Historic Yates Mill County Park, at 6420 Lake Wheeler Road in Raleigh, is a 174-acre wildlife refuge and an environmental research center. The centerpiece is the Historic Yates Mill, which is the last operable water-powered gristmill in Wake County. The mill is on the National Register of Historic Places and was restored to working order in 2005.
Admission to the park is free. Tours of the mill are available at various times and cost $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for children, and are free for kids under age 6.
The park hosts many events throughout the year. Some are free and some have a small fee. Many are for kids, but there are some programs that will appeal to adults as well. To see them all, visit the website.
Here are some of the upcoming free or very cheap events. Some require pre-registration.
For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); fee: FREE. Registration is not required. Stop by the Finley Center exhibit hall anytime during the program time.
The Shortest Day
Thursday–Saturday, Dec. 21–23, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Late dawn. Early sunset. Short day. Long night. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year. Celebrate this special day by checking out our solstice display, and explore how cultures all over the world celebrate this day with music, food, and festive good cheer.
New Year Celebrations around the World
Tuesday, Jan. 2, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Happy New Year! In America we celebrate the new year on January 1, but did you know that in China they celebrate the new year a bit later in the year? Learn about new year traditions around the world and make a Chinese New Year’s lantern to take home.
Wizened Woodchucks & Weather Predictors
Friday, Feb. 2, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
How did people predict the weather before The Weather Channel? Can animals really help? Come to the visitor center and check out some at-home weather equipment you can make with recycled and natural materials, and put our colonial “weather proverbs” to the test.
The Vernal Equinox
Tuesday, March 20, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
The Vernal Equinox signals the beginning of Spring. It is the point where there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the park’s Finley Center Exhibit Hall to explore fun facts about this special time of year. Find out about how and why the equinox occurs, and also learn about seasonal folklore and related historical traditions.
Art in the Park
For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); fee: FREE.
Friday–Sunday, Dec. 29–31, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
What a lovely sight it is to see snow falling from the sky, so come help us to celebrate the beauty of the winter season by making some pretend snowflakes! Join us in the Finley Center where you can make paper snowflakes and help us decorate our Exhibit Hall for the coming winter! For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); FREE! Registration is not required.
Monday–Wednesday, Feb. 12–14, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Come join us in the park center for some Valentine’s Day arts and crafts! Create valentines for your friends, make some love bugs, and take home your own valentine tree. For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); fee: FREE. Registration is not required.
Saturday, March 24, 11 a.m.–noon
Do you love owls? If so, join us to learn all about them! Discover these amazing raptors’ adaptations and why they are important to the ecosystem. We will be practicing our different owl calls and learning all about these fascinating birds. Create a Snowy Owl craft and a set of owl wings to take home. For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); fee: FREE. Registration is required.
Free historic trade wayside displays & demonstrations are offered on the third Saturday of each month, March through November, in the mill yard when the mill is open for tours and grinding corn. For all ages. Registration is not required.
Saturday, March 17, 1–4 p.m.
For centuries mail has connected people around the globe. Check out this tabletop exhibit to learn about the history of the United States Postal Service (the second oldest federal department in the United States) and the origins of the postage stamp. Look at a copy of an 1890s postcard featuring Yates Mill, then design your own postcard.
Seasons on a Farm
Plowing & Planting
Sunday, March 18, 1–5 p.m.
For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a tabletop display about what tasks 19th-century farmers and their families would be doing each month as part of their life on a farm. In March, learn how farmers plowed the fields and planted crops in the 1800s; see sample farm artifacts; and plant a seed in a newspaper pot to take home.
A Side of History
Tuesday, Dec. 19, 10–11 a.m.
Children have been playing with toys and using them to learn important skills for thousands of years. Join us to read a story, explore the kinds of toys children play with around the world, and make a historic toy to take home. Bring your favorite toy to share with the group. For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); fee: $1/person. Registration is required.
For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); fee: FREE.
Registration is not required.
The Lorax Speaks for the Trees
Friday, Jan. 12, 11 a.m.–noon
Join us as we read this Dr. Seuss classic about an enterprising villain who greedily chops down Truffula Trees. Despite the warnings of the Lorax, the trees disappear. But luckily, a single Truffula Tree seed was saved and a caring child becomes our last chance for a clean, green future. Create a craft out of recyclable materials and learn what you can do to help clean up our planet! For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); fee: FREE. Preregistration is encouraged. Maximum number of participants: 40.
Wednesday, Feb. 14, 11 a.m.–noon
Horace and Hattie are hedgehogs, and the best of friends. Together, they make daisy chains, splash in puddles, and have tea parties. But there is one thing they can’t do―hug! They are too spiky. They try different ways of hugging. But will they find a hug that feels right? Join us for this adorable story about friendship by Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper. Then create some fun Valentine’s Day crafts to take home! For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); fee: FREE. Preregistration is encouraged. Maximum number of participants: 40.
The Little Wood Duck
Friday, March 9, 11 a.m.–noon
The Wood Ducks of North Carolina are nesting, and hatchlings are on the way! Join us for an endearing story about a little duck that was born slightly different from his siblings. Little Wood Duck is laughed at by other animals, but he embraces his uniqueness and uses it to save the day! This heartwarming story by Brian Wildsmith teaches the importance of sensitivity and individuality. Learn about Wood Ducks and take a short hike to look at their habitats. Then make a fun duck craft to take home! For all ages (adult accompaniment is required for all children); fee: FREE. Preregistration is encouraged. Maximum number of participants: 40.
Rock Hounds Park Tour
Sunday, Jan. 7, 11 a.m.–noon
On “Old Rock Day,” come explore the rocks of Yates Mill, including those found naturally in the park and others that were brought there for mill work purposes. Take a hike to the mill dam to discover its geologic foundation and explore how rocks have been used in milling grains for thousands of years. For all ages; fee: FREE. Registration is required for all family members, and children must have adult accompaniment.
Animals in Winter
Sunday, Feb. 25, 2–3 p.m.
Winter days find many animals curled up in their dens. They sleep warmly, awakening in spring ready to enjoy the renewed Earth. Discover how animals prepare for cold weather and which ones hibernate during the winter months. Play some fun games and take a short hike around the pond to look for signs of wintering animals. For all ages; fee: FREE. Registration is required for all family members, and children must have adult accompaniment.
Tuesday, March 20, 2–3 p.m.
Celebrate the coming of Spring by going on a sensory hike around the millpond with a park naturalist. While exploring park wildlife, learn about the history, cultural traditions and science associated with the Vernal Equinox. For all ages; fee: FREE. Registration is required for all family members, and children must have adult accompaniment.