What it is: Yates Mill County Park is a park based around a historic old mill that has been functioning there for over 200 years. They have a pond, some trails, and a great little museum on site for exploring. It turned out to be the perfect morning.
We Parked in the parking lot and headed straight in the direction of the mill. While the mill isn't open for tour except on certain weekends and for special group tours, we could still see it from the outside. There were some very cool views from one side where we could see the water falling from the dam next to the mill. We took in that view and then continued on the Millpond Trail. That took us on a mile loop around the pond with great views as we went. There were signs scattered on the trail that described the wildlife that we could see as we walked. It was a great little nature walk and we even saw a water snake as we made our way around!
The Millpond trail finished at a great boardwalk/bridge across the pond where fishing was allowed. They also had binoculars and benches which made for great pond viewing. That brought us back to the parking lot, and once we were back we decided to check out the visitor center. We didn't know what to expect, but it turned out to be a fabulous addition to our morning. They had exhibits showing how the mill worked with cranks the kids could turn to watch what happened. Then, they had magnifiers and some bugs, skulls, and animals that the kids could examine. At one end of the visitors center they had a dress up station so that kids could dress up in some historic attire and another little table with books and some stuffed animals. The kids had a great time exploring, and some of our party didn't want to leave when it was time of lunch and actually asked to go back in after our picnic lunch out on their beautiful patio.
What we liked: There was the perfect amount to fill a morning at Yates Mill County Park. The Millpond Trail was the perfect length for our preschoolers, and the boardwalk at the end was great fun. The visitor's center was a beautiful facility (with great restrooms) where the kids had a great time exploring and learning about the mill. We would definitely head back on a weekend when we could tour the mill (if open) or go fishing. They have information about their great kids' programs on their website.
What we would change: Of course, the biggest drawback is its distance away from Durham. It's about half an hour away from where we are in S. Durham, but that length of drive was definitely worth it for our morning of fun.
Website and other important information:
Address: 4620 Lake Wheeler Road, Raleigh, NC 27603
Hours: Park is open 7 days a week, 8am-sunset, visitors center is open 7 days 8:30am-5pm
(a view of the mill and dam)
(the book corner)
(the dress up station)
(the magnifier and animal section)