Editor’s note: this piece is a follow-up to “Poké’in Around Raleigh: Five Downtown Spots for Catching Monsters,” which contains more details about Pokémon Go, the mobile game currently sweeping the nation — and the streets and greenways of Raleigh.
One of the many joys of playing Pokémon Go is witnessing the way it forces players to get and explore the world in a way they may never have thought of doing otherwise. While most of Raleigh’s parks are plenty packed on the weekends as-is, we decided to go out and see what the Poké-action was like midweek.
To no one’s surprise, we spotted dozens of people — from the greenways of Lake Johnson to the landmarks at Pullen Park — who figured the best way to spend a hot, occasionally cloudy Tuesday afternoon was to hunt down as many rare Pokémon as they could before the rain hit.
While our list isn’t a comprehensive database of *all* Pokémon at *all* City Parks, we did try to select locations we hoped would be rich in both Pokémon and natural, scenic beauty and that were, with one exception, convenient to downtown Raleigh. Before we begin, we’d like to note we’ve heard a lot of good things about the Lake Lynn greenway trail in North Raleigh.
The parks we did include are ranked in a completely arbitrary fashion. Hard to play favorites! Although we will say that no. 1 deserves its spot.
5. Historic Mordecai Park
Once the site of Raleigh’s largest plantation, the Mordecai Historic Park is now home to
the city’s oldest house still in its original location. Tucked away on the cusp of downtown off Wake Forest Road, the small, 3.2 acre park is also the site of a number of historic outbuildings, including “the overseer’s office and smokehouse, the Allen Kitchen, the Badger-Iredell Law Office, St. Mark’s Chapel and the birthplace of the 17th President, Andrew Johnson.”
The well-manicured grounds of the Mordecai Historic Park are also home to two separate Pokémon gyms and five official Pokéstops. We only spotted two or three other players out there on late Tuesday afternoon, but we imagine come this weekend, the grounds will be swamped with local families.
Here’s a preview of some of the things they’ll find:
- Two Pokémon Gyms at the Mordecai Spring Park
- Pokéstops, including the Mordecai Cure Barn, the Birthplace of Andrew Jackson marker, the Mordecai House, the Pilot Baptist Church and Mordecai Mini Park
- A variety of the standard Pokémon, plus Tangela, Ekans and Psyduck
4. John Chavis Memorial Park
Originally founded as a recreational center for the city’s African-American population during segregation in 1938, the 28.87 acre Chavis Park today remains a vital part of the Southeast Raleigh community. While a major renovation of the park is currently in the works, the grounds today offer a wide range of amenities, from a carousel and a swimming pool to a community center and an outdoor walking track.
More importantly, it’s the only place in Raleigh where you can relax poolside with the entire city skyline as your backdrop while you lounge around catching virtual monsters and hitting the “Water Park at Chavis” Pokéstop every five minutes. Life is good.
We only spotted a few Pokémon trainers out at Chavis Tuesday afternoon, and were a bit shamed when we spotted a muscled, shirtless man doing what seemed like an endless series of pullups while we stood in the shade trying to catch a Pidgey. But for all we know, he could’ve been Pokémon Go user OGLikk, who was serving as the first line of defense at the John Chavis Gym with his CP-339 Electabuzz.
Those of you looking to unseat OGLikk will find some of the following things when exploring the grounds of Chavis:
- Two Pokémon Gyms, one at the American War Mothers Memorial that’s technically not in the park and another at the actual John Chavis Gym
- More than a dozen Pokéstops, including the Merry-go-round, the Steel Tree, the Chavis Memorial Pool House, the Water Park, the Old Carousel, the Kiddie Park, Gazebo Chavis Park, the Chavis Park Tunnel, Project Stream Restoration, Gazebo #1, and John Chavis Memorial Park Sign, a Chavis Park sign, Gazebo #3,
- A variety of the standard Pokémon, plus the powerful Electabuzz and the rare Exeggcute
3. Dix Park
Dix is Raleigh’s newest and, at 308 acres, largest park, a property finally acquired from the State last summer after the legislature decided to revoke a previous lease agreement that some felt was too generous toward the City. Formerly the home of the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Hospital, the site was originally seven times its current size, before parcels of land were slowly divvied out for different uses, including the creation of NC State’s Centennial Campus and the State Farmer’s Market. Today, many of the old hospital buildings are in use by state agencies, but the lush, sprawling grounds have been a popular spot for nature lovers and model-plane enthusiasts long before it was set to become a City park.
