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As many times as we’ve been to Flat Rock, N.C., we still haven’t seen it all.

Well-known for the Carl Sandburg Home and Flat Rock Playhouse, most of our family’s visits have been to Sky Top Orchard and sometimes the retreat centers, Bonclarken and Kanuga. We’ve never had time to explore the Park at Flat Rock.

Friends have raved about the playground at this 66-acre park so much that we decided it deserved a special trip. It was totally worth the 45-minute drive from Greenville. With a cool playground, ponds and creeks, we found plenty to explore.

My 7-year-old exclaimed, “Whoa! This looks awesome!” before even getting out of the car.

Though we caught a glimpse of the playground from the parking lot, entering the park was a discovery experience. We found one little surprise after another.

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The approach leads visitors on an uphill path, with the small hillside blocking the view of what immediately lies ahead. Coming over the hill, we didn’t realize we were passing over a massive tunnel, large enough for me to walk through, until finding a rock climbing wall on the other side. On the ground, we found a ropes course, with a balance beam, nets, knotted ropes to climb and a series of swinging platforms to hop across.

The top of the treehouse has a castle fortress effect with shake shingle-roofed towers connected by plank walkways. In the middle sits a huge, peaked net. Even my husband and I ventured a climb. Access to the top can be gained by a climbing wall, a rope net or steps, with four slides to bring kids down.

Signage credits Beanstalk Builders, a company whose name I immediately recognized from Instagram. These Morgantown, N.C. artisans create custom treehouse-style adventure playgrounds like the ropes course at the NC Zoo (three hours from Greenville), so finding a free experience close to home is a huge score.

Any treehouse is cool, yet the Beanstalk Builder style incorporates sawn timbers with twisted, bark-covered logs. Their website shares the whimsical names of different components of the play structure like the Burman Bridge and the Giant’s Hammock, the massive rope web connecting the towers.

In addition to this amazing playground, the park features flat walking paths through the wetlands, passing ponds and creeks to a wildflower meadow and meditation areas. Formerly a nine-hole golf course, the park opened in 2013 and continues to add features and amenities. The original trail looped the park’s perimeter, while new trails meander through park.

After plenty of playtime, we lured the children away for “exploring” and “adventure” – since we knew “let’s go for a walk” doesn’t compete with a playground of that caliber. We strolled along a rocky babbling creek stopping at an open-air meditation pavilion.

Landscape plantings combine artfully with natural features, like weeping willows aside marshy ponds. The effect is a lovely a balance of man-made touches to enhance, rather than overshadow, nature. Open fields, a pollinator garden and weeping willows share space with plenty of native trees and reforestation efforts.

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The welcome center had clean restrooms, and potty-training mothers will appreciate that all of the stalls in the ladies’ room were about the size of a normal handicapped stall. A sign notes that there are outdoor hoses to wash off sand.

The Master Plan shows a Tot Lot next to the main playground, and we saw earth movers and workers onsite in this area during our visit. To learn more about future amenities, visit the flatrockparkfoundation.org to view the Master Plan.

For lunch, we enjoyed a trip the Flat Rock Village Bakery, a funky little pizza/coffee shop/bakery with cozy indoor dining on rainy days and large deck with some seating under a canopy of magnolia trees. A massive brick oven cooks a variety of breads for sandwiches and New York style pizza. Salads, coffee and a variety of sweet treats round out the menu.

After lunch, we indulged in dessert. We got a coconut macaroon and a huge brownie for the kids to share, and I enjoyed a flawless cup of coffee.

Adjacent to the bakery is the Wrinkled Egg, a unique gift shop which is also home to live rabbit and massive birdcage of finches. Petting the bunny was my 9-year-old’s favorite part of the whole day!

The Wrinkled Egg is divided into rooms that make it feel like separate stores. Close to the bakery, you’ll find gift shop item like art-print notecards, fancy soaps and ladies’ accessories. One of the coolest products were fanciful (and surprisingly affordable) woolen felt birdhouses, almost too pretty to put outdoors but perfectly functional. I found the birdhouses lining the walls of a room mostly filled with ladies’ clothing and accessories.

We ended our afternoon in Flat Rock with plenty to see next time. How can there be so much in this tiny town? One day we’ll have to explore the galleries and check out a show at the Flat Rock Playhouse. Maybe we’ll check out some of the other restaurants like the breakfast café, Honey & Salt, or Hubba Hubba Smokehouse.

Although the Village of Flat Rock dates to 1807, this town never gets old!

You can go

Learn more about the Village of Flat Rock, North Carolina online at flatrocknc.govoffice3.com

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