Raleigh Parks

Adventures in the Raleigh Parks

Historic Yates Mill County Park February 20, 2012

This post originally appeared on Southwestraleigh.com where you can learn more about how to live, work, and play in the Creative District.

Even though the Historic Yates Mill County Park has only been open for less than six years, Yates Mill dates back to the early 1800’s and is the only gristmill still standing in Wake County.  Throughout the mill’s history it changed ownership about a dozen times and the park is now owned through a partnership between NC State, Yates Mill Associates, Wake County, and the NC Dept of Agr & Consumer Services.

Historic Yates Mill County Park is located at 4620 Lake Wheeler Rd, about 3 miles south of I-40/440.  After winding down a short entrance road you arrive at a large parking lot with a beautiful research and education center as the backdrop.  The A.E. Finley Education and Research Center is a beautiful stone and wood building that contains an exhibit hall, classrooms, auditorium, and back porch complete with rocking chairs overlooking the pond.  They offer programs for people of all ages and here are just a few upcoming events to highlight:

After you’ve finished exploring the Park Center, head to one of the trails for a walk out and around the pond.  We explored the Millpond Trail (1 mile), which loops around the pond offering breathtaking views of the wildlife, water, and flora.  On this trail, you’ll pass by the old mill and dam, boardwalks along the pond that are great for fishing, several picnic areas, the Field Classroom, and tree markers that correspond to the “Tree Identification Trail” brochure at the Park Center.  Even though it’s an unpaved path, it’s quite wide and flat but not suitable for strollers in all areas.  Being a beautiful sunny day, I passed quite a few people jogging the trail too.  Whatever you do, be sure to stop by the mill yard and dam and take tons of pictures!

The two other trails we didn’t have time for today are the High Ridge Trail and the Creekside Trail.  The trail map shows that High Ridge Trail is more strenuous and about .78 miles and connects up with the Millpond Trail.  Creekside Trail is an out and back unpaved trail that is 2 miles in total length.

This park is jam-packed with activities and sights, but also has several peaceful areas if you just want to relax a bit.  Try your luck fishing from one of the boardwalks, enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the many spots along the Millpond Trail, or take a nap in the rocking chairs on the back porch.  So, whether you came for excitement and learning or quiet time and reflection there’s something for everyone.

Thumbs up: photo ops, serenity, educational exhibits, pond, mill and dam

Thumbs down: trail maps don’t indicate whether paths are stroller-friendly (thanks to the sweet mom-daughter team that helped us out)


Halifax Park January 31, 2012

I thought our park visits would cease to exist this winter, but we’ve been so lucky with all the cool, sun-filled days that we’ve been able to keep exploring.  Yesterday we visited Halifax Park near Peace College and Seaboard Station.  It’s located at 1015 Halifax St, just north of Peace St and close to the Raleigh Housing Authority.

Halifax Park is a neighborhood park that has a small playground area, large multipurpose field, outdoor basketball courts, and a community center.  The community center has a weight room, gym, and a few meeting rooms.  The playground has a sandy surface with a few swings and a large jungle gym suitable for children 5yrs+.  The playground and the outdoor basketball courts are in need of some TLC, which is planned to begin later this year.  The large multi-purpose field is fenced and has soccer goals, lacrosse goals, bleachers, and a back stop.

Lucky for us, we visited the park before construction begins later this year on improvements to the community center and playground.  The Raleigh Parks & Rec department will work with the Raleigh Housing Authority and nearby citizens to ensure the recreational needs of the community are met. According to the City of Raleigh’s Planning and Development website, this project is currently in the design stage with construction beginning this year and completing next summer. The improvements to this park are being funded through the approval of the 2007 Bond Referendum.

We’re excited to check back on the status of Halifax Park as it makes its transformation.  Lucky for the residents in the area, Mordecai Mini Park is close by.

Thumbs up: large multi-purpose field, upcoming improvements, shady picnic spots, close proximity to many neighborhoods (Capitol Park, Pilot Mill, Mordecai)

Thumbs down: small playground area limited to mostly older children, old community center


Pullen Aquatic Center January 27, 2012

This post originally appeared on Southwestraleigh.com where you can learn more about how to live, work, and play in the Creative District.

Looking for a place in the Creative District to swim laps, practice your diving skills, or splash with the kiddies in the wintertime?

Visit the indoor facilities at Pullen Aquatic Center. The center is located at 410 Ashe Ave, just North of the newly renovated Pullen Park.

There is a large 50 meter x 25 meter Olympic-size swimming pool, a warm-water teaching pool, overhead balcony for spectators, nearby bleachers, diving boards, and large locker room areas.  The large swimming pool area has about a dozen lap lanes set up with varying availability.  In addition to lap swimming, you can also sign up for water exercises, the swim league, swimming lessons, and more.