For such a large site, it wasn’t surprising that there were a large number of Pokéstops as we including our favorite to date, the “Picnic Table Graveyard.” Full disclosure: we only spotted this one on the map, but had trouble finding its actual location. For those of you who haven’t been to Dix, the layout is oddly disorienting, and Tuesday was probably the 50th time I’ve been out there. We did see a few fellow travelers, who honked and waved when they spotted me staring at my phone in the middle of an empty field; a behavior that 50 years ago would’ve gotten me locked up in the old hospital there.
In fact, so would publishing this list of things you’ll “find” at Dix thanks to the augmented reality of Pokémon Go:
- Pokémon Gyms at the Hospital Cemetery and the grave of Theophilus Hunter Sr.
- Pokéstops, including Glider Swing Gazebo, the Spring Hill House, the George Carr Bench, the Kerry Burke Memorial, the State Hospital Memorial, the 100-year-old Gazebo, the Council Building, In Memory of James Norris plaque, the Picnic Table Graveyard, the Spring Hill House, the All Faiths Chapel, the Dorothea Dix Pergola, the Smithwick Gazebo
- A variety of the standard Pokémon, plus Venomoth (an evolved version of the Venonat you see everywhere), Magikarp, Krabby and some kind of snakelike creature that wasn’t Ekans (we only saw the outline; maybe Seadra)
2. Pullen Park
With the redevelopment of Dix years off, Pullen now stands as Raleigh’s premier destination park, providing visitors with everything from Locopops at the snack stand to a children’s train ride and paddle boats for exploring the lovely lake there. The biggest attraction of all is none other the statue of the beloved Andy Griffith, pictured as he was in the show bearing his name alongside his TV-son Opie, both of them primed and ready for a fishing trip. While most of these tourist traps are clustered in the southern portion of the park, the site’s 68.8 acres offer first-time visitors and regulars alike everything from an Aquatic Center to two softball fields, a tennis court and a Theatre in the Park.
Pullen was packed with Poké-fans Tuesday afternoon, including one group that was going around, and I’m not making this up, “Team Mystic!” It was like something out of the old cartoon show. Thankfully, I had Pikachu* by my side to make sure things didn’t get ugly.
Aside from roving bands of deranged Pokébros, here’s a few things to look out for at Pullen Park:
- Pokémon Gyms at the H26 highway marker for Camp Bryan Grimes and at the Andy and Opie Go Fishing Statue
- Pokéstops, including the “View to Old Bridge,” the In Memory of Richard Stanhope Pullen plaque, Mary Yarborough Court Fountain, the Toy Defense Sculpture, the Pullen Park Arts Center, the Pullen Park Pavilion, the Pullen Aquatic Center, Pullen Park Shelter #2, the Kathleen Garden Memorial, the Penny Press machine, the Carousel Pavilion, the Pullen Park Train, the Deck at Pullen Park Lake, Lake Howell,
- A variety of the standard Pokémon, plus Pinsir, Psyduck, Nidoran and, most notably Jynx
*I learned the other day that Pikachu can be chosen at the start of the game over Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur, provided you wander around long enough. So needless to say, I started a new, official, RPR-branded account for the purpose of this series/having a Pikachu of my very own.
1. Lake Johnson Park
Theoretically, a seriously dedicated fan could explore each of the above parks without ever stepping foot in their cars; according to Google Maps, it’s about five miles worth of walking to get from place to place. Add in an hour or two at each park and you’re looking at a minimum of six straight hours of Poké-madness, but it’s not like you had anything better to do this weekend anyway.
A 300-acre site, half of which is taken up by Lake Johnson, this park is different from the others in more ways than its relatively remote location: it’s more of an extended greenway than a traditional park. Sure, there’s an amenity area/cafe, and you can rent paddle boats and other assorted methods of water transport, but it’s the trails, especially the portion that extend over the lake via sturdy, well-crafted wooden bridges that really draw in the crowds. We estimate that the loop should take players a little more than an hour to complete, although your mileage may vary.
One piece of serious advice: parking was a nightmare at Lake Johnson before the onset of Pokémania; we can’t imagine what it’s going to be like going forward. We advise consulting this map provided by the City of Raleigh before heading out there in the hopes of maybe, possibly finding a spot on a Saturday afternoon. Considering how many fellow players we spotted in the middle of a weekday, we can’t imagine what it’s going to look like this weekend.
But once you’ve managed to make your way out there and hopefully find a space to park your car, here’s a few things to BOLO for at Lake Johnson:
- A Pokémon Gym at the South End of the park
- Pokéstops, including the Lake Johnson Waterfront Center, Lake Johnson Park, Lake Johnson Park Shelter #2 and the Lake Johnson Mews Dog Park
- The largest variety of Pokémon we’ve seen yet, including all the regulars plus rare finds like DoDuo, Slowpoke, Jigglypuff, Snorlax, Scyther, Paras, Psyduck, Exeggcute and most magnificently: Magamar