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ROAD TRIPS: Three Bears Acres lets kids be kids

ROAD TRIPS: Three Bears Acres lets kids be kids

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CREEDMOOR — Parents who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s remember when going online involved a tire swing, and Minecraft was something that required a shovel. Three Bears Acres brings back that simple, outdoor fun for today’s kids.

Three Bears Acres is a 50-acre outdoor adventure park in Creedmoor, near Raleigh (less than two hours from Greensboro). The park’s website promises that the usual things kids are told not to do — run, jump, yell, climb and use outside voices — are welcome at Three Bears Acres. Owner Melinda Gross says that as a mother of three (the “Three Bears” in “Three Bears Acres”), she wants to make sure children get the chance to do all those things.

“It’s either a brilliant business idea or a mid-life crisis,” she joked. “Our best days as a family are spent outside, unorganized. When you try to cram 9 million things into a day, the kids lose patience, and so do you.”

Gross previously worked in the sales and finance fields. She took some time off to raise her children, and said she wanted to do something different when she returned to the workforce. Thinking back to her own childhood, she got the idea for Three Bears Acres.

“Somewhere along the way, we lost the idea of ‘Just let the kids figure it out,’ and I missed it,” Gross said. “Kids are supposed to have skinned knees and climb trees.”

She found a suitable piece of land in the Creedmoor area and two-and-a-half years ago, Three Bears Acres became a reality.

The facility features numerous stations spread out through fields and woods. Activities include jumping pillows, giant slides, a zip line, a slack line, tennis ball sling shots, a large sandbox and a mud kitchen. There’s also a pond for paddle boats, fishing and exploring wildlife.

One of the most popular activities is a 40-foot painting wall, where kids can paint pictures, hose them off and paint again.

Another highlight is the giant treehouse. The structure includes slides, swings, monkey bars, a climbing net and a 100-foot bridge. The treehouse area is a frequent spot for hide-and-seek games.

During the summer, Three Bears Acres also features a sprayground and “water war” zone. Gross said water guns are scattered throughout the park’s lightly wooded area.

Parents will be glad to know that Three Bears Acres has plenty of benches throughout the park, so they can relax while still being able to watch their children. That’s by design, Gross said.

Also, Three Bears Acres is a great place for picnics. Just be aware that there aren’t many grocery stores or restaurants in the vicinity, so visitors may want to buy lunch before getting too far into the country.

Although families make up a great deal of the park’s visitors, Three Bears Acres also is open for birthday parties, day care groups, Scout trips and school field trips. The park has a full slate of seasonal activities as well — pumpkin bowling and hay structures in the fall, for example, and an Easter egg hunt in the spring.

Gross said that running Three Bears Acres keeps her plenty busy, but she said she’s having the time of her life and hopes other parents feel the same way when they visit.

“We can get so caught up in the day-to-day stuff that we forget to laugh and have fun,” she said.

Contact Bruce Buchanan at brucebuc@bellsouth.net.

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