Excitement was in the crisp Fall air during the Pullen Park preview event on Thursday afternoon and it’s not going to die down any time soon. Children played on swings, adults rode the newly renovated carousel, and the train sounded off when leaving the station. It’d been nearly two years since the amusement area had been open and the smiles say it all – it’s well worth the wait.
Pullen Park is located at 520 Ashe Ave, just west of Downtown Raleigh and at the edge of NC State University. The renovations to the amusement center cost more than six million dollars and are part of the 2003 Parks & Rec Bond Referendum. During the renovations, the Pullen Arts Center and Aquatic Center remained open.
Upon entering the park, your eyes are immediately drawn to the new sign extending across the walkway. Near the entrance is the new Pullen Place, serving healthy, local fare at very reasonable prices. Adjacent to the cafe is a large outdoor eating area, restrooms, and the Welcome Center where you can learn more about the park, purchase tickets for rides, or purchase park schwag.
If you head right, you can explore the various playground and climbing areas, swing sets, sand and water play areas, misting fountains, tire swing, and open play areas. The different play areas have guides indicating the ages appropriate for the equipment.
Also in this area is a restored caboose with seating inside for having a picnic. Smaller children can also enjoy a boat ride for one ticket. A must-see attraction is the CP Huntington miniature train ride, which is great for all ages and a beautiful way to explore the park from the perimeter. The views of the park from the train, especially around the lake, are gorgeous.
Another main attraction at the park is the carousel. With over 50 hand-carved animals, it is a Dentzel Carousel housed in a gorgeous new building. Among the animals you can ride are pigs, ostriches, horses, and billy goats, just to name a few. The Wullitzer organ produces music that sets the mood. The Pullen Park emblems outside the building provide a royal touch to the carousel. The weather vein atop the building is unique in that it contains colored glass and animals other than just horses.
Heading from the carousel to the lake, you’ll pass a large pavilion with picnic tables, another restroom building, the pedal boats, and the Andy & Opie statue. Be sure to stroll around Lake Howell, where you can admire the waterfront views, stop for photo ops, or enjoy the fauna. The new bridges are spectacles in themselves, adding a rolling hills feeling to the park.
With so many things to do, see, and hear at Pullen Park, you may not notice the attention paid to the small details. The cedar shakes, green color palette, emblems, new landscaping mixed with mature trees, and stonework are also worth mentioning as it all adds to the atmosphere of the park.
The park’s grand opening is Saturday, November 19 from 10am-6pm. Be sure to also purchase tickets for Holiday Express, where Pullen Park is transformed into a Holiday Wonderland from December 8-11, 4pm-7pm.
November 19th Grand Opening Event Schedule
10:00 am: Park & Amusement Rides Open
2:00 pm: Pullen Park Dedication (Main Stage)
3:00pm-6:00pm: Entertainment and Musical Performances
Thumbs up: playground area, views around lake, carousel, unique details in woodwork/design, miniature train ride, Pullen Place
Thumbs down: not many, but parking may be tough, especially in the beginning months