By Laura Dydek with Triad Moms on Main
Dan Nicholas Park is so much more than just a park! This is absolutely worth the day trip and something everyone in your family will enjoy. I even skipped my son’s (very necessary) nap for the day trip, and I don’t regret it one bit. We had heard many wonderful things about the park, but I truly wasn’t sure what to expect. I packed us both a lunch and drove about 45 minutes from Clemmons to Salisbury!
We headed straight for Rowan Wildlife adventure when we arrived, because we were excited to see the animals. It was $1.00 for an adult to enter and $.50 for a child under 10 (under 1 is free!). We also paid for our Barnyard visit here, which was $.50 each. Wildlife Adventure was wonderful to walk through. We saw bald eagles, bears, vultures, foxes, alligators, and more! The flow of the zoo is nice and loops you back through, so you get a second look at all the animals on your way out.
We headed to the Nature Center next. The nature center is free to all visitors, so in all honesty, I wasn’t expecting much. However, I was completely blown away when we walked inside! It is an immersive experience that gets you up close and personal with reptiles and marine life. The center is small, but the exhibits are beautifully done, and staff is nearby to answer any questions you have while visiting!
Finally, we made our way to the Barnyard. A large barn houses farm animals such as sheep, goats, a hog, and a donkey. This experience is a simple loop around the barn, but it was a fun way to finish our animal adventure!
After the Barnyard, we decided to try out the Gem Mine. My son is just shy of three years old, so I wasn’t sure it was something he would enjoy but we gave it a try! You can purchase a bucket of sand to mine, starting at $9 and going up to $47. We opted for the $9 bucket (which was quite large) and made our way to the flume lines! My son had a blast scooping the sand into the screens and sifting to find gems. He even found two shark teeth and was very proud of his large bag of gems he got to take home!
By this time, we were both feeling hungry. We enjoyed our lunch at a picnic table near the playground. Dan Nicholas Park has many covered shelters throughout the park, but also plenty of picnic tables scattered through the woods. After we were refueled, we took a stroll around mini-golf (which was unfortunately closed during our visit) and spent about an hour playing on the cluster of playgrounds the park has to offer! There are three distinct “sections” of playgrounds, each suited for different ages and abilities. It is open, spread out, and provides unique playing experiences.
I had packed my son’s scooter, because we can’t go far without it these days, and I’m so glad I brought it. Dan Nicholas Park has wonderful trails all throughout the park! He rode his scooter from the playground parking lot down to the waterfront and paddleboats. The paddleboats were not open for the season during our visit in early April, much to my son’s dismay. We will absolutely plan to be back when they are! Paddle Boats are only $2 per person for 30 minutes, and under 3 are free! We explored the waterfront, concessions area, and looped back through the woods on a paved trail to the main “square.”
Two attractions my son was very upset we were not able to experience this visit were the splash pad and the train! During the summer, you can take train rides from Hurley Station and then cool off in the splash pad right next door. Dan Nicholas Park also has a beautiful carousel that was closed during our visit, but we look forward to trying out next time for $1 per ride.
If it sounds like Dan Nicholas Park is more of an amusement park than your typical park, you are not wrong! The best part is it is all very reasonably priced and there is no admission fee to get into the park. We had a wonderful visit and plan to return when more attractions are open. You can follow Dan Nicholas Park on Facebook for updates and information on attractions’ openings. Rowan Wild has their own Facebook Page where they post updates as well.
We spent four hours at Dan Nicholas Park just visiting the zoo, gem mine, and playgrounds! You can easily spend the entire day here with the family during the summer. It is also worth noting that the NC Transportation Museum is only 12 minutes away! You could easily split the day between the two destinations! Pack a picnic, load up the family, and enjoy your visit to Dan Nicholas Park!