Historic Yates Mill Park + Snow Balls + Howling Cow Ice cream

Over the last few weeks, my social media feed has exploded with pictures of families enjoying so many beautiful state parks here in North Carolina – from mountains to the coast. It has inspired me to explore the parks near Raleigh that I can visit with the kids without committing to a long trip. Our latest excursions to Historic Yates Mill County Park was an absolutely perfect start to this mission.

Just five miles from Raleigh downtown, Yates Mill is a 174-acre wildlife refuge and research center that also has a restored mill circa 1756 (tours are closed during COVID-19, but the buildings are still very beautiful to observe from the outside). There are hiking trails, benches with scenic views, boardwalk, fishing options, and an amphitheatre. The two trails that we hiked – Mill Pond and Hill Ridge – are shady, well marked, and good for little legs. The Yates Mill Dam is perhaps our favorite attraction in the park. (This online park brochure gives more in depth information).

What is a summer outing without a rewarding cold treat afterwards? Thankfully, there are two really good options within 2-miles from the Yates Mill Park entrance. The closests one just a quarter or so mile away is North Carolina State University’s dairy farm and Howling Cow ice cream store, and Pelicans Snoballs which is about 2-miles further down Lake Wheeler road. May be start with the ice cream, hike around Yates Mill, play in the creek and dam, before heading to Pelicans for some ice cones?

So there we go friends, three solid options on how to spend anywhere from 2-4 hours in Raleigh with beautiful surroundings, appropriate social distancing, and without the hassle of leaving town.

  • Historic Yates Mill County Park: 4620 Lake Wheeler Road, Raleigh, NC. Pets are not allowed in the park. Pack a sandwich to eat while hiking or take a picnic; there are designated areas with benches. The dam and the small creek opposite it is very inviting for water play so bring appropriate shoes. Make sure to check the sign that shows which parts of the dam are safe to explore (we missed this the first time since it is small and posted under the bridge).
  • The NCSU Dairy Farm and Howling Cow Ice Cream store: 100 Dairy Lane – Lake Wheeler Rd. COVID-19 Carry out options from 3-8pm Wednesday through Sunday. Credit Cards only.
  • Pelicans Snoballs and Ice Cream: 5717 Fayetteville Road, Raleigh NC. Outdoor seating available or you can easily just park and eat in your car. Employees wore masks and gloves. clearly marked signs to stand 6-feet apart while ordering. Kids size are plenty big and super tasty. The flavors we tried and loved were the Unicorn, Dinosaur, Frogger, and Rainbow.

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