The warm-water teaching pool is perfect for taking the kiddies in during the cold winter months.  The shallow area has a gentle incline that eventually reaches to 4ft deep on the far side.  We visited on a popular Friday morning when the warm-water pool opens at 9am for public use.  Rafts aren’t allowed in the pools, but they do have life vests available.

Even though the locker room area and pool deck are showing their age, this is still a great place to play in the wintertime.  Whether swimming for exercise or play, you’ll enjoy your time at Pullen Aquatic Center.  Be sure to check the prices and hours before making your next visit.

Thumbs up: warm-water pool, number of lap lanes available, convenient pool hours

Thumbs down: aging of the locker room area and pool deck


Windemere Beaver Dam Park December 29, 2011

I have had the privilege to visit several parks with my daughter and granddaughter as they have been working on their blog for the past 8 months!  With the holidays, I asked if I, her sister Ginni, and Ginni’s husband, Blair, could take the baby to a nearby park for the Twelfth Day of Raleigh Parks Christmas and let us take pictures and blog!

Well here it is and to all who know me, I will keep the four letter words to “park”!

Windemere Beaver Dam Park is a wonderful neighbor park – quiet, peaceful and serene!  If I lived in this neighborhood I would be bitter, because I would have to share with all (lol)!

I also realized I was not the only grandparent enjoying the Raleigh sunshine that day, as the park had several families celebrating and enjoying a gorgeous day with their babies just like me.

Windemere Beaver Dam Park is located at 1500 Nottingham Rd in the median between Brooks Ave and Nottingham Rd. It is a wonderful place for families to celebrate just about anything, not only Christmas, but birthdays, soccer/t-ball/pick-up games, etc. They have a couple of picnic tables and numerous benches to take a rest if you are walking, jogging, or running on the nearby greenway trails.  You can take a quiet walk and visit the babbling brook that goes around the outskirts of the park; and how wonderful that would be on a hot summer day, to dip your piggies!

In my opinion one of the best features is the open field, where you can play good old fashioned games of kickball, freeze tag, dodge ball, Red Rover, Red Light/Green Light, and of course soccer, lacrosse, t-ball, etc. I would suggest to bring your own chairs so you can be mobile between the open fields to the jungle gym/swings.

The playground area offers 2 slides, 2 swings for us big people and also 2 additional tot swings for our babies.

I truly think the best part of this neighborhood park is how the City of Raleigh kept it in its natural environment!  It is a wonderful habitat, great for bird watching, as I saw several cardinals (male and female), chickadees, mocking birds, finches, nuthatches, great for a beginner bird watcher!  They have everything they need to survive – food, water and shelter.

I’m grateful that Raleigh has one of the BEST park systems on the East Coast!  Being just a visitor to this city over the past 9 nine years, I’d like to thank the citizens and the city council for making your parks a priority in their budget/bond referendums over the past several decades.

Thumbs Up: great family outings, jogging trails, natural habitat

Thumbs Down: parking, lack of park sign, not very stroller-friendly


Laurel Hills Community Center December 23, 2011

With the weather being overcast and uncertain we needed to find another indoor place to romp around.  So, on the 11th day of Raleigh Parks Christmas we went back to Laurel Hills Park to visit the community center for Tot Time.

The community center is two stories and has a few meeting rooms, art rooms, dance studio, fitness center, vending machines, and large gymnasium with two basketball courts.  The friendly staff in the lobby can help register you for classes and answer any questions you have about the facility.

The Tot Time program is for kids ages 5 and under and runs every Tues and Thurs from 10am-noon in the gymnasium.  And it’s FREE!  During Tot Time they put out large play mats, toddler slides, tot bikes, recreational equipment, and other fun toys for the kids to play with.  This is a fantastic place to bring the kids on a cold, rainy, or extremely hot day to burn off some energy.  Ashley crawled all over the gym and played with every toy.  She even tried going up the slides, slide first and crawled through the tunnels and played with the other tots. Tot time is a fantastic play option for the winter months, especially for the non-walkers!

There are several different Tot Times going on throughout the week allowing you to hop around to different places.  Here’s the schedule starting in Jan 2012. I know where we’ll be in the winter months!

