to play as well as watch.
Want to go?
The Museum of Life + Science, 433 W. Murray Ave., Durham, is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday; closed Mondays. Admission: $14.50; $12 for 65 and older and for military; $10 for ages 3-12; 2 and younger, free. Additional cost for train ride, $3.50.
Take I-85 North to I-40; follow I-85/40 East to the Durham area. At Exit 176B, take U.S. 501 North (Duke Street). Turn right at Murray Avenue; the museum is a half-mile ahead, on the left.