A Park at RDU? Who Knew?


A wind feature at RDU Observation Park — Raleigh-Durham International Airport; Morrisville, North Carolina

I was taking my sister to the airport last Sunday morning when she observed a sign that changed my life forever: Observation Park

All my years—-nine, to be exact—-of circling and circling the terminals at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, (RDU), waiting for that call, email, or text that the plane had landed and my passenger was waiting for me outside baggage claim were over!

Five days later, I found myself not circling the terminals, but rather navigating the turns toward Observation Park as I awaited the arrival of my sister’s return flight. In true Lori fashion, I had left the battery of my good camera plugged in at work, so I was limited to my iPhone’s capabilities.

RDU’s Observation Park, which has been around for over twenty years, is small but quaint. Located near the Control Tower and the General Aviation Terminal, the park consists of an observation deck, benches and picnic tables, restrooms, and a play area complete with a miniature runway and a small jungle gym shaped like a yellow spider. The park is full of aviation history and artifacts, and parking is free.


The flowering, tree-lined path leading to the elevated observation deck is a welcome (and park-like!) contrast to hangars and pavement. — RDU Observation Park


An elevated observation deck offers a bird’s eye view of planes taking off and landing. An intercom on the deck makes it possible to hear air traffic control. In flying, wind socks like the orange one you see flying above and to the left of the observation deck in this photo help to determine wind direction. Aircraft take off and land against the prevailing winds.  — RDU Observation Park


Along the railing of the observation deck are images and descriptions of planes past and present. — RDU Observation Park


In the foreground is a walking path with plaques detailing the history of flight in general and RDU in particular. In the background, a plane takes off on a rainy, breezing summer day to a destination unknown. — RDU Observation Park


Just below the observation deck is a plane propeller from a Douglas DC-3. This “workhorse of the skies” served RDU from 1943-1963.

photo 1-4

One of the plaques along the pillared pathway near the play area harkens back to the first powered flight taken by Orville and Wilbur Wright at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The Wright Flyer stayed in the air for 120 feet. …And the rest is history.

Although not technically a Raleigh city park, RDU Observation Park is a park and it is in the Raleigh area, so for purposes of this post I’m counting it toward my goal of visiting (and appreciating) Raleigh’s parks this summer. Five down, and many more to go!

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