  • Mon from 10:30am-noon: Glen Eden Park
  • Mon/Wed from 10:30am-12:30pm: Millbrook Exchange
  • Mon/Wed from 10am-1pm: Tarboro Rd Community Center
  • Tues/Thurs from 10:15am-12:15pm: Laurel Hills Community Center
  • Tues/Thurs from 10am-noon: Green Rd Community Center
  • Wed from 9:30-11:30am: Lake Lynn Community Center
  • Wed from 10-noon: Barwell Rd Community Center
  • Wed/Fri from 10:30am-noon: Optimist Community Center

Thumbs up: play equipment, large open space, FREE admission, indoor options for bad weather

Thumbs down: nothing to report


Greystone Recreation Center December 22, 2011

With the weather being rainy on the 10th day of Raleigh Parks Christmas, we headed to an indoor park (yes, that’s correct) in North Raleigh.  We visited Greystone Recreation Center at 7713 Leadmine Rd in the Greystone Village Shopping Center.

Greystone Rec Center has a unique indoor playground area with several different climbing structures that are all intertwined. There’s a giant rope spider web, holes suspended by rope to climb through, nature rocks, and spinners.  The back wall has been turned into a great climbing wall.  The playground area sits atop the spongy surface, which is mostly green in color except for the blue “river” that runs through the playground.

This indoor playground is mostly designed for kids ages 5-12 years old, but there were plenty of kids ages 2 and up enjoying the playground too.  I was clearly the one with the youngest baby and the staff didn’t say anything to me about her age.  We mostly hung out near one of the corners by the rock wall, cruised along the rock wall, crawled on the ground, and tried to stay out of the way of the older kids.  Ashley was also pretty entertained by the paintings on the wall too.  The playground hours are 9-11am and 12:30-5pm Mon-Fri and 9-noon on Saturday.

This indoor park also has several benches along the wall, vending machines, and nice restrooms.  Greystone Rec Center also has several programs for people of all ages going on throughout the year.  Here are a few coming up:

  • Jan 10-Feb 2: Mom and Tots Leap into Learning (ages 20-24months, Tues/Thurs, 9:15-10am, $35)
  • Jan 12-26: Dance-Twinkle Toes I (ages 2-3yrs, Thurs, 11:20-12:15, $40)
  • Jan 12-26: Tumbling Tinies (ages 9-24months, Thurs, 9:30-10:15am, $40)
  • Jan 12-Feb 2: Math Madness (ages 3-5yrs, Thurs, 2-3pm, $40)
  • Jan-Apr: Mahjongg Open Play (adults, Mon, 2-4pm, FREE)
  • Jan-Apr: Bingo (adults, 1st & 3rd Tues, 2-3pm, $1)
  • Jan-Apr: Senior Fitness (Mon/Fri, 10-10:45am, $15/month)

Thumbs up: unique indoor play area, rock wall, community center programs

Thumbs down: indoor playground is small and gets easily crowded on popular days, unattractive shopping center setting


Walnut St Park December 21, 2011

On the ninth day of Raleigh Parks Christmas, we headed out to Cary with my friend, Kristina, and her daughter, Lucy to visit Walnut St Park.  Wow, what a great park for crawlers and cruisers!  Besides the large open spongy surface, there are tot swings, a jungle gym with smaller slides, and an area with balance beams and climbing structures that proved to be so exciting for the non-walkers!

Walnut St Park is run by the Town of Cary and is located at 1420 Walnut St, not far from Cary Crossroads shopping center.  Not a surprise, but the main entrance sign is easy to miss when driving on Walnut St, so look for the cross-street of Nottingham Dr.

This park has both a tot play area and an older kid play area that are both very close to each other.  Both playgrounds are covered in the spongy surface with the exception of the small sandbox with diggers in the tot area.  There are swings, jungle gyms, and a small pavilion in each playground area.  The older kid playground also has some amazing climbing structures that were very popular.

If you’re looking to take the dogs on a walk or stroll the kids around, this park has a great paved walking trail.  According to the information sign, 2.5 loops around = 1 mile.  While walking around the trail, you’ll see many birdhouses, an area dubbed the wetlands, a natural mulch walking trail, and a large 1.5 acre open recreational space.  There are many benches scattered throughout the trail and a few picnic tables near the large open field area.  Don’t forget to check out the fancy brick “imaginary garden” promenade that cuts through part of the loop.  Check out the Town of Cary’s website for information about future phases of the park, which include adding a basketball court.

So, I know I can’t say it enough, but the Town of Cary does a great job with creating playgrounds with the spongy surface, which is so nice for the really small crawlers and cruisers!  Ashley and Lucy had a fantastic time roaming through the climbing structures, swinging on the tot swings, crawling from one end of the playground to the other, all the while trying to sneak a taste of the nearby mulch chips!  This would be a great park to bring your lunch followed by a romp around the playground.

Thumbs up: playground, walking trail, tot area, nearby pavilions

Thumbs down: somewhat hard to see entrance sign from Walnut St