Valentine’s Day is almost here, but if you’re a new parent, you may find the idea of planning a date night a bit overwhelming. By the time your little one has fallen asleep, you’re so tired you’re ready to head to bed yourself! And you might not be prepared to leave your baby with a sitter, especially if you don’t have family in the area to lend a hand.
But you don’t have to give up Valentine’s Day with your significant other – bring baby along and you’ll all have fun! These baby-friendly places in Research Triangle Park might not have the cozy atmosphere of a romantic restaurant, but they do offer a place for you and your husband to reconnect without leaving the baby behind.
The perfect morning date starts with a leisurely walk through Marla Dorrel Park, located on Thurston Drive in Cary. Cruise around with the little one in a stroller or let your older children enjoy the Kids Together Playground. Even babies will love crawling around and exploring the fun shapes and textures of the dragon sculpture. After you’ve hit the playground, stroll a half mile down the street to Chanticleer Café & Bakery on Tryon Road. Get some brunch or give baby his or her first taste of a croissant or delicious pastry (if your baby is ready for solids, of course).
During those first few months, your baby will be sleeping for much of the day. This is the perfect time to check out some of the many museums in Raleigh. The North Carolina Museum of History is a great choice – it’s just as quiet as the North Carolina Museum of Art, but somehow a fussy baby seems less disruptive in a history museum. You could also check out the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, but that tends to be a bit louder.
While you’re in the downtown Raleigh area, grab lunch at one of the many kid-friendly restaurants. The Fiction Kitchen is the destination for vegans and vegetarians in Raleigh. If you need your meat, an awake baby will enjoy the big crowds and busy atmosphere of Big Ed’s City Market. Big Ed’s can be overwhelming for newborns, so you may want to try something with a quieter atmosphere, like Neomonde Bakery and Deli on Beryl Road. If you don’t feel like driving, head to The Daily Planet Cafe in the Nature Research Center of the Museum of Natural Sciences.
If you and your loved one are in the mood for a little shopping, the mall is a great place to take babies over three months old. Just avoid going on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon because it can get pretty crowded. The Crabtree Valley Mall on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh is a huge indoor mall with tons of shops. Alert babies will enjoy the people-watching, and tired babies will be lulled to sleep as you push the stroller around the 1,326,000 square feet of stores. Forgot the stroller? You can rent one over by Macy’s. The mall also has three family restrooms for quick diaper changes or breastfeeding sessions.
Love the movies but don’t want to endure the jeers and thrown popcorn kernels from annoyed moviegoers if your baby starts to fuss? The AMC at The Streets at Southpoint offers sensory friendly films every month. These movies (there are even PG-13 and R options) start at 10 a.m., and they play with the lights up and the sound turned down. This is a popular choice for families with children who have autism, so no one will get upset if your baby starts crying. Of course, television and movies aren’t good for younger children, so limit your movie outings to those films you just can’t miss! For some outdoor entertainment, keep your eye on the latest happenings at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre – there’s always something new and exciting going on, and it’s more baby-friendly than a movie.
When it comes to a three-person date (that’s you, your husband, and the baby), there isn’t much you can’t do. Go in the morning or early afternoon rather than the evening; baby isn’t up to any late-night outings. Be courteous of the people around you, and if your baby starts to fuss, don’t get upset. Most people won’t mind, and if you do get some dirty looks, just keep in mind that everyone was a baby at some point!